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Over the Top and Into the Fire. GMT Games ‘Gallipoli 1915: Churchill’s Greatest Gamble.

Over the Top and Into the Fire. GMT Games ‘Gallipoli 1915: Churchill’s Greatest Gamble.


I read a review of this game over at Armchair General.

Some of the things that sounded good were the C&C.
"Command and Control differs from many other games in that you must the keep all the elements of each unit in command and the elements must attempt to carry out the orders you’ve assigned them. There’s a number of restrictions embedded that are designed to reduce your flexibility and shape your actions to fit historically realistic options. Basically, the rules force you to create zones of operations and keep each unit elements within the assigned zones."

Other game rules are dedicated to the trench system.
"Beyond the core rules for moving and firing, Gallipoli spends a lot of time on engineering rules, and rightly so. This period was the modern pinnacle of the engineers’ art. Rifle pits, fire trenches, barbed wire entanglements and communications networks multiplied the defensive importance of engineers in a way not seen since the era of the Vaban fortifications. Gallipoli covers this in detail, allow players to opt for a range of works ranging from simple rifle pits to a full-blown trench system."

The part that appeals to me most is the planning.
"You’ll need to plan in detail how to execute your operations. And the tactical uncertainties of war mean that those plans will not survive contact with the enemy. With communication restricted to the speed of the bicycle and runner, keeping the brigades and regiments on mission means staying together so you can manage the unexpected challenges and keep your battalions focused on their objectives. While the text in the rule book suggest there are planning maps and charts available with the game, you’ll not find them included. Instead, these planning maps appear to available as a free download from the GMT Games site. You can find them here:" https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/gmtwebsiteassets/Gallipoli1915/PlanningMaps-2.pdf

"The use of the planning maps was reminiscent of the planning and movement rules in Arty Conliffe’s Shako and Spearhead rules in the 1990’s. Forget the mechanical differences here, what Geoffrey Phipps is modeling with these mechanics is the reality that once you start things moving, they’ll be hard to control. In the designer’s notes, Geoffrey comments that his hope is that players would not want more firepower as much as they would desperately want another telephone exchange to extend their C&C capabilities.

The rest of the review.

The fire mechanics are super detailed. At times it seems like a player is doing a lot of squeezing to get at the juice of a combat result, especially when it comes to determining the final combat modifiers. But let us remember that Gallipoli is modeling a complex set of dimensions that impact the effectiveness of firepower on formed troops. A lot of the narrative conveyed by the game is captured in performing these calculations. Taken together, all the modifiers convey the narrative of ‘Turkish infantry perched on the heights raining down rifle and machine gun fire that decimated the brave Entente soldiers stumbling through the broken scrub that lay in front of the Turkish line.’

It’s a firepower model that make you appreciate the value of bringing not just your rifle, but also your shovel and pick axe to the battlefield. The withering effects of modern firepower will first drive troops to ground and then have them burrow into that ground to find safety. And the Gallipoli includes extensive rules for transforming the ground from its bucolic natural state into a morass of trench lines and barb wire entanglements. Dig deep enough and you’ll minimize the effects of most of that firepower.

Of course, having dug deep into the earth, you’ve recreated the historical problems faced by the commanders both at Gallipoli and more broadly across the western front – the stalemate of the trench lines. While the game limits the ability of the Entente to dig in (as it was contrary to the ‘spirit of the offensive’ that an attacker needs, eventually you’ll find that mounting losses and a determined opponent lead you to pull out those shovels and start digging.

The game makes you feel that sense of futility. You can try and rapidly advance in the open, but you’ll stack up your soldiers’ bodies like cordwood. On the other hand, once you go to ground you get the challenge of not being able to advance to your objectives. That experience is historically accurate. It’s also – In a word – frustrating.

And that frustration is going to be a major turn off to a lot of gamers. The game teeters on the edge of just too many booklets. Between the core rule booklet, game book, scenario setup booklet, chart booklet, separate charts and the planning booklet downloaded from the website, I needed a separate table for all the charts and reference materials.
One way you can work to minimize that sense of frustration is to have the Entente player try the free landing campaign. This is basically taking a hacksaw to the original landing plan and slicing and dicing a new plan that you think has a better chance of success. You’ll need to pick your beaches, assign units to landing waves and do all the planning for the offensive. Then game it out. With luck – you’ll prove smarter (or just luckier) than Churchill and knock the Ottoman’s out of the war early.

One relatively minor nit I’m going to pick is the failure to put a compass rose on the map. The scenarios have multiple references to the ‘north (or other direction) direction of the map’, but nowhere does the map bear a label pointing you north. The reference is buried in the rules – but why should I have to work to find a basic piece of geographic information that could easily have been added to the maps? The old ‘north is the top of the map’ assumption is an unfortunate miss in a game that otherwise packs in a wealth of detail into its depiction of the landscape and the men and units involved.

A more positive note is that the game does lend itself to solitaire play. Yes, there are no bots and yes, you’ll have to wear both hats, but the combination of the detailed order system for planning, coupled to the random chit draw activation mechanic and the dynamic outcome of failed order checks mean that each game will have a great deal of random outcome and decisions that will keep you immersed in the battle narrative.


Vassal Module.
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