Paths of Glory
How to Play the Paths of Glory Board Game
Paths of Glory - Instructions, Rules, and Strategy
Paths of Glory is a strategy game based on the events of World War I, including combat across the continent of Europe and into the Middle East. The game was designed by GMT Games, which is arguably the most prolific war game designer of the past two decades. Other games by the same company include Twilight Struggle, A World at War, SPQR, and Commands & Colors: Ancients.
World War I Wargame Simulations
World War I was the largest conflict in the history of the world in its day, called "The Great War" by those who fought it. The Victorian Era had its share of wars, but these tended to be quick and decisive. People who lived in that age assumed political leaders and generals were competent and worthy of respect, because they maintained the established order. When World War I came, the combination of the trench system and the machine gun, as well as the inability to coordinate artillery attacks with infantry charges, caused the war to become a stalemate involving all the Great Powers of Europe. The combination of military stalemate and complicated alliance systems meant no settlement could be attempted, so that both sides settled down to a long and murderous war of attrition.
Only when one side completely collapsed did the war end, but by that time, the people of Europe came to question religion, culture, and even the political systems underpinning western civilization. Nothing was the same after World War I, which gives some sense of the scope of Paths of Glory.
Paths of Glory Set-Up
You have two types of military units to set up in Paths of Glory: the army and the corps. The corps is a collection of armies and it represents a larger unit.
Paths of Glory Rules
Paths of Glory uses the hex map design so familiar to wargamers of the past three decades or so. The game designers tried hard to simulate the mechanics of trench warfare. For instance, the game allows flanking attacks, if you attack one space from two or more spaces. In these situations, the flanking attack does damage to the opponent before they take their turn. But if you trench underneath your army, it can't be flanked.
Trench Warfare in Paths of Glory
Having a trench system increases the strength of the defending army, while weakening the strength of the attacking army. Also, if you have to retreat from an entrenched position, you won't take the standard casualties which come with retreat. All these rules means you can pack tight systems of trenches, allowing you to simulate the action (and stalemate) on the western front. It's wise to build up your trench system whether you're on either side in the western Europe, though the eastern front is a bit of a different matter.
Certain terrain also gives you similar protections. Mountain terrain is much harder to attack, so you're unlikely to attack into Switzerland, while battles along the Italian-Austrian front and along the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe are going to be troublesome.
Paths of Glory Supply Restrictions
You have to pay particular attention to resupply in Paths of Glory. If you don't supply a unit, you can neither activate it for movement or attack. If you can't rectify this situation, the unit eventually is lost. This means you need to keep continuous lines, while achieving a breakthrough and encirclement is desirable--though not likely. In other words, the difficulties and challenges of the First World War are hardwired into the Paths of Glory game design.
One of the most devious rules for Paths of Glory is the "mandated offensives" rule. Every turn, each player draw seven cards which represent seven actions to be taken. Each player must take six actions on their turn, meaning you can disregard one of your drawn cards. But you also have to take a mandated offensive, which could create difficulties for your overall strategy.
Mandated offensive represent political pressure on the generals to show progress and try to break the stalemate. One aspect of the Great War is that history hasn't been kind to most of the generals (and political leaders). The fallacy of charging machine gun nests with human waves certainly doesn't help their historical reputations, while their inability to devise strategies to break out of trench warfare makes them appear bull-headed and unconcerned with the human costs. But 1914-1918 represents a moment in military history when the powers of defense greatly outweighed the powers of offense, a problem which the military minds of the interwar years would solve with tanks, bomber planes, mobile artillery, and overall mechanized warfare during World War II.
While most of those tactics were used in some variation, from rudimentary tanks to biplanes and zeppelins dropping bombs to howitzers mounted on trains, the technology didn't allow for these ideas to be executed effectively. Thus the generals were left with suicidal charges behind massive, yet poorly executed, artillery barrages, which is what the mandated offensive are about.
Three Decks of Cards
Paths of Glory contains three decks of cards, signifying three phases of the war: Mobilization, Limited War, and Total War. Mobilization represents the phase all European nations had been preparing for in the generation leading up to the conflict, including the calling up of reserves, the German push through Belgium due to the Schlieffen Plan, and the supposed Russian colossus invading East Prussia. But this phase still represents early assets, when the powers thought the war would be over within the first 40 days--or a few months at most. Limited War represents a time when trench war had ensued and nations began to call up the general population, such as the Kitchener divisions in England. Total War represents the final phase, when all nations began to strain every resource to bring about total victory.
The mechanics of the three phases are handled through the events on the decks of cards. Most of the events of World War One can happen, though perhaps not in the order they did. The Czar can fall from power. The Bolsheviks can seize power from the Social Democrats, who seized power from the Czar. The United States might enter the war and might (or might not) send troops to France in time. Smaller powers like Romania might enter the war, or Hindenburg and Ludendorff might gain control of the total German war effort, but only if the deck they're associated with comes into play.
Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory
Those who've studied the inglorious history of World War I might wonder at the name of this boardgame. Paths of Glory was a 1957 film directed by Stanley Kubrick with Kirk Douglas in the lead role. Paths of Glory was an anti-war film based on a group of French soldiers who refuse to take suicidal orders. The stark film deals with the subject of execution for cowardice, unit punishments like decimation, and the unreal conditions of trench warfare. Since the board game took its name from this film, you'll understand why Paths of Glory may not be about glorious subjects.
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