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Colin Hunter
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Overview


Paths of Glory (PoG) is a strategic level simulation of the First World War. It draws it is designed by Ted Raicer and is a card driven game which draws its heritage back to We the People and Hannibal, but it offers a unique take on the system. Paths of Glory has already won numerous awards and was released in 1999, it has gone on to spawn a
host of other games that borrow the core card and battle mechanics from the game.

Paths of Glory is a two player game, with one player taking the Central Powers (mainly Germany, Austro-Hungary and Turkey) and one taking the Allies (mainly Britain, France and Russia, although others can join the war).

Components

Well components are standard GMT fare. Basically in the box you get a paper map, some rather thin cards and some cardboard counters. By wargamer standards these are all pretty good, by other standards, it would be considered rather poor. GMT also has a deluxe map, which you can buy separately, It is basically the same as the paper map, but made out of card board. I personally wouldn't recommend getting this as I play with Plexiglas over my map and it plays just fine and makes no difference if it is card or not, but I'm sure some people out there want the card map. It is comparable to the normal Twilight Struggle map in terms of size and thickness.

Here are some photos of the components
Close up of counters

All components

A picture of the Deluxe Map (you must buy this seperately, it comes with a spare copy of the rules though)


Personally I don't mind the components, but obviously others may. Let may say this, if you get a piece of Plexiglas, which is useful for pretty much all wargames, it isn't an issue, really. The counters are decent quality, although on the thing side, no nice big phalanx games counters. However they are attractive enough and definitely functional.

The Rules

Paths of Glory is a what I would class as a light/moderate complexity wargame. That is to say it is harder than Combat Commander, but easier than The Great Battles of History (which I would rate is moderate). For a non wargamer it is significantly harder, in fact it will probably be harder than any non-wargame, at least that I can think of off the top of my head. Having said this it isn't insurmountable. There is a fantastic guide to the rules by Eric Brosius, I recommend as a new player you download and use this
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/26514

Remember to give the file a thumb or tip if you find it helpful.

This is not an impossible game for a non-wargamer to learn, in fact I think it is a great game for non-wargamers to learn, I hope I can show you why in this review, but don't be put off by the rule book, with help from the rules guide, I'm reasonably confident, that most people who can handle heavy euros without a problem can handle PoG.

The rule book itself if probably not quite as clean as it could be. I don't mind it at all, I found it easy enough, it has all the rules, but I know some people think it is less than ideal. You can download the rules here
http://www.gmtgames.com/living_rules/pog_rules_2004.pdf
take a look for yourself.

Game Play Overview

For those familiar with card driven games many of the basic mechanics of PoG should be familiar. The goal of the game is to gain victory points, which can be achieved by capturing victory point spaces and playing cards. The victory points start at 10 and as the allies gain victory points, the total is moved towards zero, as the Central Powers gain VP it is increased. The Allies get an Auto-victory if the points reach zero, the Central Powers if they reach 20. Otherwise players must achieve a certain number of points by the end of the game.

Each player has a hand of seven cards, which comes from their own deck (decks are not shared). The cards themselves have multiple uses. In each of the six action phases players play cards alternatively (Central Power player first).

Cards have several different values on them; an operations value, replacement value, startegic movement value and event (card text). When you a play a card during your action phase you play it for one of these (operations, strategic movemnt, event (text of the card) or replacements).

A picture of a card


The numbers in the left hand corner represent the operations value/strategic movement value. You will also notice that on these cards there is a number next to the title of the event, this is war status, I will explain that later. At the bottom of the card there is the replacement value. Also notice that cards can be part of the Mobilization, Limited War or Total War decks.

When a card is played for operations it allows you to move and conduct battles with your troops. Each operations point allows you to activate, for movement or combat, all units in one space. If this space contains more than one nationality you must pay extra operations points. Movement is conducted first and then combat, units may not conduct both combat and movement.

Take a look at the counters below


You will see that each unit has three factors; Combat factor, Loss factor and movement factor (from left to right). Units are divided into two types, Armies (the larger counters) and Corps (the smaller counters). When activated to move, a unit may move the number of spaces equal to its movement factor, generally three or four.

Combat is relatively simple. Each side adds up their total Combat factor and rolls on their respective CRT columns, if your side only has Corps involved in the battle you must roll on the corps table, otherwise you roll on the army table (even if you have a mixture of corps and armies on your side). Each side can also play combat cards (a specific type of card in the deck), which generally allows you to add to your die roll, however there are other effects as well. The result on the table is the amount of damage you do to your opponent. Terrain can play a part in giving column shifts as well as allowing the defender to take additional losses to prevent retreat. The CRT is pretty good here because it helps compress the luck a bit. The winner is the player that does the most damage, ties happen a bit, especially between near equal forces. Note, it is also possible to flank your enemy, which allows you to inflict losses on them before they can on you, it isn't without risk however and requires an attack from multiple spaces.

Each unit has a loss factor, a unit absorbs the amount of damage equal to its loss factor when it takes a step loss. An army generally has two or three loss factor (depending on what nationality it is), corps generally have one loss factor (although there are exceptions). In order to take losses you simply take a step loss to a unit (flipping it over if it is at full strength) and that takes up its loss factor in damage. You can also eliminate a unit to take that much loss factor less in damage. If an army is eliminated it is replaced by a corp of the same nation from the reserve box. If there are no corps left, it is permanently eliminated, so watch out (this simulates some of the man power problems of the era pretty well). You must take as much damage as possible, but you do not have to take excess, so if you take 1 damage and your units in the battle only have 3 loss factor, you take no losses. In this way armies can easily overcome corp (as the corp table rarely reaches up to the two or three losses necessary to flip an army), but if you commit a corp to the attack it could be damaged.

Strategic movement allows you to move units vast distances in the game. It also allows you to deploy corp from the reserve box to the battle field, which can be useful, but risky. Each point of strategic movement allows you to move one corp and four points allows you to move an army. So corp are easy to move, while armies can be cumbersome. Strategic movement is very useful to bolster the strength of weak units with strong corp from the reserve. It also allows you to shift fronts with your armies.

Playing cards as events is a crucial and tough decision. Every card has text on it, some of these are combat cards (as explained above) and are generally only played for text in combat, as a sort of bonus card, not as a separate card during an action phase. However most cards must be played during the action phase and there are several important considerations here. There are different types of cards, some of the most powerful are reinforcements, which allow new armies and corp to be deployed. Other card involve events that modify the rules, give victory points or do a variety of things. What is interesting here is that the more powerful the event the higher the Operations value (which also effects replacement and strategic movement) and generally speaking when a card is played as an event it is removed from the deck (there are exceptions). That being the case there is a fundamental decision, while 4 ops cards are often powerful, it means you will no longer have a 4 ops card in your deck, this is a disadvantage (since 4 and 5 ops cards are powerful), Low Ops cards are often not very powerful, but removing a low ops card is a good thing since it increases the average ops you will draw. Often it is good to play low ops cards, even if the event is somewhat insignificant.

When cards are played for events they can have a war status value (as I mentioned above). The war status is important as it allows you to put more cards in your deck. In the beginning of the game you start out with a 14 card deck. If you play a number of events that total 4 war status you add in the limited war cards. Your deck is now bigger and has more powerful cards, but it also now has a whole lot more low ops cards (if you previously played all your low ops events), so it can be a double edged sword. Picking the right time to go to limited war is crucial. This is a particularly interesting mechanic as it add another dimension to the event play, you must consider the text of the card, the ops stripping (removal of low ops cards) and the war status. As the war status gets higher it can cause the end of the game (although I have never seen this) and help to trigger the Americans into the war (I have seen this once).

The final thing a card may be played for is replacements. Replacements is a powerful way to play a card. It lets you flip reduced strength units and bring back units from the eliminated box. Depending on a card's ops, it will let you bring back a certain amount from each power on your side. It tells you at the bottom of the card, but this is tied to the number of operations points on a card.

Supply in PoG is notoriously brutal. The reason is that as soon as a units supply line is cut, it can no longer move or attack. At the end of turn any units which are out of supply are eliminated. This makes the game very unforgiving on the supply front. A small mistake can potentially spell doom for an entire front and while in some
ways this ratchets up the intensity of each decision, it can be a little frustrating as small mistakes can occaisionally be decisive. I would want to over play this, as I think most half decent players can see obvious supply issues, but when playing online, where you can't see the entire board it is harder.

The last thing I wanted to mention about the rules is the mandatory attacks. Each turn, each player has to roll on a mandated offensive table, which will result in one nation's forces having to attack that turn. Failure to attack (regardless of success) means that you loose a victory point, which can be pretty harsh.

This isn't an exhaustive rules explanation, but hopefully it gives those unfamiliar with the game some kind of idea of how it plays. I suggest reading the rules and taking a look at the great rule summary.

What is Good?

While the basics of Paths of Glory have now been used in quite a few games, there are some fundamental strengths to PoG as a game.

One of my absolute favourite parts of PoG is the card play. If you look at the games before PoG, we generally see that each card can be played for one or two uses. Often it is very scripted as to which use to play, some times it is harder, but the major emphasis is about what order you play your cards. The cards themselves are generally easier to determine what you want to play it for. I'm thinking primarily of Hannibal here, not so say there are no tough decisions, but given some of the events will be beneficial to your opponent, those will be played for Ops, even those that are friendly to your side, it is often easy to choose what you are playing it for.

In paths of glory however this decision is often very difficult and can have more to do with your strategic outlook more than anything else. This is because firstly each card has many different uses, most of which are perfectly viable. Once you scratch the surface here, it gets more interesting. For me PoG has a kind of inbuilt initiative, do to the rather brutal supply rules, you often need to plug wholes fast, also the combat mechanic pushes this angle too. So if your opponent plays a card for ops, you often feel compelled to respond, since he may cause your flank to crumble or exploit a whole in your line. In order to "have room" to play cards as replacements or events you need to either sieze the initiative (an likely give it up in order to play the card) or you need to understand your opponent may get to play Ops twice in a row and your card play is important enough to justify this.

This may seem like it makes it very difficult to play evens. Yes it is, but knowing when to play them is often not very obvious. Secondly playing events can be pretty crucial to your long term hopes. Removing low ops cards from your deck for example, will provide you with a marginal benefit over your opponent, as the average Ops value of your deck goes up, so in the long run you can move more troops, fight more battles and replace more lost men. In addition playing your powerful high ops events is important, because they increase the size of your force pool, give war status (and access to more powerful cards) and generally help you in the long term. The result is that there is a tremendous tension between short term operations play and long terms strategic play. It is not easy to get your long term plan going, it often means a lot of sacrifice or at least a shifting of momentum. I particularly like how subtle these decisions can be and that you can adopt different approaches.

Another pretty well recognized aspect of PoG is the multi-frontal nature of the game. Not only must you decide on how to play your card and which units to move, but you must decide on which front you will move and attack. Obviously you can activate units anywhere, easter front, western front, the near east (once it opens up) or where ever. However applying pressure to different theatres can often lessen the pressure in another theatre, as resources for both sides are limited. In some ways you can think of this like a game of Go. In Go if your opponent places a piece to threaten an area, you have a choice to either immediately counter or offer a bigger threat in another area that they must immediately counter. While obviously PoG is not Go and it isn't exactly the same, for me part of this aspect feels similar (not to mention the brutal supply rules ).

Another front opens up when Italy entres the war (this often isn't good for the allies


The operational level (that is the actual movement of units in each front) also offers a further layer of depth. While I think the decisions here are often more obvious, understanding how the movement of your units will make your opponent respond is fundamental area of decision making. Often there are several different options to take and sometimes this is less than obvious, as understanding how a unit in the future can move to cut a supply line is pretty critical. Combine this with the strong sense of initiative this and the play of cards develops and it makes even working out what to do at a lower level tough at times (especially on the more open fronts, like the eastern front).

Criticisms

There are several standard criticism of PoG. Many of which later games would seek to address. The first and foremost amongst wargamers I think is the very a-historic nature of the game. That is to say that many of the historic events of the war simply don't happen, it doesn't simulate what went on very well, the USA almost never enters the war, the Russian Revolution is hardly a sure thing (although it definitely happens in a reasonably percentage of games), Tons of German corps operating in the near east, etc... The list is rather long and frankly I don't offer much of a defense for this. Yes the game is gamey, yes compared to some of its successors it is less historic. There isn't a good answer in my mind other than to say that the game is still enormously fun and for some who doesn't know much about WWI you still get to learn (through the events) at least some of the stuff that happened.

Another standard criticism (and this applies really to all PoG type games and most CDGs) is that the card play generates odd and a-historic situations. For example what are the chances that an attack on the eastern front by Russia would prevent the western allies attacking in the west? Yet this is the decision point that it provided. Why do political events in Russia prevent the French from attacking? Again there is not good response to this, sure you can talk about how the integration of politics into a wargame is important (and it is) and CDGs can do that, but it does interrupt the immersion into the history of the game. Again though and I think this will be a crucial point for me, PoG is definitely a game, it doesn't succeed under those criteria, but it does in others.

The supply rules also come in for criticism. They are tough and while rare, the game can hinge on a single decision at times, not realizing you are about to be cut off is incredibly crucial. Obviously experienced play overcomes this, but new players tend to miss these openings making the game more difficult to play. Again there isn't a way around this, it simply is, I can say that once you get even one to two plays under your belt, you usually can overcome this, but those first few plays may be frustrating.

I've also read some criticism of the deck management in the game. I can understand this, what does it actually represent? I'm not sure, you could argue maybe social capital, industrial might or what ever you wanted, I'm not really sure. For me this mechanism add significant depth to the game as ordering your hand is still important, but each decision becomes more multi-faceted. However if you don't like pay attention to what is in your deck and what isn't and what strategy you have to deal with it, I can see why you might not like it.

Lastly the usual criticism, too long, too hard to learn, too complex and the components aren't nice enough. If you feel that way fair enough. I think the game justifies all these things, but lets face if your idea of a good nights gaming is several games of Carcassonne (not that anything is wrong with that), then this probably isn't the game for you. If you want something challenging and gripping, then well you might want to look at it. Again all these are quite subjective criticisms, if you think 6-8 hours is too long, of course it won't work, but for me it isn't too long, so to each there own I guess.

One interesting thing is that pretty much all the games that came after PoG strove to fix most of these perceived problems. In my opinion, while they succeeded in making the games more historical they ended up removing much of what was great about the game, in particular the tough choices on the cards. Adding cards that could be played for text and ops, made playing events much easier, scripting event play and historical events, made the depth of long term planning less. The supply rules though could be seen as a bit of improvement, although I doubt you could port them into PoG. In World War II: Barbarossa to Berlin for example the rules for supply are more complicated, but they do mean cut off units can at least try and break out and the time at which you check supply is less brutal for the Axis. I doubt you could port these rules, but at least the supply rules I feel aren't worse, but much of the changes in my mind, in subsequent games removed gameplay, since they made the choices easier and less deep.

Also many of the other games that share similar mechanics do not use wars status or use as much deck cycling. Part of the reason PoG succeeds is that the tension between the cycling of your deck and war status is often a difficult balance. The deck cycling by itself allows you more control over when you play your events, as decks get thicker this gets harder and increases the level of chaos from cards. In fact this cycling issue would be one of my main criticism of some of the other games. Obviously as I mentioned above this is a double edged sword and not everyone feels the same way.


Conclusion
It should be obvious at this stage I am a pretty big PoG fan. I feel it is probably the best CDG for my money and I already like a lot of them (although I think if Triumph of Chaos was cleaner in terms of its rule book it would be up there as well, I still probably prefer playing ToC to PoG, but that is another story). There are certain fundamentals I think think that turns PoG into a seminal game, certainly for wargamers of my generation, that is those of us who started recently. From my understanding it is either the best selling or second best selling title from GMT (I know it used to be the best selling, but I suspect Twilight Struggle has over taken it, although I'd be interested to hear from others on that).

In terms of play experience though, which I have been slightly quiet on until now, I think PoG excels in several areas. Firstly PoG is a relatively unscripted game, other than perhaps a few set piece opening moves, your diversity of strategy is quite staggering and while undoubtedly some much more complex and much bigger games may have an edge in terms of overall depth, I think you can't fault PoG at its complexity level or even its time taken to play. More importantly perhaps here, is that PoG achieves its depth without having to add a lot of scale, PoG is not a monster hex and counter game, which tend to earn their depth simply by offering a huge number of possible moves. While PoG obviously has lots options available, the quality of each decision is relatively high, so that with only a few decisions it becomes very hard to determine an optimal path.

The second and perhaps the initial most engrossing side of the play experience is the tension. Literally I would say PoG is 8 hours of solid tension. Every play of the card feels critical and the ability to generate marginal advantage over each card play is crucial. Few games can match the intensity over their length that PoG manages. It is truly amazing that it keeps you on the edge of your seat for 6-8 hours, but it does.

Replayability is another strength of PoG. The diversity of strategy, the incremental nature of advantage and the general superlative design of the game means that the game is highly replayable. It has an active tournament scene and has many sharks.

Having said all this, and I do feel in terms of game design, PoG is a master stroke it more gamey and less simulation based than many of its successors. For me the superb game play and wonderful play experience more than makes up for that, but ultimately it is a perspective each individual will make, if nothing else PoG has left a lasting legacy in the CDGs that came after it.
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Wendell
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Great review. Geekbuddied.
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Sylvain Martel
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Great review! I have one comment on one of PoG critisism, I never understood why wargames "must" follow history. To me, that makes for quite a boring game if I know how the game will play and how it will resolve each and every time. I usualy stay very far from those games so I am kind of glad PoG has A-Historic moments.
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Phil McDonald
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Superb review and henceforth a wargame geekbuddy.

PoG has become my favourite game of all time, and the only one I rate a 10.

Traditional hex and counter wargames have become pretty much dead to me due to my (now) inability to assimilate and retain the awfully dry rules.

I read the PoG rules and thought, better, but I'm never going to remember all this am I?. But I was fortunate enough to play an experienced player by Vassal pbem for my first game and now I'm completely and utterly hooked. We are currently on our 12th consecutive game and have no plans to stop. The game drips atmosphere.

I have bought PoG, BtB and Manifest Destiny, and will no doubt get all their other CDG's as well.

On Quality, I have no problem with GMT's premium pricing, but do feel they are taking advantage of their customer base by not providing thicker cards and a mounted board. You can get that with a $15 kids boardgame for heavens sake. Surely we could expect components that LAST for a premium price? I hope that few cents they save in productions is worth it to them, because it will ALWAYS rankle.

To finish on a more positive note, I do love the tutorial game turns they give. I always learn a lot by laying out the game and playing along with those couple of turns. Kudos for that.
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Great review about a great game, in fact one of the very best wargames ever designed.

For those who find it too long in one sitting, there is a great mod for this on Vassal. To me this is a great game to play via Vassal. With only a few units to move on each impulse, the down time is very tolerable
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+1 VP for you, sir. PoG has been on my radar for some time, and now I fear I'll have to bite the bullet and put in a preorder for a reprint.
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Chris Farrell
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I think you get sort of close to my main criticisms of Paths of Glory these days, but miss it slightly:

My complaint is really one of game balance, and it's a two-pronged: Germany is not incentivised enough to attack France, while they are hugely over-incentivised to attack Italy. Italy is worth big points, has low-quality defenders, and is extremely vulnerable. France is worth a few points and is very tough. So the standard strategy these days seems to be to have Germany doing nothing on the Western Front but hunker down, while going after Russia and Italy.

Historical or no, this leads to an insanely dull game. The German frontier is very hard to crack and the Allies' best combat card isn't usable outside of France, while almost all of the best German combat cards are usable anywhere. This sort of low-war-status strategy takes almost all the interesting late-war cards out of the game. In general it greatly reduced the interest level.

I still really like PoG and consider it a classic and enjoy playing it from time to time, but I think you really need the "historical" variant in order to ensure the game is interesting and fun (which includes forcing the Germans to play Guns of August and giving the Italians some trenches). If the Germans hunker down in Germany, I think the game becomes a lot less interesting.
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Chris Montgomery
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Kinwolf wrote:
Great review! I have one comment on one of PoG critisism, I never understood why wargames "must" follow history. To me, that makes for quite a boring game if I know how the game will play and how it will resolve each and every time. I usualy stay very far from those games so I am kind of glad PoG has A-Historic moments.


I don't want to hi-jack this thread, so I'll keep my comments brief.

I agree with you that someone who argues a game "must" follow history is acting asinine. But that is rarely the argument.

The argument I usually hear--and agree with--has followed along these lines: a decent conflict simulation should at a minimum allow a player to adopt a nation's/army's historic strategy as a valid course of action during the game with at least some chance of success.

A game based on a historical conflict should permit the players to explore the historic options and perhaps see where they succeeded and where they failed. It should also, of course, allow for variation on that theme and allow players to try other avenues to victory (and defeat).

As great as PoG is (and it is a great game and tons of fun), it is a valid criticism to say that neither the Central Powers nor the Entente can employ any type of historic strategy and win the game. In other words, it is a fun game, and even a pretty fun conflict simulation, but it does not permit a competitive gamer to use historic methods to attain victory. That's all.

Chris
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Philip Thomas
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Good review. Currently I am in a bit of a pursuit of Glory fix but will no doubt get back to Paths in due course.

philmcd wrote:

I have bought PoG, BtB and Manifest Destiny, and will no doubt get all their other CDG's as well.
.



Just a nitpick here. Manifest Destiny isn't a CDG. It has event cards, some of which which can be used for raising money instead, but they are not the primary engine of the game, which is all about buying cubes and technologies and using them to take territory.

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cfarrell wrote:
So the standard strategy these days seems to be to have Germany doing nothing on the Western Front but hunker down, while going after Russia and Italy.



This strategy only became apparent after many hundreds of PBEM games perculated through the PoG community on ACTS. Any relatively complex and assymetrical game will reveal optimal strategies eventually. The rapid diffusion of strategies across online game forums these days makes this a certainty.

If the eventual discovery of optimal moves after hundreds of recorded competitive games is a flaw in a design, then the only flawless games we'll ever see are abstracts like Go.

Good thing is, gamers don't have to ruin excellent games such as PoG (and Puerto Rico) with optimum play so long as they have the inclination and self-discipline to stay away from the expert advice and simply play with gamers of their own level.
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Rob Doupe wrote:
cfarrell wrote:
So the standard strategy these days seems to be to have Germany doing nothing on the Western Front but hunker down, while going after Russia and Italy.



This strategy only became apparent after many hundreds of PBEM games perculated through the PoG community on ACTS. Any relatively complex and assymetrical game will reveal optimal strategies eventually. The rapid diffusion of strategies across online game forums these days makes this a certainty.

If the eventual discovery of optimal moves after hundreds of recorded competitive games is a flaw in a design, then the only flawless games we'll ever see are abstracts like Go.

Good thing is, gamers don't have to ruin excellent games such as PoG (and Puerto Rico) with optimum play so long as they have the inclination and self-discipline to stay away from the expert advice and simply play with gamers of their own level.


Also this pretty much was the German Strategy in 1917 as I understand it: hold the (Hindenburg) line on the Western Front and attack in Russia (and Italy, though that was more fortuitous). . That the Germans took 3 years to think up the strategy whereas gamers can start playing it in 1914 is just a problem of hindsight.

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Chris Farrell
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Unfortunately, the fact that it took quite a few games to discover these strategies doesn't help the new player getting into the game now, since they are out there and fairly widely available and understood. It's funny, in retrospect it seems obvious - Italy is clearly worth a lot more VPs and a lot easier to tackle than France - it's almost surprising it took such a long time to find. I suspect probably most folks are like me, they instinctively go with historical-ish options, and play along with where the game is obviously trying to lead you. The non-Guns of August and low war status openings probably weren't pushed too hard for a while, since they are so clearly both counter-factual and not what the game is designed around.

As for Germany deciding to hunker down, they only started doing this in earnest once they had lost. Yes, for many of the middle years of the war (post-Verdun, pre-Michael) they played a defensive game and let the Allies do the attacking. But Germany had to defeat France and Britain to win this war, and thus the big pushes on the Western Front in 1914 and 1918. The fact that the Paths of Glory victory conditions allow Germany to "win" without ever taking the war to France and Britain seem historically rather unrealistic.
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Philip Thomas
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cfarrell wrote:
Unfortunately, the fact that it took quite a few games to discover these strategies doesn't help the new player getting into the game now, since they are out there and fairly widely available and understood. It's funny, in retrospect it seems obvious - Italy is clearly worth a lot more VPs and a lot easier to tackle than France - it's almost surprising it took such a long time to find. I suspect probably most folks are like me, they instinctively go with historical-ish options, and play along with where the game is obviously trying to lead you. The non-Guns of August and low war status openings probably weren't pushed too hard for a while, since they are so clearly both counter-factual and not what the game is designed around.

As for Germany deciding to hunker down, they only started doing this in earnest once they had lost. Yes, for many of the middle years of the war (post-Verdun, pre-Michael) they played a defensive game and let the Allies do the attacking. But Germany had to defeat France and Britain to win this war, and thus the big pushes on the Western Front in 1914 and 1918. The fact that the Paths of Glory victory conditions allow Germany to "win" without ever taking the war to France and Britain seem historically rather unrealistic.



Since Germany did not win the war, we can't tell what a German victory would have looked like. It wouldn't be a very interesting game if Central Powers victory was impossible. Knocking Italy as well as Russia out of the war might well have led to a negotiated peace in early 1918.

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Phil McDonald
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Philip Thomas wrote:
Good review. Currently I am in a bit of a pursuit of Glory fix but will no doubt get back to Paths in due course.

philmcd wrote:

I have bought PoG, BtB and Manifest Destiny, and will no doubt get all their other CDG's as well.
.



Just a nitpick here. Manifest Destiny isn't a CDG. It has event cards, some of which which can be used for raising money instead, but they are not the primary engine of the game, which is all about buying cubes and technologies and using them to take territory.



you're right, it's a nitpick
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Arrigo Velicogna
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My major complain with PoG and lack of historicity is the entrenching system.

Trenches were beyond leader control to a certain extent. Troops started to entrench beacuse it was the best anser to the firepower-doctrine problem they encountered in the field. On Ted Raicer WW1 masterpiece The Great War in Europe: Deluxe Edition the entrenching is automatic. I would have loved that also in PoG.

Much better than the current system where you have to roll everytime to entrench and using activations to do so.
Also a trench level would have forced a much more historical perspective (plus I think there have to be more incentives to defeat france).

Arrigo
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Jeff Luce
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I simply LOVE this game. I have played well over 75 games of this and it hasn't lost it's magic for me yet.

I agree that one drawback of the game is the length, at least in face to face play.

However, allow me to shill for Bruce Wigdor's wargameroom.com where he has a computer version of the game that enforces all the rules. Yes, it has a crude version of the game board that is not at all pretty but with an experienced player I can get in an entire game in around 3 hours.

Also, with newer players it is considered good form for the more experienced to give a "supply warning" if a newbie is about to leave himself exposed.

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Steve
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Chris got at why I think this is a great, classic game but don't play it that often. The Italian situation annoys the crap out of me in particular. And no, it doesn't actually take hundreds or thousands of plays to get this... someone I taught the game (and didn't mention the importance of Italy to) picked up the critical CP Italy crushing tactics in ~3 games.

Good review overall, though. This was my first wargame and it is great.
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Piero
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Great review! thumbsup

PoG is my FAVOURITE game ever.
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Chris Farrell
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Philip Thomas wrote:

Since Germany did not win the war, we can't tell what a German victory would have looked like. It wouldn't be a very interesting game if Central Powers victory was impossible. Knocking Italy as well as Russia out of the war might well have led to a negotiated peace in early 1918.


True, certainly. But I think the key word here is "might". It's possible to imagine that knocking out Italy might have lead to a negotiated peace favorable to Germany, although it seems unlikely. But in the game, there is no "might" about it, knocking down the lesser powers is enough to win.

But I think this is a little off-point. The real point is not so much that allowing the Germans to win by knocking out Italy is unrealistic, the point is that such a game is boring. It takes too many cards out of the game, makes too important an area (the Western Front) stagnant, and focuses the attention on an area that just isn't all that interesting (Italy). And I think the reasons for this are actually the gaps in Paths of Glory's historicity - the Italians are too vulnerable on defense and too weak, and the Allied deck is tuned for the historical war while the Germans have been given flexibility. Knowing that the British are going to develop tanks, the Germans can simply not fight in the theater where tanks were deployed, but the British don't have the option to develop some other tactical technique, or deploy those tanks elsewhere. Contrarily, the Germans can deploy their developed tactics more or less where they want. Make some of these things more accurately reflect historical possibilities, and it would be a better game.

For me, this is all just an argument for playing the historical variant of the game, which constrains things more or less to what the designer clearly intended. A more historical flow of the game is much harder for the CP to win, but at least it's a game that is much more interesting to play.
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Philip Thomas
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I too prefer playing with the 'historical variant'. But it has next to no effect on the things you are describing: after Guns of August the CPs can quickly dig in on the German Side of the border and spend the rest of the game focused elsewhere. The Trenches in Italy do make it more difficult to take, but not by so much as to make the Western Front a more attractive option.

The Allied use of Tanks was never a decisive factor, Its initial use at Cambrai created a hole in the German line but the Allies failed to take advantage of the hole and the ground was easily retaken... but your point about the Germans being able to use their good CCss outside the Western front is a fair one. Launching the Michel offensive in Egypt or aganst Riga is one of the more bizarre sights of Paths, historical variant or no historical variant.
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Colin Hunter
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cfarrell wrote:
I think you get sort of close to my main criticisms of Paths of Glory these days, but miss it slightly:

My complaint is really one of game balance, and it's a two-pronged: Germany is not incentivised enough to attack France, while they are hugely over-incentivised to attack Italy. Italy is worth big points, has low-quality defenders, and is extremely vulnerable. France is worth a few points and is very tough. So the standard strategy these days seems to be to have Germany doing nothing on the Western Front but hunker down, while going after Russia and Italy.

Historical or no, this leads to an insanely dull game. The German frontier is very hard to crack and the Allies' best combat card isn't usable outside of France, while almost all of the best German combat cards are usable anywhere. This sort of low-war-status strategy takes almost all the interesting late-war cards out of the game. In general it greatly reduced the interest level.

I still really like PoG and consider it a classic and enjoy playing it from time to time, but I think you really need the "historical" variant in order to ensure the game is interesting and fun (which includes forcing the Germans to play Guns of August and giving the Italians some trenches). If the Germans hunker down in Germany, I think the game becomes a lot less interesting.
I can definitely see your point here Chris. The strategic positional side, definitely often develops as you point out, I think that there is a little wiggle room at times in the west and it can be worth applying pressure there depending how the Allied player is focusing their play. However I do broadly agree with your statement, I'm not too concerned personally, I think there is enough interest in the rest of what is going on, but I think it is an interesting point to consider.

Thanks everyone for all the positive feedback
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Clifford Mudd
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Great review. I can't wait to finish our game.
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Colin Hunter
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cmudd02 wrote:
Great review. I can't wait to finish our game.

Bastard, you are kicking my ass in that one It would be good to finish the pain
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Mark D
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Great Review thumbsup

Italy always gets overrated. If the Germans aren't pushing in the west, it tends to free up French or British Armies to move into North Italy. Verona-Venice is an easy line to hold especially if entrenched.

The best way to learn the rules is to play the opening scenario which means no worrying about Neutral Entry. After getting the basics down, then learn the exceptions. Most of the time though new players will ignore the NE Map since the MEF is a pain to move and there are no other armies out there till Total War.

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Phil McDonald
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WebBard wrote:
Great Review thumbsup

Italy always gets overrated. If the Germans aren't pushing in the west, it tends to free up French or British Armies to move into North Italy. Verona-Venice is an easy line to hold especially if entrenched.

The best way to learn the rules is to play the opening scenario which means no worrying about Neutral Entry. After getting the basics down, then learn the exceptions. Most of the time though new players will ignore the NE Map since the MEF is a pain to move and there are no other armies out there till Total War.



We find that Western front and Italy tend to stalemate, Eastern front varies quite a bit, and NE is very active.

The Russian Cau army gets there very early, and with BR corps being SR'd into the bottom right hand corner of the map, TU tends to be quite active as soon as limited war arrives.

But we've never had a duplicate game.

MEF and Sinai pipeline are a pain though
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