Andy and I have now played The Great War against each other seven times, using four different scenarios. Most recently we played the 5th mission in the rulebook, Loos (German Counter-Attack), which extends the story of a British attack on the preceding days.
This is the first scenario where the Germans are attacking, although this doesn’t change the dynamic much as the capabilities of the two forces pretty much mirror each other. In Great War differences between opposing sides are captured through the scenario with different set-up for order of battle, command and resource cards.
In this scenario it is the turn of the British to have fewer units and resources, as their depleted starting force seek to repel the Germans who have launched a fierce counter-attack. It is a daunting thing for a general to see a big disparity in starting forces. In this scenario the British have 5 infantry units defending against the German’s 11. The British also start with fewer machine-guns, command cards and HQ (resource) tokens.
But this is no easy task for the Germans, as to leave the safety of your trenches is pretty much a death sentence. However, there is no way to win without pushing forward to take ground and destroy the defending British.
I haven’t kept careful notes, but I think that the attacker – despite the danger – seems to have a slight edge over the dug-in defenders. This may be because the game is relatively new to both Andy and I, but I think the abiltiy to take higher casualties is probably the difference. As the defender takes casualties, their ability to acheive their aim diminishes.
However, there are no foregone conclusions in this game. Even though the attacker has better odds (in our games), wins have all been narrow and bloody. So far, the scenarios seem very balanced and are definitely at the heart of the game.
Just to mix things up, in our most recent game the defending British held off the Germans. It was a long game. The British started well, but the Germans developed their attack in depth and pushed. And pushed, and got back into the game, until it was 5 all. It was the German turn, but the British (via a command card) had an opportunity to perform counter-fire, winning a sixth medal and the game. It doesn’t come closer than this.
The final two turns were good examples of using the cards to turn the odds. The Germans were able to order a general advance across all three sectors, creating multiple threats and get back into the game. The British counter-attack coming before the Germans could finish their shooting finally broke the assault. This might seem like mere luck, and at times both dice and cards will desert you, but seeing the combinations available to create force multipliers is the way to bring victory.
We will be back for more.
For something a little different, there are a couple of days left to listen to this BBC podcast on the sounds of the first world war. Only 15 minutes and is well worth a listen.
See you in Flanders