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Posted on Dec 28, 2020 in Boardgames, Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Top Reviewed Games of 2020

Top Reviewed Games of 2020

Rick Martin

If 2020 was a pretty crummy year for the whole planet, at least we had some great games come out to see us through our Pandemic isolation.  I think a trend of 2020 that will continue is that more games will have optional rules for solo play.  Enjoy this list of the top reviewed games of 2020 and let’s all look forward to a better and safer year in 2021.

Cold Confusion: The Soviet Raid on Iceland 1985. Publisher: High Flying Dice Games.Designers: Paul Rohrbaugh.  – AG Rating 95%  

Small, fast playing game of a hypothetical Soviet raid on Iceland during the 1980s. Good replay value with variable reinforcements and set up. Card deck provides for a good fog of war. This is an affordable game on a unique topic with a variety of elite troops, that is easy to play for a solitaire gamer. With all that going for it, yes – it’s a game that will appeal to cold warriors and solo gamers alike. It sparked a curiosity to learn more about Iceland’s experience within NATO. It’s definitely a win when a game gets you motivated to learn the history behind the events.

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Soviet Invasion

Tank Duel Enemy in the Crosshairs GMT  Designer:  Mike Bertucelli, Jason Carr and Joe Aguayo   – AG Rating 95 %  

This late 2019 card driven game puts you squarely in either a Russian or a German World War II tank.  Both as a solo game and as a multiplayer game for up to 8 players, Tank Duel’s wonderful game system creates a perfect fog of war.  It really immerses you in the control of one or more tanks and gives you the feel of being enclosed in the metal beasts.  As a person who has been on the inside of tanks like the Sherman, the Lee and a Panzer III, I can say this is the first board game which captures not only the false feeling of invulnerability you get from being physically in the tank but also the feeling of claustrophobia of being closed hatched in the belly of the beasts. Simply wonderful.

Panther

Tripods and Triplanes Wings of Glory Game Review.  Publisher: Ares Games Designer: Andrea Angiolino, Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello – AG Rating 100%  

What’s not to love with this game? Absolutely nothing unless you only like historical “real world” Wings of Glory missions.  Tripods and Triplanes adds Martian war machines ala War of the Worlds to your Wings of Glory games!  The miniatures are simply stunning!  The base game adds them to the Wings of Glory World War I game while another expansion adds these alien terrors to your Wings of Glory World War II game.  I absolutely love this set!  It’s tough to be a human and win against the Tripods but it can be done!  Don’t give up!  If all else fails, just sneeze on them!  Make those Martians scream “Ulla”!

Castle Itter – The Strangest Battle of World War II Board Game Review.  Publisher: DVG  Designer:  David Thompson  – AG Rating 95%  

This is a great game based upon what must be the strangest battle of World War II.  A battle in which American, French and German troops and civilians defend a castle from the Waffen SS during the final weeks of the war.  This ingenious game uses a point to point system and features both solo and multiplayer rules.  This game builds tension in waves as the SS move closer towards the castle.  Each counter is one person and features the names and pictures of the real people who fought in this bizarre skirmish action.  Castle Itter is perfect for beginners or grognards like me.  It can be played in an hour or two!

278th Squadron – The Same 4 Cats Board Game Review.  Publisher: Quarterdeck Games  Designer:  Marco Campari  AG Rating 96%  

Ever wanted to fly an Italian Svaoia-Marchetti SM.79 bomber during World War 2?  Now thanks to designer Marco Compari and Jack W. Greene’s Quarterdeck International, you can try your hand at flying the Damned Hunchback and join up with the 278th Squadron to see how you do in a campaign in the Mediterranean with  “278th Squadron – The Same 4 Cats”!  This solo game is not on the level of complexity of something like “Target for Today” but it does provide a strong narrative solo experience and is easy to learn and quick to play.  During each anti-shipping mission, you’ll encounter flak, British fighters and other challenges as you attempt to survive 10 missions of intense combat action.  The game has a small footprint and comes in a ziplock bag and retails for less than $20! 

Pacific Fury, Guadalcanal 1942. Publisher: Bonsai Games/Revolution Games/Quaterdeck International Designer: Yasushi Nakaguro.  AG Rating 96 %  

Pacific Fury is fun but unforgiving game on the 1942 naval battles around Guadalcanal.  Featuring an 8 page rule book it is ideal for any gamer who wants a quick, easy to learn World War 2 naval battle game.  It’s ideal for two players but can also be played solo if you are willing to sacrifice the fog of war.

Ironbottom Sound

Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea Board Game Review.  Publisher: GMT  Designer:  Christopher Vorder Bruegge and Mark McLaughlin Developed by Fred Schachter  AG Rating 98%

Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea is a dream of a game!  It is a huge sandbox of  a game that allows the players to relive over 3500 years of history of the kingdoms and empires found around the Mediterranean from 3000 BC to 500 AD .  A full solo system is included but you can also play with up to 6 players.  Playable civilizations include: the Egyptians, Minoans, Trojans, Phoenicians, Mycenaeans, Mauretanians, Gauls, Carthagians, Celt-Iberians and the Romans. 

civil war tears Egypt apart

Wings of Glory World War 2 Aircraft Squadron Packs – Ju 88s and Do 17s    Publisher: Ares Games Designer: Andrea Angiolino and Pier Giorgio Paglia AG Rating 100%

Ares has released the Junkers 88 A-1 and A-4 and the Dornier Do 17 bomber and night fighter to join the ranks of the Heinkel 111 medium bomber released some years back.  Players now have all the major medium bombers of the Luftwaffe to add to their air to air conflicts.  These minis are beautifully painted and come with crew skill cards and alternative load outs to modify the aircrafts.  They are, simply put, stunning and essential to your European Wings of Glory air force.

Do 17 Z 2 near the coast

Chalons  451 AD    Publisher: Turning Point Simulations   Game Designer: Richard H. Berg   AG Rating 97%

Chalons 451 AD was designed by the late Richard H. Berg and is a part of Turning Point Simulations’ Decisive Battles of the World series.  Chalons uses the same design system as Berg’s Arbela – Gaugamela 331 BC.  There is no game board per say aside for a hill.  There are cards for all the formations – Romans, Goths, Huns, etc.  The game plays fast and furious. There are archers, spearman, cavalry and everything that makes ancient battles so much fun!  Plus Richard Berg’s humor shines throughout the rules.  Being easy to learn and hard to master makes Chalons a truly great game!

Squadron Strike    Publisher: Ad Astra Games   Game Designer: Ken Burnside   AG Rating 99%

What is not to like about this game?  With it you can either play using the included campaign and ships or take starships and fighters from any movie, T.V. show, game, book or comic book and recreate the ships using Squadron Strikes brilliant ship creator!  In addition, there are various levels of difficulty and style of movement from 2 D to full 3 D space combat.  But wait there’s more!  Each copy of the game gives you a code to access special on-line content and even an on-line immersive virtual game table to fight with pilots and starship crews from all over the world.  If you like science fiction space combat, get this game!

dog fighting

“Victory in Hell – The First Battle of Naktong River August 5-19, 1950” Publisher: High Flying Dice Games  Designer:  Paul Rohrbaugh  Graphic Design: Tim AG Rating 95%

Victory in Hell is packaged in a zip lock bag and features stunning graphic design by Tim Allen.  The cover of the game is evocative of the “Red Scare “style artwork of the 1950s and the map is simply breathtaking in its photorealism.  Game play is easy to learn but complex for this regimental and company level simulation of a major battle in the Korean War.  For less than$20 you really can’t go wrong with this game which can be played in an afternoon.

Field Commander Alexander  Publisher: DVG  Designer:  Dan Verssen  AG Rating 95%

This game originally came out in 2009 but quickly sold out.  Armchair General just received the reprinted edition and found that this excellent game was worth the wait!  This beautiful fully solitaire game comes with 4 different campaigns which can be linked in to one massive campaign covering the life of Alexander the Great!  The solo rules work wonderfully and provides for a very challenging opponent.  If you are interested in ancient battles get this game!

punishing a city

IL2: Cliffs of Dover    Computer Simulation Review.  Publisher: 1C:Maddox Games and Team Fusion Simulations   Lead Development Producer :  Ilya Shevchenko  AG Rating 96%

For $25 this wonderful flight simulator provides you with over 25 fully flyable aircrafts which fought in the Battle of Britain – you get British, German and Italian planes – everything from fighter such as the Me109, Hurricanes and Spitfires but also Stukas, Me110s, Beaufighters and even bombers such as the Wellington and Ju88!  You can fully control the realism levels so you can play the full realism game and learn every control of the aircraft you chose or you can dial back the realism to focus on flying and fighting.  The graphics, music and sound effects are amazing!  Features solo play or multiplayer.  This simulator has it all!

Me110 gets a kill

Wings of the Motherland – A Fighting Wings Game    Board Game Review.  Publisher: Clash of Arms Games   Game Designer: J. D. Webster   AG Rating 97%

Wings of the Motherland is the 4th game in the Fighting Wings World War II tactical air combat game system.  It covers the air war over the Soviet Union.  Each aircraft is one airplane, ship, tank, bomber, etc.  It is very detailed oriented and gives you an accurate feel for 3 dimensional dogfights.  J.D. Webster is a pilot and brings his knowledge of aviation in to how airplanes maneuver in a real world environment.  There is so much packed in to this wonderful game – rules for ground attack, naval attacks, night fighting, bombing, rules for formation flying, pretty much rules for anything you can think of.  Wings of the Motherland is worth every penny you pay for it.  This game has enough to it to keep you busy for years!   It is an outstanding achievement in aviation gaming!  It also features beautiful box cover artwork by Ian Wedge.

Box Art

Beneath the Med: Regia Marina at Sea 1940-43 GMT Games.  Designer: Gregory M. Smith AG Rating 96 % Ray Garbee

Beneath the Med is Gregory M. Smith’s solitaire game covering the Italian submarine force during World War Two. Using the same game engine as ‘The Hunters” the game puts the player in command of an Italian submarine and sends you on patrol in search of Allied merchants and warships. The game creates an immersive narrative that has you stalking your prey and then hoping to survive the wrath of the escorts. An informative and engaging game that explores the Italian contribution to the war at sea. 

Commands and Colors – Medieval     GMT Games   Game Designer: Richard Borg    AG Rating  95 % Rick Martin

Commands and Colors – Medieval is the newest entry in the venerable Commands and Colors series.  It covers the 5th and 6th Century battles between the Byzantine Empire aka the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanid Persians.   Each unit is a leader or element of a formation of infantry, cavalry, archers, etc. and is represented by a wooden block.  You have to rise to the challenge of commanding each formation in combat in this fantastically fun, easy to learn but challenging game.

Return to the Rock: Corregidor, 1945 Publisher: Take Aim Designs/Revolution Games. Designer: Mike Rinella.  AG Rating 96 % Ray Garbee

Return to the Rock: Corregidor 1945 is an engaging game and a worthy addition to your game collection. Its relatively small footprint makes it perfect for those gamers lacking a large table. This compact footprint carries over into storage as this is a thin package that won’t crowd your shelf for space. The rules are accessible and easy to comprehend, yet the game play is deep and rewarding. Though it uses common processes for each side, game play is somewhat asymmetrical as each faction has unique advantages and disadvantages to be leveraged in order to win the game. It’s an excellent choice for gamers new to tabletop wargaming or for grognards looking for lighter fare for a shorter game.

Breaking the Ice: The Great Lakes Winter Fleet 1942. Publisher: High Flying Dice Games.  Designers: Paul Rohrbaugh.  AG Rating 95 % Ray Garbee

In ‘Breaking the Ice’, you take on the role of the recently formed War Production Board – tasked by the US Government with coordination and allocating materials to optimize production supporting the war effort. This war runs on steel and you need to get the raw material to the mills! You have to mobilize the ore carrier fleet earlier than usual. To not wait for the spring thaw. To fit out as many ships as possible and ‘break the ice’ that still covered the lakes between the mining ports on the upper lakes and the delivery ports on the lower lakes. 

The Hunted. Publisher: GMT Games.  Designers: Gregory M. Smith. Price $55.00 AG Rating 96 % Ray Garbee

The Hunted is Gregory M. Smith’s solitaire game covering the German submarine force during the second half of the Battle of the Atlantic through the end of World War Two. Using the same game engine as ‘The Hunters” the game puts the player in command of a German submarine and sends you on patrol in search of Allied merchants and warships. The Allies are capable and tough opponents. The game creates an immersive narrative that has you stalking your prey and then hoping to survive the wrath of the increasingly effective escorts. You are unlikely to survive! An informative and engaging game that explores the experience of the U-boats in the latter half of the war at sea.

Type VIIC41

The Mission –  Early Christianity from the Crucifixion to the Crusades     Publisher: White Dog Games   Game Designer: R. Ben Madison   Price $50.00 AG Rating: 97 %

The Mission is a solo grand strategy game covering 1300 years of history.  You lead the early Christians and try and extend your religion throughout the Roman and Greek world.  Not only will you be struggling against external events such as unfriendly emperors and roaming armies but also against internal threats such as schisms and heretics.  As the years progress, Rome becomes a Christian empire and then you’ll have to work to expand and solidify your movement as the chaos of the Dark Ages begins to approach.  The Mission delivers a truly fascinating and unique gaming experience and one of my favorite games of 2020.

One Last Big Push to Victory. “1918/1919: Storm in the West” Board Game Review Designer: Red Raicer.  AG Rating 100%

GMT’s recent release 1918/1919: Storm in the West dropped onto the game table in December. This is a game with a storied past, dating back to its initial release in 1992 with Command Magazine. Storm in the West was Ted Raicer’s first game design and it was an immediate success, earning a Charles S. Roberts Award nomination. Its popularity inspired the design of a Plan 1919 variant which assumed a German defensive strategy in 1918 and an all-out Allied assault to win the war the following year. GMT’s release presents this classic magazine game in a new boxed version with new artwork and updated counters.

Storm in the West covers the last year of the World War One detailing the conflict across the breadth of the Western Front from the North Sea almost to the Swiss frontier. It’s a classic two-player IGOUGO game pitting the reorganized German Army against the British, French and their new ally – the United States of America. While both Britain and France are running out of steam, the fresh divisions of the United States promise the opportunity to take the offensive, if they can just hold on long enough. For the Germans, this is the final roll of the dice as it’s either victory in 1918, or collapse in the face of a resurgent Entente offensive.

Night of the Living Dead: A Zombicide Game  Board Game Review.  Publisher: CMON as licensed by Image Ten Productions.    Game Designers: Raphael Guiton, Jean-Baptiste Lullien, Nicolas Raoult and David Preti  AG Rating 98%

What is there not to love about this solo or multiplayer miniatures game in which you try and survive an invasion of zombies ala George Romero’s classic film Night of the Living Dead?  The game captures the frantic terror, isolation and paranoia of the film.  It challenges you to pull a disparate group of survivors together and escape the isolated farm house but even if you escape the house, what future can be found in a world over run  by zombies?

box art

These games have not been completely reviewed yet but will probably make the Best of 2021 Reviews based upon our experiences playing them – U-Boot the Board Game, Caesar Rome vs. Gaul, September’s Eagles, Star Wars Squadrons and Death Valley Battles for the Shenandoah.

1 Comment

  1. IL2 Cliffs of Dover is not the one to get, even if you like Battle of Britain better than Stalingrad. IL2 Battle for Stalingrad is a masterpiece, goes on sale for less, and is ‘next generation’ compared to Cliffs. Worth the effort, even if you ‘dumb it down’ by using auto engine management, ect.

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