Happy New Year and may your 2009 gaming be better than 2008! After perusing the latest new releases and pre-release offerings from the various wargame companies I thought I'd list the new titles that interest me. In 2008 my interest in pre-WW2 games was re-awakened so I will list those titles first but in no particular order of preference and save the WW2 offerings for last.
1. Unhappy King Charles (GMT Games): A two player card driven game (CDG) on the English Civil Wars. From what I've read and seen my first impression is that it is a return to the concepts, shorter rules and quicker play times, of the earlier CDGs like We the People and Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. This is what I find attractive about the game along with its subject matter. As I get older, I prefer face to face games and hence games that can be finished in one sitting preferable in 3-4 hours. This one looks like it will satisfy that itch. The game is designed by Charles Vasey.
2. Washington's War (GMT Games): Another two-player CDG in fact a remake of one of my favorites, We the People, and thus, must be on my must buy games of 2009. Not just a reprint but a revamping by the original designer, Mark Herman, one of the top wargame designers in my opinion. As you can deduce from the titles of the game it covers the American Revolutionary War. The original, We the People, introduced a couple of new systems one of them the concept of Battle Cards to resolve combat instead of rolling dice on a combat results table (CRT). From posts on both Boardgamegeek and ConsimWorld, people either love Battle Cards or hate them. Washington's War will not use Battle Cards; instead using competitive die rolls with a multitude of die roll modifiers (DRMs) based on army strength, leadership, naval support, etc., to determine a winner and then another set of die rolls to determine losses. It will be interesting to see how this works but I was in the "love it" camp of the old Battle Cards system.
3. Great Campaigns of the Thirty Years War (GMT Games): A two-player game of operational warfare in the 17th century taking place on a point to point map of southern Germany. Turns represent a month made up of a number of impulses representing about a week each. The playing time is listed as 5-6 hours (full campaign?) so it may not see the table that often but it is another low complexity game. The listing for it does show some battle games will be included so hopefully it may have some good quicker battle games to play when you don't have time for the full campaign. The designer is Ben Hull famous for his Musket and Pike battle series which is another set of games, taking place in the same time period but on the tactical scale, I like but haven't had the opportunity to play in a while.
4. Sekigahara: Unification of Japan (GMT Games): This is a two-player block game of campaigns to unite Japan in the 1600s. The designer is Matt Calkins a fairly new game designer I'm guessing as I've haven't heard of him before. I really don't know a lot about the game but its pluses are it's a wargame, it's supposed to play in 3 hours, it's a block game, the components look very nice, and it's about feudal Japan. What more do you want? Ok, good game play would be nice so I hope this one doesn't disappoint. The combat system uses cards for resolution instead of dice.
5. Spartacus (Compass Games): Finally, a game not being produced by GMT Games; although there is nothing wrong with that! GMT Games seem to be the most prolific of the wargame publishers and what is great about them is that their quality of output doesn't seem to be affected by the quantity of games they put out each year. Bravo to them! It will be interesting to see if the current economic situation will put a damper on their output. Anyway, back to Spartacus. Spartacus almost flew under the radar for me, mainly because it is being published by Compass Games. Compass is a fairly new wargame publisher who's most successful title seems to be the solitaire game of the WWII allied submarine campaign in the Pacific, Silent War. Spartacus is a two player CDG (I must like CDGs) pitting the Sertorians against the might of Republican Rome around 80 BC. The Sertorian player's goal is to conquer Rome itself or simply break up the Roman Empire while the Roman player tries to hold the empire together both militarily and politically. The game designer, John B. Firer, worked with Mark Simonitch on the second edition rules for Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage and the third edition of Successors both favorites of mine. On the strength alone of that pedigree, Spartacus deserves a look from me. The point to point map covers Italy, Gaul, Spain, and Asia and the combat system can use either Battle Cards (optional) or conventional die rolling.
Finally, we come to the offerings covering World War 2. I have three games each one covering a different theatre of the war, purely by chance, the Pacific, the Eastern Front, and the Western Front.
6. Kawaguchi's Gamble: Edson's Ridge (Multiman Publishing, MMP): MMP's claim to fame is getting the rights to continue publishing Advanced Squad Leader modules and supplements after the old Avalon Hill Game company folded and was bought by Hasbro. Within the last 4 or 5 years they have also started publishing both new games and reprinting games from both the Gamer's line, which merged with MMP, and the International Gamer's Series which is the brain child of Adam Starkweather, whom I had the privilege of meeting back in 2004 at ConsimWorld Expo when he was still play testing his monster baby, Devil's Cauldron: The Battles for Arnhem and Nijmegen. Kawaguchi's Gamble is a two-player game of the battle for Edson's Ridge on the island of Guadalcanal during WW2 1942 designed by Ken Dunn. Ken Dunn is also the designer of the Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kits which have helped to introduce new players to the ASL series of games. Kawaguichi's Gamble uses the area-impulse mechanic first introduced by Avalon Hill in the game Storm Over Arnhem and continued with great success in Breakout Normandy and most recently in Storm Over Stalingrad published by MMP. The area map depicts Edson's ridge and the area surrounding the jungle south of Henderson Airfield. The 5-turn game playing time is listed between 2.5 to 3 hours and pits 3 battalions (3000 men) of Japanese attempting to retake Henderson Airfield but first they must get through the 800 US Marines, on Edson's ridge, in their way.
My last two games on my list are both designed by Mark Simonitch. Mark wears many hats being one of the principles of GMT Games, their lead artist, and a game designer. Other designs by Mark include Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage which was reprinted in 2007 by Valley Games, Successors which was reprinted in 2008 by GMT Games, Ukraine '43(GMT Games), and Ardennes '44(GMT Games).
7. Caucasus Campaign: The German-Russian War in the Caucasus, 1942 (GMT Games): The Caucasus Campaign covers the German-Russian war in the Caucasus in 1942 when Hitler sent two German armies to seize the desperately needed oil fields in the Caucasus to support the German war machine. It is a standard hex and counter wargame that will include both a tournament scenario listed as taking 2 hrs along with the full 14-turn game that is listed as taking 5 hrs to complete.
8. Normandy '44 (GMT Games): As you can guess by the title Normandy '44 covers the allied invasion of Normandy France in 1944. The 2-player, hex and counter game covers the first 21-days of the invasion at the regimental scale using a simplified rule system from Ardennes '44.
Well that's my list for now. Maybe later I can think of a couple more games to round out my list to ten.