World War 1 in East Africa

edited March 2016 in Board Game Reviews
Great War in East Africa

I have two games on this conflict - the old 3W S&T game Sideshow designed by Richard Berg and a newer game from ATO called Guns of the Askari by designer John Gorkowski. I am acquainted with both designers, having play tested a number of games for Richard and also having served as developer of John's Breaking the Chains game for Compass Games.

Each game tells the story a bit differently. Sideshow focuses heavily on unit attrition. Guns is a bit more tactical with the logistics more abstracted.

I haven't played Sideshow in quite some time, although it is one of the two magazine games that I would put in my list of favorite wargames (the other being Ted Raicer's Great War in the Near East). I recently put Guns of the Askari on the table. I played through the beginning of the campaign scenario to get a feel for the how the game works.

As I mentioned, Guns of the Askari has a different feel than does Sideshow. In the latter game, I felt the biggest decisions were usually how far to push a unit, since the more movement points a units spends, the greater the risk of loss to attrition. In Guns, the key decisions seemed to be more about when to attack and when not to. The logistics is a little simpler with carrier units on the map to represent the supply lines that wander from the few established railroads and water routes in the region. A clever twist is that carriers can be consumed to provide supply. Units are rated for three combat types - bombardment, rapid fire/MG and small arms or close combat. It did get a little tedious rolling individual dice a number of times to resolve each battle, especially when large numbers of units were involved. The Sideshow game uses a more traditional combat resolution with die roll modifiers and if memory serves, fewer die rolls.

Both games have interesting random events.

I am not passing judgment over which is the better game. Each does what the respective designer set out to do, I believe. However, I had to choose only one, it would be Sideshow. I like the attrition vs. movement mechanic a lot. It provides interesting and tough decisions for the players, especially the Entente player who has a lot of lower quality units.
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