I don’t know about you, but I always found history classes so boring. But perhaps that was just the way they were taught. You know what makes everything more fun to learn?
Take a look back at pivotal moments in human history with our top 5 historical games to bring the past into the present.
1) Pandemic Legacy: Season 0
Building off the backs of both a wildly successful legacy game and an all-round great strategy board game, Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 places players as medical graduates recruited by the CIA. Taking place in 1962—the midst of the Cold War—this legacy game tasks them with battling both the Soviets’ new bioweapon and the agents themselves.
In legacy games, each play session acts as a chapter in a larger narrative. However, as you play the game, you will leave lasting changes to both the physical components of the game and the rules themselves as you play through the campaign. You’ll place stickers, open sealed-up packages, even tear up cards (?!). Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 combines the global political games of the Cold War with the legacy mechanic to give you a sense of progression and permanence fitting to the historical setting. Your choices feel like they matter.
Though this title is still on preorder, it’s expected to arrive in December. If you’re looking for a rich legacy Cold War experience, Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 is one to watch.
Perhaps you’re interested in the Cold War, but the grand scope of Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 intimidates you. Or perhaps you only have one friend willing to play board games with you but you still want a rich historical experience.
Look no further than Watergate—a tense 2-player board game based off the Nixon scandal of the same name. Highly competitive and head-to-head, one player acts as the Nixon administration, trying desperately not to resign, and the other plays as The Washington Post trying to expose the links between Nixon and his informers.
Playing in just 30-60 minutes, Watergate offers historical gravity and a tense tug-of-war, without the lengthy playtime.
3) Memoir ‘44
Let’s go a little further back in time. World War II. If you want to feel like a war general, hunching over a map and plotting battle strategies, you’ve got to try Memoir ‘44—a wargame where you can reenact some of the most famous battles from WWII, from Omaha Beach to the Ardennes.
Contained in the box are over 15 different scenarios, each striving for accuracy in terrain, placement of soldiers and objectives of each side, but still allowing for players to strategise.
Don’t be put off by the gritty illustrations on the box—this 2-player game is relatively easy to teach and play and plays in anywhere from 30-60 minutes.
4) Paths of Glory
To cap off the wars of the 20th century, here’s a board game about the First World War, or as they viewed it then—the Great War.
With a board spanning all of Europe and the Middle East, Paths of Glory places you as either the Allies or the Central Powers fighting the bloody battles that shaped the modern world. Will you triumph or will you fall? The power is in your hand. Quite literally actually since this game is mostly centred around card-play and making tough decisions.
Like Memoir ‘44, Paths of Glory will make you feel like a war general hunched over a sprawling map. Except, in this case, perhaps more realistically, as this game can take up to 8 hours to play. Don’t expect to whip this game out for a random weekday board game night. You’ll have to set aside the majority, if not all of your day, but for the depth of strategy that feels so right for a Great War game, it’s worth it.
5) Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
Maybe you don’t want to just relive history. Maybe you’re not particularly attached to any one point of history, let alone the 20th century. Maybe you want to rewrite history from the ground up.
Ranked among the top ten board games on BoardGameGeek, Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization will be familiar to anyone who has played any of Sid Meier’s Civilization videogames. Like in said games, players will each have a civilization and have to build up their resources, military, and technology from the humble beginnings of agriculture to the internet, all while balancing citizen happiness and food requirements.
Though it is lighter on the historical depth than all the other games on this list, Through the Ages still manages to capture the immense scale and strategy involved in building a civilization. Sure, your civilization might have leaders that wildly conflict with your government and natural wonders, but hey--this is rewriting not reenacting. Why buy a game about one specific period of history when you can get one that spans all of it?
In summary, if you’re looking for...
A Cold War legacy game where choices feel important? Pandemic Legacy: Season 0.
A 2-player tug-of-war based on the Nixon scandal? Watergate.
Quick-to-play reenactments of famous WWII battles? Memoir ‘44.
An 8 hour WWI experience with unparalleled depth? Paths of Glory.
Scale and strategy across all of history? Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization.
Now check your player count...
Only got 2 players? Watergate or Memoir ‘44 for a short game. Paths of Glory for an all-day experience.
Have a bigger gaming group? Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization for a regular board game experience. Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 for a multi-session legacy game.
And there we have it! Our top 5 historical board games! What do you think? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!
If you are interested in more great games check out our our blog on 𝑶𝒖𝒓 𝑻𝒐𝒑 5 𝑩𝒐𝒂𝒓𝒅 𝑮𝒂𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝑶𝒖𝒕𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝑨𝒓𝒕𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒌 here