Home for Christmas

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fight for the trenches

The Battle of Loos was fought between September 25 and October 15, 1915. With most of the major fighting along the rest of the front coming to an end, the trenches of the Hohenzollern Redoubt became a priority, as both sides send reinforcements to the area. Desperate close fighting continues for control of the Hohenzollern Redoubt, but in the following days, the Germans manage to push the British back to their initial position.

Scenario 6 from the Great War game continues the story of Loos. The twist here is that the two sides are basically identical: the same number of units, command cards, combat cards, HQ tokens and reserve artillery. Even the first move is a coin toss. Just to make things really interesting, units start facing off in the same trench system.

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Andy took the Germans, and me the British

There is a victory medal for having an absolute majority of units in the central trench system, the Hohenzollern Redoubt, and otherwise it is kill points. First to seven wins, and the Germans start 1-nil up since they occupy the trenches in the beginning.

Andy took his newly painted Germans and I commanded the British.

Andy was tenacious and aggressive, bringing up his reinforcements and concentrating fire to eliminate entire British squads. These were shrewd tactics because while a squad with only 1 token left is fragile, it still dishes out the same damage and doesn’t count towards victory until it is gone. After some initial British gains, Andy clawed his way to a 6-4 lead for the Germans.

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Andy’s newly painted Germans. They really do look great on the table, and the gloss varnish finish leaves them robust in game play. These boys mean business.

The British were in a fragile situation, with several units down to one or two men and at least one unit caught in the open. The next moves were crucial. I tried out a card I had not used before that allowed for random extra hexes of movement. The British units went over the top from the reserve trench and dashed for the Hohenzollern Redoubt, gaining a majority of units there. The British turn ended with 5 victory medals each!

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Andy’s British

The Germans were still right in the game but had some unlucky rolls and could only destroy one of the weakened and exposed British units. Either side coult still win when I played a “big push” card. This activates a random number of units, but gives those activeated additional dice for combat resolution. The additonal fire power saw the British come out on top 6-7.

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There isn’t much to see at the end because there wasn’t much left on the board!

Winning a game of Great War takes a lot of focus. Simply pushing units forward will not gain ground or kill or the opposition. Trenches are dangerous, but forcing units out of them, or destroying them outright, takes co-ordinated effort.

Tension builds as losses mount and you try to concentrate forces and give them multipliers from the command cards and HQ resources. The hand you’re dealt is random, but seeing the potential of the different combinations is how to win.

The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.

(Opening and closing quotes are from the Great War rule book)

The British Are Coming

I’ve completed the other half of the miniatures from my Great War board game, the British forces. The Germans are here and my first game here12182996_1646466885601110_6564853086038948751_o

While the mix of miniatures is basically a mirror of the German forces (the same number of MG, bombardiers, etc), the poses are different. In particular, the poms have bayonets fitted ready to go over the top and get stuck into the hun.

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Based in the same way and otherwise with a similar palette, the two sets will look OK together on the board.

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Detail of the backpacks

There is an extension focused on tanks on Kickstarter at the moment. It is good value and the models look like they will be the same high standard. But, you read it here first folks, I’m declaring my first world war collection finished.  Given the number of other projects I have on the go, I’m content with the base set.

cheers,
D.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Toodle-pip!
D.

Germans Stand To

Andy started painting the British, so I started with the Germans, both of us having secured a copy The Great War via Kickstarter (but now available to all from Plastic Soldier Company).  I’m yet to play but Andy has and reports good things with the latest addition to the Command and Colours game family.

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German forces stand to in their trenches (on the game board)

I have completed the Germans, so when we do finally get to together it will be over beer and painted armies, and it is hard to ask for much more than that.

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Machine gun team

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Mortar team – they don’t need line of sight

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After painting 28mm for a number of years, mostly at the heroic scale, 15mm certainly was a test for my eyesight.  Being smaller does have one advantage, there is less surface to paint which speeds things up a bit. Seeing some of these models close up in the photos has exposed my rather rough painting technique. They look much rougher than they do in their diminutive glory, so I think they’ll do the job.

cheers,
D.

Oh! What a Lovely War

There is an embarrassment of riches here at Faith and Steel, with not just one but three packages landing within a week! I picked up some partizans from one of the many sales at Black Tree Designs that I think will be perfect for delivering lots of theme in smaller Bolt Action games. I also took advantage of Warlord Games buy a rule book, get a box offer. More on that later.

The biggest parcel, coming at 3.5kg, was the arrival of the joint Richard Berg-Plastic Soldier Company Kickstarer, The Great War.

GW14I suspect that this game will be a worthy addition to the Command and Colours family. It improves on the high production values of the Memoir ’44 series by including a nice range of 15mm hard plastic miniatures from Plastic Soldier Company to accompany the nice looking, full-colour cards, map and tokens.

Inside the box- oo, shiney

Inside the box: oo! shiny

Straight from box

Straight from the box

The cuts are clean and the pieces come out easily

The cuts are clean and the pieces come out easily

The hex board is double-sided and the terrain will make for flexibility and easy expansion, just like Memoir ’44

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The funky dice are used to resolve combat. This is very abstract but makes for fast, tense games.

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There are 8 dice; this shows the proportion of the symbols

The highlight for me are the new miniatures from Plastic Soldier Company.

One of the three German spues

One of the three German sprues

The British have the same mix but different poses

The British have the same mix but different poses

For board gamers the naked plastic will serve quite adequately. However, I think taking the time to paint these will make quite a spectacle.  My friend Andy converted me to this point of view when I first saw his Memoir set with painted 20mm plastics. It makes for a visually stunning game. So this means washing before getting some paint on (it’s too windy to head out to the backyard to prime, so things will have to stop here for a wee while)

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Here is my first niggle. I love it that the Brits have fixed their bayonets ready to get stuck in, but you need to be very careful removing them from the sprues or you will break bayonets and even barrels.  The Germans did not seem subject to this, so I don’t know if the different colour has different properties or it is the pose itself. Whatever the cause, clippers and patience are required.  Apart from that there is no real clean-up required, the models are pretty much ready to go.

Being Kickstarter there were some bonus material:

GW15Some bonus scenarios (always useful), sets of German and British artillery (that don’t appear directly in the base game but do look very nice) and a set of metal generals:

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Perhaps indicative of future releases, even if not useful on the board.  I’m personally looking forward to the Turks:

GW12I haven’t played yet, but the rules look like they will capture the challenges of trench warfare pretty well. Machine-guns are going to be very dangerous and I cannot see how to cross no-mans land without enormous casualties.  So, the title of this post is ironical, just like the musical I pinched the title from. But it does look like it will be a lovely game.

D.