Dear Readers, let me welcome you to yet one more article in my “Top Wargames” series. I am discussing here my personal and subjective experiences with various types of positions in this genre. Today I am tackling pretty important point, which many-times occurred in our actual wargaming session – what to play when you have exactly three players?

Many conflict-based games work perfectly as two-player engagements. There are also titles which – thanks to spreading conflict among larger, group, like 4 to 6 factions – balance it well. But to create a title for exactly 3 players, in which two sides will not quickly “eat-up” the third is a real challenge. Let us see my selection of games dedicated for three players (will present 3 titles) and ones which have great three-player mode (another 3 positions to describe).

Disclaimer: I did not put here games I have not played. In that way I can support each and every from below recommendations. On the other hand, there are probably other titles in that category I am oblivious to. Do not hesitate to share them in comments section!

Other articles in the series:

Dedicated 3-player titles

Churchill from GMT Games

I had no real difficulty with the first choice among the games to recommend in that list. Mark Herman is known for years as a designer of fantastic card-assisted games. He created brilliant, politically themed, The Great Statesmen series in which Churchill is a true gem for situation when you have exactly 3 colleagues and debate what to bring to the gaming table.

Game map and units / control markers in the heat of the campaign

This is an asymmetric game about “big three” – players take the roles of Churchill, Roosevelt, or Stalin and try to maneuver their allies into the best direction for them. Of course, while still defeating their enemies (Japan, Germany). In the end this is not a game “if” (the Allies will defeat Axis) but “who” (will rule the world after World War II).

The game is played over 10 turns, where first part is designated to conference (agenda preparation and then discussion) while second to the resolution of the decisions taken (war and political phases). The discussion and debates are really exciting and pretty close – sometimes US and UK will cooperate against USSR, sometimes alliances will switch. The battle resolution is simple and efficient. The long-term consequences of the decisions made – often not fully visible. The play is pretty quick, each of the nations has special abilities and in the background, the twilight struggle over who will have A-Bomb first rages on.

Very highly recommended for 3-player sessions!

More about game:

Cataclysm by GMT Games

I find Cataclysm as a very interesting sandbox game, which gives you a lot of freedom to shape the geopolitical realities of 1930′ and 1940’s. It balances the need to be detailed in such endeavor with the relative simplicity of rules. Thanks to its superb scenarios, introducing you to the game:

you can easily learn it. In the end we are getting an intriguing position, containing great entry scenarios, main campaign but also an alternative set-up (Italy with Allies, fascist France).

Set-up of: Introductory Scenario: Days of Decision

Cataclysm is not a typical game about World War II. First and foremost, the game begins in 1933, not 1939, and is global in scope. We have three blocks (Allies, Fascists and Communists). Germany is far from dominating Europe. Japan is on the march in Asia. Every crisis is an unexpected opportunity. There is no hindsight and anything can happen.

In Cataclysm, you are free to explore alternatives – I love this Sanbox aspect. The Soviets can construct a massive long-range bomber force. Japan can build powerful armored forces to overrun Siberia. Germany can invade Britain, or France can take Berlin, provided you craft a strategy that gets you there. When you play Cataclysm, you write your own history of a Second World war.

Gotcha! Successfully start of US-Japan War!

For me a good strategy-level, sandbox game has to be re-playable and should allow for easy entry into its system thanks to the multiple smaller scenarios. Cataclysm is exactly such a game so this is not a surprise that I am coming back again and again to that fantastic title.

More about game:

Conquest & Consequence from GMT Games

Yet one more sandbox game about World War II! Conquest and Consequence brings the well-known Triumph & Tragedy system to the Pacific/East Asia theater during the same 1936-1945 time period. Like T&T, it is designed for three players, maintaining the three-sided dynamic that adds so much variety and intrigue to the system. And as you know, a dedicated, balanced and intriguing game for a 3 players is a rarity!

So who are the sides?:

  • Militarist Japan, the first Asian power to modernize, which seeks to replace the European colonial empires in East Asia with a true “all-Asian” empire, with itself as the natural leader.
  • The Communist Soviet faction, which is comprised of the Siberian USSR and the Red Chinese revolutionaries.
  • The Capitalist USA faction, which consists of the United States, the British Empire, and the struggling regime of Nationalist China.

Again, strongly recommended!

More about game:

Titles with great 3-player mode

Successors from Phalanx

Let me jump now to category of games with fantastic 3-factions variants, which can be played also with other player numbers.

First and foremost – Successors 4th edition – a long awaited new version of fantastic classic – is a 2-5 player card-driven wargame based on the Alexander the Great generals conflicts. Each player controls a faction of two or more leaders and attempts to win the game either by achieving legitimacy with the Macedonian royalty or by conquering and maintaining control of the empire.

Of course the Fourth edition brings the updates to the game. It includes more generals, more scenarios, new Tyche cards, plenty of new components, and a changed map, with Libya and Cyrene being merged. All in all, a great refresh of fantastic title.

I have to underline that this is a very thematic game – covers all that grand battles of Alexander generals and not so long ago – friends & compatriots. We have Alexander legacy, heirs, prophecies, grand armies, elephants, as well as surprising event cards. The three-player variant is most balanced, most interesting and allows for most competitive play.

More about the game:

Pax Pamir 2 from Wehrlegig Games

In Pax Pamir, players assume the role of nineteenth century Afghan leaders attempting to forge a new state after the collapse of the Durrani Empire. Western histories often call this period “The Great Game” because of the role played by the Europeans who attempted to use central Asia as a theater for their own rivalries.

The game features astonishingly beautiful components!

In terms of game play, Pax Pamir is a pretty straightforward tableau builder. Players – from 1 up to 5 – spend most of their turns purchasing cards from a central market, then playing those cards in front of them in a single row called a court. Playing cards adds units to the game’s map and grants access to additional actions that can be taken to disrupt other players and influence the course of the game.

To survive, players will organize into coalitions. Throughout the game, the dominance of the different coalitions will be evaluated by the players when a special card, called a “Dominance Check”, is resolved. If a single coalition has a commanding lead during one of these checks, those players loyal to that coalition will receive victory points based on their influence in their coalition. However, if Afghanistan remains fragmented during one of these checks, players instead will receive victory points based on their personal power base.

A close up on the play area – map, market and player’s courts

You can play this up to 5 players but I love 3 player variant – not only because there are 3 potential coalitions, but because you are close to ALL your opponents and each can play for completely different belligerent. Again, strongly recommended!

More about game:

ROOT by Leder Games

Surprised? You should not be! While there is still a heated debate on BGG whether rating of “wargame” for ROOT is accurate, this is for me a quintessence of asymmetrical, conflict-fueled design. Which grows better and better with every expansion!

In essence, Root is a game of adventure and war in which 1 to 6 players battle for control of a vast wilderness. Currently you can play with as many as 10 various factions with various reach – statistic determining how suitable particular side is for the low-player-count games.

Winter map struggle for dominance

In Root, players drive the narrative, and the differences between each role create an unparalleled level of interaction and replayability. The strategies, actions and abilities of each faction are completely different. I think most vivid example are Cats – with 15 pieces on map at the start and Alliance – with 0. What is more, game in clever way allows for various combinations of already exiting ten factions, making sure the game is competitive. If you have not tried yet and wonder if it will be fun for your group, you can start from online version.

A six-player game – a true vie for dominance

Of course such a wide choice of factions makes it a perfectly balanced 3-player game, free for all, with various strategies to victory!

More about game:


These are of course only few propositions from vast array of wargames. Still, I can vouch for above titles to resolve the “3 players at the table willing to play wargame” dilemma. Believe me, I have been there and many times pondered “What to play?” I am not worried to answer that question any more 🙂

I would be grateful if you could share your ideas for 3-player games!