Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 30-21

30. Clans of Caledonia

Clans of Caledonia has a lot in common with Terra Mystica and Gaia Project but introduces manufacturing goods and a marketplace with fluctuating prices. The theme is fun one and the variable player factions serve as nice signposts for the direction you may want to develop your clan. Lots of different ways to build out and overall just a fun game to explore.

29. Atlantic Chase

Atlantic Chase is the rare exception where I think learning to play a game through a play-to-learn booklet actually works. The game is innovative, unique and is snappy to play. All of my plays have been solo so far which means that Atlantic Chase may be in a position to climb up this list.

28. Sword of Rome

Well balanced and not overly complicated, Sword of Rome is very tight card driven game where each faction races to conquer early Rome. Where Genesis has very limited negotiating mechanics, Sword of Rome is chock full of negotiations and deal making. Unique faction decks (as opposed to a shared draw pile) make for excellent card play and strong faction identity. Desperate Time cards add a fun wrinkle as well, serving as cards that disrupt play so you can become the active player. Once played, they’re gone. Tons of fun, the game itself may take a while to play but turns don’t feel drawn out and the game will circle back around to you soon enough. Not a game to be taken personally either.

27. The Civil War 1861-1865

There’ve been several times when talking about The U.S. Civil War (TUSCW) I have been asked if I’ve played Victory Game’s The Civil War 1861-1865 (TCW). Clearly, I finally have or rather, I finally am. I am still actively playing my first game of The Civil War but boy the similarities between TCW and TUSCW are abundantly clear right away. I’ll go on record now and predict that TCW will never eclipse TUSCW in my eyes but I will say that TCW is an all-around fantastic strategic Civil War game. Looking forward to seeing where TCW shakes out on the list in the years to come.

26. Thunder in the Ozarks: Battle for Pea Ridge, March 1862

The Blinds Sword System is just a great chit-pull based rules set with great combat resolution and added uncertainty with the command roll. Not only are you unsure what chit will be pulled from the cup, but the effectiveness of the command is also left to the fate of the die roll. Thunder in the Ozarks covers Pea Ridge which is just a fun battle to play out (see Battle Hymn Vol. 1 as well) and features fantastic and very unique art by Rick Barber. There are now 9 published Blind Swords System games. If you have yet to experience this system, I highly recommend you find one on a topic that interests you and give it a try.

25. 1846: The Race for the Midwest

18xx enthusiasts may roll their eyes as this one but the more I play 1846 the more I come to appreciate it. To be clear, there aren’t many stock shenanigans or clever levers to pull in 1846. `46 is very much an operational game where you run good companies. I don’t want that with every 18xx play. Yes, sometimes. most times even, I do want shenanigans, but sometimes I just want to sit down run great routes and focus on route development.

24. Pax Pamir

Tough picking a game you’ve only played once to crack your top 25 games of all time but here we are. My first play was full of threats, backstabbing and politicking and all of that paired with a very fun tableau builder. The mechanics are actually quite simple, you buy cards and place and manipulate those cards in your tableau. But, In addition to all the deal making, where Pax Pamir really shines is the interactions between coalitions, the board state and card play. Fantastic game that left a last impression after just one play.

23. Grand Austria Hotel

I love the aesthetic of Grand Austria Hotel and fortunately the gameplay quality matched. Grand Austria Hotel is an action drafting game where the actions and quality of the action is determined by a pool of dice rolled each round. You fill different café orders and place guests throughout your hotel. It’s really fun and really charming. You may have heard that this game can drag with 3 or 4 players, which is true if everyone is new to the game. Although we primarily play with 2, I’d happily play with 3 or 4 if everyone was familiar with the game.

22. High Frontier 4 All

Every play of High Frontier has left an impression on me. This game is capable of telling the most amazing space exploration stories, some failures, some glorious disasters. Sure, High Frontier is a lot to process but once you sit down to play, you’ll find the rules are in fact decipherable and this game can be played. Actually, the complexity here is not the rules or icons splattered across the stars. The complexity is maximizing efficiency and trying to identify what you should be doing for the best overall outcome.

21. 1849: The Game of Sicilian Railways

Finally, my highest ranked 18xx game. 1849 features brutal terrain and track development that crawls along like a rusting 2 train. Money is tight and you certainly don’t want to be left holding the bag on a dead company. Timing is crucial in 1849, especially for timing stocks. The final 2 shares of each company are these double certificates that I find to be a highlight of the game. Often times there is incentive to hold that double share and positioning yourself to be the lucky buyer can be important. The privates are interesting, the map is brutal (and even features an erupting volcano) and the gameplay is a blast (heh).

Top 6 Most Anticipated Wargames of 2022 with Matt and Rich

Below is a spoiler list for Episode 34 of History on the Table where we discussed our most anticipated games of 2022 (1:22:45). Listen in for details and thoughts on the games.

Rich

#6 Into the Woods: The Battle of Shiloh
#5 Warsaw Pact Air Commander (image from @hexsides)


Warsaw Pact Air Commander is Brad Smith’s follow up game to NATO Air Commander published by Hollandspiele.


#4 Sword and Fire: Manila

#3 Arracourt
#2 Pacific War: The Struggle Against Japan, 1941-1945 (Second Edition)
#1 Vietnam: 1965-1975

Matt

#6 Arracourt
#5 A Glorious Chance: The Naval Struggle for Lake Ontario in the War of 1812
#4 Prelude to Revolution: Russia’s Descent into Anarchy 1905 – 1917
#3 All Levy & Campaign Tiles
#2 Tiger Wings: WWII Tactical Air Combat Over East Asia
#1 Winter’s Victory: The Battle of Preussich-Eylau

Winter’s Victory is the anticipated 2022 release from New England Simulations.

Let us know your most anticipated games of 2022 below. Anything fly under our radars?

Top 5 Solo Games with Jason Young

Welcome back to another guest Top 5. Excited to have fellow podcaster, tiki aficionado and Child of the Fence, Jason Young!

Jason: I’m one half (or one third depending on how you slice it) of the Advance After Combat podcast at https://advanceaftercombat.podbean.com and facilitate all the Alcoholic Adventure Cabal (see what we did there?) RPG actual plays at https://aac.podbean.com.

I recently offered a menu of Top 5 offerings to Jason and he delivered lists for several. After realizing he and I take solo gaming in different directions I thought it would be a great list to start with.

Jason: When people ask me about solo games, I tend to just think of solo only (or primarily solo) games, rather than games that can be played solo (which to me is basically everything). I also like relatively small games that are easy to play.

When playing solo, I look for a balance between interesting decisions and ease of setup. Which means I can forgive a game that you are only ‘playing’ to check results if it’s fast playing and easy to setup. It also means that Beyond the Rhine didn’t make the cut. Sure I could solo the whole shebang but I’ve got things to do. This left me considering both games designed for solo play (admittedly I don’t play many of those) and games where I play both sides.

Number 5


Jason:  A Week in Hell (Battles Magazine)
A Week in Hell is a tiny game, with great components (for a magazine game) about the beginning of the Battle of Hue. You’re clearing out the southern part of the city using your meager supply of Marines, trying to keep infiltrators at bay and hopefully keeping all the bridges intact for future operations. It’s quick, tense and rewarding and is my go-to Vietnam solo game

Matt: Hockey Blast (Plaay)
Hockey Blast is a sports simulation game that is very fast to play, and even faster to setup. Set your lines and start rolling dice and consulting charts. The game unfolds by checking for certain symbols and key words that are all easy to identify to keep a nice game flow. This makes this list over something like Sherco’s Grand Slam Baseball because I would only ever play this solo. Fun to watch games unfold but not many meaningful decisions to be made.

Number 4


Jason: Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid. (GMT Games)
One of my favorite things in games is having different ways to play it, and both Enemy Coast Ahead games do that excellently. The Doolittle Raid has you commanding flights of B-52s on bombing runs again Japan near the end of World War II. The latter scenarios increase the complexity by including flight turns, then naval turns and finally the full boat of planning the mission through to the debriefing. It’s a lot of dice rolling, but in a way that to me is more engaging that the “B-17: Queen of the Skies” kind of way and the debriefing after each mission sums up your efforts wonderfully, leaving you celebrated or chastened.

Matt: Pavlov’s House (Dan Verssen Games)
Pavlov’s House shares some similarities with the tried-and-true States of Siege system (a pending doom advancing along several fixed tracks) but shines in its wealth of decisions offered to the player. In Pavlov’s House you not only make tactical decisions inside the apartment stronghold but also try and maintain operational command and support. Each section of the game will require tough decisions but you will find that you lack the resources available to do everything you would like or need to do.

Number 3


Jason: RAF: The Battle of Britain (Decision Games)
More air war in WWII! And first things first, this game looks fantastic on the table. The game has you commanding the British RAF fending off German air raiders in the traditional Lion scenario, you can turn the tables and play as the Germans in the Eagle scenario or you can play head-to-head in the two-player game, each with its own rulebook. The game provides you some intel on what is coming, but it is incomplete which gives a great tension as you spread your resources around the home island trying to protect assets and keep the raiders at bay. You get attached to your pilots despite some fiddliness and some rules overhead but the game tends to reward good play and hooks you in.

Matt: Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games)
For my tastes, it’s hard to top the chit pull mechanic for solo wargaming. The randomness and bit of chaos helps me play both sides without being able to plan too far into the future. Battle Hymn may have some unintuitive combat but as a whole I still dig the game. Not only are troop command decisions determined by the fate of the chit cup but so is combat which is great for solo (and opposed) play. You might be setting up a great set piece but things can easily go awry if either combat chit comes out too early or too late.

Number 2


Jason: D-Day at Omaha Beach (Decision Games)
The (John H. Butterfield designed) D-Day at… games are fantastic. Through the innovative fields of fire on the map and a purely card driven system there is a lot to like here. Omaha gets my nod, barely, as the top since it was first, but Tarawa and Peleliu are fantastic as well. They are hard to win and grueling when your troops are getting mowed down but so rewarding when you finally start gaining ground and eventually win. Pro tip: snag the flipbooks from the BGG files page and you’re off to the races.

Matt: Thunder in the Ozarks: Battle for Pea Ridge, March 1862 (Revolution Games)
Chit pull. American Civil War. TitO checks the right boxes for my type of solo play. The reason Thunder in the Ozarks slides in front of Battle Hymn is I find combat as a process more enjoyable to walk through here. I will say that both are great games and worth checking out even if you can only play solo. The added trick in TitO is the command roll. When a division comes up for activation, before you select a brigade to act, you make a roll and may find that you are stuck with limited activation or can issue a brigade a full command. I and most people I talk to recommend the Blind Swords System.

Number 1


Jason: Ambush! (Victory Games)
Ambush! is a game that couldn’t be made today. The obvious time and testing that went into the game is only realistic in a full-time employee environment. The game is so innovative with its paragraph system that models and rewards realistic tactics. It’s tense and personal and each hex holds so much danger as you creep toward your objective. With a roster of troops, fitting them out with gear, excellent campaign play and a ton of scenarios Ambush! is a treasure.

Matt: Arkham Horror: The Card Game (Fantasy Flight Games)
Arkham Horror is getting better with time and continued play. When I first played ‘Night of the Zealot’ out of the core box I thought the game was fun enough but Arkham didn’t show its true colors until the Dunwich Legacy expansion came out. Not only is the Dunwich campaign way more interesting but the added cards greatly expand the deck building element of the game. This true of the subsequent expansions which continue to deliver more of a good thing. This is getting a bit of a boost by a recent resurgence in play, both solo and via webcam, but I am so glad to be getting this game back to the table. With creative and tight card play and massive looming threats, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is solid.

If you are interested in submitting a Guest Top 5 list, please contact Matt at HistoryTablePodcast@gmail.com and thanks to Jason for dropping his Top 5 solo games.

Top 5 Commands & Colors Games with Judd Vance

Welcome to the first of hopefully many in our series of guest Top 5 submissions. Following some recent plays of Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles and Commands & Colors: Napoleonics I thought a Top 5 list of the the series would make a fun exercise for the new year. Memoir `44 was one of my first wargaming experiences and it was only in the last couple of years that I discovered just how different each Commands & Colors (“C&C”) could play out.

I’m very happy to have Judd Vance kick off our Guest Top 5 submissions. Judd’s regular posts on BoardGameGeek.com were instrumental in bringing about my passion for the wargaming hobby. I asked Judd to tell us a bit about himself before we get started.

Judd: I gained infamy riding with the rogue gang known as HAMTAG and working as the unpaid PR man for Mark Herman. Interests include history, wargaming, and all things related to the Matrix. Find me at: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/airjudden

Here are our Top 5 C&C games:

Number 5


Judd: Commands & Colors Medieval. Inspired Action tokens and Leadership provide more command flexibility. The parthion shot allows bow-armed units to evade AND fire at the same time. The fact that the game has so many cavalry units and so many bow-armed units in the game creates a whole new type of tactics from other games in the system.

Matt: Memoir `44. Mind blowing when I first discovered it but trending in a direction away from me. If you keep game play short and sweet it is still tons of fun and looks awesome on the table. I’m looking for a lit bit more meat on the bones in my C&C games these days.

Number 4


Judd: Battle Cry: 150th Civil War Anniversary Edition. It has the best looking plastic of the Borg games. It has a lot (30) of scenarios and it is flexible: you can use the rules as written to have a fine introductory game or you can use the fan-generated rules on BGG to have a more complex game that is more in the spirit of Commands & Colors games.

Matt: Commands & Colors: Ancients. After years of only playing Memoir `44, Ancients is the title that showed me there is more depth to C&C gameplay than I thought. Ancients rewards sound tactical decisions, like keeping units in formation, something that isn’t really present in Memoir. If someone was looking to move from something like Memoir `44, Risk, or wanted to try our wargaming, Ancients is the place to look. Oh, it also has elephants.

Number 3


Judd: Commands & Colors Tricorne. I think this is the best overall design, but it lacks the raw number of scenarios to be #1. It is the most complex game in the system due to the dice calculations and the routing rules, but it also has the best dice calculations of the various games, especially in terms of dice reduction as it pertains to casualties. The routing rules perfectly capture the history making leadership and mutual support far more important than the other games. Finally, it’s the best looking and highest quality product in the family.

Matt: Red Alert: Space Fleet Warfare. If Memoir `44, is the equivalent of playing with your army men on the table, this is that but with a bunch of awesome space ships flying around. Red Alert is a weird entry in the series but it’s one I enjoy the heck out of. It feels more like Memoir than Ancients but ships that feel different and have different consequences if lost is rad. It unfortunately is expensive and only comes with 8 scenarios. Additional ships are sold in separate ‘escalation’ packs, adding to the cost. I’d love to see other factions with even more unique ships and, more importantly, feel get introduced. Potential here but needs some support.

Number 2


Judd: Commands & Colors: Ancients. This is my most played wargame ever. It captures ancient combat ideas, such as screening, while keeping a relatively low rules overhead as non C&C games. The best part of the game is the pacing: it moves more slowly and deliberately which forces you to consider your card combinations more carefully.

Matt: Commands & Colors: Napoleonics. My new C&C hotness. The direct impact taking casualties has on your strength really sets Napoleonics apart from other C&C titles. In addition, French and Ally forces have different strengths in combat which means factions feel different. In terms of C&C, Napoleonics offers really deep gameplay that will certainly punish you if you charge forward without much thought. Forming squares also adds a whole new level to gameplay.

Number 1


Judd: Commands & Colors: Napoleonics. Napoleonics wins because of two factors: The La Grande Battles scenarios are sick fun and because the various army expansions create enough differentiation to force different tactics for each one. The dice reduction is ok, but too punitive, but combined arms and squares were brilliant. The Epics maps and rules look like most double-map Richard Borg games, but La Grande is on an entirely different level from its peers.

Matt: Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles. Samurai Battles rocks. It does so through this sort of meta-currency (Honor & Fortune) and the Dragon Cards. Dragon Cards are powerful cards that require an Honor & Fortune cost be paid as you play them. But you need to monitor your Honor & Fortune because if you lose honor (which you will), you can start losing forces. Out of the box Samurai Battles comes with 40 scenarios in the box so you’ll be plenty busy even without the tons of boxes you can grab for the other titles. I’m hoping that GMT continues to do cool things with this one.

Another thank you to Judd for taking the time to share his top 5 (HAMTAG!) Commands & Colors games.

If you are interested in submitting a Guest Top 5 list, please contact Matt at HistoryTablePodcast@gmail.com and please let us know what your top 5 C&C games are below in the comments.

2022 Resolutions

As Rich and I prepare for our ‘Most Anticipated of 2022’ episode of History on the Table, I’ve been chewing over my goals for the wargaming hobby, the podcast, the website and our cobweb ridden YouTube channel. But as I parse through an ever-increasing pile of wargame shame it’s hard not to peer over to the mounds of unpainted Necromunda: Dark Uprising figures or the Call of Cthulhu tomes.

While doing so, I thought it may be fun to make some 2022 resolutions and pledges for all the non-wargame stuff that we like to talk about on History on the Table. Below you’ll find my 2022 pledges for non-wargame gaming, RPGs and reading. If you’d like, feel free to drop your own 2022 hobby pledges and resolutions below.

Miniatures and Board Games
Resolution: Play More (Any) Games!

2021 marked the year I took the plunge into the deep world of miniature gaming, sort of. Although Kill Team, Warcry, Warhammer Quest: Cursed City, and Chain of Command all sound like outstanding games, I have yet to actually play any of them. A large part of that reason is I have lots of squads, kill teams and bands that sit half painted or only primed.

Kill Team should resolve itself soon as I’ve made a trade for some painting services, and I am very much looking forward to fielding a Sisters of Battle team in 2022. For the rest of the miniatures, here is what I am pledging for 2022, in an effort to play more (read as any) miniature games in 2022:

  • Finish Untamed Beasts for Warcry
  • Finish basic squad of Finns for Chain of Command
  • Finish Ylthari’s Guardians warband for Warhammer: Underworlds
  • Build, prep and paint a basic spread of WW2 terrain
  • Prep, paint, and play Oak and Iron

It would be far too easy to run wild here and say I want to paint and play Cursed City, Necromunda, Fear God & Dreadnought, Warhammer 40k and Age of Sigmar, but that’s just won’t happen with my capabilities. It is far more realistic to pick off a few nearly finished products and start to enjoy some of these games that sound so promising.

Here are a few other games that I am making an effort to get to the table in 2022 that won’t require hours of prep and painting:

Role Playing Games
Resolution: Focused Play

My 2022 RPG resolution is the converse goal to miniature gaming’s and that is less and more focused GM’ing and playing. Here again, sure I’d love to run several different campaigns with sporadically occurring one-shots when the mood strikes but as a relatively new role player, I have found that more focused and selective gaming makes for more enjoyable and meaningful game play.

Image from Hellboy: The Role Playing Game Kickstarter

With that in mind, I’d like to tidy up a few ongoing games, bring them to a close and focus on the following in 2022:

  • Prep and run Call of Cthulhu: ‘Have You Seen the Yellow Sign?’ as part of ongoing Call of Cthulhu 7th edition campaign.
    ‘Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign’ (“Yellow Sign”) will be the first up in the hopper in 2022 as we just closed out ‘The Iron Ghost’ bringing the players to New Orleans (barely). I’d like to wrap up an ongoing Outer Banks mystery game nearing its end before firing this one up though.
    Yellow Sign has been on my to-do list for some time as it comes highly recommended as a must play classic Call of Cthulhu scenario.
  • Prep (after receiving soon, fingers crossed) Hellboy: The Roleplaying Game
    A Hellboy based RPG is a bucket list item for me and I was ecstatic when the recent Kickstarter campaign was launched. I have some small concerns, but overall, I’m optimistic that the additions the team have made to the 5e system will deliver the experience I’m looking for in a Hellboy game. I plan on prepping this by supplementing in extra material from Hellboy Roleplaying Game and Sourcebook (GURPS) before I kick an ongoing campaign off.
  • Play in a character and role play heavy Call of Cthulhu game.
    I’ve really enjoyed my brief time with Call of Cthulhu 7th edition so far, especially as a GM. Unfortunately, my only experience as a player was a very enjoyable one-shot that left me craving more. As I listen to Call of Cthulhu actual plays, I’m left wanting a player experience involving heavy role play and character involvement (which I think really bolsters the Cthulhu experience). Rich mentioned he had something in the works, we’ll see!

Reading
Resolution: Explore New Stuff and Revisit Some Favorites

Like many, I’m sure, I always set some sort of ‘read more’ goal. For 2022 I’d like to branch out in what I read, hitting on some new authors and topics. At the same time there are some personal favorites that I plan on revisiting next year. So, without much more of a preface, here are my 2022 reading resolutions and goals:

  • Read 52 books
    My goal for 2021 was 45 and I made it just in time wrapping up my 45th book on December 29th. Let’s go for more! I don’t beat myself if I fall short of reading challenge goals like this but I think it’s fun to keep count and to try and move that number up each year
  • Read books by new authors
    I have three authors in mind. Both Gordon C. Rhea and James Holland have been mentioned on History on the Table in the past and both will be new to me in 2022. Dan Jones is another author that has crossed my radar recently and I intend to check out some of his Middles Ages books next year.
  • Read about new topics
    Napoleon is not only a topic that has escaped the game table but something that remains unread by me. The Campaigns of Napoleon by David G. Chandler seems to be one of the most recommended for Napoleonic reading, so why not dive into the best?
    Maybe most surprisingly is Finnish history. As much as I like to talk about Finnish wargames, Finnish history is a topic I haven’t really read much about and I intend to fix that. I plan on focusing on both the Northern Crusades into Finland as well as Finnish WW2 history with the following books:
    • The Northern Crusades by Eric Christiansen
    • A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 by William R. Trotter
    • Finland at War: the Winter War 1939-40 and Finland at War: the Continuation and Lapland Wars 1941–45 by Vesa Nenye, Peter Munter, Toni Wirtanen
  • The Great Hellboy Re-Read
    With the RPG approaching I intend to revisit one of my all-time favorite comic book series Hellboy by Mike Mignola following this guide with the gorgeous Library Editions. I started to last year or the year before but pumped the brakes when the 5e RPG was announced. I plan on doing some type of coverage on the website, so keep an eye out and feel free to read along.

Finally and briefly, a large amount of work remains to be done, but in 2022 I want to finish all work on and print Scar and Scarf. Although I’d like to be further along in the formatting and layout process, I’m happy where things sit at the end of 2021 and I’m optimistic Scar and Scarf will be a 2022 reality. More details to come.

With that, I want to wish each of you a happy New Year from History on the Table. Here’s to 2022!

The US Civil War Update Kit Rules Available Now.

GMT has made available the final Basic Rulebook, Advanced Naval Rulebook, Player Aid Cards, and Setup Cards for the reprint The US Civil War.
Download them here.

In the most recent GMT Games updated (November 23, 2021) The US Civil War, 2nd Printing Game and Update Kite were marked as “At the Printer”.

The 2nd Printing Game is available here.
The Update Kit is available here.