2021 #Wargame of the Year – or – Indian Ocean Empire at Sunrise Samurai versus North Africa Dark Summer Atlantic Chase with @gmtgames @compassgamesllc @hollandspiele @MultimanPub

As regular readers likely know, I am, always have been, and will very likely forever be a Grognard. My first real “game” was a wargame—Jim Day’s Panzer from Yaquinto Publishing—found under the Christmas tree in 1979. Over forty years later I still play wargames.

In 2021, I acquired 35 wargames and a further nine expansions. If the year had a theme, one might call it my ‘Retro’ year with the addition of “older” wargames like Charles S. Roberts’ TACTICS II from Avalon Hill (1973 edition) or The Battle of the Bulge from Avalon Hill in 1965 or Hitler’s Last Gamble: The Battle of the Bulge from Rand Games Associated in 1975 to my collection. The 1980’s also got some love with Fifth Corps: The Soviet Breakthrough at Fulda (SPI, 1980) and Drive on Frankfurt (Pacific Rim Publishing, 1987) as well as or The Hunt for Red October (TSR, 1988).

That said, I took in six titles this year that were published in 2021 and thus are candidates for my 2021 Wargame of the Year:

Atlantic Chase (Jeremy White, GMT Games) – Atlantic Chase is a very different wargame—in some ways too different for me. As much as I am a naval wargamer (look at my nickname!) this one didn’t click with me. At heart it’s a game of trajectories and time much more than locations. There are many out there who sing praises to the rule book but I found the 10-episode tutorial a bit much. (Status Update – SOLD!)

Atlantic Chase from GMT Games

Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles (GMT Games) – The latest installment in the Commands & Colors system. I keep thinking that C&C will reach the point that there can be “nothing new under the sun” but Samurai (pleasantly) surprised me. Controversial in some respects, some folks didn’t like the “magic” found on some of the cards. Personally, I found it highly thematic (magic is often used to describe something that is unknown or not understood) and the Honor & Fortune system just builds upon the themes of the game that much more.

Command & Colors: Samurai Battles (GMT Games)

The Dark Summer (GMT Games) – The Dark Summer is the latest installment in Ted Raicer’s Dark Series from GMT Games. I love the Dark Series as they use the chit-pull game mechanism that is very solo-friendly. In some ways The Dark Summer is the perfect balance between The Dark Valley (GMT Games, 2018) which is a mini-monster and The Dark Sands (GMT Games, 2018) which can be challenging to play given the two different map scales.

The Dark Summer (GMT Games)

Indian Ocean Region: South China Sea Vol. II (John Gorkowski, Compass Games) – Indian Ocean Region is the second installment in the modern operational-level war-at-sea series that in many ways is the spiritual successor to the Fleet- Series from the 1980’s. While I always loved the “Battle Game” of SCS/IOR, the political card game was less exciting, though I must admit it has grown on me with this version.

Indian Ocean Region (Compass Games)

Empire at Sunrise: The Great War in Asia, 1914 (Hollandspiele) – Another John Gorkowski title. Like so many Hollandspiele games this one can be a bit quirky. The telescoping scale of the game delivers an interesting view of the conflict.

Empire at Sunrise (Hollandspiele)

North Africa: Afrika Korps vs Desert Rats, 1940-42 (Multi-Man Publishing) – Released late in the year, this one barely makes the list. I’ve yet to explore this title too deeply but the Standard Combat Series version of the very popular Operational Combat Series (OCS) DAK looks to be yet another “playable monster” game.

North Africa (Multi-Man Publishing)

…and the winner is…

Empire at Sunrise.

Empire at Sunrise was released so early in the year it’s easy to forget. Also, not coming from from the larger GMT Games but tiny Hollandspiele it tends to get drowned out in the marketing and social media “talk.” Empire deserves attention because that telescopic scale takes what could be three separate games and relates them to one another to make a coherent story. It’s an interesting game design on an under-appreciated historical topic. While Hollandspiele may not deliver the production quality of a larger publisher, the games are perfectly functional and do what they are supposed to do; enable gaming, exploration, and learning.


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2021 #Wargame Expansion of the Year – or – SITREP: Wing Leader Harpoon’d in Tank Duel (@gmtgames admiraltytrilogy.com)

There are certain wargames in my collection that I just cannot get enough of. For these games I’m always looking for more to play with. This year three games got lots of new love. The candidates for my 2021 Wargame Expansion of the Year are:

Before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning here that there are two other titles I acquired in 2021 but—for various reasons—I deemed ineligible:

First, the DQs. The Holland ’44 scenario I disqualified due to age. Second, as much as I love Panzer and have eagerly awaited the reprint of Expansion Nr. 1, it is a reprint and not “new” material.

As for the nominees…you can see they really cover three games—Harpoon, Tank Duel, and Wing Leader.

Harpoon – The Expanded Critical Hit Tables are nice, but not necessary for play. The Naval SITREPs are always welcome content, but again missing them doesn’t mean game failure.

Tank Duel – The RMN Boys and myself like the Tank Duel system. It’s a very different game system that challenges the very defintion of a wargame. The North Africa expansion is very welcome, and one can never have enough tank “mats” to play with.

Wing Leader – One of my all-time favorite game systems. Legends adds depth and the Supremacy update keeps an already clean system that much tidier.

…and the winner is…

Tank Duel Expansion Nr. 1: North Africa. Not only does this expansion take the game into a new theater, it also cleans up the rules. This expansion, along with Tank Pack Nr. 1 ensures Tank Duel will be on the table often this coming year.


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2021 #Boardgame of the Year – or – No Motherland Without Supercharged 1979 Kingdomino: Origins with @FoundationDietz @BlueOrangeGames @compassgamesllc @Bublublock @msiggins

As my 2021 “By the Numbers” show, I really backed off on acquiring boardgames this year. While my overall acquisition rate was down 13% (and down nearly 52% for boardgames) compared to 2020, it would be worst if I did not do a trade for a collection of smaller games. That said, of the 18 core or standalone boardgames I acquired in 2021, only 4 were newly published in the year. Thus, my candidates for 2021 Boardgame of the Year are:

Well, I guess you can call 2021 the “Year of Dan Bullock” or the “Year of The Dietz Foundation” because both are in two of the four games eligible.

Dan Bullock amazed me this year with his “Axis of Evil” series. Well, that’s what I call his games on Iran and North Korea. Associating his games with the “Axis of Evil” meme is actually a bit of a disservice to his outstanding designs. No Motherland Without pits the North Korean player trying to build infrastructure and improve the North’s standard of living against a West that is trying to hinder that progress and bring about the Kim Dynasty’s collapse. 1979: Revolution in Iran actually covers Iranian history post-World War II and pits politicians against oil. Both are deep political games, but done in a way that avoids being in-your-face regarding a certain position.

Jim Dietz at The Dietz Foundation is the only non-profit boardgame publisher I know of. He has a mission of delivering games for learning. 1979 is highly educational and Supercharged is a great family game that encourages gamers of all ages coming together for easy fun with just a touch of history thrown in.

Supercharged fun!

All of which makes the my choice for my 2021 Boardgame of the Year quite difficult. So here goes…

…and the winner is…

I can’t decide!

For a FAMILY game, both Kingdomino: Origins and Supercharged are awesome. For a STRATEGY game I like both No Motherland Without and 1979 (though I have to give No Motherland Without a slight edge given the solo module).

Oh, boy…must pick one…[Squints eyes]…

Supercharged!

Supercharged from The Dietz Foundation

Visually, Supercharged is nothing special. Mechanically, it’s quite simple—just keep flipping cards. The history is there but a bit thin. Most importantly, the RockyMountainNavy Boys whole-heartedly embraced the game. Since it plays in about an hour, it is an easy after-dinner filler game to follow chores. They love playing using the financial scoring; while one expects an A-class team to win the top positions, the middle finishers become the real contest, especially if your C-class team (the slowest) can drive smart (lucky?) and finish in the top 6.

Supercharged is so easy to learn and play it can be a gateway game. Youngest RMN Boy already asked for a second copy to take to college. Then there is the non-profit Dietz Foundation reminding you that games exist for fun and learning. At the end of the day the game is a winner because everything comes together to make an excellent family game.


Notable Not Mentioned

While I limited my 2021 Boardgame of the Year to games published in 2021, there were two other “new to me” games this year that, though published outside the eligibility window, deserve to be talked about.

Tapestry by Jamie Stegmaier from Stonemaier Games (2019) is a game I see oft-criticized on BGG and really don’t understand why. It’s a perfectly fine civilization game. I wish I had acquired it earlier.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms from Gamelyn Games (2014) is another simple Tiny Epic-series game that is great for families. Again, I wish I had acquired this one earlier.


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2021 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0