Pete Belli
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Shiloh is a game about the American Civil War battle fought along the banks of the Tennessee River in 1862. It was one of the popular SPI Blue & Gray QuadriGames published in the 1970s. These small "quads” were originally produced in sets of four games which shared a common basic system. Each individual game within the package had its own separate booklet which contained special rules for that battle or campaign.





This rules format allowed a player to learn the basic framework and move smoothly between the other games in that series. In all of the QuadriGames playability took precedence over realism when simulating the historical event. These SPI classics helped introduce many players to the wargame hobby. They also offered an entertaining play experience for Grognards taking a break from complex games. A few of the “quads” achieved near-perfection because they were fun to play while also creating reasonably accurate military simulations.

Shiloh portrays the desperate defense by the Union army following a surprise Confederate attack at dawn. The victorious but disorganized Rebel army had already fallen into confusion when the CSA commander Albert Sidney Johnston was killed. Reinforcements from Buell's army allowed Grant to gain the initiative and drive the Condeferates away. This see-saw action offers the players an interesting scenario.





Each of these SPI folio games contained a small 17” X 22” map and 100 counters. The clean graphics are classic Redmond Simonsen. I was always a big fan of his style. The map for Shiloh is mostly wooded terrain. It might be a good reproduction of the battlefield but the spaghetti road network just doesn't seem to be a good fit with the wilderness atmosphere around Pittsburg Landing. Perhaps a mix of road and trails would have been a better choice. Each hex represents about 400 yards.





The counter mix for Shiloh is certainly the most ineresting in the B&G series. Most of the formations are infantry brigades. Both armies are supported by numerous artillery units. There is plenty of cavalry on the battlefield and these formations play an important role for the Union commander. There are even two Yankee gunboats which function like artillery! The order of battle is acceptable but Buell's army has too much artillery. My set had an incorrectly marked brigade and two inadvertantly duplicated artillery formations which happen to have the same designation and combat strength. I decided to play this game straight out of the box just as if it had been purchased new in the era of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. No variants or house rules were used.

Since these are vintage games I’ll offer 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 or cavalry.

The proper sequencing of attacks and retreats provides a delicate web of options. This 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 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 hazardous.




When a title is part of a larger series a review should focus on the special rules for the individual game. Shiloh deserves a borderline A- in this category. The major discussion points will be how the game recreates the battle, the play experience, and the victory conditions.

This famous illustration shows a scene from the battle. Shiloh was a confused, chaotic engagement fought in dense thickets. The trees were soon shrouded in immense clouds of gunpowder smoke that reduced visibility to a matter of yards. Many of the soldiers on both sides had never been in combat. Most of the regimental, brigade, and division commanders were new to their jobs. Staff officers bungled assignments and even the army leaders stumbled repeatedly during the battle. Intermingled brigades fought poorly coordinated actions and no general had a clear picture of the situation.

A wargame designer attempting to model this situation faces an enormous challenge. Creating a simple game about Shiloh that reflects the historical pattern of event is nearly impossible. It should be remembered that the Union army was caught completely by surprise after one of the greatest reconnaissance failures in American military history. Shiloh has rules that reflect this initial collapse by forcing Federal units which are not locked in battle with Rebel forces to withdraw one hex during the first two turns. Without bogging the players down with complicated rules the designer has created a simple mechanic that recreates much of the historical situation. The only question I had concerned retreats -- are Union formations required to retreat in the direction of the steamboat landing? In this sample game the Yankees were required to run in that direction.

This rule presents the Confederate player with some interesting tactical choices. Is it better to pin Union formations or let most of them withdraw while smashing the stragglers? Since the Rebel commander knows that organized counterattacks will not occur on these two turns he can attempt to lock Federal units into situations where the Yankees must attack at poor odds. Fascinating!




Shiloh offers an enjoyable playing experience. Each of the armies has a slightly different feel. The Yankees infantry brigades are more numerous but most of the Rebel formations are stronger. The small Federal cavalry units are useful for delaying actions and they can make suicidal charges as part of a diversionary attack. The pair of Union gunboats add a bit of historical flavor.

Both sides are well supplied with artillery and these guns played a crucial role in the battle. Confederate artillery smashed the "Hornet's Nest" position. A final defensive position supported by huge siege guns and field artillery protected the crucial riverboat landing. Brigades from both sides were blasted to pieces when they emerged from the woods and this is recreated in the game. A clever player will screen his units from artillery fire by lurking in the woods and avoiding the scattered clearings. The depiction of artillery units varies greatly throughout the B&G series and this was one of the design "tricks" used by the SPI team. In games with fewer infantry formations (like Shiloh) more artillery counters appeared. In other games artillery units were abstracted or consolidated to fit the requirements of the 100 counter limit. The artillery rules for Shiloh work but it is obvious that some tinkering occurred.

Each commander is given an opportunity to attack and defend. This always makes a wargame more interesting. Although the restricted terrain and funnel-shaped battlefield limit sweeping maneuvers on an already small map the subtle tactical decisions are numerous. While the Union player is certainly forced to respond to Confederate actions there are enough options to keep the game interesting... and a discussion of Rebel strategy will lead us to the victory conditions.

Both players are awarded victory points for destroying enemy formations and the scoring is based on a unit's combat strength. Casualties hurt the Confederates more than the Union player because the different levels of victory are based on fractional totals... in other words, has the CSA player wrecked twice as many USA strength points as the Rebels have lost. It would have been interesting to see a demoralization rule that was triggered when each army's losses reach a certain level.

I mentioned the different levels of victory. Players can win a decisive triumph or barely squeak by with a marginal victory. I always enjoyed these rules in the old SPI games because they offer the players so many options. According to most sources Johnston planned to smash Grant's left flank near the river and capture Pittsburg Landing. It has been assumed that the Confederate commander would follow this up by crushing the Yankee army against the swampy creeks before Buell could arrive.

Shiloh gives the CSA player another choice: destroy as much of the Union army as possible and then retreat. This was often my preferred strategy. After pinning several Yankee formations on Grant's right flank I make a diversionary thrust along the river. When the Federals rush to protect the landing I turn and absolutely demolish the other Yankee flank. This would have worked in my sample game but the Rebels suffered too many exchange results during the withdrawal on the second day and lost the game on points.

Don't be misled by the small map and limited number of units. This is a fun game and the tight little package only enhances the play experience. I would strongly recommend Shiloh as an introductory wargame for a player new to the hobby. The more experienced wargamer should take the Union side. This will allow the newbie to pound on Grant's army as he discovers the subtleties of the B&G system. By the time the Yankees are ready to get some payback on the second day of battle the CSA player will have a better understanding of the rules.

For more information on the struggle at Shiloh and the Confederate battle plan please take a minute to read this BGG article:

What is victory? Rethinking the battle of Shiloh.
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Kim Meints
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Great review as always Pete
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Magister Ludi
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Nice write up. I share your view on Simonsen and his graphic style. Despite all the eye candy out there nowadays I keep coming back to the superb, no nonsense functionality of the classic SPI games.
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Michael Wintz
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Again, another outstanding review! Just because a game is small doesn't mean that it can't be fun and challenging.

But that bloody CRT!!! Arrggghhh! To see a entire (read, Large) division eliminated and the army's flank imperiled simply because I suck at die rolls ...

Did anyone come up with some house rules that maybe used step reduction for the larger units?
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Lupi
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one of my favorite battles to play, from the old SSI version and then with the talonsoft copy.
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Tim Benjamin
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I've considered using 'strength chits' for losses due to uneven EX results. Maybe the next time I play.....
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Michael Wintz
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. . . or, maybe, just flipping the large units over for half-strength. Strength-chits work well for other game systems (GBACW), but the Blue&Gray games were designed for simplicity.
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Sim Guy
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Another nice write up. SPI did a pretty good job with most of the Quads providing bite-size nuggets of wargaming. Kudos to DG for getting them out to us again.
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Sim Guy
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RaffertyA wrote:
I've considered using 'strength chits' for losses due to uneven EX results. Maybe the next time I play.....


That'll work, but you might as well play Shiloh from Across 5 Aprils.
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Pete Belli
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SimGuy wrote:
SPI did a pretty good job with most of the Quads providing bite-size nuggets of wargaming.


So true. I recently acquired both B&G quads and plan to replay the entire collection after decades of not owning the games!
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Kim Meints
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I mentioned over on the Consimworld folder I made up some new battles for the B&G system(SPI-No TSR,DG rules changes) with homemade maps and counters. Bentonville,Pea Ridge,Corinth,Perryville,Franklin,North Anna/Mine Run,Pleasant Hill,Ceadar Mountain,Stones River so far have been made



Pete.I'm slightly shocked you didn't have these until now
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Pete Belli
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Your ACW games sound cool.

Back in the golden age I owned almost all of the SPI classics (including the B&G series) before I liquidated my huge wargame collection.
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Sim Guy
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pete belli wrote:
Your ACW games sound cool.

Back in the golden age I owned almost all of the SPI classics (including the B&G series) before I liquidated my huge wargame collection.


Seemed like a good idea at the time (from someone who did the same thing).
I needed the money and, besides, SPI was going to last forever, right? shake
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donald rhyne
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I would love to see decision games redo the blue and gray quads.Is the new civil war folio games by decision games similiar to the quad games?Alos does anyone know the exact hexs on the antietam game of the cornfield, east and wast woods, bloody lane?I was thinking of adding these to my game map.
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Pete Pariseau
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Good review! Shiloh: The Battle for Tennessee, 6-7 April, 1862 was always my favorite Blue & Gray game. Thanks for pointing out its strengths as a first wargame.
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Joe Grills
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heath p avery wrote:
EXCELLENT
I am awaiting a friends arrival any moment and we are playing dec games 3rd issue BLUE AND GRAY 1st Bull Run followed by SPI Folio either Shiloh or Antietam
Long live BG and the 21 battles in the system
We are gunna try to refight all 21
Could someone list all 21?
 
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