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Subject: Decent game with a few flaws rss

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Brian Morris
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Most games covering Gettysburg cover the battle itself, mainly dealing with the events of July 1-3. Roads to Gettysburg however is a bit different. Part of the Great Campaigns of the Civil War series for Avalon Hill in the 1990s, it covers Lee's entire invasion of the north in the summer of 1863 at the division level. A classic hex and counter wargame, it covers Lee's crossing of the Potomac, his raiding of the Pennsylvania countryside and the Army of the Potomac's race northward to counter his movements. The result is a game that covers a wide scope. One wider than your usual Gettysburg simulation.



Components:

The components for this game are of your usual Avalon Hill type of the day. The counters are the conventional military counters. Practical if a bit on the boring side. Today you might see more art on counters such as these to make them stand out a bit more. They may have been the standard of the day in 1993 but today we expect just a touch more eye candy.



Map wise the game holds up a bit better. The map is attractive to the eye and extremely functional. Roads and towns are well marked and easy to pick out at a glance. It's also easy to differentiate between rivers and smaller streams. At the same time a great deal off effort has been done to give the map detail. Small details that while not effecting game mechanics are often included to add historical context to the game. For example the Lutheran Seminary is marked on the map. This has no effect at all on the game itself but is a nice historical detail that people familiar with the campaign will appreciate. This kind of nice historical detailing is not just limited to the Gettysburg area but you will find nice touches such as this scattered all over the map. It really adds to the game's historical feel and since most wargamers are history buffs it truly adds to the game's flavor.


Mechanics:

The game itself uses a impulse based movement system rather than the conventional turn base system. Players roll and then the winner decides to either move or pass. If he moves a unit that unit receives fatigue points. In general a unit can move twice during a turn but troops can be force marched to move a third or even a fourth time. The problem is this extra movement comes at a cost. You may get to the battlefield faster but you may arrive with fewer troops or troops so badly fatigued that they will be no match for a rested opponent on the battlefield.

Once you win the initiative the player can have some hard choices. You never know if you are going to have the next initiative or not. You could set up the perfect pincher movement on your opponent's forces only to see them win the next 2 or 3 initiative rolls and suddenly your perfect trap is now out the window.

Another mechanic in the movement system that works well is units do not have a set amount of movement points. Each time you activate a unit you roll to see how many movement points you receive. This can result in a unit showing surprising speed or suddenly having a case of the slows. One never knew what sort of problems a large unit of men on the march might encounter on these often rut filled back roads. This is a nice mechanic and simulates well the uncertainty of units arriving on the battlefield at certain times.

This movement system I think is one of the best aspects of this game as it forces player to make hard choices. You simply never know who will be moving next so you must take great care in how you use the initiative when you get it.

Combat wise the game system is pretty much your standard combat resolution table type system with the normal type modifiers you would expect reflecting such things as terrain, combat strength and other factors.

I do find in this game one game mechanic quirk that tends to favor the Confederates. Units in the game are represented at the division level. After each movement if a division ends it's move adjacent to an enemy unit it may attack. If you have 2 or 3 divisions end their movement adjacent to a target they can not attack together unless they wait until their next movement impulse and of course you never know when that might be. That leaves the union divisions at a disadvantage as Union divisions were smaller than their confederate counterparts. The result is often the Union player is left with the option of attacking a Confederate division of 15 troop strength with a Union division of 8 or waiting until their next impulse to attack with all three of his divisions of that Corps in order to get a numerical advantage. The Confederates meanwhile can often move and attack with their divisions in the same turn and on average have a numerical advantage. This can be a strong advantage for an experienced Confederate player. Especially as the Confederates have a +1 to the initiative die roll.



As a historical simulation:

This is one area that Roads to Gettysburg is at a disadvantage being a classic hex and counter wargame. One of the important factors in the 1863 Gettysburg campaign was information. Lee for a great deal of his movement north was blind to the actions and movements of the Army of the Potomac. It wasn't until his meeting with Longstreet's spy William Harrison that Lee realized the Army of the Potomac had moved much quicker than he expected and thus had to scramble to bring his army together to confront this threat. Conversely the Union army was largely shielded of Lee's movements by the mountains as Lee moved north up through the Shenandoah Valley. This created a high stakes game of cat and mouse as both armies moved not being aware of it's opponent's location, troop strengths and intentions.

To put this into perspective, try and imagine a game simulating the Battle of Midway where both players know the entire game where the other player's fleets are. It simply wouldn't be a proper simulation if that were the case because a large part of Midway was the lack of information both sides had as to the movements of the enemy. Most Midway games have some sort of fog of war mechanism to simulate this reality. The same holds true for the Gettysburg Campaign. In this game both sides are always aware of their opponent's location and troop strengths. Thus a large part of the game's simulation value is lost simply from that aspect as it is almost as if both armies are watching each other continuously which is not an accurate simulation of the actual events.

Conclusion:

While this game is unique in that it deals with Lee's 1863 invasion at the strategic level and the mechanics are generally solid, it's reliance on the classic hex and counter system works against it's own intentions. It simply is not possible to simulate this campaign with both sides having so much knowledge of it's opponent. I like what the game is trying to do and over all it is a fun game to play. However as a simulation of the historical events themselves it simply can not do so with the transparent hex and counter system. I think such a game would be much better served as a block game. A block game with it's fog of war mechanics and perhaps some dummy counters added in would be much better suited to simulating this campaign.

I think in the end this game is worthwhile for most civil war wargamers. It is however a game long out of print and thus carries a rather hefty price tag. It does make me wish someone somewhere would make another attempt at recreating this campaign but this time using a block game mechanic to give it more fog of war.

I rate this game a 6
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Barry Kendall
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Re a block G'burg Campaign game, you might be pleased to know that both Worthington Games and Columbia Games are working on Gettysburg Campaign block games. Unsure about the designer of the former, but Ferkin Doyle is working on Columbia's version, which has been back-burnered for some years but is now in active design according to Ferkin. He'll be at the big August boardgame event at the Host Inn, Lancaster, PA if you have questions.
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Iain K
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mrbeankc wrote:

Combat wise the game system is pretty much your standard combat resolution table type system with the normal type modifiers you would expect reflecting such things as terrain, combat strength and other factors.


To be clear, the combat system isn't a "standard combat resolution table". It's a system where the attacker and defender both roll and both damage each other. Furthermore, the odds ratio is a modifier, it does not determine the column used in the table. No this game's combat resolution bears little resemblance to the classic CRT.

Quote:

In this game both sides are always aware of their opponent's location and troop strengths. Thus a large part of the game's simulation value is lost simply from that aspect as it is almost as if both armies are watching each other continuously which is not an accurate simulation of the actual events.


I have to wonder if you've played the game?

True, like most hex and counter game, the enemy disposition is in open view, Once all units are on the map, but this is a big caveat.

In the game's four basic scenarios the focus is on specific engagements within the Gettysburg campaign. Engagements where both sides knew where their opponents were and thus the hex and counter "perfect knowledge" is not too ahistorical.

The campaign scenario however has a different approach, it begins with the Confederates on the map, and the Army of the Potomac off map. Neither side knows when the AoP will enter the map, and more importantly how many free movement impulses they will have before the Confederates can react to their appearance. The longer it takes for the AoP to appear, the more free movement they can have and the further onto the map they will appear.

So the AoP can literally appear, in a single turn, several moves into the map, just down the road from Gettysburg.

Once they are disposed on the map, its true we're back to the old school where everyone knows where everyone is, but the dice based movement means that you rarely know for sure where your own or your opponents forces can be next turn.

Much like actual campaigns, you know where your opponent was yesterday more often than you know where they are today.

Now if you play the campaign with Pat's (above) hidden movement variant (published in both The General and Skirmisher magazines) the game really shines.

Let's be fair, games seem unable to simulate the Gettysburg battle and campaign historically. The difficulty at achieving imperfect intelligence and the combatants' knowledge of history itself tend to lead games to ahistorical outcomes.

The GCACW series is engaging and historical, within the confines of a board game. It allows gamers to explore several what-if's. It's not perfect, but it is an approachable and rewarding gaming experience.




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Brian Morris
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citizen k wrote:

To be clear, the combat system isn't a "standard combat resolution table". It's a system where the attacker and defender both roll and both damage each other.


Which they do on a combat resolution table.

Quote:

Furthermore, the odds ratio is a modifier, it does not determine the column used in the table. No this game's combat resolution bears little resemblance to the classic CRT.


Actually that is pretty much just a variation on the classic combat resolution table. Just because it has more modifiers doesn't change that it's a CRT. Mind you, I like CRTs so I don't fault the game at all for using them. I think the CRT in this game is well used and one of the game's stronger selling points.


Quote:

I have to wonder if you've played the game?

First I suggest you learn manners when responding to a review. Just because you liked the game better than I did is no reason to start using juvenile insults like this. You may think this made you sound cute and clever but it's not clever or original. It's just juvenile.

Quote:

True, like most hex and counter game, the enemy disposition is in open view, Once all units are on the map, but this is a big caveat.

In the game's four basic scenarios the focus is on specific engagements within the Gettysburg campaign. Engagements where both sides knew where their opponents were and thus the hex and counter "perfect knowledge" is not too ahistorical.

The campaign scenario however has a different approach, it begins with the Confederates on the map, and the Army of the Potomac off map. Neither side knows when the AoP will enter the map, and more importantly how many free movement impulses they will have before the Confederates can react to their appearance. The longer it takes for the AoP to appear, the more free movement they can have and the further onto the map they will appear.

So the AoP can literally appear, in a single turn, several moves into the map, just down the road from Gettysburg.

Once they are disposed on the map, its true we're back to the old school where everyone knows where everyone is, but the dice based movement means that you rarely know for sure where your own or your opponents forces can be next turn.


Actually perfect knowledge is indeed not historical. Lee was so ignorant as to the disposition of the Union Army that he never believed during the entire 3 days of Gettysburg that the entire Union Army was even present on the battlefield. The Battle of Gettysburg started literally because Lee was using Heth's division like cavalry when he sent them on a reconnaissance of Gettysburg. It wasn't until Archer walked into the Iron Brigade in McPhearson's Woods that he even knew their were Union infantry anywhere close to him.

None of what you say changes the fact that the second the Army of the Potomac appears on the map it is in full view of the Confederate player and this is a pretty big map covering Maryland all the way up to Harrisburg. The Union player doesn't just pop up right next to Gettysburg like you make it sound. They appear on the map just after crossing the Potomac River and it takes them a good number of turns to reach Gettysburg which is near the center of the map.

There is a difference between a good game and a good simulation. This is a good game but as a simulation it has it's limitations. There is no way you can properly simulate the Gettysburg Campaign when you have every unit on both sides in full view. Just because some units are delayed several turns coming onto the board doesn't change that fact. As it is the Confederate player knows where these units will appear when they do come onto the board so in effect Lee can see the future because not only does he know that these units are coming but he knows where they will be appearing when they do arrive.

Like I said in my review, this is like playing a game on Midway where both players know the entire time what and where the enemy units are on the map. It may be a good game but it in no way is an accurate simulation of the events by the very nature that during the actual battle both commanders were completely in the dark for a great deal of the time as to the movements of their opponent. To be a true simulation you have to have some way of recreating that fog of war and you can't do that when you have every unit from both sides in full view on the table.
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Brian Morris
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Barry Kendall wrote:
Re a block G'burg Campaign game, you might be pleased to know that both Worthington Games and Columbia Games are working on Gettysburg Campaign block games. Unsure about the designer of the former, but Ferkin Doyle is working on Columbia's version, which has been back-burnered for some years but is now in active design according to Ferkin. He'll be at the big August boardgame event at the Host Inn, Lancaster, PA if you have questions.


I actually have already pre-ordered the Worthington Games one but was unaware Columbia was working on a similar idea. I'll have to check into that.

I honestly think a block game is the best way to accurately simulate as much as one can the lack of information that was such a big factor in the Gettysburg Campaign without having to go to something like a double blind type system.
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mrbeankc wrote:
citizen k wrote:

To be clear, the combat system isn't a "standard combat resolution table". It's a system where the attacker and defender both roll and both damage each other.


Which they do on a combat resolution table.

Quote:

Furthermore, the odds ratio is a modifier, it does not determine the column used in the table. No this game's combat resolution bears little resemblance to the classic CRT.


Actually that is pretty much just a variation on the classic combat resolution table. Just because it has more modifiers doesn't change that it's a CRT. Mind you, I like CRTs so I don't fault the game at all for using them. I think the CRT in this game is well used and one of the game's stronger selling points.


To be fair, this is a CRT, yes, in the strict sense of the word. (It is a table that resolves combat.) However, a _standard_ CRT takes all factors into account including things like column shifts and DRMs, uses one die roll (of some number of dice) that is not attached to either side, then looks up on the table to see what happens.

What this game _actually_ has for combat is a contested die roll where each side rolls a die, adds its modifiers to their die roll, then the defender's total is subtracted from the attacker. The results are then looked up on a table where the row is the die roll difference and the columns are the sizes of the forces involved.

This sort of resolution is more closely related to the DBx series of miniatures games than it is to a standard wargaming CRT.
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ian morris
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mrbeankc wrote:
I do find in this game one game mechanic quirk that tends to favor the Confederates. Units in the game are represented at the division level. After each movement if a division ends it's move adjacent to an enemy unit it may attack. If you have 2 or 3 divisions end their movement adjacent to a target they can not attack together unless they wait until their next movement impulse and of course you never know when that might be. That leaves the union divisions at a disadvantage as Union divisions were smaller than their confederate counterparts. The result is often the Union player is left with the option of attacking a Confederate division of 15 troop strength with a Union division of 8 or waiting until their next impulse to attack with all three of his divisions of that Corps in order to get a numerical advantage.


One way for the Union player to get around this is to gut one division from a corps through detachments, attaching those SP to the other division, leaving just one or two SP in the gutted division. The gutted division then acts as an artillery reserve for the enhanced division, both stacking together.

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mrbeankc wrote:

Actually that is pretty much just a variation on the classic combat resolution table.

Basilius has summed my point well with his statement above.

Quote:

Quote:

I have to wonder if you've played the game?

First I suggest you learn manners when responding to a review. Just because you liked the game better than I did is no reason to start using juvenile insults like this.


I can in no way be held responsible for your sensitivities. I merely asked a question. Permit me to rephrase, and perhaps better make my point.

What scenarios have you played?

For example, the game's scenario 2 "Where's Stuart" is a solitaire scenario. Most union forces are not on the map, rather they are represented with "?" and "??" counters. The nature of the units these counters represent, if any, is only revealed when Stuart's forces move within 4 spaces of said units.

Can you explain how such a system leads to your conclusion:

Quote:

In this game both sides are always aware of their opponent's location and troop strengths.


Similarly for the AoP, neither player knows when they will arrive or exactly how far they will have advanced. The Confederate player has no idea of where the Union player will send them. Once the units are on the board, sure everyone knows where they are - but not how well they can move, even their commander has no idea if his troops will be laggards or foot calvary.

But do you point this out? Do you discuss these attempts to induce the fog of war? No you simply put forward your contention that the game is flawed and swathe it in broad brush statements that lead me to wonder how familiar you really are with the game and its scenarios. I apologize if this comes across as belligerent, but I think RtG is a solid member of a very good gaming franchise and I don't think its fair to review it incompletely or with an agenda.

Another example, you write:
Quote:

It is however a game long out of print and thus carries a rather hefty price tag

Let's quantify this generality. RtG costs more than most wargames in print, but than less than The Devil's Cauldron. It can be found for as little as the cost of Agricola. Is that "hefty" maybe, maybe not, but it's accurate, it gives the reader facts ... "hefty" is an opinion, it's judgmental and tells us nothing quantifiable.


For its day, and in large degree to this very day, there are few systems that better capture the uncertainties of the Gettysburg Campaign in a board game. Personally, I think computer games do a better job at the fog of war, but no game ever seems to produce the results of the real life campaign - so many mistakes were made and both sides had such imperfect pictures.

My problem Brian is that you make a fairly damning thesis, "Decent game with a Few Flaws", but then proceed to support your contention that a well regarded game is flawed with evidence that to any experienced player of the game comes across as broad strokes and vague accusations, with little supporting evidence.

Is the game perfect, no, but what board game about the Gettysburg Campaign is? I'd love to hear you compare and contrast RtG to a game you find does a better job. I'd love to hear how the flaws you find in the title, and which I contend are inherent to board wargames in general, could (or better yet, have) been remedied.

In fact, I'm willing to bet that there are many game designers out there that would love to hear how as well.

As for the comparison to Midway, that's fair enough. Yet don't *all* board wargames suffer similarly? Is it fair to single out RtG and publish an online review that pronounces the game "flawed"?


It's true, I like the GCACW series, but I acknowledge that it's far from perfect. It is a game and not a simulation. Your review has convinced me that I'd love to play/see a block game of the same scope, but it hasn't convinced me that the game is flawed given what it is ... a game played on a map on a table.

PS - a block game covering the same Campaign as RtG would have "huge" maps


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gamer72 wrote:
mrbeankc wrote:
I do find in this game one game mechanic quirk that tends to favor the Confederates. Units in the game are represented at the division level. After each movement if a division ends it's move adjacent to an enemy unit it may attack. If you have 2 or 3 divisions end their movement adjacent to a target they can not attack together unless they wait until their next movement impulse and of course you never know when that might be. That leaves the union divisions at a disadvantage as Union divisions were smaller than their confederate counterparts. The result is often the Union player is left with the option of attacking a Confederate division of 15 troop strength with a Union division of 8 or waiting until their next impulse to attack with all three of his divisions of that Corps in order to get a numerical advantage.


One way for the Union player to get around this is to gut one division from a corps through detachments, attaching those SP to the other division, leaving just one or two SP in the gutted division. The gutted division then acts as an artillery reserve for the enhanced division, both stacking together.



I don't think this gamey tactic would persaude the reviewer that the game was a better simulation.
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citizen k wrote:


PS - a block game covering the same Campaign as RtG would have "huge" maps




That had crossed my mind and that is one area I mentioned in my review that I greatly liked. The map is a great map for this game. A block game could not operate on a map of this scope unless you went to something the physical size of the map in Europe Engulfed. Worthington's map for it's Forged in Fire which it's Gettysburg game is going to be based upon is a much less detailed map. Over all it's not nearly as detailed nor does it try to be as the games in the GCACW series. It would basically be a trade off I think. I think in this respect we will see a sacrifice in detail for the fog of war.
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wargamer55 wrote:
gamer72 wrote:
mrbeankc wrote:
I do find in this game one game mechanic quirk that tends to favor the Confederates. Units in the game are represented at the division level. After each movement if a division ends it's move adjacent to an enemy unit it may attack. If you have 2 or 3 divisions end their movement adjacent to a target they can not attack together unless they wait until their next movement impulse and of course you never know when that might be. That leaves the union divisions at a disadvantage as Union divisions were smaller than their confederate counterparts. The result is often the Union player is left with the option of attacking a Confederate division of 15 troop strength with a Union division of 8 or waiting until their next impulse to attack with all three of his divisions of that Corps in order to get a numerical advantage.


One way for the Union player to get around this is to gut one division from a corps through detachments, attaching those SP to the other division, leaving just one or two SP in the gutted division. The gutted division then acts as an artillery reserve for the enhanced division, both stacking together.



I don't think this gamey tactic would persaude the reviewer that the game was a better simulation.


My opponent (we played the campaign game with me playing the Union) used this tactic at one point and it is effective. It is however a bit on the gamey side unfortunately.
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wargamer55 wrote:
gamer72 wrote:
mrbeankc wrote:
I do find in this game one game mechanic quirk that tends to favor the Confederates. Units in the game are represented at the division level. After each movement if a division ends it's move adjacent to an enemy unit it may attack. If you have 2 or 3 divisions end their movement adjacent to a target they can not attack together unless they wait until their next movement impulse and of course you never know when that might be. That leaves the union divisions at a disadvantage as Union divisions were smaller than their confederate counterparts. The result is often the Union player is left with the option of attacking a Confederate division of 15 troop strength with a Union division of 8 or waiting until their next impulse to attack with all three of his divisions of that Corps in order to get a numerical advantage.


One way for the Union player to get around this is to gut one division from a corps through detachments, attaching those SP to the other division, leaving just one or two SP in the gutted division. The gutted division then acts as an artillery reserve for the enhanced division, both stacking together.



I don't think this gamey tactic would persaude the reviewer that the game was a better simulation.


Very true, but we were talking about game mechanics rather than simulation value. Apologies for not making that clear.

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Verbal mudslinging aside, I would like to know if you played with the rules as written of with the newer, better rules as given in Skirmisher #1 or the Grant Takes Command game. They significantly change the game.

Otherwise, a good review of a pretty decent game. I tend to play other games in the series more than this one, though it certainly looks nice enough. My biggest beef with the system is the almost complete abstraction of logistics and supplies, which allows gamers to do some very unhistorical things.

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