TOP 5 classic hex based War games
A lot of younger PC wargamers will look at the following with a mixture of confusion and amusement. Hex based wargames… on the PC, turn based, bitmap graphics?! Are you having a bloody Giraffe?! That’s right ladies and gents, these are the games of my childhood and games I will still happily play now.
It wasn’t about spamming units and attacking as soon as possible to win, it was about set piece battles, where you had to out think, out smart and out general someone, not just tank rush them and call them a ‘noob’ on the in game Chat. In a lot of ways it was like playing chess and, if you were anything like me and my father, would spend entire evenings (until the small hours of the morning) doing battle; some have football, others cars, for me and my dad it was Wargames.
Here are my top 5 Hex based, PC, Wargames :
1. Panzer General – Strategic Simulations Inc. (1994)
With numerous spin offs and sequels : Allied general, Pacific General, Star General, Panzer General II, Panzer General 3D and Panzer General III. Panzer General was at the forefront of PC wargaming and still holds its own today, with companies like Slitherine making reboots like Panzer Corp.
Game play was simple enough to master. You worked your way through different campaigns and aimed to get certain strategic points. In doing so you earned ‘prestige’ which could be spent, as the game went on, to buy and upgrade units.
It was this upgrading that was critical (especially as units were carried over to the next mission) as elite units had a better chance of overwhelming the enemy or defending crucial towns and cities. The added depth to this game was also in the fact that you couldn’t just pile in with a frontal assault on a town or city, as units would have been entrenched. You had to suppress them with artillery or bombers first then send specific units in to counter the threat.
Simple, Effective and with great replay-ability, especially against other players.
History Line 1914-18 – Blue Byte (1992)
A lesser known game by Blue Byte software, depicting, as the title suggests, WW1. Playing through different battles in the ‘Great War’ you are given different historical facts and pictures of different events as the campaign proceeds; learn while you play.
It was this game that got me interested in WW1 in the first place and for some reason, even though I wouldn’t count it as the best of these 5 hex based games, was the one I have the most fond memories of playing with my dad; hot seating. Remember that? Having to get off you seat so someone else could sit down and make their move… crazy right?
Game play was similar to that of Panzer General but each mission had a base / supply depot where you built units and instead of playing on a grander scale it was on a more tactical level. Only down side was the AI was rather Poor and the main fun you got from it was when you, as I stated before, played someone else; never beat my dad at this game… how annoying.
Battleground 3 :Waterloo – Talonsoft (1996)
Created by Talonsoft, the battleground series had a huge run (going up to 11.. “but it goes up to 11”) and focused mainly on Napoleonic wars, American Civil War and WW2.
The main difference, and the edge it held over its competitors, was how it added a hint of 3D to your typical hex based gaming experience. Coupled with some great music, sound effects and video clips of units firing weapons and you got, arguable, one of the best series of war games around and a big threat to SSIs Panzer General franchise .
BG Waterloo came about at the time when I was reading the Sharpe novels, and my interest in the Napoleonic era was at its height; unsurprising why it was my favourite. This being said, and being fair to the other installments, there was not a huge difference in style of play from one game to another, other than the obvious formations you could use in Napolenoic and ACW games (Line, column and Skirmishers for example) that you couldn’t / wouldn’t use in WW2 ones.
Other than that, your units could move a limited amount of spaces (depending on formation), certain ground gave them modifiers and if you didn’t like the 3Dness of it all you could simply zoom out and have it look like any other hex game.
AI wasn’t totally Inept, but like all these titles you were a lot better Hot Seating (there is that word again.. madness) with other humans and really challenging yourself.
Age of rifles – Strategic Simulations Inc.(1996)
Made by the same company as Panzer General, (SSI), Age of Rifles spans numerous engagements from 1846 to 1905 and allows you to take command of some of the greatest battles in history, as well as some of the less well known ones, ie the Boxer rebellion and the Russo-Japanese war.
Game mechanics were similar to that of its predecessor but being more infantry and cavalry based, formations (of which there were a lot), play a larger roll. I cant help but think this was SSIs roll to try and counter Battleground; A more tactical game and as much as it wasn’t quite the same, it definitely had its charm.
The main pull for me, and the reason it I played it so much, was the customisation. Something that was distinctly lacking in its competator.
The scenario / campaign builder and the fact that you could literally build and dress an army, give them horses, camels, rifles, muskets, different heads, different uniforms and names was stupidly addictive. After completing the campaigns I spend months just building different units and engaging them in campaigns of my own design.
The Operation art of war 1939-1955 – Talonsoft (1998)
The most basic looking of our top 5, with maps looking like the oldschool board games you use to play with your dad, or even, you dad played with his dad.
Not that this detoured any hardcore wargaming fans, so much so that Talonsoft created four more and Matrix games a 5th (TOAW3), in 2006.
Due to the minimalist look you could get amazing scale in these games, with counters representing Companies, battalions, brigades and some times, in the huge games, Corp. On top of this you could have up to, if you built your own scenarios, 2000 units, PER SIDE! (now that is a freaking War game) The main pull for me and mainly my father, who I remember playing none stop, was the modern angle to them. You could play battles from WW2 all the way up to modern times and despite its simplistic look really had a way of keeping your attention.