Well, after playing ~50 scenarios of The Great War game – and especially recently, a lot in the Second Expansion – The French Army, I would like to share with fellow boardgamers some of my thoughts regarding the strategies for that title. This is not that you will find below set of actions which will give you victory always. These are rather ideas which help me to better and more efficiently use the scarce resources of this game.

My ambition is also not to give a ready receipts. But if you find a point or two which will  be to at least some extend new to you and give you different perspective on the game – my goal will be achieved!

1. Cards combos

Having two decks of cards in Commands & Colors games gives a lot of interesting opportunities to combine them. Some of below combos are known from base game, but they are significantly enhanced with Special Personnel included in French expansion.

Combo set, part 1

Storm of Fire + Machine Gun Barrage – that combo, very powerful in itself, is getting more and more strong with every expansion. First, Female Tanks added new figures which can take part in it; now, with French we have Light Machine Guns also eligible, and MGs can be now enhances with Heavy Weapon Loaders. Definitely, one of best tactical plays in the game now.

Storm of Fire + Mortar Barrage – I had a very hard nut to crack in “Scenario 48 – Verdun (Malancourt) – 20-22 March 1916”. A lot of fortified positions in town hexes (ability to ignore up to 3 flags and 3 soldier symbols in range). That was problematic only till the moment when I had possibility to play exactly that combo using my Mortar Spotter. What a hell was unleashed! Again, very useful play with French Expansion.

Artillery Bombard + Box Barrage – you can say, a classic when using artillery. What I observed, is that it is often disappointing how reserve artillery strikes. That combination – plus potential Forward Observer – maximizes the hit effect.

Combo set, part 2

Infantry Assault + Advance over the Top – one of the most difficult things in The Great War is attacking. Really, running through open terrain, with wires and minimal number of shell-holes can be mortally dangerous. Above combo comes with great help in such situation! You can move even up to 5 hexes.

Rush & Rotation + Advance over the Top – that allows to move your units even on much further distances but the drawback is inability to attack. Still, getting into enemy trenches or reinforcing attack is often worth it.

Both above combos were limited since Expansion 1 – in scenarios when you can get a victory point by exiting the board on enemy side, you have now to do it from baseline hex, not just run from the middle of the board. I like this change – it makes the game more predictable and less prone to luck.

2. Special personnel

Truly, that part of the French Army expansion is a real jewel which enhances game replayability enormously! And you can also retrofit it into base game scenarios! Below my personal preferences regarding Special Personnel Figures (SPF) and their usage.

DefenseLMG, Heavy Weapon Loader (machine gun) – two SPF which either have increased firepower. Note that I did not put Marksmen – somehow they did not make much difference in our games.

OffenseElite, Officer, Spotter (Mortar) – here I put SPF which allows you move fast, or move normally still being able to attack. Combination of Elite and Officers can overrun every trench. However, if you need to assault strong positions, the well placed mortar with Spotter is my favorite combination!

Effects of my favorite SPF actions 🙂

UniversalBomber – these are units good in defense and offense, and as such I am treating the bomber – he has universal abilities, being deadly both in close (4 dices) and medium range (deadly die on 2 hex range).

3. Reserve artillery usage

That is one of the cools mechanics of the game which sometimes could be completely unpredictable and result in lost turn.

Perfect artillery hit

My approach is usually that if I have artillery of 2 or 3 strength, I do not use it at all except in situations that I have suddenly a great combo (Artillery Bombard + Box Barrage) in my hands. With artillery strength of 4 and 5 the use of this ordnance is justifiable, but it is always good play it with a card which also allows you to move some other units.

All in all, this is usually a gamble and to spend precious HQ well, you should do whatever possible to increase probability of good hit. However, in the end it can always go astray… maybe not so much as in Combat Commander Europe (where it can hit your troops)  but still a lost order and resources is painful.

4. Build your hand

This is universal rule for all Commands & Colors games, but even more important in the “two-deck one’s”. Of course, I am talking from the attacker perspective, who needs to get through the No-Man’s Land, survive, and be able to get into enemy trenches.

The one of most common mistakes is to use some great card – or combo – in particular section, not having anything to follow-up. Thus it is always good to have in reserve “Order from HQ” or “Message Pigeons” to be able to activate that one, crucial unit in section we have no cards for.

I also advise not to be reluctant to play cards to “burn them”. If you have 3 out of 5 cards for left section and only one unit there – while fight is not fierce yet – either play it to burn it or move units there to be more efficient with card play.

5. Race against time – do not panic

The previous idea is closely connected with below. Many scenarios puts a lot of pressure on Attacker – not only adverse terrain but also losing the Victory Medals for opponent Recon Cards play. But do not despair! Take your time to prepare attack, keep constant firepower pressure and then prepared – strike!

Be aware however, that when you, as attacker, play “Recon” card the defender can have “Counter Attack” and score a point:

Be aware of counter-attack!

It is worth to note, that thanks to update from Expansion 1 Tanks – you cannot gain last banner in that way. This is in my opinion very good rule, which forces defending forces to actively pursuit the final point.

6. Get out of the Woods. Quickly.

Expansion 2 The French Army brings a lot of scenarios where attacking units have minimal or zero cover. The first thing you need to accept then is that many of them will be hit and some of them will not make it.

Scenario 51 – Verdun (Fleury) – 23 June 1916

What to do? Well, the long firefight with well-entrenched enemy will for sure be lost, so it is best to rush forward – especially where you can follow-up – and try to get a place in a trench. Moving close to enemy MG to deny them possibility to shoot other units except for the adjacent one is also good tactic – although sometimes painful for that unit 🙂

All in all, get your men quickly forward, move into trenches and accept – some of them will surely die.

7. HQ management

I like the abstract concept of HQ tokens in that game. They fuel Combat Cards and reserve artillery.

  • What I found often when playing the scenarios, is that people forget to discard a card to get that one HQ. Remember to do it – especially if you have “Wire Cutter” and you are defending.
  • Discarding Cards is also good for making place for new ones (limit is 5).
  • If possible, keep at east 1 HQ – or better 3 – a any time during the game in your hand. That will always give your opponent a pause, as with 1 HQ you can have a “Butt & Bayonet” played and with 3 – most probably “Surprise Ambush”! Yes, element of bluff and paranoia is also very important!

Most probably, when playing further some new ideas will come to my mind. There is also a lot of additional stuff, more minor or situational. I hoe that I gave you guys some “food for thought”! Can you share in comments also your experience and the way try to overcome the difficulties of the Great War battlefield?