Being a long-time grognard (playing games like Advanced Squad Leader and East Front/West Front since I was 17 and now I am 50+), I never thought that I would be interested in any war-themed game that wasn’t a hex-and-counter game that took hours-upon-hours to play. It’s just not in my blood.
But then I was introduced to euro-style board games that take on the theme of warfare, but offer diverse and interesting ways for the players to experience and explore the theme of war.The best part is the euro gamer can forgo the traditional approach to war-gaming and play a game that more suits their style. Today I am going to present you my Top Ten Euro-Style War-Themed Board Games. By no means is this a definitive list because entries to this genre continue to grow from year-to-year.
So strap on your gaming helmet and enjoy reading about my Top Ten War Games for the Euro Gamer.
“Remember, no game is worth playing unless a war can been waged.” -Patton
Top Ten War Games for the Euro Gamer
10. Antike Duellum
This game is the little brother of Antike and also designed by Mac Gerdts. It is designed to be played by 2 players and uses most of the same mechanisms as its big brother, including the iconic rondel. There are rules modifications from Antike that were put into Antike Duellum that offer a “perfect-for-2-player” variety of military, technology, and resource management options. If I want to get my Antike fix and only can get 1 other person to play with me, then Antike Duellum is the perfect match.
9. 1812 – The Invasion of Canada
This game originated the game system used later by 1775: Rebellion – The American Revolution. 1812 – The Invasion of Canada emulates the conflict between the British and the new American nation called the War of 1812. Players choose sides and each allied army must coordinate their actions by playing cards to move troops from area to area, to bolster their forces by deploying additional troops, and to join forces to wage battles with their enemy’s forces. Each team must use a strategy that they think will best gain control of their enemy’s objective areas. When a truce is called, whichever side attained the most objective areas on the mapboard wins the game. 1812 – The Invasion of Canada, along with A Few Acres of Snow, was my introduction to playing Euro-Style War-Themed Board Games based on historical facts and flavor.
8. Antike/Antike II
Using the famous “iconic” rondel game mechanism designed by Mac Gerdts, Antike II takes the Antike system and improves on its resource attainment, military management, and scientific progress and adds mores strategies that can be employed to win the game. Each player takes on the role of an ancient nation competing for control of cities, the sea, and temples. This is done by selecting actions on the rondel to gain resources to build legions/fleets/temples and attain technologic advancements (optimizing trade, resource gathering, defense, and troop movement). A victory is achieved by one of the players if they attain the VP goal based on the number of players. VPs represented by personage cards and are gained by the players when they control sets of 5 cities, reign the seven seas, build sets of 3 temples, are the first to achieve a technological advance, and destroy their opponent’s temples. Antike is highly interactive and tension builds as the players’ strategies are exposed and attempts are made to thwart others from attaining the end-game victory condition.
7. A Few Acres of Snow
Brought to life by the genius of Martin Wallace, A Few Acres of Snow offers two players the challenge to play out the conflict between the French and British in North America during the period from 1754 to 1763. This is better known as the French and Indian War. A Few Acres of Snow does this by offering the players original ways to act as commanding generals, playing cards that represent locations and manpower which are used to fight and colonize. During the game, the players use deck-building to increase the range and effectiveness of the actions that they can perform. Several different strategies other than pure fighting can be employed to win the game. There can be just as much struggle to manage each army and colonial/indigenous population’s economic engine then actually waging warfare between the combatants. Oh yes, there is that infamous “Halifax Hammer” strategy that surrounds this game with a unique mystique.
6. Quartermaster General
Quartermaster General is a card-driven operational-level strategy game set in World War II. Each player takes on the role of managing the war machine of an Allied or Axis faction. What is especially appealing and challenging about this game is its focus on having you keep your forces in supply. Armies and navies cannot be built unless they are in-supply. Out-of-supply forces are removed from play and thus your faction becomes less effective at waging war against the enemy. There is a limited number of army and navy pieces that each faction starts with, so when removed, they are lost for the rest of the game. Victory points are garnered through maintaining control of supply spaces on the map board. Either the Allies or Axis win by being the first to obtain 400 VPs, having armies in 2 of an enemy’s home spaces or having the most VPs by the end of Turn 20. Every time I play Quartermaster General, the tension each turn, starting with Turn 1, can be cut with a bayonet.
5. The Battle of the Five Armies
Designed by the same team that brought us the War of the Ring board game, The Battle of Five Armies focuses on the Hobbit and its climactic battle between the Free Peoples and the Shadow Armies. The rules of the War of the Ring have been adjusted to highlight the tactical nature of the conflict making it less epic than War of the Ring, but never the less still extremely engaging and immersive in theme. Of course the components, minis, game board, and the like mimic the outstanding quality as we have come to appreciate with the War of the Ring. I cannot help myself, I am a sucker for most games with a high toy-factor and The Battle of Five Armies does not disappoint.
Mythotopia is game designed by Martin Wallace as a follow-up to A Few Acres of Snow. Very similar in nature, very different in theme and some of the mechanisms. At its heart, it is a deck-building game where players use the cards’ abilities to obtain resources and expand into territories (gaining VPs) on the fantasy-world map. A player may expand by invading with their armies into another player’s territory and attack them using their military cards and food supplies to execute the battle. Players can plan for the defense of their territories and also bolster their strength. Of course, there are other ways to gain VPs throughout the game (like building cities, roads, and castles) and when the end-game condition is triggered, whomever has the most VPs wins the game. I enjoy Mythotopia a touch more than A Few Acres of Snow, but both are quality games.
3. 1775: Rebellion – The American Revolution
Who would have thought cube-pushing could represent battling for cities and states during the American Revolution? 1775: Rebellion employs this mechanism elegantly. Cubes represent the armies of the combatants, the British Regulars and their Allied forces and the American Regulars and their Militia counterparts. Players are able to move and bolster their troops via card-driven actions. Combat resolution is quick-and-easy as players roll their custom dice to determine the outcome of each battle. Each player may also recruit the Native population to assist with controlling areas on the board and adding to battle strength. 1775: Rebellion is a joy to break out and play every time I have the chance to do so.
If it wasn’t for the game I chose to place in the #1 position on this list, Kemet would easily fill that spot. What I love about Kemet is that it doesn’t allow any player to just sit back, stay in their city stronghold, and wait for the game to come to them. Players are encouraged to fight each other, vying for control of temples and trying to win battles to obtain the victory point goal before the other players. Players gain actions by placing one action token on an empty action space on their player boards. Players obtain Prayer Points that are spent to recruit troops, upgrade their armies (buying Power Tiles/Creatures), teleport to different areas on the battlefield or play Battle Cards to bolster their strength/defense during battle. And I forgot to mention the Pyramids in Kemet that are raised to greater values in order to obtain the better Power Tiles and even gain VPs, although temporarily. Protect Your Pyramids!
1. War of the Ring (Second Edition)
Considered by most who have played this game to be the ultimate Lord of the Rings game. This game is the War of the Ring. It is ranked in the top 20 games all-time at BGG. It is a tactical minis game. It has dice-rolling to obtain actions. It has story-driven events. This games oozes theme from the minis to the game mechanisms to the artwork to the flavor text. It has characters like Gandalf and Gothmog who influence and drive what each player may do during their turns. It has epic battles between the Free Peoples and the Shadow Armies. The game revolves around the protection of the Ringbearer questing to get to Mount Doom before Sauron can extinguish the Free Peoples plans to destroy the Ring. Being a “Lord of the Rings” fanatic myself, War of the Ring makes me smile from ear-to-ear every time I play it.
Now that was fun list to put together. These games scratch that war-gaming itch more than I ever thought they would. Of course you don’t have to enjoy war-gaming to enjoy playing these games. Try them and you may be as pleasantly surprised as I was exploring these Euro-Style War-Themed Board Games.