COUNTER COUNTRY - Traditional Tabletop Wargaming (soon to be the most popular thread forumwide)

I’m talking about all yer favorites:

Hex ‘n’ Counter: ex. Advanced Squad Leader, Rise and Fall of The Third Reich, Day of Days, Case Blue

CDGs: ex. Here I Stand, Virgin Queen, Washington’s War, Twilight Struggle, Paths of Glory

Block Games: ex. Triumph and Tragedy, Hammer of the Scots, Julius Caesar, Napoleon

Games in the COIN series

Games by Rachel Simmons: ex.Guns of Gettysburg, Napoleon’s Triumph

What I’m not talking about:

Miniatures. They’re good games but they can have their own durn thread or this one would be nothing but.

So which ones do you love? Which have you been playing recently? What, like, is a war game, man?


I haven’t played a ton of wargames, but I absolutely love the COIN series and rarely get to play them. My top pick is actually Liberty Or Death.

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Looking like I might be able to get my first game of Triumph and Tragedy end of this month. Bought it after the Three Moves Ahead episode but haven’t had a chance to play it yet. It’ll be my first block game which is a bit intimidating, but the people playing managed Virgin Queen so I hope we’ll be okay.

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if you can rock an ed beach title T&T will be just fine. It’s such a cool game.

Block games in particular are, I think, very approachable.

FUCK yes Hal I am so glad to hear that. I think it’s one of the best strategic-level WW2 games i’ve ever played. I am just haunted by the fact that I left the Soviets win in a walk because the Germans bluffed me so effectively on the Western Front.

But I think my fall time favorite board tabletop wargame is still War of the Ring. I am always thrilled to bring that one out to play.

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Rob, what is it about War of the Ring that gets you? I’ve heard you sing its praises before, but only briefly.

The last real good one I played was 1812: The Invasion of Canada. I really like the way the game ends with the peace treaty cards, and in general the card-based action system made the game a lot easier for me to foist on unsuspecting non-wargamer friends.

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I have a strange relationship with the COIN series. I own quite a few of them, and when people reach out to set up a session, I’m typically interested. Whenever I finish a game, though, I always have doubts that I’ll want to play one again. Progress feels too incremental, and long-term strategy is frustratingly obtuse, worsened by the fact that each faction has radically different goals, and each game in the series has radically different factions. Downtime is interminable, and victory feels arbitrary and open-ended. But there’s a cognitive dissonance surrounding my complaints, sprung from an undeniable sense that these frustrations are design goals. It doesn’t take long after a frustrating loss (or victory) for me to want to hop back in.

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Twilight Struggle is my jam. I cannot get enough of it, and it doesn’t hurt that the PC version is very, very good. The built-in tension of the mechanics reflects the theme so wonderfully that I cannot help but shout its praises from the mountaintops whenever I get a chance. My only complaint is that I have a very rocky relationship with dice, and the elements of randomness in the game can sometimes really get me down.

I also have a friend who keeps threatening to organize Campaign for North Africa, but I’m almost certain he’s joking. Almost.

it’s four in the morning, why have i done this

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For what its worth I appreciate it

So there might be an article on this if you really get me going on this topic. But basically, there’s a couple things going on with War of the Ring that really push my buttons.

First, it’s lightly asymmetric. It’s not that The Shadow forces are fighting an entirely different kind of war from the Free Peoples, but the implications of their means and objectives go in very different directions. The Shadow forces are endless. Their losses go back into the bag to be re-drafted as replacements at the next levy. Meanwhile, every fallen Gondor or Elvish miniature is out of the game. You can’t make good those losses. On the other hand, the Shadow has to basically conquer the entire world, capturing a huge number of Free strongholds. Meanwhile, if the Free People can just storm a couple of Sauron’s citadels, it’s game over. You’re playing with the same sets of rules, but the strategic implications of those rules are massively different depending on who you play.

Second, you’ve also got a separate, almost orthogonal game happening within this conflict: the quest of the Fellowship. It can be a resource-sink for both sides, but it also exists as this kind of hail-mary, last-ditch victory route for the Free Peoples. It imposes this secondary constraint and consideration on every single turn. If the Shadow player just decides to play a little fantasy wargame, the Fellowship is going to materialize at Mt. Doom and it’s game over. A lot of times, the endgame can be a drag race between advancing Shadow armies and a final push from Sam and Frodo.

Third, the rules of the game are pretty simple, but they can also all be changed in a lot of interesting ways by cards and characters. Perfect example: I was pretty much laying waste to Rohan and Lorien by using Uruk-hai armies based out of Isengard in this one game. Except I didn’t realize that with Gandalf the White on the board, and with Saruman pretty much alone at Isengard, I’d met the preconditions for the Entmoot event card, which triggers a high-probability attack on Isengard that can take Saruman out of the game. So even though my campaign was following a different course than the books, the books sort of “came to life” and kicked the crap out of me as they did in Two Towers. Stuff like that can happen on every turn or in every battle. Heroes do heroic stuff. Magic is real. And all of it can bend the probabilities pretty far from the mean and spin the game into really surprising directions.

Fourth, this all works because I identify with the theme and the game executes it brilliantly. War of the Ring is not wearing a skin over a bare-bones tabletop game. Tolkien is kind of woven into every facet of the game. It takes all the story elements and events and recombines them as stuff that can happen and stuff that you have to factor into your strategic calculations. The first time you play it it’s a surprise how these elements come to life. The tenth time you play it it’s a game of Texas Hold 'Em where you’re wondering if the person across from you is sitting on the Phial of Galadriel for a final push toward Mount Doom.

War of the Ring understands that while we do want to see the Tree of Gondor emblazoned on the shields of Gondor infantry miniatures, a game becomes so much more if it has really interrogated what makes a theme compelling and what the fantasy is that we want to explore. Few games come close to achieving this so well.


That series is really impressive in how much game it gets out of so few rules, the ten minute teaching time always feels worth it. I can never tell if I love or hate that turn order system though - depends on whethe it’s me or my opponent getting 4 turns in a row I think.

They are very frustrating! It’s a unique experience. COIN truly conveys that pursuing a war is a grueling experience of unclear strategy and action. It’s great.

I do think Liberty Or Death is more player-friendly than the others (of which Fire In The Lake is probably, fittingly, the boggiest). It has a nice focus and the theme is probably easier for people to hook into than a modern war. I also like that it doesn’t have a ‘green’/money faction, which are the weakest for me in Cuba Libre and A Distant Plain (although I adore ADP overall).

Picked up Paths of Glory finally. I’m really excited to get in and finally play that there game.

I’m going to need a lexicon here. I thought I knew about board games, but I haven’t heard of any of these.

Where should one start with this stuff? Most of my knowledge on tabletop style games is from Shut Up and Sit Down, so any direction would be nice. Rob gave good evidence for looking into The War of the Ring. Sell me on your favorites!

Board gaming is a much more in depth hobby than many realize. Your first stop should be, if you haven’t been before. It not only is a pretty complete repository of every board game ever released, but it also is the primary hub of the entire hobby. Being one of the main stalwarts of the hobby for almost 2 decades carries some baggage with it.

From there, going through the wargame top 100 will give you a good sense of a lot of the major titles.