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Subject: Long before the Charge rss

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alex w
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I’m giving a small review with just 1 solo play. (incomplete game.) Just to give an overview of what this game is all about.

Pickett’s Charge is a Hex/counter wargame by Yaquinto designed by Craig Taylor. I had this game since I was a teenager, Which was more than 25 years ago.

Having difficulties in understanding the rules then, it was kept in the store till now. Smarter and wiser now…I dust off the game from the shelf and noticed that the game has aged a dirt Yellow through the years.

The counters were badly cut, with the perforation down the middle of some counters instead of on the sides. I had to do some cutting and sticking the 2 halves together to form my needed counters.

The game comes with a rulebook, a stack of combat strength record sheets, counters (about 300 I think), a map and 2 player aid charts. It also contains a counter try, but it has disintegrated through the years.

The Map :

Its really ugly by today’s standard…its nothing like what GMT will print. But to be fair, this was printed in the 80s, and to have so many different browns/Greens on large 1.5inch hexes is actually very good. Even though it may not be picture pretty, its definitely functional.

It, like all Gettysburg game, shows the town of Gettysburg at the top, Taneytown Road at the bottom. Devil’s Den is 1 Hex, Cemetary Hill as 5 hexes, all major bridges over rivers and most importantly, the road network running through the area.

The differences in color are to simulate the differences in land contour, affecting Line of sight, especially for the artillery units.

The Units and the Strength/Moral Record Sheet (SMRS)

They are predominately brigade sized. Confederates have their flags on the units, but The Union has Corps Symbols and color to identify them. Each brigade has its own counter (just 1). Each counter has the movement factor and its Fire and Melee factors. Fire factors may range from 1 to 4 hexes, having a lower number as the range increases. Melee factors are used in charging combats.

Each unit is also represented on the SMRS. Each unit has a row of squares/boxes, of which its starting strength and moral is printed. These boxes have strength numbers in decreasing order, but its accompanying moral values decreases differently (usually, decreasing 1 point after 2 or 3 casualties haave been taken.)

There are also individual leader counters that assist units that he is stacked with, to move faster and shoot better. Most importantly, to assist in moral checks.

Other counters include skirmishers, dismounted cavalry, breastwork, wagons and such. Mainly used for advanced optional rules.

The RULEs

Seem quite well written, though, it seem to have a flavor that the author is trying to ‘talk-you-into-the-game-rules’ then an actual formal explanation of the rules.

Taking away, all the chit-chat wordings, the rules seem quite complete within its 14 pages worth of basics and diagrams.

It gives a rather detail step-by-step (with some of exceptions in-between) sequence of play.
(1) Charge Phase
(2) Movement Phase (Reinforcements entry)
(3) Rally Phase
(4) Fire Combat Phase
(5) Melee Combat Phase

Once both sides got to do the above, 1 turn is finished. Victory is calculated if necessary.

Some things to note:

(1) Each unit has a facing, which means there is frontal, Flanks and Rear side. This really add to the tactical use of each unit as proper attackers as well as defender.
(2) Artillery units must have a good line of sight to really take advantage of the range shooting abilities. Nevertheless, its most lethal at point blank range.
(3) Even though your unit is dying (maybe 1 square of strength point left), your opponent might not remember it during the battle. This provides a certain FOG. The lower your strength point left in your fighting units, the more difficulties you have in getting them to battle, as charging and defending requires moral checks. Routing and running away from battle is very likely though.
(4) Can’t forget about those leaders, they are the most important units on the table. But once its units is destroyed, it not much point having that particular leader survive, as it cannot command any other unit.
(5) Movement is dependent on the facing ofyour units. Much like miniature movement restrictions.
(6) Because of unit-facing. The ‘fire-zone’ is slightly different as it does not really hug the hexsides. It is drawn out as a cone-shaped field of fire, much like miniature wargaming.

Victory Condition

Is dependent on the geographic objective. Cemetary Hill, Culp’s Hill, Big and Little Round Tops all have their own Victory points. As well as eliminated enemy units and friendly units that survive while retaining FULL strength on board.

Conclusion

All in all, a very involved game having tense moments when units charge each other in a bayonet battle cry. Few Gettysburg game provide such a wide variety of options and yet retain such replayability that does not burden.

Having played Columbia’s Gettysburg, Smithsonian Gettysburg 88, Gettysburg by AH. I must say this one has its own flavour, though its close to Columbia’s effort.

I’ll definitely be playing this game again real soon, either solo (just as good) or with a FtF opponent. I gave it an 8 out of 10 for now.
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Michael Lavoie
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This is a really underrated game. My copy has held up much better than yours over the years, and I did not have the counter issues that you unfortunately had. The game plays quite smoothly with enough detail to keep things interesting. My only real problem with the design is the fact that the units can only move their full allowance if accompanied the whole move by a leader; otherwise, they only move half (and actually it's less than half, since all movement rates are odd and you round down when dividing so a brigade that can move 5 hexes with a leader only moves 2 without one). The problem is that both players can clearly see which stacks can move freely and which ones cannot, which is too much information for a general to possess, especially at this battle. It's not a gamestopper by any means, and the game is a heck of a lot of fun to play.

It remains one of my favorite Gettysburg games, despite the seemingly endless stream of contenders.
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Stephen Owen
United Kingdom
Appleton
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This was a Napoleonic game system that worked well in The Thin Red Line (Waterloo) and The Great Redoubt (Borodino) but was less well suited to the American Civil War.

Steve
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george schandel
United States
mastic beach
New York
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Units unaccompanied by a leader may move only half, rounded down, of their MA.
I found this to be a game killer in a battle in which almost every unit enters as a reinforcement. Many units will not enter the critical areas of the map as they did historically on the first day. Worse yet, even if you double the units in a hex with a commander, a unit in an adjacent road hex will be left behind, clogging up the road on the next hours reinforcements.

This creates a problem that did not exist in the battle, preventing an accurate historical rendition of the battle. What were they thinking?

I am not an advocate of changing rules that I think limit a game in some small way.

But when you have a game with great ideas and a combat system worthy of playing, with one rule that ruins the game completely, I think it is OK to ignore or change that rule. In fact I think a dedicated wargamer has a duty to do so in order to asses a games true value to wargamingdom.

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Balmer David
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Just forget that rule:
Every unit move normally, with a leader or without one.

Just give a +1 MP when attacking, with a leader.

In "the thin red line" Waterloo yaquinto game, it could be sound to use that rule because French had more leaders and had initiative against Anglo allied troops which had few leaders.
But at Gettysburg, neraly all divisions are entering the map in reinforcements, using road in march column.



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