Become a blockhead: Columbia block wargames coming to your PC


Originally published at:

  • PC/Mac

While I’ve seen them in action at gaming events, I’ve never had the pleasure of sitting down and actually playing one of the ‘Block Games’ from Columbia. First of all, they look complicated. Secondly, tabletop war games tend to not be my go-to game type, and, most importantly, no one’s asked me to sit in and play. This will all change soon, as there’s a Kickstarter currently running to bring these games to PC/Mac. The first game on the list is Richard III and, best of all, it’s already funded.

If you’re not familiar with Columbia’s block games, think Stratego with historical accuracy. Fog of war is portrayed via chunky wooden blocks with troop type and strength only listed on the back where the owner can see it. It’s not until troops clash that you can see what your cavalry galloped into.

Richard III brings you the Wars of the Roses to your laptop, and not just the Xs and Os of battle. There are also political turns in which you’ll check to see if there’s a usurper to the throne, exile the weak players, and more. You’ll also have cards featuring all the major players from the era as well as a handful of events to keep the historical vibe flowing.

The digital version is being developed by Avalon Digital (who are also bringing the iOS-only hex-and-counter gem, Carrier Battles for Guadalcanal to PC/Mac) and is expected to land on our PCs this October. You can head to the Kickstarter page right now, however, and download an early demo of the game for either PC or Mac.

The Kickstarter page mentions robust AI more than is probably healthy but fails to mention any online multiplayer. Hence, I’d have to assume that this is a solo-only affair, at least as currently planned for this autumn’s launch.

We’ll have to see about that, but for now, we can bask in the glow of new wargames and not just Richard III. Avalon digital is setting up an entire series of digital games in a new series titled Blocks. Following Richard III will be gems like Crusader Rex, Julius Caesar, and Hammer of the Scots. Each will be Kickstarter at a later date, so head to the Kickstarter page and sign up for their mailing list if you want to be notified when those Kickstarters go live. Or, if you’re lazy, you can just wait for us to post it. You know how reliable we are…


I really wish I could get in to games like this. Carrier Battles just never clicked with me, and I haven’t bothered to learn Wars Across the World. A grognard I am not.


With respect, gentlemen, you are total suckers. Columbia’s block war games (most block war games, in fact) are a piece of piss to play, and they’re a doddle if you’re used to more complex games. Some of Columbia’s games are not that great (they use an A-B-C system for unit quality which is not always fitting, among other issues) but they’re very easy to get into, and the fog of war arising from block facing and rotation is excellent. Some of them are truly exceptional, I’m looking at you Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815. You may soon find yourself wanting to try Sekigahara, Strike of the Eagle, Rommel in the Desert, Guns of Gettysburg…


I own Guns of Gettysburg but will never, ever find anyone to play it with me. I assumed these were lighter but still somewhat complex games. Bummer to hear that’s not the case.






I ditched some boardgames in our recent move halfway across the country, but I couldn’t bear to get rid of it…


I love the geomorphic maps in Wizard Kings.


I played Crusader Rex a bit, and found the system pretty good. Columbia’s blocks are probably my favorite tactile game element, though, so I’ll be interested to see how well they fare without that. I do remember feeling as though the strategies which weren’t built explicitly into the rules, but which were encouraged by them, often struck me as thematically very sensible. The crucial nature of planning ahead to get your units to winter quarters, the value of leaving weak forces in the way of a strong advance by an opponent to skirmish and delay—I didn’t go into the game nearly as attentive to these issues as I came out of it.

I also bought Wizard Kings a while back, hoping it’d be appealing to my kids. It almost was, but they were a little too young for something like that when I tried it. At some point I’ll probably buy another expansion (which is randomized, like a booster, but with equal numbers of units for all factions) and see if the lure of novelty gets them interested. They’ve both read a lot more fantasy since the first attempt. I played one of the solo scenarios, and it seemed pretty decent. Been too long for a clearer review, though.


I really hope they get Julius Caesar and Hammer of the Scots done. Those are considered to be the best for block games.