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Subject: What are my orders, sir?" rss

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Bill Morgal
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ANTIETAM
Antietam by Danny Holte is a division level hex and counter wargame of light complexity based on the American Civil War battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg if you prefer). It is the first game in a series titled “Orders of Battles” that uses cards in determining the allowed actions that units may take.





COMPONENTS
The game comes in zip lock plastic and contains 1 map, 1 counter sheet, 2 six sided dice, 12 cards, 1 game track sheet, 1 players aid sheet, and 1 rules booklet.

The map is of the Sharpsburg and Antietam Creek area of south-western Maryland and measures 11 x 17 inches printed on card stock. It is composed of hexes that are approximately 350 yards in length. The map shows elevation by using contour lines of varying colors. Like most wargames, there are rules covering hill, wood, stream, river, bridge, and road hexes. All are clearly distinguished on the map. Historical buildings and locations are also shown on the map, but have no affect on game play. Small yellow stars are used to mark key strategic locations and are used to provide victory points for the Union when they are moved into.

The counters are thick and were easily removed from the counter sheet. Do not get them the least bit wet; they will smear. The counters are two sided, infantry and cavalry units showing a full strength side and a reduced step size. Artillery and commanders do not have steps; one side shows their particulars while the other denotes the unit as 'used'. There are a smattering of counters used as markers for game play purposes.

The 12 cards are laminated, heavy card stock, and slightly smaller than a normal playing card. There are six for the CSA, and six for the USA. They do not have the same set of cards. One side is used to determine who the card belongs to while the other depicts an order and its affect on movement and combat.

The game track sheet is on card stock and is used to track initiative, the game turn, victory points, Union losses, Confederate losses, and McClellan's Will.

The player aid shows the combat results table, artillery table, a summarization of each order card's affects, and a terrain effects chart.

A transparent plastic snap box can be bought for the game for a small fee. I use a GMT counter tray with it and all the game components fit perfectly.





GAMEPLAY
Antietam is played in a series of 8 turns starting at 4am and increasing for the most part in two hour increments to 5pm. For some reason, perhaps a typo or perhaps on purpose, turn 5 starts at 1200 and turn 6 starts at 1300. There are no designer notes. It takes around two hours to play.

Players first choose a command card to assign to their units. The Union has 6 corps and 6 cards. Two corps are off board and may not be used unless things are really going well for the Union and McClellan's confidence is at a rare hight. The Confederacy have 2 wings comprised of Longstreet's divisions and Jackson's divisions. The Union player uses its 4 base cards to assign to each of the four active corps on the board. The CSA player can assign 2 cards to each wing in the CSA force. The cards represent the orders that are given to the divisions belonging to the corp or wings. They are Attack, Defense, Advance, Move. Players then alternate moving their corps or wings starting with the player who has initiative. A corp or wing is chosen, the card revealed, and the units in the corps or wing are moved as per the command. The commands can limit the movement allowance of units, or lessen the attack or defense of the units they affect. The CSA, reflecting its interior lines and command cohesion and leadership compared to McClellan's, have the advantage of assigning two cards to each wing and splitting the actions of the wing's units. Units cannot perform actions both times, but it does allow the flexibility of attacking with some of a wing, while advancing, moving, or defending with the rest of the wing for instance during a later card action.

For combat, standard odds ratios are used. Terrain may increase the defender's combat strength by 1 or 2. When suffering casualties, players will usually have the option of losing one step or retreating one space. More extreme results may force both to occur or the loss of two steps.

Artillery is ranged and causes disorganization in units. It fires separately when attacking. Once fired, they are flipped to their used side. Disorganized units suffer a 1 strength point reduction when attacked, and must retreat in addition to suffering a step loss if attacked. They may not themselves attack and they may not built breastworks.

Units have zones of control but are not compelled to attack adjacent units. If attacking a hex, all units in the attacked hex defend. They may not be attacked separately.

Some cards allow for the construction of breastworks.

Leader casualties are possible in combat, but not likely.

Units may voluntarily lose a step if at full force to create a single step brigade unit. They may be recombined, but the brigade must belong to the corps or wing.

Based on the order given, a corps or wing general can be placed on the board to influence combat. They do not alter the combat strength but instead modify the die roll used for the combat. Once used, they are flipped to their used side. Lee is also included, but cannot be combined with a wing general if one is used in the combat.

McClellan is represented by a track called Mac's Will. Each square has a combat modifier. Mac's Will influences every combat that occurs. It naturally starts off negative and very gradually increases. Each time a Union division is removed from the map, Mac's Will decreases. Each victory point hex occupied, it increases. For each Union attack roll greater than 8 (before modifiers), it increases.



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I bought Antietam along with the latest game in the series, the Battle of Gettysburg, for two reasons. One, I wanted an easy Civil War game with a small counter count that played in a reasonable amount of time, and two, the idea of the order cards fascinated me.

The components, where as they are not outstanding, are certainly adequate. The price for what you get is maybe a trifle high, but I suspect DDH is a very small independent company so I can cut them some slack there. You have everything you need to play and none of the components offer any play problems.

The game plays quickly. If you are a wargamer, learning how to play is simple. I suspect that even if you are new to wargaming, that it is easy to grasp and understand. The rules are indexed and it is easy to look up any questions that might crop up during play – there were not many. I like the staggered movement during the turn; flipping your order card and moving a corps or parts of a wing meant little down time and offered an added bit of strategy.

The Order cards are a neat concept that I like, but one thing nags me about how they are employed. Each side has a set number of 6 cards. The Union has 2 'No Action' cards, and 1 each of Advance, Defense, Attack, and Move. The CSA have 2 Attack, 2 Move, 1 Defense, and 1 Advance card. I would have liked the game more than I do if the same commands could have been issued at the same time and not been limited by the card selection. I know, I know, the Union leadership and coordination was abysmal during this battle. But instead of giving them 4 cards, all of them different, why not let them have only two cards of any kind? Give them two advances if they want them and nothing else, for instance. The limiting ability of having a predetermined selection to pick from really makes little sense for the CSA. They should be able to issue 2 commands to each wing of whatever nature they want and not be limited to the card selection. This is one of my few gripes about the game. I do like how each command card works, just not the fact that you are limited to do only what you have a card for. I think it would be neat if you had a deck of those cards and you issued them in a 'pipeline' to your corps and wing leaders. Some leaders would have long pipelines and some short ones. Oh, well.

The game is fun and delivers pretty much what I thought it would. It is an easy to play and teach Civil War game that does not take all day to play. I think it is a good game to introduce to someone interested in the Civil War that wants to get into the wargaming hobby. Slightly expensive for what you get, as long as you are not looking for a deep historical simulation, I don't think you can go wrong with this.
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Steven Goodknecht
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Bill,

Very good review! You have been added to the wargame reviewers geeklist here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/127822/in-praise-of-bg...
 
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Gordon Stewart
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Great review Bill and thanks bunches for introducing
me to this little gem.

Still seems too easy for the South to plop 4-strength
units at each bridgehead and use ZOCs to tie up the Union.
At this scale facing/flanking, the back and forth fights,
and the real effects of artillery are too hard to replicate.
Maybe one of the Union cards (Attack?) could have movement
increased to 1/2 full?

Besides the graphics, I really like naturally learning
WHICH units were WHERE.
 
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Gordon Stewart
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Desperately trying to find some mistake in our 1st game
that would benefit the offense (Union) is not proving fruitful.

The closest is that from the 2010 FAQs:
"Attackers CAN advance across bridges after causing
a defender to retreat despite what it says on the CRT."

Most other checking confirms the advantages go to the defender.
Will keep looking....
 
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James D. Williams
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The possibility exists by examining the terrain effects chart: "River" (in distinction to 'Bridge') ...that one may attack across the river (+2 combat strength for defender) even though one may not move across the river ("P" for movement). After all, there it is, 'River', 'P', and '2' all on the same horizontal line on the TEC.
Thus, the CSA defender on one side of the "Bridge" may receive attacks from adjacent 'River' hexes as well as from the 'Bridge' hex.
Really, not much of a stretch considering the nature of the terrain and combat with respect to 'Bridge'.
This phenomenon of attacking across an unbridged Creek but not being able to advance occurs again [thus later] in DDH's "The Battle of Gettysburg". I love it!
IMHO, the price for this division level CW game compares very favorably with the price for a Div-lev-CW game from 1975...37 years ago, when folks were hollering about gas going to a dollar a gallon, nyuck, nyuck!
And, this game has all the benefits of the last 37 years of technological development and boardgame experience.

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James D. Williams
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I'm beginning to realize that attacking across unbridged river hexsides is not allowed! Certainly advance after combat would not be right.
I think the 'problem' that had existed about attacking at bridged hexsides got properly fixed.
I rolled an attack under my mistaken view, got across, second guessed myself, re-computed the correct bridged hexside only odds and mods and also got across [on the same die roll result].
I am a believer!
3/24/2014: I made this post before I learned how to edit.
Attacking across an unbridged hexside is allowed!whistle
Typically, DDH rules cover everything, and there it is on the Terrain Effects Chart : a picture of the unbridged "RIVER" (in distinction to "stream") and words to the effect that ya can't cross as a result of advance after combat. ...of course, if a bridge was there, ya could.
In addition, an inquirer back in the depths of Comsim Worlds posts on DDH Antietam during development, mentioned 'sorrounding' the Bridge (crossing a river) location for an attack in distinction to just attacking through the bridge hexside only.
IMHO: The status of control of a victory point (star) hex for Victory Point calculation and Mac's Will changes only with 'occupy', 'pass through', and 'uncontested ZOC upon'.
Having a 'mutual control' of a hex would not change the status of a hex for victory point and Mac's Will conditions.
The attacker is supposed to make his decision (to lose a step or retreat) and carry out that act, first.
Units not engaged in the combat but adjacent to the VP hex may cause a 'mutual control' situation.
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James D. Williams
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The most intriguing possibilities occur when I speculate about the reasoning behind the design of the Action Cards for 'Command Control'. Maybe someone read:
"Lee Moves North" 'Robert E. Lee on the Offensive' Michael A. Palmer (1998)
Has one-side other-side movement been divided into a semi-simultaneous movement? (Duh!)
... "up to" 6 or more mini-turns, expanding the "Game Clock" Turns into X-minute turns? (oooh...!)
And, dice are used only for Combat Rolls! What?!!What?!!
My best guess is that the Action Cards sublimate all sorts of possibilities that were considered by DDH appropriate for the historical situation...which possibilities for which you don't have to roll dice, check the Rules, or consult a Chart. A simpler Game.
Spelled out: Ammunition, Fatigue, Morale, Scouting Reports, Supply Train Security, The Wounded, Formation Changing, and "Plan B".
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