Paths of Glory – Suicide of Europe The First World War, 1914–1918

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Fog at Dawn / Sunny Morning / In the Mud: unforeseen, unforeseeable, or perfectly foreseen but ignored climatic conditions had a significant impact on the success or failure of many offensive operations during the war. The sun on 1st July 1916 on the Somme was clearly foreseeable, the extent by which it helped the German machine gunners to mow down the attacking British soldiers had not been taken into account.

German Advisors: The Germans sent qualified staff to support the Turk Army, an effort that paid well as the improved leadership sustained the courage displayed by the Turk troops.

Great Offensive: Time and again Grand Offensive operations were undertaken with the stated aim of bringing the war to an end. These offensives ended sourly when their result fell short of the high expectations.

Imperial High Command / Junker HQ / Junker Officer Corps: With all its shortcomings the German High Command was a highly qualified and professional organization that was able to efficiently coordinate the Central Powers War effort for over four years

Increased Policing / Law and Order: As war weariness became evident governments had to devote more attention to the Internal Front, on occasion having to divert troops to internal order duties.

Infiltration Tactics (I, II and III) / Meat-Grinder / Pincer Movement / Stosstruppen / Trommelfeuer: Thanks to its professional officer corps the German Army often had the tactical upper hand, and introduced many of the most successful tactics attempted to break the deadlock.

International Red Cross: War losses were appalling, doctors and nurses on the fields of Europe achieved wonders in helping many of the wounded to survival and recovery.

Interventionist Propaganda: Funding and supporting the political movements that rumored for intervention in the Neutral Countries helped leverage the various other enticements offered to their Governments to join the struggle. Often the expression of activist minorities, these movements were nevertheless instrumental in determining many neutral countries to join in the War.

Joint Chiefs of Staff / Joint Offensive Plans / Planning Conference / New Commander in Chief / New Chief of Staff / Western Offensives: The Allied nations quickly realized that coordination of their war effort would magnify the pressure being brought to bear on their outnumbered and out-resourced opponents. The implementation of the various coordination structures was often not as efficient as originally anticipated, and it was only towards the end of the struggle that the benefits of the coordination of efforts started to become significant.

Kaiser's Visit: Royal visits and the celebration of Royal Genethliacs were memorable events for the front-line troops. The “eye of the master” had the almost magical effect of multiplying the episodes of heroism (as any statistic based on decorations would suggest).

Local Guides: In many instances the populations living in rough and not easily accessible but still disputed border areas did not side with the nation currently occupying their land, and often helped or cooperated with the enemy efforts to “liberate” them.

Manual of Tactics / Reserves Up-Front / Small Steps: Allied Armies had a very structured approach to troop training, based on precise execution rather than on personal initiative. While Allied troops were invariably outsmarted by their German opponents, their standard approach helped them to widely adopt the tactical solutions that had been learned the hard way by those unlucky units hit by the latest German tricks.

Massed Artillery / Short Heavy Bombardment: The former “Arme Savant” dominated the battlefield from the very start, quickly becoming the most visible expression of the technological leaps achieved in the art of mass killing. Artillery concentration was widely held to be the only reliable key to break the deadlock. The land shaping devastation of long concentrated artillery barrages, however, often hindered the attacking troops in their advance, allowing time for the enemy’s reserves to close the gaps in the front.

Nationalist Levies / Nationalist Propaganda: Nationalism was a powerful force at the beginning of the XX Century. While it can be argued whether it had been responsible for sparking the war, it was a force that could materially contribute to the war effort, and all Governments summoned it at their side.

Nerves Warfare: For most citizens of the warring nations, having to endure life as a soldier during the I World War was a continuous nightmare. Governments and High Commands did not immediately realize the effects that the combined weight of the personal tolls would have on the efficiency of their war machines, and had to learn the hard way.

Neutralist Propaganda / Pacifist Propaganda: Significant portions of the politically aware populations across the world were horrified by the violence and destruction, and believed the appalling losses would only lead to more violence and destruction. They faced an up-hill struggle almost everywhere, as their positions were viewed as un-patriotic and dangerous for the security of the nation at war.

Plentiful Depots: The material superiority of the Allies was not immediately evident to the soldiers and citizens of the besieged Central Powers. All the propaganda in the world could not hide it from the advancing Central Powers troops enjoying the overflowing supplies abandoned by the fleeing enemy.

Polish Nationalism / Polish Propaganda / Polish Restoration: Initially confident of Victory, the Central Powers did not immediately appeal to Polish Nationalism. As the war progressed, the need to muster all available forces against Russia led them to sponsor the creation a new Polish State at the expense of their interests to keep direct control over those lands.

Socialist Propaganda / Socialist Strikes / Socialist Uprisings: Socialism was a powerful force in European society during the pre-War years. Idealistically pacifist forces, the Socialist Parties not only were unable to stop the outbreak the war, but everywhere supported the war effort. As war weariness set-in the Socialist Parties changed tack for fear of losing the support of the socialist masses, and started promoting anti-war initiatives, demonstrations and general strikes.

Strategic Planning: All Armies had to face the shock of the failure of inflexible strategic plans that had been thought perfect for years. The heavy losses arising from improvised tactics in the face of the efficient weapons now available forced the General Staff to turn to Strategic Planning to address the strategic dilemmas and tactical deadlocks their Armies faced on the fronts.

Strategic Surprise / Tactical Surprise: The Central Powers had strategic advantages in the central position and relative unity in the command structure. Thanks to its control over the key military resources of the Central Powers, the German General Staff was able, on occasion to catch the Allied forces unprepared. The most surprised was often the General Staff itself, as the unexpected scale of the successes obtained could not be fully exploited for lack of available reserves.

Trench-Lines System: As the war progressed the defensive technology advanced in leaps: by the end of the war defensive installations included multiple lines of trenches separated by killing grounds targeted by registered Artillery and fortified machine gun emplacements and strongholds, the whole system linked by underground refuges and passages

Turk Obstinacy / Turk Determination: Turk troops displayed excellent fighting spirit and remarkable endurance, and to the surprise of the world did not melt away when faced with the forces of the major military powers of the time. Their valour allowed Turkey to be the only defeated Nation that was able to obtain reasonable peace terms (albeit after a long additional but victorious struggle at the end of the war).

Turk Campaign: The Caucasus theatre was the historical ground of rivalry between the Ottoman and the Russian Empires, even if this was considered a secondary front by the Russian Armies. The Turks were eager to avenge the defeats experienced sixty years before during the Crimean War (when the Ottomans were fighting on the side of the English and French against Russia), and later in the Russo-Turk war of 1877, when the Russians obtained control o the Ottoman city of Kars.

Liberty Loans: The influence and economic weight of the US became a factor in the war, boosting the British, French, and Russian economies, long before the Americans joined in the war.

War Journalism: War Journalism was employed by all Governments to support their propaganda. It was also successful in reporting on some of the atrocities that occurred during the war, from Belgium to Armenia, from the sinking of transatlantic liners to the bombing of urban areas or to international intrigues such as the Zimmermann Telegram episode. It was important in whipping-up the American public and Congress into joining the War.

Weapons R&D: The best scientific and practical minds applied themselves to the task of refining the ways to kill and destroy that could be used against the enemy in the effort to win the war to end all Wars. Given their superior resources the Allies had the edge in the search and production of new weapons.

West Wall: the defensive efficiency of the German Armies remained intact until almost the very end of the War. The German High Command ordered several tactical retreats into prepared positions. The utter devastation of the abandoned terrain contributed to the long preparation that was necessary before the new German positions could be attacked.
21.0 Design Notes I

(Original Design Notes from Ted Raicer)

The Map The map for Paths of Glory (PoG) went through several different incarnations, including a hex map and an area version before evolving into the one you have (I hope) set up on your game table. The main advantage of a point to point movement system is it allows the designer to focus. No elaborate supply or terrain rules are required to prevent unrealistic strategic operations or highlight the importance of key locations; the map does it for you.

The map for PoG was designed to allow all the actual campaigns of WWI to develop historically, while giving realistic room for alternative campaigns. To do this I “played” historical versions of the game, adding or deleting spaces and connections until I was satisfied with the results.

The Order of Battle The Order of Battle for PoG does not include every army designation found in WWI. The French for example, formed an 8th Army in 1914 not found in the game. Instead the OB represents all the most important formations, while maintaining the relative strengths between the different powers. So in game terms the French 8th would be represented by a couple of corps.

Army units represent troops supported by heavy artillery, air, and other assets. (The Serbs are the sole exception-being given army status based on their fighting record in the war.) Corps units are smaller bodies of troops, armies with weaker command and logistical capabilities, and the remains of armies after heavy losses. In a more abstract sense, through the use of the Reserve Box corps represent the ability of a nation to support the demands of modern industrialized war. This ties in with the Replacement system to give Players a limited form of control over their wartime economies.

What If? Before the Schlieffen Plan Germany had a defensive strategy in the west. Schlieffen’s original version called for a German invasion of Holland as well as Belgium. In 1914 Italy was supposedly allied to Germany. Romania swung back and forth between the Central Powers and the Allies in 1914-15. Why then in PoG can’t Germany open the war with its armies deployed to the east, or invade Holland? Why can’t Italy or Romania join the Central Powers? Though PoG allows Players to explore a wide range of what ifs? it deliberately excludes others. Some were excluded because they were judged too unlikely to be worth bothering with. Italy, despite its treaty with Germany, was almost certain to join the war on the side of the Central Powers only if the Allies had already clearly lost (as in 1940).

Since what Italy wanted most was territory under Austrian control, the Allies had the upper hand diplomatically. It is always easier to offer an enemy’s lands as a bribe.

Romania, though it veered back and forth following the fortunes of war, was also unlikely to fight on the side of the Central Powers because it too wanted Austro-Hungarian lands. In any case what the Central Powers really desired from Romania was not her inept armies, but her oil and wheat. If Romania is still neutral when the Tsar falls, she economically becomes a German vassal, represented by the two Victory Point award.

Other what ifs? were excluded as outside the scope of the game. Not simply the course, but the cause of the war depended on the pre-war plans drawn up by both sides. If the Germans had never adopted the Schlieffen Plan, there might have been no war in 1914. Certainly if a war had taken place it would be so different as to require a new deck of cards.

Other what ifs? were dropped because in game terms they made so little sense you’d have to mandate a Player to do them. The invasion of Holland falls under this heading; for a limited tactical advantage the Germans would add a strategic headache and more diplomatic damage (which is why Moltke the Younger dropped the passage through Holland in the first place).

Finally, certain possibilities were excluded to counter Player hindsight and also to prevent serious damage to play balance. Perhaps as some still argue, Schlieffen’s original plan could have won the war in 1914.

In a game covering all of WWI it wouldn’t make much sense to allow the Germans a serious shot at winning on turn two.

War Status (or “Why The Bolshevik Revolution Depends on Sinking the Lusitania.”) War Status is one of the most important mechanics in PoG, and admittedly one of the most abstract. But the War Status numbers were not simply assigned randomly to various events. A great deal of thought (and trial and error) went into them.

War Status in PoG has several elements. First, it represents the progression of each alliance towards a state of modern industrialized Total War.

For example, War Status increases when the British 1st and Second Armies enter play because of the importance of Britain’s break from its traditional reliance on sea power.

Second, through the rules for Combined War Status, it shows the various effects of such a prolonged and costly struggle on national morale, politics, and diplomacy. As the intensity of the war increases unstable Russia grows more vulnerable (the Russian Capitulation track) while the United States finds it increasingly difficult to stay out of the war (through the US Entry track). In this way the Great Retreat adds War Status because refugees in western Russia undermine Russian morale, while the Lusitania increases War Status because it pushes the US towards joining the Allies. Increased CP play of War Status to weaken Russia increases the chance of US Entry. Likewise Allied action to hurry the US into the war increases the chance of Russia’s exit. This see-saw effect not only presents an interesting game problem for both Players, but effectively captures the dynamic that led to both US entry and the Fall of the Tsar in the space of a few weeks.

Finally, through the Armistice mechanism, the effect of war weariness outside Russia is introduced. If the war ends in an Armistice (historically on turn 19) the losing side is considered to have asked for terms.

If neither side is winning at the point, either negotiation or mutual exhaustion has brought the war to a close.

Victory Conditions The Victory Conditions were designed both in the interests of play balance, as a measure against the historical outcome, and to provide operational reasons to fight certain campaigns on the ground. For example, the Turks kept a full corps at Medina throughout the war. By making it a VP space they have reason to do so in the game.

The Peace Term rules really represent the propaganda war, as much internal as external, between the two sides. As in the real war, a Player will make an offer of peace only when he feels he is in a position of strength (ahead in VPs). The purpose of such an offer is to score propaganda points (in the game a VP) though if the offer is too obviously insincere it can backfire (costing a VP). If a Peace Offer is accepted real diplomacy has replaced posturing-and though the side that made the offer may be assumed to get the better of the resulting deal, in game terms the result is a draw because you’ve failed to turn an edge into outright victory. It is against the spirit of the game, btw, to accept a Peace Offer if you still think you have a chance to win.

22.0 Design Notes II


Paths of Glory is a great game. The topic is so vast that most players come up with ideas about alternative rules or game mechanics that they would want to test or introduce into the game. The Suicide of Europe set of alternative rules for Paths of Glory presented here arises from this natural love of the game.

However, unlike most of the other sets of rules published, the SoE set does not just make peripheral changes: the alterations affect the core mechanics and play is significantly impacted.

A brief explanation is provided for most of the new rules proposed covering the rationale for adopting the rule, and where relevant indications are provided as to how the rule will likely affect play.

The SoE rules have been developed starting from the 2004 version of the PoG rulebook and were written on the assumption that they would be adopted as a whole.

Our limited play testing indicates that the impact on the game is near neutral to play balance.

Some of the concepts presented are not new and rely on or adapt and develop previously published optional rules.

Among these deserve mention the various optional rules proposed by the excellent “Banquet des Generaux” (; the site boasts many other brilliant solutions that I decided not to adopt into this Suicide of Europe variant) and the Vesting Holland variant originally designed by David Meyler, as well as many ideas published in various forms by Ted Raicer.

The map and opening set-up have been modified and adapted in a number of instances; these are indicated and commented upon in the relevant sections of the rules.

What if? The outbreak of the War

The prevalent opinion on the frantic days that led to the outbreak of the War is that governments lost all control over the development of the crisis as soon as they allowed the military authorities to commence mobilization. The Generals argued that a mobilization did not mean war, but then pleaded that the process leading to war could not effectively be halted, save at the price of gravely endangering the chances of winning.

The critical question for game design is: how much leeway should the players be allowed in changing the plans for war that had been mulled over and fine-tuned for years?

SoE allows the exploration of some of the most recurrent “what-if” scenarios.

The Central Powers Player must address the critical question of whether to declare War on France, as required by the German mobilization and War plans.

A declaration of War on France would allow the execution of the Schlieffen Plan, and SoE proposes an opening event representing the original plan, as an alternative to the Guns Of August event still available to the Central Powers player.

The third scenario assumes a change in plans whereby the Central Powers would concentrate their initial efforts against Russia (either with or without a declaration of War on France).

The change in plans required to avoid a state of War with France, being taken very late in the process, would inevitably cause a great deal of confusion and disruption to the German mobilization operations, and this is reflected by changes to the opening set-up.

This scenario is radically different from the historic events, and to develop it important assumptions were made, notably that while France and Great Britain would not automatically enter the war from its start, both would most likely at some point be drawn into the conflict to avert a dangerous German victory.

Allied opening options

The lack of flexibility in plans would naturally affect the Allied Powers as well.

In the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the French had lost the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to the German empire. France felt humiliated in its pride, a sentiment that very quickly turned to thirst for revenge. In the following years of the Belle Époque the show of happiness and carelessness in the Parisian café’s and theatres could hardly hide the feeling that the inner thoughts of the French were always fixed on the lost provinces.

As the years passed, the elitist nature of the French Officer corps came under pressure, particularly after the Deyfuss scandal. The higher classes wanted to ensure the preservation of their control over the military, through their exclusive right of access to the higher ranks of the military profession. The demands for “democratization” could only be resisted if the Army remained small.

The French Army would be made of a small number of professional heroes.

This heroic vision evolved, and, distilled through the many years of longing, wait and preparation, was crystallized into the offensive strategy France finally embraced: Plan XVII.

The Plan had been devised by Foch and was based on mystical belief in the "élan", or offensive spirit, of the French Army.

General Joffre adopted this plan upon becoming commander-in-chief in 1911. One of the main aims of Plan XVII was to recapture the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.

Four French armies would advance on either side of Metz and Thionville. This would leave only one army to defend northern France, but French planners were convinced that Germany would not send significant forces to invade through Belgium, as this would lead to British involvement (in the Treaty of London of 1839 Germany, France and the United Kingdom, among other signatories had guaranteed Belgian neutrality).

The plan also rested upon the assumption that the Russian Army would attack the German forces on the Eastern front right from the opening of hostilities, and the hopes of victory for the allies lay in the expectation that Germany could not cope with both offensives at the same time.

Just days before the outbreak of the fatal crisis the French President Poincaré and the Russian Tsar had met, and presumably the French President had provided assurances of intervention in case of a war between Russia and Germany. Perhaps it was these guarantees that convinced Russia to come to the aid of the Serbs and resist the Austrian demands.

During the crisis Poincaré declared the France did not want the war, but that it did not fear it either. A more accurate statement would have been that, finally seeing the chance to fight on reasonable terms to recover the lost provinces, France wanted the war now, even if it did not want to be seen as the aggressor.

Poincaré was one of the few men in charge that throughout the crisis never balked at the prospect of war, perhaps confiding in Plan XVII.

In SoE the Allied Player is pushed to seriously attempt the execution of Plan XVII, arguably a strategy that makes little sense.

The French fight on unfavourable terms at the opening of hostilities, and are hindered in any manoeuvre deviating from Plan XVII.

The plan can be dropped either at significant cost in terms of prestige, by invoking and Alternative Plan, or otherwise, after substantial casualties have been incurred, by calling a French General Retreat.

This in turn is a straitjacket, its limitations typically easing when Paris is directly menaced.

These draconian rules are very effective in re-creating the atmosphere of the first chaotic days of the war, when the opposing Armies were expected to execute the established plans like clockwork, with little or no scope for thinking.

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