Top 4 Great Things About Bobby Lee, from Columbia Games
Columbia is known for their block games which incorporate Fog-of-War. The blocks rotate to conceal the strength of the unit: 1-4. This is mechanic is interesting. It creates a sense of fear and uncertainty. Yes, fear. Remember fear is often rooted in the unknown and Bobby Lee is full of unknowns.
Hidden blocks allow for bluffing. The enemy just created a big huge stack of blocks. This looks intimidating but are they all full strength or is this a ruse? They could all be strength 1 units that will collapse like a house of cards if you have the guts to strike.
The blocks and hidden strength are fun. They do add to the game but you may be surprised that I ranked this as #4 on the list. Isn’t this the main attraction? Hidden blocks with rotating strengths?
Surprisingly no. I don’t see this as the best thing about Bobby Lee. Considering all the other features, this effect seems minor in comparison.
#3 Political Will
How do you win? Cities are worth VPs. When you take them, the Victory marker moves towards your side that many spaces. Get the marker all the way down to your side and hold it till the end of the turn and you just won the war!
I love this. Simple, accurate and effective. Basically it is tracking the political will of your side to continue hostilities. Need troops really badly? Institute a new draft. You get to raise ‘free’ troops but it costs you VPs. The Confederate player gets free VPs over time. The clock is ticking for the Union. The burden of offensive is squarely upon their shoulders. They must invade the South. They must take and hold cities. If you can’t do this, international pressure and support for Southern Independence will become insurmountable.
The VPs threshold drops for the election. The Union is very vulnerable here. This gives Lee the perfect motivation to launch a northern Gettysburg style invasion. You don’t have to conquer the North, just crash their support for the war right before the election.
#2 Two Scales at Once
Is it a strategic game? Is it a battle game? A campaign game? Somehow, Bobby Lee amazingly pulls off all of these at once. To me, this fills a perfect niche. The overall Strategic game is played on the big strategic map. Once forces collide for a battle, you pull them off and place them on a smaller battle board to slug out the results blow by blow. You play on two different maps and at two different scales at once. Amazing.
All the other games struggle with this dilemma. If you have a Strategic game, the battles and maneuver are abstracted. If you have a battle game, the over arching strategic situation is strictly regimented.
I usually hate battle games. What are you fighting for? VPs on terrain? Why do I need to take that hill? I don’t care. Battle games often feel pointless. Not in Bobby Lee. You are fighting the campaign. All of the strategic concerns are right there. You are always fighting the battles with these in mind. How hard should you push it? How badly do you need to win? At what cost? How will the campaign continue over the next few turns if you lose or win? The players must weigh all of these concerns against every battle move and die roll they make while fighting. Finally, the battle makes sense. The campaign makes sense. The whole war makes sense! All in one, small neat package.
The number one best thing about Bobby Lee? HQs! Their HQ system is nothing short of brilliant. In real wars, you see long periods where both sides mostly just sit and wait, broken up by brief periods of insane levels of furious activity. Hurry up and wait. You never see this in most games. It’s I-go-you-go. Every turn, every piece moves and attacks. Very unrealistic.
Bobby Lee flows like a real war. Months and months where both sides sit and build. Wouldn’t that make for a boring game? No! If both sides pass for the month, then the turn is over. You build and off you go to the next turn. You can blow through 6, 1 month, turns in a few moments. When both sides start marching, then the game slows down to savor every delicious moment of conflict.
How does Bobby Lee do all this? With HQs. The troops can’t move by themselves. They are natural slackers. They need lots of shouting officers to get things going. When an HQ activates, all units in range can move and attack. The catch is, after it deactivates, it drops a level. So you can only activate and move so many times before you can’t move anymore. How many times? It depends. How many levels did you have the HQ build up to?
Imagine a game where the enemy can move and attack but you can’t. How long would the game last? Not long at all. So it is critical that you keep enough HQs around with enough steps left to respond to the enemy.
Building up your HQs costs Production Points. Note how this simulates logistics and supplies as well. A huge part of war that is mostly just ignored by most games. Now the game flows like a real war. No fuss, no muss. Quick, easy and all integrated into one seamless system.
You can get Bobby Lee here!