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Card driven wargames
Brian Morris
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It was in 1994 that one of the wargame hobby's greatest innovations was created with the release of the game We The People by Mark Herman. It was the card driven wargame system.

The problem before We The People was how to include important historical events in a game that had a major effect on the conflict at the time without making it to linear? For example, the Emancipation Proclamation had a major effect in the American Civil War by allowing the creation of Black regiments, but how to include that in the game without saying it takes effect on an exact game turn and thus the players knowing and playing the game with that in mind. By including that as a card that can be played as an event, the event itself can be included in the game without being linier. So players never know when that event will occur or even if it will.

This system has now been used in a great number of different games in many different historical conflicts. From the American Civil War to WW I, Ancient Rome to the American Revolution. These card driven wargames are now some of the most popular wargames in the hobby and so I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at some of these card driven wargames and for people to chime in on what they like and don't like about this system.

Also I've noticed on the forum and on geeklists we often see people asking questions about the card driven games. What games are card driven, which are the best ones and so on. I figured it might be useful for some of those looking at the card driven games to have them all lined up so they can see what they have to choose from and hear what others have to say on them as well. Sort of like a new car lot but with games instead of automobiles.
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1. Board Game: We the People [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:952]
Brian Morris
United States
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Missouri
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The very first game of this type was the Avalon Hill classic We The People. Rather a hard game to find now and expensive when you do as it's now out of print thanks to Hasbro's hording of certain older Avalon Hill titles. A classic I should say now but I remember when the game first came out and was looked at with skepticism by folks including myself.

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2. Board Game: For the People [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:658]
Brian Morris
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The second game by Mark Herman using his card system and some would say one of the best games to use it. This game was my actual introduction to this system and being a civil war buff, it has turned into one of my favorite games. First released by Avalon Hill, this game was improved and then rereleased under the banner of GMT where it went out of print and then like it's predecessor became extremely pricey and hard to find. It's currently on the GMT P500 list waiting for a reprint.

This card driven system while created and first used under Avalon Hill has become a mainstay of GMT games. Used not just by Mark Herman but also designers such as Richard Berg, Wray Ferrell, Mark Simonitch and Ted Raicer

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3. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:113]
Brian Morris
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Missouri
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Like it's predecessor We The People, this game is now in the hands of Hasbro and in mint condition will cost you...well a mint.

This game for me has one of the coolest looking mapboards of any of the games on this list. It just has a wonderful look and feel to it.

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4. Board Game: Successors (second edition) [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:2216]
Brian Morris
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Richard Berg takes the plunge into the card driven world with this creation. Now out of print but it seems not for long as there are plans to make a new edition of this game a P500 release. I expect that if/when that happens it may set a record for shortest time to reach 500 on that list as this one is much anticipated by wargamers.

Like Hannibal, this one also has a very cool mapboard.

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5. Board Game: Paths of Glory [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:86]
Brian Morris
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Raytown
Missouri
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From the end of the Avalon Hill era we move into the GMT era so to speak with Path of Glory which was one of GMT's first card driven games and some would say the best. It's currently ranked #10 on the BGG top rated games right behind Hannibal at #9. In fact you will find the card driven games rank very high here on BGG. Pretty impressive when you think about the fact that there are very few WW I games out there. Mostly because of the image of the war just being one of trench warfare.

By the way, if you own this game you might know that there is a fantastic players guide for it now sitting on the P500 list, getting ready to hit 500. Well worth picking up if you own the game.

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6. Board Game: Wilderness War [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:523]
Brian Morris
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Raytown
Missouri
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Maybe because the French and Indian war isn't as popular as military simulations are concerned but this game doesn't get as much notice as it's brethren despite the fact that it seems most folks who play it really like it.

The stand up leader counters are kind of different in this one.

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7. Board Game: Empire of the Sun [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:680]
Brian Morris
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For the card driven games the point to point map system has in the past been the prefered map style of choice for game designers. In this case however Mark Herman has gone back to the classic hex map.

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8. Board Game: Sword of Rome [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:763]
Brian Morris
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Played this one over the weekend and I think it's now taken it's place as one of my favorite 4 player wargames. Really a fantastic game. Most of these games are 2 player so it's nice to see a 4 player one and especially to see one be this good. What really makes this fun is that there are actually 7 players with 3 of the 7 being neutrals. These neutral powers can be activated by players using the card system. The result is the Greeks and Gauls have these neutral nations hanging over their heads. I played the Greeks this weekend and even though my goal was to wipe out the Carthaginians on Sicily early on, I was never quite able to and their existance was a major pain in the %#&.

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9. Board Game: Pax Romana [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:1589]
Brian Morris
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Raytown
Missouri
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Soon to be released from GMT is this 4 player game by Richard Berg. This one didn't stay on the P500 list very long.

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10. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.36 Overall Rank:3]
Brian Morris
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Ok, this one interests me greatly and on the surface it seems a subject tailor made for this sytem. The Cold War done as a card driven wargame. Can't wait to see how this one works out. Currently on the GMT P500 list.
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11. Board Game: Unhappy King Charles! [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:1176]
Brian Morris
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Still another card driven game making it's way through the inner workings of GMT.
 
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12. Board Game: Triumph of Chaos [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:2067]
Yiu Fai Adrian Lui
Canada
Scarborough
Ontario
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About Russia civil war. A lot of political rules and exceptions so difficulty may be at par to EOTS. Definitely for more hardcore wargamers. Very high production value.
 
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13. Board Game: World War II: Barbarossa to Berlin [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:1154]
 
Jeff Thompson
United States
Homewood
Illinois
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This is another Ted Racier Design. It uses a deck for each player and a limited war and total war group of cards, simlar to Paths of Glory.
 
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14. Board Game: The Napoleonic Wars [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:1679]
Jeff Thompson
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Homewood
Illinois
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Here's another multi-player CDG. I know nothing about this except anyone who has played it says it is a lot of fun.
 
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15. Board Game: Wellington [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1943]
Jeffrey D Myers
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
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Another game by Mark McLaughlin, following his success with _The Napoleonic Wars_ (_Nappy Wars_ for short). This just started shipping from GMT!
 
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16. Board Game: Krieg! World War II in Europe [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:6241]
Danny Holte
United States
Fullerton
California
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This one, often forgotten as being a CDG though it has quite a large player base, actually predates all but 'We the People' and possibly 'Hannibal'.

The cards definately drive the game and it works well, especially in the follow-up below...
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17. Board Game: Totaler Krieg! [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:2155]
Danny Holte
United States
Fullerton
California
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Outstanding game from '99.
 
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18. Board Game: Assyrian Wars [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:7364]
Steffan O'Sullivan
United States
Plymouth
NH
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"To be honorable and just is our only defense against men without honor or justice." -Diogenes of Sinope
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This is a new (2005) release that is definitely a card-driven wargame. It's based on The Napoleonic Wars, but has lots of bells and whistles.
 
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19. Board Game: Here I Stand [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:146]
Steven Cole
United States
Towson
Maryland
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6-player CDG about the Reformation Era in Europe. P500. I thoroughly enjoy it.
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20. Board Game: Age of Napoleon [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1542]
Alan Richbourg
United States
Arlington
Texas
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One thing I've noticed about the CDG congnoscenti is that they seem to have their blinders on concerning games not produced by GMT or the most popular designers. For instance, from the discussion in the comments below: "There are only a handful (a dozen) of CDWs: We the People, Hannibal, For the People, Paths of Glory, 30years war, Wilderness War, The Nap War, Barb to Berlin, Successors, Empire of the Sun, Triumph of Chaos and Wellington."

That is ignoring the wider trend. Sure, "this genre is less than 10 years old with a dozen designs . . . that is a fraction of the Battle of the Bulge games that exist" but I count 3 CDG's in the kind of game I'm most interested in, the Napoleonic Wars at the strategic level. You have The Napoleonic Wars, Age of Napoleon, and a fan made CDG variant (not mine) of Napoleon in Europe. That's a large percentage of such games. Farther down the scale you have the ubiquitous Battle Cry and Memoir '44 which are in a sense card driven. More and more light wargames are employing some kind of card driven mechanism. For fans of the mechanism, this is clearly a good thing.

As a joke, I'm tempted to add "Major Campaigns of General Douglas MacArthur" from 1974 (!) to this list. Activity in that game (move, attack) is controlled by a shared deck of cards. Each player gets the movement points of the card they turn over, plus the points of their opponents last card. The only "event" card is the randomly placed End of Game card. The point is, there's really nothing ever completely new under the sun.
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21. Board Game: Thirty Years War: Europe in Agony, 1618-1648 [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:2211]
Was George Orwell an Optimist?
United States
Corvallis
Oregon
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Thirty Years War was mentioned in several of the comments, but for some reason wasn't included. It certainly isn't the most popular CDG, but it has favorable ratings from a number of players and certainly belongs on the list.
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22. Board Game: Tank Commander: The Eastern Front Edition [Average Rating:5.81 Overall Rank:11439]
Mike NZ
New Zealand
LOTR
New Zealand
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Well Eastern Front Tank Commander is lite fast & bloody!

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/7802

Is played within an hour easily and simple rules-get the '6 pack' rules with better tactical feel. Damn I love this game!
 
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23. Board Game: Grand Imperialism [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:6590]
Robert Wesley
Nepal
Aberdeen
Washington
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surprise Well, then many of YOU, were sorely 'deprived' in your 'gaming upbringing' IF you didn't get a chance to participate in THIS! Check it out as it was available around 15 YEARS a-fore the so-called 'most popular' KIND, was even! The DECK of 'Cards' in it provided ample situations that could arise, as the *OPTION* 'one' WAS the 'most covetted', since there were a-plenty of THOSE to choose from! Why, you could even 'affect' the arrrharrrh or induce 'Storms' to appear-albeit 'randomly' on these-as to WHERE they'd show up. Too bad if YOU 'missed out', I'd say...
 
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24. Board Game: Shifting Sands [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:1627]
Jeffrey D Myers
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
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Due out any day now! WWII North Africa, by the designer of Monty's Gamble. Interestingly, the first print run of the cards had Axis backs on Allied cards and vice versa....
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25. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:89]
Jeffrey D Myers
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
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And another soon to be out from GMT. The second volume, Combat Commander Mediterranean, is on the P500 list already.
 
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