It’s that wonderful time of the year again where GMT holds their annual sale! If I had to pick a favorite publisher it would undoubtedly be GMT, not just because they’re produced some of the best games in our entire hobby, but because they’re a straightforward, honest company that just wants to to make great games. I’ve never had a poor interaction with them, the quality of their games is consistently good, and their p500 program is the best pre-order system around.
Through Saturday most games ordered through GMT’s website will be 25% off if you use the coupon code Fall201925. (There are some exceptions outlined in this newsletter.) If you ordered anything the last year through p500 you’ll get 50% off a number of games equal to how many p500’s you got plus one. I just put in my order for Paths of Glory and Combat Commander at 50% off because I had pre-ordered Navajo Wars. What a deal! I mean, it’s not 50% off the lowest prices you’ll find online, but it still comes out to a hefty discount. And because you’re ordering straight from GMT you’ll be supporting them even with the lower price. I’m a bargain hunter but I do feel good ordering direct.
So what should you consider buying? I’ve played a number of games they have in stock and here’s some 100% guaranteed Grade-A fun:
This is a no-brainer. Twilight Struggle was the first review I published for The Thoughtful Gamer because it’s a brilliant game that deserves every bit of its lofty reputation. In fact, I’m still writing about it, highlighting how well it pulls the players into a callous, realpolitik perspective in a feature for LoveThyNerd just the other day. Every bit of Twilight Struggle drags you into the paranoid nuclear mindspace of the Cold War. It’s as deep as an abstract but surprisingly accessible given the reputation of wargames. If you’ve played a mid-weight Euro you’ll have no problems.
Time to jump on board the train game…err, train. 1846 is a fantastic starting point for this delectable game genre. It softens some of the most painful edges of 18xx games for newcomers while retaining what I would argue is a surprising amount of subtlety. GMT’s production is stellar, and if you love it you’re just in time to snag 1862, the next game in the line. It’s like if ’46 got locked in an elevator with a mad British clown. I loved it!
A COIN Game
If there’s anything GMT is known for besides Twilight Struggle, it’s probably this series started by Volko Ruhnke. There are 9 of them now with at least 3 more announced and I think by this point they’re outpacing my attempt to play them all. Nonetheless I’ve played all of 6 and parts of 2 others. The key brilliance of the COIN system isn’t in its card system, though that’s pretty great, nor in its distinction between military control and population support. The brilliance of COIN is in the faction relationships. All but one of the games are for four players, and the disjointed ways the factions bounce off each other have produced some of the most memorable gaming experiences of my life. The US/ARVN pseudo-alliance in Fire in the Lake is downright cruel.
So which should you buy? If any of the historical periods particularly piques your interest, just get that one. Unless you’re into the US war of Independence, because Liberty or Death is presently out of stock. The simplest are the first two, and between those I’d choose Cuba Libre for its more focused, claustrophobic dynamics. A Distant Plain and Fire in the Lake are where the games really hit their stride, and you can’t go wrong with either. Falling Sky is relatively simple and on odd numbered days might be my favorite. Pendragon is a bit of a beast, but if you want something closer to traditional wargame combat, it’ll scratch that itch. Colonial Twilight is the only 2-player COIN game in case you lack friends.
I’ve played a fair number of area majority games and nothing yet comes close to Dominant Species. It’s a design so elegantly constructed it’s actually made me mad at other games that they’re not it. The worker placement system is so good it manages to squeeze out two sets of grueling decisions around each placement of one’s worker. Not many games can boast such decision density. Sadly, Chad Jensen, the designer, is currently battling the horrors of chemotherapy. You can help him and his family out on gofundme.
Looking for something a bit more on the truly epic scale? I’ve got you covered. Here I Stand captures the immense scale of an entire period of European history like nothing else I’ve played. It takes on military conflict, new world exploration, and religious battles with the intensity of Twilight Struggle and the sly wink of Diplomacy. One of the systems is for religious debates. There’s a chart to see how lucky Henry VIII is at spawning a son. I’m not even joking.
I’ll end on a bit of a quirky one. Time of Crisis is a deckbuilding game of sorts where you get to pick which cards you draw. So is it still deckbuilding, or some kind of morphing rondel? I mean, does the idea of a deck lose meaning when you eliminate the random draw? Are all games ultimately auctions or coin flips??
Anyways, you build up a deck of actions cards you use to fight over control of Rome while barbarians creep in from the sidelines. It’s a spear fight in a phonebooth, recalling something like Kemet, and I haven’t heard a lot about it since its release. In terms of GMT’s catalog it’s one of the simplest games they offer and more people should give it a look.
For my money that’s the cream of the crop from GMT. At least of the games I’ve played. I can’t speak for the dozens more I haven’t been fortunate enough to experience. But you tell me! What games should people consider when shopping GMT’s 2019 sale?