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Posted on Nov 23, 2011 in Stuff We Like

Holiday Shopping Guide 2011: Boardgames

By Armchair General

Some people claim that the “golden age of boardgaming” took place in the 1970s. There is some truth to that theory: many classic wargame titles were developed and their numerical popularity was huge. However, as anyone familiar with the explosion of great boardgaming titles that have been released in the last few years can attest, the present holds a rich variety of games published with a quality that gamers couldn’t imagine back in the day. Today’s boardgames often boast graphics of amazing quality, top-grade components, and custom-sculpted miniatures that present a visual and tactile stimulation that can attract even the most dedicated of electronic multimedia–mesmerized gamers.

As with PC games, the genres available to the boardgamer run a gamut of historical places, scope, and depth. Rather than attempting to list all the great titles that are worth examination, we present examples from many of the major boardgaming publishers and encourage the reader to further explore the complete offerings available from them.


Boots on the Ground

One of the games that generated the most excitement with our staff this year was Worthington Games’ Boots on the Ground (read our review here).  Recreating an individual-level encounter with bad guys in an urban environment, this is a great idea for fans of games that cover modern conflict.

Battleship Galaxies

Hasbro’s game creators have demonstrated a clever and inventive ability to breathe new life into venerable franchises. One of the most exciting and surprising games to hit the shelves this year was Battleship Galaxies (read our review here), which took the old and simplistic Battleship game and made a great space combat game from it.

Conflict of Heroes

Conflict of Heroes (read our review here) was released a few years ago but new expansions have recently been released. You must have the base game in order to play the expansions, but this game system is worth every penny. It sports an innovative and dynamic style of play that gives the system a lot of realism without a lot of rules overhead. An excellent squad-level World War II game for the boardgaming buff.

World at War: White Star Rising

Lock ‘n Load Publishing is a great example of the high quality boardgames that are being produced these days. Clean graphics, well-researched content, and streamlined rules mean that their games are easy on the eyes, fun to play, and historically accurate – the perfect mix for a wargame. World at War: White Star Rising is a platoon-level game set during the Second World War focusing on American forces in the European Theater. Offering a complete list of rules for combined arms warfare in an easily digestible ruleset, White Star Rising epitomizes the best in modern board-based wargaming.


GMT Games is another boardgame publisher that consistently cranks out excellent quality games. This year saw over a dozen titles released but perhaps the game that caught the most attention was Labyrinth (read our review here), which focuses on the modern conflict against radical Islamic terrorism. This is not an introductory-level game. The steep learning curve means that players will need to spend a fair amount of time learning the game’s mechanics. But for those who persist, the payoff is great, with a dynamic, nuanced, and challenging game which does a fine job of recreating the challenges of managing a global war on terror.

Julius Caesar

Columbia Games is a wargame publisher in the old school mold. The graphics are good, but Columbia’s games are best known for using wooden blocks to create a fog of war in which only the controlling player can see which forces are advancing or defending. In the Julius Caesar game one player takes on the role of the legendary general while others contest him for control of the republic. The fate of Rome is at stake: will it be ruled by the people or an emperor? A great game about a classic conflict, it’s an excellent choice for the boardgamer interested in the Roman period.

Gears of War

Gears of War is a hugely popular console FPS game set in a sci-fi universe where humans face off against hordes of alien Locusts swarming from underground. The boardgame version—from Fantasy Flight Games, a well-established publisher with a reputation for high-quality components—is playable by one to four players, who must cooperate to fight off the Locusts.

Dungeons & Dragons: Conquest of Nerath

The Dungeons & Dragons franchise may seem a bit long in the tooth, but anyone who looks into it will find a vibrant gaming community and a growing variety of games. Strategy boardgame fans were treated to a D&D-themed release earlier this year with Dungeons & Dragons: Conquest of Nerath, a fast-paced, whole-lot-of-fun game for fans of the fantasy strategy genre. Read our review here.



  1. No Retreat! by GMT should probably be on the list. I don’t know that it has a huge following but the folks, like me, who play low density games enjoy it very much.

  2. You’re right, Duncan. For better or worse I created this list based on my personal experience and scope of knowledge, and it was designed as a list of suggestions rather than to be definitive and all-encompassing.

    Labyrinth is perhaps the most-anticipated game being somewhat unique and topical. GMT has a host of great games any one of which probably deserves to be on here.


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