With its plain map and counters, 1918 looks deceptively simple. In fact, it has a number of features buried in its play that make the game interesting. It has been my favorite game for this offensive.
The game only covers the initial thrust towards Amiens. It does not cover the secondary thrusts in the north or the thrust to Paris. Earlier in the war the Germans had pulled back to a shorter defensive line, leaving a devastated area. Unfortunately for them, they have to cross that area again. This slows units down significantly.
All major combat units are divisions. While the French and British divisions are pretty uniform (mostly 4-4, some 5-4, a few 6-4), the German divisions come in three flavors -- Storm (7-5), Regular (6-4), and Trench (5-3). The Storm divisions bear most of the burden of attack, but if you use them up too quickly the game is over. The Trench units are mainly used to fill in spaces. Storm divisions can infiltrate by moving from one enemy ZOC to another. A second unit in support can allow friendly units to be extracted from out of a circle of enemy ZOCs.
Attacks require the commitment of a supply unit and possibly artillery ammunition, which get used up by the attack. Defenders then allocate their supply and ammo resources after the attacker. Both sides must also keep some of these units around just to keep their troops supplied turn to turn. There are no headquarters. Supplies and reinforcements must march in from the map edges, which causes the German attack to slow down as it moves west. The initial trench works are indicated by fortified zones.
Like many WWI battles, your main decision is where to apply your limited resources. Replacements and reinforcements pour in pretty steadily, but only about at the rate at which units are killed. The CRT is mostly retreats and exchanges, so you usually have to surround a unit to kill it. The map has the unit starting positions marked on it. Like France 1940, the game offers free set-up options and 13 different strength variants based on different historical events making more or fewer troops available.
Although combat is based on strength ratios, divisions can be stacked two per hex, but while two divisions can attack out of the same hex, only one can defend. And the British line is pretty sketchy to start with, with many areas covered only by ZOCs. And a couple of 7-5s can reach the magic 3-1 attack against a 4-4. Cavalry units usually die quickly, but they can buy the British a turn to bring reinforcements up.
Someone who started playing wargames recently might be put off by the plainness of the components and the simplicity of the rules, but having started wargaming in the golden era of SPI and AH, I am completely comfortable with them. There are very few rules to learn, so you can start quickly, and the counters are easy to read. The counters are one sided, with no step reductions. Either a division lives or dies. I have just acquired the Command magazine game 1918 and after playing it I may put this game aside.
The German player has to decide whether he will encircle British units for elimination, or push through gaps for exploitation. Although all of the Allied reinforcements come from the north or south map edges, the road network allows the units to be distributed almost anywhere along the line. In one game the Germans swept straight ahead in the south to grab Amiens, but they never got Arras in the north, just behind the British front line, thanks to a high density of good Commonwealth units and the immediate arrival of reinforcements throughout the game.
In this game some flavor is lost. You never think of a unit as the 1st Canadian or 2nd Bavarian division (even though all the counters have letter codes). Instead, you will find yourself thinking of them as just another 5-4 and 6-4 to throw into the fire of battle.
If you can pick up this game cheaply, try it for a quick slaughter. But given the number of newer games that cover this offensive, such as Operation Michael and 1918, Storm in the West, get one of those before you pay $30 for SPI's game. Although the new games have some of the same basic WWI mechanisms, something like Friedensturm is getting a rating of 8 from 61 people! Imagine if they applied that system to Operation Michael.
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- Worst. Train game. Ever.
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- Vicomte13 13
I always liked this game. I agree it's easy. I like the mechanics.
But man oh man is it hard for the Germans to win! There just is no time to move across that devastated territory to get to the victory objectives.
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