Barker's Top 20 Wargames
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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These are the wargames which I have most enjoyed playing over the past 30 years.
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1. Board Game: Rommel in the Desert [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:1037]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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In my view, an almost flawless wargame and probably my all time favourite. Also the only game which really captures the feel of the Western Desert campaign. It is a tricky game to get a grip on though, which might explain the wide spread of ratings. Love it or hate it, perhaps?
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2. Board Game: EastFront [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:1339]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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The best-ever WW2 Eastern front strategic wargame, and one of the best wargames ever published. Nail-bitingly tense and very strong historical feel. Nothing else comes close. If you liked this one, take a look at the designer's other classics, 'WestFront' and 'Rommel in the Desert', both published by Columbia.
 
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3. Board Game: Age of Napoleon [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:1654]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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This game is pretty much perfect, a fast-playing, historical, two-player strategic game which is also great fun, and with a wealth of choices for both sides. And it comes in a beautifully produced package at a very reasonable price. If I could think of a flaw, I would list one, but I can't. Strongly recommended.
 
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4. Board Game: Breakout: Normandy [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:941]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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Very solidly-constructed game, great fun to play, slight bias towards the Germans, but then the Allies are more fun to play, almost endless re-play value and it plays out in 3 hours. The game is simple but the rules are written in impenetrable Greenwoodese so best to get someone to talk you through it, which will take 10 minutes. Easily the best in the SOA type area game series, including the feeble MGMG follow-up published by MMP.
 
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5. Board Game: Squad Leader [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:473]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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Very enjoyable game and I played this an awful lot at one time. It is "WW2 as it really was in the movies" but none the worse for that. Always thought that it was a great pity that ASL took over (I do not like ASL).
 
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6. Board Game: Victory in the Pacific [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:1203] [Average Rating:7.18 Unranked]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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The published rules need a little bit of tweaking but this is essentially a very solid, enjoyable, fast-playing and balanced little game which - remarkably - manages to produce results which are at least as plausible as other games which are much longer and more complex. This is one of those rare wargames which I think all gamers should try at least once. Lots of dice, but not really luck-dominated. There is a lot of play and and a lot of strategy in this game.
 
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7. Board Game: WestFront [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:4377]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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Mine is a minority opinion, but I enjoy this game every bit as much as the more popular EastFront, possibly because I find the subject matter more interesting. Fascinating strategic choices for both sides, and a very strong historical feel. The Axis are on the back-foot throughout, of course, but get some opportunities for counter-attacks in between being ground away.
 
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8. Board Game: Bobby Lee [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:3215]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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A very enjoyable and tense game which provides an excellent and historical feel for the eastern theatre of the ACW. Unlike most other games on the subject you cannot use gamey ploys to manipulate your leaders - because there aren't any! Two minor weaknesses: long-range cavalry raids are too easy to carry out, and in the late game the US artillery is too powerful. House rules can easily fix both points.
 
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9. Board Game: Modern Naval Battles [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:3666]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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Modern Naval Battles (I - III) combines to provide a game which is quick-playing, exciting and set in a plausible naval campaign framework. And you have all the toys from carriers to frigates, with plenty of subs and planes as well. Realistic? Who knows? The complete game and more is available as a free download under the name Cold War Naval Battles.
 
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10. Board Game: Blue vs. Gray [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:2861]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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Together with Battle Cry of Freedom, by far the best available strategic level ACW game, with a strong historical feel. The game always generates a plausible narrative and there are tough choices for both sides. The leader ratings all feel about right to me. Would have a '10' were it not that the CSA can sometimes pull off a quick early game victory.
 
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11. Board Game: Battle Cry of Freedom [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:7732]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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BCoF uses an ingenious - and unique - system to re-create the ACW using cards. This has allowed the designer, who is an historian, to pack lots of history into the game. Although the context is strategic, there is an emphasis on fighting the battles, which are tense and absorbing. Huge fun, and a fascinating game to play, with excellent re-play value. Along with Blue vs Gray, this is my favourite ACW game.
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12. Board Game: Hammer of the Scots [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:299]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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This is a first class wargame from Columbia. It plays quickly, and the rules can be grasped in a few minutes. After a dozen or more playings, I am still not clear as to what are the best strategies for the two sides, so there seems to be lots of replay value. The play balance is also good. All in all, both an exciting game in its own right and a good introduction to the Columbia range. A bit light on historical accuracy but this is a good choice for trying with a non-wargamer.
 
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13. Board Game: Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-83 [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:2089]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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A thoroughly enjoyable, fairly simple block game, with a lot of depth to it. I have some minor quibbles about the history but it is great fun and has lots of re-play value.
 
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14. Board Game: NATO: The Next War in Europe [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:3040]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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A most impressive game. Simple rules and fast-playing, but clever and plausible in effect. I have played many games of this and always enjoyed it.
 
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15. Board Game: Paths of Glory [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:100]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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I have to rate this game highly, since I have played it many dozens of times, always with great enjoyment, and it has been excellent value for money. Tense and gripping game-play, with lots for both players to do. Unlike other games to which I would give a '9', however, I will almost certainly not play it again. There are two reasons for this: 1) there are too many gamey tactics; and 2) I have come to find the numerous weaknesses of the game as history too intrusive.
 
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16. Board Game: Imperium [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:2543]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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An ingenious, amusing and very atmospheric SF game, in which Terran space fleets clash with the outposts of Empire, and which I played a lot of back in the 1970s. In typical GDW fashion, there are some minor glitches and peculiarities but this is well worth a look if you have not previously come across it. The war/peace mechanism is quite brilliant.
 
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17. Board Game: RAF [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:1715]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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Excellent portrayal of the Battle of Britain campaign on a day-by-day basis. Good use of cards to allocate raids, targets and weather. Feels historical and realistic, and there are some tough game decisions for the player.
 
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18. Board Game: Block Mania [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:3604]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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A lovely game, with ingenious systems and a wonderful sense of destructive silliness about it, which makes it hugely enjoyable. The cards, map and counters are all atmospheric, and the game-play is deep and well-balanced. I would love to see a re-issue of this. I suspect that it was not a big seller at the time, being too silly for wargamers and too complicated for non-wargamers. But well worth buying if you ever see an old copy.
 
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19. Board Game: Rise and Decline of the Third Reich [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:1425]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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Third Reich (1st edition) was the first wargame I bought, back in 1974, when I was 13, and I had endless fun with it. The rules didn't really work, but the scope and scale were admirable. The subsequent complexities of Advanced Third Reich leave me cold.
 
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20. Board Game: The Korean War [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:2162]
Nicholas Barker
United Kingdom
London
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An excellent, tense, exciting game, with carefully considered and appropriate mechanisms, and pretty good as history. There are a few aspects which could use a bit of tweaking through house rules. One of the best of the VG publications, which counts as high praise.
 
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