2021 was a challenging year for most of us but at least some great games were released to help ease the pain. Enjoy this list of Armchair General’s Top Games of 2021!
Designer: Alan Eagle.
Corvette Command creates a narrative of events in a way similar to the classic board game “B-17 Queen of the Skies”. Your escort vessel is tied to supporting the convoy (barring some random events) and moves across the sea zones. In each zone, you check for a number of events and try to repair damage. With a little luck, you’ll avoid the U-boats and make it to your destination. The game covers events for the two-year period from May 1941 through May 1943.
This is a free print and play game that can be played in a small footprint with optional advanced rules that enable you to play a quick set up one-off game or a two-player game and introduce a greater level of detail. There’s even a VASSAL module available (thank you Lee Smith!) for those who want to skip the printing phase and dive right into playing the game!
Armchair General Score: 90%
By Stealth and By Sea
Designer: David Thompson
By Stealth and Sea is a fun game. It certainly captures the feel of the period and it captures quite well the challenge faced by the commandos using these cutting-edge weapons. The game is engaging. At the same time, the game can be incredibly frustrating. The polite phrase would be “herding cats”. Another point of view would be you are juggling eggs in variable gravity. You send your boats on their mission and over the next six hours (12 game turns) it’s a constant struggle watching your craft fall apart while the defenders find you and charge to the counterattack.
As with other games by David Thompson, there’s a lot of tension in By Stealth and Sea. Carl Von Clausewitz is known for his maxim “every thing in war is simple, but the simple things are difficult”. That maxim aptly describes By Stealth and Sea. The game itself is simple. The rules are straight-forward and provided with clear examples. But when you put those rules in motion, the game they define is very difficult to win. This is not a bad thing. It’s common to many other solitaire games in which the process of the game seems designed to wear down the player by throwing difficult challenges and choices at the player. In a lot of ways, that’s the core of a good solitaire gaming experience. Most players wants to be presented with challenges they need to overcome. It’s also important that the player feels like they can make meaningful choices that will influence the outcome of the game. While they are ‘along for the ride’ players also need to feel like they have their hand on the steering wheel.
Armchair General score: 98%
Designer: Maurice Suckling
his is not your father’s board game (or in my case, the board games of my youth!). Worthington bills itself as ‘old school wargames’ but in this case Chancellorsville 1863 is decidedly modern in its approach to design decisions and components. The game challenged a lot of my preconceptions that define what constitutes a war game. Now that’s by not a bad thing, but if you are expecting a game along the lines of other Worthington titles on the American Civil War such as Shiloh or Antietam you are going to be surprised. Building off the base game engine presented in Freeman’s Farm 1777, designer Maurice Suckling has created an engaging game that’s a bit of a different experience than your traditional wargame.
When the game was announced, I was looking forward to Chancellorsville 1863 as I’ve not seen many games covering the battle of Chancellorsville. Yes, there are games out there that cover the battle. But covering the battle and covering the battle while capturing the sense of uncertainty and surprise that were hallmarks of that battle are two different things! I find myself impressed with Chancellorsville 1863. I found that this game excels at conveying the elements of uncertainty and surprise without needing a horde of special rules or double-sided counters. The elements of activation and cohesion, coupled with an easy-to-use combat system work well in projecting you into the position of a leader who has to determine just how hard to push in the face of an uncertain situation.
Armchair General score: 96%
Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain
Designer: Morgane Gouyon-Rety
In Pendragon, The eighth title in the COIN series, game designer Morgane Gouyon-Rety started with the foundation of the traditional four-player COIN game and transformed it into a struggle depicting the decline of Roman Britain. Pendragon is an engaging game and a solid COIN game. The game leverages the best of the COIN concept in providing an asymmetrical experience in which each faction has very different objectives and very different tools with which to pursue those goals.
Should you buy this game? Wait – you mean you don’t already have a copy? What are you waiting on – the lady of the lake, her arm clad in the purest, shimmering samite, to hold aloft a copy of Pendragon from the water, signifying that you should buy a copy? Don’t be daft – seek a copy of Pendragon for your collection, or I shall be forced to taunt you a second time.
Armchair General score: 96%
Caesar Rome vs Gaul
Designer: Mark Simonitch Developer: Mitchell Land
This fantastic game features easy game play but challenging strategies. The game mechanics do a wonderful job of representing the asymmetrical nature of the Gauls’ attacks on the Roman forces. Playing Caesar you have to maintain your supply lines from the “civilized” Provincia area while exerting Roman influence to “civilize” the Gaulic towns and cities in the other provinces. Meanwhile you are trying to build up your forces for an invasion of both Germania and Britannia in order to score extra political points with the Roman Senate, many of whose members view you with some degree of caution and suspicion. They think you have overstepped your mandate and are inclined to make yourself a dictator. And while the Roman Legions are powerful, there are never enough troops to police all the areas. It’s like a game of Whack-A-Mole. As a Gaul, you have to fight an asymmetrical war while trying to bridge the local prejudices between all the tribes. Use the Druid card to great effect and have them shift the influence in an entire province. If you can cut off Roman influence in a critical area, you can create a chain reaction which can shift the influence in other provinces. Through ether an action card or through the leader Vercingetorix, you can place devastation counters (which represent a scorched earth plan to keep the Romans from foraging for food and shelter in a given area) to disrupt the Roman’s lines of supply and chains of influence. This game can be played in an afternoon and is just a beautiful design.
Armchair General Score: 96%
September’s Eagles – The Thompson Trophy Air Races 1929 – 1939
Designer: Paul Rohrbaugh
This unique game from High Flying Dice Games simulates the frantic action and constant danger of the Thompson Air Races. This game is great fun and perfectly captures the adrenalin filled frantic nature that must have been the air racing sport. Because the game is card based, it’s very easy to play solo. It is easily one of the most unique board games I’ve ever played!
The scenario book includes a well written history of the air racing movement plus the following air races: The 1929 Cleveland, Ohio National Air Race, The 1930 Chicago Illinois Race, The 1931 Cleveland Ohio Race, The 1932 Cleveland Ohio Race, The 1933 Los Angeles California Race, The 1934 Cleveland Ohio Race, The 1935 Cleveland Race, The 1936 Los Angles Race, The 1937 Cleveland Race, The 1938 Cleveland Race and The 1939 Cleveland Race. There are also complete rules for creating your own air race!
Armchair General Score: 93%
Designer: Chuck Seegert
This solo World War 2 flight combat game perfectly captures the atmosphere and challenges of being a pilot for the Empire of Japan during WW2, fun to play, easy to learn; great AI, beautiful components and artwork. It is a nearly perfect game. Each unit is one aircraft and their pilot and other crew if applicable. The game has campaigns covering almost the entirety of the war in the Pacific. It’s as much a role playing game as an air combat game as you want to keep your aircrews alive and watch them as they grow in skill.
Armchair General Score: 99%
300 Earth & Water
Designers: Yasushi Nakaguro and Antonio Stappaerts
300 Earth & Water covers the 50 year war between Greece and Persia between 499 BC and 449 BC. The game is designed to be easy to learn and fast to play. An entire 5 campaign game can be played in 30 to 45 minutes. It uses blocks and disks plus dice and cards to drive the game play. This game is a blast to play. It reminds me of another favorite game of mine put out when I was a kid – “One Page Bulge” by Steve Jackson Games. The small footprint means you can take this game with you on trips. The simple rules mean you can easily teach the kids how to play it. The fast pace of the game means you can play it during your lunch hour. 300 Earth and Water is as close to perfect as a game can get. But don’t let its simplicity fool you in to thinking there is no strategy to the game. The simple rules disguise the brilliant strategic puzzle which the game presents. There are hours of replayability to this game and its low retail price makes it easy on the wallet. This game also comes in the most perfect box I’ve ever seen a game packaged in. It features a special side lock and holds everything in place – just beautifully designed.
Armchair General Score: 99%
Mini Rogue Board Game Review.
Designers: Paolo Di Stefano and Gabriel Gendron
Mini Rogue comes in a small box which, when opened, delivers massive fun! It’s an anti-Pandora’s Box of goodness! It’s a game of high fantasy for either solo or muli-players. You play an adventurer exploring either a dungeon or a tower. You may meet allies but you will meet monsters out to ruin your day. Mini Rogue has fit a full role playing game experience into a box which is about the size of a paperback book. This is one of my favorite games of 2021 and I heartily recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy role playing games.
Armchair General score: 98%
Tank Duel Expansion 1 North Africa and Tank Pack 1
Designer: Mike Bertucelli
These two fantastic expansions add tons of tanks to the original Tank Duel game. You get more German tanks and more Russian tanks (in Tank Pack 1) plus British and Italian tanks. It even adds armored cars such as the 8 Rad and the Puma. It also opens up all of North Africa to fight in from inside your tanks! If you are a World War 2 tank lover, you would be remiss to pass up Tank Duel and these two new expansions!
Armchair General Score: 100%