The Do’s and Don’ts of Historical Board Gaming (or Wargaming, You Decide)

When it comes to playing wargames, I’m a big proponent of writing your own script, blazing your own trail and doing your own thing.  There is no one size fits all approach to enjoying this hobby but I thought I would share a few tips to (hopefully) allow you to get the most out of this hobby.

Don’t Sweat Minor Details

Is it a wargame? Who cares.  It is probably true of many hobbies but wargamers sure love to bicker amongst themselves over arbitrary details like, “what is and what isn’t a wargame” or “should we even call historical games wargames”. Sure, there may be some value to be gained by debating simulation vs. game under the right circumstance but I assure you that debate will have no impact on your play of Blitzkrieg.

Twilight Struggle. A wargame?

So, someone online just lambasted your new acquisition as not a ‘war game’. Guess what? The game still works. Your enjoyment is unimpaired. You have lost no credibility and your copy of Imperial Struggle will not magically transform into a copy of Castles of Burgundy.

Don’t get bogged down quibbling over semantics. Don’t sweat the small, irrelevant stuff. Just sit back, clip a few counters, or not, and enjoy your games.

Do Follow the Sequence of Play         

Next War Advanced Sequence of Play

The sequence of play should never be ignored.  At the very least, a good sequence of play will serve as checklist of the various game phases to make sure you don’t miss anything.  A great sequence of play will be a step-by-step guide that allows players to work through the game in a very procedural manner.  A shining example of this is the Next War series.  There is no overt complexity to the advanced rules of Next War. If you stick to the sequence of play and become an expert at following every step, you will not feel lost in the sea of Next War rules crashing down on you.

Apply this approach to every war game that provides a sequence of play. Treat a good sequence of play as your guide and lifeline to tackling heavy wargames. It should become second nature to carry out actions and bounce right back to the sequence of play before moving on to the next part of the game.  

Don’t Feel Like You Have to Follow a Script

There is no set path to finding enjoyment in wargaming. You do not have to cross games A and B off your play list before you dive into games O, C, and S. I am guilty of, from time to time, labeling games we discuss as great intro games or beginner games. While valid statements on those games, I think that unintentionally creates an implication that other wargames can’t be your introduction into the hobby. I just don’t think that’s true. Any game can serve as an introduction to the hobby.

North Africa from Multi-Man Publishing

Yes, I think it’ll be much easier for someone new to the hobby to learn to play a game from the Standard Combat Series than the Operational Combat SeriesFlashpoint: South China Sea is a very basic game that can serve as a great introduction to the Card Driven mechanic. But they are not prerequisites to finding joy in this hobby. Don’t feel like you must be shoehorned into playing a bunch of games that don’t interest before you tackle the game that really catches your eye. Just know that some games require more work and more preparation than others.  Speaking of…

Do Read Rules Before Hand

There seems to be an unwritten expectation in wargaming that both opponents approach the table with an understanding of the game, unless explicitly stated.  So here I am, writing it down.

As someone who came to the wargame world from the Ameritrash/Euro/card game side of the hobby it was commonplace to just show up to game night with no rules preparation and a good chance that someone was going to do a full rules teach. For many historical board games, this just doesn’t fly.

When I first started playing wargames, we tried the one person read the rules and teach the other approach. Sure, that may work for wargames with smaller rule sets, but it stopped working when one player was bashing their head against The U.S. Civil War or Fast Action Battle rulebook. As I played more wargames and met new opponents, I found that a lot of wargamers will show up prepared and ready to play with some kind of rules preparation under their belts. Sure, everyone’s circumstances, free time and availability are different but the burden of heavy wargame rules should not rest on one player.  You will find your games more enjoyable, more approachable and maybe even find your play more strategic if you don’t show up to a new game completely cold on the rules.  In the year 2022 there is a wealth of resources out there ranging from custom player-aids, rules summaries, to full video teaches. If you can, come prepared.

Don’t Get Bogged Down

Advanced Squad Leader

Obviously playing a game correctly and executing rules properly, is all very important. But sometimes you don’t have to spend 15 minutes diving into a rule book to find an obscure die modifier.  Let’s say you’re playing Advanced Squad Leader, and you’re progressing through a juicy ‘to-hit’ calculation and a question comes up. Sometimes, you may want to consider chucking the dice first instead of immediately turning to the rule book to find the exact ruling on some obscure circumstance.  Roll ‘em up.  If you roll boxcars, does it even matter if you have +2 or a +3 modifier? No.

Don’t let this be a forever excuse for not understanding rules. It is however an effective approach to not getting buried in the rulebook all game day. Technically speaking, you should also pass your bog checks in ASL.

Do Enjoy What You Enjoy

This pains me but The U.S. Civil War does not have to be your favorite game of all time. You don’t even have to like the game. And whatever your tastes are, you don’t have to defend your interests at all. There are wargamers that will never play anything other than a Commands & Colors title and they will be perfectly content. There are plenty of Advanced Squad Leader players, and far fewer Advance Tobruk System players, who will never touch another wargame. More power to them.

Play what you want to play. Enjoy what you enjoy. Our hobby time is limited and should be spent doing what we like. So, you do you. There is no application checklist to being a war gamer, there are no pre-requisite courses, and, despite this list, the best way to play wargames is how you like to play wargames.

Top 5 Non-18xx Train Games

In the past year I’ve been exposed to a range of games that I had previously disregarded. 18xx and the occasional lighter, train-themed game seemed more than adequate in the past. But this year I dove into the world of cube rails and now I’ve been playing train simulators and have a pair of striped overalls on the way to the house.

Welcome back to another round of guest Top 5. This time we are joined by Rex Stites, a local wargamer but more relevant an all around train game guru. Whether an 18xx or cube rail game, it seems to me that Rex will almost always have had some experience with the game. And although Rex might root for the Jayhawks, I do listen closely when he shares his opinions on train games.

This go around we are sharing out Top 5 ‘Train’ Games. It appears that, as with war games, it’s necessary to define, or intentionally fail to define what a train game is. Accordingly, we are interpreting ‘train’ game in the broadest sense of the term. If a train is involved, and it’s not an 18xx title, it qualified for the list. That being said, I think there should still be plenty of good picks for all levels of train interests

Rex was also great about providing a run down for each game, so listen up!

Number 5


Rex: Dutch Intercity – What would this list be without DIC? Dutch InterCity is a train game that makes you forget it has trains. There’s a map. You build rail links. Route length determines dividends. Simple. But where’s the game?

The game is in the auctions. Well, kind of. What sets DIC auctions apart actually has nothing to do with the auctions themselves. Like many games, stock rounds, operating rounds, and dividend rounds make up the general cycle of the game. Dutch InterCity‘s conceit is that the stock round does not end until one player has $0 of personal cash left. This creates a brittle situation in early SRs, as players jockey to prevent [or obtain] an early share edge. As the game progresses, and the various companies differentiate themselves, players must carefully balance the intrinsic value of the share, their own personal cash, and the personal cash of others in deciding which shares to auction and how much to bid.

There’s not much of an operational aspect, but the game doesn’t need it. Dutch InterCity forces players to think about share auctions in a unique way, and the player interplay is more than enough to ensure DIC doesn’t overstay its welcome.  

Matt: First Class is a household favorite and is only qualifying for this list based off theme alone. First Class is a drafting game where each player drafts cards into their tableau. Cards are largely single purpose but there are a few multi-use cards that can be selected depending on the modules used for play. For the most part First Class is multi-player solitaire but the multiple tracks (heh) to victory make for a fun puzzle each play as you focus on different aspects of your train tableau to develop. Probably not for the train-iest of train gamers but one of our most played games.

Number 4


Rex: Age of Steam – Some say it’s Martin Wallace’s best game. Others say it’s not even a Martin Wallace game. Still others say it’s not a train game. Whatever it is or isn’t, it’s a damn good game.
The key to AoS is that the game hates you. And that’s not just hyperbole, it really does. Unsure how to interpret a rule? It’s safe to say, that whichever interpretation puts you in a worse position is the right one. And that’s not a bad thing. There are two levels of AoS play: learning to survive and learning to compete.
Surviving is harder than it sounds. While AoS‘s pick-up-and-deliver core (you deliver cubes to increase your income) is simple and unintimidating—once you dig into your first game, you might quickly begin to wonder if you can survive turn 2 or 3. Since each delivery permanently increases your income, how hard can it be? Did I mention that you don’t start with any money? That’s right $0. You have to take loans. Loans that can’t be repaid. Loans that cost interest each turn. Loans that count against your VPs. If that weren’t enough, at then end of a turn your income will $1 for every $10 of income. Not enough cash to pay your expenses after taking income for the turn? You reduce your income dollar for dollar—which can quickly lead to a spiral toward bankruptcy. Put it all together and AoS can become an economic trap that would make Malthus blush.
But with a game or two under your belt, the game becomes a less daunting enemy, allowing you to focus on the other players and actually winning. It’s at this point that AoS moves from a solid but forgettable game to something special. Auctions become the critical, if not sole, consideration.
The auctions are ostensibly just for turn order. “Just.” Ha. In reality, players are competing for everything from the right to deliver that one purple cube left to who will get to build that critical link. But turn order is not absolute. Immediately after the auction, players choose a single special action. Standard actions available include “First Build” and “First Delivery” that changes turn order for each of those phases. It’s not unheard of for having first choice to deliver a cube that round is so critical to a player’s game that the player will win first player and then take “First Delivery” as well to ensure, with absolute certainty, that the critical delivery is made. What makes the AoS auctions so great is that players have various competing interests throughout the sequence of play and they’re effectively all up for auction at the same time. Because of the uncertainty about what everyone else is doing, the auctions are always lively and, more often than not, decisive in determining the winner.
By itself, base AoS—The Rustbelt—probably wouldn’t be strong enough to include on this list. But there are myriad maps available, and they can change AoS into something new and fresh, but without disturbing the game’s core concerns. Rule changes are often as simple as replacing or modifying one of the core specific actions. With minimal AoS experience, the way such a change will reverberate throughout the game is fairly obvious, which means the same basic tricks players have already learned will continue to work. At the same time, the change(s) will often make you rethink a previously core aspect of the game.

Matt: Trains are a theme that seem to register well with members of our family who don’t play a lot of board games.  For a long time, Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania was our go to when playing games with our family when wanted to play a train game but wanted more than Ticket to Ride. Although I still enjoy TTR:P, Ride the Rails has become our new go to lighter train game.  Players are still building routes and taking limited actions each round but Ride the Rails introduces passenger delivery, company ownership, shared incentives and basic economic decision making, all without ramping the difficulty up much past a game of TTR.

Number 3


Rex: Union v. CentralUvC is somewhat of a white whale for many who’ve dipped their toe into this little niche of the boardgaming hobby. I’m here to say that you probably won’t like it, and I don’t say that to be snobbish or elitest or exclusionary. I’m convinced that most people want it simply because they can’t find it and they’ve heard people talk about it.

Conceptually, there’s a lot that many people would like about UvC. It’s a 2P tableau building, resource conversion, pick-up-and-deliver card game. Kind of. It’s all those things and yet none of them. In a word, it’s unique. At it’s core, it offers something to gamers with a wide range of preferences. What sets it apart is that the “short” game is probably 6+ hours, and god knows how long the campaign game would take—12? 16? In some ways, it’s similar to AoS in that you’re building an economic engine of sorts. Like AoS—and unlike so many Euros, though—the engine is much more likely to stall than it is to snowball and become a trivial optimization exercise. A lot of people would be fine playing UvC for an hour, maybe two. But I doubt many would willingly suffer it for 6+ hours.  

The game’s conceit is that each player represents either the Union Pacific or the Central Pacific, the two railroads trying to complete transcontinental railway. The winner is the first player to build a set number of rails—8 in the “short” game and 16 in the campaign game.

It sounds so simple. How could it take 6+ hours to build 8 rails???  Well, you’re not just building rail. You’re collecting and converting raw materials. You’re building towns and depots and buying the trains you need to transport your goods. What makes the going tough is a basic truism of logistics that is often neglected in boardgame design:  as your supply lines become longer, the percentage of your transport capacity that is filled with the supplies necessary to move the goods increases. The trains you build in the game consume raw materials in order to operate for a turn. Each turn, they can move 5 rails—maybe less in bad terrain. It can be relatively easy to build those first few rail sections, but eventually you’re going to have to stop building rail and start building other infrastructure—depots, towns, etc.—along the way to facilitate shuffling goods to their ultimate destination.

In many ways you’re playing the game more than your opponent. But there’s just enough interaction that you don’t feel like you’re playing a solitaire game. It’s a game unlike any other and despite the length, at the end of a game, I’m always ready to play again as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get to the table. If I have a buddy and 8 hours, I’m probably playing a wargame. And that’s too bad, because if you can get past the length and the effort needed to accomplish seemingly simple objectives, it’s a great game and a unique experience.

Matt: Iberian Railways is another game I would consider to be a great next step or introductory cube rail game but also one that I find to be tons of fun and a game that appears to have a few different viable strategies. The game is limited to four basic actions and you can’t repeat an action two turns in a row. No shared incentives or investment between players in Iberian Railways but players still develop routes, start new railways and must manage their finances and loans. The end game trigger is also interesting. Once a player has placed their final cube anywhere on the board (cubes are not only used in to represent routes) the game ends. Not everyone’s favorite but one I enjoy.

Number 2


Rex: Lokomotive Werks— Who knew rolling 20d6 could be this much fun? The teaching pitch to the game is:  18XX train rush without stocks or operating rounds. The grumbling you hear from new players is, how could a game with that much dice rolling be decided by anything but luck? The fact is, games need uncertainty—whether from other players or randomness—otherwise they are simply a puzzle.

LW is incredibly simple at its core. So simple, new players may come away with the impression that it’s a trivial exercise in optimization combined with a lot of luck. But underneath its simple, trivial, and random venire, there’s a lot of game. The real decisions aren’t how much new production to buy or old production to upgrade each turn so that you optimize your return for that specific turn. The key decisions are which locomotives to develop and when and how to manipulate your production suboptimally in the short-term.  

I should probably explain a bit more about the game. Players develop 4 different locomotive technology types. Each different loco type has a different number of technology levels. The highest level is “permanent.” The blue locos only have two technology levels, whereas the green locos have five. The techs come out in a fixed order, but the only requirement to start a new tech is that someone has started the one before. In other words, you don’t have to buy all the “2Ts” to get to the “3Ts.” The techs generally cycle through each color—green, red, yellow, blue—before moving to the next “level.” This isn’t always true, though. The level two blue tech becomes available after the level three green tech. New techs “rust” the earlier tech(s) of that color. There’s a linear progression of the technologies in terms of costs and income. Tech design cost (initial capital investment), additional production cost, and income per unit sold are always a ratio of $4 : $2 : $1. Thus tech is conceptually just as profitable as every other tech.

I mentioned production before. Production is abstract and semi-fungible. When you “design” a new tech, it comes with 1 production on it. You can buy additional production for 1/2 the design cost. Because each tech is 4:2:1, you can “upgrade” a production from one tech to another by simply paying the cost difference. But you can never move production back down the chain.

The flip side of production is consumer demand. This is where the dice come in. Each technology will have a certain number of dice representing consumer demand for that locomotive type. After someone develops a new technology, a single die is rolled for the next technology to determine the initial number of orders for that technology. After the first turn a technology is activated, another die is rolled and added until the tech is “full.” The maximum number dice each can hold varies from tech to tech, with green techs holding the most and blue the least. A player can only satisfy demand for one die before another player is given an opportunity. Dice that are completely depleted are rerolled. Dice that are not remain—so if you leave 1 production on a die, it may seriously limit demand the next turn.

Much of the game boils down to manipulating turn order to your advantage. At the end of the turn, the person with the least amount of cash will become first player—and thus first to satisfy demand—the next turn. That can be a huge deal if, for example, three players have a tech type and the demand dice for the next turn are 6, 1, 1. The first player will be able to sell 6 of that locomotive while the other two only one each. Playing the game well requires understanding the interplay of turn order and how demand is generated and satisfied. Sometimes that means buying new production you can’t use to spend your cash down or moving production away from a technology to leave some demand for the next turn. The big decisive points of the game are typically decisions on which new technology to develop. If you’re behind, it’s often a good idea to enter a market that someone else opened in an earlier turn so that you are competing and depriving them of sales.

The end result is that LW gives players fewer decisions but the decisions it gives have a big impact on the outcome. It also forces players to be cognizant of what other players are doing and to react to it.

Matt: It was back in February of this year that a group of us started playing Chicago Express asynchronously over and over again. Thus began my 2022 love affair with cube rails. Since then, we’ve had a continuous series of Chicago Express plays going non-stop. Those plays have been a highlight of the 2022 gaming year. Even after over thirty-five plays, Chicago Express is still revealing new layers and strategies to me. At first, the three actions all seemed so simple, but the timing and decision to execute (or intentionally not) are what make Chicago Express so brilliant.  Those three simple actions and the time of execution are more important than you think when you first start playing the game and are as large of part of the game as auctioning and valuing shares.

Number 1


Rex: Wabash Cannonball—The King of Cube Rails. The quintessential shared-incentives game. As with all Winsome games, it has a very simple set of rules. That simplicity belies the depth of the game, though. Two things set WC apart. First, it is often in a player’s best interest to select an action type, typically an auction, and then not actually take the action. Second, a player can act on behalf of a company merely by owning a share in it. More on both of those things later.

The game starts with an auction of one share in each of the four companies initially available. After that, players will choose from one of three actions on their turns:  Auction, Expand, and Develop. There are a fixed number of each action type available. Once two of the three actions have been maxed out, dividends are paid and the action counters are reset. Auctions and expansions are self-explanatory. Development is placing a token on a hex to increase the revenue it produces. A companies revenue is determined by the cities and mountain hexes it visit. That income is paid out on a per-share sold basis. In other words, when another share of a company is put up for auction, the existing shareholders’ dividends are diluted. 

These basic rules create an ever-changing set of incentive structures that force players to “negotiate” short-term alliances always with a chance of defection. I say “negotiate” because no table talk or explicit deal making is necessary. In fact, quite the opposite. The game really shines when such negotiations are limited to the implicit communication of various actions. If I put up a share of the B&O, which I own the only other share in, and I don’t have enough money to actually win it, that action should be seen as a request and offer to cooperate with someone through advancement of the B&O. But for each action—cooperation—there is an equal reaction—destruction. A 1-1 share split makes for great cooperation. If I’m outside of that [temporary] alliance, I may very well put a third share of that company up for auction. A 2-1 split for the PRR (which only has 3 shares) can quickly shatter that previous alliance and cause force the minority shareholder to divert the company to the middle of nowhere so that it never gets to Chicago (which triggers a special dividend payment for that company).

At the end of the day, your incentives are going to be inextricably intertwined with each of the other players in a way that doesn’t match anyone else (if that makes sense). Each action you take may improve your position relative to some players while hurting relative to others. The web of incentive structures isn’t unique to WC, but I’m not sure any other game gives you the same tools to manipulate and alter those structures.

Matt: Not a meme pick just to talk about the good, good Dutch InterCity. No, Dutch Intercity is a quick-playing, rules simple, minimalist design that is way more nuanced in execution than looks would have you believe.  There is so much power in trying to time your actions to control auction rounds ending, turn order and to a slightly lesser extent game end (harder to trigger game end than triggering an auction close).   Dutch Intercity is brain burn-y cube rail game with heavy emphasis on timing and auctions and, for the time being, is one of my favorite games going forward.

We asked members of the History on the Table Discord Server what their favorite train games were. The clear frontrunner for HotT members was Chicago Express with South African Railroads and Age of Steam both coming in second place.

Please feel free to share your Top 5 Train games below. Thanks to Rex for stopping by to share his favorite train games. We hope to have him back some day to share his top 18xx games as well.
If you are interested in submitting a Guest Top 5 list, please contact Matt at HistoryTablePodcast@gmail.com and thanks to Judd for dropping by.

Top 5 Quick/Filler Wargames with Judd Vance

Welcome back to another round of guest Top 5. We’re back with Judd Vance who’s video and BoardGameGeek submissions served as my wargaming Sherpa when I was getting into the hobby.

Today we are sharing our Top 5 filler or quick playing wargames. As always, we are using ‘wargame’ in the broadest since of the word. Perhaps Top 5 quick historical board games for our pedantic gamers out there.

We defined filler/quick as 60 minute games or games that we could probably play in that time period.

Find Judd at: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/airjudden

Number 5


Judd: Given Up for Dead. It’s a beer-and-pretzels/dice chucker solitaire game in Against the Odds issue #43. You play the part of the U.S. Marines defending Wake Island in 1941 against the Japanese invasion. It captures the battle in broad strokes, but you will destroy a lot more invaders (before you lose) than historically occurred, but it’s quick and it’s fun and as an added bonus, the solitaire Peleliu game that also comes in the magazine is even better, but falls outside of range of “filler.”

Matt: Attack Sub. Quintessential filler wargame historical filler.  It’s usually found cheap, you can adjust the number of subs and ships to play super short scenarios or you can scale things up for a big ol’ Cold War show down. I also think you can come up with some house rules to make this play multiple players with partially shared hands but we won’t get lost in those weeds.  Judd and others describe this as Up Front but for submarines, so lots of randomness. However, it’s fast enough to not be bothered by the outcomes, long enough to practice your best Captain Ramius impersonation, and fun enough to tuck a copy in your bag when you need a quick filler between games.

Number 4


Judd: Jena 20. I played all 3 editions (two by Victory Point Games and one by C3i) and all were good. This is part of the Napoleonic 20 series: 20 counters, short rules, and a clever system where you spend morale for combat and movement bonuses and lose morale for routing. If your morale goes to zero, you lose. Event cards provide variability. It is a great gateway into the Napoleonic Wars.

Matt: 300: Earth & Water. I’ll copy Judd’s number 5 here and also go with a beer-and-pretzels game that came recommended to me by Frédéric Serval. Combat is Risk-like in nature and mechanically simple but manages to do a nice job of capturing a numerically superior Persian force and the tactically superior Greeks. Where I find the game excels is through the management of resources each turn as players are weighing building up their forces, land or sea, against cards that drive their strategy. Tiny footprint, very light, lots of fun.

Number 3


Judd: We Must Tell the Emperor. One of my three favorite State of Siege games. Unfortunately, it will cost you at least one appendage to acquire (and another appendage to acquire the expansion), but maybe it will get reprinted. This solitaire game has you playing the role of Japan in WWII. You have great success in the first third and then it all comes crumbling down after that and you try to get through the event deck before the allies force surrender. You have to push the multiple forces back while keeping a sufficient supply of morale and oil while the army and navy bicker with each other.

Matt: Watergate. Not many battles being fought here but remember this is Top 5 historical games. We do have the Washington Post duking it out against Tricky Dicky though! Looking around the list, I guess I have a thing for quick playing CDGs? In Watergate game you play cards to influence different tracks or, you guessed it, to activate events. The game has great back and forth tension with the Washington Post drawing evidence connections to Nixon, and Nixon trying to place pieces to block those links as he attempts to gain momentum. Straight forward, quick to play and one that’s easy to go “Another round?”.

Number 2


Judd: A Few Acres of Snow. I know, I know… “Halifax Hammer.” I still enjoy the game a lot. It was refreshing when it came out and it still feels good to pull it out and play it. This game on the French & Indian War still does the best job I have seen on this topic at modeling the long supply line to home and the uncertain arrival of supplies and reinforcements and it does it all in a very simple mechanic (deck building). That is the mark of a smart design.

Matt: Julius Caesar: Caesar, Pompey, and the Roman Civil War. Can this game be played in an hour? I think so! Am I already cheating? Maybe, but the excellent Rally the Troop implementations of the Columbia block wargames might be skewing my opinion on how long these games take in person. I think with enough practice you could certainly knock out any of the shorter scenarios found in the Columbia games in an hour so, deal with it! Julius Caesar is my chosen representative for any of these games with it being my favorite (so far). They all basically play the same with each having their own rules with varying levels of chrome. Play cards, move a group of blocks, and chuck dice until you roll equal or below a certain number as indicated on the blocks. Great fun.

Number 1


Judd: Hold the Line: Frederick’s War. This entry also captures Hold the Line (American Revolution), but I prefer this one, because it offered some improvements, such as devastating heavy cavalry charges, counter-charges, force marches, banking action points, and gaining a bonus action point if the army commander did not act the previous turn. The scenarios are tightly balanced and fan-created scenarios open up the entire Seven Years War. It is out of print, but the designer took the premise to Hollandspiele and re-worked it in the Horse & Musket series.

Matt: Red Flag Over Paris. Part of GMT Games’ Lunchtime Games family and is a direct follow up to Fort Sumter. For me, it’s the perfect fit of fast playing and crunchy and, more importantly, interesting decisions. You will vie for control of over Paris both in the military and political spheres while managing limited resources. A basic card driven game with flavorful events and a small menu of basic actions you can carry out instead. Great art and presentation, tough decisions, and a perfect filler game for historical gamers. In my opinion, far superior to Fort Sumter.

Several months ago when this list was first announced on the History on the Table Discord server we polled the members to see what their favorite short/filler wargame was. W1815 received the most votes with Red Flag Over Paris, Watergate, Table Battles and Undaunted all also receiving some love.

User freddyknuckles stumped for Tank Duel, “We had such a great time with [Tank Duel]. Think it would fall in that filler/party/getting warmed up or cooling off space but it takes up a lot of room. Don’t think it’s as easy to bring out as Blitzkrieg or Watergate… when your head is overloaded with hex and counters or moving cubes, it’s nice to shoot tanks at your friends”.

Please feel free to share your Top 5 quick/filler historical games below.
If you are interested in submitting a Guest Top 5 list, please contact Matt at HistoryTablePodcast@gmail.com and thanks to Judd for dropping by.

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 10-1

We discussed my top 10 games of all time after counting down for several weeks back in February of 2022. At some point, posting the text list of my top games completely slipped my mind. So nearly 4 months later, here is the final list! I kept my comments short since we did a full episode going over the game. For detailed discussion on my final 10 picks, check out Episode 35 of History on the Table.

10. Next War Series

A very rewarding level of complexity with great gameplay and interesting conflict hypotheticals.

9. Advanced Squad Leader

As it will probably continue to stand, my favorite WW2 tactical game.

8. Stalingrad ’42: Southern Russia, June-December, 1942

My favorite in the ZOC Bond series from Mark Simonitch. Huge map with lots of interesting chrome.

7. A Feast for Odin

Maybe some strategies are more dominant than others but I love having the option to explore loads of different paths to victory.

6. Gaia Project

Planning and optimization are king. Largely multiplayer solitaire gameplay but a great model for exploring developing a plan and carrying it out the best you can.

5. Great Campaigns of the American Civil War (Series)

One of the best designed systems I’ve come across. Captures so much of what I want an ACW game to capture and does so without a ton of rules complexity.

4. Line of Battle (Series)

Splitting hairs with GCACW and Line of Battle does have some drawbacks (turn length) but as a whole experience LoB edges ahead.

3. Great Western Trail

Great all around euro design with different approaches to victory and game play that clips along a great place.

2. Fields of Arle

The best worker placement game I’ve played and I just love seeing the finished product after a session of play.

1. The U.S. Civil War

Was there ever any doubt?

That’s the list! What are your top 10 games of all time?

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 20-11

We are nearly there! Later this week Rich and I will record this month’s episode and go through my top 10. This is the first place in the list where will we see a group of games ranked so seems like a good time to remind you that I combined GCACW, OCS, Line of Battle and Next War into one entry each and considered my top game in each series for ranking purposes.
Keep an eye out for our next episode that will drop sometime over the weekend.

20. Holland `44

Mark Simonitch has created an excellent series of games using his ZOC-Bond system. The games are pretty welcoming to newcomers and have a nice amount of chrome. Holland `44 doesn’t have the attack limit from Normandy `44 and both sides have a tough puzzle to crack. The German player is on their heels the entire game but still has interesting decisions to make. Great looking game and one of the best in the series, but not the best.

19. Nevsky: Teutons and Rus in Collision 1240-1242

Nevsky is a masterclass in designing operational games. In our most recent episode, we discussed how there was this weird barrier of entry into finally playing Nevsky. If you are like Rich and I, do yourself a favor and download the quick-start scenarios and just start pushing pieces around, you won’t be disappointed. Can’t recommend this game enough and I’m very excited to see where the Levy & Campaign series goes in the future.

18. Silver Bayonet: The First Team in Vietnam, 1965

Silver Bayonet is surprisingly easy to learn and dive into and is one hundred percent worth it. The game is a blast to play with each side’s tactics feeling different from the other, especially in the campaign game. The individual scenario cards are perfect for setting you up for the full campaign as well and play great solo. The map is gorgeous, the components are top notch and Silver Bayonet is one of the best Vietnam games I’ve played.

17. 7th Fleet: Modern Naval Combat in the Far East

7th Fleet is a huge game covering the Pacific that I’ve unfortunately only played once. That one game experience left a lasting impression on me and still ranks as one of my favorite wargame memories. Once things clicked, I knew that the Fleet Series of games could go down as some of my favorite wargames ever made. Tons of different units with lots of levers to pull. I really hope any revamp of this classic series doesn’t change too many things just for the sake of changing things.

16. Concordia

I’ll be the first to admit that the theme of Concordia is pretty soulless but the gameplay isn’t. Concordia is an action-card drafting, hand management game where you expand throughout the Mediterranean region to produce goods Your action cards start out pretty basic but as you acquire new cards you unlock unique actions for future turns. The brilliant aspect of this game is action cards double as victory point cards at the end of the game and can really jell nicely with your overall strategy.

15. Viticulture: Essential Edition

With a great theme and amazing components, Viticulture was one of my first board game loves and still ranks among my and my wife’s favorites. Viticulture is a worker placement game about producing wine, building up a winery and attracting visitors. Efficiency is key and I still can get surprised by a game ending faster than expected.

14. Operational Combat Series

If you are unfamiliar with MMP’s Operational Combat Series (“OCS), OCS is a campaign-level series of wargames where supply management is an integral part of gameplay. Simply put, OCS is one of my favorite wargame series out there. When I first read through the rules, I thought what the hell am I getting into. But once I started to push counters and supply around the maps (all of which are great in this series) the game clicks. The rules surprisingly digestible, probably benefiting from being on version 4.x. OCS can serve as week, month, year long monster game covering a huge campaign or can be play over a few hours on the weekend depending on the scenario. My only knock against the series is the large campaign turns can take a very, very long time to complete and often times the other side is just waiting to do anything. Personal favorites in the series so far are Beyond the Rhine and Korea.

13. Dien Bien Phu: The Final Gamble

First off, whatever say about this game could never really compare to Bruce Geryk’s fantastic video series that concluded with his video titles Dien Bien Phu – The Final Gamble (Legion Wargames) 2014. If you haven’t watched it, check it out. Kim Kanger has truly designed something very unique and innovative with Dien Bien Phu. Supply, combat, encroaching trench lines, even topic are all super interesting and introduce some innovative game designs.

12. Here I Stand

Here I Stand unfortunately has two big hurdles to overcome: 1) you need six players; and 2) you need a full day to play. If you can overcome those two barriers, you are in for one hell of an experience. Here I Stand is a card-driven game with six different factions, most of which feel very unique from each other. It can certainly be a pile on the leader game but that just means you need to politic and choose when to take your shot. I’ve been lucky enough to play a handful of times live over the past couple of years and Here I Stand just gets better and better each time.

11. Le Havre

I absolutely love the tough the decisions in Le Havre. Your actions are actually limited in execution, you either take goods or use a building, that’s it. You do that seven times over a round and then you have to feed workers. But the decisions offered by the piles of goods and available buildings make for extremely tight, difficult and just all around awesome game play. One of the best Uwe Rosenburg games for my money, but not the best…

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 depicted on the back cover of Buffalo Wings
#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?

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 60-51

60. Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge

Battle Hymn Vol. 1 is a chit-pull wargame that recently showed up on the Top 5 games to play solo list. Although combat calculations are rather clunky, the game overall is tons of dice chucking fun. The uncertainty of the chit-pull mechanic adds a lot to this game, especially because even combat resolution occurs on the pull of a chit. The campaign games far outshine the smaller scenarios so definitely check those out.

59. 18Los Angeles

18Los Angeles is a direct offshoot of 1846: the Race for the Midwest and plays like a condensed and cramped version of it. Much like 18MS, 18Los Angeles isn’t very deep or overly complex, it’s just fun, rather straight forward, 18xx on small congested map with some cool concepts (like trains sharing routes). I like how tight the map is and how quickly the game plays out.

58. Glass Road

An Uwe Rosenberg design that I adore but doesn’t hit the table nearly enough. Glass Road is an action selection game where you pick 5 cards to play for a round. If no one else has that card in hand when you play a card, you get all the actions on it. Otherwise, just one. Like many Uwe designs, I love seeing the finished product in Glass Road as you clear forests and build buildings. It’s not as grand as some other Uwe designs but the gameplay is solid. The asset wheels are worth mentioning and are a neat way to keep track of resources in the game. Talking about this makes me want to get it to the table ASAP.

57. Hero Realms

Hero Realms is a light deck building game but it is one of my favorites when played with the unique character classes. The character classes add specialized strategies to the game and without them the game feels rather vanilla. If I’m looking for a very quick playing, easy to setup deck builder, Hero Realms is my choice (again with the class packs, they are an absolute must). The game has been supported past its initial release, but I think the failure to release more character packs has been a big misstep and I would love to see more.

56. Sherco’s Grand Slam Baseball Game

Sherco’s Grand Slam Baseball is the best sports simulation game I’ve played. Sherco, like other sports sims of its nature, boils down to chucking dice and seeing what happens. But what sets Sherco above things like Hockey Blast or Strat-O-Matic is not only the vast amount of outcomes that can play out but the amount of actual decisions you can make though the course of a game. Whereas with Hockey Blast (a game I love to play solo) you are along for the ride, in Sherco you have what feels like actual player agency. Maybe those decisions don’t actually matter in play but they certainly enhance the experience. Some great fan work (props to the fantastic custom cards by ‘Duck’) has gone into this game and I’ve been working on my own wooden based 1985 Royals play set including a mounted Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium).

55. Root

Asymmetric woodland warfare! Root is another game that improves with continuous play. I started out thinking some factions would be duds based on their particular mechanics but I’ve since been able to get a better grasp on each faction. Once I had an understanding of each leaned into their gameplay styles I found that they are all a blast to play with unique paths to victory. Root requires keeping an eye on each player and determining how to respond to an evolving game state while also playing to your faction’s strengths. You can’t just burry your head and do your own thing but you need to interact with other players. Root allows for that in different ways whether through politicking, warfare or leaching off other in a sort of symbiotic relationship.

54. Rook

Rook is one of my favorite trick taking game with some of my favorite trick taking rules. Whoever makes the highest bid gets to take the 5 card nest (5 face down cards) and can swap 5 of their cards from their hand. Whoever wins the last trick claims the nest (you can hide pointers in there or set yourself up to be 2 suited). 5’s, 10’s, 14’s, the Rook card (super trump), and most cards taken score points at the end of each round. It’s a blast to play, I just think that the nest taker has a huge advantage. The reason Rook falls this low is because of that dominant position that the high bidder can put themselves in. But for an apparently 115+ year old card game, it’s doing well for itself. Ranking Root and Rook next to each other was completely coincidental!

53. SPQR

SPQR has always lived in this weird space for me. When I’m playing the game, I love it. When prepping game or looking back on a game, I sour on it for some reason. I think in large part it has to do with the type of combat SPQR is presenting because although the game rules are a bit dense and gameplay itself is a bit fiddly (solved by playing on Vassal, somewhat), the game design is outstanding. If detailed, tactical Ancients warfare is something you are looking for and you want more on your plate than something like Commands & Colors: Ancients offers, SPQR is a lot of that crammed into one big box.

One of my current favorite Commanders to pilot

52. Magic: The Gathering

Even just a year ago there is no way that Magic cracked my top games list but Commander, or Elder Dragon Highlander has completely changed my perspective on the game. If you are unfamiliar with EDH, Commander is 100 singleton card format best at 4 players. I find building a 100 card Commander deck to be tons of fun and Commander just leads to insane combinations, gut busting laughter and sometimes really interesting politicking.

51. Normandy `44

Normandy `44 has been surpassed by more recent Mark Simonitch designs but those don’t discredit this fantastic game. For those unfamiliar with Simontich’s ZOC-Bond style of games they are, at their base, rather straight forward, you go, I go hex and counter wargames. But piled on top of that base is the ZOC-Bond mechanic and tons of great chrome for each game design. Normandy `44 does slip a bit because of how combat will more likely than not end up on the same CRT column repeatedly due to combat maximums but I still love this game. One of my first hex-and-counter wargames and one I still completely recommend for those looking to play out the Normandy invasion.

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 80-71

80. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

This is probably sacrilege but when push comes to shove, I just enjoy the smaller 2 player version of Agricola more. Some key Agricola elements (e.g. professions, feeding family) are missing in this smaller version but Agricola:ACBS is great fun and still captures the Agricola feel. An important caveat here is the expansions are a must but that’s easy to accomplish with the recently printed big box version of the game.

79. Red Rising

Red Rising uses a favorite card game mechanic of mine which is deciding to keep a card in your hand for scoring/end-game purposes or playing it for some immediate benefit. The decisions generated by multi-use cards are excruciating and produce some excellent internal tension and that’s definitely present in Red Rising. The theme doesn’t come oozing off of the game but Red Rising at least pushed me to check out the books which I highly recommend. Doesn’t overstay its welcome on the table and has fantastic art.

78. Battles of the American Revolution Tri-pack: Guilford, Saratoga, Brandywine

There is some great value to be found in this collection and I seem to always find it hovering near the top of my “I need to play that again” pile. The Battles of the American Revolution as a whole is a sharp, elegant system that plays without getting bogged down. Randomized turn order adds a nice surprise element to the game and troop morale can play a role as well. American Rev isn’t a topic I gravitate towards but I think this is a great system, and more specifically entry in the system, for anyone looks for some American Revolution action.

77. Kingsburg

I’ll add the important caveat that Kingsburg only cracks this list with its fantastic expansion Kingsburg: To Forge A Realm. With the expansion, Kingsburg is an excellent dice placement game where you have to prepare for a looming threat while developing your realm for victory points. To Forge A Realm adds variety to each player board and future plays. A second edition exists that I haven’t played.

Photo from Ted Alspach, BGG

76. Crokinole

I’ve had success with Crokinole in just about every situation I’ve introduced it. This is a simple flicking game with targeting rules that shift depending on the current board state. Absolute blast and I’m very happy with the recent Mayday Games board I acquired for my own collection.

75. Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King

Isle of Skye is a great blend of auction and tile placement mechanics. The ‘trick’ here is you price the tiles for sale or to keep. You want to price the tiles your opponents want high enough to take their money, but not so high they buy elsewhere. You also want to protect the tiles you want by pricing them just so someone won’t take them from out in front of you.

74. Star Wars: Destiny

Oh man, when Star Wars: Destiny came out I was all in. I was cracking packs and going to draft tournaments every chance I could. Prices and publishing delays/schedules killed a lot of the momentum but mechanically I loved this game. Destiny was a collectible card game with dice and tons of Star War theme jammed in. Eventually Fantasy Flight pulled the plug on this game but I still remember it with fondness. When stores were unloading their stocks I bought a bunch up to build a couple of balanced decks to keep around.

73.Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles

Band of Brothers was my entry to tactical WWII gaming. If you have no interest in the rules or complexity of ASL and ATS, this scratches the exact same itch with a much, much smaller rule book. Fantastic components and just as capable of telling the great stories that tactical games often tell. The only reason Band of Brothers hovers this far back in the list is because I eventually moved on to ASL and ATS and needed to make space.

72. Genesis: Empires and Kingdoms of the Ancient Middle East

The thing I like most about Genesis is that it allows me to focus on my kingdom’s immediate concerns and objectives. If playing as the Babylonians, there is little I can do to react to events unfolding in Troy or Memphis. My immediate concerns are the areas and threats facing Babylon as my chits are drawn. The result is the game allows me to focus on my kingdom’s expansion in a way that I enjoy. On top of that, Genesis has very interesting percentage-based combat resolution where the victor needs to weigh taking vs. inflicting casualties. Richard Berg admitted this game was unbalanced (it’s really easy to make a Mitanni sandwich) but if you understand that going into the game Genesis makes for a great play.

71. Fresco

Solid worker placement with a fun twist and a unique (especially for the time of its release) theme, painting. Here, players commit their workers in secret and depending on how early their painters wake up will either get their preferred spot or the unwanted leftovers. We don’t sprinkle in the expansions beyond those included in the base box but we are still enjoying this game several years after its release. I guess you could say it still feels Freshco.

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.