11 Most Influential Wargames of the Last Decade

These are the wargames published during the last 10 years that left a mark on me. Vitamin E hasn’t removed the mark. They made me think about wargames differently and challenged my own design direction.

Innovation can come from many directions. It can be the subject of the game or the approach to the subject. It can be the complexity or more importantly the simplification. It can be systems and processes or it can be the perspective of the players.

I am particularly excited about the innovations that make wargames more accessible and easier to play. This often means stepping up to the innovations in non wargames – learning from the progression of the euro game world.

What you find here is my list.  I look forward to hearing about yours.

In chronological order

Hearts and Minds: Vietnam 1965-1975 2010 – Worthington Games

Card driven Vietnam in 3 hours – and they said it couldn’t be done.  Hard to find a better Vietnam package optimized on the fun to time ratio.  It will hit the table frequently and make you think about what else can we design for more fun and less time.

A Few Acres of Snow 2011 – Treefrog Games

Brilliant early application of deck building to the French and Indian War. Remember that Martin Wallace is a wargamer from way back. He has many wargame titles under his belt (Try Gettysburg2010 or Waterloo2009 if you can find them!) Each side works to connect locations through a chain of cards that are the basic construct of a players’ deck. Both the French and British have a few cards they can commonly draft (and can create some interesting arms races) but most additive cards are unique to the side. In the end, a wonderful flexible system that provides challenges and the need to watch your opponent. Brilliant.

I interviewed Martin Wallace here and we discuss wargames and his work Lincoln.

Andean Abyss 2012 – GMT Games

The game that moved more gamers away from counters than any other. Volko provided an interesting take on the insurgency with 4 players and highly asymmetric (a word that is elsewhere overused!) Crazy innovative initiative system where all players see the cards (card driven with no hands?!?!) and turn order shifts based on a matrix of prior actions.  The multiplayer game changed my world and the solo  systems changed many others. Volko’s good work and his nurturing personality has hatched many a “COIN” game through fans and friends.  I’ve been down that path and would love to do it again.  The innovation of of the Andean Abyss continues to pay dividends.

I interviewed Volko Ruhnke here and we discuss wargames and his work Nevsky.

The Guns of Gettysburg 2013 – Mercury Games

Bowen Simmons is the Elon Musk of Wargames.  I am continually blown away by her thought process and her innovations.  Just spend some time with her blog post on line of sight and her application of a solution in Guns of Gettysburg and you will be blown away.  Her extensive blogs posts across games past and present are a must read.  I think some players struggle with the game because it is so very different than what they have played before. Time shifts, victory conditions shift, and reinforcements shift. Guns of Gettysburg rules are short but every word means something.  It can be a brain burner but my brain has been burned before on less thoughtful applications.

1775: Rebellion 2013 – Academy Games

Academy hits the sweet spot with a super simple to teach and fun to play American Revolution – and that’s the innovation. No counters, only cubes. Custom dice for simplicity and great quality components.They have sold a lot of units and converted a lot of counter pushers. It led to a lot of other games using the same or similar system. It does drive me crazy that the side that moves last during that last turn will win (although my buddy says not always….) Seems ripe for an alternate victory condition or SOP but who has the time……

Reluctant Enemies 2014 – Multi Man Publishing

A more accessible OCS system game provides the breakthrough here. One map and low counter density actually provides both a slog and a high maneuver region on map. Much better as a starter than Sicily II due to the density.  It was a nuclear spider bite for me – now I am wacky on the OCS junk….

Churchill 2015 – GMT Games

Mr. wargame innovation, Mark Herman, gives us a look at WW2. This is a war that has been modeled 1,000 times. But, as you would expect, Mr Herman finds a different path.  This time he focuses on the three big dogs pulling the strings at the very top. Work together, for the most part, to save the freeish world.  But my favorite innovation in this game is the victory condition traditionalists hate. Stay close and don’t run away with the score or you will subject yourself to randomness in the form of a six sided dice!

I interviewed Mark Herman here, and here and we discuss wargames.

Enemy Action: Ardennes 2015 – Compass Games

So why do we need another Bulge game?  Because John wants to design one! When John Butterfield designs any game, he designs it from the perspective of a solo player.  That, along with design greatness, makes John the preeminent designer of solo games.  Exceptional solo play as well as options for 2 players make this a welcome addition to the bulge of Bulge games.

Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775-1777 2017 – Hollandspiele

Another cool idea by design savant Tom Russell.  Plays fast and integrates resource planning into battles in a theater. Interesting linkage between length of turn and initiative make for a new take on a theater we have been gaming for years. We must all hang together……

I interviewed Tom and mary here and we discuss wargames.

Cataclysm: A Second World War 2018 – GMT Games

Cataclysm was published a couple of years after  Triumph and Tragedy but is a superior sandbox in many ways.  It will leave a mark on wargames and wargamers as it better addresses 3 player games and expands the box to the Pacific.  No twirly blocks necessary and no tech trees which are fun but better for a Sid Myers’ game. It is not driven by cards as it uses a chit pull system.  All this leading to a refined system for more enjoyable 3 player sandbox play around life in the 1930s and 1940s.

Undaunted: Normandy 2019 – Osprey Games

Tactical WW2 deck builder – what does that mean – it means awesome! Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson have created a tension filled game that innovates mechanics to the point where those that like to argue about such things say “not a wargame!” Well I say “wargame” and its my list anyway – you can exclude it from yours. But, if you play it you will love it. And if you want to argue about what is and isn’t a wargame, Im sure there is a forum on ConSimWorld that will accommodate.


Root 2018 – Leder Games

Navajo Wars 2013 – GMT Games









3 thoughts on “11 Most Influential Wargames of the Last Decade

  1. A terrific and thoughtful list, Harold. I just dipped my toe into OCS, starting with Tunisia II – fascinating!

    Please allow me to add an honorable mention…

    NAVAJO WARS (2013) – Joel Toppen’s novel solitaire epic that is drenched in theme.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thoughtful list! Everything taken together, Andean Abyss might be the most influential of them all. But as it was published at the beginning of the decade, it also had more time than most other games to leave its mark.

    Liked by 1 person

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