I’ve played many more games than I’ve listed here, and there are plenty I’d like to play, but these are the games I play most often.
Ancient and medieval
De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) is a deceptively simple set of miniatures rules, covering the period from 3000BC to around 1500AD. Each army has twelve bases of figures, and the board is only two feet of so square. Although the rules are written in a language known as Barkerese, after the author’s peculiar writing style, once you play through them a few times you get hooked. You get much of the tactical complexity of one of the larger scale wargames, such as FOG or DBMM, in only an hour or so. The only downside to the rules is actually one of their good points, it’s so easy to paint armies that you get hooked into painting more and more of the things. I started out with the good intention of painting half a dozen ancient armies, covering the Assyrian Empire, and half a dozen 11th century ones, covering the many little wars in Italy. I’ve managed to stay pretty true to that, but there’s always the temptation to cover the fall of the Assyrian Empire, the growth of the Persian Empire, Alexander, his successors, the Reconquista, the Battle of Courtrai, the Sumerians, New Kingdom Egypt and her enemies, the Battle of Talas… you name it!
Dux Bellorum takes a different approach to DBA, in that it focuses on one geographical area, and a limited timescale – the British Isles from 367AD to 793AD (the departure of the Romans to the first Viking raid on the British Isles). Although there are typically fewer bases on the table than you have in DBA, a game of Dux Bellorum lasts the evening. The rules themselves are simple and well written, but combat is a little more involved because you are working at a greater level of detail. Dux Bellorum is a radical redesign of Dan Mersey’s other rules set, Glutter of Ravens, which was also a cracking rules set.
Hordes of the Things (HoTT) is a fantasy derivative of DBA. I have played a few games, and painted bases to ‘morph’ a couple of my DBA armies into HoTT ones, but I haven’t got much further.
Song of Blades and Heroes (SBH) is a skirmish level game from Ganesha Games. It shares a plus point with HoTT in that you can design your force yourself to suit your playing style, your imagination, and the figures you want to paint. Games are nice and intellectually satisfying, and they are over in an hour or so. Good beer and pretzels fun.
Horse and Musket
Fast Play Grande Armee and Might and Reason are two games by Sam Mustafa, FPGA covering the Napoleonic Wars, and M&R covering the Seven Years’ War. FPGA was a project of Sam’s to develop (wait for it) a fast play variant of his Grande Armee rules, but he has since moved in another direction. The draft rules have taken on a life of their own, though, and they a favourite for many players. Might and Reason is derived from Grande Armee, and we (I play at a friend’s plause it exclusively for historical scenarios, so I haven’t really played with much of the new stuff in those rules, but it shares FPGA’s simple and playable mechanisms.
World War Two
Crossfire is an interesting wargame because you don’t measure movement. Instead the table is loaded with terrain features, which effectively define a movement grid. You can move as far as you like unless the enemy stops you, and you can shoot as many times as you want until you fail to suppress your target. That makes for a fun and challenging game. You can feel very clever about moving a platoon from being on one flank of the enemy to the other. I think that the rules are fine for a game every now and then, but the consequences of , eg, making dice rolls in the wrong order, are rather too severe for my liking: ‘Drats, if I hadn’t failed to rally those troops way over there, then 1 Platoon would have been able to walk unopposed across the road on the other side of the board!’. Also you end up with a Tim Powers style universe where everything *shifts*… a unit can be just outside a house, yet indirect fire can still be called onto the house, and its effect is confined to the target, because the unit is also far away from the house (because there is no ground scale). So in short it’s a fun and popular game but you have to suspend disbelief when you’re playing it.
I Ain’t Been Shot Mum (IABSM) handles the shifting initiative thing by giving each unit a card, so a unit (of either side) has its turn when its card comes up. That does away with initiative, activation, and reaction rolls that you see in other rules sets. Putting units on overwatch is a little harder than it should be, but that is countered by the other fog of war provision – movement is random. Who’d have thought in the 21st century you’d still roll dice to see how far you get in a turn?! I haven’t played all the rules yet, but what I have seen so far looks good.