Pete Belli
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Chattanooga is a game about the American Civil War battle fought near this Tennessee city in November of 1863. It was part of the popular SPI Blue & Gray QuadriGame series published in the 1970s. These small “quads” were originally produced in groups of four games which shared a common basic system. Each individual game within a “quad” had its own rule booklet which contained special rules for that battle or campaign.





This ingenious linked rules format allowed a player to learn the basic framework and move smoothly between the other games in that “quad” package. SPI emphasized one important concept with all of the QuadriGames: the need for playability took precedence over the desire for realism when simulating the historical event.

Most of these little tidbits were great for introducing new players to the wargame hobby and many of the titles offered an entertaining play experience for Grognards taking a break from complex SPI monster games. A few of the “quads” achieved the ultimate goal of being fun to play while also creating reasonably accurate military simulations. I consider a couple of these to be classic designs.

Chattanooga depicts an attempt by a Union force led by Grant to break the Confederate stranglehold on that crucial transportation center. The battle took place at the end of a long siege but the Rebel commander (the abrasive Braxton Bragg) had allowed the Federals to gain the initiative and open a new supply line. Grant planned to smash Bragg’s army and drive the Rebels back into the mountains of northern Georgia as part of his grand strategy to begin a drive on Atlanta in the spring.





Each of these SPI folio games contained a small 17” X 22” map and 100 counters. The crisp graphics are classic Redmond Simonsen and offer an appealing visual presentation. The map for Chattanooga is one of the more interesting designs with a wide variety of terrain types including river ferries. There are also redoubt hexes which function as entrenchments to enhance the defense strengths of formations deployed in these fortifications. The map is a reasonable facsimile of the actual terrain; to be fair, the complex landscape around Chattanooga would be difficult to portray without adding extra complexity in the form of new terrain types. Each hex is supposed to represent about 400 yards.





The counters for Chattanooga are primarily infantry brigades supported by numerous artillery formations and a couple of cavalry units. The order of battle is solid enough for a game of this type but my set had an obviously incorrect duplicate brigade that was not explained in any errata I could find on the internet. While we’re on that subject, I decided to play this game straight out of the box just as if I had purchased it new in the days of Disco and polyester bell-bottoms. No variants or house rules were used.

Since many Geeks might not be familiar with the SPI “quads” I’ll provide a quick summary of the movement and combat rules. Units must stop when they enter an enemy zone of control (the six hexes adjacent to a unit) and units may not voluntarily leave an enemy ZOC. All adjacent formations must be attacked during a player’s turn but a skillful general will position his artillery units (which can fire from two or three hexes away) to bombard adjacent units he doesn’t want to assault with his infantry.

The proper sequencing of attacks and retreats presents a real challenge for both commanders and this delicate web of options is what makes the “quads” fun to play. When using the optional “Attack Effectiveness” rule a general must exercise great discretion when committing his troops to battle because a unit repulsed during an assault loses the ability to attack until it is rallied during a night game turn. Since the Combat Results Table includes numerous brutal “Exchange” results which destroy all of the units on both sides of the firing line the decision to launch a large attack at high odds (battles are calculated using strength ratios like 2-1, 3-1, etc.) can be excruciatingly painful.





With any game that is part of a larger series the player must have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward the basic rules system. The real objective of any “quad” review must be a focus on the special rules for the individual game. Chattanooga earns a strong B+ in this category.

There are two primary rules that need to be discussed. The first section deals with the Union command restrictions and the second section cover the victory conditions.

In a word, the rules that restrict the number of Federal units which can be moved during a turn are superb. Without bogging the players down with a tangle of complicated guidelines the designer has created a clean, clear, simple rule that recreates much of the historical situation. Under most conditions the Union player may only move 11 units during a turn… there are no restrictions on the number of unit which may attack. (I suggest gathering some poker chips and using them to record the number of Union formations that have been moved.) If the Yankees capture a certain hex on Lookout Mountain near the southern edge of the battlefield the Union player may move an additional 7 units during a turn.

This is brilliant because Grant faced a number of challenges as he conducted the battle.

His force contained a hodge-podge of formations from three different Union armies including two small corps rushed west from Virginia by railroad in a triumph of Yankee ingenuity. The troops defending Chattanooga had suffered severely during the siege and were under a new commander, Thomas. This officer did not have Grant’s confidence and his soldiers were under a cloud after their defeat at Chickamauga. The men under Sherman had served with Grant during the Vicksburg campaign but were on unfamiliar ground. The eastern troops included the XI Corps which were (fairly or unfairly) considered to be second-rate soldiers. Hooker had been assigned to command these men (along with the XII Corps, the other eastern outfit) in spite of the fact that “Fighting Joe” had been decisively defeated at Chancellorsville.

Grant faced a shortage of horses so most of the Union artillery couldn’t be moved during the battle. Officers who were unfamiliar each other, unfamiliar with the terrain, and unfamiliar with the men they commanded made tactical errors during the battle. Movement was often sluggish and Sherman’s attack on the right flank was not conducted with great effectiveness. In other words, the movement restriction is entirely appropriate. The rule does not reduce the enjoyment level, it enhances it... the hallmark of a good wargame design.

The rule for Lookout Mountain is particularly clever. This massive feature dominated the entire battlefield geographically and psychologically. The beleaguered Union troops in Chattanooga regarded the mountain as a sinister force. Following the so-called “Battle Above the Clouds” on the slopes of this peak a detachment of Union troops unfurled a large American flag at dawn. The effect was electric, much like the flag raising on Iwo Jima in 1945. The entire Union army was energized.

The outcome of the battle was affected by other psychological factors. Bragg had suffered a sort of command paralysis during the siege. A group of his corps and division commanders began a push to have Bragg relieved and only the direct intervention of President Davis allowed the irascible general to remain in command. Bragg fumbled the counterattack after the Yankees reopened their “Cracker Line” to bring in supplies. Longstreet continued to aggravate Bragg and was sent away to Knoxville.

The confident Rebel troops had considered the capture of Chattanooga a mere matter of waiting and were disconcerted by the sudden shift of momentum in Grant’s favor. Their defensive positions were poorly aligned and the Confederates were short of supplies, tents, and winter clothing. A sudden eclipse of the moon was taken as a bad omen for the Confederacy.

Bragg had been confused by Grant’s preliminary maneuvers and responded to the Union attacks with a series of disorganized troop shifts. He essentially spent the entire battle reacting to Federal thrusts until the incredible collapse of his “impregnable” defensive position on Missionary Ridge led to his decisive defeat.

This is a problem in game terms because the Confederate player in Chattanooga is free to advance on the Yankee lines or conduct major offensives in a manner which is absolutely inconsistent with the historical situation. However, creating a command system to avoid this almost seems to be an insurmountable challenge for a design requiring uncluttered rules. We’ll just have to swallow our medicine if we want to enjoy the game.

The victory conditions are entirely adequate but uninspired.

Both players are awarded victory points for destroying enemy units. Although the Confederate score more points per destroyed unit this seems to be reasonable as a balancing mechanism in spite of the fact that casualties hurt the Confederacy more than the Union. It would have been interesting to see a ’demoralization” rule that was triggered when a player’s losses reach a certain level.

There are a number of victory point hexes on Missionary Ridge that offer scoring opportunities for the Union player. This is entirely appropriate. (I suggest creating several flag markers to keep track of who controls what.) However, the rules that encourage the Confederate player to advance on Chattanooga have little historical relevance. They were probably included to keep the Yankee player honest and force the Federals to maintain a cohesive front.

The strategic key to the entire battlefield is the road leading from Brown’s Ferry to the edge of the map but since Bragg ignored it during the engagement we can’t fault the designer for not giving it any scoring value! Bragg was extremely concerned about his connection to Knoxville so perhaps (and just perhaps) the northern end of the board should have been assigned more objective hexes. All in all, the rules work.

This is a fun little game. I would particularly recommend it as a learning tool for a new player if the more experienced wargamer took the Confederate side. This would allow the newbie to assume the role of General Grant and bang away at the Rebel lines as he or she picked up on the subtleties of the B&G system.
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Kim Meints
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Pete

Thanks for the great review on this old SPI quad game. One of the better games in the B&GII set
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Michael Wintz
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Thanks for the thoughtful review, Pete. It shows a clear and presentable understanding of the historical situation. I always enjoyed the Blue & Gray quads - they are fun little games, easy to teach newbies, and may also act as catalysts for historical study.

Chattanooga, as a battle, has always been a sentimental favorite for me. My great-great grandfather's (George Washington Wintz) brother is buried at the cemetery there. GW would name one of his sons (my great-grandfather) Elmer Ellsworth, so you can see where his family's sympathies lay. Interestingly enough, one of GW's brothers is buried in the Valley, fighting in the Virgina cavalry. For our family, the ACW was truly a "brother's war."

Many years ago (BC - "before children"), my wife (of great forbearance) and I would travel around the Western Theater, visiting sites like Wilson's Creek, Ft Donelson, Pea Ridge, Shiloh, Nashville, Murfreesboro, Corinth, etc. And I made sure to stop in Chattanooga to pay my respects . . . and Lookout Mountain is indeed a formidable locale. It's humbling to ponder the determination of these soldiers climbing its slopes.

Thanks again for the review . . . and the nostalgia.
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Steve Herron
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Years ago I am not sure if it was still there. There was a museum with a diorama of the battle. I just live in Northeast Tennessee but I never played tourist and went down there and see the CW sites in Chattanooga.
You may have inspired me to get my Blue Gray quads out.
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donald rhyne
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Great review, just dug out my 2 civil war quads 1+2.Will play with your review for the 1st time.Mostly im a collector ,have played only old a/hill games.Its a great place to visit chattanooga.Its neat to look down off lookout mt and see what grant had to overcome.
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Kim Meints
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I would love to go see the battlefield but also the military cemetary located there. My Great,great uncle was wounded outside of Atlanta and sent to Chattanoga where he died in the hospital. I got his civil war military records back in the 80's from Washington DC and have his grave & plot number.Like to see where he's buried.
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John Vasilakos
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>When using the optional “Attack Effectiveness” rule a general must exercise great discretion when committing his troops to battle

This is one of the games I felt should not use this otherwise excellant optional rule.

Many of the Union attacks are barely 2 to 1 and A couple of AR's just shuts down the game.
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Pete Belli
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John Vasilakos wrote:
This is one of the games I felt should not use this otherwise excellant optional rule.

Many of the Union attacks are barely 2 to 1 and A couple of AR's just shuts down the game.


A valid point. Good suggestion!
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Robert Hawkins
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sherron wrote:
Years ago I am not sure if it was still there. There was a museum with a diorama of the battle. I just live in Northeast Tennessee but I never played tourist and went down there and see the CW sites in Chattanooga.
You may have inspired me to get my Blue Gray quads out.


That would be the Confederama...now apparently known as the Battles For Chattanooga Museum.
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Andy Geier
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Thanks so much for this review. This was my first war game along with War at Sea. I clearly remember walking out of the game shop in North Hollywood with both in my hands thinking I've found something new and exciting. Played both solo for many years but eventually found others to give it a go.

Time to bring this one back to the table one evening.
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Kim Meints
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Have this one back on the table & started playing it.

Added a House Rule/variant-Hex 1025 (Lookout Mnt) not only gives the Union 7 extra units to move if controlled but also scores 4vp's like the other VP hexes
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