I would like to continue with the series of articles presenting some of my favorite boardgames. Today there will be a special article – let me explain why.
When I was starting my journey with wargames in 1990’s two types of designs draw my attention. First, the traditional hex & counter military engagements – so far, I think this is what most people connect with the term wargame. The second type of games was a complete novelty to me (and I think to many other players these days) – these were called Card Driven Games (CDGs).
I think this would be fair to bring the CDGs definition as it can vary from interpretation to interpretation. Let me thus stipulate main characteristics – they sometimes are pretty broad but gives good understanding what we talk about:
- Almost all actions possible for the player to undertake stems from the cards – be it action / operation, event, replacement, reinforcements, etc.
- Some games provide multi-use cards (see Paths of Glory) while other have specific cards for particular action (see We the People, Julius Caesar).
- board consists of spaces connected by lines to other spaces, what is now known as a point-to-point system. This is in stark contrast to hexagonal board of traditional wargames. Attention! Do not be misled by the hexagonal map of Empire of the Sun – you anyhow can move only between some points on it!
- While cardboard counters are still used, often they represent generic strength points rather than specific units. It varies from game to game, but it seems scale is higher in CDGs (strategic level usually).
And you can probably stipulate many more characteristics, but I hope that above set gives more or less comprehensive picture of that type of wargames. Bear in mind, that there are many games using cards / events but only as additional dimension of play. Such positions – called Card-Assisted – are also valuable titles but will not be presented here (although some might be mentioned).
Other articles in the series: Light / entry Wargames – my 3 favorite Medium complexity wargames – my 3 favorite Complex / advanced wargames - my 3 favorite Solitaire Wargames - my 3 favorite Travel friendly Wargames – my 3 favorite Commands and Colors games – my 3 favorite
Paths of Glory by GMT Games
A very special title for me. First wargame acquired which was not a hex & counter type. A quintessence of the CDG, where all possible action – Operations, Events, Replacement Points, Strategic Movement comes from the card. I had opportunity to introduce it to new players multiple times, had a blast with full, 20-turn campaign and even played the 1917 variant. And still can’t get enough of it!
I remember in our initial sessions we treated this position more like a traditional wargame, spending almost all points on operations and bleeding each other to death, until somebody broke the front and encircled the enemy With the time there come experience and appreciation for events with long-lasting effects, importance of replacement points or need to fuel reinforcements to the front.
While World War I (or The Great War, as it was called) is not such a popular game theme in comparison to its much bigger successor, it is nevertheless worth our attention. Such boardgames like presented here allows us also to replay the historical events, and see how the Bolshevik Revolution was slowly, slowly kindling within the Russia or how prolonged and difficult was the process of bringing US to the war.
Should you consider starting your journey with that type of games, you will for sure not do wrong with Paths of Glory. It is such a thematic, deep and engrossing title that even many years after my first plays I am gladly coming back to it. Highly recommended!
More about game:
Hannibal & Hamilcar by Phalanx
Hannibal & Hamilcar is a 20th anniversary edition of the classic game Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. This is an asymmetric, 2 player wargame which depicts the largest conflicts of the ancient history – Punic Wars.
Let me focus on some more details. Great theme – the rules, the elements, the mechanics – all makes you feel like you moved in time over two millennia and immersed in Roman Republic period. Do not forget we have two games here – First (Hamilcar) and Second (Hannibal) Punic Wars – in price of one!
The components, especially plastics figures, are really well and nicely made. The game has tons of scenarios plus three introductory campaigns – that definitely extends the replayability of the position. Events give a nice touch to the game and the battle resolution is a game within the game.
Still, the challenge stays – how to play with Hannibal and win? It is really tough nut to crack but with every defeat you just want to try from the start other strategy! I spent many hours playing that game and I am never tired to try it one more time.
More about game:
Empire of the Sun by GMT Games
One of the wargaming hobby behemoths but also a fantastic simulation of strategic warfare on Pacific during WWII – Empire of the Sun (EotS). A really breath-taking scale, with comprehensive campaign and – in my opinion – much more digestible and accessible scenarios, be it from the base game or GMT C3i magazine.
To be quite honest, I have not found better game with that theme. It is true that in order to cover whole 4 years of Pacific War, including main theaters as India, Burma, China, Japan, Australia and all the Islands a really comprehensive rulebook was needed. Still, with every session played the game become more and more accessible and joy from it grows!
In my experience, if you would like to start the wonderful journey with EotS, start small. The good entry points will be 1943 scenario or C3i South Pacific set-up. They both limit the scale and timeline of campaign, providing for good training gameplays. Enjoy!
More about game:
Well, I have to admit – it was so hard to choose the top 3 CDGs, that I need couple of word of comment for the runners-ups.
- Twilight Struggle / Imperial Struggle – the first one was played by me extensively when it was published – to the extent that I took part in many intentional tournaments (like Twilight Struggle Convention). With growing number of new titles to play, it started to hit the table less often unfortunately. However, when the new design of Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews was recently published – Imperial Struggle – my interest immediately came back. The second title – as per authors note – is not a typical CDG, but rather Card-Assisted game. I already had a chance to play it couple of times and with time, it might hit the top three of my list.
- Falling Sky – Creation of wargames with asymmetric sides was for a long time a very difficult endeavor and there were very few titles on the market doing it pretty well. However, COIN (COunter INsurgency) series excels in that area and out of multiple titles in that series I am usually choosing one which is closest to my history interests – The Falling Sky. The game in wonderful way describes story of last year of Julius Caesar conquest of Gallia – culminating in great revolt in 52 BC.
- Here I Stand – truly large and thorough story of the Europe during the time of Reformation. In full version allows six players to lead key political and religious powers of 16th century Europe. Great replayability value – each faction plays completely differently, so you have at least couple of games before you would be able to experience all the subtleties of this title.
It is great that our hobby – wargaming – comes in such a variety of mechanics and titles. That allows each of us to find his proffered niche and pursue it. I will not deny, CDGs are such games for me – the choice of what to do each turn limited by your cards and trade-offs connected to this are the thrill I am yearning for! And while it seemed that golden years of that game type are long gone, I am still finding them as one of the most engrossing positions.
RAF 2 is notably absent from your “Runners Up”
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Thank you! Never played that might be the reason. But I will gladly check!
Great “Top 3” !
Twilight Struggle is my thing, actually playing it online with the Playdek version. I am falling into Labyrinth The War on Terror and learning how to deal with the two turns you play in a row. And I want to try a game from the COIN series, reading the rules of Andean Abyss.
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And Fort Sumter is quite intersting, surely the fastest CDG you’ll play, simple but tense.
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Indeed! I have it, even my wife is glad to play it!
I also have the Playdek TS version – really great application!