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Chris Montgomery
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Slogging My Way Through:
A Negative Review of 1914: Twilight in the East




Introduction

1914: Twilight in the East (referred to hereafter as "1914: TitE") is Michael Resch's game design of the Eastern Front during World War I. It is rumored that Mr. Resch redesigned Cossacks Are Coming! because that game did not give him the amount of detail and realism that he desired. In any case, as its title implies, 1914: TitE it is a treatment of only the Eastern Front and only for the last-half of 1914 (roughly the first six months of the war).

As another reviewer noted, it makes no pretense of its monstrous size, in-depth treatment, and solid research. And while I have no quibbles with any of that, I simply found that the game system as a whole was far too cumbersome with far too many fiddly parts and took far too long to move the game forward than it should have.

The short answer for this review is that I wanted to like the game, but I couldn't. I couldn't like the game because it wasn't fun.

A Little Bit About Myself

I don't like reading reviews from people who either don't know what they're talking about or don't have sufficient experience with wargames to critique them somewhat objectively. Therefore, I have been trying recently to put a few credentials up so that the reader can make their own decision if I know what I'm talking about or not.

My general wargame background is not as deep as some, but is pretty well-seasoned. I've been playing wargames since I was about sixteen years old (about sixteen years, now), and during that time, I've run hot and cold. I have recently made a serious return to the hobby in the last three years or so.

I cut my teeth on light and medium-level fare like Onslaught: D-Day to the Rhine and the infamous Axis and Allies (which I loved for what it was but quickly outgrew). Though not a historical wargame, I played Battletech extensively in highschool, and ran the gamut of roleplaying games.

More recently, I have been into World War I games. I stumbled across Hew Strachan's "The Great War" in Borders, bought it, and have been soaking up WWI games for the past year and a half.

I should like to point out that I like World War I operational games. Clash of Giants I and Clash of Giants II comes to mind (I only own Clash of Giants II, but what a game).

I also like complex operational-level hex-and-counter games on the Great War. See my review of Marne 1918: Friedenstrum, for instance, if you'd like to see an example of a game I really got into.

Experience With this Game In Particular

I completed half of the introductory scenario. But before you stop reading, please finish this section.

In general, I will play a game at least five times before reviewing it. The intro scenario (if there is one) solo once or twice. Then the intro scenario against an opponent. Then a larger scenario or two in order to get a good feel for the game.

When it comes to 1914: TitE, I read the rule book--twice. Then my local gronard gaming partner, Joe, came over today and we set up and began playing the introductory scenario as a learning experience. Over the course of the next six hours, we completed three game turns. It was getting on toward Joe's time to go, and we decided that based on our experience over the last few hours, neither of us really wanted to explore the game's mechanics or system any more.

While I can't say that I hated the game (I didn't), it ranks low enough in my personal preferences that I will never play it again.

Hence, I felt a review was warranted on WHY I felt I could get away with playing only three game turns of the introductory scenario before I decided I would never play it again. I think my opinions about this game are more than simply an incongruence between my personal tastes and the game's flow.

This review is even more important because I've heard that a sequel is coming out which will explore the Western Front using a similar system.

All the more reason to air my concerns now.


Whew.

I hope this is enough to put any skeptics to rest, but if not, I know that negative reviews are not well-received on the geek, so flame away, fanboys. I'm sorry.

Components

The game has great components. The box is GMT heavy, and sturdy, and the game is published with GMT-quality components (good counters, cardstock maps, etc.).

If you haven't had a chance to peruse any of the pictures on the game page, here's a look at all the stuff:



The game comes with a whopping five maps that can all be used for the various scenarios in the game.

Here's some pics ...

... Of the Map Close Up ...



... Of one of the Maps ...



The Central Map, finalized ...



The counters have more pics than you could possibly need, but the game comes with over 1200 of them. Here's a sample of one of the Austro-Hungarian sheets:



The rulebook is 42 pages of black and white type with several examples and design notes throughout. While the rules are well-written and while it is usually easy to find what you are looking for, a ruleset this long should have come with a comprehensive index, but it didn't.



The playbook has all the special rules for setting up the scenarios as well as the starting set-ups for all the forces for each scenario--it's about as long as the rule book, which is a major plus, since it also contains a comprehensive example of play and copious game notes on each scenario:



The game also comes with two heavy cardstock reference sheets each for summer versus winter charts (two of each type), as well as army organizational charts, which will be explained presently.

An Overview of the Game

Before we can launch into any type of discussion on the game, I want to impress upon any readers the set up procedure.

Setting up the Game

1914: TitE is a large game. The game's size, for any but the most experienced of gronards (I do not include myself in that group), can overwhelm you unless you attack the issue obliquely.

First, the game comes with basically four different types of counters: marker counters, army organizational counters, combat units, and game-tracking counters.

Marker counters include artillery point markers, improved position markers, rail head markers, step loss markers (1 through 4), reorganization markers, and a host of others. Some are placed below the unit (e.g. step losses) and some are placed above the unit (e.g. artillery point markers). Each marker has its purpose, which is generally to help as a memory aid to players so that they don't forget what each unit is doing from turn to turn. In all honesty, many of these markers (at least in my half-game) were not used, or if so, were used only sparsely.

Army organizational markers fall into several groups: corps markers, divisional markers attached to corps, independent markers, and cavalry markers. Brigade and higher level markers have army organizational markers that are tracked on the army organizational displays while units lower than brigade level are simply independent units on the map. All of these counters are placed on the army organizational display which helps players track which units are attached to which corps commands and what the combat effectiveness of each unit is (ranging from -1 to -4, and from there to demoralized step 1 and demoralized step 2).

Here's an example of the army organizational display in action--each row of boxes represents one corps along with the counters for each of its attached divisions. The further to the right a division is, the lower its combat effectiveness.



Combat units are the heart of the game. They include almost too many types of units to list: cavalary divisions, cavalry brigades, infantry divisions, infantry brigades, infantry regiments, fort units, fortress units, artillery units (not to be confused with a units intrinsic artillery), independent divisions and bridges, major army depots, minor army depots, and corps train units. All these types of units have a dizzying degree of variables and special rules, all of which are covered in the 42 pages of rules.

Game tracking counters help players to keep track of the phases of each game turn, the number of replacement points, victory points, rail points, and other types of points needed throughout the game.

Once you have punched and sorted the counters necessary (I only punched what I needed for the introductory scenario and some stragglers that had to be cut as well), you set up the game.

Set up involves combing through a 20-odd-page spreadsheet that lists each combat unit counter along the left side and each column lists one of the scenarios. Where the row of the unit and column intersect, each box has the hex in which that unit is placed (or a note that it is out of play), along with any other changes, such as step losses built in from the start and/or combat effectiveness levels built in from the start.

After set up, play may begin. I set the introductory scenario up twice. Each time took me about two hours and involved using about 200-300 counters. To be fair, I am including my time for setting up the map and searching through multiple piles of counters to find the right ones. Part of this time delay might have been due to my own organizational skills, but I had a pretty good system, I thought.

Just as a little FYI, here's a picture of the campaign game being set up for play. In case you can't see, most of the table is map-space:



Supply, Movement, and Combat

The game turn involves roughly 15 steps, including a pontoon bridge building step, weather check, and other things, but the heart of the game is three mechanisms: supply, movement, and combat. I will briefly discuss each one here before I begin the next section on why I do not like the game.

SUPPLY

During each player's turn, all friendly units must check supply. Supply involves three levels: army depots, corps trains, and combat units. The game relies on a very sensible belief that rail lines were the heart and soul of supply during World War I. As a result, every combat unit must be able to trace supply via a rail line of any length all the way back to their home-side's map edge. This is a relatively easy convention and has been used in many games. However, a unit can only be three hexes from a rail line hex (or in some cases 4-6 hexes away and in Low Supply), and if it cannot trace a valid supply line in that way, then it must attempt to regain supply through the Corps Train units (which can only supply their own divisions, brigades and asset units, and up to two cavalry units), or the unit may attempt to trace supply directly to the army's major or minor depot. It appeared to me that supply would generally only become a problem if you penetrated pretty deeply into enemy territory, or if you became enveloped.

In my game, supply became a serious problem for the Germans (I played the Germans) when they attempted to exploit a breach in the Russian lines between the 1st Army and the 10th Army. I tried to use my divisions to pry the crack open, but found that supply was a major issue for the advance (as well as not having enough units myself to protect my own supply lines). While I though supply was handled rather well in the game, it did become quite fiddly. I did not mind this fiddliness in the least, since I found it to be a great challenge that is rarely simulated well in most games.

MOVEMENT

After supply checks, the active player moves his units. Movement requires a little planning, but as you get a swing of it, it goes quite smoothly. Unlike many wargames, 1914:TitE uses half-points of movement, and units have no minimum ability to move. Terrain affects movement far more than it affects combat. Typically, units will move as near as possible along primary or secondary roads and/or along rail lines. I think my opponent found it quite easy to delay me in the game by backing out of hexes as I advanced, giving me only a hex or two per turn across most of the map, which forced me to use planned attacks in order to pin his units down (a game mechanic that does not allow a unit to leave the hex it is in.

After each active player moves, the inactive player can counter-move with any units he wants at one-half their movement value.

COMBAT

The combat system is complicated. The very first thing a player does is declare all attacking units so that he locks himself into all his attacks before he knows the results of any single attack. I liked this aspect of the rules, since it felt more realistic.

After that, the combats are resolved in the order the attacking player chooses.

First, as with most hex and counter grognard games, you tally up strength points. Most divisional-level units also have intrinsic artillery values, which are basically a bonus strength value that you get to add to the strength of the unit if you can supply the unit with artillery supply points. If you do, you gain a substantial benefit (especially as the Germans). After you tally all your strength points, you then compare the attacker to the defender.

So far so good.

However, the odds ratio (that most games of this type have) is not rounded down in the defender's favor. Instead, if the left-over strength of the attacker is half way or more to the next odds ratio up, you round up to the next odds. Thus, 30 against 15 is 2:1. But so is 25 against 15. There are, of course, several modifiers which can shift the combat odds columns in many different directions.

You then roll two dice and compare the result to the proper line on the combat results table (CRT). On the CRT, LOWER ROLLS ARE BETTER FOR THE ATTACKER. The result on the CRT DOES NOT give you step losses. It gives you a host of potential outcomes from 1, 2, or 3 hexes that the defender has to retreat, to modifiers on the SLRT (Step Loss Results Table).

All retreats are taken care of, and then you move on to the SLRT.

The SLRT ranks every battle as small, medium, large, or massive. The larger the battle, the higher the potential losses. You have to calculate the size of your battle, then each side rolls another die. The SLRT will give you a number in how many steps you lose, as well as (potentially) ANOTHER modifier. The SLRT also has it's own list of modifiers that can increase or decrease your die roll.

You then remove any steps lost, and carry over this NEW modifier to the Post-Combat Effectiveness Check. The post combat effectiveness check table has another table of modifiers and resquires a die roll for each stack involved in the combat, but the modifiers are applied on a per-combat-unit basis. So if you have six attacking stacks, you would roll 2d6 for EACH stack, but apply the modifiers in the table to each unit in the stack, and then see if the unit suffers any further effects. The final result for each unit is compared to that units combat effectiveness number (found on the army organizational display). If you roll a modified result that is higher than your combat effectiveness rating, you suffer additional negative effects, such as additional retreat hexes, further loss of combat effectiveness (on the army organizational display), or some other result (which might include demoralization or step losses).

Once all this done, any retreats are resolved, and if if the hex has been vacated by the defender, the attacker may advance into the hex.

Rinse, repeat, for each combat on the map.

After that, the inactive player can make any attacks he wants, and so you do it all over again.

That's the heart and soul of the game.

Let's Take a Break

Let's take a break here to take a look at a combat phase in progress, courtesy of Fabio Patricolo:



This pic is a play example from the play book. As you can see, several units are in low supply, and the Russians are about to launch a prepared attack against the Germans (which gives them some combat modifier advantages).

The Criticism

The largest problem I have with the game is not that it is a monster game, or that it involves a lot of detail. The problem I have with the game is that it is far, far too fiddly for all the wrong reasons. I normally do not have a problem with complex games that have complex, fiddly rules--but I have to feel like those complex fiddly rules are worth the effort at simulating something that I find valuable.

For example, I didn't mind the fiddly rules when it came to the supply system. I actually thought that was a pretty awesome mechanic.

But here are some examples of fiddliness that simply ruins the game for me:

1. When a unit loses steps, you actually count each step. In many other games, each counter has a full side, a reduced side, and then if a third step is inflicted, the unit is eliminated. In Marne 1918, there are some units with three steps before elimination. I've never played a game where you actually count out each step until the unit is eliminated. I felt that the game could have passed on this level of detail. I don't know what this level of detail achieves in making the game a better simulation. I think that the game would still fulfill its role as a detailed monster game without foisting 1, 2, 3, and 4 step loss counters upon the players for each unit.

2. Movement is a problem because of all the different types of modifiers. Each unit has an allotment of movement points which can change from unit to unit. However, there isn't a single hex on the map that costs 1 movement point to move into. Instead, if you move by road, you use 1.5 movement points, unless it is a secondary road, in which case it costs 1.5 if the terrain is clear and 2 if the terrain is something else. Bridges that span rivers cost nothing extra, but causeways cost an additional movement point. Units moving by road suffer penalties when they move through divisions in front of them, but the penalty fluxuates according to how many "division equivalents" are in the hex. As with my first example, this could have been handled much more eloquently. Instead, the map ends up looking like a jig-saw puzzle that is really beautiful to look at, but nearly impossible to use because of the depth and breath of terrain and terrain features on the map. Replicating this movement procedure for the 60+ counters on the German side of the intro scenario made my head spin. And again, for a minimal addition of realism.

3. The worst example of this, though, is the combat system. I have never played a wargame with three separate tables that each have three separate lists of modifiers in order to resolve. The complexity of working through the combats probably added the most time to the game for the least feeling of "realism." The realism factor sort of falls apart only because the designer himself states in the notes that the battles varied in size, intensity and length and that no battles were the same. The comment seems like a convoluted way of saying that the outcomes are essentially random, with some weighted elements. If that is the case, I do not see the function of such a complicated combat results system. This can be contrasted with the novel concept used in Marne 1918, which added an extra level of fiddliness to great effect. (See my review on that, for more information.)

But, why, do you ask, am I so upset about the fiddliness when this is, after all, a monster game? I am upset because the fiddliness needs to have a purpose that forwards the realistic simulation of the conflict and not add unnecessary additional elements to a game that already involves too many moving parts.

So the fiddliness is the major factor.

It was such a problem that I (and my grognard friend) couldn't finish the intro scenario.

The other main problem that arose (in my mind) was the sense of a very slow progression. In my game, I was well on my way to losing the scenario as the Germans, but I was at a loss as to what I needed to do in order to perform better if I were to start over. The game felt to me like a slow pushing and pulling of two large beasts as they each tried to force each other out of the way.

I adopted the historical approach for the Germans, but found that the game felt like a slow back and forth instead of intense forced marches in an effort to roll back the enemy and envelop him.

Then again, maybe I missed a crucial rule in that 42 pages of dense type.

Conclusion

Unless you have an intense and ardent desire for a super-detailed game on a limited geographical and temporal period of World War I (the Eastern Front, 1st 6 months), skip this title. It is simply too much.

On the BGG scale of 1-10, I rank this a 3.4. Somewhere between: "Likely won't play this again, but could be convinced" and "Not so good."

I wish the game had focused on a couple of mechanics for cool simulations (like the supply system) and dumped the rest (the complex combat and movement rules).

Cheers.

Chris Montgomery

Edit: Formatting issues, grammar, punctuation, clarity.
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Steve Herron
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Re: A Negative Review
The Clash of Giants series is about my speed these days due free time. However I did get Deluxe Great War in Europe. I know some will disagree with you in liking 1914 TitE but I think you did a super review in telling what the game was like and what a great job you did with the pics.
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Chris Montgomery
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Re: A Negative Review
sherron wrote:
The Clash of Giants series is about my speed these days due free time. However I did get Deluxe Great War in Europe. I know some will disagree with you in liking 1914 TitE but I think you did a super review in telling what the game was like and what a great job you did with the pics.


Thanks, Steve. The pics are just the ones from the game page gallery, so I can't take credit for that. Thanks for commenting!

Chris
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Iain K
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Re: A Negative Review
Thanks for the fantastic work Chris.

I would love every game in the database to have a single negative review as well thought out and coherently presented as this one.

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Bill Lawson
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Re: A Negative Review
I just ordered this and haven't got it yet. Let ya all know what I think when I play it ( of course I have a ton of new games now that are unplayed!). Thanks for the review!
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Re: A Negative Review
Chris - that was a great review.

I'm like you at the moment and very much into WWI. Apart from Paths of Glory I've yet to find one that's a real hit with me.

TitE - I nearly P500 this but in the end, the detail and time period it covered put me off. Your review confirms I made the right choice.

The Western Front 1914-1918 - This has potential but their are issues with the rules book, map and ongoing queries I have with some rules that have relegated this to a game I'm likely to sell.

Storm of Steel - Stupid map design and poor development means I can't see me playing this one. And unless I get an answer regarding scenario victory conditions this one will be sold.

Great War in Europe - I've played this a few times (not to completion) and like many aspects of it - however, whenever I play it the Germans never bother with Paris and go for the Channal Ports...which just seems wrong from a simulation point of view

Clash of Giants II - Not a bad game, need to get this one on the table again


May be if the TitE is imported into the Western theatre and the system get's streamlined based on feedback like yours who knows.....

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Re: A Negative Review
Interesting review. Thanks for taking the time to put it all together. I agree with your ultimate conclusion that this is perhaps only a game for the enthusiast (see my earlier review), and I agree that this is a fiddly game. However, I think that it's a shame that you only tried out the intro scenario, since the larger games provide more scope for manoeuvre and bring in the strategic goals (though perhaps you would have disliked the way in which they force you down certain routes). I do wonder what you were expecting, though:
Quote:
The game felt to me like a slow pushing and pulling of two large beasts as they each tried to force each other out of the way.

Well, yes. This is 1914. That's what happened.

When I played it, I found that it moved along quite well for a large and fairly procedurally intense game. I liked the combat, since I found it pleasantly unpredictable (but by no means random), and I was willing to tolerate the slight increase in time in order to get the more sophisticated result, which I feel more accurately reflects combat at this level than the vast majority of games. The interplay of step losses and combat effectiveness is, in my view, critical to portraying the way in which the armies of this period deteriorated as they fought their campaigns. At a tactical level in 1914, particularly in Galicia, it was rare for either side to have any more than a slight advantage over their opponent, and I feel that a more traditional, simple odds-based resolution would fail to show this.

So, while I wouldn't encourage you to try this game again, as it sounds to me like that crucial first date went catastrophically, I would argue that some of your criticisms are misplaced.

Incidentally, if you want to see the designer's take on this period in a much simpler system, have a look at his high quality DTP Battle for Galicia, 1914.
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Chris Montgomery
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Re: A Negative Review
Chris_Milne wrote:
Interesting review. Thanks for taking the time to put it all together. I agree with your ultimate conclusion that this is perhaps only a game for the enthusiast (see my earlier review), and I agree that this is a fiddly game. However, I think that it's a shame that you only tried out the intro scenario, since the larger games provide more scope for manoeuvre and bring in the strategic goals (though perhaps you would have disliked the way in which they force you down certain routes). I do wonder what you were expecting, though:
Quote:
The game felt to me like a slow pushing and pulling of two large beasts as they each tried to force each other out of the way.

Well, yes. This is 1914. That's what happened.

When I played it, I found that it moved along quite well for a large and fairly procedurally intense game. I liked the combat, since I found it pleasantly unpredictable (but by no means random), and I was willing to tolerate the slight increase in time in order to get the more sophisticated result, which I feel more accurately reflects combat at this level than the vast majority of games. The interplay of step losses and combat effectiveness is, in my view, critical to portraying the way in which the armies of this period deteriorated as they fought their campaigns. At a tactical level in 1914, particularly in Galicia, it was rare for either side to have any more than a slight advantage over their opponent, and I feel that a more traditional, simple odds-based resolution would fail to show this.

So, while I wouldn't encourage you to try this game again, as it sounds to me like that crucial first date went catastrophically, I would argue that some of your criticisms are misplaced.

Incidentally, if you want to see the designer's take on this period in a much simpler system, have a look at his high quality DTP Battle for Galicia, 1914.


Thanks for the comments, Chris!

What I expected was a game that was slightly (I know it's a monster, so I really mean slightly) faster paced. I felt that could have been achieved by focusing on those few things I mentioned--movement points, step losses, and combats.

As for my quote, there, the point for me was to illustrate that the eastern front was one of heavy forced marches and counter-marches, pitched battles, and attempted envelopments. I saw none of this my game--it felt more like trench warfare without trenches. I would attack, my opponent would retreat 1 hex, fill in any holes with cavalry, I would advance one hex, and he would retreat 1 hex, we'd fight a combat, each lose a step, he'd retreat again, I'd advance again. etc, etc, etc. That's what I meant by slow push-and-pull.

Maybe I shouldn't have had those expectations about the eastern front. It had been my impression from the limited reading I'd done, but I suppose I should defer to the designer, here.

At an operational level, I have nearly always felt that the outcomes of individual battles should be "weighted random" results--you can always fail as the attacker, but the more resources you commit, the better your chances.

This game achieved that result, but I just felt it could have been done with one, or at most two, tables. Take, for instance, Marne 1918's combat resolution system, which I feel is one of the best I've ever played: you have a standard-type CRT with step loss results, but each side also makes a "tactical competence" roll. This roll (with modifiers) affects how well each side performed during the battle tactically. While it won't help you win or lose the battle, it can have effects on how far the defender retreats, how far the attacker can advance (with a stalled attack, sometimes, even though the defender retreated), and whether or not the attack can exploit a new opportunity in the line of combat.

I guess I did a lot of hand-wringing about this review, because I label myself a medium-level grognard when it comes to complexity--I'm not an ASLer, but I'm never afraid of a heavy complexity game.

I just felt that in this case, the added complexity did not add additional realism and simulation value to the game. And even if I'm wrong about that, I still didn't have fun, so from a personal perspective, there's no reason to play it again.

Thanks again.

Chris
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Colin Hunter
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Re: A Negative Review
Great, well reasoned review, it makes me want to play it all the more though devil
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Chris Montgomery
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Re: A Negative Review
ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
Great, well reasoned review, it makes me want to play it all the more though devil


I think that's superb.

Cheers. I hope you enjoy the game.

Chris
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Re: A Negative Review
cmontgo2 wrote:
ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
Great, well reasoned review, it makes me want to play it all the more though devil


I think that's superb.

Cheers. I hope you enjoy the game.

Chris
It is why negative reviews/comments are so helpful, as you can weigh up for yourself if you think the issues will bother you (and they may well in my case, I am warned ), I've read the rules and it does indeed look heavy, but the madness inside calls me to play it.
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My issue with the game is that for a game of its size it is far too detailed. And then there is the subject matter. This really is not a game about war in the East during WW1. This a war about the first six months of that war in the area of Poland. The Brosilov Offensive is not examined. It would have been interesting to include some of the Balkans, maybe even the Serbia-Austrian conflict. It is just too much game on a too narrow of a subject, in my opinion.
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Ditto, Colin. The sheer size and weight of it made me order it. Then again, I also bought War In The Pacific.

An excellent, lucid and cogent review, Chris. I wish all "negative" reviews were this well-thought out and backed up with real documented insight.

Maybe because I'm familiar with The Cossacks, and especially for that artillery-and-stacks mess of Home Before The Leaves Fall, I kinda knew what a grind this behemoth was going to be. Exploiting panzers, it ain't!

But, when I'm in my micromanaging, off-board-charts-and-cards-littering-the-room mood for a WW1 monster for the eastern front requiring a 3 credit course for the rules and with all the gaming speed of a glacier, this is the one.
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Wendell
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DUMASCLUB wrote:
This really is not a game about war in the East during WW1. This a war about the first six months of that war in the area of Poland.


Well, its name is 1914: Twilight in the East. I don't think that's a misleading game.

Edit: Oh by the way, great review. I think I want this game, but your review was extremely well done. Good negative reviews are a Good Thing.
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Bill Lawson
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I got this yesterday. Its on my list of things to do now.
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Yes, it is really a good negative review on a game that I was so close and about to buy it, either at the time when it was originally released by Excalibur or by GMT in its present edition. Thanks hris for the review. After reading comments regarding the game's mechanics, from supply to movement to combat, actually I think Chris almost bring me to another threshold of getting it. Chris explained very clearly, any yet simple and elegantly, about these game mechanics. I am with Colin. I thought they all made sense in the context of WWI though. If you would like to find a good march-forced march-and-counter-march WWI game, Ted Racier's Grand Illusion is pretty much of a game of that. What holds me off still is not the mechanics, it is the number of maps and the space they require to play out the campaign game. I simply don't have that kind of space. Secondly, I am avert to markers-density game e.g. Victory in the West, Iron Tide etc. The markers make the stacks high and a slight shake to the table might call you to stack them all up. The temptation, however, remains there. laugh
 
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Bill Lawson
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Due to limited space I think I will be playing this on vassal.
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Chris Montgomery
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Looking forward to hearing your take on the game, billyboy.

Let me know how it turns out.

Chris
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John Kantor
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We're in the midst of starting the campaign game. I have already posted on Consim that I think the game could be developed further so that a lot of unnecessary steps could be done away with (what you call "fiddliness"). Step losses, isn't one of them, however. A lot of games use incremental step losses. And they are using them here for a very important reason.

Better development would make the game more accessible and quicker to play - and get a lot more people to try it. However, it's not at all hard to play right now - and it gives a rare look at the factors influencing WWI combat. At most I'd dock it a point for excessive "fiddliness."

I don't think you're cut out for detailed monster games if it bothers you that much.
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Chris Montgomery
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jkantor wrote:
We're in the midst of starting the campaign game. I have already posted on Consim that I think the game could be developed further so that a lot of unnecessary steps could be done away with (what you call "fiddliness"). Step losses, isn't one of them, however. A lot of games use incremental step losses. And they are using them here for a very important reason.

Better development would make the game more accessible and quicker to play - and get a lot more people to try it. However, it's not at all hard to play right now - and it gives a rare look at the factors influencing WWI combat. At most I'd dock it a point for excessive "fiddliness."

I don't think you're cut out for detailed monster games if it bothers you that much.


I don't know whether I am "cut out for monster games" or not, but if I don't have fun, it doesn't matter. I have played plenty of detailed games with quite a bit of record-keeping, but I tend to agree with you that a lot of unnecessary steps could be done away with. If it was streamlined enough, step losses wouldn't have to go, which was probably the least of the fiddliness problems.

Cheers.

Chris
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Excellent review. I happen to like the movement and supply rules, and I have really enjoyed the 1 map scenarios I have played. I do think though that the 3 stage combat resolution is too cumbersome for a monster game, and I will wait for someone to invent a simpler 1 or 2 stage resolution before I attempt the full campaign.
 
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Great review. Made me want to tackle the beast even more.
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Chris Montgomery
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For anyone still following this thread, Mr. Resch has responded to some of my criticisms, here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/478908/belated-response-...

Cheers, everyone, and happy gaming.

Chris
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The Negative Review is great - oddly enough it helped put me over the edge to buy this thing.

The Eden War Room is the perfect environment for it, and we have one guy who actually played the Campaign in 2008.

The system has a lot of great ideas I enjoyed reading the rules for - the supply system, the orders system and the army boundaries system especially grab me as those things missing from nearly all operational level games in all periods.
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michael resch
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Chris Montgomery wrote a fine review on 2009-8-14 (as did Malcolm Cameron the following day). He states that he does not see the point or understand the purpose of what he believes are “unnecessary additional elements” to the game. In Chris’s review there were three primary criticisms:

1. When a unit loses steps, you actually count each step. In many other games, each counter has a full side, a reduced side, and then if a third step is inflicted, the unit is eliminated. In Marne 1918, there are some units with three steps before elimination. I've never played a game where you actually count out each step until the unit is eliminated. I felt that the game could have passed on this level of detail. I don't know what this level of detail achieves in making the game a better simulation. I think that the game would still fulfill its role as a detailed monster game without foisting 1, 2, 3, and 4 step loss counters upon the players for each unit.

In game systems where units have a low number of steps, the result is that units tend to “pop-off” the map, disappearing completely. By contrast, games that use units with a high number of steps have fewer units disappear. 1914 TitE is a good case in point. In TitE very few division-sized units disappear. I would argue that due to this the game’s results are more historically accurate. (In 1914, except for the Russian divisions destroyed at Tannenberg, no division was ever completely eliminated in battle). I’m assuming that there is no need to discuss the effects of low vs. high step numbers upon a player’s tactics, it seems to be common knowledge.

2. Movement is a problem because of all the different types of modifiers. Each unit has an allotment of movement points which can change from unit to unit. However, there isn't a single hex on the map that costs 1 movement point to move into. Instead, if you move by road, you use 1.5 movement points, unless it is a secondary road, in which case it costs 1.5 if the terrain is clear and 2 if the terrain is something else. Bridges that span rivers cost nothing extra, but causeways cost an additional movement point. Units moving by road suffer penalties when they move through divisions in front of them, but the penalty fluctuates according to how many "division equivalents" are in the hex. As with my first example, this could have been handled much more eloquently. Instead, the map ends up looking like a jig-saw puzzle that is really beautiful to look at, but nearly impossible to use because of the depth and breath of terrain and terrain features on the map. Replicating this movement procedure for the 60+ counters on the German side of the intro scenario made my head spin. And again, for a minimal addition of realism.

I believe Chris's complaint has some validity. If I could do it all again, the map would be very different. It may not be known but the game map was created for a different game system. And as any game designer will tell you, to change a map in the middle of the design/development process is quite difficult (it is especially difficult for large maps).

However, I don't see the point of the "no hex costs one MP" complaint. If clear hexes cost 2 MPs to enter it allows a great deal of subtlety which I believe to be important. IMHO terrain doesn't fit into the "double the MP cost for every level of difficulty" model. My new Western Front design will have clear terrain cost 2 MPs to enter. The difference will be that there will be no roads depicted and therefore no 1.5 MP cost hexes.

Concerning the additional cost of entering a hex occupied by friendly units. I believe this concept to be important. Everyone knows that when a large force moves along a road that those troops at the end of the queue arrive after those at the head of the queue. Most games do not consider this and often allow huge killer stacks to march together (to the full extent of their movement allowance) when, in real life, it would not be possible.

3. The worst example of this, though, is the combat system. I have never played a wargame with three separate tables that each have three separate lists of modifiers in order to resolve. The complexity of working through the combats probably added the most time to the game for the least feeling of "realism." The realism factor sort of falls apart only because the designer himself states in the notes that the battles varied in size, intensity and length and that no battles were the same. The comment seems like a convoluted way of saying that the outcomes are essentially random, with some weighted elements. If that is the case, I do not see the function of such a complicated combat results system. This can be contrasted with the novel concept used in Marne 1918, which added an extra level of fiddliness to great effect.

Again Chris has a good point, the system needs (and can) be improved. However from reading his review, and with the knowledge that he played only 3 GTs, he obviously does not fully understand the roll of Combat Effectiveness Level reductions. Malcolm, in his review, deals with this concept very well under the header “slip sliding away.”

And a last word, Chris wrote “It is rumored that Mr. Resch redesigned Cossacks Are Coming! because that game did not give him the amount of detail and realism that he desired.” It’s a long story, CaC was redeveloped in an effort to make the HBtLF system playable. As for more realism, that has been attained in TitE. And concerning detail (maybe substitute fiddliness for detail here), … I will attempt to design my Western Front game to be less “fiddly.”

Chris, thank you for your review. I will take your point of view into consideration while designing 1914 Offensive a outrance.
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