The Great War, an Introduction

The Great War, an Introduction

The Great War, an Introduction
With Mitch Reed
Just over a century ago the guns of the Great War fell silent and the world started an uneasy period of peace that would last just over 20 years. While the guns of 1918 are dormant, they can come alive once again on your gaming table with the new Great War book from Battlefront.

This new edition updates the rules of the Great War game to Version 4 standard and match the rules seen in the ‘Nam and Fate of a Nation releases. While articles closer to the release date will tell you all about the new book, this article will explain why you should collect an army and game the Great War.

I was lucky enough to be a part of this project since the release of the first book three years ago and I have stayed close to the project. I am excited for this new book as it expands Great War and I know you will be excited about it as well.

Myths Of The Great War
The pushback I get from gamers about the Great War is that it was nothing but boring static trench warfare. The war may have that reputation, but it did evolve. The armies that were tied down in trench warfare for almost three years slowly developed and adopted the methods of mobile warfare. By 1918, the trenches that ran from the English Channel to Switzerland still remained, but they were no longer manned shoulder-to-shoulder by troops. Both sides used an elastic defense based around strong points along with ample reserves behind the line to counterattack an enemy breakthrough.

The Great War, an Introduction

‘Kaiserschlacht’, the German attack to end the war, was launched in March 1918. From that point, the Western Front saw one major offensive after another until the final days of the war. The shackles of the trenches were off and armies advanced on open fields much like they did in 1914. The coordination of infantry, artillery, and tanks used in the Second World War had its roots in 1918. Anyone who has read about the Battle of Amiens could see how the combined use of infantry, artillery, and tanks was born on the bloody fields of France some 20 years before the Second World War.

The Battle of Amiens started what was known as the “100-Days Offensive”, during which all of the Allied armies attacked non-stop in an effort to end the war.  This was a period of open warfare that provides huge opportunities to wargamers—it was anything but boring.

The Great War, an Introduction

The other misconception about the Great War was that tank warfare was limited. In comparison to the conflicts that followed perhaps it was, however the idea of massed tank formations breaking through enemy lines even predates 1918 and was first used by the British in late 1917 during the battle of Cambrai. The introduction of the tank during the war changed warfare forever.  Only a few military leaders at the time, however, considered the true potential of these battlefield-dominating weapons.

The missions designed for Great War represent both trench and open warfare, so you won’t be stuck in the trenches if you do not want to be.

The Great War, an Introduction

Gaming the Great War
With some of the myths about gaming the Great War debunked, you may want some reasons to play the Great War period. The answer is simple, and it’s the same reason why we play any game—it’s fun and challenging. What I have really loved about playing this period is that it made me learn how to better use my infantry forces. In Team Yankee and in some respects Flames of War, the infantry supports the tank, however in Great War your lists tend to have few tanks and you have the tanks supporting the infantry as they move forward. In this game, you have to concentrate on how you maneuver your infantry platoons and use your heavy machine gun platoons, a unit which is almost absent in the lists of Flames of War. In Great War, each infantry platoon is a mix of capabilities, with light machine guns and rifle grenades laying down fire as your rifle teams assault the enemy. In addition, there are excellent support units you can add to your platoons, including flamethrowers, 37mm cannons, and anti-tank rifles. With these, you will end up with a large unit that has multiple capabilities.

The Great War, an Introduction

The iconic weapon of the war, the heavy machine gun, really comes into its own in Great War. You will use HMG bombardments much like how you used artillery in Flames of War, to pin your enemy. The German HMGs get an AT rating of 3, which will makes their HMG units dominant on the battlefield.

In another role change, you’ll find that mortars that do not bombard. The trench mortars in the game come in units of one or two weapons each and only use direct fire. Mortars can kill those HMG teams in your path. How mortars are used in Great War showed me the benefit of taking small man-packed mortars integrated with my infantry platoons in Flames of War.

Why You Should Play Great War
I have played the new version of Great War a number of times and I noticed how differently this game plays from Flames of War. Since the units are so balanced, list making becomes less important (do you take expensive tanks or not?) when compared to how you use the forces on your list. The usual calculus of “recon, template, and smoke” will not work here and Great War really focuses on your decision making. In some respects this game offers challenges that I do not find in other games. I have used what this game has taught me to improve my play in both Flames of War and Team Yankee.

If you like the infantry aspect of Flames of War I don’t see how you can pass up on Great War. As an infantry game I have found it very balanced and very accurate.

The Great War, an Introduction

The fact that the game is played on a 4’x4’ table also adds to its excitement. You will have a lot of firepower to concentrate in small area and will be toe-to-toe with your opponent right away in hand-to-hand combat if you choose.

Most of all, Great War is a game that is a lot of fun. I will agree it’s a departure for the “tank mafia” crowd, however serious students of the game can really improve their play and can add new tactics to their tool box.

Click here to go to the Great War section of the online store...

For more information on how I built my lists for Great War please see my companion article on

How to Maximise Your Collection With the Great War Sale...

No Dice, No Glory

Last Updated On Friday, November 16, 2018