Paths of Glory

By Scott Parrino 16 Mar 2005 0

Introduction

Cooking up this article felt like reviewing another pressing of The Beatles? White Album.

If popular acclaim is any measure, Paths of Glory from designer Ted Raicer and GMT Games is nothing short of a contemporary classic. This grand strategy World War I, game recently reprinted as a ?Game of the Year Edition,? has had all manner of critical laurels tossed at its trench-sodden feet. For over five years now it?s entertained legions of gamers through tournament play and is the highest-rated traditional board wargame at BoardgameGeek.com with a solid top 20 ranking with frequent spikes into the top 10.

Many of us have heard the praises sung of Paths of Glory, so I thus tip my kepi in acknowledgement of all that?s been said before of this game as I head off for the front. It?s important to keep this in mind if we?re to gain an understanding as to why a game based on World War I, a conflict with a reputation for stalemate and a lack of cauldron battles, bears a watermark of balance and tough decision-making. 

A View from the Trenches

Through Paths of Glory, Raicer created a title that does for World War I land warfare what The Russian Campaign did for the Ostfront in World War Two: a corps-and-army level game that delivers a sound sense of the period and the warfare it models with a relatively light set of rules. Gamers will likely engage in their own ?Race to the Sea,? unleash sweeping opening offensives in the east, and perhaps dash the brave ANZACs upon the shores of Gallipoli. Without question, ?ramparts of men? will meet the fate that industrialized warfare ensured for millions through both gas and guns.

The two major distinctions this game makes from traditional hex-and-counter wargames are found in the title?s use of area movement and card-driven action. Hexes are done away with and replaced with areas that connect in such a way as to practically disallow an ahistoric Blitzkrieg across a continent. Meanwhile, the cards introduce not only a means of enabling operations and securing reinforcements; they also foster a grand political, economic, and developmental context beyond the activities on the map. These are known as ?events? that drive the Russian revolution, introduce the entry of the United States into the war, and plunge an entire continent into total war.

Paths of Glory dang well feels like World War I, but I wouldn?t call it a simulation given its scale and abstractions. Still, gamers can get a gut-level sense of the woes Moltke the Younger must have felt in 1914 as the German offensive lost steam just shy of Paris and met stiff British resistance in Ypres, or when the Russians leapt out of Poland earlier than expected. It?s hard to argue such an appreciation, especially when many gamers hold the playability of Paths of Glory in such high regard.

To Schlieffen or not to Schlieffen, that is the question - the west at start.

Components

It?s a joy when the thought of playing a game is matched by the thought of handling its components. Big counters: I love ?em. Really, I do; and I think the fact that GMT Games decided to make the 5/8? counter the standard size for Paths of Glory is indicative of the care and attention they gave this game overall.

There are 316 game pieces in all, with most of the administrative and unit counters weighing in at the 5/8? inch gauge. A few counters, such as those that represent corps-level units, are

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