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David G. Cox Esq.
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To the Green Fields Beyond
The Battle of Cambrai, 1917



Designed by David Isby
Published by Simulations Publications, Inc. (1978)



I am reviewing the original SPI edition of the game and have never seen the newer edition that has been published by Excalibre Games. Despite having only a single 32” by 22” map and a mere 400 counters, To The Green Fields Beyond is almost a monster game. I make this claim due to the fact that a single game turn can take well over an hour to play.

TTGFB simulates the Battle of Cambrai. It was one of the first WWI battles where the Allies (British) made substantial use of experimental artillery techniques and that new infernal invention – the tank! Initially the British made substantial and rapid advances despite most of the tanks becoming inoperable during the first day of action. The battle lasted for 18 days. By the end of the battle the Germans had regained most of the territory that they had lost in the early days of the battle.

TTGFB has quite a few scenarios. The British Breakthrough and The Campaign game are easy to set up as each counter has the set-up hex for those scenarios printed directly on the counter. If you play The Battle for Bourlon or The German Counter-attack scenarios set-up is more fiddly as you have to locate each unit on a manifest to see where it’s starting location is.

The British Breakthrough
lasts three turns and should take a little over four hours if you include set-up time.

The Battle for Bourlon lasts for five turns and should take about six hours including set-up.

The German Counter-attack lasts for four and a half turns and is also looking at around the six hour mark.

The full Campaign Game lasts for 17 turns and I don’t want to tell you how long it takes.


There are optional rules that allow for a free deployment rather than the historical deployment – a British all-out offensive which gives the British additional units at the start – and a French Participation rule which does just that.

As is the case with many of David Isby’s designs, the game is a highly detailed simulation.


The Battle of Cambrai was rather unusual in a couple of ways. It was a battle where both sides took the offensive. Both sides, as the attacker made substantial gains. The attack advanced and did not bog down – initially. To simulate this the game has an unusual sequence of play.

The British have their turn first. The British play reinforcements, repair tanks, check command control of combat units, conduct an optional air phase, initial barrage, initial combat, initial movement, second air phase, second barrage, second combat, second movement and then the tank breakdown phase.

The German turn is the same except there is no tank repair, command control or tank breakdown.



The fact that combat occurs prior to movement is unusual and having two combat and movement phases also takes the game away from the norm. It is the designer’s way to allow the game to work in an historical manner.

The game has highly detailed rules for artillery bombardment and there are several different types of bombardment that you can lay down – Drumfire Barrage, Rolling Barrage, Interdiction Barrage, Direct Support Barrage and an S.O.S. Barrage. I have found that one of the most time consuming aspects of the game is planning the use of your artillery.

Special Leapfrog Withdrawal rules give units that have been isolated a chance to withdraw back to friendly lines.


One of the good points about the Campaign Game is that it allows both players the opportunity to be the attacker. This is the sort of game I used to really enjoy when I was in my twenties and thirties. As I have aged and time becomes more limited I generally prefer to play shorter games and play several games rather than a single game that takes twenty or so hours to play. I also am now much happier with games that have larger counters and are easier to read. Even with glasses some of the tiny half inch counters are becoming difficult to use.

The map is okay and done in the style of many of the SPI games from the seventies – the map has a very similar appearance to those published for Napoleon’s Last Battles. Only three-quarters of the map has hexes. One quarter of the map has charts and tables.

The map is not very large and this is what makes the game manageable. There appear to be a lot of counters in play on the map but at least you can take them all in with a single glance.




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In a number of ways To the Green Fields Beyond represents the peak of SPI's historical wargame production. By 1977 the SPI team had developed an approach to the hobby which (when it functioned properly) came within a whisker of everything paper wargames could ever hope to become.

This game had all of the late 1970s features: detailed order-of-battle information (much harder to find before the internet) plus the superb Redmond Simonsen graphic treatment and the benefit of 5 or 6 years of solid SPI production experience.

If you read David Isby's designer's notes in F&M #13 you'll see his obvious passion for the subject. He spent over 400 hours on the game and at the end of the article became quite emotional when describing his attempt to capture a lost world with bits of cardboard. It is a great piece of prose.


Quote:
I also am now much happier with games that have larger counters and are easier to read. Even with glasses some of the tiny half inch counters are becoming difficult to use.


The days of reading tiny unit designations are behind me.

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Kim Meints
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David

Excellent reveiew as always.

Having the flat tray,boxed and Excalibre editions it was still nice going down memory road.

And Yes-I'm finding after playing a game with larger counters going back and playing one with 1/2 " counters is almost a cpmplete shock for reading or handling.
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Steve Herron
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Quote:
As I have aged and time becomes more limited I generally prefer to play shorter games and play several games rather than a single game that takes twenty or so hours to play. I also am now much happier with games that have larger counters and are easier to read. Even with glasses some of the tiny half inch counters are becoming difficult to use.


That sounds like me.

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Sim Guy
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Good job. One of the better WWI games ever. I played this game enough to know to bring a shorter simpler game along, so that I would have something to do during my opponents move (usually a Quad).

Let's play two!
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Peter Hodgson
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Just re-purchased an original SPI issue (35 years after first time round). Arrived today. In time for the weekend. 8))
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Donald Johnson
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This is a game I have fond memories of and it continues to keep popping up in my thinking. It has almost everything one would want in a WWI battle game: tanks, stoss, Red Baron, arty, cavalry, and of course lots of infantry.

My take is that the best chance of getting a breakout is on turn 1, so throw everything at trying to achieve a breakout on turn 1, as your chances of getting a breakout on turn 2 or later is small.
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