Monday 11 March 2024

The Tactical Board Game….Part 1

Over the past year or so I have been quietly amassing a selection of tactical board games. For me there are many advantages in pursuing such a path and I am sure that a fair few of these will strike a chord or two!

Convenience. After readying a game for tabletop action it simply a case of setting it up, fighting the battle and then putting it away in its box. No fuss and very simple indeed!

Storage. A game in a box and boxes are easy to store.  

Cost. A premium quality tactical board game may set you back around the £100 mark but for that you will get two or more side to fight with, the playing area and any terrain applicable - usually printed on the map or in conjunction with terrain overlays. Compare that to amassing similar forces using models and factor in the cost of paints, brushes etc.

Time. When your new board game arrives getting it table ready can usually be managed in an evening or two. Compare this with the time to assemble and paint two forces of models.

On the Grid. This is I guess where things can get a little muddied. I am a committed grid based gamer, so much so that grids are pretty much all I fight over these days. This makes the crossing the psychological hurdle into board games very much easier - in fact I probably took this leap several years ago with my block armies.

I have made no secret of the fact that I am a reluctant painter and so giving up on producing armies is not really a great sacrifice. I will still tackle skirmish type stuff and of course anything naval, aerial, deep space or vehicular will continue as normal and indeed, I still have a few projects in this regard that require some attention in due course.

Without further ado the following are a selection of the tactical games I have - a couple of which are repurchases - and a bit of an insight into why they are there.

Command and Colours. Of the above titles the Samurai and Jacobites are self contained in that there are no expansions. The American Revolution has a single one which includes the French whilst the Medieval title will probably feature several expansions. The first of these covers the Crusades which I will certainly get when available.

In many ways the above games from the Command and Colours stable represent a step up from the original Battle Cry and Memoir 44 in that in addition to the usual command cards there are some bespoke tactical options that further nuance gameplay. Memoir 44 moved in this direction as did the Ancients and Napoleonic versions but only after several expansions. This definitely adds to the playing experience and decision making. For me the issue with Memoir 44 and the Napoleonic and Ancient versions is that to get the full experience one has to be fully invested in the system which means acquiring most if not all of the expansions. I have in the past gone down this particular rabbit hole but from here on in I intend to be far more selective about any game that needs multiple expansions!

A reworking of the old Yaquinto game ‘88 features combat in the desert and is both very tank centric and detailed - detailed as in types of ammunition used and part of the target hit. Beautiful to look at and with everything up to and including Tigers in Tunisia.

The Panzer series was originally published by Yaquinto back in the day but the series has been updated and given a makeover by GMT Games. This will allow me to indulge my fondness for armoured battles in the desert. It is not the only tactical level game I have for the desert but the other one will feature in part two of this post. 

In many ways my drift into board games for tactical battles was inevitable given the reasons above. I would add though that when the time comes for our inevitable down sizing I will be handily placed and without masses of painted figures and terrain to worry about.

Horses for courses and all that.


The Good Soldier Svjek said...

Not a boardgamer at heart, but a big fan of the C&C family. To me it is the way to refight historical battles in a doable way . Over the years I have them all and played most of them .

David Crook said...

Hello there Good Soldier Svjek,

I would dearly like to get the French expansion for the AWI and will certainly acquire the Medieval Crusades set when it is released. As far as ancients and Napoleonics are concerned I am undecided. I have owned both and went ‘all in’ but in retrospect this may have been the wrong move at the time. A good gaming friend of mine acquired the base Napoleonic game, the Spanish expansion and the set that has the additional tactic cards. His interest is the Peninsular War so this seems like a sensible way to approach it.

Something to think about though.

All the best,


Steve J. said...

Very good points there David about the cost of the games versus the cost of figures etc along with the painting time and terrain requirements too. The Samurai battles one sounds a steal at about £70.00 for the first printing, where you get 40 battles to play with and you don't appear to need any supplements either, although on emight be on the cards...

David Crook said...

Hi Steve J,

That has been my thinking for a while now. Even with the smaller scales the storage footprint and ‘time to table’ can be significant. Possibly the only thing I would do to enhance the C and C games I have would be to get some thick hexes for hill counters. It would help the visual appeal no end.

The Samural game was based on an earlier figures based version produced by Zvezda. There was a single expansion for this that featured Ninjas as I recall. So far I am not aware of any plans to replicate this. A trawl of the net will reveal a whole host of fa made additional scenarios so there is plenty of historical mileage. They are also great tools for designing one’s own adventures as well!

All the best,