Recommend
24 
 Thumb up
 Hide
23 Posts

Dixie» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Review of Dixie rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Franklin Turner
United States
Fultondale
Alabama
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Dixie is standard hex and counter game published by Simulation Publications Incorporated (SPI) in 1976 and first issued in Strategy and Tactics (S&T) It is on an interesting subject – a 1930 war to reunite a sundered United States 70 years after the American Civil War was concluded with the South remaining an independent nation..

Its ruleset fails to reflect many aspects of both the American Civil War or the various wars of the 1930s and 1940s which would almost certainly have also impacted such a war. Absent are air operations and naval operations whether riverine, coastal blockade or amphibious. The ACW had seen some early air operations in Union balloon observation and had seen widespread riverine, amphibious and blockade operations. The blockade had also led to some classic naval combat operations although on a very small scale (the ironclad battles, the submarine Hunley and the commerce raider retaliation by the CSS Alabama and Tuscaloosa).

There is no provision for individual leadership. Leadership had profound effects in the ACW. A pure numerical analysis would never have the war stretching for four years. The generally superior Confederate leadership of the early war greatly prolong the struggle. Only late in the war did the Union gain leaders of roughly equal competence. Leadership is instead abstracted in an Action Point system which is a good mechanic to show relative staff ability. The Confederacy is considered to have a superior staff. So there is a small attempt to show the Confederacy's advantage in leadership.

However the Action Point system is also used for production of reinforcements and replacements. Staff resources are important for the creation and distribution of new units and replacement troops. The difference between the British, American, and Soviet experiences with replacement in the Second World War shows that the method of distributing replacements can profoundly change the effectiveness of units receiving replacements. But material production capacity and manpower pools are also major factors in the ability to reinforce your forces over time and on the ability to generate replacements. The Union had a larger pool of manpower and a much greater industrial capacity throughout the ACW. When you realize that there is no separate production system but that it is rolled into the Action Point system with leadership, the idea that the Confederacy should have a significant advantage in action points becomes laughable.

This failure to consider relative industrial strength continues in the game's posited distribution and composition of forces. Each side has exactly the same number of exactly the same type of troops – infantry divisions, infantry corps and mechanized brigades. The Union should have more forces in a true conflict simulation. Each type of troop also has exactly the same strength – all infantry divisions have a strength of 1 and a movement of 6 and each armored brigade has a strength of 1 and a speed of 8. There were significant quality differences during the American Civil War. Some units were known to have superior speed in marching (the Stonewall brigade) some superior marksmanship (the Confederate and Union westerners all had substantially more hunting experience than the urban troops of the New York and Massachusetts regiments early in the war). This would only have increased as the two forces developed separate doctrines and training regiments in the 70 years between the wars.

The map also has some serious problems. While it recognizes the terrain effects of mountains, swamps and rivers it ignores woodland. If you do not think woodland versus plains matter read some comparisons of combat in Burma or the Hurtgen Forest and compare those with discussion of the Operation Blue on the Eastern Front before the Sixth Army reached Stalingrad. Most of the western Carolinas, and northern Georgia, northern Alabama, eastern Tennessee and northeastern Mississippi closely resemble the forests of the Ardeness with some areas almost a dense as the Hurtgen Forest. I suspect that is also true of large portions of Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and parts of Indiana and Illinois. By contrast Kansas and the other Great Plains states are very steppe like in terrain as is Texas although parts of Texas are closer to desert. All of these terrains are very different in military terms even on the Grand Operational scale used in Dixie. There are other errors in the map but thry are minor in comparison with the omission of the dense forests in the eastern United States. (Iron and steel production in the South is geographically concentrated in northern Alabama and eastern Tennessee just as the oil industry is concentrated in eastern Texas and western Louisiana – that may just be grousing from a slighted Birmingham native however).

In summary, the game has sound mechanics on the issues it considers but ignores major elements of technology, doctrine, terrain, and resources. These omissions not only mar the game as a simulation, they also mar it as a game because the sides are effectively identical with few unit types. The only game I can think of more generic in units is checkers. Even Chess has more unit types than Dixie (6). The omission of the forests of the eastern US means that 75 percent of the board is blank white space. You could almost be playing on a blank hexgrid.

My rating 3
13 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Martyn
United States
Guilford
VT
flag msg tools
EXCELSIOR!!!
badge
ZOMGALOMES!!!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Excellent review -- I knew this game had a reputation for being notoriously weak, but hadn't yet read a thorough explanation of the many ways in which it failed, both as a game and as a simulation.

I have a copy of this in my game room -- I'd always been tempted to give it a shot, even though my dad described it as one of the worst games he'd ever played. I'm fairly tolerant of mechanically weak games if there's a well-done theme attached, but it sounds like this is sorely lacking in both categories. Oh well.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for describing the rules and components, and scrutinizing the assumptions and choices the designer made (or didn't consider). Of course, in a hypothetical "What If" game, a designer has a lot more freedom to create the circumstances and assumptions upon which the game is based.

It's obviously not the game that you'd hoped it would be, but how did it play? You didn't mention it (or I missed it).
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stephen Meyers
United States
Frederick
Maryland
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

I have it too, but I'd like to know how the game actually played??
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Lawson
United States
Rutland
Vermont
flag msg tools
Boston Redsox
badge
New England Patriots!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
A truly bad game! I got the original while subscribing to S&T many years ago. I thought the topic was very interesting but the game is a waste of time.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian Raine
Australia
flag msg tools
Honi soit qui mal y pense, motto of Sydney Uni Rugby Club, est. 1863
badge
General Sir John Monash, victor of Le Hamel
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Spot on, it howls at the moon
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
billyboy wrote:
A truly bad game! I got the original while subscribing to S&T many years ago. I thought the topic was very interesting but the game is a waste of time.


Okay, but in what way?

I, too, received an original copy in my S&T subscription back then, but have never played it. I'm just curious because the game has had a bad reputation ever since its birth, but I've never understood whether the game's notoriety was due to the design itself, or unfulfilled expectations, or both.

The game is over thirty years old now, and would certainly benefit from the many innovations that have become staples of the hobby since then. For instance, SPI designs back then tended to start with a blank hexgrid and build up -- thus limiting imagination and innovation. Today, area or point-to-point movement might be more practical at this scale and with the production limitations of a 17"x22" map. The SPI folio-game formula tended to rely on generic values for units, simple mapsheets, and low complexity. Some folio-games played well as games despite their simplicity, while others were little more than counter-pushing drills.

So, is it a lack of replayability? Broken or incomplete rules? Lack of balance? Just plain boring?






1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Lawson
United States
Rutland
Vermont
flag msg tools
Boston Redsox
badge
New England Patriots!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Eldard wrote:
billyboy wrote:
A truly bad game! I got the original while subscribing to S&T many years ago. I thought the topic was very interesting but the game is a waste of time.


Just plain boring?









This pretty much says it all! It was over 30 years ago when I played it so its hard to be much more specific than this but this is enough!

BORING!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
billyboy wrote:
Eldard wrote:
billyboy wrote:
A truly bad game! I got the original while subscribing to S&T many years ago. I thought the topic was very interesting but the game is a waste of time.


Just plain boring?









This pretty much says it all! It was over 30 years ago when I played it so its hard to be much more specific than this but this is enough!

BORING!


OK. Thanks.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Franklin Turner
United States
Fultondale
Alabama
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The gameplay is rather dull. This is not the fault of the rules. As I stated in the review the mechanics are good enough for what they cover. As a simulation of say an 1898-1905 rematch I might have rated it a 5. But the poor map, absurd equality of forces and omission of almost everything that made the Second World War, the Chaco war of the late 30s or the brief Soviet Japanese clash around Khalikan Gol so fascinating is gone. Armor in the game is really just cavalry.

My main memory of actually playing the game is that neither side had enough units to adequately defend any of their essential assets. If the Union masses to seize the Texas oil fields they will probably succeed. But they will find Confederate forces camped on the Mall and in Central Park when they come home. If the Confederacy commits enough forces to Texas to protect that resource, the Union will easily take the Mississippi Valley and cut the Confederacy in half. Had the nation been split and the factions remained hostile, the two sides could not have kept their forces that small. If demonstrating that was the designers intent in succeeded. If it was to make an interesting game he failed miserably.

PS it has also been around 30 years since I played the game as well. At that time I lived and breathed wargames. I played the once I liked (Berlin 85, Panzergruppe Guiderian, Sniper and Squad Leader) dozens of times. Even those I found kind of weak (CA and Kampfpanzer mostly because of the map) I played around 10 times. I played Dixie twice.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
flag msg tools
Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
badge
Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Franklin T wrote:

The generally superior Confederate leadership of the early war greatly prolong the struggle. Only late in the war did the Union gain leaders of roughly equal competence.


Good review but to pick a nit, this statement is only true in Virginia. The Union had clearly superior leaders in the West from the git-go. Grant, Thomas, Sherman vs Bragg, Hood, Beauregard? No contest!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Taylor
United States
Aurora
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
wifwendell wrote:
Franklin T wrote:

The generally superior Confederate leadership of the early war greatly prolong the struggle. Only late in the war did the Union gain leaders of roughly equal competence.


Good review but to pick a nit, this statement is only true in Virginia. The Union had clearly superior leaders in the West from the git-go. Grant, Thomas, Sherman vs Bragg, Hood, Beauregard? No contest!


Halleck, Buell, Fremont, Rosecrans, McCook, Crittenden. Wendell, those guys were atrocious! I would say that the Union had better potential in the West early on, and it was developed better than in the East, as the Union leadership in the West had more freedom to work and develop than they did under the close eye of Lincoln and Staunton.

Mike
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
flag msg tools
Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
badge
Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
gvchief wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
Franklin T wrote:

The generally superior Confederate leadership of the early war greatly prolong the struggle. Only late in the war did the Union gain leaders of roughly equal competence.


Good review but to pick a nit, this statement is only true in Virginia. The Union had clearly superior leaders in the West from the git-go. Grant, Thomas, Sherman vs Bragg, Hood, Beauregard? No contest!


Halleck, Buell, Fremont, Rosecrans, McCook, Crittenden. Wendell, those guys were atrocious! I would say that the Union had better potential in the West early on, and it was developed better than in the East, as the Union leadership in the West had more freedom to work and develop than they did under the close eye of Lincoln and Staunton.

Mike


Yep, the Union had bad leaders in the West, but as I said also had very good ones. The bad ones were mostly reassigned pretty quickly...

Where were the GOOD Confederate leaders in the West? Not counting the brief period Longstreet spent out there.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Taylor
United States
Aurora
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Albert Sidney Johnson was well respected as a leader. Unfortunately for him and his cause, he was killed early on. Joe Johnston was a good general. Lots of good divisional generals like Cleburne. Hood was a good general, but over his head with an army command (Peter Principle).

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with what you said, btw. (Don't want to hijack the thread either.)

The game seems like an interesting concept, just not developed well. Maybe somebody should revisit it?

Mike
1 
 Thumb up
0.01
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Lawson
United States
Rutland
Vermont
flag msg tools
Boston Redsox
badge
New England Patriots!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Its a good topic but theres nothing worth salvaging here. Someone should start from scratch if they find this interesting.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
michael penway
United States
lake bluff
Illinois
flag msg tools

if you're tolerant of old game mechanics (not weak) you'll want to try this game not as bad as its reputation and its quite a structured game and a few crucial simple rules keep the game balance which you'll want to keep in mind as you play in fact the rules are the best part of the game. it could have been made into a very good game based on the shell of its rules but it was a magazine that came out every few months so there wasn't time (or maybe they just rushed this one to print) to elaborate this game into the gem it could have been. they also couldn't let go of the fantasy theme for the civil war posting it in 1930s instead of 1860 which they actually poke fun at with some of the counters. anyway give it a try this game is not a total loss by any means--- mike
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
United States
Vista
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Could this game be salvaged? Forest placed on the blank hexes? New counters added?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Was George Orwell an Optimist?
United States
Corvallis
Oregon
flag msg tools
Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco - You're Driving Me Crazy
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I almost never see a kind word about this game. I haven't played it since the year it came out, but recall thinking it was average at the time, and 'average' for S&T issue games in that era was pretty good. I'd still be willing to play it today.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rob Notmyreallastnameberg
United States
Atlanta
Georgia
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Just for the sake of playing Devil's Advocate....

The US maintained a very small standing army before WWII, and it's only since then that the US military has been the major force it is today. Before that armies were created and the demobilized as conflicts developed. After 1945 the Cold War came along and things changed.

Still I think you can justify the small armies on that basis, even with renewed military tension it's not unreasonable to believe that both the CS and US congresses would keep their forces at relatively low levels if parity could be established (which it is in this game).

It might even be reasonable to believe a treaty similar to the Washington Naval Treaty put a cap on Confederate and Union army sizes, which would go even further to explain the equality of US and CS forces.

Any of the above reasons can further be looked at in light of the Great Depression going on in the 1930s. With both sides struggling financially military budgets would be cut, just as the were in reality in most nations at the time.

As for leadership, this game seems to ignore it all together, which is what most wargames I've played do. The role of leadership was important in the FIRST Civil War, but who's to say by 1930 both nations hadn't achieved parity in that area?

A professional general staff on each side, with detailed war plans might be there could go a long way toward equalizing leadership. If every brigade commander on both sides knows his role in advance, then individual leadership may matter less.


The lack of armor and aircraft can be justified in three ways.

First, perhaps armor and (military) aircraft weren't developed in this alternate world, or they were but it were later discarded.

It's possible WW 1 never broke out in this timeline, and without it no tanks or military aircraft beyond reconnaissance planes were developed.

A variation of this would be that WW 1 did happen, but without US support the British and French lost the war. The German military didn't use tanks on a large scale during that war, and if they had won, the lessons learned from the war might have been quite different. The major key to the late war German offensives was specially trained storm troopers. If the Germans won, then other nations might well have written off tanks as a British experiment gone awry, and instead developed units similar to those that served the Germans so well.

The US was the heart of the international aviation industry in the 1930s, and without that industry pushing ahead with new technology, aviation could be 30 or more years behind the times in this world.


For that matter, the Wright Brothers were from Ohio and travelled to North Carolina to test their aircraft. Maybe they couldn't get visas to enter the CSA in this timeline, and so they remain a footnote in history after failing in when they used the less suitable New Jersey shore.


Second, even if tanks and aircraft were developed Europe they might not be used in a USA-CSA rematch for a number of reasons.

It seems likely that without Southern markets industry in the North would not have developed on as a large a scale as it did. If the US doesn't have a significant auto industry, and if US generals display their usual bias against imported weapons, tanks might not have a place in the Union military. If the US doesn't buy them, the Confederates might not either.

Another possibility is that they're banned, perhaps by the same treaty that created parity between the two militaries. There was serious consideration of a second round of post-Washington naval treaties that would have banned submarines outright. In this timeline that might have extended to combat on land as well, and tanks could have been banned.

Third, the lessons learned from the first Civil War might be quite different in this timeline. What if JEB Stuart took some of his cavalry all the way to Philadelphia during the Gettysberg campaign? It might have been Philadelphia that burned and not Atlanta. Or, perhaps Stuart made an end run around the Army of the Potomac, then slipped past the fortifications around DC, and finally captured the city (and Lincoln and Congress).

If that were the case, then the lesson generals would take form it was that a mobile force of cavalry (or its motorized equivalent) was the easy way to victory. If this idea is taken further, there might even be armored vehicles in both the USA and CSA militaries, but they emphasize speed above all else, like the armored cars and real life Italian L33 tankettes.


Finally, there's industry.

There's no telling what Confederate industry would look like if the South had won independence. Perhaps the South's economic focus would have remained on agriculture, or perhaps not. However in either case, it seems reasonable to believe that the Confederate leadership would have encouraged the development of an armaments industry that was on part with that of the North. With a serious break on Union industrialization due to lack of Southern markets, and due to a Southern emphasis on expanding the arms industry, the two nations have some level of equality. It may not be equal overall, but in the categories that matter most in a war its conceivable that both nations would be roughly equivalent.

I haven't played this game yet, as I'm still trying to track down a copy. So some of the above may be a bit off the mark in terms of the game itself, but based on Franklin's review (which I actually think is quite good) they seem reasonable justifications for the situation as presented in the game.


I have to admit, the lack of naval units does seem a serious oversight that even I can't really accept.

Also, I have to wonder what the status of slavery in this timeline would be. IRL the Emancipation Proclamation had a serious impact over the course of the war as a major part of the South's workforce simply left and headed North. Even if the South no longer had slavery, it seems far fetched that race wouldn't play some factor in Southern life, one that could be taken advantage of by the North.


I look forward to any rebuttal.
6 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
Andover
Hampshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Rob

Having dug out my copy of the magazine game I can answer some of your questions -

Armour is present. The doctrine proposed is pre Blitzkreig mid 1930’s, so assume fast light cavalry tanks and heavy infantry support tanks. There are armoured brigades which can move two locking ZOCs at a time, and interpenetrate; I assume these are the fast tanks. (Having said which actual US tank use according to Wikipedia appears have had very light tanks and not much else in the mid 1930’s; as I am on the other side of the Pond apologies for any ignorance of US interwar tanks).

Air is absent; but I think at this scale could be ignored. As we have no idea (as this is alternative history) what the airforces may have comprised we could assume they are similar and effectively cancel each other out on a strategic scale.

For the naval war we can postulate similar forces of battleships and the like, but both paralysed by the threat of mines and submarines (as the British and German navies in WW1). So the naval war is fought with light coastal forces, and does not impinge on a continent wide game. As the game lasts five months (10 turns of 15 days) a blockade of either side is unlikely to bit deep in that time.

Of course the real reason neither is there is that this is a magazine/folio game, c100 counter, small map and 8 pages of rules as was the way in the late 70’s.

The alternate history in the designer’s notes says the CSA industrialised and the German Empire won WW1. There is a mention of the West American Republic and the threat to it from the Japanese fleet. And slaves still exist – they are referred to as Bound Workers when they revolt in the third scenario.

While I am it let me correct an error Franklin T’s comments. Both sides do not have ”… exactly the same number of exactly the same type of troops …”. There are three scenarios, 1 – The USA makes a punitive strike on the CSA, 2 – The USA mobilises hastily as the CSA crosses its border, 3 – The USA strikes deep into the CSA as the slaves also rise. The forces (including replacements/replacements) are –

Scenario 1
USA - 6 armour, 24 infantry; 35 Admin points
CSA - 7 armour, 20 infantry; 45 Admin points

Scenario 2
USA - 0 armour, 20 infantry; 25 Admin points
CSA - 7 armour, 24 infantry; 50 Admin points

Scenario 3
USA - 7 armour, 18 infantry; 40 Admin points
CSA - 5 armour, 16 infantry; 20 Admin points

Both sides units have the same combat factors, but if either side had stronger units then there would be complaints that this was unjustified. Who knows what an industrialised CAS would have had in the way of production and industry – try reading “Bring the Jubilee” by Ward Moore (or read the Wikipedia summary) to see a very different USA after a CAS victory in 1864. Trying to say that one sides troops will be better/worse based on the experience of the 1860’s Civil War is rather like trying to write the history of WW2 in 1919!

As to how it plays. I last played over 30 years ago, but I DID save it when I rationalised my game collection so it must have had something. Once the current game has moved off my table I have Dixie lined up to be the next excitement. So I will report back in due course.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kim Meints
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I must have liked the game since I ended up with 4 copies,one being the folio. Adding 2 games together to make larger force mix.I also added in the Western Repiblic and the Indian Nation force.S&T had a variant adding in more units and Foreign nation units. That made the game even better.

For me I liked the Alternate time period plus the Folio size SPI games were easy to play when wanting something simple for a afternoon of gaming. Yes the game sure isn't rocket science in scope and it was considered somewhat of a dog when it was published but I've still enjoyed it these many decades since it was released.

Andrew-Looking forward to your game report
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ross Menzies
Australia
Katoomba
NSW
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
While always good to see a review of and oldie (but perhaps not a goodie), I don't think that critiquing a hypothetical 1930's rematch of the ACW on the basis of the conditions which obtained in the actual ACW is particularly valid. If WW2 had never happened and you were reviewing a hypothetical rematch of The World War starting in 1939 would you be saying that the Germans have far too much armour? Would have been better to focus on the play of the game.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel Blumentritt
United States
Austin
Texas
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
wifwendell wrote:
Franklin T wrote:

The generally superior Confederate leadership of the early war greatly prolong the struggle. Only late in the war did the Union gain leaders of roughly equal competence.


Good review but to pick a nit, this statement is only true in Virginia. The Union had clearly superior leaders in the West from the git-go. Grant, Thomas, Sherman vs Bragg, Hood, Beauregard? No contest!


Hood as a brigade / division commander was excellent, even though he was in way over his head as an army leader (plus put in a situation where he had almost no chance to win regardless of what he did, while in constant pain and mentally effected by all sorts of painkillers).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.