Champion Hill is the tenth game in The Gamers (now MMP’s) Civil War brigade series. It covers the little known battle outside Vicksburg at Champion Hill, where Grant managed to defeat Pemberton’s attack out of Vicksburg and keep the Confederates bottled up until their surrender. .
If the reader isn’t familiar with the Civil War Brigade Series as a whole, it might be wise to check a more general review of the series at some other location before looking at this game's specific review. This review will assume general knowledge of the series’ concepts and ideas, and will seek to review the game’s specific ideas.
Champion Hill features one unmounted map, a contrast to some of its larger predecessors. The counters are uniformly excellent, with various divisions and corps differentiated by colors and shading, making them easy to spot on the map. The paper map has benefited from advances in graphics from earlier games in the series and is top-notch.
The special rules for the game run barely two pages, and cover such items as Stevenson’s division’s ability to fight when spread out and the roadblock used by Stevenson’s men to defend the titular hill. The rules are clear and forward, requiring little reading before plunging in.
The forces arrayed for battle are solid, veteran forces on both sides. The command structure on both sides is riddled with incompetence (Pemberton’s ranking is low compared to Grant’s, which will cause some problems for the rebels.), but nothing new to anyone who has played the series for any length of time.
The basic battle itself is playable in an evening, as it involves relatively few men (2 Union corps and 3 Confederate divisions).
Stevenson’s division must hold off the advancing Union army long enough for its comrades to up to its support. It’s a tense, hard fought little situation that can go either way. This scenario is a fairly decent introduction to the CWBS as a whole, especially since you can actually “play out the battle” without having to resort of a “slice of time” scenario in a situation not of your own making, as with other games in the series. The room for maneuver seems smaller with just one map, but the size of the forces involved mean there’s still some opportunity for experiment.
Having been introduced, a new player can easily work his way into the more involved scenarios in the book, which feature more (hypothetical) forces, with the final scenario being a battle royal with two Confederate armies on one side and Grant in the middle. In many ways, since the historical battle was not very involved, The Gamers wisely chose to make Champion Hill a “gaming kit,” with many opportunities to ponder the possibilities of history.
In all, Champion Hill is a solid addition to the CWB series. It lacks much of the drama and epic nature of other battles in the series (In Their Quiet Fields, for instance), but is a unique (to my knowledge) treatment of an otherwise nearly unknown battle. The additional information and forces make it a highly replayable game and one worth seeking out.
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The Civil War Brigade series is one of my favorites (The other is Great Campaigns of the Civil War). I've played most of the battles in the series, and you can't really go wrong with any of them.
Champion Hill has the best variants of any of the series.
I would rank my four favorites as
1) Thunder at the Crossroads - the first day as a meeting engagement as both sides try to get their forces in postion.
2) No Better Place to Die - both start with orders for flank attacks
3) Champion Hill
4) Barren Victory
Thanks for the reviews - I'm glad CWB is getting some recognition
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- Andre ClaudeCanada
- I considering ordering that game.... I Wonder about the game flow and the Learning curve... I do not mind complex games, but fear sharp Learning curves that keep game partners at bay.... what are your take on these matters...
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- Thomas Beach
CWB is not without it's learning curve. But it is a short curve.
The idea of written orders must be taken into consideration when contemplating engaging in the CWB games. Some gamers simply recoil from the notion of having to write orders for their commands. Some also reject the idea that the game system would intentionally prevent them from freely moving their troops about at their own whim and from turn to turn. Of course, these imposed difficulties is precisely what makes the series so popular and enjoyable to play.
The rules are so well written that finding answers to your questions as you learn is a very simple matter. I would make sure to download the most current v3.2 rules and attached charts and tables from the MMP Gamers support Page.
Every game in the series is worth purchasing and playing, regardless of whether it utilizes the older or newer graphics.
I just introduced a gamer friend to the series yesterday. He had never played or read the rules previously. And we completed the entire 'To Henry Hill' scenario from 'Three Battles of Manassas' in an afternoon. He had a blast and walked away smiling and decidedly, a fan.
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