I have heard pretty many times that this or that wargame depends too much on luck – mainly that a good roll of d6 (six sided dice) could change the campaign strategic situation. While I am usually pretty skeptic to such a blunt thesis – especially, if there are tens or hundreds of rolls in the game and probability evens out – I can understand the frustration.
That is why in today’s article I am focusing on those wargames which I appreciate, like and play regularly but they do not have a dice mechanism – or have it in pretty minimal form (like position three in my list). Important to note here is that they still have some element of luck. It is much smaller then the dice roll, but still exists.
So, without further delay let us see what I recommend. In each of below titles the designers went to great lengths to build innovative and interesting mechanisms to deal with uncertainty in the game minimizing usage of a dice roll.
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 Card Driven Games (CDGs) – my 3 favorite Worker Placement Games – my 3 favorite
Definitely my favorite no-dice wargame. It has all you can yearn for: a great and engrossing theme, balanced but asymmetric set-up & game-play, great replayability value and beautiful components. What is more, it has great mechanics for battle resolution, involving morale checks of the belligerents. With each session I am more and more fascinated with this title and can never get tired of it.
The story told here is of the battle of Sekigahara, fought in 1600 at a crossroads in Japan, which unified that nation under the Tokugawa family for more than 250 years. The game allows you to re-contest that war as Ishida Mitsunari, defender of a child heir, or Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan’s most powerful daimyo (feudal lord).
The campaign is pretty brief, lasts only 7 weeks, during which each side improvise an army and a strategy with what forces their allies could muster. Each leader harbored deep doubts as to the loyalty of his units – for good reason – greatly depicted in games mechanics.
So how do the game cope without the dice? The battles are fought using the units (blocks) and cards which activate them. It could be that you do not have specific cards to order your units – they simply refuse to fight. It is also possible that some of them might defect to the other side.
You see the enemy blocks only during the battle, and when drawing reinforcements, that could be of almost any type and clan. The key to victory is not to have the larger army but more loyal and devoted one. The game is very close and tens till the last turn. Highly recommended!
More about game:
A long awaited spiritual successor – as this is definitely not a sequel – to the Twilight Struggle was published just recently. For the last couple of months I was familiarizing with the game and it already jumped very high in my personal rankings. Definitely into top 3 no-dice wargames.
In short, it is a two-player game depicting the 18th-century rivalry between France and Britain. It covers almost 100 years (from 1697 till 1789), touching war, political, economical and diplomacy aspects. Unlike most Card Driven games, here you choose from common pool of investment tiles and only sometimes supplement it with event. Once you play event, it is removed from the game permanently.
The number of changing dimensions here is huge and really no dice is needed to create great experience with proper amount of uncertainty. We have:
- investment tiles – each round different set
- ministry cards – a large pool to be chosen from for each of three eras
- multiple events – with many of them having separate British and French resolution
- advantages – which once acquired, provides even more flexibility in your moves
- regional awards and global demand – two key factors as far as Victory Points are concerned, changed each turn
- the player’s order not fixed, and depending on VPs position
- last but not least – wars resolution – with combination of alliances, squadrons, conflicts and hidden basic & bonus war tiles not dice is needed to create suspenseful climax to the war resolution step!
This is a great example of very innovative approach in a game design – a complex, political and war themed game, with multiple dimensions of influence on global situation, creating a complex mechanism in itself which depends on some amount of luck – like drawing awards and global demand – but by no means requires dice to function. Again, highly recommended!
More about game:
Hannibal & Hamilcar is a 20th anniversary edition of the classic game Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. This is asymmetric, 2 player CDG (card-driven game) which depicts the largest conflicts of the ancient history – Punic Wars.
What more can I say? Great climate – the rules, the elements, the mechanics – all makes you feel like you moved in time 2000 years and immersed in Roman Republic period. What is more, we have two games here – First and Second Punic War – in price of one!
The elements, 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. Event 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.
Minimal usage of dice is needed for battle resolution – only losses and sieges. When two armies meet on the battlefield, a special set of cards, called Battle Cards, are used to determine the winner. It is kind of the game within the game – a very interesting and tens encounter, where again not numbers but better tactics can prevail.
More about game:
Although Chad Jensen is no longer with us, his great games are still here to give us tons of good time. My personal favorite – which I also decided to present in this article as a runner-up – is Combat Commander series, with special emphasis on Europe version.
That game has already 14 years – surprisingly long as I still have a feeling I got it just a couple of months ago – but by no means it become obsolete or not current. That was one of my first more complicated / advanced wargames I started to play and till today I always come back to it with great pleasure. It has one of the best rulebooks I have ever seen – with so many rules in full games, I never had a problem to find paragraph or chapter describing particular rule.
As for the no-dice aspect, well, this is not such a clear thing here (thus not in the main list). On the one hand we do not use d6 or any other tool like this. On the other, to check multiple game elements, we draw cards and reference the result. True, all components on card are connected – usually good action / event are combined with good roll (so you cannot get both) or poor actions / events combined with low rolls – again, so you are punished twice. Still there is some element of drawing, but for purpose of this article it is deemed negligible 🙂
More about game:
I am huge fan of The Great Statements series – I have Churchill, Pericles and Versailles and awaiting eagerly Vienna 1815. And while Pericles did not make my Top 3 in that article, I think it is a game worth mentioning.
This is one of those beautiful games (and which I like most) where the rules are not overly complex (although not trivial) but making them all working to your advantage and mastering is a hard piece of work. It has well balanced complexity level, interesting theme, beautiful components and tons of scenarios – for shorter and longer evenings.
As for the uncertainty and no-dice-mechanism we have first of all: issues, which are placed hidden by the belligerents. On top of this, when resolving military expedition, sides commit strategos secretly, which directly translates into the strength and number of forces committed. Simple and elegant mechanics which makes use of dice unnecessary. If you have not tried this game yet, you definitely should.
And that is all for today – see you in another blog post!