Paths of Glory is highly complex, and within its game pieces and rules, it aims to recreate a vast spectrum of battles fought during WWI. Since its release in 1999, the rules have been updated numerous times, most recently in its fifth update with the 2010 reprint.

The game map depicts Europe and the Middle East. On the map, there are spaces connected to each other by lines. Spaces can be square, circular, or 8-pointed stars. Connected spaces are adjacent to each other. The spaces on the board indicate who it belongs to at the start of the war, and information such as restrictions and victory status.

The playing pieces are combat units (corps and armies) printed with their statistics and limitations, and 13 types of game marker pieces.

The Strategy Cards are where the game really takes its course. Each player has a deck of 55 cards. The cards are divided into 14 Mobilisation Cards, 20 Limited War Cards, and 21 Total Cards. Stats on the cards include the event name, event effects, and commitment level.

There are three scenarios in the game: Introductory, Limited War, and Campaign. All of them start in August 1914. After markers and units are placed on the board, the Central Powers can choose if they want to start the game with the Guns of August event Strategy card. Regardless of the decision, the Central Powers Mobilisation cards are shuffled, and the player draws seven cards. The Allied player does the same with their cards.

Victory determination is rather complex and is determined by the Victory Point (VP) level at the end of the game. The Central Powers win automatically in any scenario if the VP total is 20 or higher during the War Status Phase of any turn. The Allies win automatically if the VP total is 0 or lower during this phase.