Spotlight on Games > 1001 Nights of Military Gaming

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Science fiction wargame (microgame) follow-on to Ogre adds more counters, a larger map and the possibility of battles not including the Ogre units, or Ogre units on both sides. Back in 1981 the designer informed me that the correct pronunciation is to spell out the three letters: G-E-V. [Steve Jackson Games]
Galactic Emperor
The tagline here seeems to be "space exploration plus combat employing Puerto Rico mechanics", but let's dig into that a little bit. Just as in Andreas Seyfarth's game, there are roles which players choose: explore, move/fight, mine resources, sell resources, build ships, claim planets, buy technology, etc. But what the original has is that the order and frequency of the role choices matter. Here it generally makes little difference if a fight occurs before or after a build as both sides will usually build about the same amount. The technology path ends about halfway through as there just isn't much technology available. Earnings issues are greatly undermined by a rule that grants every player free income at the start of each turn. If a game is to use mechanics from Puerto Rico, wouldn't it at least have made sense to employ them in a meaningful way? As to the rest, there is little new to be experienced. Players begin in corners of the map and draft new hexagonal tiles to add and then claim. Most planets produce some resources; food is needed to support planets while the others produce ships and technology. A couple tiles such the sun and black hole have special movement effects. This is a plastic pieces game and the ships come in fighter, cruiser and dreadnought sizes. When enemy ships encounter one another, the inevitable dicefest begins. Dreadnoughts can be damaged and then recover so it would be nice to be able to flip them over to indicate this state, but it's awkward to do so. What can be even more awkward are the diplomatic aspects, the kingmaking and ganging up possibilities that can effectively knock out a player long before the playing is over, which by the way can last several hours, especially as the number of players increases.
Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 4
Adam West; CrossCut Games; 2008; 3-6 [Buy it at Amazon]
Galaxy: The Dark Ages
Reiner Knizia design developed by Don Greenwood is the third outing for the system which began with Knizia's Grand National Derby and was continued by Greenwood and Avalon Hill as Titan: the Arena. This latter cluttered up an elegant racing and betting system with special abilities on each card type. Now the chrome level has ratcheted up yet another level as every single card in the game has a special ability. Although the effort will probably succeed in awakening more hardcore wargamers to the possibilities of German-style games, absent such considerations this is on the whole not a positive development for the system. The special card rules are not available to players during the game and are far too numerous, thus working against rather than in favor of planning. Worse, all of the options require so much reading and, after their play, resolution, that ten minutes can pass and the player fall asleep between turns of this otherwise simple game. Fortunately the original version can still be achieved even using this edition by simply ignoring all of the extra elaborations.
Avalon Hill game based on gangster activities in an American city is itself based on Supergang by the French Ludodélire and was originally set in a Mediterranean coast town, perhaps inspired by the Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief? Players have a limited number of actions on their turn which they must decide on before time expires. It may have been state of the art for its time, but by now the mechanics feel distinctly clunky. The various strategies for winning do not appear balanced either.
Global War
Wargame simulating all of the theaters of World War II. For its time an amazing undertaking in scope and its production system was especially brilliant, being adopted mostly wholesale by successor World in Flames. Unrealistic naval rules, especially Anti-submarine air units, and too strong fortresses doom it as a game however.
Wargame with a silly science fiction theme but not without interest as there are plenty of tactical decisions for both players. If both play perfectly the game probably comes down to luck of the dice and draw.
Longish space wargame with interesting government and production rules. Three dimensional movement simulated by showing multiple levels within each hex, a system later used by Holy War. [summary] [scenarios] [playback]
Golden Horde, The
Two-player wargame about the Mongol expansion of the thirteenth century. Very simplistic and drab presentation. Units are labeled only for speed and combat effectiveness. Mongol forces wander the map destroying enemy nations, who cannot leave their home countries. Unusual topic is the only thing recommending this one, but even then anyone who has read a good book on the topic can probably invent something more interesting.
Grave Robbers from Outer Space
Card game for up to six (or more) satirizing the conventions of the horror movie genre. Every card contains a keyword. In the warm up six are revealed and players cooperate to form from them a movie title, e.g. "Tale of the Howling Cannibal Werewolf vs. Satan Unchained". By the end, players receive five points per card held (openly or privately) matching the capitalized words in addition to whatever strength they have built up in characters, props and locations. Meanwhile they attack one another with various movie monsters. Why monsters should attack a director's scene is never explained, a nonsensical reality and a thematic problem. Characters have traits which give advantages and disadvantages and most cards have some special associated ability which supersedes the normal rules. There is so much information on the cards presented only in text that it can sometimes hinder the usual rate of play. There are also a huge number of quite powerful play-anytime special effects cards which just add more to what is fundamentally a rather chaotic matter of drawing the right cards. To its credit, the satire is dead on and players simply must read aloud the color cutely-illustrated cards as they play them or miss out on a lot of humor. Those hoping for challenging play mechanics will be disappointed however and among those even a little serious about their playing, this one will be played once and revived only when the jokes have been forgotten. Fans of this topic may prefer the horror module of Deadwood. Nineteen years ago there was Slasher Flick, which used a positional board rather than "take that" cards, but the conventions it poked fun at were exactly the same. The difference is that back then it was enough to provide just the characters and situations: the players did the rest. Despite all the examples provided by the Scream movies, now even the words to say are being provided. Is it a good thing that more value is included or a reflection that the audience is so media-fed that their ability to create their own fun has been lost? An expansion which can also be played standalone satirizes jungle movies: Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom. [Take That! Card Games] [Z-Man Games]
Great Khan Game, The
Tom Wham light wargame from 1989 has a few interesting ideas, but looks rather obsolete today. The fictional fantasy world contains a few punning references not to mention an entire southern quarter of the map that never comes into play. Players draw cards which can be played to gain control of various kingdoms which provides more income which can be used to acquire even more cards. Strangely for a military game, victory is based on having the most money when the end of game card – cleverly "The Historian" – appears. But his appearance is very random and the game's length could be anywhere from ten minutes to three hours. The course of play is likewise random and it's quite possible to spend most of your time unable to actually do anything on the board if your draws are unfortunate. Meanwhile your opponents just get richer and richer. There are cards to try and help trailing players, but these really don't go far enough. There is a combat system involving both to-hit rolls and saving throws which takes a lot longer than it ought. The card buying cost schedule is unnecessarily complicated as well. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the pyramid structure in each kingdom. Each personality can only follow certain other ones so players are sometimes limited in what they can do and how they can exploit what they have. Unfortunately the potential of the idea is mostly wasted as the situation is so luck ridden and restrictive. Card trading would have been a nice idea here since players are pursuing different local objectives and a lot of it could be win-win. As it is, this is an interesting milestone in the late 1980's dead zone for strategy games, but not really worthwhile these days. Features one of the largest card decks around.
Tom Wham
Great War at Sea, Vol I.
Two-player wargame of many scenarios of World War I naval combat. Game system is simple, yet still real enough to engender interest. One really has to be a fan of the Great War because many of the scenarios have problems. In one scenario my friend and I spent fifty turns waiting for one or the other to engage in combat – it is hidden movement – but it turned out that my friend never left port! He had calculated that he had only a 50% chance of success so it was much better to just stay where he was! As a result he no longer will play this game. We did have some fun with some of the better scenarios prior to that however. [summary]
Great War in the East, The: Serbia-Galicia
Unusual two-player wargame set in the First World War. There are two linked maps, the Austrio-Hungarian Empire (AHE) forces being able to travel between them in a limited way. One map has the AHE as the aggressor in Serbia while the other has the Russians crossing a wide map to reach the AHE positions. In the first game, a great deal relies on just one or two dice rolls as the Serbians have a great commander who may or may not be effective, while in the latter the Russians can usually do well if they play a detailed game and count out their hex movements ahead of time. More of interest for learning the history of the campaign than as a game with different strategies to try more than a couple times. Originally published by SPI, later re-released by Decision Games in an almost identical edition.
Great War in the East, The: Tannenberg
Technically not part of the The Great War in the East Quad as it is a magazine game rather than being part of the same box, but it uses the same rules as the other entries in the system (The Brusilov Offensive, Caporetto, Von Hindenburg in Poland), so it is the "fifth wheel" if you like. Simulates the rather amazing victory of very small German forces vs. two invading Russian armies, either of which was larger than the German one. David C. Isby design includes "iron maiden" rules by which the Russian player is hampered by some of the "stupidity" which partly caused this result. Those wanting to re-fight the battle more effectively than the Russians did can simply omit these while those wanting to understand how the Germans achieved this surprising result can simply leave them in. In the latter case, it might be good to actually play, as the rules recommend, with three participants, the two Russian players not being allowed to talk to one another as was the case historically. The map and background have a wonderful feeling of historicity. Rules are slightly more involved than other games of this type.
Card and dice game about the cartoon character is sort of a king of the hill struggle or, more often, "let's you and him fight". Prone to kingmaking situations with a fair amount of luck of the draw and dice. [Take That! Card Games]
Card war game with a theme around conflict in Latin American in the 1980's. Players build up holdings on the table of weapons and personnel and attempt to destroy those of others. Each has a secret identity, one of government, rebel or mercenary. The former two maximize points by destroying the forces of the other while mercenaries receive points for either. At a random poont there appear cards which swap the identities of two players, choice going to the drawing player, a feature rendering any long term strategy mostly impossible.
Guillotine [Wizards of the Coast]
Card game akin to Family Business and as I understand it, by the same designer. The topic here is the French Revolution and the players are executioners trying to collect heads. While the game may appear to be random, if one knows exactly what cards are in each deck, it can also appeal to more serious players. The silly, colorful illustrations and sayings will probably appeal to all. [summary]
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