Great War Battle Report

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.


The Landsers pushed forward in the face of terrible losses, but the Tommies held on to seize a narrow – and bloody – 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

Over the top

The kickstarter went off and the game is now available retail and Andy and I finally sat down to a game of Plastic Soldier Company’s The Great War.
My initial impressions of the game were good and our first couple of games did not disappoint.

Andy had painted his Brits first and I did my Germans, so the board looked great. The photos not so much, given I was just wielding my phone under the kitchen light.

We played the second of two “training” scenarios. We skipped the first as we are both comfortable with the basic mechanics from playing Memoir ’44. The second mission represents a local assault by the British and introduces the opening bombardment mechanic.


Andy’s Brits get ready to go over the top

The format of the game won’t surprise anyone familiar with the Command and Colours series such as the popular (and cracking) Memoir ’44.  At first glance, Great War seems to have more bookkeeping, with HQ resource tokens and two separate command decks to wrangle. However, what become apparent very quickly is that this additional level of resource-management brings an engaging layer to the game as the troops themselves are not super mobile as they either defend their trench line or get ready for the mad charge across no-mans’ land.


German’s stand to

The key to winning is to play the cards in your hand in such a way that they provide force multipliers. It is a long, dangerous dash across the wire infested field between the trenches. Without playing your cards with cunning, combining them to boost a unit’s ability to attack or survive the inevitable counter-attack, you will find your attack stymied or defenders overwhelmed.


There are several features that seek, mostly with success, to bring the flavour of trench warfare.  Artillery, an off-board resource, can be really important, but just like the real thing outcomes can vary wildly from an ineffective spume of mud to sudden, brutal devastation. Machines guns are also really dangerous, but to win, eventually you need to have your infantry up close taking or holding ground.


We played twice, switching sides. I had the luck on the night, winning both times, initally defending as the Germans and then as the attacking British. Both were narrow victories and both were bloody-fought affairs.

Some generals may find this randomness frustrating, and it can be as your push on your left flank bogs downs from lack of suitable orders. It is this simulation of the friction of command (and the fog of war) where C&C games excel, and your flexibility as a general to exploit the luck of war that is the wellspring of fun playing The Great War.  The tension for both players is pretty constant and there is no opportunity to switch off during the other player’s turn, which I think is a big plus.


Andy and I will back for more.

Have you played The Great War or any of the other Command and Colours games?
I’d love to hear about your experiences.