#Wargame Wednesday: 2020 Golden Geek Awards -or- you can’t be disappointed when you have no expectations

We all “know” the Golden Geek Awards sponsored by BoardGameGeek are a popularity contest. Although I recognize it as such, I still follow along, if for no other reason than to try to understand why certain games are popular. The 2020 winners represent a mixed bag for me.

I am very happy to see that David Thompson and Undaunted: North Africa (Osprey Games) won the Best 2-Player Game category. To see a “wargame” gain this wide an acceptance is happiness for this Grognard of 40+ years. On the other hand, I ruefully shake my head at the winners in the Wargame category. At the risk of reigniting the never-ending debate on “What is a wargame” I‘ll just make the observation that the defintion of a strategy conflict game seems very loosely applied here.

Don’t get me wrong; I am very happy to see Jason Matthews and Ananda Gupta’s Imperial Struggle (GMT Games) win. After all, it’s the #18-ranked War Game, the #417-ranked Strategy Game, and ranked #842 overall on BGG. A well-deserved kudos is also owed again to David Thompson for Undaunted: North Africa (#91 War/#1130 Overall) as the Runner-Up along with Mark Herman and Geoff Englestein’s Versailles 1919 (GMT Games) which is #247 in War/#1251 Strategy/#3008 Overall.. Each game is a good design and obviously very popular. My personal favorite in this category, The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games) is actually not that far behind, ranked #271 in War and #3223 Overall. The real difference appears to be the number of owners of each game with Imperial Struggle most assuredly benefiting from the Twilight Struggle (GMT Games, now in 8th Printing) legacy as well as the production power of a larger wargame publisher in GMT Games. These factors combine to get this title onto many BGG user’s gaming tables. All three games (four if you count The Shores of Tripoli) are in many ways “cross-over” games that are ideal for what Harold Buchanan calls Convert wargamers.

While some Grognards may be tempted to dismiss the Golden Geeks, I hope instead that everybody recognizes that the hobby boardgame space for wargames is alive and well. Let’s get past the tired old “what is a wargame” arguments and simply focus on good games that we can all share together.

The Legend Begins – The #Wargame Saga of Lieutentant T in Undaunted: North Africa (@OspreyGames, 2020)

DATE/ 1940.09.18
FROM/ Long Range Patrol (LRP) Detachment 2020 
TO/ HQ Western Desert Group 
BODY/ Last evening, LRP Detachment 2020 with Lieutenant T commanding proceeded to Jalo-Kufra Road IVO Italian Landing Zone 7 with mission to destroy enemy infrastructure. Team proceeded directly to aircraft and destroyed it in place using demolitions [+1 Objective Point LRP]. Team attempted to proceed to hanger but strong Italian forces were firmly in control of building [+1 Objective Point Italian]. Team then proceeded to Italian motor pool but faced withering suppressive fire by Italian machine gun team. Sapper Mit was critically wounded [2x hits] but able to rig final demolition charge and destroy motor pool [+2 Objective Points LRP - VICTORY] as Italian riflemen arrived. Respectfully recommend Sapper Mit be awarded for gallantry and mentioned in dispatches for heroic action under fire.

This was the first play of Undaunted: North Africa (Osprey Games, 2020) by RockyMountainNavy T. He caught on to the game quickly (too quickly, sigh). At the end of the game, as we both fought for the motor pool, he had the better initiative card to play at the right time along with the one of his two remaining Engineer cards (two wounds inflicted – meaning two cards removed from game). That, and a bit of some luck rolling the dice, earned him the win. First game, including teach, took only 45 minutes.

We both enjoyed playing Undaunted: North Africa and it will probably become our Monday Night Wargame for a few weeks/months. With school (sorta) restarting RockyMountainNavy Jr is busy Monday nights so RockyMountainNavy T and I look for good, shorter, two-player games to play after dinner. Undaunted: North Africa joins Commands & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution (Compass Games, 2018), Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Games, 2019), and Philadelphia 1777 (Worthington Games, 2020) on the short-list of must-play Monday Night Wargames.

Feature image “Two men of an LRDG (Long Range Desert Group) patrol on a road watch in North Africa, 25 May 1942” (Wikicommons)

#Wargame Wednesday – History to Wargame – Undaunted: North Africa (@OspreyGames, 2020)

An aperiodic look at books and wargames that go together. The wargames and books presented here are both drawn from my personal collection and do not necessarily reflect the best of either category…but if I’m showing them to you I feel they are worth your time to consider!

Undaunted: North Africa

“Who Dares, Wins”

Photo by RockyMountainNavy

It was nearly a week before the German High Command in the Western Desert became aware that the notorious British soldier, whom their radio referred to as “the Phantom Major” because of his persistent night raids behind their lines, had at last fallen into their hands.

It was enough of an event for Field-Marshal Rommel to write in his diary: “During January, a number of our A.A. gunners succeeded in surprising a British column…in Tunisia and captured the commander of the 1st S.A.S. Regiment, Lieut.-Col. David Stirling. Insufficiently guarded, he managed to escape and made his way back to some Arabs, to whom he offered a reward if they would bring him back to the British lines. But his bid must have been too small, for the Arabs, with their usual eye to business, offered him to us for eleven pounds of tea–a bargain which we soon clinched. Thus the British lost the very able and adaptable commander of the desert group which had caused us more damage than any other British unit of equal strength.”¹ (V. Cowles, 1)


Cowles, Virginia, Who Dares, Wins: The Story of the Phantom Major – David Stirling and His Desert Command, New York: Ballantine Books, 1958.

Undaunted: North Africa, designed by David Thompson & Trevor Benjamin, published by Osprey Games, 2020.

¹ Rommel’s account of Stirling’s recapture is not accurate.

Feature image: “‘R’ Patrol Chevrolet WB radio truck; the rod antenna can be seen on the right. The man at the rear is manning a Boys anti-tank rifle.” Courtesy military.wikia.com