In case of emergency, play these browser wargames

Don’t ask me how I know, I just know. At some point in the future, you will find yourself in a Frozen-themed internet cafe in downtown Harare. You will be bored and craving tactical/strategic interactive entertainment. Your fingers will hover over the grubby keyboard in front of you while you desperately try to remember the names of the three free browser-based wargames I’m about to recommend.

Battle for Moscow

The Wehrmacht’s finest are only seven hexagons from the Soviet capital at the start of this short but masterly Operation Typhoon recreation. Thanks to ingenious rules devised in the mid-Eighties by Frank Chadwick, and able Red Army AI coded a few years ago by Oberlabs, eliminating that gap in the seven turns available is every bit as difficult as it should be.

Impressively, the CPU is just as comfortable orchestrating the invaders as it is orchestrating the invadees. Watching it manoeuvre and reinforce units, and weigh up odds before launching attacks, you may well find yourself asking “Why wasn’t digital Battle for Moscow the start of something big?”.

Although turn phasing is minimal, chits (which generally represent German corps and Soviet armies) are unstackable and have only two strength steps, and combat factors such as morale and weather are sketched with an extremely light touch, the IGOUGO action is utterly believable. Engagement outcomes are determined with one virtual six-sided dice. The more uneven the odds the more likely it is you’ll witness step losses and retreats. Assault across rivers or into forest or city hexes, and the highlighted column on the 36-cell Combat Results Table shuffles left to reflect your ambition/folly.

Potential gateway wargames need legible graphics and simple, always-at-hand rules. They require low unit counts and relatively short scenario durations. Battle for Moscow possesses all of these things. Indeed, the only potential pitfalls for newcomers are untoggleable NATO symbols on counters and a misleading button label on the main screen. Don’t choose the ‘Solitaire/Hotseat’ option, click either the German or Soviet start button below to launch a game against that excellent AI opponent.


Like Battle for Moscow, RogueMek deserved fame and offspring but, as far as I know, ended up with neither. Eric ‘CapperDeluxe’ H’s gripping TBT boasts lively AI, and a plethora of different mech and weapon types. More importantly it generates colourful combat dramas with machine-like efficiency.

In this fast-playing and friendly futuristic fracas sim, in addition to being lasered, missiled, autocannoned, or flamethrowered into oblivion, your bipedal ride can be punched, kicked, charged or stomped to death. Hapless mechs can also wind up prone, legless, and – in both senses of the word – disarmed . Allow your steed to overheat, and an automatic shutdown or catastrophic ammo explosion could be the result.

Stylish and apt, the ASCII graphics allow plenty of room for a vivid imagination to run riot. Who needs overblown pyrotechnics when every volley or coming together produces a spout of scarlet damage reports. Who needs polygons and fancy animations when, with a few Vs, and some red letters and lines, the game can render the gruesome result of a ‘death from above’ jump-jet attack in eye-watering detail.

The team deathmatch options and the 75 different mech types function like configurable difficulty settings. Choose a relatively light AFV and field fewer mechs than your foe, and you’ll need skill and luck to prevail. One of the most important combat keys is the backslash. This allows the group-firing of multiple weapons at the currently selected target. Fail to activate this prior to pressing a number key, and your turn will end abruptly after a single weapon discharge!

Armour status and heat levels are major preoccupations in a RogueMek ruck. The warmer your war-suit, the more sluggishly it moves, the less accurately it aims, and the more likely it is to shutdown at a horribly inopportune moment. Unleashing an all-weapon broadside might well shred a nearby foe in one fell swoop (To Hit chances are always clearly displayed) but if it becrimsons the upper reaches of your admirably communicative heat meter and there are other threats in your vicinity, it might not be the sage option.

What a pity this likeable prototype never matured into something more rounded. With random maps and Armoured Commander II-style campaigns, RogueMek could have been truly marvelous.


A family of browser-based, card-enriched hex wargames rather than a single title, Alex Williamson’s Bobcat-engined releases tackle some fascinating historical subjects and contemporary what-ifs. Once you’ve accepted the crude visuals and stark unit shorthand (Sometimes there’s no explanation of what each colour-coded unit type actually represents), and grasped the importance of supply sources and card-triggered actions, engrossing play sessions await.

Do watch the above video before jumping in. While France Fights On is one of several Bobcats that refuses to start in my browser nowadays, its mechanics are common to the entire series. In the vid you get a brief glimpse of the AI doing something it does exceedingly well – severing supply lines. The silicon CO is also pretty handy at securing VL hexagons.

To get a sense of the system’s range I recommend starting out in spots like the Ardennes and Normandy before shifting to less familiar environs such as Ukraine and the Horn of Africa.

The Bobcat engine may not be the cat’s whiskers, but if Alex had ever teamed up with a decent artist, and sold his globetrotting guerre treatments as cheap DLC, we might today have an appealing alternative to Wars Across the World.


  1. How delightful to see some BattleTech in these pages! A wargame most comfortably experienced with a computer to track the fiddly bits, but I do want to take some of my miniatures for a spin one of these years.

  2. I recall that Battle for Moscow was the first war game I ever bought, which came as part of the Fire and Movement wargaming magazine. A classic game, and a timeless part of war gaming history.

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