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Bonaparte
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Review of The Great War in Europe: Deluxe Edition

This is a short review and not intended to provide an extensive coverage of the game. If you’re considering the game and want a full component, rules, and game play review; not gonna happen. But if you want an assessment of the game and its playability. Read on.

TGWiE is a combination of two magazine games, one covering the Western Theater of WW1, the other covering the Eastern theater. Many of the problems in the game come from the difficulty in combining two games into one.

One of the first difficulties in the game is the replacement counters. There are over 100 counters that had various errors on them. So much so that the GMT actually included a half sheet of replacement counters. While this is very proactive on GMT’s part, it was a foreshadow of things to come. The difficulty with the misprinted counters is identifying which ones they were to replace. There is a small errata page that identifies some of the more obvious replacements, but many you have to hunt and guess, which took much more time than I wanted to spend.

This is coupled with an extensive set of rule and map errata that make learning the game, setting up, and game play frustrating. Throughout the game there is a lingering sense that the experience would have been better if a little more proofreading and play testing had been done.

One of the first oddities of the game is the different scales between battle fronts. The game is a divisional strategic game that is divided into three maps fronts; East, West, and Middle East. While counter size (divisional) and movement are common between game maps, the hex scale is different; 9.5 miles on one map, 22.5 miles on another. This gives a sense of abstract reality instead of uniformity. Along with this, the aspects of the maps are not uniform. The Middle East map has sections positioned with North in different directions. This is one of the many times where it feels like the game was pieced together.

Once you are set up and the game starts, gameplay it is not bad. But it is not good either. Many of the rules seem to be in place simply to maintain playability. As an example, units on the Western front are allowed to move double movement for the first few game turns, and then are no longer allowed to do so. We can only assume this is to allow the game to unfold with some historicity. This coupled with the supply rules creates a dance of units that is totally non-historical and seriously gamey. Units are shuttled around to create “uber” stacks to give the player maximum combat odds, while other units are waiting for a hole to race through and “cut off supply”. With no zone of control and no responsive movement, units zip around like they would in a space game. Supply was certainly an issue in WW1 but there were not supply strike teams waiting to cut off a rail line to starve out 50,000 men. Nor was there a front line shuffle that allowed for monster attacks to arise out of nowhere to pounce on an enemy weak spot. The gamey nature of this makes the game feel like it has a tactical identity crisis.

Only a few months into the game the Western front lines form as they would, and trenches are dug, just as in the real war. But the similarity ends there. The combat rules create a situation where one end of the line becomes super loaded with units for conflict to overcome the trenches while the other end (usually the southern) ends up totally neglected because there is no possibility of successful attack. The main reason for this stagnation is the combat tables. The unit loss is way too low. In a divisional WW1 game with this counter density there should me massive unit loss. Instead the system is set up to create an artificial constraint on counter stacks. There are two combat charts, one if the defender has 3 or less units, and one if the defender has 4 or more. The Combat losses on the 4+ chart far more accurately represent potential troop loss. This forces the defender to short stack key locations to prevent large scale loss. Along with this, the attacker loss is often 0 and the defender is frequently “all”. This again is a terrible representation of WW1.

The game is described as using step losses for units. For all intents and purposes it does not. The step loss system would have been perfect for this game, but only about 5% of the units (British) have step losses. The rest are single step units. This contributes to the a-historical combat and loss system.

One of the most disappointing parts of the game is the Middle East Map. For a section that takes up one third of the play area, very little that matters happens here. In Italy, the Italians grind to a halt the instant a few Austrians are moved in. On the rest of the map, there is so little fire power and so few points of interest, that it feels like an effort in futility to even manage this map.

One of the things that most attracted me to this game was the random events chits. Again what could have been invigorating to the game is disappointing. The first set of chits that come into play are mostly irrelevant. They add a plus here or there in combat which helps deal with the trenches, but other than that, not much. The next set, the more interesting ones, don’t come into play until the game is likely over or effectively decided.

On the whole, the game is attractive and holds some interest but is not a satisfying experience. It may be that a divisional WW1 game is untenable. If the game follows the war closely, it won’t be fun. The war lasted at least 3 years too long. Not much happened other than large scale death without gain or advance. This makes for dull gaming. If the game does not follow the war, it will likely seem poorly constructed. The only WW1 game that I have experienced that is fun and replayable is Paths of Glory and it may be that Corps level games are best suited to this war. Also the card driven system makes events and operations much more intriguing.

To conclude, I am not sorry that I bought the game, but I will not likely play it again. It feels like a combination of two games from the 90’s and that is was it is. There are many better games to be played.
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Don Johnson
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GWIED is a republish of 2 Command mag games by Ted Raicer, GWIE was 2 maps on the West and East fronts and GWINE was on the Near East.

Given that it is a republish with a DELUXE suffix, it is somewhat surprising the amount of counter errata and map errata. GMT is supposed to be sending out a second sheet of counter fixes, the first sheet was included in the box, which delayed the initial release date. The map errata is published as a PDF file, so one can print it out and stick it to the map. So the support after shipping is great, but the proofreaders clearly slipped up. In any case, one will be able to construct and then play the game as intended.

Many historical events are handled by a random chit pick, with the pool determined historically by time period. However, be aware that some chits have a dramatic effect on the game, depending whether they come in ASAP or possibly never. Some of the chits are "no effect" and if you pick one of those, it really hurts as you are supposed to put in back, some people just decide they will play a variant and not put any such chits back. Imagine picking some of these in a row while you opponent is picking up allied countries.

As mentioned, the high movement and no Zone of Control means a hole in your line can be deadly as units are eliminated for being out of supply. There is also the ability to do a back to back turn (2 turns in a row) on one front, but the same is true for the otehr front, except it is your opponent who is going back to back. The word our gaming group uses to describe this whole gaming situation is fragile, one side can easily lose a game due to a seemingly small mistake.

For example, in a recent game, the Germans in France looked like they were going to succeed in the right hook thru Belgium, however, the player neglected to properly garrison Antwerp, with the result being the Belgians cut off the whole wing of the German army and they were eliminated due to being out of supply. While correct play would not have allowed this to happen, this is the KIND of threat each and every turn, you make some seemingly small mistake and it is game over as you lose a chuck of your forces and cannot recover.

So, in some sense, it is too exciting for WWI, you can literally lose the whole shebang by the misplacement of one unit. Some might like this continual tension, I found after a day of it my brain was fried.

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James Blair
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Just to add my own experiences;

I found that in actual fact the counter errata seemed much worse than it actually was, and didn't impact on game-play once we got going.

The map errata was two minor points that didn't affect play - and was easy to remember.


I'm no expect on the combat mechanics, but the explanation that harsh (perhaps a-historic) rules about out of supply, force historic play - and certainly force you play as the Germans or Allies would behave.


As monster games go - (I have World at War, The Next War, Longest Day) - this is by far the most playable.

Beyond the fact it is an enjoyable game, Ted has injected all the nail-biting tension from Paths of Glory into this game.

I found it very satisfying, and am looking forward to another Grand Campaign over a long-weekend I have booked in February. As a point of refence, I turned down 2 weeks at Carnival in Trinidad to play this game! (Then again, I'm sure most BGG's would make the same choice!)
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Joseph Moore
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Didn't mind dealin with the errata, replacement counters and stickers etc., it was just that all the units died too damn fast!!!!

I had no BEF and I was afraid to use my germans! !

Stick with Der Weltkrieg...
 
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