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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Paths of Glory was among the first games I bought in 2006 when I got into the hobby and it was an instant favorite. Then for a time it was put on the back shelf, as new games arrived and I played euros extensively for a period. It was not that Paths of Glory was bad, but only that its time in the limelight was brief. Recently, I returned to the game to see how well it would hold up.

Well, Paths of Glory remains a masterpiece. I will not go over mechanics in great detail. Colin Hunter did an excellent job of this in his review (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/426249/understanding-pat...). Instead I'll discuss why I think this game has continued to be a classic.

Gameplay (28 out of 28): Paths of Glory relies upon a card driven format (CDG) that creates consistent tension. This is because the cards carry out four different functions, than the usual interplay between points and text. Two of these functions are used more sparingly. One is strategic redeployment, or the movement of troops across the map or out of the off board reserve, allowing the costly but needed deployment of forces. The other is the accumulation of replacement points which are used to maintain your current forces in the field. Both of these functions are important, but the game's mechanics prevents their abuse.

The most commonly used function for the cards are operation points that allow units to move or fight. The other function they are mostly used for are events, but the events are not mere one off affairs, but instead are subdivided into many important categories. Some events grant victory points. Some are used for reinforcements, and still others are important simply because they raise the war status level. This latter use is particularly ingenious. It simulates the gradual escalation of the war effort and avoids a situation where poison gas is being used before it was even sent to the front.

A Sample of the Cards:


Ted Raicer's greatest achievement then was to make the cards not simply a vehicle for events, but to literally drive the entire game. In this way Paths of Glory was evolutionary in that the cards had completely taken over the game. We the People, the original CDG, came closet to this ideal by featuring a battle deck as opposed to the CRT you find in Paths of Glory. However, with cards featuring more precise events, varied replacement points, and a value for redeployment, Raicer had made the cards work for what would otherwise be an arcane design. This later point is important because Paths of Glory still has the feeling of being an old school wargame in many respects and I think this is an overlooked part of its charm. The actual mechanics are simple enough, but Paths of Glory features a lot of chrome and exceptions. For instance, French and American forces may activate together. Only certain armies may operate in the Near East map. Then there are the rules just covering the landings at Salonkia.

The hobby has moved away from complex games, and in this respect Paths of Glory's widespread acclaim is almost befuddling. The game requires patience, commitment, and learning. Of course many a wargamer can show you any number of games that are more complex, from the unplayable The Campaign for North Africa to the insanity that supposedly is Triumph of Chaos. But Paths of Glory is not filler, introductory, or even the next step after you have mastered Hold the Line. It is a wargame for those who enjoy the hobby and the history, and yet here it is, still in the BGG top 20. Well, as of June 2011 anyway. I think that is part due to hype, but mostly because of the way the cards are used makes every decision tough, and that makes for exciting gaming.

Simply put, Paths of Glory is rarely a tedious affair.

Strategic (5 out of 5): I bought Paths of Glory on a very simple recommendation. You see, I had not yet played a CDG (card driven game) and I was mostly a euro player who dabbled in games like Brandywine. I was told that Paths of Glory was like a good euro in that it had the frustration of wanting to do 15 things a turn but only being allowed to do 6. The result is that even when you are losing, the other guy is also huffing and puffing.

Yet the game forces you into a very interesting dynamic because of the nature of the cards. With only so many actions available each turn, it is common in Paths of Glory to see one front collapse while on the other you are marching to victory. This forces on the players a very fine balancing act between reactive card play, and adhering to an overall strategy. I find many CDGs, even the ones I love, reward either reactive or steadfast play a little too readily.

First Liege, then the world!


Accessibility (4 out of 5): Paths of Glory is not a game for the new player, but I have always been struck with how easily it plays. While there are a wealth of exceptions, the actual mechanics of combat and movement are simple. I do not mean that is simple, only that for a veteran wargamer there will be few hiccups. The rulebook is also superior to the ones featured in Raicer's later CDG forays.

Even Women Like This Game!


Components (5 out of 5): Paths of Glory is in many ways not a visually mind blowing game. The map is colorful, but a bit plain and does nothing to invoke the era. The pieces are plain. However, the game looks very good when set up, I think it is because the colors are bright but not loud, and everything is functional as opposed to opulent. In other words it is representative of GMT's successful art design philosophy. Thankfully, GMT's reprints have not much altered the game's appearance.

Originality (2 out of 2): Paths of Glory is a CDG , however it is very different from its ancestors (We the People, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, Successors (second edition), For the People). Paths of Glory introduced power specific decks, numerous events that were linked together, and a the card format for a war not involving swords or muskets. As popular as the CDG format was in the late 1990s, Paths of Glory opened up this style of gaming, and arguably is the beginning of the current era of wargaming, where GMT is the king and cards can be found in many of the most successful wargames. This latter point might be disputed, but undoubtedly Paths of Glory was a milestone in the survival of the hobby. It currently has over 2,000 ratings. How many other wargames can boast of such an honor?

Fan Made Card:


Historical Quality (3 out of 5): This is where Paths of Glory suffers the most. It is not that the game cannot model the war's actual events, but out of the box you probably will not be able to simulate history. Russia will not fall and the USA will not enter the war because the cards needed to do this are better used for other purposes, making them a victim of that tense dynamic I so admire. Then there is Italy. Her armies start off weak. Okay I can accept that, as they were led by Luigi Cadorna, one of the worst generals in history. But by 1918 they had learned and morale had improved. Yet there is no card for this. Meanwhile, Italy has many victory points there for the taking. The result is that without some variant rules, the Central Powers will often win by smashing Italy, which is far fetched. Other problems abound as well. The BEF is too strong. It is a symptom of an Anglo bias to the game evident in the cards and even the box art, which lists a minor battle like Mons, but not the biggest and bloodiest battle of the war: the Brusilov Offensive. Then there are the Turks who are too weak. Gallipoli will usually end in a smashing Allied victory.

I might rate this game lower, but Raicer and GMT saved the day with Paths of Glory Player's Guide, which provides a much needed historical variant. Then there are the players themselves, not content to let such a fun design die on the altar of history, who have created a wealth of variants. I am among those who have ventured to “fix” the game, but I usually end up tweaking most games I own out of devotion to both the history and the gameplay. Paths of Glory has historical issues, but the devotion of gamers in addressing these problems is more a testament to its greatness than anything else.

The Often Used Italian Gambit:


Overall (47 out of 50): Before Paths of Glory, GMT was a solid company who had put out a few classics, the most notable being SPQR. Now they are the premiere wargame company, taking the crown that dropped when Avalon Hill was bought by Hasbro. As GMT's fortunes have risen, Paths of Glory has stood the test of time. It remains a great game that combines frustration with excitement. It is not just a classic wargame or boardgame. It is a classic of the entire gaming hobby.

The Face of War:

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Paddy O'Doors
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Great review! I, too, enjoy this game very much, and it has risen to the top of my list after 17 years of wargaming!

However, not to nitpick, but I feel inclined to mention that I take exception to this statement, found in your analysis of POG's historicity:

gittes wrote:
...Gallipoli will usually end in a smashing Allied victory...


In order for your MEF to be successful in taking Gallipoli and Constantinople, no less than two of the following unlikely things MUST happen:

1. You must have plenty of ops to spare (due to the super-high cost of MEF beachhead activations -- multiple 3, 4, or 5 cards depending on whether you've spent SR points to bring in corps)
2. You must have very good luck in both the card/event plays (no Bulgarians or Germans or TU armies) and then very good luck in two successive battles (no Kemal, Liman, etc.)
3. Your opponent is clueless (doesn't prepare/respond effectively, doesn't position enough units to cancel the retreat after losing in the mountains, etc.)

Against a competent CP opponent, #3 is out, and he will be doing as much as possible to minimize the risk of #1 and #2 happening at the same time.

In my experience of the game, MEF: Gallipoli-->Constantinople wins/successes are very rare.

Just my two cents. And again, great review! thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup
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Joey Konyha
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The more I play this, the closer it gets to being my top game. Sure I love Twilight Imperium, and am an ambassador for the (IMHO) overlooked Age of Renaissance, but those games rarely see the light of day, either due to "sweet spot" issues in regards to the number of players (TI3) or the sheer amount of teaching required. (AoR)

One thing not mentioned in the review (as I recall) was the somewhat steep learning curve, not for the rules, but for the strategy.
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Chris Larkin
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I find it very challenging to teach this game to new players. The general rules are easy to understand, such as what you can spend your ops on. But the game has dozens of special rules that are really difficult to keep track of. I printed them out from a file here I think to help, but it's still difficult to keep them all straight and we always mess up a rule or two when we play.

My favorite game still however when I can find opponents.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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One thing not mentioned in the review (as I recall) was the somewhat steep learning curve, not for the rules, but for the strategy.


I think this is one reason why this game still holds my attention. Every session I am trying new things and seeing different results. Take for instance Patrick's assessment:

Quote:
In order for your MEF to be successful in taking Gallipoli and Constantinople, no less than two of the following unlikely things MUST happen:


My last few sessions saw the Allies pulling off Gallipoli with great sucess. Obviously though the CP was not playing up to snuff, which is funny since the last session ended a CP sweep of France and Russia.

God I love this game.
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Jonathan Harrison
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I'm expecting this today in the mail.

God, I can't wait.

[Edit: *sob* An empty mailbox...]

[Edit 2: Just got ship confirmation. Looks like I accidentally got the ship date wrong. *ssssssssoooooooooooooobbbbbbbbbb*]
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Jack Smith
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Good review thanks.

I am just getting into this after owning for some time. I am very impressed with the high number of interesting decisions you can make from seemingly mundane choices. Even the choice of a RP card or the need to play one at all can be fun. Unlike some games I do not feel I am doing something just for game mechanic purposes over which I have little control (such as rolling for weather) Everything I do means something.

I also love the combat system. It is so simple yet it has some really deep elements to it in the way it applies factor losses and the need to maintain reserves. All done very naturally. The inclusion of the NE map is a great bonus, it would have been easy to ignore this I think and replace it with some arbitrary table. But again it gives rise to a whole load of new choices.

While I really enjoy history I play war games for fun first, history second so I have no issue with the game on that score. I suspect one day I will be playing the historical variant but only as it does seem to give a bit more opportunity for the Russian Revolution and US entry. This variant may be slightly misnamed, it seems more of a game balance change.

As to Anglo bias if had my way id have the NE Map 10 times the size as I want to see Laurence of Arabia charge across the sand dunes...oh wait, I can get Pursuit of Glory
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Dan Freedman
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This is a game I've picked up and started playing in the past year. I now consider it the grail of CDWs. Wish I could find the time and opponents to play this more often!

I'd echo the earlier comments on Gallipoli. Very difficult to take it from MEF1. The MEF + 1 BRc costs 4 Ops to activate. And that only gets the AP to the 3 army table. Really need to get to the 5 army table to have a decent chance. But this requires burning both 5 Ops cards (Romania/Italy) to activate MEF...to have a small chance against those 3 Turkish corps in the mountains. And once Bulgaria enters play it only gets tougher. And if the Balkans are taken, a CP army can be SR'ed down to Gallipoli and end any small chance for the MEF.
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Michael Debije
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Ah, crap. I'd avoided getting this for years, telling myself it was WW1, and I don't play WW1. Well, now I have to get it. Thanks a lot!
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Andrew J
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I'm glad to see people still enjoy this after many years. I only got the game very recently (2010 edition this April) after several years of dithering - mostly because of concerns voiced about historicity. Boy I'm glad I got it. I've only played two introductory games so far with my wife (yes, some women do indeed like it) and several solo full games but it feels just right to me. And as for historicity, I'm one of those stupid wargamers who play reasonably historically for the narrative (if you know what I mean), so it's not a problem for me. That does mean I'd be terrible in a real competitive game!

As for British bias - yes I can see that, although the image of the soldier does encapsulate the Great War very evocatively (but may be he's Canadian or something - no doubt someone will correct me if so). The BEF is too strong, but I'm reluctant to weaken it when I play (even as the CP!).
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Jonathan Harrison
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myrmex wrote:
And as for historicity, I'm one of those stupid wargamers who play reasonably historically for the narrative (if you know what I mean), so it's not a problem for me. That does mean I'd be terrible in a real competitive game!

I've heard a lot of good things about the Mostinckx-Loth historical variant—for one thing, the beginning of the variant, in the acknowledgments section, states that Ted Raicer "read[] our rules and assur[ed] us our game design adaptations and the historical rationales for our changes were valid." Just printed this off, actually.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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I also love the combat system. It is so simple yet it has some really deep elements to it in the way it applies factor losses and the need to maintain reserves. All done very naturally. The inclusion of the NE map is a great bonus, it would have been easy to ignore this I think and replace it with some arbitrary table. But again it gives rise to a whole load of new choices.


I was thinking the same thing but I could not quite put it into words. Thank you for providing those words.

Quote:
As to Anglo bias if had my way id have the NE Map 10 times the size as I want to see Laurence of Arabia charge across the sand dunes...oh wait, I can get Pursuit of Glory


Playing Paths of Glory has made Pursuit of Glory go from "I'd like to play it" to "I must play it and/or own it." As a Lawrence of Arabia fan I can't wait to send him into Damascus.
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Warren Bruhn
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mi_de wrote:
Ah, crap. I'd avoided getting this for years, telling myself it was WW1, and I don't play WW1. Well, now I have to get it. Thanks a lot!


I don't think you need to worry about it being WW1. It's not really, at least not with respect to US entry, Russian exit, or almost anything about Italy. It is, however, an extremely fun game to play, and it has loads of very good historical chrome. This game forces long term thinking with regard to how to position troops and how to play cards. Because you don't move and attack in the same impulse with any one piece, the game has a chess like quality to the movement and combat.

I would give PoG a 45 out of 50, deducting another point for simulation and another point for too many rules exceptions. I rate it second only to The Civil War from Victory Games among 2 player strategic cardboard wargames. Both games have a wonderful level of dramatic tension and near constant player engagement in what is happening. With PoG you sometimes need to keep a rag handy to avoid getting too much sweat on the cards! It's hard to ask for more with regard to how a game plays.

I'm not sure that either Mostincx-Loth or Banquet de Genereaux are good solutions for the historical problems, for those few of us who care. The problem is that there are already a lot of exceptions and special cases in the rules, enough so that it is somewhat annoying to have to remember them all. That's just the style of how the rules were written. The larger "historical" variants put another layer on top of the already extensive exceptions and special cases. There is a poll on how people play PoG, and the last time I checked only two people had responded that they had played with these two "historical" variants.
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R Larsen
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I have been on the fence for years with this.
I tried an introductory game a few year ago, and was very frustrated with the load of exceptions that I had to handle - the one thing I cannot stand in wargames, and something that I find very un-elegant.
However, I find that every time there is a session report or review on PoG, I need to read it, and I get this weird feeling that I am missing out on something big.
Hmmmm....I can see where this is going....just a matter of time...shake
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Jonathan Harrison
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
I'm not sure that either Mostincx-Loth or Banquet de Genereaux are good solutions for the historical problems, for those few of us who care. The problem is that there are already a lot of exceptions and special cases in the rules, enough so that it is somewhat annoying to have to remember them all. That's just the style of how the rules were written. The larger "historical" variants put another layer on top of the already extensive exceptions and special cases. There is a poll on how people play PoG, and the last time I checked only two people had responded that they had played with these two "historical" variants.

Yes, and one of them was me, today, lying ahead of time because I'll forget later.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
I have been on the fence for years with this.
I tried an introductory game a few year ago, and was very frustrated with the load of exceptions that I had to handle - the one thing I cannot stand in wargames, and something that I find very un-elegant.
However, I find that every time there is a session report or review on PoG, I need to read it, and I get this weird feeling that I am missing out on something big.


Normally I am with you, and for a time Paths of Glory was on the back burner because of those exceptions. For me, exceptions are more acceptable with games on a grand scale.
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J. Santos
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I began my first game yesterday, and I have found the exceptions less daunting than it seemed upon reading the rulebook. I'm only a couple of turns in, but so far all exceptions have proven to be very situational things that only happen once or twice per game, 1914 special rules that you can forget once the first turn is over, and all the Near East map exceptions, that will probably be the most problematic once it comes into play. Most exceptions, though, are easier to remember and just make sense once you have a cursory knowledge of the war -French and Americans activating together for 1 OPS is easier to remember when you know the real circumstances of american involvement in the Western Front, for example.


I am finding much more daunting the advance and retreat after combat procedure -a summary of combat procedure in the player aid cards would have been very nice-, and remembering the lasting effects of events once they're played -Moltke, for example, specially if you only have time to play one turn per session. :devil:

Despite my limited experience so far, I am loving the game immensely. Despite differences in setting and scale, it shares a surprising number of similarities with my other favorite wargame, Combat Commander:

a)In each round your options as a player are limited enough to be manageable in a reasonable time (by the cards), but all of them are usually interesting enough -both by your needs in the board and by the options allowed by your cards- that the decision is excitingly agonizing.

b)The game never feels unbalanced; or rather, each player feels it is horribly unbalanced against himself. Just like in my favourite CC scenarios (Bonfire of the NKVD or Cold Front come to mind), both sides start the game thinking "how on earth am I supposed to win this hopeless situation?" , and that gives the game a lot of emotion since both players feel the slightest mistake will be a catastrophe -except it won't, since the other player is in the same situation. After only one turn, my AP-playing cousin is convinced I am on the verge of taking Paris; while at the same time I am convinced that my first turn was abysmal and I'm never getting anywhere near Paris -and, while I know Italy is going to give him a lot of headaches, I wonder how I'm going to prevent the Italians from driving towards Vienna because there is nobody protecting that border, and I need all reinforcements to stop the russians and invade the serbs, etc, etc. This sort of anguish and challenge is exactly what I'm looking for in a good game. CC provides it at the tactical level (with a good dose of make-your-own-Band-of-Brothers-episode added!) while keeping the rules simple and manageable; and PoG seems to be doing the same at the strategic level so far, even admitting that maybe there are too many rules, and that the player aids should have included more information.
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Carl Paradis
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For people wanting to play a "Paths of Glory" game with the Correct History, you could do much worse than using this great variant:

http://www.banquetdesgeneraux.com/rubrique4.html
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Jonathan Harrison
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licinius wrote:
For people wanting to play a "Paths of Glory" game with the Correct History, you could do much worse than using this great variant:

http://www.banquetdesgeneraux.com/rubrique4.html

I forgot about these. They do look interesting.
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Carl Paradis
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They are GREAT!
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Interesting optional rules, Carl, but I feel they create an entirely different game. Examples: "Reserve Movement" which allows friendly units to move AFTER combat and "Entrenchment" which creates automatic trenches. Not that it's good or bad to tweak a game, but for someone trying to 'master' the game, using these rules would teach a lot of bad habits if they ever expected to play a lot of games against a lot of different people who may not welcome playing this 'new' game.

PoG continues to be one of my favorite games and it's place on the "Classics" list is well-deserved!
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Carl Paradis
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gregorit wrote:
Interesting optional rules, Carl, but I feel they create an entirely different game. Examples: "Reserve Movement" which allows friendly units to move AFTER combat and "Entrenchment" which creates automatic trenches. Not that it's good or bad to tweak a game, but for someone trying to 'master' the game, using these rules would teach a lot of bad habits if they ever expected to play a lot of games against a lot of different people who may not welcome playing this 'new' game.

PoG continues to be one of my favorite games and it's place on the "Classics" list is well-deserved!


Yes I agree. Yet, if you want a more realistic "simulation" of the Great War, this set of optional rules is hard to beat, IMHO.

But the "Ted Raicer" sets of amendments form C3i is good enough, too: I would never play again the game "as is from the box", it's too far fetched a fantasy, even if a good game.
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This review has motivated me to get Paths of Glory on the table again. It's long and sometimes difficult, but such a wonderful game!
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Andy Daglish
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Quote:
This is because the cards carry out four different functions, than the usual interplay between points and text.


That interplay is one of the reasons why the gameplay fails. Ops and events sit very uneasily alongside each other because there are rather unlikely ways to win that involve ignoring one for the other. Classically the Germans defeat the French army by attacking it continuously, and where successful using advance after combat as quasi-movement to set up an immediate new offensive. There's no good reason not to try this, as its failure won't necessarily put you in a bad position, whereas initial success will put you in a good one.

Events such as Sud Army are hard even to play let alone exploit, which suggests there's something wrong somewhere.

The Bolshevik Revolution process may be based on history but its not very competent in terms of design, and these defects were preserved during a major revision. If an effect has a 10% chance of success, its precursors should have correspondingly small effect upon gameplay.The main problem however is that the war in Russia did not follow the same pattern as the Western front, mainly due to the size and primitivity of the theatre, but giving it the same rules in the game is unlikely to work well. Indeed the Germans achieved their war aims rather early, and the game should reflect this.
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John David Galt
United States
Sacramento
California
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Quote:
For people wanting to play a "Paths of Glory" game with the Correct History, you could do much worse than using this great variant:

http://www.banquetdesgeneraux.com/rubrique4.html

I'm going to have to do my own version of this. It includes both some truly great ideas (the War Plans, disconnecting Trent from Verona, and the changed duration of French Mutiny), and some truly horrible ones (taking away the automatic Entrenchment, which the weaker countries really need; not letting Germans defend Austria; and not letting all the Balkan countries' units fight in all Balkan countries, as the Allies frequently need to do, both to save Serbia and to be able to satisfy Italian MOs without it being suicide).
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