There are probably over a hundred board games on the Battle of Gettysburg, so why another. Well that is exactly the point.
The game we will be looking at is an adaptation, or a descendant, of the original Kriegspiel. The game information will have to come second to perhaps fulfillment of a long time dream.
A Wargamer’s Needful Things -By Robert Peterson
This is a picture of a ‘light pull chain’ defending a valley, and in the mid 1960’s to me it was state of the art for wargaming. I collected every one I could to add to my growing army of them. As you can see, with the bed covers formed just so, you can create any terrain you want. You can also form your army units (chains) in any shape possible. They can also represent any army from ancient times to the 20th century. They can be armed with firearms or sword and shield; it does not matter. Why, you ask, am I bringing this up? Because I have been looking for a game that reminds me of wargaming with my chains, and I think I finally have one in Pub Battles: Gettysburg. To be more exact, I think all of the Pub Battles games will do. So, on to the game.
The Pub Battle games all have a few things in common. First, they are relatively easy with only about four pages of rules. Second, they do a good job of showing how units had to march and fight historically. Third, they are beautiful beyond compare. The maps are all period ones that have been enhanced by Command Post Games to be easier for players to use. The map not only looks good, it actually feels good. You wouldn’t be surprised to see it come out of a museum case. It is rolled up when you receive it, however it flattens right out without adjusting or counter-folding by the player. The map is more of a time machine than just a wargaming map. It allows your mind to wander when playing so you actually believe that you have Hood, Hancock, and Meade around the table with you. The counters, while really only wooden rectangles, have the same effect. Once they are on the map it feels like von Moltke is in a chair nearby looking on approvingly.
This is what comes in the game tube:
Pub Battles Rulebook
Pub Battles Gettysburg Rulebook
Six small die and one large (all six sided)
24″x24″ Paper map (you can order a canvas map, and per
Command Post Games one is being used in a museum exhibit)
Six small Light Chain Pulls (coincidence?) to be used to calculate
Rates of March. You can also get wooden ones.
Black and Gray rectangular, and square blocks
Myriad of stickers for the above
I will post this write up from Command Post Games:
- Units realistically sprawl out in road column, resulting in delays, snaking and traffic snarls.
- Baggage Trains add to the traffic and congestion problems. They have to be protected but also need to be kept close to the action to properly supply the troops.
- Realistic, chaotic move sequence. Your troops don’t move when you want them to. You don’t know when exactly when your troops or the enemy will move. As the commander, you can only try to speed them up or slow them down. If that fails, you have to react quickly with contingency planning.
- Chaotic move sequence also results in massive re-playability. You will never see a game open and develop the same way twice. However the timing works out, you must adapt to the situation at hand.
- Realistic Fog of War: blocks hide exact unit strength and type. You can also hide your reserves off board. This forces players to realistically screen and probe. You can never be certain as to how close you are to breaking the enemy. Are they out of reserves or can they still reinforce their line? Where are they strong? Are they massing for a counter attack?
- The detailed narrative generated by the tense game play makes for great solitaire games.
- Combat and movement models are based on accurate, military, combat data from the period: Kriegsspiel.
- Optional rules for multiplayer team play.
- Optional written orders are both fun, easy to implement and very realistic. These are great to use with multiplayer teams. They also greatly enhance solitaire games.
- Sophisticated and deep strategy. There are tons of decisions to make every turn. Every one of them must be weighed against possible advantages / disadvantages to you and the enemy. Players must consider how the timing of moves will impact other commands and the enemy.
The game looks to be easy, but that is deceptive. The addition of the different optional rules make it both deeper and more historical. Please one favor though, rules lawyers do not apply. This is a game where you and your opponent will need to be gentlemen and come to agreements over movement and the battles. The one thing about this game is that it will get crowded with pieces in different places. On a Gettysburg map that is going to be the ‘fish hook’. The rules are very clear, but because of the compression effects on the units it sometimes gets a little hazy as to exact unit placement. When that happens, it can either be a rules fight fest or a friendly compromise on the issues that may arise. Remember that its forbearer Kriegspiel did have umpires.
There are probably over a hundred board games on the Battle of Gettysburg, so why another. Well that is exactly the point. It has never had the Command Point Games treatment. So, even an old jaded campaigner will look at the battle through fresh eyes. The game is simple, but in its own way it brings to life the problems of command in that era. The price point for the game is not cheap. However, were you to be able to hold the components in your own hands and feel the quality, you would immediately understand. There are a lot of stickers that need to be applied, so keep that in mind. They are also harder to apply correctly on the rectangles than when you are putting stickers on a block game. Someone who is a stickler (sorry) for having things just so will need extra time and more patience than usual with setting up this game.
Gettysburg allows you to play all three days as separate games, or a campaign with night turns. You also get three what-if scenarios. First, Jackson was not killed at Chancellorsville. Second, Jackson was wounded at Chancellorsville, but arrives in time for the battle. Third, J.E.B. Stuart is present at the opening of the festivities. Victory conditions are cut and dried. A Player receives one Victory Point for every enemy piece destroyed. The player with the most points wins. There are a few Gettysburg only rules. These are:
Treat all creeks as Streams.
All Cavalry are dragoons: they roll only 2 dice.
Both Confederate and Federal HQs have a rating of 3.
This is the sequence of play:
1. Place all Command Chits in a cup.
2. Pull a Command Chit randomly from the cup.
3. Move pieces from that Command
4. Repeat Steps 2 & 3 until cup is empty.
5. Resolve Combat between all enemy pieces in contact.
6. Start a new Turn.
So, how does it play? It is a lot of fun, and strangely very deep, in a very historical way. With the game being a chit pull one, you will never know what to expect to be able to do or what your opponent can do. The main rule to keep in mind is listed in bold “Move where the majority of the piece can fit”. The piece is in one type of terrain: the type under the ” majority of the piece”. HQ pieces move first and then you determine command ranges There is an optional rule where Baggage Trains can be added. These really add to the historical flavor especially in their uncanny ability to clog roads. The designers suggest that after you get the rules down to add ‘Optional Hidden Reserves’ to the mix. For example, the pieces of a corps if in reserve would be hidden in their HQ unit. As long as the HQ unit is not spotted by the enemy they can lay in wait like a rattler waiting to pounce. To find an entire corps pop up over a ridge that seemed safe is extremely disconcerting. There are also rules on multi-player with special rules dealing with teams that try to cheat, so beware. Thank you Command Post Games for allowing me to review this almost hidden gem of a game.
Check out the full review here.