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Subject: A Game as Masterful as Grant's Campaign rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Mississippi Fortress is an operational treatment of the Vicksburg Campaign, Grant's undisputed masterpiece. Some of this review will recap the system as i explained it in my review of Autumn of Glory, but I'll add more notes on this game, including why it is among my favorites.

Gameplay (28 out of 28): Mississippi Fortress works off an area impulse system. Units are activated in an area and then move across the map, with cavalry moving faster than infantry. Given the scale infantry units tend to move one space at a time unless they force march. This means that the maneuvers you undertake are typically a little slow to develop and you won't get the feeling of lighting marches across enemy territory. Also it gives the enemy time to react. For more fluid situations such a system doesn't intrinsically work. One answer would be artificial rules forcing one side to be slower. Mississippi Fortress has a much better answer for such a problem: fog of war.

Mississippi Fortress relies upon fog of war in two layers. In the first you can rarely be sure what the enemy has in a location because the units are hidden, which is similar to most block games like Hammer of the Scots. While a good idea the added trouble is that that you do have a general idea of the enemy's strength in one area and if you are veteran of the game is isn't too hard to predict some of the units that the enemy has in that location. Experienced Hammer of the Scots players I find can keep track of William Wallace's movements. Mississippi Fortress goes further by adding dummy units, something that to my understanding was used effectively in Quebec 1759. The dummy units will give the opponent fits as he sees a whole wave of enemy units and not know which is the paper tiger. The best way to find out is to use cavalry as scouts, which is a historic role you rarely see in more popular Civil War games, in part because these games have no fog of war.

If units clash they fight upon a battle board that is a little restrictive, but allows for a fairly realistic exchange of gunfire. What is really nice is that units in each area of the battle board choose a tactics chit (like advance, skirmish, etc.) and depending upon the other side's choice this will create the intensity of the combat. This is light years ahead of the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series that has no such chart and leads to often perplexing combat results.

Operational/Tactical (5 out of 5): The dummy units force a realistic use of cavalry, who are not so good in a scrap, while also making a player plan ahead effectively. In this sense I've seen the game go along lines that while not strictly historical are certainly reasonable. I'd say GCACW does a great job of simulating the complicated and often chancy maneuvers of warfare because movement is variable and done with hexes, which allow for more fluid maneuvers. Mississippi Fortress lacks the excitement of maneuver that you find in GCACW, but I feel the use of cavalry, fog of war, and the nature of the battles make this game more realistic and nerve racking.

Accessibility (4 out of 5): Mississippi Fortress is more accessible than Autumn of Glory. While the rulebook is the same, the campaign was a bit more straightforward in terms of the armies that fought. Mississippi Fortress, by virtue of having fewer special rules, plays in a smoother way. It also helps that the operational map is compact.

Components (5 out of 5): The hand drawn style used with the units and map is good, and I like the light colors used. Mississippi Fortress looks better to me because the slightly darker color of the map, as opposed to the lighter hues in Autumn of Glory, seems more authentic. I know it is a small aspect, but it did the trick.

Game's Components:
External image


Originality (2 out of 2): Mississippi Fortress is unlike any other operational wargame I've played outside of its brothers in the series. The combination of fog of war, operational maneuver, and tactical planning is unique.

Historical Quality (5 out of 5): From the importance of supply and the risk of leader loss, to the fog of war Mississippi Fortress is a real winner. Mississippi Fortress has just enough chrome, including naval units, shore batteries, hot summer days, and the skill of Confederate General Bowen. There is also a fun variant where Longstreet comes to save the day. The victory points encourage the Union to move quickly, with the choice of besieging Vicksburg or going for the jugular. However, the end date of July 4 seems a little arbitrary. This seems to be a problem with all of the games in the series.

Overall (49 out of 50): Mississippi Fortress is an unheralded classic. The gameplay is simple for veterans and evokes the campaign while simulating many realities not present in other Civil War games. Besides exploring the decisive campaign of the war and Grant's finest hour it also presents a genuine and balanced problem to the players. The Confederates are divided but hold a strong position. Grant must march hard and be audacious but not foolish. In other words Mississippi Fortress explores the realities of the campaign while offering the players options. Isn't that what great wargames do?

I Like the French Cover:
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Barry Kendall
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Good review, Sean. I've always thought this series deserves more respect and attention than it received at the time these games were released, and I agree with you that the system provides more suspense and operational flavor than GCACW.

I suspect that the lavish mapwork and "sophistication" of the GCACW series helped that line steal the limelight from COA's ACW games.

I also agree about the parchment-like, hand-drawn-map style. I wish the original Gettysburg campaign game that launched the system had received a full graphic update to bring it into line with the balance of the series.

P.S. How 'bout those Steelers? Hines Ward rocks.
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Michael Lavoie
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I've always enjoyed this series. The only drawback, for me, is the use of the battle board. This is a mechanic that has met with a lukewarm reception over the years, and its implementation here is not particularly inspired. But that doesn't really detract from the enjoyment of what is a good, underrated series of games.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
P.S. How 'bout those Steelers? Hines Ward rocks.
I have long believed that Ward is the NFL's elite receiver. Certainly better than Moss and others who get more hype.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
I've always enjoyed this series. The only drawback, for me, is the use of the battle board. This is a mechanic that has met with a lukewarm reception over the years, and its implementation here is not particularly inspired. But that doesn't really detract from the enjoyment of what is a good, underrated series of games.
I like the battleboard as presented here, and not in games like Bobby Lee, but it certainly can to a degree slow down play.
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gittes wrote:
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P.S. How 'bout those Steelers? Hines Ward rocks.
I have long believed that Ward is the NFL's elite receiver. Certainly better than Moss and others who get more hype.
I have to concur. Wish he was a Bear.

One thing about it, he sure does know how to fly under the radar. He was kickin butt this last weekend.
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Lawrence Hung
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The only problem to me with this series is the lack of suitability to solo play because of the fog of war.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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The only problem to me with this series is the lack of suitability to solo play because of the fog of war.
Actually this game solos quite well I find, but it is better with fog of war.
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Chris Miller
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Selling on ebay right now for under $10. I'm tempted
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Nicolas J
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Nice job, it was my first wargame. I was surprised by the quality of the map ( thx Rick Barber) and it is a good and simple game.
I mean, for a new player it isn't hard. In 4 hours we can end the game. And I loved the battle system, with dummy, orders , a lot of options and struggle, This game looks good, even today. ( I play with the french version, and the rulebook is well done, no mistakes or failed rules..)
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Barry Roy
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Just received a copy via trade. Would anyone fancy a game?

Barry
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Randy C
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Is this game really area impulse?
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Chris Montgomery
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A really late reply, Randy, but yes, it is. The map (as you can see from the images section) is a set of inter-locking areas and units move from adjacent area to adjacent area.
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Dò the Clef
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a solid review: two thumbs up !!!
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