|A series of tabletop war games published by Milton Bradley in the '80s. Each has in common a roughly historical setting (one is set in the future), a large game board, sizable plastic figures depicting military units, and dice-based combat rules. Generally speaking, gameplay is deceptively simple, allowing for quick learning but complex situations.
- Axis & Allies--This one seems to have retained the longest popularity. It's based on World War II and has up to five players vying for world domination in teams: USA, UK, and USSR vs. Germany and Japan. A nice variety of land, air, and sea units combine with a quasi-realistic economic system to present a good historical feel. That's not to say that the Axis powers can't win: they often do, especially when the Allies don't cooperate properly.
- Conquest of the Empire--Set a bit simplistically after the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the game features up to six competing caesars who each start with a fortified city and a small army in various Roman provinces around the Mediterranean. Each caesar has six generals to lead his troops--a nice system that places real value on this limited resource: captured generals can be ransomed or executed. Other neat features are an inflation system to increase the cost of units and a system for building roads between your cities. Ultimately, the catapult unit is too powerful, though; in the end, most games turn into an arms race with each player stockpiling catapults for a final, massive showdown.
- Fortress America--Arguably the weakest of the series, this game is a Red Dawn-type scenario that has the cold war heating up with a communist invasion of the USA from three sides. While gameplay is nothing serious and relies on a hoaky card system to give the Americans a random peppering of advantages, Fortress does feature a cool supply-line system. Commie units can be destroyed if their lines back to the coast are severed...nice touch.
- Shogun--Rereleased in the '90s as Samurai Swords, this one takes place in feudal Japan. Each player is a power-hungry warlord who must use a decent variety of units (archers, peasant spearmen, musketeers, ronin, and samurai) to win the shogunate. The only thing missing is the Jesuits, for anyone who's read James Clavell's novel. Cool features include an experience system for your generals, so they fight better as they win battles, and a hidden deployment system to enable sneak attacks. You can also hire a ninja to do in pesky enemy leaders.