1914 (game)

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1914 game box cover

1914 was a board wargame published by the Avalon Hill game company in 1968 and designed by James F. Dunnigan. It was a corps-level simulation of the first few weeks of World War I on the western front. The game came in an 11" × 14" cardboard box, and included a fold-out, cardboard-backed game map (22" × 28"), German and Allied cardboard counters, a set of dice, game variant cards, a mobilization chart pad for secret deployment, and various charts and instructions including a Battle Manual.

The game board map was covered by a hex grid to regulate movement. The game scale was 2 days per turn, with approximately 16 km per hex. The map covered the terrain from Mainz, Germany in the east to Le Havre, France in the west, and from the southern portion of the Netherlands in the north to the northern edge of Switzerland in the south. The terrain included major rivers, ridge lines, rough terrain, forest, and the sea. It also displayed the location of cities, fortifications, economic sites, mobilization squares, and railroads. The hex grid was marked with coordinates: numbers running south-north, and letters west-east.

The various military formations are represented by counters—square pieces of colored cardboard printed with game information. German counters were gray-green (Feldgrau) in hue; the French were pink; British and Dutch brown, and Belgian counters were cyan. Each counter was marked with a standard unit symbol for infantry, cavalry, or artillery. The counter also displayed the unit size (corps, division, brigade, regiment, or battalion), unit designation, and whether it was an active army unit, or reserve, landwehr, etc.

Standard game[edit]

The combat ratings of each unit was given in the form of their Attack-Defense-Movement ratings. (German artillery units list their caliber.) Cavalry units had their attack factor in parentheses, indicating they can only attack isolated artillery units. The major (corps) units had a sequence of steps they could lose as a result of combat or lack of supply. At each step loss the Attack and Defense factors were reduced. Thus a German active corps went from a 7-12-3, to 5-10-3, then 4-9-3, and a 2-7-3, before it was finally destroyed. However, each side in the game also received step replacements which could be used to build back up units that had taken losses, as long as the unit was in supply and some distance from an enemy unit.

Combat was based on an odds ratio between the attacking units Attack Rating and the defending unit's Defense Rating. The odds ranged from 1-to-4 or less, up to 5-to-1 or more. Different combat results charts were used based on the number of Defense Factors, and the results determined by rolling a six-sided dice. The result was in terms of step losses by each side, with at most one step being lost. Many of the results called for a step loss by both sides, reflecting the heavy attrition incurred throughout this conflict. Defending units in clear terrain that suffered a step loss also had to retreat a hex, or lose a second step.

Rules were included for the effects of fortresses. A fortress could be attacked and destroyed by a purely infantry attack. However, the infantry incurred step losses from these attacks and only had a 1 in 6 chance of destroying the fortress. The German side also had the option of using their artillery to destroy a fortress, which frequently improved the odds of success. The most effective artillery, however, was the German railroad guns; since they could never leave rail lines, they were limited in geographic scope.

Units could move their indicated movement factor during a turn, with higher movement cost for certain types of terrain. No more than two corps could end their movement in the same hex, and only one corps could defend a hex. The infantry typically had a movement rating of 3, with some reserve units moving 2 per turn. Cavalry units had a movement rating of 4, and artillery could move 2.

The basic 1914 system did not include zone of control rules, but did have a supply requirement. Units were in supply as long as a line could be traced through any three contiguous hexes to a friendly railroad line. Enemy units blocked supply lines, but only in the hex they occupied.

The game was played in a series of turns, with first the German and then Allied player performing their actions. Each player would receive any reinforcements scheduled for the turn; move any friendly units up to their maximum movement, then initiate combat against adjacent enemy units. (Neither movement nor combat was required, but was at the option of the current player.) If an enemy unit was forced to retreat due to combat, the current player could also advance into the abandoned hexes.

Each game began with each player marking on the Mobilization Chart where their forces would initially be deployed. A few units were required to occupy specific hexes, such as French active infantry corps in Toul, Belfort, etc., but the remainder could be placed in any friendly hex. This secret deployment created an element of surprise at the start of the game.

Advanced rules[edit]

Once the basic game was mastered, the players could use the advanced rules and options included in the Battle Manual. The main feature of the advanced game was the use of inverted counters. The back side of a counter displayed only a national symbol and a facing arrow. This arrow affected how the unit could move, as it cost a movement factor each time the unit was moved. It also modified the ability of the unit to defend itself. Units attacked from the direction of their facing arrow used their (generally weaker) Attack Factor for defense.

The advanced game also included special rules for the effect of events on the eastern front, where Germany was opposed by Russia. It also included a set of game variation cards that could produce unusual chance effects that might alter the situation. These could modify the size of the Belgian and Dutch armies, vary the effectiveness of the British force, alter mobilization rates, and so forth.

There were additional rules for supply lines, cavalry probes, amphibious attack, German requirements for garrisons, retreat before combat, movement cost for disengaging an enemy, dummy counters, and variable time limits for game completion.

The Battle Manual contained additional information concerning game play strategy and tactics, and how the various forces were armed and organized. At the end was a historical commentary and a series of maps depicting the course of the actual campaign. There was also a bibliography and a glossary of abbreviations used on the counters.

External links[edit]