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Shenandoah: Jackson's Valley Campaign» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Taking the valley by storm. rss

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Going thirty-eight, Dan, chill the f*** out. Mow your damn lawn and sit the hell down.
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Shenandoah: Jackson’s Valley Campaign was released by Columbia Games and is an attempt to simulate Stonewall Jackson’s famous campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, during which Jackson managed to outfox a larger Union force, threaten Washington and eventually return to defend Richmond. It is considered one of the great military feats of the American Civil War, and is still studied in military colleges.

The game uses blue and grey blocks to represent the Union and Confederate forces that fought in the campaign. While the map is a sturdy mounted number with an elegant look, be aware that the stickers can be difficult to get off the backing sheet due to extra strong glue. The game was designed by Gary Selkirk and uses concepts familiar to anyone who has played some of Columbia’s other block games.

Each turn is broken down into 4 phases. First players roll a die to see who has initiative for the turn with the Confederate player holding it in the first turn. Having the initiative means you get to move before your opponent.

Next comes the movement phase. Players reveal the HQs they wish to use to order troops and then move their units. All HQs can only order troops from their own divisions except for Jackson who can command any Confederate troops. HQs can only command troops in the same town they are in or any adjacent town and troops can move two towns without fighting or one if they are moving into battle. Units outside command range can move one town at the risk of losing a step in strength. Movement is point-to-point or in this case town-to-town. After the initiative holder has moved then it is the turn of the second player.

After movement is finished the combat phase begins and involves rolling dice and allocating hits, if any. Units that lose all their steps of strength are eliminated. After combat it is the supply phase where each side receives a set number of supply points which can be used to build up units if they can trace a liner of supply to their supply point.

There are also rules to deal with detachments and special rules for Shields’ division to try and reflect the historical role it played in the campaign. The game is won by having more victory points than your opponent. Victory points are awarded for eliminating enemy units and capturing certain important towns. The Union player also gets victory points for keeping Shields’ division off map. The rules are very easy to grasp and are also easy to explain to an opponent, then it’s simply a case of setting up the blocks and getting underway.

The gameplay of Shenandoah is a lot of fun, though at first it seems like an uphill slog for the Confederates especially if Shields’ division begins the game on the map. These seven units can make it very hard for the Confederates to push up the middle of the valley, but leaving them on the map means the Union player is missing seven victory points. The game quickly becomes a battle for position as forces manoeuvre to try and catch enemy forces unawares. Neither side has enough troops to completely cover the whole valley so it becomes a game of cut and thrust as opposing forces try and interdict supply lines.

In the end you might want to ask if you can actually recreate Jackson’s campaign. All I can say is I was not able to. Maybe because Jackson was such a unique military commander unless you are him you should not be able to do what he did. I don’t know, but having said that Shenandoah is fun to play. There are plenty of tense decisions for both sides that keep you on the edge of your seat. Overall this is a game I’m happy to own and have in my collection.
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Bill Eldard
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Excellent review, Pete.

I've played the game face-to-face twice, and enjoyed it. It's certainly a challenge for the Confederate player.

Playing solo, I've experimented with different strategies and look forward to trying them out on opponents.
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Jim F
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Where the heck did this interest in WW1 come from?
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Nice little review. I like how the game mechanics are implemented and this has gone on my 'possible future buys list' aka 'if the price is right...'
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Gordon Stewart
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Jackson's real exploits involve TOO much hidden movement,
local intelligence, and feints to be realistically
portrayed in a game.
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