The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Transition Games

Ray Smith

October, 2001

Okay, now that you have cajoled all of your non-gaming friends into budding gaming fanatics through your excellent psychological manipulations and dazzling presentations of the ultra cool German style games, can you get them to take the next quantum leap into conflict simulation gaming (i.e. wargames)? Ugh. Not those dry, thousand-counter, forty page rules, twenty hour bore-fests! No, of course not (well.... not yet anyway).

When a newbie, regardless of age, shows interest in branching out within the gaming genre, I recommend the games listed below as a gradual process into consims. The farther along the list you progress, the more wargamey they become. This list is far from complete, and is very adjustable in sequence. Utmost in the process is for the acolyte to make the selection in regards to what interests them.

As in the learning process for any new game, you tell them their choices each turn and let them make their own decisions until they can master all of the nuances of that particular game system. (Don't you hate it when other players tell you, "You should do this, and this, and this, . . .") Also note that most of these selections are visually impressive to further the desire to try them. You want that, "Oh, wow!" response when seen all set up.

Ace of Aces (Gameshop/Nova)
An excellent handy-dandy carry anywhere game in book format that can be enjoyed in five minutes. Any set in the series is akin to playing the old reliable Battleship.

photo courtesy BoardGameGeek

Battle Masters (Milton Bradley), or
Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier (Schmidt)
If you want gobs of great plastic pieces and a fabulous fun time, these can't miss, while still offering some strategic decisions.

Dogfight, or
Civil War/Battlecry, or
Broadside
These old American Heritage series games by Milton Bradley place the usual basic gaming mechanics into a war setting. The new Battlecry (Avalon Hill/Hasbro) also fits here nicely.

Mage Knight (Wiz Kids), or
Swashbuckler (Yaquinto), or
Adventurer (Yaquinto), or
Gunslinger (Avalon Hill)
Yes, I know that these are more of an intro into miniatures gaming, but remember that miniatures are the original roots of wargaming. These introduce individual weapons, movement, combat, terrain, plotting, etc. in very accessible formats.

Minos (Ravensburger), or
Serenissima (Euro), or
Anno 1452 (Piatnik)
Three beautiful games that provide extra decisions to be made, plenty of player interaction, and still enough luck for balance.

Knights of Camelot (TSR), or

Titan (Avalon Hill)
Lots of decisions with tons of fun dice rolling. Games that appear to be very luck oriented, but are not.

Summit (Milton Bradley), or
Risk (Parker Brothers), or
Supremacy (Supremacy)
These conquer the world games are a major stepping stone into consims. The choices and set sequence of play provide the impetus for things to come. And, I have never been able to describe the consim hobby to the uninitiated without mentioning Risk, since almost everyone has at least heard of it.

Rivets (Metagaming), or
Ogre (Steve Jackson)
The hex map and combat results tables are introduced with painless ease in these small tech bashes.

Shogun/Samurai Swords (Milton Bradley), or
Conquest of the Empire (Milton Bradley), or
History of the World (Avalon Hill/Hasbro), or
Age of Renaissance (Avalon Hill), or
Mythology (Yaquinto)
A step up from the Risk group. Here, many more decisions become more critical along with a much greater investiture of time.

Blackbeard (Avalon Hill)
As was usual for Avalon Hill in those days, the rulebook scared many interested players away. But it can be taught in fifteen minutes, and the play is such that the players won't even know that they will be mastering most of the fundamentals of wargaming. A well themed, high quality game which soundly transitions players to the next level.

Battle for Moscow (GDW), or
Assault on Sevastapol (Decision)
True and complete wargames in their basic sense. These were specifically designed for introduction into the consim hobby and do a wonderful job.

- Ray Smith

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