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  Death in the Trenches The Great War 1914-1918 by Compass Games  'The Great War', 'The War to End All Wars', these were epi...

Death in the Trenches: The Great War 1914-1918 by Compass Games Death in the Trenches: The Great War 1914-1918 by Compass Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


 Death in the Trenches

The Great War 1914-1918


Compass Games

 'The Great War', 'The War to End All Wars', these were epithets that have been used to name the First World War. This war was a first for many reasons: aerial bombardment, poison gas, tanks, and masses of machine guns were used in it. Death and destruction of civilians was not a new thing. It had been happening since the dawn of wars. The First World War just took it to a new and frightfully unprecedented level. The western countries have always looked at it from the mostly static trench lines in France. The Eastern Campaigns usually had more freedom of movement and only stayed in one place for at most a year and usually not even that long. Four great empires were dissolved by the carnage of World War I: the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and the Ottoman empires all fell. The horrific loss of life led straight to the devil-may-care 1920s. All of the soldiers who escaped this abattoir were scared by it, whether mentally, physically, or both. In this game the designers have tried to put you into the shoes of the Entente or Central Powers from a strategic viewpoint. You will be in control of your forces across the globe, whether it be in the sky, on the ground, or at sea. 

 Compass Games has once again produced a game about World War I. As I mentioned in another review, they seem to be on a roll as far as games taking place during it. So far, their batting average has been excellent as far as each game goes. Let us see if they can keep this streak going.

 This is what comes with the game:

1 34×22″ map covering Europe and the Near East – Mounted

3+ countersheets (9/16″) of military unit counters, markers and chits – total 400 (double sided)

1 rules booklet (Game System and Random Events included)

6 8½ x11″ color player aid and display sheets

10 six sided dice

1 full-color box and lid set

 This is the hex size and turn length etc.:

Complexity: Medium (about 6 out of 10)

Playing Time: 10+ hours

Solitaire Suitability: Excellent

Time Scale: 1 turn = 3 months

Map Scale: 1 hex = approximately 80 miles

Unit Scale: Army and Corps

Designers: R. Ben Madison and Wes Erni

Artist: Jonathan Carnehl

 This is a blurb from Compass Games that I believe is worth reading:

"Death in the Trenches is a strategic-level World War I game covering the entire war, from the opening shots in Serbia and Belgium to the final defeat (or victory!) of Germany and its allies in 1918. The map, executed by Jonathan Carnehl, is designed to give you a feel for 1914 by using textures and colors featured in atlases of the time. It stretches from the Pyrenees to Moscow, and from Norway to the Sudan, covering every square inch of territory in Europe and the Near East which saw combat from 1914 to 1918, in a manageable 34×22″ format. Colonial battles around the world take place on an additional 8½x11″ map showing Germany’s empire.

The game also features 456 beautifully-illustrated counters depicting all the national armies that fought in the war – from the Germans, French, British and Russians all the way down to the Persians, Montenegrins, Armenians, South Africans, and a host of specialized units (French Foreign Legion, Gurkhas, Italian “Arditi”, Cossacks, Tyrolean Kaiserjäger, Zionists, Bavarians, “Dunsterforce”… even China may send a small expeditionary force).

For the World War I buff, the game’s simple off-map system of Allocation markers fills your world with historical detail: Tanks, Alpenkorps, artillery barrages, flamethrowers, poison gas, Krupp guns, Mustapha Kemal, the Royal Air Force, French elan, Rommel’s mountain tactics and Galliéni’s taxicabs… while the great wartime leaders all leave their mark (good or bad!) on history: Bruchmuller, Haig, Hoffmann, Mackensen, Hindenburg and Ludendorff, Rennenkampf and Samsonov, Sarrail, Von Francois, Foch, Brusilov, Nivelle, Plehve, Putnik and Yudenich. All this detail is added without forcing you to remember special rules.

What other WWI games make ruthlessly complex, Death in the Trenches simulates with elegant simplicity. Face-up units are entrenched; face-down units aren’t! Simple as that. Emphasis is on the fun stuff rather than the boring stuff; there is no bean counting of production points, supply rules and strategic redeployment are easy, and in combat there are no complicated terrain modifiers to memorize – those are baked right into the combat die roll."

 Let us first take a look at the components. The heft of the box is pretty good. However, now that so many games, this one included, come with mounted maps this is no longer a variable denoting gaming goodness (it actually may never have been). We grognards were always sucked in by large and heavy boxes. 

 The map has been judiciously set up to give the player the entire European and Near Eastern areas where campaigns took place, and more, on one normal sized map. That the designers were also able to include the turn record track and some other tables, and a subset map of India, is even more impressive. The map, while appearing plain, has an innate beauty, at least to me. The major cities that did and could have been a part of the campaigns are included. It would seem from the amount of area squished into the map that it would lose something in the conversion. However, at eighty miles a hex it seems just perfect for a strategic view of the area. Naturally, with this large of an area depicted you do not get much of the tactical obstacles, or benefits. The map's muted colors seem to match the somber tones that should accompany this war. There is a one sheet mounted map that has the areas in the Pacific, German East Africa, German Cameroon, and German South Africa that were also fought over during the war. This game is one of the very few that depict these areas. 

 The Rulebook is in full color and is twenty-eight pages long. The type is a bit on the small size. The rules go out of their way to explain that this is not your father's wargame. The game rules etc. have been based on Wes Erni's calculations and his WESCOM (the Warfare Equivalency System and Combat Operations Model). I will have more to say about this later in the review. The Events Book is twenty pages long and has a little color but is mostly in black and white. The first few pages are for the game setup. The next few pages are a complete catalog of what is in each hex. I do not remember ever seeing this in a game before and it is a nice touch. The last eleven pages are of all the events that can take place in each year. The game comes with six hard stock Player Aids. There are two fold out Omnibus Markers Track sheets. One is for the Entente and the other for the Central Powers. Then we have two Special event sheets, one for each side, that both have twenty-five events on them. Then there is a Battle Board and an Attacker Battle Chart. Some of the printing on this is also on the small side. Next up, we have four countersheets. These are adorned with the owning country flag on them. They come pre-rounded and easily come out of the sprues. These would be the most colorful part of the game. A few of them also come adorned with ships, artillery, and planes. The package on the whole is one that your game table will be calling for. 

 Now we will have a blurb from the Rulebook on WESCOM:

"WESCOM (the Warfare Equivalency System and Combat Operations Model) was created by Wes Erni, for the game Absolute Victory (designed in the 1990s but not published until 2016 by Compass Games; the first edition of Death in the Trenches was actually published first). It has been used in several other
games. The principle behind WESCOM is to engage a player’s personality in the Battle system, so that a player’s own level of aggression, or timidity, is vividly expressed in the way that player approaches each individual battle. The key to the WESCOM system is the infamous “Overroll”, where the player rolls as many dice
as he wants to, trying to achieve a die roll as high as possible but without going over a limit; if you go over the limit, you achieve nothing! In this way, the aggressive player constantly risks disaster. While critics who don’t understand the system complain (“What do you mean I rolled all those dice and did no damage?!”), thoughtful players of these games enjoy the emotional roller-coaster that the system forces them to ride. Firepower is essentially an index of offensive power, and takes into account morale, equipment, low-level commanders, and national temperament.

Fortitude is essentially an index of defensive strength, and takes into
account morale, equipment, low-level commanders, and national temperament.

In DEATH IN THE TRENCHES, Fortitude ratings are a little hard to decipher as they have been abstracted to show vast disparities in unit sizes. But the effect is to make every Division worth “one” on attack and defense, which enormously simplifies Battle mechanics for the player compared with the First Edition. Players should note that while Firepower seems like an “offensive” quality and Fortitude seems like a “defensive” quality, both ratings are used by both sides
in a battle, because Battle is simultaneous. While most games have a simplistic "I attack you all along the front, then you attack me all along the front” system, WESCOM accurately represents the intricate ballet of forces on the battlefield."

 Per the above, I hope that I am seen as a 'thoughtful player'.

 This is from the designers describing their thoughts on each country's relative strength:

"The basic unit of force in the game is the “division,” abbreviated “Div”. The exact size of a Div in the game is a mathematical
abstraction, but conceptually you can think of a Div as equaling approximately this many men: AH 20,000; USA 19,000; Russia 18,000; Italy 17,000; France 16,000; Turkey 15,000; Britain 14,000; Germany 11,000. Those numbers are not trivial! The Battle and logistical systems in Death in the Trenches are driven by Wes Erni’s finely tuned mathematical calculations. For game purposes, for instance, an Austro-Hungarian Division is nearly twice the size
of a German Division. This means that an Austro-Hungarian Division has a Battle advantage over a German Division, if only on account of its enormous size. The effect in the game can seem bizarre at first glance – Austrian units actually perform better on attack than Germans do! This is only because they are so much
larger. The flip side of this, however, is that Austrians are much harder to replace, because their casualty rates are so much higher. While this may feel like the Austrians are hard-to-replace ‘élite’ units while Germans are below-average ‘grunts’, the per capita effect is exactly the opposite. Just be aware that this entire system is extremely counterintuitive and takes some time getting used to. "

 Precisely because the system is so 'counterintuitive' is why I have decided to post the designer's words in full. On the outside this game seems like a cross between Axis and Allies and the old Avalon Hill game 'Guns of August'. While the ideas are simple, they do seem to be completely different than almost any other wargame. Most wargames battles are still based on a CRT and a set of modifiers. In simple games it will only be a few modifiers while in others it will be a list as long as your arm. Having a game based upon how lucky or belligerent a player feels means that you get a game where you can have battles like the Somme or Verdun. The battles can be absolutely brutal as far as casualties go. 

 Another interesting concept from the game is Reserve Divisions. These can be used by the player for:

Strategic Redeployment

Building Armies

Special Event Loss

Destroyed in Battle

 I must admit having been taken in by the look of the game. I was not expecting the game to be anywhere near as deep as it actually is. The game mechanics also help with the counter clutter. You do not feel as if you are a God that is using a tweezer to negotiate the buildings of the Manhattan Skyline. The designers have actually gone with a KISS style to the game. The only thing the player needs to do is to open himself up to new ways of thinking about wargames and their rules. Without, hopefully, beating a dead horse, they are counterintuitive. However, they work and work very well to simulate World War I. The game is listed as being as either one or two players. It is also given high marks for playing in solitaire mode. I can agree wholeheartedly with this assertion.

 Some of the Events are:

Achtung, Panzer - Germany's lumbering clumsy A7V tanks attack. This gives +7 firepower to any German attack in a clear hex.

Bruchmüller - Artillery genius, great for surprise attacks. This gives +30 firepower to any German attack

Strosstruppen - This gives +10 firepower to any German attack.

Foch - At the start of any EP pulse, you may "unflip" one stack of French Armies.

Voie Sacrée - At the start of any EP pulse roll three die. The French may add that many Divisions to Armies in any one hex in France.

Smith-Dorrien - At the start of any EP pulse, you may "unflip" one stack of EP Armies (at least one Army must be British).

 This is the Sequence of Play:

2.1 First Random Events Phase
1. Draw one chit to determine what Random Events occur (see 3.0).
2. Divisions are now added to Reserves/Armies by the Events just drawn (3.1).
3. The EP player may now transfer Fleets from Sea to Sea (8.2).
4. The CP player may now transfer Fleets from Sea to Sea (8.2).
5. Players may now challenge Naval Supremacy (see 8.3).

2.2 CP Logistics Phase
1. Each CP unit in a CP Units Holding Box may be built, or rebuilt, by the CP
Player (5.3). You may leave units in the Holding Box if you choose. Armies built at this time may also be reinforced by attaching Divs from Reserves (as in step #3 below).
2. CP may transfer Divs from one unflipped Army to another unflipped Army of the same nationality within 3 hexes (marching distance).
3. CP may transfer Divisions from Reserves, to unflipped Armies (Rule 6.4). This includes the transfer of Minor Forces (4.3) from the Minor Forces Reserve Box to the map.
4. CP may now transfer Divisions from unflipped Armies, to Reserves (Rule 6.4). This includes the transfer of Minor Forces (4.3) from the map to the Minor Forces Reserve Box.

2.3 EP Logistics Phase
The EP player repeats the preceding steps (2.2), using his own Armies and Divisions. Both Players can do this simultaneously if they trust one another.

2.4 Pulse Phase (see 6.0 and 7.0)
[2.4.1] During the Pulse Phase, play proceeds by a series of alternating pulses, kind of like chess moves. First one player goes, then the other player, and back again, alternating until both sides either have nothing left to move, or don’t want to move anything.
[2.4.2] The player who moves first in the turn is indicated on the Turn-Record Track next to the turn number (CP on Turns 1, 2, and 3; EP on Turn 4, etc.)
[2.4.3] During a Pulse, the player who is moving (“the phasing player”) moves one stack of units as explained in Rule 6.0. If this results in the moving stack entering an enemy-controlled Hex occupied by enemy units, the Battle occurs, as explained in Rule 7.0.
Certain Special Events (3.4) are done during, or instead of, movement.
[2.4.4] A player may also “pass” during his Pulse, and hand the right to move to his opponent. If both players “pass” consecutively, the Pulse Phase ends. (So be careful – don’t give the other Player a chance to end the Turn unless you’re prepared to live with the consequences!)

2.5 Unflipment Phase
1. All Armies on the map which were flipped, now “unflip” and return to printed-side-up.
2. Spend Divisions to Repair forts (8.4).
3. Roll for Armenian Massacres (14.2).
4. Surrender Checks (12.0); check Russian “Hammer and Sickle” cities (13.2).

2.6 Second Random Events Phase
1. Draw again for Events, as in 2.1 (every turn).
2. Divisions are now added to Reserves/Armies by the Events just drawn (3.1).
3. Put all Event Chits back into the cup for use during the next year (Fall turns only: see rule 3.0).
This concludes one turn. The cycle repeats until one player resigns, or Fall, 1918 has ended (see 16.0).

 As you can see, deciding to when to 'Pass' during the Pulse Phase is an important decision on the player's part. 

 Another interesting rule is 'Reds' (Partisans). If any Great Power Surrenders (except Russia), the victor places two Reds Armies in the territory of the surrendered nation. These will be commanded by the opposite player. So, if France surrenders, the Reds would be under the control of the Central Power Player. The Russian Revolution has its own set of rules. 

 Thank you very much Compass Games for letting me review this great addition to World War I games. The most important thing about our hobby is to learn things, at least to me. This game does not really teach you that much history, you should already know all of that. It does make you open your mind to learn a new way of thinking toward playing and understanding wargames. A day without learning something is a day wasted. I have really enjoyed playing this game.

 Please remember that Compass Games Expo is coming up on November 10-14, 2022. This will take place at the beautiful Comfort Inn & Suites in Meriden Ct. I hope to see you there.

 It is also that time of year again. Compass Games yearly sale is in full swing. Please take a look.


Death in the Trenches: The Great War 1914-1918:

Compass Games:

Compass Games Expo:

Strategic Command WWII:World at War by Fury Software Matrix/Slitherine  Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Calling all would ...

Strategic Command WWII: World At War by Fury Software&Matrix/Slitherine Strategic Command WWII: World At War by Fury Software&Matrix/Slitherine

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


Strategic Command WWII:World at War


Fury Software


 Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Calling all would be strategists; there is a new sheriff in town. You can now play with Takagi, Yamashita, Balbo, Graziani, Kleist, Busch, Alexander, Dempsey, Clark, Hodges, Vatutin, Rokossovsky etc. The units are armored trains, battleships, tanks, planes, rockets, any armament that played a role in World War II. I didn't mention the big names because you are in charge of your nation's destiny. The scenarios go back to 1939. Hopefully we get a DLC or a mod that allows players to go further back in time to build up their nation as they want. With these scenarios only Japan really has enough time to alter their force make up. So let us look at what scenarios come with the game:

1939: World At War
1942: Axis High Tide
1943: Allies Turn The Tide
1942-45 Race To Victory
1943-45 Race To Victory

 Without rewriting the entire list of the sales pitch, here it is:

  • New Features! From limited naval repairs to Kamikazes.
  • Take command of the Axis or Allies, and re-fight the whole of WWII!
  • Let the computer take control of some of your allies so you can concentrate on your favorite theaters.
  • Play on a top-down hex based map spanning the entire globe.
  • In addition to the Grand Campaign starting in 1939, Strategic Command WWII: World At War also includes shorter scenarios.
  • A realistic Fog of War simulates the historical atmosphere where you have to make decisions with only partial knowledge of your opponent's intentions and dispositions.
  • Play with a choice of 3-D unit graphics, or NATO counters if you prefer a more traditional wargaming experience
  • Research and upgrade your units with a unique level of choices! Infantry Weapons, Rockets, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Amphibious Warfare, and more!
  • Use Diplomacy to win over new allies and use your intelligence to undermine the enemy!
  • Contains a large number of strategic level Decision Events for you to choose your path to victory.
  • Very easy to use Editor to make your own “what-if” scenarios or create new maps and campaigns from scratch. Modders will be glad to know that this game can have 10 Major powers.
  • Very active modding community eager to share their developments with other players, whether it be changing the look of the map or designing new campaigns, even covering conflicts in other time periods, there is a lot there!

This is the first release in the SCWWII: World at War series (hopefully). So there are not many scenarios to choose from. It is my hope that we will see DLCs that encompass some larger maps and separate campaigns like Fury Software did with their earlier games. As I mentioned, I would like an early pre-war scenario to guide your nation or nations.

 At the start of the game you can choose to play the Allied or Axis nations. However, you can also turn over the nations that you do not wish to play during that game to the AI. This leads to a more sandbox approach to the game. The AI is competent, but might throw you a curve ball on occasion. Speaking of the AI, the Strategic Command series has, since its inception, been beleaguered by some players about the Naval aspect of the game. Submarines and other naval units with zero supply has been one of the major gripes. This has been looked at by Fury Software, and the game has had these improvements:

"While not a complete overhaul, there have been quite a few changes, listed below, which have been reported as nice improvements to the overall game during testing.

- supply rule changes:
- subs can no longer dive at 0 supply.
- all raiders can no longer raid at 0 supply.
- defending units at 0 supply will receive 50% more damage from a successful attack against them.
- fighters and carriers cannot intercept/escort when at 0 supply.
- maximum reinforcement points is now 5 strength points per turn for all naval units except Motor Torpedo Boats.
- naval units positioned top of a small island sea enemy hex will no longer be fully revealed under FoW.
- neutral majors can no longer load units onto Amphibious Transports.
- defending subs at zero supply, or defending land units defending from ground attack at zero supply, will now have their morale fully recalculated after any defending strength losses are applied.
- subs will now have a 25% chance of receiving at least a single strength point loss when diving from attack.

We've also added a change to Special Forces, i.e. US Marines and Japanese SNLF which especially help with island hopping in the Pacific. A few other island hopping related changes are listed below here as well:

- Special Forces units, after amphibiously unloading, now maintain supply for up to 5 turns with a drop of 2 supply points per turn.
- minor nation Capitals, Fortresses with 3 or more adjacent enemy units will now have their supply reduced by one strength point per turn.
- Ports no longer provide supply to land units if there is an enemy land unit adjacent to the port.
- abandoned Ports adjacent an enemy City/Town will now switch to enemy control."

 So, as you can see, the game has been worked on. For those of us who own the older versions we do notice the difference. According to Fury Software these changes will also appear in their last game, Strategic Command WWII: War in Europe.

 For those of you who did not buy SCWWII: WIE, the biggest change in these new games is a return to hexes (Please flash the applause sign). I could never get used to the diamond shaped pseudo-hexes in the other games. The scale of the game opens up the modder community to use the entire world or make their own scenarios as they wish. 

Closest Zoom

 Besides being larger in scope than the last game, there are other things to induce a new player. The scripts that pop-up during the game for each country can be turned off and on in the advanced options screen. So, if you do not agree with the historical or non-historical actions, just remove that script. 

Farthest Out Zoom

 The game play is easy to pick up and the user interface is very intuitive, as it should be. The scale of the game is mostly corps and fleets. As in all the games of the series MPPs (Military Production Points) are at its core. You need these to do reinforcement, diplomacy, or research, you name it, you need them. Each country  has a set number of them at the start of scenarios, but you can increase a country's amount each turn by conquest. All of your units in play use APs (Action Points). These are used to move, fight, or do what the player wants. Each nation starts each scenario with some pluses and minuses in the make up of the armed forces. Germany begins with some better numbers in ground warfare, where Japan starts out with naval ones. If playing just Italy, it might behoove you to stay out of the war for as long as possible to build up your might. The Allied nations, as they did historically, have tremendous production capability, as long as they can stay in the war long enough for it to count. You can try Operation Sea Lion, attack Spain (as either side), or go for Churchill's Balkan gambit. If it happened in World War II it can happen here, or even if it was only thought of during the war.


 As I have stated, the game has a very long pedigree, and it shows. The game just has a very polished feeling to it. I can easily recommend this to anyone who wants to fight WWII globally on the computer. The very large modding community and the fact that Fury Software is always working on DLCs, paid and otherwise, is just an added plus. Thank you Matrix Games for the chance to review this newest iteration of the series.