Yes. I recommend it with reservations.
I’ve only played Shogun out of these, but I really like it. I bought it after Quinn’s reviewed it, despite him not recommending it. The randomness of the action orders from round to round keeps each round feeling fresh, and only knowing the order of half of them makes for some really tense play, wondering if you are going to get to more troops into a territory before combat ensues or if the taxes will be collected before you run out of money building more troops or buildings. And while the cube tower is a bit flimsy, I like the added element of randomness it provides.
Out of the games recommended in this thread so far, I’ve only played 878 Vikings and Shogun. I’ve purchased but have yet to play Root, Memoir '44 and Quartermaster General.
I will absolutely recommend 878 Vikings (or, if you prefer, just use the amount of Vikings that come in the box). Shogun is a fantastic game but I think it sticks around on your table longer than it deserves (at least with the group I played with). If it was 20% faster, I would consider it a “must have” dudes-on-a-map game.
On a slightly different subject: Does anybody know of a good Naval Combat game? I stumbled across a thread on BGG a while ago where somebody asked the same thing and the general consensus was “don’t bother, there aren’t any good ones”.
Well, I like Harpoon but it’s not at all what I’d call “lite”.
Often people looking at naval wargames are interested in a particular scale (do you want to maneuver individual ships within a particular battle or direct entire fleets around the world?) and a time period (ancient, age of sail, dreadnoughts, WW2+). Anything you’re particularly interested in?
I have a friend who really enjoys Admiral’s Order: Naval Tactics in the Age of Sail.
878 is added to the list!
I’m not particularly invested in any particular scale or time period. I think naval combat, in general, is an interesting balance of strategy and tactics and I would love to see that explored in boardgame format.
I think Age of Sail and WW2 are the “low hanging fruit” due to the prevalence/romanticism of those periods in fiction/film. And (because I like to curate my collection as a matrix of type-of-experience by player-count by complexity rating), I would be interested from anything between “practically abstract” down to “detailed simulation of submarine-on-submarine combat” (that said, I’ve played Captain Sonar and that is a party game more than it’s a conflict game, so I guess it gets into one of those grey areas of boardgaming)
Wow, this one looks interesting if not intense and overwhelming!
My friend is HARDCORE into that game. I’ve never been huge on naval stuff, but he’s tried to get me to give it a shot. Considering that he is obsessed with naval tactics and whatnot, I’ve decided to save myself the embarrassment, though I honestly don’t think the game would last very long.
So the problem with a lot of naval wargames is the ratio of bookkeeping or fiddiliness to fun is too high. A lot of games are very detailed and are strong simulations, but unless you’re really into things like modeling plunging trajectories correctly, that doesn’t always translate to fun. What I find fun is being put in the boots of the historical commander and trying to make the tough high-level decisions they had to deal with, not counting modifiers or tracking ammo. At least, that’s me. Your mileage may vary. There are a couple games I haven’t moved to my sell pile yet:
Carrier is a solitaire operational-level game of primarily naval air combat in the WW2 Southwest Pacific. The general warning about this game is that the system can be difficult to learn: the core of the game is hidden information in that you don’t know where or how strong the enemy forces are, and the game has some subsystems to manage this hidden information. Once you get past learning the system, the game itself has relatively little bookkeeping so you can concentrate on commanding your carrier task forces. In other words, constantly worried that you’ll be hit by an unknown enemy force, especially when you have planes on deck, and cursing bad luck when your scouts and air strikes fail to find their targets in the vast Pacific. To give you an idea of how it plays, here is an AAR I wrote in a different life.
Carrier has a cousin solitaire game by the same designer called Tokyo Express about night surface combat around Guadalcanal. Emphasis on night because, again, you don’t always see the enemy coming, and so it can be as chaotic as a barroom brawl where someone shut the windows. I prefer Carrier, but others may prefer trying to maintain their battle lines while long lance torpedoes come out of the darkness.
Attack Sub is a game about sub and surface warfare during the Cold War era. It uses the same hand management system as Up Front to abstract some aspects of combat friction. Sometimes it can take a while to line up a good shot. Sometimes you aren’t in the right position to make use of the thermocline. So instead of players trying to game system mechanics, they use what they’ve got and get on with playing cat and mouse.
I have sold or am selling my copy of Wooden Ships & Iron Men, so I don’t recommend it. Too much bookkeeping. A modern take on the age of sail would probably be better. I’ve heard things about Sails of Glory and Flying Colors, but I haven’t played either.
I get the impression that most of the people interested in this live in the miniature wargaming space, to the point that there is a whole wikipedia article about it. I’m not sure if this is interesting to you and I have zero experience with this area of the hobby (although X-Wing is adjacent and I have played that twice).
Note that both the people who push cardboard-chits around maps and the people who paint miniature Napoleonic soldiers to push around terrain both call themselves wargamers and don’t really seem to acknowledge the other’s claim to the name. As I used to belong to the former category, we called the latter miniature gamers. Not sure what they called us. I note that when real-life militaries play wargames for training, they use cardboard-chits and paper maps, so there. (Tongue-in-cheek)
I would look at the US Naval War College bookstore catalog. They have a great deal of historical wargaming publications that deal specifically with naval gaming, and they still sometimes conduct traditional naval games. The recent replay of Jutland by the staff and students is a noteworthy example. The biggest problem with any naval game past the age of sail is scale; you need a lot of space once you get to the late Pre-Dreadnought era. USNWC games are played on a tiled checkerboard floor in which each square is equivalent to a set area (I think the Jutland game was one square mile).
Here’s a link to Amazon’s listing for a new edition of Fletcher Pratt’s Naval War Game Rules
And Fred T. Jane’s Naval War Game
It doesn’t matter what they call us. They’re irrelevant.
@pillbox Here is a link to an article covering the Jutland game.
Revise above: those squares look much smaller than a square mile to me.
Revision 2: Here is a neat YouTube vignette on the Jutland game:
I see a lot of people here recommended Kemet, but at least in our group, when people sometimes play a little slow and stop to think what they are doing, it can go over the 2 hour mark quite easily. I’d expect Cyclades to be faster, but haven’t tried it yet. Just got it last week. Battle for Rokugan moves quite swiftly in my experience and is a real head scratcher
One game I didn’t see mentioned yet is Wildlands. Not sure if it counts as a war game, but it is plenty confrontational and has room for both tactics and strategy.
I don’t know anything about Wildlands, but I’ll look into it. The group seems to be fairly taken with Rokugan, Kemet, and Vikings.
(Dr Grordebort’s) Onward to Venus is almost a war game. It is more of a light steampunk space colonization game, dontchaknow. In this case you fight your opponent’s empires but only if a Tension tile comes out of the bag. There is more fighting for solar system resources but you are more likely to battle retro-fictional natives or a Crisis tile. It is a bit of a dudes-on-a-map game but the map is separate planet and moon tiles. The dudes are tanks, spaceships and, assuming a WW1 happened in this universe, Tommies, Jerries, Doughboys, Poilus and whatever the Russians got called. The theme resonates better if you have seen the source material. There is a link in @bortmonkey’s more detailed description of the game.