Tuesday, December 2, 2008

1914: Glory's End review

Wargame Designer Ted Raicer, best known now for the popular Paths of Glory, has pretty much single-handedly resurrected interest in World War I games with his series of interesting designs depicting various aspects of the Great War. The evolution of his design philosophy continued with the issue game in Command Magazine No. 29 in 1994 with 1914: Glory's End. Published on the 80th anniversary of the opening campaign of World War I, 1914: Glory's End is a moderate-to-high complexity hex-and-counter wargame, as attested to by its 18-page rule book. The game covers the opening three months of the war with 3-day turns, corps-level units and 9.5-mile hexes.

As usual for Command Magazine games, it takes standard wargame mechanics and adds several layers of "chrome" that give the game its flavor.

The Mark Simonitch map is attractive, functional and uses oversized hexes. The counters are the 5/8-inch size that was common in Command during this era. The armies are shown using modified NATO-style symbols. In a departure from the usual XTR color scheme, all German units are white on black, the British are white on red, the French are red on light blue and the Belgians are yellow on green.

The game mechanics are standard wargame IGO-HUGO turn sequence with units moveing and fighting "march" combats during the movement phase, followed by a prepared combat phase.
The combat results table is odds-based with numerical results for the attacker and defender. The results are satisfied by losing steps. Unlike most Command games retreats cannot be used to satisfy part of the combat result, and some results mandate a retreat.

Victory is achieved by accumulating victory points for geographical objectives. Achieve enough points during a turn and a side can earn an immediate win. Otherwise victory is checked at the end of game turn 30, where certain "conditional" victory point hexes now come into play.
The allied player also has special VP awards and penalties. Eliminated Belgian unist cost the Allies points, as does failure to carry out at laest seven "Plan 17" attacks into Germany. The Allies earn a bonus of 15 VP for the Eatsern Front at game end, 20 if the Germans elect not to withdraw the two corps that historically were sent East.

A draw is possible, although not likely, if both sides end up with the same VP total.
The initial set up is important, with both sides plotting their starting positions, making the setup part of the game strategy itself. There is a historical camapign, where Belgian neutrality is violated and each side must set up in the same general location as their historical armies and a free set-up scenario.

The Germans have a range of strategic options and are not locked into the historical course of action. They are not required to violate Belgian neutrality in the free set-up scenario, for example.

It is possible for the Germans to attempt to pierce the French front in Alsace, instead, counting on superior numbers and troop quality (typical French active corps are 5-4-4 while German active corps are typically 6-7-4 in attack, defense, movement values) to win.
If Belgium neutrality is not violated the BEF doesn't appear until and unless the Germans get to 20 VP.

The campaign's general course will be familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the war. Unless the Germans try to barge through the middle of the French fortified border, they will be sweeping through Belgium in a wide flanking manuever. The French, after making their mandatory Plan 17 attacks, will be scrambling to redeploy, while the British and some French units slow down the German juggernaut. Meanwhile the Belgians will hide in Antwerp.

Sometime around the middle of the game a decisive clash will happen near Paris. If it goes will for the Germans they will seize the French capital. Its 30 points will probably be enough to win a decisive victory then and there. If it goes poorly for the Germans there will be a "race to the sea" as each side tries to secure the conditional VPs for various citeis in Flanders and Calais.
Including set-up, playing the whole 30-turn campaign will probably take more than one evening, although it is playable in a Saturday afternoon.


(Yes) For Wargamers: A detailed and satisfying simulation of this key campaign.

(No) For Collectors: Just another wargame.

(No) For Euro gamers: A hard-core hex-and-counter wargame with detailed game mechanics.

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