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De Bull Run à Appomatox» Forums » Reviews

Subject: First play of De Bull Run à Appomatox rss

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Michel Boucher
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Geoff and I had agreed to try it, as I had come into possession of a copy with mounted counters. I read the rules (in French) and was able to convey the gist of them to Geoff fairly quickly.

This is a game of the (not so) Civil War that was fought between the Union and Confederate States from 1861 to 1865. It was published in Vae Victis 36, and a short erratum exists on the back of the map for France 1940, Vae Victis 37. This erratum corrects map errors.

Franck Yeghicheyan, the designer, has also published Ia Drang, Vietnam 1965, a solitaire game, Crète 1941: Opération Merkur, a game with both two-player and solitaire rules, and a minigame, Camerone, on a particular battle of the French Foreign Legion in Mexico in 1863, all of them in Vae Victis.

As with all Vae Victis games, counters have to be mounted (these were mounted on what appears to be bar coasters, giving them some thickness) and some aids, printed on the back of the counter sheet, have to be photocopied (I scan and print them usually) before cutting out the counters. The rules are printed on eight (8) pages with colourful illustrations and tables.

Note that Vae Victis publishes its magazine using ISO standard paper size A4. This measures 210×297 mm or 8.27x11.69 inches, which requires that full page photocopies be reduced to 90% (or even 85%) in order to fit on a 8.5x11 page.


The game is played in 26 two-month turns on a map of the eastern United States, from New York and Chicago in the north to the northern part of the Florida peninsula and New Orleans in the south, the eastern seaboard to the transriverine states of the west. The surface is divided into states and broken down into zones (which regulate movement) and significant locations:

- clear
- rough [affecting the attacker negatively]
- impassable mountainous [except by rail]
- water [open sea and rivers]
- railnets and connection points
- cities [which provide revenue] and
- historical battle sites [which provide victory points]

Units are divided into HQs (named leaders--12 to a side) with combat bonus and movement, and infantry, cavalry, artillery and naval units with strength level and movement. Forts have two strength levels. Each turn, players throw a single die and apply DRMs. The resulting number for each player is the number of activation points which allows that player to move a command, entrench a command, move the raider behind the lines, move a fleet to sea, or perform an amphibious invasion. The Northern player casts 2D6 and consults the random event table. Players also draw one leader per turn beyond the four to a side that are on the map at the start.

The random events usually provide one side or the other with income or manpower, result in the permanent or temporary loss of an HQ, or provide the North with technological advances such as observation balloons (recon bonus, see below) or repeating rifles (combat bonus).

Before movement, a leader may undertake reconnaissance of all adjacent enemy units, which can reveal the contents of the area to various degrees dependent on a die roll which can be modified positively and negatively by the presence of cavalry and, for the North, balloons.

Movement occurs from one zone to the next (on land or at sea) at rates appropriate to the units (6 for HQs and ships, 5 for cavalry, 3 for the others) and units (ships and the raider unit excepted) cannot move without being under an HQ. Combat occurs as a result of moving units into a zone controlled by the enemy.

There are no specific units so all infantry (or cavalry or artillery) in one location are simply a total of all combat points of that branch. When combat occurs, each side throws a die for each combat point and units hit on a 5 or 6 (infantry or cavalry) or a 4, 5 or 6 (artillery). Rough terrain, forts and entrenchments reduce the attacker to hitting on 6's only whereas the defender still has full use of his units.

When combat points are lost, they are replaced by a unit of the appropriate strength, or a combination (e.g.: a force of 6 infantry points takes 2 points of damage; this can be resolved by replacing the 6 points with a 4, 2 2's, or a 3 and a 1). Ships and forts have single combat and take a step loss (flip over) if they sustain a hit, and are eliminated if they sustain a second hit. HQs that win a battle pass from Novice to Experienced and provide their units with an added DRM to each die equal to the bonus. Experienced HQs that lose a battle return to the Novice state.

Cities with income values are a sought after resource and having too few points of income to pay the troops results in very damaging losses. An abundance of income can be used to purchase units. Control of specific high value cities of the opponent can result in a sudden game end. In fact, the North must achieve this to win, whereas the South merely has to prevent it.

There are two scenarios, the full campaign game of 26 turns and a short introductory scenario of two turns to learn the combat system.

Rules and errata in English are available here (please don't write to me about the translation, I had nothing to do with it):

For those wishing to have a look at the components, Silver & Steel has a Cyberboard gamebox available on their web site (copy and paste address):


Although Geoff and I were a bit skeptical at first, we became more interested in continuing as the game progressed and by the end of turn 9 (as far as we got), we felt that it was a worthy addition to the set of games we play.

On the surface it uses mechanisms which are tried and true from A House Divided such as promotion (although in this case it is the leader that gets promoted) and establishing activation points by a die roll. However, we were both in agreement that for a magazine game that aims to simulate such a conflict, it is certainly an agreeable one overall.
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