The war game genre has evolved considerably over the years and with hundreds of options available on the market, picking the best war board game is not an easy feat. In today’s war board games there is more effort to bring forth the strategy and a lot more detailed gameplay that helps to bring the struggle for domination to life.
Wargaming as a hobby got a big kick in the ‘70s and ‘80 with games like Axis and Allies and Risk where it brought this genre to a very large market. Today the war game market is a lot smaller but there is a lot more variety within this genre, and the quality of games now available has risen considerably.
Wargames would be considered a conflict simulation model at its heart, oftentimes basing this conflict on historical events but can also be entirely fictional.
There are three levels or types of these board games: strategic, operational or tactical. Strategic games try to recreate an entire war on a large scale and add specific resources or politics to the game. Operational games would be slightly smaller and may cover a smaller war or a specific campaign within a large war. Tactical games cover a single battle or a series of smaller battles and use smaller scale units.
In this article, we take a look at 10 of what we consider to be the best war board games out there. These games have a certain level of strategy needed as well as some cunning and competitiveness to ensure a victory over your opponent.
|Image||Player Count / Duration / Age / Difficulty|
Best World War 2 – Axis & Allies Europe 1940
The most epic, full scale world war 2 board game you can buy. Huge map and amazing miniatures, just make sure you have enough time to play it.
Best Cold War – Twilight Struggle
The best war board games of all time according to BGG and we could not agree more. An immersive, tense and highly competitive cold war experience between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Best Artwork – Inis
Inis is a beautiful war board game of Celtic history where negotiation is just as important as raw power. Loads of player interaction & emotional decision making, put Inis amongst the top war board games around.
Best Bluffing and Negotiation – Rising Sun
Beautiful and strategic war board game set in ancient Japan. If you like negotiation, strategy, bluffing and some backstabbing – it’s a must buy.
Best Immersive Narrative – War of the Ring
A sheer brilliance of fantasy war board games. A war game at heart coupled with the Lords of the Ring story telling you can bend as you play along. The most immersive war board game in our review.
Best Civil War – 1775: Rebellion
A great balance of luck and smart decision making. Simple, accessible yet intense and strategic entryway to more complex wargames. If you like American history and civil wars, 1775: Rebellion holds the crown.
Best Backstabbing – A Game of Thrones
One of the most thematic war board game experiences we’ve ever had. For treachery, combat diplomacy and backstabbing, this is the best war board game you can find. Be careful though, it can ruin friendships.
Best Fantasy War Board Game – Runewars
A great mix of strategy, civilization building, area control, exploration, role play and full scale fantasy battles, it does not get more epic than this! Muster armies, build strongholds and send your heroes on quests!
Best for Casual Play – Memoir ’44
Memoir ’44 is the most accessible board game in our list. Simple rules, fast gameplay and hidden tactical depth make it the best war board game for beginners or casual play. Simply brilliant.
Best Asymmetrical War Board Game – Root
Root is a very special board game that almost looks too cute for a war genre. It offers four distinct yet balanced factions with unique strengths, strategy and ways to win. Beautiful and stunning war game redefined.
|Top 10 War Board Games|
Axis & Allies has been around since 1981, and this is a lot of board game history to it.
The original game has been re-released several times and has evolved into many different spin-offs and revisions of the base game. The Axis & Allies Europe is being one of the most refined and most successful games in the series to date.
It is a stand-alone game where two to six players battle for control over Europe and surrounding countries using resources, strategies and military power.
It can also be combined with Axis & Allies Pacific 1940 (sold separately) to expand the world war 2 stage to a global scale. The gaming mechanics, quality components and strategic game play has earned it a spot in our top 10 strategy board games shootout.
What is in the box
One of the greatest things about this game is the board that is included. The board measures thirty-five inches wide by thirty-two inches high, so it is an impressive board to play on. When combined with A&A Pacific 1940, you get a complete board that is five feet across.
There are six hundred and ten individual pieces that represent infantry, armor, bombers and naval vessels. In addition, you will find eighty chips, one hundred fifty-five various markers for your map, six dice and five storage boxes to keep all your parts in safety when storing your game.
The game is played with the same mechanics as previous Axis & Allies games so if you have played any previous versions you will find the gameplay familiar. It does, however, introduce new items and cards that are relatively easy to grasp.
Each round of the game has global powers taking turns according to a predefined order. A turn consists of the following phases:
- Spend your points – each power gets a certain amount of points at the beginning of their turn. These points can be spent on more infantry or repairing structures. These points must be used up at the beginning of the round
- Movement – mobilize your units on the map to get that strategic placement. Once combat is completed, then you would declare your non-combat moves
- New unit placement – place any of your purchased units from the beginning of the turn on the board and count your points in preparation for the next turn
Combat is resolved using dice rolls. Essentially the player with the higher dice roll wins the combat, and this is continued until either all units of one player gets defeated or the attacking player calls a retreat.
Axis & Allies is one of the most widely played second world war board games of all times, and many people would have played one version or another in their lifetime. The Europe 1940 edition is a special edition with the ability to play additional countries such as France or Italy, but the core of the game is as great as the original game was intended to be. It is a very long game, so if you have the time and you have the players, it is worth it, even just for the nostalgic sense of it all.
|Axis & Allies Europe 1940 is a result of 40 years of evolution since the original board game came out and is the best world war 2 board game yet. Everything about the board game is epic, starting with 550 miniatures, an oversized board, and hours long gaming sessions. If you are looking for the grand world war 2 board gaming experience, there is nothing that beats Axis & Allies Europe 1940, just make sure you have 5+ hours up your sleeve.|
|Introduces France and Italy|
|Epic scale second world war experience|
|Can combine with A&A Pacific 1940|
|Can take up to six hours to finish|
|Better with more players|
Not all war games are tanks, infantry, and generals, especially if we are talking about cold wars.
Twilight Struggle taps into a lengthy historic tension between two world superpowers after WWII, the United States of America, and the Soviet Union. The board game emulates the cold war between these superpowers from 1946 to 1989.
The game is set up into ten rounds with each round being a particular time period and then ending with round ten, dated 1989.
The main goal of the game is to have enough influence around the globe to be the dominant superpower.
Playing the game can be lengthy and may take up to three hours if you are not experienced with the game, but as you get more familiar with Twilight Struggle, game sessions can take less than an hour.
What is in the box?
Inside the box, you get a board game map of the world with full-color art by Mark Simonitch. The game board measures twenty-two by thirty-four inches and represents countries that were around at the time of the Cold War.
Countries are represented by small rectangles that have the countries flag, name and a number which represents how many influence markers can be used in that country. There are also several tracks on the board related to gameplay such as turn and action round tracks, military action track and the Defcon track which is used to keep track of how close you are to nuclear war.
There are no plastic game pieces included, yet you get two hundred and sixty small full-color game counters that are used to spread influence across the world by placing them on specific countries as directed throughout gameplay.
One hundred and ten full-color game cards are inside the box, separated into three deck eras. You get early war, mid war and late war decks that you include in the game as you play depending on what round you are on. Cards will have a specific event on each of them and can be used to help spread influence or other specific operations depending on that card’s Operations Points.
The game comes with two six-sided dice for events that require a dice roll, a large rule book, and two player aid cards. The cards are helpful to keep games on track by having easy to follow, basic game directions.
The gameplay itself is quite straightforward. Turns start with dealing each player a number of cards. One more card is needed to raise the Defcon by one and resetting the military actions to zero.
Players select a card from their hand to play as their headline event. The event happens, and the results are applied to the board and each player as necessary. Then players take turns paying a card at a time and following the events or actions on the cards as described. Some of the things may include placing control markers, making a coup or taking military action.
It continues in this manner until the required number of cards come into play. The turn record marker on the board is moved up at the end of each turn. Once you hit turn four, you shuffle the mid-war cards into the deck and then at turn eight the late-war cards are then also shuffled into the deck. Once you finish turn ten, all scoring is tallied on all the regions, and then a winner is declared.
There are alternative ways of winning before the end of turn ten to make the game even more exciting. You can win by having control of Europe when the Europe Scoring card comes into play. If either of the players triggers a nuclear war by reaching Defcon 1 then the opposing player wins, and if either player reaches 20 victory points at any time, that player wins the game.
The board game has been in Boardgamegeek’s top ten games almost since its release in 2005. This Cold War board game is not for everyone, and if you are looking for a quick game night for two then this is not the best choice. Alternatively, if you want a deeply strategic war experience with intriguing Cold War theme, Twilight Struggle is the best war board game for the job. We have previously reviewed the game as part of our two player board game shootout and it made our best two player board games top 10.
|Twilight Struggle is an intense strategic war board game set in the era of the cold war between Soviet Union and the USA. Unlike typical war board games with nice miniatures representing armies, this time around, it is all about influence. The board game captures you with deep strategic decision making and tactical depth supported by a great educational narrative. If you are looking for the best war strategy board game where politics and influence matter more than raw military power – Twilight Struggle is a true gem.|
|Deeply strategic and insanely involved|
|Never the same game twice|
|Immersive and storytelling gameplay|
|May take a long time to play|
|Steep-ish learning curve|
Inis is a Celtic based strategy war game that can be played in a span of an hour to an hour and a half.
There are three different ways to dominate Inis. One is to obtain a role of leadership or have more clan figures than any of the other player.
Second is to claim at least six different territories by your clans.
And lastly, you can win based on religion or have your clans in territories that contain at the minimum, six sanctuaries.
As the primary goal of the game is to become Ireland’s high king, it means strategy is not always based off conquering as many opponents as possible as this can lead to less unity and thereby making it more difficult to create a unified kingdom.
What is in the box?
The unique part of Inis is seventeen unique territory tiles that are placed on the table each turn. The tiles represent jagged puzzle pieces and are covered in amazing artwork. Each piece connects nicely with adjacent pieces and helps to ensure the game board is different every time you play.
A total of forty-eight clan figures come with the game in four different colors; green, orange, white and blue. Twenty miniature buildings are included with ten of them being citadels and ten being sanctuaries.
There are four different types of cards that come with the game; action cards, advantage cards, epic tale cards, and four different clan reference cards. There are also fifteen different tokens or markers that are used throughout the game.
Inis comes with a rulebook with only eleven pages which is quite small for a strategy war game.
The gameplay is pretty straightfoward where each turn consists of two primary phases, the assembly phase, and the
The assembly phase consists of the following actions:
- Assign the new Brenn, the player who controls the capital city for one round
- Check if any victory conditions are met
- Take Advantage Cards based on the territories players occupy<
- Determine clockwise or counterclockwise play order by flipping the crow token
- Deal action cards depending on specific conditions that are explained in the rulebook
- Draft cards. Choose one card and pass the rest to the player on your left.
Each player has three choices to choose from during the turn – play a card, pass, or take a pretender token.
- Playing a card. This is the heart of gameplay for Inis. Cards let you explore new territories, start clashes with other players or provide bonuses.
- Pass. You can be forced to pass if you no longer have any cards in hand, but you can also choose to pass if you feel it will work for this particular turn strategically.
- Taking a pretender token. You can’t take a token unless you meet one of the win conditions. Taking a token would show other players that you want to finish the game so be ready for a clash or two.
Clashing in Inis is a form of combat which is instigated by playing certain cards. You can choose not to fight if a clash is brought up. At times it is safer not to be involved in these fights and resort to diplomatic ways of resolving conflicts.
All in all, Inis has just about everything you want from a quick and easy to learn war board game. The randomness of the game tiles means you have a different map every time you play. The fact that all the cards are used in each round means you can learn what can be played each round and let you formulate more complex strategies. This is a fun game that offers a unique experience unlike any other war board game out there.
|Inis is a special war board games in many ways. On the outside, it is a gorgeously crafted board game with simple rules and quick gaming sessions. At the same time, it manages to deliver a mental satisfaction usually found in complex games that take twice as long to play.|
|Quick and easy to play|
|Unique and beautiful board design|
|Unlimited replay potential|
|Gentle learning curve for new players|
|A bit more theme would be nice|
|Best with 4 players|
Rising Sun is a strategic war board game that was made possible by crowdfunding a Kickstarter project. The board game has brought in over four million dollars with over thirty thousand backers.
It is a three to five player board game that sets the scene in feudal Japan where ancient gods are coming from the heavens to change the landscape of the country.
Each player fights for survival trying to lead their clan to victory at the same time.
Rising Sun is more than simply a game of power and warfare, it adds a unique twist of honor, negotiation, and alliances into the gameplay.
What is in the box?
Rising Sun comes in a big box with a lot of stuff. There is your main game board with each territory marked out clearly and various track bars around the map to monitor the different events happening throughout the game.
There are fifty-three breathtaking miniatures in each box with some of the most detailed sculpts in board gaming today. Each clan is molded in different colors, and the golds are all done in grey, so there is no mistaking who is where on the game board.
Seventy-two tokens represent everything from strongholds, ships, clans, and counters. There are also thirty coins that get used by each clan in various events throughout the game.
Five clan screens are included so you can do certain events behind the screen and away from the eyes of your opponents. Nine mandate cards are also needed to round off all the parts needed for play.
Each game consists of three seasons representing rounds. Each season is broken up into four phases, each with a very specific set of goals.
The first phase is mainly about the setup. You get to draw cards, as well as receive income and hostages from the previous season.
The second phase is where players form alliances. There are many reasons why you want to form alliances as they can increase your chances for bonuses in the next phase.
The third phase is the political phase where you use a stack of different tiles that have various activities affecting all the players. The top 4 tiles are removed from the stack and turned face up. One tile is chosen by the active player, and the remaining three are returned to the stack. The tile is then activated, and players follow the instructions on the tile.
The final phase is the war phase where players battle for contested territories. Each player uses their war advantage board and chooses the advantages they want using coins. Once both players have made their choices, their war board is revealed, and the battle is resolved.
Rising Sun is a great thematic war board game that can last up to two hours in length. The immensely successful Kickstarter campaign and positive reviews from major board gaming sites is a result of a carefully crafted gameplay that is both engaging and addictive.
|Rising Sun is a medium-weight war game saturated with battles and interesting decision making. It is not the war game with the most strategic depth, but rather a showpiece that looks epic and feels grandiose. If you after a fine example of a Japanese themed war strategy board game, Rising Sun is worth your time to consider.|
|Unique gameplay experience|
|Focuses on strategy rather than raw battle|
|Beautiful artwork and miniatures|
|May be too slow for some|
There have been many Lord of the Rings board games, but mostly they do not live up to the books or the epic movies. War of the Ring breaks this cycle and gives board gamers an epic war game based on the good and evil of the J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale.
The game is rich in its narrative and starts at the fellowship of the ring. It follows through to the conclusion of the trilogy with the ring being destroyed or the Shadow Army being victorious over the Free Peoples of Middle-earth.
It is an area control strategy war game at heart that is best played with two or four (two on each side) players.
What is in the box?
War of the Ring comes with a large game board with a map of Middle-earth and all of the key strategic locations.
Two hundred and four plastic miniatures are included to represent different armies and characters from the novels.
One hundred and ten event cards that depict various events from the box are needed for, and sixteen action dice coupled with five combat dice are used in conjunction with these cards. Seventy-six cardboard counters are used to keep track of various things throughout the game.
The objectives of the game follow the books as closely as possible. The story goes that the shadow is attempting to corrupt the ring-bearer and obtain the ring or conquer all of the Free People’s nations. For
While the objectives mimic the books quite nicely, the way you achieve them can be different. The fellowship also begins as it does in the books but you get to decide where and when it makes sense to split the party.
As the game progresses, events unfold by using the included cards. Players draw cards and then play them by using the action dice. Event cards represent all the things that have happened in the books such as the Ents Awakening, Gollum arriving and much more.
If you are a Lord of the Rings fan and are looking for something a lot more in-depth than your run of the mill game, War of the Ring would be a perfect fit. A battle game that has a strategic portion to it and has all your favorite parts of the books and movies is a perfect combination for several hours of gameplay.
|War of the Ring is an asymmetric two player strategic war game that drips with theme and delivers a surprisingly balanced gameplay. It is mainly driven by action dice and event cards, which is a classic recipe that always works. It offers a solid game mechanic that is sufficiently challenging without going over the top. If you crave a fantasy based epic scale experience, War of the Ring is amongst the top war board games we’ve ever played.|
|Asymmetrical yet balanced gameplay|
|Quality plastic miniatures and components|
|Allows players to bend the LOTR narrative|
|High replay value|
|Steep learning curve for new gamers|
In 1775: Rebellion, players take on roles of the Patriots, American Continental Army, Loyalists or British Army in a battle to control colonies, provinces, and territories.
The board game is based on the birth of the American revolution. Depending on your chosen side, the goal of the game is to either create a revolution or to quell the rebellion. As a thematic conclusion, the game ends with the historic signing of the Treaty of Paris.
The unique twist of the game is that it is both competitive and cooperative, with British Regulars and Loyalist Militia being on one side and Continental Army and Patriot Militia on the other of the war.
What’s in the box?
There is a good size board that includes all the original thirteen colonies.
Military units are represented by colored wooden cubes. White for American Militia, Red for British regulars, Blue for Continental Army and yellow for loyalist militia. There are also purple and orange cubes to represent French allied forces and Allied Hessian factions.
Each faction has their own combat dice which can roll a hit, a flee or a command decision during combat. Command decisions can be used to retreat to an adjacent location on the map.
Each faction comes with their own deck and decks include movement cards, event cards, and one truce cart. For each turn, players play a movement card and their choice of event cards.
There is one additional board, the Treaty of Paris board. This is a smaller board that has spaces on it for the faction treaty cards as they are played in the game.
There are eight rounds to the game and four turns in each round, one turn for each faction.
To start a round you draw one of the four colored dice and place it on the turn track on the game board. Continue to do this for all factions, and this will give you the order for the turns on each round. This means that every round can be different for who goes first and who goes last, leaving a lot of the strategy of the game also up to chance.
Each turn consists of 4 phases:
- Reinforcement phase – build your armies strength by adding additional cubes to the game board in various areas.
- Movement phase – gives you the opportunity to mobilize your units in appropriate directions in preparation for the next event.
- Battle phase – use dice rolls to determine how your forces fight and you follow the hit, flee or command decision choices on each dice roll.
- Draw Cards phase – bring your hand back to the original number of in hand cards.
The gameplay is quite straightforward and not overly complicated, so you are unlikely to find yourself reading a rulebook for any more than a couple of minutes. The game does have an age range of ten or above, so it does not get too complicated, but there is still a certain level of strategy needed to use the cards in hand for your movements.
After the eighth round, the game ends and the faction with most territories wins the game. Alternatively, the game can end any time after round three if two of the factions play their treaty cards.
It is the perfect light war board game for those who want to have some casual fun without complex rules or strategies to play. Also, anyone looking to step up from Risk series board games will find 1775: Rebellion extremely appealing.
1775: Rebellion is a great light family war game that is easy to play and provides educational historical insights as you play along. While some younger players may not fully appreciate the history of it, as they get older it gains interest. As much of the game is left to dice rolls and card draws it is very re-playable with no two games ever feel alike. If you are looking for a cooperative and competitive board game with a Civil War theme – 1775: Rebellion is a tough game to beat.
|Quick to learn|
|The best light civil war board game out there|
|Can be played under two hours|
|Great historic backdrop made fun|
|Not for deep strategists|
|Miniatures instead of cubes would have been great|
Game of Thrones has been a household name for some time now, and there is no surprise that this huge title has also evolved into a board game as well.
The board game is recommended for three to six players and can take upwards of three hours to play. Each player controls one of six great houses of Westeros.
Each house is fighting for control of the Iron Throne after King Robert Baratheon has died.
Armies march to war on a detailed map to show military might and to gain control of territory on your quest for dominance while politics are used to make alliances or break them as necessary.
What’s in the box?
The game board is a beautiful representation of Westeros separated into territories players can control. There are several tracks on the board that help players monitor the number of strongholds they control, supplies they produce and influence hierarchy between players. In addition, the board features a wildling track that represents bad events that happen to Westeros and affecting all players. When the wildling track reaches the end, then the wildlings attack and everyone needs to band together to fend them off.
One hundred and thirty-eight plastic units are included to represent footmen, knights, ships and siege engines. The tokens look like they are made of marble. They are placed on the board and are moved around as your war for Westeros progresses.
A hundred and five cards are used for various events, to depict various well-known characters and to give orders to your armies as they are needed.
A player screen is available for each of the six available houses and has information that is useful for each house printed on the inside, and two hundred and sixty-six tokens and overlays are used throughout the game as needed.
Each round of the game consists of three distinct phases – Westeros, Planning, and Action.
The Westeros phase represents special events that affect all players. This is the only time where you get together with other players to potentially fight common enemies, wildlings.
The Planning phase is where you issue orders to your armies in secret. This phase works around diplomacy, negotiation, and deduction.
The final phase is the Action Phase, at which point everyone’s orders are simultaneously revealed. Fierce battles can now occur, alliances crumble, and the fate of each player is decided.
Ten rounds are played, and at the end of the tenth round, castles and strongholds are tallied, and the one with the most is declared the winner. If at any point in the game one player controls seven of these castles or stronghold then the game is immediately won by that player.
Game of Thrones Board Game is a wonderfully in-depth board game that is great for a few well-adjusted friends who are willing to spend two to three hours being immersed in a fantasy world of Westeros. The game works best with six players and decent with five, anything less than that we find to deliver a sub-optimal gaming experience.
While the game can take a little to learn and get the hang of, it is well worth it. The sense of competition, tension, and painful betrayal deliver a unique experience only the best strategic war games can offer. Strategic, cunning, and all-out epic battles are all part of this visually stunning game.
|Game of Thrones Board Game is an asymmetric board game that sits amongst the top war board games we have ever played. It has everything you would expect starting with politics, battles, negotiation, alliances and betrayal. The board game captures the thematic experience with incredible level of details and stays true to the narrative of the books. If you are looking for highly thematic and deeply strategic board gaming experience where you can do all the things you can’t be doing in real life – Game of Thrones Board Game is one of the best war board games ever made.|
|Immersive Game of Thrones universe|
|Many expansions are available|
|Works best with 6 players|
|Can loose friends over it|
If you are looking for an epic game of adventure, conquest, and fantasy for two to four players, then Runewars is just what you need.
The game takes place in the same Fantasy Flight universe as other games such as Runebound and Descent: Journeys in the Dark so the more you play, the more familiar you get with heroes, monsters and the universe in general.
Runewars is a strategic and tactical battle over finding and controlling Dragon Runes, but only one faction can be victorious.
The game features a tile-based board so every time you play the game board can change depending on how and where you lay your land tiles.
What’s in the box?
Runewars does not have a traditional game board and instead comes with thirteen hex shape map tiles. As part of the setup, you get to use those tiles to put the board together which comes out different every time.
A full spread of one hundred and ninety-six miniatures represent everything from human soldiers, war machines, giants, winged horses, and even dragons. These miniatures are used by each faction to move across the game times and battle opponents to bring your faction closer to finding the Dragon Runes
There are four faction sheets that each player uses to keep track of things like resources and other aspects of gameplay. Dials are used to illustrate how much resources are on hand and available for each turn.
Two hundred and thirty-five tokens and markers are used to keep track of different elements of the game while you are playing. These tokens are all full color and beautifully illustrated.
Decks or cards are used to represent different season during, and there are additional cards used for actions for your armies or your heroes during each of the seasonal cycles.
Each turn consists of four seasons or will represent a full year. Each season a card is revealed that affects the entire map and each of the players. After each season players will use their cards to represent actions such as grow your army or mobilize. As the
During gameplay, there is also a heroes element that emulates a roleplay aspect of the board game. Heroes can go on quests to develop their characters and become stronger to better assist your faction. By using the strategy with these characters, you can often obtain dragon runes through diplomacy instead of on the battlefield giving each player more strategic avenues than just all-out war.
As with any army or realm, resources play an important role. Armies need to be fed and clothed, and weapons need to be created. Strongholds and cities can be formed and fortified to withstand attacks, or a more nomadic strategy can be used keeping your armies on the move with hit and fall back tactics.
Runewars has managed to find a winning combination of a fantasy theme, strategy, epic battles and combine it with modern elements such as resource management and role play. If you are just starting out with the game, it may come across as overwhelming at first as it does require some learning curve. At the same time, once you get the grips on the game, it delivers an incredibly adventurous and epic scale war game experience only a handful of war board games out there can match.
Each faction of the game is unique and comes with miniatures, cards and special powers. Coupled with a modular game board layout, there is plenty of replayability to make each and every game a unique experience.
|Runewars is a fantasy war board game that pits four fantasy empires in a battle for search, conquest and protection of Dragon Runes. Besides epic armies of fantasy creatures players get to control heroes that add a roleplay twist to the overall experience. If you are looking for a full scale clash between fantasy empires, Runewars is the amongst the best war strategy board games for the job. Simply remarkable.|
|Quality components and nice artwork|
|Board made of tiles for a unique experience every time|
|Best fantasy war board game we’ve played|
|Can make alliances with other players|
|Playing heroes (roleplay) feels somewhat disconnected from the board|
|Large and complicated rule book|
Memoir ’44 is the most accessible war board game in our review. It is predominantly a two player game but can be stretched to accommodate up to 8 players.
The board game is based on real World War II scenarios, so it feels both thematic and educational.
One player gets to takes on the role of the Allied forces, and the other would take on Axis powers.
The gameplay is driven by Richard Borg’s Command and Colors system which proved to be successful and is used in several other war strategy board games.
Command cards are used to issue order to units and can be placed in three different zones on your game board.
The combat is done using a dice roll mechanic keeping the game fairly random. The gameplay can last for twenty to forty-five minutes and ends when one player collects enough medals.
What is in the box?
Memoir 44 comes with a dual-sided board with one side having a grassy terrain and the other side depicting a beach area. There are forty-four double-sided terrain pieces that are used differently depending on which scenario you are playing.
There are sixty command cards and some explanation cards with terrain and unit information on them for quick reference. The cards are laid out nicely and as you would expect for a game of this caliber.
One of the most important parts of war board games are miniatures and Memoir 44 does not disappoint. Over seventy plastic miniatures to represent soldiers, tanks, artillery, sandbags, barbed wire, and hedgehogs are included in the box and add that perfect bit of fun when it comes to war games.
Playing the game itself is not overly complicated. There are 5 phases for each turn, and each phase is pretty straightforward and makes sense.
- Command cards – play a card from your hand. These cards let you order units for a zone on the board
- Order – Choose which of your units on the board to be activated for this turn
- Move – you can move any of your activated units. Units all have different rules for how far they can move and how they are affected by terrain.
- Battle – each of your units can not fight with the enemy. This is done in three steps
- Check your range – check how many hexes away you can attack
- Check your terrain – see how the terrain can affect your attack
- Resolve your battle – roll the dice and check your results. There are five different sides to the dice. Infantry is on two sides and then a single side for armor, flag, star, and grenade. For each symbol you roll, if it matches the unit you are attacking, then you kill off a figure in that particular unit. Once all the figures of a unit are gone, the unit is removed, and you receive a medal. If you roll a flag, then you force the defenders to move back one hex.
- Draw a command card – draw from the pile to bring your hand back to its starting quantity.
You can get a good feel for the game in a few turns, and the rules take no longer than 10 minutes to go through meaning you can be up and playing in no time at all.
The rules are simple and easy for anyone to grasp within 10 minutes or so. At the same time, this simplicity does have some drawbacks to it.
The randomness of the card deck can mean that you are driven by the card you get dealt from the deck. A bad shuffle or a run of cards that don’t lead to the desired outcome can ruin your well thought out strategy, so make sure you shuffle them well.
In addition, battles are controlled by dice rolls, which assumes luck and randomness in battle outcomes. You could potentially have a great thought out plan which could get thwarted by a bad dice roll. The good side of dice driven battles is that they are always fun and that you never have the same game twice. Conversely, it can lead to a slight level of frustration if you don’t see the dice rolls you need or get that card you are hoping for.
Overall, there are a number of deeply strategic war board games in our review but Memoir ’44 is not one of them. Instead, it is a light and easy to learn war board game that remains accessible for most players, yet still employs a sufficient level of strategic depth. The gameplay is both fun and enjoyable and with streamlined rules, the game only takes about 45 minutes to play. It is not intended for hardcore war board gamers but rather casual gaming nights and as a perfect way to get yourself immersed in the wargame genre.
Memoir ’44 is one of the best sold war board games ever made as it appeals to an extremely wide range of board gamers. At heart, it is two player casual tactical wargame that both novice and expert players can enjoy. In addition, the board game is based on true historic events, so not only is it accessible and fun to play, it is also educational. Regardless of your age or preference, Memoir ’44 is a war board game that I find hard to outgrow and recommend every gamer to have on his/her shelf.
|Easy to learn war board game|
|Works for both novice and experienced board gamers|
|The randomness of the card deck|
|Dice driven battles may not be for everyone|
Root takes the fighting part of war games and combines it with a cute look of woodland scenes and creatures. Don’t be fooled by the looks, however, it is a war game through and through.
Each player gets to lead one of four factions (up to four players) with unique abilities, units and ways of playing.
Even the win conditions are different between faction, so each player is sure to have a different strategy on the way to the top.
What is in the box?
You get a game map that lays out your playing field. It depicts a woodland type of area with several clearings where you need to gain control over.
There are many adorable Meeples to represent each faction. There are twenty-five Marquise that are cats, twenty Eyrie who are birds, ten alliance who are mice and one vagabond that is a raccoon.
For each of the factions you get a player board to keep track of things, there are two counter sheets, and two dice for various dice throws as well.
The gameplay is asymmetrical as each faction has a different way of playing the game. Cats score points by building structures around the forest. They have three actions for each round and have to watch their supplies of wood to be sure there is enough to accomplish their tasks.
Birds are also out to build structures but do so in a different method than the cats do. Their goal is to build as quickly as possible.
Mice are out to gain sympathy from the forest and then try to create revolutions to achieve unbalance in the woodland.
Vagabonds, the raccoon, is a single piece on the game board but can move not only on trails but through the forest itself. The Vagabond needs to acquire items that he needs to use in his journeys to complete his tasks.
|Root is a full-on medium weight war board game that hides behind the cute artwork, theme and top-notch component quality. It delivers an experience of playing a fairy tale, yet employs some of the classic war game mechanics to drive the gameplay that gets brutal at times. It challenges the perception of war board games, creates addiction and generates more post-game discussions than any other board game I could remember.|
|Very cute theme|
|Beautiful artwork and quality components|
|Quick gameplay under an hour|
|An expansion can add two additional players|
|Easy to read |
|Learning different factions can be confusing|
Have we missed one of your favorite war board games? Let us know the war game you would like to see in the above list, by leaving a quick comment below:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a wargame?
War board games are tabletop games that may depict some political, but mainly military action. They do not have any specific timeline and can range from ancient times to conflicts at the middle east and even fantasy worlds.
Thematically, war board games are typically designed as a conflict of two sides, hence are mainly two players. At the same time, some support more players or even group vs. group.
Some of the best war board games mainly feature events taken place in the first and second world wars, Napoleon times and the American civil war.
Each war board game can represent one or many of the below types of warfare:
- Tactical – they represent predominantly skirmish type battles. The map usually represents a battleground where players get to control individual units such as tanks, soldiers, cannons, etc.
- Operational – depicts local conflicts, smaller wars or campaigns. The conflicts span greater than only battlegrounds but do not go to the region, international or global level.
- Strategic – typically recreate global conflicts such as world or country wars. Units usually represent armies or unit formation rather than individual troops or military machinery.
What is a Skirmish Wargame?
Skirmish wargame is also known as a man-to-man wargame where players get to control individual units, troops or pieces of military machinery. Those games are also known tactical war board games.
One of the first skirmish wargames released was Western Gunfight Wargame Rules in 1970s.