Since I read Herfried Münkler’s book The Great War three summers ago I got more and more interested in understanding the root cause of this world encompassing conflict. I wanted to better understand the strategic and operational thinking of the political and military leadership of the countries involved. Also I was and am fascinated about the effects that the war’s outcome and its unresolved problems still have on world politics today. Only since the end of the Iron Curtain have we become aware of the underlaying dynamics when we have seen several of these unresolved problems turning into regional conflicts.
To me wargaming is a multi-dimensional approach towards learning about such subjects. It involves reading, gaming, visiting museums, travelling to battle fields, viewing films and listening to lectures. All this is quite possible, if you live in Western Europe as I do. The green fields of Flanders and eastern France are only a 200 km drive away.
My first experience with WW I wargaming derives from air combat games. Some of my earliest games were Red Baron, Ace of Aces, and Canvas Eagles. All of these games sort of adhere to the delusion of the last refuge of chivalry in the skies over the muddy trenches.
To understand the real wight of the strategic decisions in Central Europe one needs to look at the various theatres of land warfare. In dealing with this topics one can measure how the anticipated effect of modern weapons led to serious planning for a short but devastating war. We all know the war that ensued was longer and more costly than ever thought off.
So last year many a book has made its way into my bookshelf, I have pondered over several wargames, heard numerous lectures – all from the allied perspective though -, and visited battlefields in France. Indeed I took my 20 year old son to a battlefield tour to show him what his age group had to experience 100 years ago. I am glad we experience a period German-French friedship nowadays.
I learned about the heroic stance of the young men who constituted the mass armies. I also learned that all the principles of combined arms warfare have been developed as lessons learned in the hard fighting and in the face of incredible losses of life. I understand Europe has bled itself white never to come back as the predominant power region of the world.
Once I plunged into searching for games I encountered an astonishing variety of games covering all campaign theatres. Their focus ranges from battalion level tactical to army level strategic, you find a multitude of games mechanics and a diversity in the complexity of rules. Of all the games I played my favorite right now is Somme 1918. I especially recommend it and the next two games on the list below.
- Somme 1918: Bloody Spring
- Paths of Glory
- 1914: Glory’s End / When Eagles Fight
- Steamroller: Tannenberg 1914
- Race to the Sea 1914
- Tannenberg: Eagles in the East / Galicia: The Forgotten Cauldron
- 1914: Serbien Muss Sterbien
- Illusions of Glory: The Great War on the Eastern Front
- In the Trenches: Doughboys
There are so many more games published that its impossible to have a go at them all. For my part I granted myself an excellent wargaming experience. And moreover I have pre-ordered Italia 1917-1918: A Farewell to Arms and I quite hope it will match the quality of Somme 1918. If so, it could well become another favorite.