Each week, a question is presented to the various writers of Mighty Meep. This question might be insightful or relevant to the tabletop community… Or not. Sometimes these things are simply unavoidable. We would love to hear your answers as well, either in the comments below or by shooting us an e-mail!
On the 4th of July the United States celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and its independence from the United Kingdom, so we decided to talk about games that either take place in the USA or are themed after historical American events.
Joe: When the patriotic holidays roll around, I find myself wanting to play Washington’s War by Mark Herman and GMT games.
Washington’s War is a two player game set during the American Revolutionary War and pits the Americans versus the British in a battle for control over the 13 colonies. Players use their armies not only in battle but also to gain and retain control of key cities, fighting desperately to keep a controlling share. Each side must also successfully navigate a series of political, social, and weather related events while doing so. All this while not knowing exactly when the game will end.
The use of a point-to-point map and card driven game mechanism make this a war game that is very approachable for non grognards. If you’ve played Twilight Struggle you can play Washington’s War. And you should.
John: My favorite in this category was definitely “Fortress America”, the classic MB Gamemaster game from the late 80s. Set in the (not too distant) future, all the bad Foreign Powers of the world have ganged up on America, invading at the same time (presumably because they hate our freedom). The “Asian Peoples Alliance” from the west, the “Euro-Socialist Pact” from the east, and the “Central American Federation” from the south. Up to three players control these invading heathen nations, but the statue of liberty soon starts shaking her fist, and one lucky player gets to control all the laser-toting satellite towers, illegally-armed rural militias, and goddamn HOVERTANKS that keep this great nation so secure in the early 21st century.
Fortress America was re-released by FFG a few years ago, presumably hoping to capitalize on the nostalgia factor, but divorced from the paranoid nationalism of the 80’s, it was basically just another “dudes-on-a-map” game with a gag theme, and it didn’t fare too well. But it’s a suprisingly fun game, and a total classic to anybody who was a pre-teen proto-gamer during the Reagan years.
Ben: My favorite games that fall in this category are: Axis & Allies: 1940, Tide of Iron, and Confusion.
I’m not a huge fan of super in-depth war games, but I started out playing a&a when I was little and it holds a certain place in my heart. I think Tide of Iron is one of the best squad based war games to ever be made and I love every game of it. Confusion is a lot like Stratego but with a Cold War spy theme, really well made and super fun!
Jen: I had a hard time even coming up with games based specifically on country. I’m a big fan of the “crayon train” game also known as Empire Builder is probably my favorite of the games using the geography of the US. It’s more strategic than Ticket to Ride, but also takes about an hour a person.
Neal: For me the one that comes to mind is TransAmerica. It is essentially a lighter version of Ticket to Ride where you are trying to connect the five cities that are yours throughout America. You play one or two rails at a time and utilize other people’s railways. It is a great game to help people get into the board gaming world, because of how easily accessible it is. Definitely a more enjoyable play session with a full table (five or six players.)
Matt: I think the first game most people will think of is Ticket to Ride which, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last ten years, you probably already know is about creating train routes across the US. Two other pinnacles of our hobby, Catan and Carcassonne both have variants where you settle across America. In Settlers of America: Trails to Rails you settle across America, build cities and lay train routes. In New World: A Carcassonne Game you settle across the US from the East Coast to the West Coast by laying tiles westward while trying to build cities and roads.
I have also had fun with Campaign Manager 2008 which tries to recreate the excitement of the 2008 presidential election. The game is light and a lot of fun but I have a hard time getting it to the table since most people I know don’t want to play as a certain politician.
Josh: Even though it’s not about Independence Day or our country’s origins, every time I sit and play Twilight Struggle as the Americans I swell with an overwhelming sense of red, white and blue pride. The Cold War was such a defining part of our country over the last century that the USA vs USSR conflict in Twilight Struggle feels like I’m reliving an integral part of US and world history.
But if I’m playing as the Russians? Well, there’s no love for America here, comrade. Russian bear eat bald eagle.