November 23, 2008

Critical Gamers 2008 Holiday Gift Guide - Wargame Board Games

For more great gift ideas across all genres of games please see our
Holiday Gift Guide Index.

In our third volume of our 2008 Holiday Gift Guides we present three substantial wargaming releases that hit store shelves this fall. Not only are these AAA titles, but they spread three levels of complexity and they're so new that not many folks have gotten their grubby mits on them yet.

Let us also say this: 2008 was a great year for revisiting Wargames from our past. Patton.jpgThere are numerous titles that were long lost and forgotten, including two of our selections this year. But now they've not only been reprinted, but in many cases the baseline of the game has deconstructed, revised and rebuilt. While this is often dangerous and sometimes the end product is mired in filth, the titles released in 2008 have been bright shining stars and very successful.

Enough talk, here are our selections for Best Wargming gifts for the 2008 Holidays:

Risk2008Edition.jpg Risk 2008 (Black Ops) Revised Edition [Amazon, Funagain]

Last month Avalon Hill released the sleepy "Risk 2008 Edition". With a dull name like that it was destined to be pigeon holed as another sad reskinned version of the same old game, like your local college's dusty stack of campus Monopoly complete with local pizza joints and Get Out of Math Class cards. Boring!

But not so fast.

Risk Revised is the long sought after restructured version of Risk classic. It adds strategic depth with new global achievements - like "Conquer Two Continents", new rewards for those achievements, and new army purchasing mechanics. But most importantly the game doesn't drown in these revision; it feels a lot more balanced, remains fast paced, and includes new victory conditions that make weaker players team up to stop super powers, and which end the game before the long boring war marches slosh back and forth for hours.

Risk 2008 Edition is Risk at its best. It's no wonder the beta release of this title - Risk Black Ops - was selling for over 100 bucks on ebay. It's that good.

Thumbnail image for AA50AnniversaryED.jpg
Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition
[Amazon, Funagain]

In about 1988 we graduated from Risk to Axis & Allies, a WWII strategy game that expanded upon Risk in just about every area. It introduced: new units like battleships, carriers, fighters, bombers, tanks and submarines; new economic and production systems that expand the strategic elements with addition of basic wartime financials, and new combat mechanics that made the positioning of certain types of troops a key to victory. It added depth everywhere,and games became epic. Epic.

This year Avalon Hill turned 50, and decided to produce remakes of their most popular titles. The goal of the Axis and Allies remake was to push A&A; to its limit in size and depth. The result is the new Axis & Allies 50th Anniversary edition [Amazon, Funagain] which is 33% bigger physically, and ships with a gorgeous new board, the new Crusier Unit type, a stuff sack of newly model units (600 in total), new factions (China and Italy) , and a gob-ton of wargaming goodness all under one box cover. It's the rebirth of the classic Axis & Allies' and we couldn't be happier with it.

The Memoir '44 Mediterranean Theater
[Amazon, Funagain]

The Memoir '44 series zooms things down to the tactical level. Players slug it out over hill, valleys and towns of Western Europe ( and beyond to other theaters with it's suite of Memoir 44 Expansions ). Instead of controlling overarching army movements like in Risk or Axis & Allies, players control squads of infantry, individual tanks and planes in one of 15 scenarios that ship with the game. And when they're done with those, players can expand their wargaming system in-a-box with new expansions, or by checking online for some user created scenarios and content, or design their own.

The game shares quit a bit in common to one of our favorite games Tide of Iron - at least in theme. However, where as Tide of Iron delves down in complexity and realism, Memoir '44 hovers above the details and entertains with fast turns and easy to learn rules.

The original Memoir '44 centered around the invasion of Normandy in 1944, and shipped in 2004. We added it to this year's holiday shopping guide because 1: you may not have ever heard of it! 2: The new Memoir '44 Mediterranean Theater Expansion [Amazon, Funagain] shipped just a month ago. It adds new customizable board pieces, units and
scenarios pulled straight from the North Africa campaign with gigantic German versus British tank battles that took place in dire days of 1941. It's chalk full of well balanced gameplay, and may very-well end up being our expansion of the year.

TideofIronBox.jpgPrior Selections

Just in case this year's selections didn't fill your engine, here are our selections for Wargames from the 2006 Holiday Gift Guide and the 2007 Holiday Gift Guide.

Be sure to check out our other gift ideas in the Critical Gamers' 2008 Holiday Gift Guide Index.

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at November 23, 2008 6:46 PM

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