Avalon Hill’s The Guns of August – Conclusion

Wednesday , 25, May 2016 7 Comments

I hate that it has taken as long as it has to write the follow up to Part 1 of my review of The Guns of August. For one thing, I figured that even connoisseurs of wargames would not be interested in all of the minute back and forth struggles between the Austro-Hungarians and the Serbs in the south and the Russians in Galicia. But it does allow me to settle on a conclusion about The Guns of August: freakin’ long.

Christmas Truce 1914, as seen by the Illustrated London News.

For over a month now, we’ve played from August 1914 through November 1915.

With a few unremarkable exceptions on the northern flank, after my initial offensive against France, there has been almost no change on the western front, other than the creation of fortresses along the line and the gradual shifting of troops to less static theaters.

My discovery of optimizing troop usage by making almost nothing but 1/1 attacks against surrounded positions let the Austro-Hungarians make major headway in Serbia, but the many turns of unspent accumulated Serbian reinforcement points and my dad’s decision to send the French who weren’t doing anything by sea to reinforce the Serbs meant that my gains were only geographic and I stalled out there.

With the Italians finally entering the war, the Austro-Hungarians had to pull out a sizable number of corps from the Russian front to keep the Italians and some French Auxiliary from stabbing into Germany. After a few tactical victories against expeditionary forces, that front has become static as well.

Though the pull-back to confront the Italians has caused the Austro-Hungarian flank in Galicia to collapse, the I’ve been pushing back against the Russian Center with my best German troops, getting just enough to get 1/1 + 1 to force a stack backwards and then, if the gap remains, send in fresh troops to repeat the process while the others recover. The eastern front has narrowed enough that I can spare some Germans to keep the French and British from making further inroads into Serbia and Bulgaria, but I can’t say that I’ve dealt any significant blows anywhere.

My dad is exasperated by the combat in this game. It favors stalemate against all but crushing odds. I pointed out that I haven’t had much better luck and, as the aggressor, it’s hurt me a good bit more. Now, I think we’ve been doing combat somewhat wrong, since we haven’t really been splitting defenders (i.e. have a couple piles attack one unit in a hex while a couple others attack other units at abysmal odds). In certain cases, this might make it slightly more likely to get favorable odds, but I’m not certain it would’ve made a huge difference in most cases.

But, conclusions…

For The Guns of August, you are meant to play the scenarios offered. You are not meant to play the entirety of World War 1. If we’d gone with the original scenario specs for the August 1914 scenario, I would probably have already lost long ago for the simple reason that I did not seize enough objective cities before the fronts stagnated.

I really can’t say there’s anything wrong with The Guns of August; it’s just really long. I’d actually be willing to play it longer, but if we’re averaging 2-3 turns per week, it would take us months to finish the war.


  • Mike says:

    When you get tired of the game, the book Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman is an engrossing, must-read classic.

  • Mike says:

    And Tuchman’s The Proud Tower, which examines the intellectual and cultural history of pre-WWI Europe, is also vastly entertaining and insightful.

    You can read it before or after Guns and still enjoy it.

  • Karl T. Kimball says:

    As a medieval history student I loved “The Proud Tower: the Calamitous 14th Century”, perhaps Tuchman’s finest work. Agree with Cirsova’s remarks on “Guns of August” game, best WWI strategic game, but too realistic, so too tedious and prone to stalemate. Maybe we should switch to medieval games next? Dad

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