Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Top Ten GMT Games

There was a very interesting topic on BGG about rating all the GMT games.  It was an interesting read so i thought i would borrow the idea and do my own list, only limiting it to my Top 10 Favorite GMT Games.

At first i thought it would be easy to list my top 10 from GMT but there were a lot of tough decisions and good games i enjoy left off.

Without further ado, here goes:

#10.  "Paths of Glory"

I played quite a bit of POG in the early part of the last decade.  It is a fantastic competetive gaming experience full of difficult choices.  It also spawned a slew of great card driven games, some of which are on this list.  Overall though, i grew out of love with it as good game play never resembled WWI much and also became fairly pre-determined.

Still, POG will always have a place in my Top 10 GMT games.

#9.  "Successors"

While technically not a GMT "original," Successors was improved by the GMT reprint and survives due to that.  It is a cut throat free for all multi-player affair.  Games tend to play out differently due to the random initial draw of generals.  The game systems are fantastic and the card events interesting.

It does have it's flaws though including the possibility of drawing two really good or bad generals as well as a fairly lengthy playtime.

#8.  "Wilderness War"

What a rulebook!  WW set the standard for CDG rules with a clear amd concise rulebook that is virtually error free.  It is also a heck of a good game that packs a lot of fun into a realatively short play time.

However, gameplay tends to be "samey" after awhile as there are limited avenues of attack.  Still, i want to get this game back on the table as it's been about 7 years since i last played.

#7.  "Napoleonic Wars"

Ah, the fantastic Nappy Wars!  On it's release, my gaming group must have played this 20+ times that year.  Great fun and a great design that plays well with 2-5 players.  While i would gladly play it anytime, it does have the issue of not really being all that historically accurate--to say the least--and that does seem a bit weird at times.  Nevertheless, a great gaming experience that also plays out fairly quickly.

#6.  "Musket & Pike Series"

I cheated a bit here as i grouped all the games in this fantastic series into one.  Ben Hull's MPS series is the ASL of the gunpowder era.  Yes, the game is fairly complex and uses systems that take awhile to get the hang of, but man does it pay off.  The game actually plays out like the battles did and the command system does a great job of simulating how difficult it was to command such armies without resorting to written commands or "handi-cap" rules.

The scenarios i've played, about a dozen, have all been well balanced and competetive affairs.  Play time can be long though for many of the scenarios which can make weeknight gaming a bit difficult.  In fact, that's the only reason i don't play the series more often.

#5.  "The Thirty Year's War"

A very underrated game IMO that is loads of fun with a lot of strategic options.  I love this game, especially if it goes until the last turn and you view a once pristine map of Europe filled with pillage markers and the once mighty armies reduced to small bands of desperate mercenaries.  Good times.

It does require 6 hours+ to play though so it's not a single weeknight game.

#4.  "Ardennes '44"

I am not a traditional hex and counter, CRT kind of gamer in general.  The old Avalon Hill/SPI games don't hold much appeal to me.  I am also not a big Battle of the Bulge fan.  Which is why Ardennes '44 was such a surprise to me in how much i loved it. 

First off, it is a stunningly beautiful game.  The map is amazing and the counters are colorful yet totally functional.  But secondly and most improtantly, the gameplay is superb.  I am not a solitaire gamer and usually only play a game solitaire for a couple of turns to get the rules down before i have a FTF game scheduled.  With Ardennes 44 though, i couldn't stop playing it solitaire.  In fact, i restarted it and played it again.  And again.

I can't see how a game could do the "Bulge" better than Ardennes '44. 

#3.  "Virgin Queen/Here I Stand"

Again, i kind of cheated, if such a thing is possible in a personal Top 10 list, by combining Here I Stand and Virgin Queen together.  But they both use the same basic game engine and also, i doubt i'll play HIS again after playing VQ for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

These games are all about diplomacy, which is nothing new in the gaming world, however, it's what you can do with diplomacy and how the different sides have sometimes very different goals and abilities that make these games my favorite multi-player games ever.

The fact that you can trade tangible assets such as card draws, troops, and territory as well as make deals to play certain cards to help players make this game stand out from all other diplomacy type games.  All the powers play differently too which makes each game almost a new experience when you switch sides.

The amount of thought that designer Ed Beach put into these games is amazing.  GMT also did an outstanding job with the production.  The VQ map is stunning as are the counters and other components.  The main downside to this game is the playtime.  You need to plan 8+ hours to get the campaign in and it plays best with 6 players so that can be a difficult thing to coordinate.  That i'm regularly able to coordinate this game with others in the Chicago area speaks to how much fun this game is to play.

#2.  "Battles of the American Revolution"

Mark Miklos designed a winner with "Saratoga" and continued on with great game after great game in this series.  These games hit the sweet spot for me in terms of simple and easily understandable rules plus short play time plus a good amount of decision making.  Throw in a entertaining battle tactics system as well which provides for a great way to trash talk with your opponent, and we have one of my alltime favorites.

I've played every game in the series except for Germantown and Savannah and every game has been a different experience with tense gameplay where the game seems to hinge on every roll. 
This is classic wargaming at it's best and i'm looking forward to the next in this series.

#1.  "1805:  Sea of Glory"

1805 as my #1?  Most likely a shocker to most gamers as this game i think flew under most people's radar.  In fact, although i bought this game when it first came out, i put it on the shelf and didn't really look at it until a year later.  I'm glad i did and i'm glad my main gaming buddy decided to give this a go with me.  We set it up that first night and it remained on the table for the next 3 months as we played game after game.

Of all the games i've played, 1805 is the game that most squarely places me in the place the admirals of that time occupied.  The uncertainty, the feeling of helplessness against wind and weather and your political superiors, the lack of good intelligence.  It's all there.  The fact that designer Phil Fry could design a operational game on the Age of Sail is amazing in itself.  That he did it so well is a thing of beauty.

So why so little fanfare over this game?  For one thing, it can be a long game.  We're talking 12+ hours if you go the distance.  For another, it's a game of patience.  Each player is fighting other factors-weather, provisions, wind-as much as their opponent.  You can spend half a dozen turns with nothing happening.

But i think the main factor in it's lack of popularity is that it cannot be played solitaire.  Considering a decent percentage of wargamers only play solitaire, this has hurt it's popularity more than anything.

But all of that is okay with me.  I look forward to the next time i try and lead the French fleet out past the British blockade and sneak into Alexandria with my transports full of the Emperor's finest troops or as Nelson, track down that French fleet sailing to Barbados and bring them to glorious battle.

So there you have it, my Top 10 GMT Games.  Here's a couple that i struggled to leave out:  Twighlight Struggle, Barbarossa to Berlin, and SPQR.