Tom Drueding won Paths of Glory for the second year in a row making his way through a tough field of seasoned players to take home the First Place Plaque. The turnout was excellent and consistent with previous years with 25 players for Mulligan and First Round. Much rejoicing was had as players prepared themselves for the marathon that is the Paths of Glory tournament, winning this year required five victories between the opening round and the Final; winning the event requires not just a high degree of skill and familiarity with the game, but endurance to consistently make the right decisions throughout.
The most popular Paths of Glory strategy continues to shift – while in years past many Central Powers players have been content to hold the Brussels – Sedan – Metz – Strasbourg line on the Western Front, most games this year saw some variation of the “Hammer in the West” entailing an aggressive Central Powers play to break the French line, outflank the forts and threaten Paris.
In the 15 games that ended before Turn 10, the Allies won eight compared to seven for the Central Powers. Games that ended between Turn 10 – 15 were split evenly, four Allied and four Central Powers victories. But in the four games that ended after Turn 15, the Central Powers won all four. This indicates that the “Hammer” is but one tool in the Central Powers arsenal, but not necessarily an all-in gambit and that Allied players need to (and have) become skilled to know how to respond to such early aggressions. As a result, and with games going onto Turn 10 or later, knowing how to dynamically shift resources and focus from on fronts (for both the Allies and the Central Powers) is increasingly an important skill for players to have.
Overall, there were a total of 13 AP wins and 14 CP wins. The opening Rounds contained a number of highlights:
- Bill Pettus (CP) played Taylor Golding (AP) in a fast and furious game that saw the French drive the Germans out of Metz before being pushed back by reinforcements, before the high (and mounting) French casualties caused Taylor to concede.
- Fred Finkenbinder (AP) suffered the Allied nightmare in the Near East against Richard Beyma (CP), where Allenby was brought in, marched to Gaza, and was promptly permanently eliminated by a Kemal and Liman von Sanders combination.
- David Bleau (AP) in a game against Richard Beyma (CP)on the other hand, managed to successfully draw Putnik every turn for four turns in a row.
- Max Duboff (AP) demonstrated his mastery of multi-front warfare against Dan Leader (CP) by successfully capturing Sedan and pushing Allenby into Palestine while holding off Dan’s ferocious attack on the Russians and Italians.
- Jim Falling (AP) held off Tom Stewart’s (CP) blitz on the Western Front, pushing into Italy by way of Grenoble, before methodically grinding down the Central Powers front line.
- Asst. GM Michael Dauer (AP) faced Richard Beyma (CP) in a brutal game that went to Turn 17 with both players’ eliminated units boxes overflowing at various points of the game. At the end of turn 3, there were 3.5 German armies holding the entire Western Front. But Italy later fell to a full stack of German armies. After a full-length eight-hour game, Michael conceded on turn 17.
- In a game that saw little action on the Western Front, Jeff Lewis (CP) took Egypt from Barrington Beavis’ (AP) British but stood in danger of losing those three VPs when Barrington committed hard to a Balkan strategy that threatened Constantinople. In a close game, Jeff prevailed.
- Jim Falling (AP) also used a Balkan strategy against Steve Koleszar’s Austrians. He created “Fortress Skopje” and, in combination a late Bulgarian entry and Yudenitch, was able to break the Turkish forces in the Near East.
- Jeff Lewis (AP) held off an onslaught and full-scale Hammer in the West attack by Alex Gregorio (CP). The game saw heavy action on the West, with Germans attacking Paris before falling all the way back to the Rhine. One German army was permanently eliminated and Alex threw in the towel after a last-ditch attack on Kiev to play Tsar Takes Command failed.
- Bill Pettus (CP) and Erin Weir (AP) went on a tour of Europe, with the Germans racing to get to Paris after breaking the French forts on the border, before the Russians visited Budapest after going through the Carpathians. Bill’s decision to send four armies to Italy proved to be a wise one as it stretched the Allied line to the breaking point and cut off reinforcements from the French, causing Erin to concede.
When the dust had settled from a series of particularly close games, there were four semifinalists arranged in matches (two of whom had never been in the Final Four before!), with Richard Beyma and Erin Weir taking fifth and sixth, respectively:
- Tom Drueding vs. Bill Pettus
- Jeff Lewis vs. Nick Benedict
Tom played Bill as the Central Powers in a game that saw the standard Central Powers line in the Western Front along with a methodical defense in Italy and the Balkans (preventing any Italian shenanigans and stopping the Serbian threat) and a steady push in Russia. Bill used Allenby to create some threats in the Near East, raising the specter of a potential breakthrough that could unravel the Ottoman position rapidly. However, Tom was able to eventually stop Allenby and push through to Kiev, giving him the third VP necessary to play the Tsar Takes Command and begin the Russian collapse. Bill played on, like all strong players he knew that the game could have dramatic swings if you can capitalize on the right opportunity, but eventually conceded on Turn 15.
In the other Semifinal, Nick Benedict took the Allies and launched an aggressive attack on Jeff’s Central Powers. Jeff was not able to make much headway in the West, even as he secured some early success against the Russians. Nick’s mastery of the AP, finding ways to maximize German losses while spreading Allied losses amongst Russian, French and British forces, meant that almost from the beginning Central Powers were on the backfoot. German casualties continued to mount and with heavy losses and no clear path to securing the strategic initiative, Jeff concede on turn 10.
The Final between Nick and Tom began with an unusual note as Nick bid 2VPs to prevent Tom from playing the Allies. Tom used a similar cautious and steady approach as the Central Powers, defending the Brussels – Sedan – Metz – Strasbourg line, clearing out the Serbians and launching a steady assault on the Russians. Such a strategy meant that Nick’s allies were unable to throw the Central Powers off-balance or gain any strategic momentum. On turn 15, a joint Austro-German force broke through at Kiev with a trench-buster. Nick launched a counter-attack at 6A – 6A to throw the Central Powers out, and delay the Russian capitulation, but lost. The Tsar took command immediately thereafter followed by a rapid rise in war status to force Fall of the Tsar. Seeing the writing on the wall, and with little headway in breaking the Western Front, Nick conceded, giving Tom another championship and a second win in as many years.
With respect to next year, the first-time appearance of so many new players in the Quarterfinal and Semifinal indicates that the tournament continues to draw players of all skill levels and that the average skill level continues to increase. With Paths of Glory being over twenty years old, it is heartening to see the game continue to change, evolve and create new opportunities for strategy and tactics to be developed. Thank you to all who attended and we look forward to another exciting year in 2024!
|The Great War in their new location in Winterberry.
|Pausing The Great War for a photo op.
|Barrington Beavis looking for the right Allied card.
|Finalists Tom Drueding and Nick Benedict.