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Subject: Wargaming the Great War, are there any 'great' games? rss

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D T P
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I started wargaming in the 60's. In those days all you really had was Avalon Hill. Even in the earliest days it was clear that World War Two was going to be Wargamings focal point. You could take France (D-Day), or fight Rommel (Afrika Korps), or fight the The Battle of the Bulge, even refight the great epic Battle for Russia (Stalingrad).

But all we had on World War One was 1914. A confusing and strange looking game for our novice wargaming minds.

In later years we got SPI's World War I and AH's The Guns of August. One looked better than the other but the uglier of the two played better. Neither really seemed that good.

I also recall playing some folio sized games that were part of a quad set, but they were not mine and the name escapes me. I also played Tannenburg which I liked well enough.

Beyond that there just wasn't much there covering WW1. Dozens, or even hundreds of games on WW2. Easily dozens more on Napoleon. Maybe a couple dozen more on just Gettysburg alone!

But in more recent years we have seen an increase in games covering WW1. So I started wondering which ones are the best? Which ones are dogs? Being a strategic level gamer I would really like to get the best strategic level game on the subject.

I recently aquired The Great War in Europe: Deluxe Edition, The Western Front: 1914 to 1918 and 1918: Storm in the West. Which of these three would you say was the best. The Western Front: 1914 to 1918 is just one piece of a larger series. Is this series worth the money? Is The Great War in Europe: Deluxe Edition a better game? (with Wendell's CRT adjustment) Are there even better games?



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michael connor
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La Grande Guerre 14-18. It has no equals.
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Bill Lawson
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I like The Great War in Europe: Deluxe Edition and have played it quite a few times.
Der Weltkrieg Series and The Western Front: 1914 to 1918 in particular are excellent IMO.
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Bill Lawson
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Here's a couple of relatively unknown gems.
Death in the Trenches: The Great War, 1914-1918- strategic
To The Last Man!-West Front 1914-1918
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Der Weltkrieg Series is the best treatment of WWI at an operational level. I have the 1914 campaigns on both the eastern and western fronts set up on my table right now.

I've still not found a good strategic-level game though. Paths of Glory, whatever its merits as a game, is a joke from an historical viewpoint, as is The Great War in Europe: Deluxe Edition. I've heard good things about La Grande Guerre 14-18, but also some convincing criticism regarding the accuracy of the map.
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Moshe Callen
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I've not played it, but Paths of Glory is said to fit the bill.
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Ocean Druen
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usrlocal wrote:
I'll say it. Someone has to say it:

Paths of Glory



+1 a must for any WW1 "fan", and IMO a must for any wargamer to play at least once - then go out and buy it.
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Moshe Callen
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DarkTori wrote:
usrlocal wrote:
I'll say it. Someone has to say it:

Paths of Glory



+1 a must for any WW1 "fan", and IMO a must for any wargamer to play at least once - then go out and buy it.

missed it
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Bill Lawson
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usrlocal wrote:
I'll say it. Someone has to say it:

Paths of Glory



Own it never played it. I hear its a great game but a poor simulation. I will play it eventually.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Reds! The Russian Civil War 1918-1921 has just been re-released. It isn't part of WWI, but it's an inevitable follow-up that's definitely worth looking at. Its designer, Ted Raicer, has put out a number of WWI titles worth checking out (some already mentioned). Two that haven't been mentioned, Clash of Giants and Clash of Giants II, are highly regarded operation studies, the first covering Tannenberg and the Marne, and the second covering Galicia and First Ypres.

You mentioned the S&T issue game Tannenberg in your first post. That game, and the The Great War in the East which included Serbia/Galicia, Von Hindenburg in Poland, The Brusilov Offensive and Caporetto, 1917, were designed by David C. Isby, who produced other WWI gems in that era.

BTW, I have to disagree with the characterization of World War I. I think it's a fine minimalist design, which captures the essence of the Great War rather well.
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Paul Glenn
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billyboy wrote:
To The Last Man!-West Front 1914-1918


This one has a companion eastern front game, At All Costs!. I don't know if there are rules to link the games. And both are freely available web-published print and play games (although there is also a professionally published version of To the Last Man! on pre-order right now).
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usrlocal wrote:
I'll say it. Someone has to say it:

Paths of Glory



Well, that makes a refreshing change from the inevitable Case Blue meme.


(And yes, preempting the pedants, I *know* it's WW1, but Case Blue is the answer, from ancients to 21st century conflicts.)
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Paths of Glory

Although some people (as mentioned here) complain about the game as a simulation, it gets many things very right. In particular, this game shows you why the Western Allies kept pounding against the trench lines even though it was clear that they would not achieve a breakthrough. They needed to draw enough German resources away from the eastern front to keep Russia in the war.
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Paul Choudhury
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An excellent game that I'm currently playing via PBeM is "1914 Twilight in the East" by GMT that covers the first year of the conflict on the eastern front. This game is in my view on the high end of the complexity scale but is a remarkably playable and realistic design, a "playable monster".
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Bill Lawson
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I also have La Grande Guerre 14-18 but have yet to play it. I will ! whistle
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Lawrence Hung
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I haven't played the above WWI games except for notorious and attritional The Guns of August and the history in a suspense Paths of Glory mostly due to space issue. At strategic level you require a lot of space to lay out the maps and the game play of WWI is often atrociously long. For example, the campaign game on the western front Grand Illusion: Mirage of Glory, 1914 is long to complete (well, at least for me) but it is offers quite a comprehensive strategic view of what are "The Schlieffen Plan" and "French Plan 17" all about.

I did a bit of analysis of my collection on WWI. I owned 58 WWI wargames and played 8 of them, or 14%. Not a bad statistics, right? Some of them are played more than once too. I had been holding my interest in WWI since The Guns of August, and while the "ground-breaking" Paths of Glory spiked a hole in the wall to many, I played it thrice only recently. It was a very good game of what might have been of WWI but it still can't whet my appetite of what I perceive of WWI.

I find that it might be best to play WWI at operational level, not strategic level. At operational level, I am awed by the number of counters on the map to get a feel of the scale of operations, mobolized troops, horrid casualties, see-saw troop attack-defending movements etc. For example, the Marne scenario in Clash of Giants saw a lot of offensive-counteroffensive opportunities to both sides.

The actions in To the Green Fields Beyond, while the gameplay was slow and old-fashioned, were as close as you can ever get in operational WWI campaign, especially the Battle of Cambrai was one of the "better" site with wide plains, mud and blood. The rules are systematically and logically written and presented. That alone worth the full price of the game. That was also suffered from a meaty 17-daily-turns campaign game though.

It was the campaigns that was fascinating in WWI. The Battle of Verdun and The Battle of Somme were heart-captivating. They Shall Not Pass: The Battle of Verdun 1916 from the troubled Avalanche Press was surprisingly authentic and effective to simulate the Battle of Verdun. The Big Push: The Battle of the Somme had quite a detailed DRMs combat system that works charmingly for WWI tactics, and thus playing out strategies revolving around these tactics. The Battle of Mons that was covered in a magazine game The Old Contemptibles. The system was light, much less procedural than others. It is joyous to play despite the battle was short like a skirmish and lesser known to the many other battles.

If you can expand a little bit wider to the definition of WWI, actually the best operational wargame experience can be found in Strike of the Eagle, covering the Bolshevik invasion of Poland and the Vitsula Miracle shortly after WWI. The hidden orders system demonstrates the communication problems of large scale operations. Very nice components with top notch quality. The game system design is excellent, innovative, while conveying a sense of fog of war at minimum overhead. There are a lot of decisions to make and a lot of possibilities in the game. The game calls itself being one in the "Fog of War" series, though it is currently not clear what will be next in the series. I learned a lot about the Russo-Polish War from this game.

The truly great WWI experience to me was at tactical level. It seems that little people know that there is a masterpiece out there across the ocean. Trenchzone was produced in Great Britain. The game was fun, quick to complete and authentic to every aspects of life on the ground. With its Trenchzone Expansion: Tactical Advantage, the number of tactical advantage cards offers gameplay a different experience each time. I played the game a lot of the time and they are ranked second and third by BGGers for all those WWI games in my collection.

Well, that pretty sums up my experiences with WWI. There are more to mention and desire to experience, like the just recently acquired Somme 1918 and many others in which you can find beautiful operational maps. I hope I can throw something at you to ignite your interests even further.
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Jon
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usrlocal wrote:
I'll say it. Someone has to say it:

Paths of Glory



The historical accuracy question aside, I feel that this can be classified as a "great game". When I first began to pay attention to the online community, PoG was all the buzz amongst a fair number of wargamers. Its popularity, its devoted followers and its impact on the CDG genre combine to make this game "great" in my eyes. I have only played it a handful of times, but I must say I have not come across a more tense, angst-ridden experience right for the get go. Impressive.

GamerKnight624 wrote:
An excellent game that I'm currently playing via PBeM is "1914 Twilight in the East" by GMT ...


I was wondering if someone was going to mention this one. Every time I think about unloading it, someone comes along and recommends it. LOL!

usrlocal wrote:
The thing I'll say about Paths of Glory... is that although it may be lacking in certain aspects of simulation, it gets the *feel* right. Don't ask me to nail that any further...


I feel I must ask. Nay...I demand that you explain yourself!!


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GamerKnight624 wrote:
An excellent game that I'm currently playing via PBeM is "1914 Twilight in the East" by GMT that covers the first year of the conflict on the eastern front. This game is in my view on the high end of the complexity scale but is a remarkably playable and realistic design, a "playable monster".


I'm trying to get familiar with this one. The only problem is every time I start the rule book I end with a head ache shortly thereafter. It's a lot to take in all at once. My lack of familiarity with WWI doesn't really help either.
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Brian Morris
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Four that come to mind not yet mentioned. The first is an area impulse wargame while the other three are part of the Standard Combat Series.

Breakthrough: Cambrai
Rock of the Marne
Drive on Paris
Operation Michael
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If you can get your hands on it (w/o loosing your arms) the western front (and some odd African and Mexican Front) the following might be interesting:
March to Victory: West Front 1914-1916
Over There

I can also recommend what the above posters said:
PoG and Pursuit of Glory (even if I'm lousy at both games)
Green Fields beyond
Reds
Strafexpedition 1916 - an interesting aspect of the War
Der Weltkrieg Series - hope that the rumors are true and they do a "combined" reprint (all in one or so box)
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Jason Doyle
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I enjoy Red Poppies: WWI Tactics, a surprisingly simple tactical game.
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weateallthepies wrote:
I enjoy Red Poppies: WWI Tactics, a surprisingly simple tactical game.


Just got it in my hand as it arrives today.
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The old SPI WW1 was very good. It was small, easy, and reflected the realities of both fronts very well for its size. Mind you, it is missing some obvious items (Mesopotamian campaign, naval campaigns, etc), but it was a good starter.

I'm keen to give Twilight in the East and 1914, Offensive à outrance a try, but they may be a bit too fiddly for me. We shall see...
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
weateallthepies wrote:
I enjoy Red Poppies: WWI Tactics, a surprisingly simple tactical game.


Just got it in my hand as it arrives today.


Hope you enjoy it. I probably need to read more of the history, but it feels right to me from what I do know. You have the constant problem of trying to get infantry where they could be quite useful but to do that you need to get them past the machine guns which just cut them to pieces constantly.

I was expecting something far more complex, but the mechanics are really quite simple, and all seem to hang together nicely.
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Second the well-deserved love for Paths of Glory, and add some kisses for Pursuit of Glory, POG's sibling set in the Middle East. I also enjoy Grand Illusion: Mirage of Glory, 1914 and the Worthington game Guns of August, but both only cover 1914 in the west. I used to like The Guns of August but it's aged badly and I got rid of it a while ago for a few bucks.

On The Great War in Europe: Deluxe Edition - man, it's a game I want to love and can't quite. (Sorry Bill our game didn't change my mind fully!) Here's why: A Somewhat Frustrated Review of a Game I Really Want to Like.
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