Seth Owen
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Cemetery Hill, the Blue & Gray quad game treatment of the Battle of Gettysburg, originally published in 1975 by SPI and republished 20 years later by Decision Games in a revised edition in 1995, had long had a reputation as one of the least successful of the series.


Units from both editions, Decision Games (1995) on top, SPI (1975) below,
Union left, Rebel right.
The Union forces are an infantry division, and cavalry and artillery brigades. The Rebel units are the two counters comprising Heth's division and F. Lee's brigade on its "ineffective" side.



Unlike all the other Blue & Gray games, which are at the brigade level, Cemetery Hill is at the division level. This was due to the particular production restrictions of the Quad game format, which allowed for no more than 100 counters. Gettysburg was simply too big a battle to fit using brigades, so the scale was bumped up to division level -- at least for the Union side. The problem with division-level Gettysburg games is that the Confederates didn't have many divisions on the field -- just 9 total -- which really doesn't give them enough maneuver units. The Rebel divisions were generally very large anyway, with 4 or five brigades except for Pickett, who had just 3 present. In contrast all the federal divisions had just 2 or 3 brigades. So in Cemetery Hill the Rebel divisions all get two counters.

Still, doubling or tripling the scale of the game units changes the character of the game considerably compared to the other quad, especially because the stacking limit was not adjusted accordingly, so some very high-factor stacks are possible. In addition there is a lot of terrain that doubles and even triples combat factors, so some hexes can have some pretty impressive totals.

Gettysburg is a very difficult battle to simulate, especially for a simple wargame, although that hasn't stopped many from trying, ever since first history-based wargame, Avalon Hill's Gettysburg. The basic problem with simulating Gettysburg is that the battle was characterized by periods of very intense fighting separated by long periods of inactivity. There were many reasons for this, but they mostly revolved around command and control issues that simple games usually pass over, so most simpler Gettysburg games see a lot more continuous action than the historical battle. Cemetery Hill is no exception.

While limited as a simulation, Cemetery Hill is not a bad game, providing some interesting choices for the game player -- although it is a bit harder for the Rebels.

The game begins at a later point than most Gettysburg games, in the afternoon just before Ewell's attack on the U.S. Eleventh Corps that sent the federal line reeling back to Cemetery Hill. The key for CSA success is to recognize that your side is winning the race to the battlefield -- but will eventually be outnumbered. Relentless aggression is your only hope to prevail. With some luck and skillful play the Confederates can rock the Union army back on its heels and never give it a chance to recover.

Conversely, the Union player is trying to buy time and avoid losing too many units in the early going. Patience will pay off for the federal side. There will be plenty of time to inflict losses on the Confederate side once the whole Union hosts gathers. The victory point awards favor the Union, with each eliminated US factor worth 2 VPs to the CSA and each eliminated Confederate worth 3 to the Union side, so the Union can "Exchange" its way to victory.


Map detail from the The SPI edition showing Gettysburg and Seminary Ridge

There are some differences between the original SPI edition and the Decision Games version. As was depressingly common with its re-issued SPI games, Decision Games introduced some errors in the reprint as well as making some changes.

From a rules standpoint, the biggest difference between the two games is the Attacker Effectiveness rule, which is optional in the original SPI version and a standard rule in the Decision Games version. Oddly, the Attacker Effectiveness rule was first introduced in Cemetery Hill, but many players believe it shouldn't be used in Cemetery Hill because it works against the Confederates too much.

My experience is that the Confederates can succeed using the AE rule at about the same rate as they do without it, so I think the pro-Union bias has more to do with the victory conditions and the general game situation. Indeed, I think the Confederate side is the more challenging side to play in all Gettysburg games. While the attacker effectiveness rule does hinder the attacker in some ways, it can also be exploited. Unlike all the other Blue & Gray games there is a high proportion of night turns (when ineffective attackers recover) to day turns. The game begins with 1 and half turns of activity, then a night turn; then four turns of daylight followed by night, then four more turns of daylight and one of night, ending with two turns of daylight. So ineffective units will have up to three opportunities to come back. In all other Blue & Gray games there's at most one chance to come back, and there are many more daylight runs on both sides of the night turn if it exists.

One critical errata to incorporate to make this true, however, is to treat Turn 3 as a Night turn in the Decision Games edition. It's a night turn in the SPI edition and there's no reason to think that it's any different in the DG edition.

There are also some map changes between the SPI version and the Decision Games version. The DG edition adds a new terrain type, "broken," to signify the terrain that triples defenders. The SPI edition rather clumsily simply printed right on the map the words "Defender TRIPLED in this hex" on the affected hexes (Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill, Wolf Hill, Little Round Top and Round Top). This doesn't change play, but is more aesthetic. The DG edition also prints the setup locations of the starting units on the map, which is an aid to set-up.

The DG edition also opens up the map a little on Seminary Ridge and Powers Hill by changing some hexes from Forest-Rough to simply Rough. This reduces the movement cost of the hexes from 6 movement points to 3. The affected hexes are 0908, 0409, 0410, 0901, 0902 and 1516.

The DG also has some other mistakes on the map, one minor and two major. The minor error is that the Roman numerals on two XI Corps units are transposed. The first major error is that the Union 1st Division, III Corps unit is left off the map. As this is a 19-factor unit, the Union will definitely miss it, so be sure to place it in hex 0423. The other major error is that hex 2112 is not indicated as a Union reinforcement hex, which it is.


Detail of the Decision Games map showing the Gettysburg vicinity

Hexwar.com uses the DG map for its presentation of the game, although it offers the option to play without the Attacker Effectiveness rule as a "Classic" edition of Blue & Gray. This is not an exact replica of the SPI version, though, because it uses the revised DG map.

The other differences between the two editions are cosmetic. The DG map uses superior graphics and the DG edition uses troop icons instead of the anachronistic NATO-style units symbols used in the SPI edition.

The DG edition includes three optional rules -- Strategic Movement, Cavalry Movement and Cavalry Retreat -- that should not be used in Cemetery Hill as they will throw off the game balance significantly. All favor the Union player.

I have a slight preference for the DG edition, as I like the Attacker Effectiveness rule, but I play the game both ways on Hexwar.com and own both the DG version and the SPI version as a folio game.

From my game blog at http://pawnderings.blogspot.com
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robert lindsay
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Re: Cenetery Hill Review and Strategy
It's typical of DG that they stuck to the 100 counter limit even though
since this game was never going to be sold individually they could have
cribbed space on the other sheets for a full brigade setup.
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Steven Bucey
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Re: Cenetery Hill Review and Strategy
Good review.

I'm one of those that think that the Attacker Effectiveness rule is "to much of a good thing", but I think the idea is good. In my games, I suggest a modified version where in the attacker is ineffective until AFTER the owning players next movement phase. This takes the unit out of the fight for a turn, but not for the rest of the day. As you mention, it's more of an issue in those games where there are many day turns between night turns. I've only ever played Cemetery Hill once since I didn't care for it -- the problems introduced by the change in scale and lack of accommodation for such detracted to much for me.
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Steven Bucey
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Re: Cenetery Hill Review and Strategy
Quote:
It's typical of DG that they stuck to the 100 counter limit even though
since this game was never going to be sold individually they could have
cribbed space on the other sheets for a full brigade setup.


It's hard to understand what the folks at DG were thinking when they reprinted many of the old SPI games. Personally, I'd have preferred that they just stuck to incorporating errata (without introducing any new errata, sadly a major failing of theirs), and leave it at that. If the intent was to change the game, then yes that would have been fine but then it would NOT have been "Blue & Gray" anymore, but a new and different game. Instead, they ended up with something that was not quite either, caused additional problems, and the result suffered I think.
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Steve R.
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Excellent Review. For years I too thought this game was a dog, but when HEXWAR reissued it and I played it a few times I discovered it really is a great game and does follow the historical outline of the battle, particularly if the Union Player knows what they are doing. Two key things to remember - always fall back on your reinforcements and drag the other player away from theirs, and two, never, ever hold defensive ground. Stay in the clear and if the dice are good to you (always an issue with Hexwar games) then you actually may recreate the battle.
 
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Steven Bucey
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Quote:
and two, never, ever hold defensive ground. Stay in the clear and if the dice are good to you (always an issue with Hexwar games) then you actually may recreate the battle.


Erm, not to beg the obvious, but why would I defend in the clear instead of defensive ground?
 
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Seth Owen
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cratex wrote:
Quote:
and two, never, ever hold defensive ground. Stay in the clear and if the dice are good to you (always an issue with Hexwar games) then you actually may recreate the battle.


Erm, not to beg the obvious, but why would I defend in the clear instead of defensive ground?


I think he means don't get tied down trying to defend a particular line or defensive position.
 
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Steven Bucey
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Ah!
 
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Steve R.
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OK, let me explain. If you read the strategy analysis from the reviewer, one key point is to never attack at less than 1-1 odds, you will die. If you hold defensive ground (ie doubled or tripled) and the enemy gathers enough strength points to push you off, you will find yourself attacking at less than 1-1. If you don't hold those hexes to begin with, then you won't have to counterattack them later. It reflects keeping the initiative and making the enemy follow your plan.
 
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Seth Owen
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Historyksu wrote:
OK, let me explain. If you read the strategy analysis from the reviewer, one key point is to never attack at less than 1-1 odds, you will die. If you hold defensive ground (ie doubled or tripled) and the enemy gathers enough strength points to push you off, you will find yourself attacking at less than 1-1. If you don't hold those hexes to begin with, then you won't have to counterattack them later. It reflects keeping the initiative and making the enemy follow your plan.


One should bear in mind that this can happen when defending, but I think it's an extreme reaction to give up defending on multiplying terrain to avoid it. Instead you may find your extended line getting picked apart by high-odds attacks. Both sides have the ability to concentrate very high-factor attacking forces that can destroy units sitting on clear terrain.
 
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Steven Bucey
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One of the things that I have read was from somebody discussing the merits of this game (it was in either Fire and Movement or Moves magazine) and the perceived problems with it, ranging from the poor choice of unit scale to "errors" on the map, etc.

One complaint is that the game usually fails to resemble the historic battle, and the usual reason seems to be the town of Gettysburg itself. The problem is, in this system, towns double defense, and this encourages the Union player to make a stand there. Of course, historically, they hardly fought within the town at all. Apparently, there was good reason for this, as it was difficult for ACW style formations to fight effectively in a town.

The author made the simple suggestion that, for this particular battle only, take away the doubling defensive benefit of the town of Gettysburg (and, of course, an argument could be made for all such towns on all the other battle maps). The result, in the author's opinion and experience, is that the Union player will find it difficult to form a line based on the town, as historically happened, and the course of the three day battle will progress more or less more reasonably than before.

Just something to think about.
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Seth Owen
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cratex wrote:
One of the things that I have read was from somebody discussing the merits of this game (it was in either Fire and Movement or Moves magazine) and the perceived problems with it, ranging from the poor choice of unit scale to "errors" on the map, etc.

One complaint is that the game usually fails to resemble the historic battle, and the usual reason seems to be the town of Gettysburg itself. The problem is, in this system, towns double defense, and this encourages the Union player to make a stand there. Of course, historically, they hardly fought within the town at all. Apparently, there was good reason for this, as it was difficult for ACW style formations to fight effectively in a town.

The author made the simple suggestion that, for this particular battle only, take away the doubling defensive benefit of the town of Gettysburg (and, of course, an argument could be made for all such towns on all the other battle maps). The result, in the author's opinion and experience, is that the Union player will find it difficult to form a line based on the town, as historically happened, and the course of the three day battle will progress more or less more reasonably than before.

Just something to think about.


I think this is a good point and is applicable to the other games where there are towns as well such as First Bull Run, Chattanooga and Antietam. There was very little town fighting in the Civil War. They were not treated as strongpoints by the combatants.
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James D. Williams
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Correctomundo! In a town ya can't dress the battle lines and troops can get packed for artillery. However,
"Reynolds then sent his staff officer, Capt. Stephen Minot Weld, to Meade with a sitrep, wherein Reynolds said, 'Tell the General that we will hold the heights to the south of the town, and that I will barricade the streets of the town if necessary.'"
http://www.civilwarhome.com/buforddefense.htm
Another BGG contributor makes this point:
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/969452/attacking-a-town-hex
A "problem" I see is turning the Yankee left flank on the First Day or Second Day. East-West logjams occur in the divisional level Gettysburg Games I see. No Longstreet's Assault across the Peach Orchard et alia. But, maybe, ya don't wanna turn that Union left as CSA and get all stretched out.
 
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James D. Williams
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Historyksu wrote:
OK, let me explain. If you read the strategy analysis from the reviewer, one key point is to never attack at less than 1-1 odds, you will die. If you hold defensive ground (ie doubled or tripled) and the enemy gathers enough strength points to push you off, you will find yourself attacking at less than 1-1. If you don't hold those hexes to begin with, then you won't have to counterattack them later. It reflects keeping the initiative and making the enemy follow your plan.


***I would point out that the '1 to 3' and '1 to 4' CRT choices offer to the "gambler" equal or better than "house odds" if a DR result occurs against a surrounded unit or creates a surrounded unit, which last is subsequently attacked successfully ( even then perhaps at low odds!)
I do not think, given the terrain on the map board and how the game plays out, that Cemetery Ridge would not have been Meade's first choice for a stand [it was, however]. Unless he had poor maps [yes].

 
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James D. Williams
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Historically, the Union V Corps should enter on any hex South of Culp's Hill rather than [the rule's] 2112 (Hanover Road). Since it's Monday morning...what the heck!
I read that Ewell was advised by a report of Yankees on his left flank (V Corps). Which may have contributed to not taking "that" hill. The Union V Corps eventually leaves Hanover Road, moves South over terrain and comes out South of Culp's Hill. I believe AH's Gettysburg 125 has that.
 
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