Platoon Commander Kursk

First Impressions: To End All Wars

First Impressions by Boggit, 4 October 2014

Developed by and published by AGEOD/Slitherine

“After the ‘War to end War’, they seem to have been in Paris at making the ‘Peace to end Peace'” – Field Marshal Archibald Wavell (speaking of the Paris Peace Conference, 1919)

To End All Wars is the latest game from AGEOD/Slitherine covering the First World War. It covers in detail the Western, Eastern and Middle East fronts, but also features map boxes where conflict can occur elsewhere in the world. The scope of the game is truly global.

The victory conditions (which are the same for each side) are frighteningly ominous as to the scale of destruction required.

The victory conditions (which are the same for each side) are frighteningly ominous as to the scale of destruction required.

It is a strategic/operational level game with the principal maneuver units consisting of armies, corps, and fleets. Smaller units can be used independently if a player wishes, but while this gives flexibility it also carries the risk of being overwhelmed by a larger force.

Time to reinforce the B.E.F. - Lord Boggit-Kitchener recruits a Division of Tommy Atkins’s to fight the Beastly Hun. The Western Entente has 85 unit types to choose from in August 1914.

Time to reinforce the B.E.F. – Lord Boggit-Kitchener recruits a Division of Tommy Atkins’s to fight the Beastly Hun. The Western Entente has 85 unit types to choose from in August 1914.

 

The game can be played between 1-3 players and plays on a WEGO basis – that is each side enters its orders, and the turn is then played out for both opponents simultaneously. The sides available are the Central Powers, the Western and the Eastern Entente. My megalomania would like to see the option to play the Entente as a single entity as well, but that is not currently an option, attracting the light hearted comment from Slitherine as Hardcore mode indeed :p Played by 0.3% of the players.” I still would like to see it make the game in a future update!

Decisions, decisions… outnumbered 3 :1, I’ll opt to delay von Linsingen’s deployment before I run for it.

Decisions, decisions… outnumbered 3 :1, I’ll opt to delay von Linsingen’s deployment before I run for it.

 

Each turn represents 15 days, or two turns a month. A player orders units to move/perform an action, and the game engine will then monitor a unit’s progress on a daily basis resolving both events, and combat on the individual day/s within a turn. I found it takes around 2-3 minutes on my 3.2Ghz I7 computer with 8Gb RAM for the Western Entente to process a turn.

 

As with other AGEOD games, the player does not normally get to fight out tactical battles, but with To End All Wars we see some new innovation that does engage a player more closely. A player can now select a battle plan for an engagement, so withdrawals, delaying actions, or a resolute defence can be emphasised. It’s a nice feature that recognises that different sub-actions reflecting a commander’s wishes are likely to take place in a province during a battle.

Oops! A historical booboo. General Leman’s 3rd Division is at Namur, and not starting at Liege with its commander - where it fought historically - before breaking out towards Antwerp. Meanwhile von Marwitz’ cavalry corps has para-dropped to Louvain! Maybe it’s a balancing thing, but it does look odd to a grog like myself.

Oops! A historical booboo. General Leman’s 3rd Division is at Namur, and not starting at Liege with its commander – where it fought historically – before breaking out towards Antwerp. Meanwhile von Marwitz’ cavalry corps has para-dropped to Louvain! Maybe it’s a balancing thing, but it does look odd to a grog like myself.

 

Playing To End All Wars well is not a simple matter due to the complexity inherent in the game concepts. I heartily recommend that before playing a player has a good read of the extremely comprehensive manual (168 pages long), and attempts the tutorial before engaging with the massive task that is the First World War. For more individual help, and to check out a couple of after action reports for inspiration, there is an active sub forum on the AGEOD website

While the main war fronts are shown in detail (some 3,000 regions), the war can also be fought across the globe in various map boxes. There is another covering the Pacific rim too, as well as boxes for British India, Asiatic Russia, etc.

While the main war fronts are shown in detail (some 3,000 regions), the war can also be fought across the globe in various map boxes. There is another covering the Pacific rim too, as well as boxes for British India, Asiatic Russia, etc.

 

To End All Wars comes with four scenarios, comprising a tutorial, the East Prussian campaign of 1914 (7 turns), and two Grand Campaign 1914-1918 scenarios. One of the Grand Campaigns is the Historical Campaign (106 turns) with a player committed to historical deployments and strategic plans (such as the Schlieffen plan for Germany, or Plan 17 for the French), the other is hypothetical (107 turns) started a month earlier in July 1914, allowing the player to experiment with different war plans and deployments. Discussions with the developers at the Home of Wargamer’s 2014 conference suggested that more scenarios for a specific campaign or a different start date for the Grand Campaign may become available depending on the game’s reception.

The regional decisions and the political options each offer benefits, but can carry costs that a player must consider in the trade off.

The regional decisions and the political options each offer benefits, but can carry costs that a player must consider in the trade off.

 

As usual with AGEOD the game has few problems, but some were encountered at first sight. There are some minor proof-reading issues, such as the victory conditions for the Russians for the East Prussian campaign, which just says “strTannenburgVC_1” and an odd description for one allied colonial unit – the “FAC_ADJECTIVEM_FBA Colonial Brigade (Afr)”, though to be fair this is just one of a multitude of units available. I also found this same issue with one of the battle plan descriptions for an assault.

 

There were also a number of “faceless” generals/admirals in the game(perhaps released this way due to pressure to release timetables), who have portraits readily available in the public domain that could have been used – for example, almost all the faceless British ones have photos on Wikipedia that could have been used.

 

The size of the information box for the war plans also needs to be increased as a couple of lines of text fall off the bottom of it. Apart from this minor stuff, I didn’t notice anything glaring at me, gameplay wise. Hopefully these minor issues will be swept up and dealt with in a future update.

 

Lead programmer Philippe Malacher has since confirmed to me that there is a major update in the works, focusing on the AI, the user interface, and event fixes – with other updates planned to pick up any outstanding issues. This has been done in the past with AGEOD games, and as a player it’s comforting to know that AGEOD is committed supporting the game post release.

The diplomatic, and research areas of the map, together with some British generals, most of whom are currently faceless…

The diplomatic, and research areas of the map, together with some British generals, most of whom are currently faceless…

 

The game – typical of AGEOD’s work – is a paradox. It is complex – for all the detail it covers – yet relatively simple to play due to the game mechanics. Most of the complexity – the handling of attrition, weather effects, supply and so on is handled by the game engine, although political decisions, research, and the production of and operational control of units etc., fall upon the player.

 

My first impression of To End All Wars is that it is massively detailed yet still very playable. Although there are a few minor – and avoidable – irritations as described earlier, overall I very much like the game.

The Grumpy Grog says To End All Wars brings a fresh approach to the growing interest in the First World War. It offers players massive scope, yet retains simplicity of play despite the actual complexities of the game.”


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