Guns of Galicia – Boardgame Review
Passed Inspection: Easy to learn with good replay potential
Failed Basic: High price for the goods received
Overall, this is a good game that can be entertaining. I think it is well set to use as a gateway game to ones of more complexity. I also feel that it would be well suited for gamers to use as the basis for an East Front World War I miniatures campaign. Guns of Galicia is the sequel to Worthington Games’ previously released Guns of August game. Both games are very similar in their components, quality of the map (good cardstock) and the rule book. So I don’t get why Guns of Galicia cost more than the previous title unless it is because the three provided scenarios are all 10 turns long whereas the scenarios in Guns of August are two for 3 turns and one for 10 turns. The components are all nice but the price makes other similarly priced games look like a steal.
The components are all very nicely done. The counters (one and a half sheets) are colorful and easy to read and come off the sheets without much bother. Just over a third of the counters are markers. The two map sheets are nice to look at but reading the hex numbers in woods hexes is almost impossible. The cardstock they are made from will stand up well to repeated use. The game charts needed for play are both located on the map and are easy to read. The rule book is eight pages and it also contains the information for the three scenarios (which take up just over one page).
The game is simple to learn and the fighting can be fast and furious early on in the game for the first scenario. Once both sides are battered and beaten not much happens, however; there is a fair amount of maneuver room, but you have to keep your lines of supply open and there may not be sufficient unit density to do all you would like. A player may find a good part of the scenario spent waiting for meager reinforcements that are received to launch one last-gasp final offensive. Make that final attack too early and fail, you may find yourself without forces to stop an enemy’s advance.
The three scenarios represent different years of the war (1914 thru 1916). Early on there are no trenches. Then trenches appear and the front line switches from national borders to historical boundaries established at the end of the previous year’s offensives’ termination. In the early war scenario there are some quick moves to capture border cities or undefended ones. Players position their forces to make their first strikes (or counterattacks). The first one to attack will gain an advantage, except in the mid/late war scenarios—if their attacks go well. Expect a swift counterattack, and then there will be an additional turn or two of supporting attacks to try and stabilize the front. By now (mid-game) both sides may be exhausted, their forces are fragile and each side awaits the scheduled replacements to launch one last final push or two. In the two scenarios with trenches, the focus for victory shifts. Germans show up in scenario two and get a nice combat advantage for turn one. The battlefield is limited to a specific portion of the map and the challenge is for the Russian player to try and keep the trench line intact while preventing the opponent from seizing a length of rail line. Scenario three is the Brusolov Offensive, so the Russians begin the game with a combat advantage for one turn. For all of the scenarios, there is a fair amount of freedom for set-up, allowing players to experiment with the best starting deployments for executing a successful battle plan.
Game play is determined by pulling a chit for armies to activate, which means armies cannot coordinate actions. When you pull the chit for the Austrian 3rd Army only its units may move and attack; even if elements of another army are adjacent to a Russian unit you plan to attack, those friendly elements can only move and attack on their activation chit pull. Paying attention to the units pulled early in a turn can give you some better insight to staging movements and attacks, but you are never 100% sure when a specific unit will be able to move until the second to last chit is pulled out of the cup. This feature means no two games are ever likely be quite the same and enhances the replay value. The only time a unit may conduct combat without its chit being pulled is if it has breeched a trench line (it is stacked with an enemy unit). It can then join with other active units that might attack the enemy unit it is stacked with.
Movement is fairly straightforward. First, check to see if units are in or out of supply. Zones of Control (ZOCs—see below about this) do not interfere with lines of supply. A unit cannot be in supply unless it is within 3 hexes of a rail hex or traces a 3-hex line of supply to an HQ that then traces a 3-hex line of supply to a rail hex. Being out of supply halves all combat factors and movement. As a result, there are portions of the map that just will never be used, unless you just want to prove you could move thru those areas while your opponent grabs VP hexes. Infantry and HQs have 5 movement points and cavalry has 7. Clear, Woods, Marsh and Mountains are the major terrain types.
There are ZOC’s in the game, but not in the normal sense. They are zones of confusion. The cost to enter a hex is never cumulative, you just use the highest hex cost based upon terrain and an enemy’s ZOC. A ZOC really just increases the cost to enter a clear hex from 1 MP to 2 MPs. Units can move thru ZOCs as long as they have available MPs. Terrain movement costs could have been added to the legend on the map; instead, you will have to keep the rules handy for that information.
Unit counters display an Artillery Score number and a Rifle Score number. Once you commit to a battle in a hex you first conduct artillery fire and then you must follow up with rifle fire, no matter the result of your artillery fire. You compare the total of either score to the defender’s totals to get the odds column to use on the Combat Results Table. If artillery fire is successful it will suppress the target (creating a column shift that is favorable to the attacker) and can, at high odds, occasionally cause a step loss. For rifle fire, even at 3 to 1 odds the attacker is going to suffer, which is why both sides will eventually wear themselves out attacking. Mid- or late game you may find yourself cringing at a failed artillery attack which was suppose to give you a badly needed column shift. Drat, the men will still go over the top. It would have been nice if Worthington had listed the conditions that result in column shifts with the CRTs on the map. There is space for this information as there are definite portions of the map that will most probably never be used. Instead, you will initially find yourself referring to the rules to find the relevant information, as it is located in three different sections of the rules. Losses to your troops are apportioned by your opponent, so expect strong units to get worn out early.
So, my dear field marshals, the enemy lays to your front, the batteries are positioned and well stocked with ammo and the men are eager to close with and destroy the foe. All they need is your orders to advance to start the offensive and bring victory to your nation. Can you do it?
Armchair General rating: 84
Solitaire rating (1 is low, 5 is high): 4
About the Author
Michael Peccolo is a retired Armor Major from the US Army with overseas duties, Company commands and additional assignments in recruiting and ROTC. He lives in Tennessee where he raises horses with his wife. He volunteers at Ft. Knox to be a Civilian on the Battlefield.