I am reposting this review from 11 years ago and will comment on a recent play session as well in a new post.
Review of Grand Illusion
Grand Illusion (GI) is a wargame published by GMT Games in 2005. It covers the opening campaigns of WW 1 on the Western Front. It was designed by Ted Raicer, a well-known wargame designer who is something of a specialist on World War 1. Other Raicer designs include Paths of Glory, Great War in Europe/Near East, Reds and WW2 Barbarossa to Berlin.
The GI map uses very large hexes in which combat units of both sides are placed. Combat is intrahex as opposed to the more traditional interhex arrangement. Like all Raicer games, supply is a very important, if not the most important, consideration for the players.
GI is billed as a unique look at this often simulated topic. After reading the rules and playing around with the game on a very nicely done Cyberboard gamebox on my laptop, I noticed some similarities to other games.
The most obvious similarity to me is to Breakout: Normandy. Rather than hexes, BKN uses irregularly shaped areas. The shape and arrangement of the areas is based largely on the terrain of the actual area in Normandy, where rivers and hedgerows defined the areas naturally. In GI, the areas are all hex shaped. In this part of the world at this time, it was the rail net that controlled the movement of the supplies of the armies. GI uses +# terrain modifiers and blocked hexsides in a very similar fashion to BKN. And most similarly, GI uses an inning impulse system (you go then I go, etc). Whereas in BKN, the impulses continue until an end of day die roll, in GI the players are given activation points to spend. Still the two games are similar in that players have to time their actions so as to try to accomplish everything they need to do before the points run out.
Another game that bears some similarity is the old Clash of Arms Civil War Campaign series, another area movement game design. In that series of games, the entry of units into an opposed area, combat is mandatory, unless friendly units are also present. GI uses very similar rules. GI also uses a concept from this series called area boundary control, which in effect,
blocks enemies from escaping a hex through the units that just entered. And GI uses a battle board to resolve combats somewhat like the CoA Civil War series.
I think Ted also draws from some of his own designs for GI. There is a strong sense of similarity to his earlier WW1 designs in the Clash of Giants series as well as some familiarity with Great War in Europe. And it should also be noted that Raicer did design a game with a system almost identical to Breakout: Normandy: Royal Tank Corps covering the WW1 Battle of Cambrai (first major use of tanks).
So is Grand Illusion a unique look at the topic as advertised? I would have to answer with a qualified yes, with the caveat that this is a very derivative design, paying homage to some great designs that have gone before. However, having said that, I will also give Raicer his due here. He took these various systems and synthesized them into a very good game on this most interesting topic. Grand Illusion will definitely have a place in the games closet.