REVIEW: The First Battle of the Marne

As we conclude our month long commemoration of World War I, we turn our attention to the first great battle of the war.

The Miracle of the Marne was fought from September 6-10, 1914 between the Germans and the French on the eastern outskirts of Paris. Ultimately 6 French armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) pushed back the German invaders, leading to a defensive posture by both sides and 4 years of trench warfare along the western front.

The First Battle of the Marne from Turning Point Simulations is part of their series the Twenty Decisive Battles of the World. It is a reimplementation of Miracle on the Marne (2013) from One Small Step publishing.

The game itself is a traditional hex and counter war game, which isn’t what I normally play or review. Two things immediately caught my attention, however: the components and the theme.

The game comes with the following:

Map: Full color 11″ x 17″ mounted mapboard
Pieces: 200 full color, die-cut counters
Rulesbook: 12 pages
Charts and Displays: Two army organization displays
Skill Level: Medium

As someone who is primarily drawn to block war games and the occasional miniatures game (e.g. Memoir 44, Battle Cry), I appreciate the quality of the components.

The game utilizes a mounted mapboard which is nicely illustrated. The board itself is functional, easy to read, and requires little table space at 11″x17″.

The counters are basic but functional in providing information. My only complaint is their size. At 1/2″ inch they may be typical for a traditional hex & counter game, but they seem small to this block war gamer.

What I do like is the low number of counters used in Marne. At only 200, and many of those being replacement counters for reduced units, the board remains manageable and game turns move relatively quickly.

The rulebook is a mere 12 pages, with only 9 pages of actual instruction. The final page provides details for the two scenarios: a 14 turn complete game which simulates the Full Battle, and an abbreviated 6 turn game which covers the Entente Counter-Attack and begins on Game Turn 9.

Ultimately the appeal of The First Battle of the Marne lies in the subject matter. Surprisingly, there have been very few war games exclusively dedicated to this battle. Most instead choose to focus on the opening 3-4 months of the war, or the western front for the entirety of it.

The First Battle of the Marne is a solid game that does a good job accomplishing what it sets out to do. Turning Point Simulations is to be commended for filling a gaming void with one of histories great battles.

And with that we come to the end of our month long remembrance of the Armistice of November 1918. The Great War deserves some great games commemorating it. This month we have shown that those games do indeed exist (here and here).

Good gaming!

Photos: Brian Williams

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