Lawrence Hung
Hong Kong
Wan Chai
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When the original Quartermaster General came out, which covers WWII in its entire scope, I give it a pass without a pause. My thinking was that I won't be interested in such a highly abstracted strategic level wargame in which there is no dice to roll for movement or combat! I said I wouldn't be interested in the system at all. Later when Victory or Death is released to cover an epic ancient struggle between Athenian and Spartan with the same game engine, the system again come to my attention because this campaign is my top interest in ancient history since Mark Herman's masterpiece (Victory Games) Peloponessian War. Since then I read a lot of materials in that campaign. Shortly after Victory or Death (I even don't have the time to play it), Quartermaster General: 1914 is released in October 2016 at Essen game fair. My friend Angus brought the Kickstarter version directly back from the fair and in no time, we set up a game to begin play. In a single day, we are able to play 2.5 games in about 6 hours on first play. It's always good to have a strategic game that can cover the whole World War I and be completed in such a short time, while the gameplay is still considered meaty somewhat and meaningful. Quartermaster General: 1914 is such a game.

There are 216 cards and 5 player aids for each of the major powers, US/UK, France/ Italy, Russia on the Entente side, Germany and Austria-Hungry on the other Central Power side. According to the historical characteristics of the participating powers, the cards are allocated in different number to seven different types of cards. By playing the seven cards in hand, maximizing the resources and chances, a player can experience the difficult, sometime agonizing decisions that the head of the power nation went through. Some of the cards are either historically too early to play, or that they are not complement to the current situation on the map. The game engine is one of card-driven that many of us know quite well nowadays with the influx of such design.

However, the cards are not used for operation points like other CDGs does. Instead, the card types determine the action the power can take in a turn. To initiate an attack, you need a land battle card. Likewise, a sea battle card for attack in a sea area. To build army or navy in a vacant area, you need a build army or build navy card. Effectively one builds to occupy and control victory point areas (denoted with a star). Wargame grognards would find it odd to see that an attack always succeeds to remove an enemy army or navy, as long as the attacking piece is in supply and the enemy doesn't have the reinforce card, previously "prepared" during his own player turn "Prepare" step. The cards are prepared face-down and so there is a sense of fog going on the attack. Attack into difficult terrain ("area") costs an additional card to discard from hand as extra effort/ resource spent with the attack.

The Turn Sequence is nicely laid out in the Player Aid card. So the players can always refer to it and know what to do next. Each turn begins with Draft Step, which allows the player to discard two cards in hand in order to find a Build card from the deck. This means drafting the army or navy in a "mobilized" manner. The player then play a card from his hand to effect the type of card or what is written on the card.

For example, an "Event" card might confer multiple actions to the player with historical event like Italian "Isonzo River Offensives", with which by discarding a card from the hand as resources, an Italian Army is built in the Italian Alps area, then initiate a battle into Tyrol with it. Similarly, the Russian has Brusilov Offensive, the French has Plan 17 and the German has Schlieffan Plan, each of which dictates battle to specified area or among many. A "Status" card, on the other hand, confers benefits or advantages for sustained effect lasting several turns to the Power which are historically known for. The German would have Stosstruppen tactics (discard a prepared Sustain Land Battle card and then initiate an attack with a newly raised army), mustard gas (discard opponent's one card in the "prepared" deck), while the French would have Marne and Verdun to discard a "prepared" card of the Central Power if it attacks into Picardy and Burgundy respectively. The cards replicates the historically well-prepared French positions in these areas as a result. Mind you, even Rasputin has an effect on Russia in the war.....

As mentioned several times in the previous paragraph, the concept of "prepared" deck is crucial to the nature of WWI: attrition. During the "Attrition" step, a player can reveal one of the "prepared" card, which is hidden face-down, in prior turn and target another Power, as specified by the color of the "skulls", to discard the number of cards from hand, as required by the number of "skull" icons on the bottom of the "prepared" card. For a single "skull" on the card, you can target any one Power who has an army in an adjacent area. Another type of card "Economic Warfare" causes a lot of attrition to the other side of the Power. A look at the Player Aid you can find the German has the highest number of Economic Warfare cards with 9, while UK/US come by the second with 6. A horrible card is Germany's "Unrestricted Submarine Warfare". It would cause three attrition (i.e., three cards discard) to the UK/US player and two more attrition for each Sea Battle card that Germany discard from the current hand. What's more, Germany gains one VP immediately. Fortunately, a similar card the UK/ US has is "UK Seizes German Colonies in Africa", if the UK has 3 or more navies on the map.

The player's role is therefore one of a very high level - you can allocate the resources between hand and prepared deck, timing your attacks and events to the best possible moment to occupy, to advance or to cause attrition. If you manage them well in a coordinated fashion, you will have a better chance of winning. Victory points are mainly accumulated through occupation of objectives, plus the objective tokens, on the map. A side can earn a Sudden Victory if the difference of VPs between two sides exceeds 12 or more, as gauged along the VP track at the edge of the map-board. Victory points are scored 5 times in a game every four turns. Otherwise, the game completes at turn 17 with the victory going to the side with highest VPs at the time.

Speaking of map-board, it is a hard-mounted map reminiscent of the good old times where every Avalon Hill game produces with a thick cardboard. The card art evokes the WWI feel of the era and the back of the card is printed with national flags for easy identification. The quality of the miniatures are good enough to give rise to nostalgia of everyone's childhood, when playing toy soldiers can spend one's whole day without any regret.

Overall, the game is highly playable with easy rules, carefully crafted cards, rigid but very clearly logical and streamlined game sequence (you can see that there are only five steps in a player's round or turn). Once you get a hang of it, the game speeds up while people can concentrate on gameplay and negotiations among the allies. Yes, that also plays a part in the game as coordinated sequence is superior to the one that is not as timing of playing the cards from your hand matters. Quartermaster General: 1914 is also a very re-playable game as each player can play different side each time in a 5-players game and experience different narratives and strategies. If you can find the right group and sufficient number of people, the game is definite more value-for-money at Kickstarter price $46.
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David G. Cox Esq.
Australia
Port Macquarie
NSW
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Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
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Thank you for bringing this game to my attention.
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David Cheng
Hong Kong
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I played a 5-P game. The game is fun.
I found there are no need for sea battles at all. Yes navy can attack land army but you still need a land battle card. This makes the sustained icons for sea battle useless.

Also the game is too scripted. All the resources & what a player can do are fixed by the nation's deck. You don't gain or lose resources for conquering or losing territories. Yes you can play cards to waste a player's resources in attrition phase but this has nothing to do with your forces & position on map.
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Lawrence Hung
Hong Kong
Wan Chai
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David, sea battle was a very limited thing in WWI back then, especially from a strategic perspective. Sea battle cards are very important to seapower like UK and US and so does the Sea Sustained card.

The game may be scripted but the choices you make are agonizing. You can forgo all the events and focus on doing the attrition and battle only. But this wouldn't be fun, would it?

WWI is, as many history books tell, not much of a war on resources when manpower is still the key to victory, not tanks or battleships. The territorial conquest with VPs can already account for that and capture the flag was still very much the news for the days.

I am not saying QM is perfect (sometimes you feel you are compelled by the cards rather than your own will). But at least factors of war are well melded in such a small but compact system.
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Gábor Valló
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Small but annoying typo: HungAry, please!
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