Around the middle of last year the Kickstarter landed for the joint Plastic Soldier Company-Richard Borg game The Great War. By September, Andy and I had painted our armies and played our first game. We were hooked, and met as close to fortnightly as our schedules allowed to play.
The start of mission 18 as the Canadians attack in July 1916; the action starts with the Canadians surging forward following mines blowing in the German lines
A bit over a year later, we have played the last of the 16 missions that came in the box plus the two bonus Kickstarter missions. The war is over.
This was a very fun project: painting, learning a new game, building in skill and getting regular games. This was a highlight of my gaming year.
My initial assessment of this game has not changed much. It captures the grim calculations that a commander would have to make to achieve their goals in trench warfare. To win you have manage your resources well, and be willing to build a plan from the cards you are dealt (that is, deal with the fog and friction of war). Using the secondary Combat Cards and HQ resources can create force-multipliers for units and are pivotal to achieving your goals. The game can be very static, it is trench warfare after all. But the need to manage resources and build your force ready for the attack (or break-up the enemy concentrating for one) keeps both players at the table as tension builds.
The German defense and counter-attack destroyed the Canadian right flank
Our games were mostly close. I think attackers may have a slight edge on defenders, although this is often at a terrible cost, and you need to be careful. Take too many casualties and you loose. It is no good taking ground if you don’t have enough soldiers left to defend what you take. Overall, the missions are all pretty balanced leaving both sides with a chance to win. Walkovers are rare, even desperate situations can be turned around with some well placed artillery or a sudden counter-attack. However, luck is not a plan, so you need to keep focused and stay flexible.
The missions are an important and integral part of the game. Between the range of missions and large number of cards across two decks, there is plenty to learn and keep you engaged.
Mentioned in dispatches are the bombardier squad who took the second trench for the Canadians and went on to destroy a German MG nest to secure a narrow win (7-6)
Not all my friends like The Great War, and I can understand why. It requires more effort than Memoir ’44 to learn the rules, and is less fluid. However, if you like a bit of challenge and are interested in the first world war I recommend this game.