By Juliana Adelman and Martin Fanning
First, I (Juliana) should confess that I have never played any of the games I am going to discuss. Instead, I have garnered all the information below from Martin and a great website called Board Game Geek. I think relatively few girls are drawn into the world of war games and pretty much all historical board games are war games of one kind or another. This weekend we had some friends over for the night and we pulled out one of my favorite board games (Ricochet Robots, it’s kind of a math puzzle game, yes I am a nerd). The problem with Ricochet Robots is that it’s really hard and you have to think silently for each round. This means it’s not a great party game. But it did remind us that playing board games is good fun and it got me thinking about history board games. So, after having picked Martin’s brain for childhood memories I came up with this brief list that you may or may not have played. I’d be really interested if anyone knows of any other Irish-history related board games than the one (Army of Ireland) I have listed below. If there’s no 1916/1798 board game I plan to make one and retire on the proceeds…In the meantime I am bidding on ebay for some of the following and I have Christmas break all planned out!
1. Escape from Colditz. This game, along with Buccaneer, was remembered most enthusiastically by Martin. The game is based around the WWII POW camp of Colditz in Germany. There are five nationalities of prisoners (British, American, Polish, Dutch, French) and of course the German guards. The prisoners attempt to escape, the guards to keep them in. This actually looks like great fun (despite the grim subject matter) and is recommended for larger numbers of players (eg 4 to 6).
2. Buccaneer. I’m only at number two and already I am stretching the definition of ‘history’. This game is about pirates. There are loads of different versions of it, but the idea is basically the same: get a horde of treasure the quickest. You can achieve this by gathering treasure from a desert island or through the more historically accurate route of robbing other ships. This is probably a game for younger players or to be combined with drink.
3. Rommel in the Desert. For some reason this game really appeals to me. It’s a two-player kind of strategy game set in North Africa during WWII. From what Martin could remember, it has a lot to do with constructing and disrupting supply lines (which sounds rather historically appropriate). The game takes nearly three hours to play so you’re in for the night.
4. Risk. Ok, so this might not really be a history game. You could argue that it’s pretty much still going on. The original game was, according to Wikipedia, released in France as ‘Le Conquete du Monde’. Most of my male friends in high school were obsessed with this game and I have to admit it really did not appeal. As our friend remarked the other night, how much fun is a battle game where all you do is roll dice to determine outcomes? Nonetheless, it remains popular and Martin was reminded to search his parents attic in hopes that his copy was still hanging around…
5. Army of Ireland. Neither Martin nor I has ever played this game. In fact, we had never heard of it until I embarked upon this random post. The Arm Chair General assures us that it’s a good game. It is based on the Fenian invasion of Canada in 1866 which culminated in the Battle of Ridgeway. The game uses historically accurate premises about the preparation of each side: the Canadians were surprised, but could call on reinforcements; the Fenians have more numbers at the start but no reinforcements.
As you will have noticed, most of the games are WWII-focused. There are plenty of WWI and a lot of American Civil War games as well, but WWII does tend to dominate. Some intriguing games of other time periods that I came across include Unhappy King Charles! based on the English Civil War, Empires in Arms (Napoleonic Wars), and Here I Stand: Wars of the Reformation (16th C Europe). Please comment with other suggestions!