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Posted on Nov 28, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Guns of August Game Review

By Larry Levandowski

As you would expect, the Western Front, quickly becomes a stalemate, as both sides dig a long string of trenches from the Alps to the sea. The game in the West becomes a fight for hexes, and entire corps dissolve in attempts to storm fortifications like Verdun. The key to victory on this front, if there is one, is to prepare for and then sustain major offensives. It is relatively easy to punch a hole in the enemy’s line, but a real challenge to do anything about it.

It is on the other fronts, where the game is more open, and maneuver takes a greater role. In the East, the huge Russian Army attacks slowly. German and Austrian forces oppose them over the vast territories of Eastern Europe. There is some trench digging, but too much territory for the fight to become a complete stalemate. An early strategic option for Germany, is to attempt to knock Russia out first. The Austrians in the meantime, take on Serbia, and also have to deal with an Alpine Front if Italy enters the fray.


The strategic elements of game play are not played directly on the board, but through interfaces. The player can use diplomacy to declare war, or attempt to bring in an ally. Historic alliances are easy to achieve, but counter-diplomacy by the other side, might delay one of these natural alignments. There are also configuration choices that allow Italy, Greece and Romania to join the Central Powers. The naval war is fully represented as well, with another strategic choice for the Central Powers being how much blood and treasure to put into naval strategy. Does the Kaiser use his fleet to go for a Jutland style knockout blow, or maintain its threat and resort to raiding and submarine warfare? Technology research is another strategic component of the game. The player can invest in trench breaking technologies like gas, better artillery and tanks. Researching better airpower is also possible, as players attempt to control the skies over each front. While all of these strategic elements are easy to manage, the entire mix of options gives GOA great depth. Wargamers will love this, but casual gamers may be overwhelmed.

GOA supports solitaire, PBEM and hotseat play. Solitaire play has some variable difficulty settings, but these may not be necessary. Overall, the AI does a good job, balancing defense and attack. But it makes mistakes that a human player would not. For example, on the Western Front, the AI routinely leaves key locations like Verdun open, or garrisoned with only small units. These mistakes don’t cause the collapse of the AI’s chances, but the player willing to game the game, may eventually gain a unfair advantage. Like most wargames, the game promises to be best against another human, so PBEM is a welcome feature.

GOA has a very austere look and feel, but that is OK for a wargamer’s wargame; and even better for those with low spec machines. Sound and graphics are functional, but will not win any awards. The interface is a little clunky at times, and it takes time to learn where to find information. Overall, the interface seems just a little south of commercial grade, but most wargamers, will not notice once they are into the game.

If there is any real complaint about the game, it has to do with the documentation and help. While the manual is professionally produced, it leaves major functions and features undocumented. For example, critical information like the meaning of the numbers on the counters, was left out. A good deal of this missing information is available in a readme file, but still, the player has to go digging for it. The game is also missing a tutorial. Even players with many computer gaming hours under their belt, will have trouble just jumping in. The end result is that even veteran gamers will experience a longer than necessary learning curve.

Overall, Guns of August, very nicely fills a missing era on the gamer’s hard-drive. The game will be most appreciated by wargame and strategy gamers. Casual players should look elsewhere since GOA must be savored slowly to be appreciated.


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