The Comprehensive Guide to Board Wargaming

The Comprehensive Guide to Board Wargaming was released in 1977, written by Nicholas Palmer and published by Hippocrene Books, Inc. The book is notable in not having been published by a major games company but by an independent source; however, major publishers did have input and access to the book during the creative process, including GDW, SPI and Avalon Hill, all of whom are listed in the acknowledgements. The book is also notable for having a copy of SPI's Strike Force One game, a tactical level giveaway, inserted into the back cover. SPI also has advertising space on the back of the dust jacket.

Written so early in the history of commercial board wargaming, the book gives an interesting snapshot of the state of the hobby. The game references PanzerBlitz several times as being "one of the most frequently played games around." As a self-styled comprehensive guide, the book has several goals, and was aimed at both veteran players and newcomers to the hobby alike. The focus of the book was on gameplay, generally talking about operational and strategic level games, though some mention of tactical games is made. A large section of the book is devoted to a survey of "every professionally produced wargame...available when this book goes to press, plus some scheduled releases in 1977..." The games are not just listed, but also ranked according to two polls, one conducted by SPI, the other by Avalon Hill. The SPI poll comes from issue 57 of Strategy & Tactics and included 202 separate titles, while the Avalon Hill poll came from Volume 13, No. 2 of The General and only covered the 25 existing Avalon Hill wargame titles in print. A snapshot of the state of the hobby, and tactical wargaming's place in the hobby, is thus provided by the book. Some titles are missing, as they include only those known to the other (notably, Third Millenium's PBI is not on the list, for example) and while Alien Space is included, other science fiction titles are not.

The book does not cover miniatures at all, focusing solely on commercial board wargaming. The book is clear in its focus, and does mention that

Miniature games...have a long tradition, and exist in countless versions all over the world, as well as providing the inspiration for some board games. The impetus for them has always been the desire of collectors of military models to have them do something, and a miniatures game basically consists of a set of rules for the use of military models in a game. The rules are fairly generalized and leave a number of questions to be decided by the players. While (board wargaming and miniatures wargaming each) has its adherents who dislike each other, most players enjoy both. The advantage of miniature wargaming is that it can be highly attractive visually...for those who like both modelling and games it provides an ideal meeting point. Board wargames have more in common with other board games like chess. Their great virtue is the tremendous range of subjects which can be covered. A miniatures game covering the whole Soviet-German front in the Second World War would involve a mind-boggling array of pieces and impossible complexity. For a board game, there is nothing easier...

The bulk of the early parts of the book include a history of wargaming and a beginner's guide to what board wargames are and how they work. Most of the discussion applies to operational level games and features associated with them (such as Zones of Control, for example). Chapter 7 on Combined Arms, however, deals with tactical level games, focusing on PanzerBlitz and Nordlingen, a tactical game with a pre-20th Century subject.


Of the 286 titles listed in Part IV, only 21 are modern-era (1914-contemporary) tactical-level games. Several titles that should appear, do not. These include Tactical Game 3 (though being out of print and having been converted to PanzerBlitz this is not a large omission), Combat Command, PBI, Soldiers: Tactical Combat 1914-1915, H-Hour, and Super Tank I. The latter two, by Balboa and Strategic and Tactical Studies respectively, were not well known and understandably absent, though Combat Command and Soldiers were published by SPI. Thumbnail sketches, as they appear in the book, are listed below by the tactical titles covered by the book, and are the opinion of the author, Nicholas Palmer, or in some cases Charles Vasey who wrote some of the sketches also. Some of the material was apparently influenced by Richard Berg's review column in Moves.


List of Wargames circa 1977 as given in The Comprehensive Guide
Modern-era tactical level titles are unshaded


Title Publisher Notes
African Campaign Avalon Hill -
After the Holocaust SPI -
Airborne Jadgpanther

Fifteen scenarios on every kind of paratroop action (Crete, Bruneval, Arnhem and Indochina appear). Each turn is three minutes, each unit a single vehicle, ten men, or one heavy weapon, and each hex 100 metres. Losses are taken in whole units and separate casualties. Tanks, artillery, air-strikes, flak and glider landings included. Map rather bland, since some scenarios involve dis-regarding terrain. Good tactical stuff - included confusion!

Air Force Battleline -
Air War '78 SPI -
Alexander The Great AH -
Alien Space SPI -
American Civil War SPI -
American Revolution SPI -
Ancient Conquest Exalibre -
Antietam SPI -
Anvil-Dragoon Jadgpanther -
Anzio Avalon Hill -
Arab-Israeli War Avalon Hill

(Note: the correct title is, of course, "The Arab-Israeli Wars") Scheduled for release as this book goes to press: a development of Panzer Leader, with air rules further developed and all the modern weaponry available in the Middle East.

Ardennes Offensive SPI -
Arms Race Attack Wargaming Association -
Arnhem SPI -
Assassinate Hitler SPI -
Atlanta Guidon -
Austerlitz SPI -
Avalanche GDW "Tactical" game but company sized units for the most part
Barbarossa SPI -
Bar Lev Conflict -
Basic Air Combat Lou Zocchi -
Basotgne SPI -
Bataille de la Moskowa Martial Enterprises -
Battlefleet Mars SPI -
Battle for Germany SPI -
Battle for Madrid Jagdpanther -
Battle for Midway GDW -
Battle of Britain Lou Zocchi -
The Battle of Five Armies Fact and Fantasy -
Battle of Nations SPI -
Battle of the Atlantic Attack Wargaming Association -
Battle of the Bulge Avalon Hill -
Battle of the Marne SPI -
Battle of the Wilderness SPI -
La Belle Alliance SPI -
Blitzkrieg AH -
Blitzkrieg SPI -
Bloody Ridge SPI -
Blue and Grey SPI -
Blue and Grey II SPI -
Borodino SPI -
Breakout and Pursuit SPI -
Breitenfeld SPI -
Bull Run SPI -
Bundeswehr SPI Not to be confused with the tactical level Assault module
Burma GDW -
Caesar Avalon Hill -
Caesar's Legions Avalon Hill -
Cambrai Rand -
Cauldron SPI -
Cemetery Hill SPI -
Chaco GDW -
Chancellorsville Avalon Hill -
Chariot SPI -
Chattanooga SPI -
Chickamauga SPI -
Chinese Farm SPI -
Combined Arms SPI

Disastrously unpopular game featuring tactical operations in the 1939-1980 time span. It seems better to choose one of the numerous other games in this general area: MechWar '77, Panzer '44, PanzerBlitz, Panzer Leader and Kampfpanzer spring to mind; Tobruk is also good for combined arms operations.

The Conquerors SPI -
Conquistador SPI -
Coral Sea GDW -
Crimea GDW -
Cromwell SDC -
Crusader SPI -
Custer's Last Stand Battleline -
D-Day Avalon Hill -
Decline and Fall Wargames Research Group -
Desert War SPI

Companion game to Kampfpanzer, featuring platoon-level North African combat with simultaneous movement.

Destruction of Army Group Center SPI -
Dien Bien Phu SDC -
Diplomacy Avalon Hill -
Dixie SPI -
Drang Nach Osten/Unentschieden GDW -
Dreadnought SPI -
Eagle Day Histo Games -
East Front Control Box -
The East is Red SPI -
1812 SPI -
El Alamein SPI -
English Civil War Ironside -
Fall of Bataan Jagdpanther -
Fall of Tobruk Conflict -
Fast Carriers SPI -
Firefight SPI

Ultra-modern small unit combat, with counters for individual vehicles and groups of four infantrymen. Unusually detailed rules, with particular care taken to see that beginners can follow them, and a massive accompanying handbook with analyses both of the game and contemporary armament and US/Soviet tactical doctrine in real life. Relatively elementary for a tactical game, with such questions as morale and intelligence omitted and a limited range of vehicles, but most impressive within its scope and particularly suitable for beginners interested in modern tactical warfare but anxious to avoid excessive complication. 1-3 hours per scenario, fought on two large and attractive maps.

Flying Tigers Lou Zocchi -
Formelhaut II Attack Wargaming Association -
Four Roads to Moscow Avalon Hill -
Foxbat and Phantom SPI -
France 1940 Avalon Hill -
Franco-Prussian War SPI -
Fredericksburg SPI -
Frederick the Great SPI -
Freiburg SPI -
Friedland 1807 SPI -
Frigate SPI -
Fulda Gap SPI -
Gettysburg Avalon Hill -
Global War SPI -
Golan SPI -
La Grande Armee SPI -
Grenadier SPI -
Grunt SPI Rarely seen now, and never very popular, dealing with tactical combat in Vietnam in 1965.
Guerilla Maplay

A large map and neat counters simulate the activities of a Ghurka battalion in Sarawak during the Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia. Secret victory conditions, ambushes, infiltration, hidden guerilla units, canoes, helicopters and the construction of chopper-pads in villages. Great attention to detail, but supply rules odd; movement uses a rather old-fashioned method.

Helms Deep Fact and Fantasy -
Highway to the Reich SPI -
Hitler's Last Gamble Rand -
Hooker and Lee SPI -
Hue SDC -
Hurtgen Forest SPI -
Invasion: America SPI -
Island War SPI -
Jena-Auerstadt SPI -
Jerusalem SPI -
Jerusalem SDC -
Jutland Avalon Hill -
Kampfpanzer SPI

Companion to Desert War, dealing with tactical combined arms combat at the start of the Second World War. Nine scenarios involving British, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Czech tanks. Simultaneous movement, modifications for different weapon types, entrenchments, overruns, and the controversial panic rule which randomly makes some units disobey orders. Comparable to Panzer Leader, with more nations but fewer different types of unit; infantry in particular play a smaller role. The map is mostly clear terrain. Generally simpler but less challenging than Panzer Leader, except for the simultaneity of movement. Panzer '44 is a more advanced version, based on later on in the war.

Kasserine SPI -
Kasserine Pass Conflict -
Khalkin-Gol SDC -
Kingmaker Philmar/Avalon Hill -
Korea SPI -
Kriegspiel Avalon Hill -
Kursk SPI -
Lee Moves North SPI -
Lee v Meade Rand -
Legion SPI -
Leipzig SPI -
Leyte SPI -
Ligny SPI -
Littorio Attack Wargaming Association -
Little Big Horn Tactical Studies Rules -
Lord of the Rings SPI -
Lost Battles SPI -
Luetzen SPI -
Luftwaffe Avalon Hill -
MacArthur Research -
Manassas GDW -
March on India Jagdpanther -
Marine Jagdpanther

Forerunner of Airborne, but on marine operations. Nine scenarios include rescue of POWs, installation raids, and an army/marine exercise. The playing 'feel' is as described under Airborne. Neat tactical game with some very interesting subjects.

Marengo SPI -
MechWar '77 SPI

Brother of Panzer '44, dealing with tactical armoured combat in the present decade, in the Middle East, and hypothetically (we hope) between US and Soviet, and Soviet and Chinese forces. MechWar '77 uses a recognizably similar system to its brother, but with various modern innovations: helicopters, smoke and ammunition depletion. Large, attractive map with imaginary German names (most of the scenarios are US-Soviet). Movement is sequential, but combat simultaneous, compromising between playability and realism. Fairly complex; 4-6 hours for average scenarios.

Midway Avalon Hill -
Minas Tirith SPI -
Minuteman SPI -
Missile Boat Rand -
Missile Crisis Attack Wargaming Association -
Missile Patrol Boat GDW -
Modern Battles SPI -
Modern Battles II SPI -
Moscow Campaign SPI -
Mukden SPI -
Musket and Pike SPI -
Napoleon at War SPI -
Napoleon at Waterloo SPI -
Napoleon at Waterloo Expansion Kit SPI -
Napoleon's Last Battles SPI -
Napoleon's Last Campaigns Rand -
Narvik GDW -
1918 SPI -
Nordlingen SPI -
Normandy SPI -
North Africa SPI -
The October War SPI

Out in spring 1977, with tactical armoured combat in the Middle East, during the 1973 war. Platoon/company level on Golan and Sinai terrain.

Oil War SPI -
Okinawa SPI -
Omaha Beach Rand -
Operation Olympic SPI -
Origins of World War II Avalon Hill -
Outreach SPI -
Overlord Conflict -
Panzer Armee Afrika SPI -
PanzerBlitz Avalon Hill

Perhaps the most frequently played wargame ever produced. PanzerBlitz was the first to bring a wealth of tactical detail to the Second World War East Front, and met a delighted reception from the hobby when it came out in 1970. Although game design has moved on since, it still has many adherents, and anyone interested in tactical armour/infantry warfare should try it. Three boards from anonymous sections of the Soviet countryside feature a rich variety of hills, riverbeds, villages, woods and winding roads, and can be fitted together in various ways to make different maps. Units have four factors (attack, defence, range, movement), and combat is modified by armour and weapon type. Drawbacks are somewhat unbalanced scenarios and the 'Panzerbush' syndrome, in which units popping from wood to wood cannot be attacked by non-adjacent units, which is a flaw in realism. Exciting, high skill level, very complex; 2-4 hours, depending on scenario. See Panzer Leader for companion game and Kampfpanzer for SPI's simultaneous movement alternative.

Panzer '44 SPI

Second World War equivalent of MechWar '77, featuring tactical armoured warfare on the West Front in 1944-5. See MechWar and also Kampfpanzer.

Panzergruppe Guderian SPI -
Panzer Leader Avalon Hill

Produced four years after PanzerBlitz, this West Front game is more of a son than a brother, as the game system is similar but with certain distinctive new features. The most important ones are that the 'Panzerbush' tactic is abolished, with anyone trying it liable to be transfixed by 'opportunity fire' on the way (this makes postal play more difficult), and the hexes have spots in the middle to facilitate calculation of lines of fire from one to another (to see if some damned hill is in the way) which is useful. This time there are four mapboards, one of them a beach to allow for landings. The opportunity fire rule, while more realistic, has a slight tendency to keep units' heads down in cover, so the game is not quite as fluid as PanzerBlitz. However, both games are excellent, and preference is largely a matter of taste. It should be noted that neither uses the ultra-detailed miniatures technique of distinguishing between different types of hits (on a turret, or tracks, for instance), unlike e.g. Tobruk and the Battleline tactical games; the miniatures approach is more realistic but slows things up with extra die-rolls, as well as adding more random factors.

Patrol SPI

A companion game to Sniper, Patrol deals with individual combat from the First World War up to the present. Brisk scenarios, with the flavour of man-to-man fighting quite well reflected, as the players agonize over whether to try and pin the enemy down or make a rush for it, whether to concentrate the squad or spread them out, and over the possible enemy plans.

Patton Research -
Pearl Harbor GDW -
Port Arthur GDW -
Pursuit of the Bismarck Attack Wargaming Association -
Punic Wars SPI -
Quatre Bras SPI -
Quebec 1759 Gamma Two -
Raiders of the North Attack Wargaming Association -
Red Star/White Star SPI

Ten-scenario game of tactical battles in Southern Germany in a hypothetical contemporary war, with platoon, company and battalion-level U.S., West German and Soviet counters. Wire-guided anti-tank missiles, rocket launchers and helicopter gunships have starring roles; the total effect is highly complex (see MechWar '77 for a rather more elementary, highly playable alternative). 2-3 hours per scenario, once the rules have been absorbed.

Remagen SPI -
Revolt in the East SPI -
Richtofen's War Avalon Hill -
Rifle and Musket SDC -
Rifle and Sabre SPI -
The Ring Trilogy SPI -
Road to Richmond SPI -
Road to Ruin SPI -
Rocroi SPI -
Rommel Loren Sperry -
Rommel's War in North Africa Rand -
The Russian Campaign Avalon Hill -
Saipan SPI -
Saratoga, 1777 Rand -
Schutztruppe SPI -
Search and Destroy SPI

Tactical Vietnam combat; powerful air-mobile forces combated by hidden NLF guerrilas. Unsuitable for solo play because of the hidden movement.

Seelöwe SPI -
1776 Avalon Hill -
Seventh Cavalry Attack Wargaming Association -
Shenandoah Battleline -
Shiloh SPI -
Sicily Rand -
Siege Fact and Fantasy -
Siege of Jerusalem, AD 70 Historical Perspectives -
Siege of Leningrad Jagdpanther -
Siege of Minas Tirith Fact and Fantasy -
Sinai SPI -
Sixth Fleet SPI -
Sniper SPI

House-to-house fighting in the Second World War, with a counter for every individual - you can't get more tactical than that! Varying weaponry, multi-storey buildings, a wide variety of options for each man, and controversial panic (command control) rules frustrating your best-laid plans. Tanks, trucks and halftracks in some scenarios, the tanks, unusually, being cardboard models which the players put together. Simultaneous movement. Exciting and fast-moving; lengthy rules, but easy to play once you have tried a game or two. Most scenarios playable in an hour or two. Companion to Patrol.

Solomons Campaign SPI -
Sorcerer SPI -
South Africa SPI -
Spanish Civil War Jagdpanther -
Spartan SPI -
Spitfire SPI -
Squad Leader Avalon Hill

Due out in 1977, this deals with single officers, NCOs and squads in the Second World War with techniques based on miniatures and PanzerBlitz, and a simple game system. The designer, John Hill, is noted for colourful games.

Stalingrad Avalon Hill -
Starforce SPI -
Star Raider Attack Wargaming Association -
Starship Troopers Avalon Hill -
Star Soldier SPI -
Stellar Conquest Metagaming -
Strategy I SPI -
Submarine Battleline -
Supercharge SPI -
Tactics II Avalon Hill Ironically, despite the name, this is not a tactical level game.
Tank SPI

Armoured combat between individual tanks from the 1930s to the present era. Solid tactical game; there is also an expanded version for the ambitious.

Terrible Swift Sword SPI -
Their Finest Hour GDW -
Third Reich Avalon Hill -
Thirty Years War SPI -
Tobruk Avalon Hill

An extremely innovative simulation of North African tactical warfare, strongly influenced by miniatures concepts. The map is devoid of features, one grain of sand looking much like another, but there is a rich variety of units, both armoured and infantry, with various forms of static defences (e.g. mines) to put on board. Early scenarios are very simple indeed and not very interesting; later ones add more rules steadily, until the final scenario plays with the full orchestra of concepts, and the early scenarios have the advanced rules added on. The most controversial feature is the legions of die-rolls required, as each round of fire is checked in exhaustive detail for chance of hitting and place of damage. Impressively detailed, with strong flavour of realism, but some miss the blood and thunder of faster-moving games. Scenarios range from 2-6 hours.

Torgau GDW -
Triplanetary GDW -
Tsushima GDW -
Turning Point SPI -
Vera Cruz SPI -
Verdun Conflict -
Vicksburg Rand -
Victory at Sea Attack Wargaming Association -
Viking SPI -
Von Manstein's Battles Rand -
Wacht am Rhein SPI -
Wagram SPI -
War at Sea Avalon Hill -
War Between the States SPI -
War in the East SPI -
War in Europe SPI -
War in Europe, Module I SPI -
War in the Pacific SPI -
War in the West SPI -
War of the Worlds II Rand -
Warsaw Pact Jagdpanther -
War of the Starslavers Attack Wargaming Association -
Waterloo Avalon Hill -
Wavre SPI -
Wellington in the Pennines Rand -
Wellington's Victory SPI -
West Wall SPI -
White Bear and Red Moon Tactical Studies Rules -
Wilderness Campaign SPI -
Winter War SPI -
Wolfpack SPI -
Wooden Ships and Iron Men Avalon Hill -
World War I SPI -
World War II SPI -
Wurzburg SPI -
Year of the Rat SPI -
Yeoman SPI -
The Ythri Metagaming Concepts -
Yugoslavia SPI -





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