Joe Balkoski is best-known for the Fleet series, the Great Campaigns of the ACW series, and later, his books on the US Army in Normandy.

The following six stand-alone designs are some of the best of 1980's wargaming. Learning one of these gets you into the Balkoski mindset - so learning the other five comes easy. His rules writing is among the best you'll find in wargaming.


1986 (West End Games): The game that JB was born to design. If you've read his book Beyond the Beachhead (or Glover Johns' memoir The Clay Pigeons of St-Lô) you can play out those events in this game. Given the critical success of Joe's subsequent Normandy books, it is safe to say that Joe knows Normandy.

The Korean War

1986 (Victory Games): One of the better depictions of the mobile phase of the Korean War in a relatively compact design (two maps).

Against the Reich

1986 (West End Games): The entire 1944 campaign in northwest Europe.

Omaha Beachhead

1987 (Victory Games): This game covers the same ground as St-Lô but zooms out a level to cover the June 6 landings, attacks across the L'Aure-Inferieure, and the advance to St-Lô. The landings (in this overhead view) come off with a minimum of fuss on turn 1, and the US begins its build-up of forces. The fight for Isigny and Trevieres can be tough, and makes for a good four-turn solitaire game. Once the US breaks out it is all-out for St-Lô, as the US player tries to out-do the historical advance.

Lee vs. Grant

1988 (Victory Games): The precursor to GCACW. The scale is corps level, three-day turns, and two miles per hex (vs. divisions, daily, and one mile in GCACW). The campaign seems a better fit for this scale - one can play the whole thing in a few hours. Luckily we can compare the two scales directly by playing this and Grant Takes Command.

Light Division

1989 (3W): A hypothetical US intervention into Iran at Straits of Hormuz near Bandar Abbas. Map errata is the biggest problem, but it is playable and instructive of the situation at the time. It needs updating to today's geography and military reality. The situation depicted in this game would make a good candidate for GMT's Next War series.