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Of the games mentioned, I've played Rommel, Hammer, and Napoleon.

Rommel is the deepest / best of the three in my opinion, but it's also the toughest to learn (the rulebook is clear, but quite long). You need an opponent who is prepared to put some time into learning the game, making mistakes etc. I found Rommel to be the most attractive of the three games in terms of map, components, theme etc.

Hammer is the one that will appeal most to Eurogamers. Blocks usually switch sides rather than being killed, there are event cards, and so forth. The Braveheart theme helps too.

Napoleon is probably the easiest of the three to learn / play, and it supports three players, which is nice. I think Napoleon would be the logical progression from something like Risk.
 
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Phillip Heaton
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Quebec 1759 stands out in my mind. It is easy to play, once you understand the rules - a practice game will take care of that. It is just as fast as Memoir ‘44/C&C:A/Battle Cry, at about one hour per game. Every game of this that I've played has been reasonably close, no matter how skilled my opponent. If you haven't played a block game before, this is a good introduction.

Avoid Wizard Kings and Victory. Generic armies fighting over generic terrain do not lend themselves to long term play.

I enjoyed Liberty, but I've only played one game of it - not enough for me to recommend it whole heartedly.

I haven't played Rommel in the Desert, Hammer of the Scots or Crusader Rex. Everything that I've heard about them indicates that they should be good games, and I've got them on my wish list.
 
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I have Eastfront (the older version), Hammer of the Scots and Rommel in the Desert, of the games you've listed. I'm not such a huge fan of HotS. Its not a bad game, but it never grabbed me like it seems to have done for some people. I'm sure I'd get bored of it if it were my only block option. If I could only have one of those games I'd have no hesitation choosing Rommel.

There are a few different scenarios, to give the game more longevity and diversity. The uncertainties are painful and give you wonderful chances to outmaneuver or bluff your opponent. The supply card mechanism is also wonderful. I didn't find the rules too complicated. I'd put them middle-of-the-road in terms of wargame complexity of the games I've played. Also, if you take the time to learn, you can teach it in a fairly short period of time.

Also, have you considered Europe Engulfed?
 
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I should add that Rommel in the Desert was one of my first wargames I ever played, so I dont' think the complexity is at all an obstacle to "newbies". Both my opponent and I were new to it, and had no trouble sitting down and playing the smallest scenario multiple times in an evening. Even the biggest scenario is very doable in one sitting.
 
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Joseph Cardarelli
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Napoleon is definently the easiest of the block games, plus if you really wanted to try it for cheap, the Avalon Hill version of Napoleon goes on eBay for around 10 dollars. Its still a block game, but it has less blocks with a smaller board than the newer Columbia version. The point is, you could see whether or not you would like that kind of game. Then, from there you should go:

Hammer of the Scots
Crusader Rex
Rommel in the Desert
Eastfront II

Skip over buying the Columbia version of Nappy, as you'll have the cute little Avalon Hill version already!

This is a 4-8 month plan, by the way.

Also, if you find Hammer of the Scots a little too daunting after just Nappy, thats when you buy Quebec or War of 1812. You'll have more fun with Hammer than those two, but only if you "get" it.

P.S. - I wrote a super-duper cool review of the AH version of Nappy here on the geek. Check it out, I think it captures gameplay beautifully.

laugh
 
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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On your list, I've played Rommel, Hammer, Crusader Rex, and EastFront.

Columbia has the rules for all of these games on their web site, so you can download them & skim through them to see whether they're your kind of thing. (I think that's a great way to find out whether a particular game will appeal to you, or whether you'll be able to get your friends to play it, etc.)

Rommel in the Desert - I agree with everything sbszine said (although EastFront has a much more impressive map, ha ha). There are a few things in the rules which I found confusing or didn't like at first, but after a while came to appreciate why they were necessary. (And I found its example of play to be more confusing than EastFront's.) I was going to say it might be kind of a rough one to start with, but if I were you I'd prefer cornjob's opinion!

Hammer of the Scots - Since you compare it to M'44: I like this a lot more than M'44, as the latter doesn't seem (to me) to take much thought, or to offer many meaningful choices. With Hammer of the Scots, there's a bluffing element, and you can hurt the enemy by making clever or unexpected moves. This was my first block game, and I think it's a great one to start with. (I guess it can have a "here we go again" feel at points, though.)

Crusader Rex - a lot of people really like this one, but I strongly prefer Hammer of the Scots--I don't have any other games where units switch sides when you beat them down, or when you're waiting in their castle when they come home for the winter!

EastFront - if the price is an issue, you might be able to pick up one of the first edition sets cheaply or in trade. (Same goes for Hammer of the Scots--the first edition isn't as pretty, but it's no less fun!) Despite the length of the rulebook, you might be surprised at how simple & straightforward this one is. I remember thinking the example of play was pretty helpful too. (But more so than with Hammer or Crusader Rex, if this is your first block game, you want to have a look at the rulebook before buying this one.)
 
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Martin Sarnecki
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Philgamer wrote:
Avoid Wizard Kings and Victory. Generic armies fighting over generic terrain do not lend themselves to long term play.


That's a slightly strange thing to say: the fact that custom scenarios are encouraged by the game system suggests the opposite. And the WK units are hardly generic.

Not liking the theme is a more likely reason not to enjoy these two, though Victory is WW2, so nersai might find this best of all if he's willing to put the effort into generating good scenarios or finding them on the net.

They do have the other possible downside of requiring extra units/maps be bought to allow the full experience but, given that condition, I'd say that they both provide a lot of replayability.
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Greg Aleknevicus
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I think your assessment of these games is pretty accurate except for Napoleon. I would definitely state that it is a step above Quebec, 1759 and War of 1812 in both complexity and depth of play. (I really enjoy both those games but they are fairly simplistic, especially Quebec, 1759.) While Napoleon consists of but a single scenario, there are many ways the game can be approached and wildly different strategies that can be employed.

Still, it sounds as though Rommel in the Desert is the game for you. It's most definitely a wargame (as opposed to a wargame/Eurogame hybrid) and has a lot of the advantages/disadvantages that go along with that. Of particular note is that it can be very unforgiving of mistakes -- watching your entire army collapse because you over-extended your supply can be humbling.
 
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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
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The perfect block game: EASTFRONT

This is the cleanest of al games I have ever played. PERFEKT.

Very playable, Excellent system, excellent research, highly replayable, exciting. You will hardly ever get boared. Th eperfect balance between playability and real simulation. Just perfect!

The other block games are not as nearly as perfect from replayability value or balance issues. Still nice games but if looking for the Perfect block game: EASTFRONT,nothing else comes close. Not even Rommel in the Dessert.

EASTFRONT is the way to go.
 
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Mark Crocker
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Another vote for Quebec, 1759. The brevity and simplicity of the game makes it easier to find an opponent at any given time, as opposed to say, a 3 hour game. I'd search the BGG marketplace and ebay for a used copy. Although Quebec is already very user friendly, you can make it even better by using some of the links and files under it's listing here at BGG. The best enhancements are the 2 "game kits", from Deer Valley Games.

You see, one of the mechanics in Quebec, is that you write down your unit movements for the turn, then reveal them simultaneously. However, with the "game kits", you are provided with separate decks of cards that cover all movement possibilities, so you eliminate the need for pencil and paper. It's a very easy system. I downloaded, then printed the cards out on full sized label sheets, then cut, peeled, and stuck them on the faces of playing cards (a red deck, and a blue deck , naturally).

Battles in Quebec, are fought on a separate "battle board", as many of the Columbia block games are, and in most cases, the defender always fires first. The game kit, however, handles battlefield manouvers, with a 2nd small deck of cards, making it so that the defender doesn't always have a "first fire" advantage. Now the battles incorporate more manouvers, whereas previuosly they were dice roll slugfests.

Quebec 1759 is alredy a great game (and has been for some 30 years). These "game kits", make it superb. Any of you Quebec owners who haven't tried these , are really missing the boat.
 
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Kent Reuber
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Have you considered Pacific Victory? That would be a WWII block game, yet probably simpler than Rommel.
 
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Darren M
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I'd go with Hammer for a first block game... the best combination of a relatively simple ruleset and still enough depth and decision making in the gameplay to give you a good feel for block games in general.

Eastfront and Rommel are the next logical steps up.

If I compared it to Eurogames...

I wouldn't recommend someone get Age of Steam or Die Macher as their first Eurogame even if they were enthused and ready to try anything I threw at them. I think better introductory games would be something like Puerto Rico, Power Grid , El Grande etc.

I think Hammer of The Scots is a good equivalent.. it's like the Puerto Rico of block games... not too simple, not too complex... a great gamer's game without being too much to take in before you finally start having fun.

 
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Daniel Val
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kentreuber wrote:
Have you considered Pacific Victory? That would be a WWII block game, yet probably simpler than Rommel.


I certainly like Pacific Victory better than Hammer of the Scots, although the movement rules may be a little harder to grasp for newbies (at least that was my experience when I tought the game)
 
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Jim Carvin
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The first block game I played was Hammer of the Scots. It wasn't overly complecated and I really LOVED it. I later played War of 1812 and Napoleon (the AH version) and fond them very simple in comparison. I also own Rommel though I've not played it yet simply because I haven't read through the rulebook completely yet.

I guess what I'd recommend here is Hammer of the Scots simply because it seems to have more replay value than War of 1812 or Napoleon. But for cost value you may want to grab Napoleon (the AH version) from ebay first.
 
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Robert Crawford
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Another vote for East Front. It's an exciting well balanced game--and the historical feel is just right.
 
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Jim Carvin
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rcrawford wrote:
Another vote for East Front. It's an exciting well balanced game--and the historical feel is just right.


I've never played Eastfront myself, is it appropriate for a first time block player? Is it too complex?
 
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Jeremy Carlson
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Put my vote for either Crusader Rex or Hammer of the Scots. Both are about the same complexity, and both have some interesting rules. Check out my review of Crusader R. here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/123306
 
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If you have mostly played Risk and Attack! as your previous wargames but have had a lot of fun with Eurogames, I would suggest Hammer of the Scots. It is replayable, fun, challenging, it tells a story, and plays in a managable three hours or so.

If you really want to dive in and have nothing to do for hours on end in the snowy Lithuanian winters buy EastFront. And make a good friend who can stay up late at night. It should keep you busy for months but will be daunting your first time through. The older printing fits on your table and is available for a song.
 
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Joshua Miller
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I wouldn't rule out EastFront. The rulebook is long, but the game is actually quite easy to learn. If you're only going to get one block game, EastFront probably has the best replay value. It also makes best use of the "fog of war" effect that is the strength of the block system.

I recommend you go with either EastFront or Rommel in the Desert. I would definitely eliminate War of 1812, Quebec and Napoleon from consideration. The first two are very simple, and the last feels outdated to me.
 
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I'd go for EastFront over Rommel. I think it's easier and more newbie friendly and as someone already said, has greater replay value. Rommel can be hard on the newbie with those supply rules.

Both Hammer and Crusader Rex are better starting games though. Pick the one with the subject that interest you more. I prefer CR myself.

So if I was you I'd buy Crusader Rex and EastFront.

 
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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
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jcarvin wrote:
rcrawford wrote:
Another vote for East Front. It's an exciting well balanced game--and the historical feel is just right.


I've never played Eastfront myself, is it appropriate for a first time block player? Is it too complex?


For a first time Blocker EastFront might be a bit much and as entry blockgame rommel in the Dessert is more suitable (or Quebec, or 1812, or HOTS), however, when talking about the PERFECT blockgame, EastFront is the way to go: perfect as far as replayability, simulation, excellent research, excellent scenario's etc.

Again as entry block game maybe not that suitable but talking about the perfect block game: EasFront!
 
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Jim Carvin
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Harae wrote:
jcarvin wrote:


I've never played Eastfront myself, is it appropriate for a first time block player? Is it too complex?



Again as entry block game maybe not that suitable but talking about the perfect block game: EasFront!


How does Europe Engulfed stand up against EastFront? Which is better? Which is easier? Which is longer?
 
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