While there are hundreds of tabletop games focused on World War II, there are much fewer that cover the ‘War to End All Wars’ that took place only a few decades earlier. Those games designed around World War I are often deep wargames with complex rules. However, there is now a WWI game which is very approachable for a wider audience and also exposes players to the history of the war at the same time. There are no dice to roll for combat in Quartermaster General: 1914. Instead, players use cards and strategy to obtain victory.
What Is Quartermaster General: 1914?
Quartermaster General: 1914 is a World War I card-driven grand strategy game for 2–5 players, ages 13 and up, and takes about 90–120 minutes to play. Like its name suggests, the game takes into account logistics and supply rather than machine guns and trenches. It’s currently available from your FLGS as well as online retailers such as Amazon for a suggested retail price of $49.90 for a copy of the game.
Quartermaster General: 1914 was designed by Ian Brody and published by Ares Games, with illustrations by Nicholas Avallone. Ian Brody also designed the original Quartermaster General which was set during the Second World War. GeekDad reviewed this game back in 2014. If you are a veteran of the original game, there have been several changes made to the gameplay that help reflect the slower communications of the WWI as well as address some of the problems players had with the original rules. For example, there is a new Draft step where you can search your draw deck for a Build Army or Build Navy card in case you do not have one in your hand.
Quartermaster General: 1914 Components
Here is what you get in the box:
- 1 Game board
- 1 Rulebook
- 216 cards
- 45 wooden Army pieces
- 16 wooden Navy pieces
- 2 Scoring markers
- 1 Game Round marker
- 2 Reminder tokens
- 6 Objective tokens
- 5 Player Aid sheets
The game board features a map of Europe as well as western Asia. The victory point track runs around the edge of the board while the turn track is located along the bottom. The map is divided into land and sea spaces with the brownish land spaces representing difficult terrain.
There are seven different types of cards. The four basic cards allow you to build armies or navies as well as fight land or sea battles. Event cards can be quite powerful and often allow you to perform several actions when played. Economic Warfare cards force other players to discard cards while Status cards are played face-up on the table and last through the remainder of the game while they are in play. They require certain situations in order to be used. The symbols along the bottoms of the cards are used when they are played as a prepared card.
Each power has its own army and navy pieces that can be placed on the map. Powers with two nations, such as France & Italy, will have two different colors of pieces to represent the two different nations.
Each player gets an aid sheet which provides important information such as order of play, brief descriptions of the turn sequence and steps, setup information, and tables showing the distribution of different types of cards by power and nation.
How to Play Quartermaster General: 1914
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is earn more victory points than the opposing side.
To begin with, players choose which powers they will play as. If there are fewer than five players, then some players will take control of two or even three powers for the game. The game board is then placed in the center of the table with the Game Round marker in the ‘1’ space of the game round track, Victory Point markers placed in the ‘0’ space of the victory point track, and the Objective and Reminder tokens placed to the side of the board for easy access.
Each player then takes a Player Aid sheet and places their armies and navies on the game board as directed on the sheets. Players take and shuffle their power’s deck of cards, then draw ten cards. They choose seven cards to keep for their initial hand and put the other three cards at the bottom of their draw deck. If players are playing as more than one power, they keep their decks and hands separate for each power. Now you are ready to begin play.
The game is played in rounds during which each power takes its turn in a set order. Austria-Hungary & Ottoman Empire goes first, followed by Russia, then Germany, then France & Italy, and finally United Kingdom & United States. Each turn is further divided into five steps: Draft, Play, Attrition, Prepare, and Draw. Let’s take a look at each step in turn.
During this step, the current player may choose to discard two cards in order to search their draw deck for either a Build Army or Build Navy card. Then shuffle your draw deck. This step is optional.
The current player may now play one of the cards from their hand and resolve its effects. After playing a card, place it on your discard pile. When building an army or navy, place an army or navy piece on either a land or sea space respectively. You cannot place a piece in a space with an enemy piece or where you already have a piece. You can place a piece in a space with an allied piece. When playing an Economic Warfare card, you force the powers shown on the card to discard a number of cards. Whenever a player must discard a card, they can discard from their hand, their prepared cards on the table, or discard the top card from their draw deck sight unseen. These discarded cards are placed at the bottom of the discard pile so players can not see what they are.
Status cards can be played during this step by placing them on the table in front of the player. They usually do not have an immediate effect but can affect future actions during the player’s or other players’ turns. Most status cards remain on the table for the duration of the game and apply their affects as long as required conditions apply. Some are used one time and then discarded.
Event cards are powerful cards that may have one or more actions. Just follow the directions on the card in order. Some event cards may eliminate an enemy piece without having to fight a battle. Others may allow a player to draft or prepare cards, attack, and even build units.
Battles are used during the play step to remove enemy pieces from the map. They are initiated by playing a Land Battle or Sea Battle card, or as a result of an event or a status card. When initiating a battle, the player must declare which piece is attacking and which space is the target. The attacking piece must be in supply, meaning that it can trace a line of connected spaces with either or army or navy pieces of that nation back to their nation’s capitol. If attacking into difficult terrain, the attacking player must discard a card to carry out the attack. Army pieces can attack a sea space and Navy pieces can attack a land space, but must discard a card as well since this is considered difficult terrain.
After a battle has been initiated and any required discard has been made, the battle is then resolved. The defending player can choose to play a prepared card with a reinforce army or navy symbol at the bottom to prevent its piece from being removed. The attacker can then play a prepared card with a sustain battle symbol. This continues back and forth until either player chooses not to play any more prepared cards. The attacker wins if the defender cannot reinforce. All enemy pieces in the space are removed. On the other hand, if the defender can reinforce, but the attacker not sustain the battle, then the battle is over and the defender has won. No pieces are removed. However, if the defender can play a prepared card with the counterattack symbol, they may initiate a battle against the space from which the attack was launched. This resolves in the same way as a normal attack with both players able to play prepared cards. This time, the former defender is now the attacker and vice versa. When resolving a battle, if there are more than one power defending, any of the defending players may play prepared reinforce cards. If the defenders are then defeated, then all defending pieces are removed.
Some cards have attrition symbols at the bottom. During this step, a prepared card with the attrition symbol may be played to force the indicated powers or nations to discard cards. This functions in the same way as an Economic Warfare card.
A player may choose to prepare a card at this time. To do this, the player takes a card from their hand and places it face down in front of them. Only one card can be prepared during this step. If the player does not wish to prepare a card, they may instead unprepare a card by taking a prepared card back into their hand. Prepared cards use the symbol at the bottom when they are played either during a battle or for the attrition step. Preparing a card is a good way to be ready for future battle or to save a card for later in the game so it will not take up space in your hand.
For this final step of the turn, a player may draw cards from their draw pile into their hand to bring their hand up to seven cards. They cannot draw if they already have seven or more cards. Also, players are not required to draw any cards during this step if they so choose.
The game ends when round 17 is completed. Scoring takes place throughout the game. Players may earn victory points as a result of a card as well as during scoring rounds which take place after rounds 3, 7, 11, 15, and 17. During a scoring round, players earn a victory point for each objective that their armies occupy. If two allied powers occupy the same space, the team only scores one point. Some status cards also provide points during scoring rounds if specific conditions are met. The team with the most victory points after the last scoring round is the winner. If at the end of any scoring round, one team is 12 or more points ahead of the other team, a sudden victory ends the game immediately.
Why You Should Play Quartermaster General: 1914
As a history major with an emphasis on military history and a high school history teacher, I have not only studied World War I but also teach it annually. As I learned about Quartermaster General: 1914 and skimmed through the rules, I was intrigued by its mechanics and gameplay and wanted to try it out. Once I got the game to the table, I was not disappointed, but even more impressed than I expected. When one thinks of the First World War, images of trench warfare and biplanes often come to mind. However, Quartermaster General: 1914 is not a tactical game. Instead it focuses on grand strategy with a focus on logistics–hence the name quartermaster in its title. This provides a refreshing way to play a game designed around a military conflict.
Due to its novel focus, Quartermaster General: 1914 has some different mechanics and uses cards to drive the gameplay. Building armies and navies is how you take control of land and sea spaces while battle cards are needed to clear away enemy pieces from spaces. Some event cards allow you to battle and then build a piece unit in the vacated space if you win. Otherwise, once you win a battle, you either have to wait for your next turn to build a piece in that space or your ally can claim it for your side. I really like the use of prepared cards. Early on it is easy to claim territory since players have no or few prepared cards. However, later in the game, you will need several prepared sustain cards if you want to win a battle. This requires players to think several turns in advance and be ready.
Another aspect I like about the game is the fact that once cards are discarded, they are gone. While some cards may allow you to get cards from your discard pile, when you run out of cards in your draw pile, you are out of new cards. There is no shuffling your discard pile to create a new draw pile. Therefore attrition and economic warfare cards are important in whittling down your opponents’ decks. This becomes even more important later in the game as players draw piles are getting low. Since the cards are a limiting resource, you really have to think about attacking into difficult terrain since it requires you to discard a card to initiate an attack as well as each time you have to play a prepared card to sustain the battle!
I really like the status and event cards. Each has a title related to the history of the war. These cards can also be very powerful when played correctly. Their prepared symbols are usually powerful as well and may include double sustain or double reinforce symbols. Playing or preparing them is a tradeoff since you either use these cards to play them or prepare them. The event cards also bring a lot of flavor to the game. The Russian event card, ‘Peace, Bread, Land’ is a great one to save for the end when Russia is out of cards. This lets the Russian player remove up to 5 Russian pieces from the board and gain 1 victory point for each piece removed. This represents the Bolshevik Revolution, which pulled Russia out of the war. The game’s designer did a great job of taking historical events and applying them to gameplay.
Finally, while there is a bit of randomness in the game due to the luck of the drawing cards into your hand, there are no dice rolls to determine winners. The player who is better prepared, literally with prepared cards, is the one who will win a battle. I really enjoy playing Quartermaster General: 1914. Not only does the game have some unique and interesting mechanics and gameplay, it also does a great job fitting the theme of World War I. If you are interested in military history or just looking for a well-designed game that is different from many games out there, I highly recommend Quartermaster General: 1914.
For more information, visit the Quartermaster General: 1914 page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.