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THE BATTLE OF MOSCOW is an operational level game of World War II combat on the Eastern Front. The game was designed by Dave Williams and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1970.
INTRODUCTIONTHE BATTLE OF MOSCOW was originally published, without die cut counters, as an insert game with S&T #24; later it was reissued — with die cut counters — as an independent game in the standard SPI flat plastic game tray format. For both SPI and East Front game collectors, this title is interesting not only for its innovative movement and combat system, but also because of its unusual history. It was one of a limited number of games published by SPI that was not designed “in house.” In this instance, the game’s creator had previously designed ANZIO for Avalon Hill.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDIn the closing days of 1941, Hitler and the Oberkommando Des Heeres (OKH) surveyed the enormous gains won during the first months of the German “Barbarossa” Offensive. Russia seemed, given the Red Army’s enormous losses in men and materiel, on the verge of utter collapse. It appeared to Hitler and many of his senior generals that a final offensive blow would shatter the Russian forces gathered in front of Moscow and that the war might yet be brought to a successful conclusion in 1941. Thus, with Moscow only forty miles from the German front lines, Army Group Center’s Third Panzer Group, as well as its Ninth Army, attacked Soviet positions on 15 November. The Second Panzer group, commanded by Heinz Guderian, attacked through Tula in the southwest on 17 November.
The Führer’s plan was a simple one: envelope the Soviet capital from the north and south and destroy the few Russian divisions still barring the Wehrmacht’s path into Moscow. After promising initial gains, however, the German offensive soon began to stall. New improved Soviet aircraft started to appear in the sky over the battle area; larger numbers of the superb Russian T-34 tank also began to make their presence felt as the offensive wore on; but most menacing of all, fresh, battle-hardened troops — recently transferred from Siberia — began to show up in ever greater numbers directly in the path of the German advance. A final desperate push carried the Third and Fourth Panzer Groups to within sight of the Kremlin towers only twenty-five miles away, but the German offensive finally sputtered to a halt on 4 December. The Wehrmacht had come as close to Moscow as it was ever going to get, and on 5 December, a massive Soviet counter-offensive began all along Army Group Center’s front.
THE BATTLE OF MOSCOW is a historical simulation, at the regiment/division/corps/army level, of the fall-winter offensive by the Wehrmacht to capture Moscow before the end of the 1941 campaign season. The game begins with the first October turn and continues through to the last week of February 1942: a total of twenty weekly game turns. The game mechanics are a little unorthodox. During this period, SPI had been experimenting with different ways of increasing mobility in the battle area, and this was one of several experiments that the people at SPI tried before they finally settled on the KURSK Game System. In the case of THE BATTLE OF MOSCOW, each player turn is sequenced as follows: first movement phase; first combat phase; second movement phase; and second combat phase. All combat units, not just mechanized units, are eligible for this set of double movement and combat phases. Needless to say, since the Russians are on the receiving end of the German offensive for most of the game, it is the Russian player who must tend most carefully to the depth of his defenses. The German player wins by capturing and occupying Moscow for four consecutive game turns; failing that, he can also win by isolating, rather than capturing, both Leningrad and Moscow for four consecutive turns.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
The game counters and cartography of THE BATTLE OF MOSCOW, while perfectly adequate in 1970, are now, to put it charitably, pretty primitive. For this reason it is quite illuminating to compare these components and graphics to those of SPI’s OPERATION TYPHOON, published just eight years later. The differences between the two games and their components are amazing: THE BATTLE FOR MOSCOW already looked very outdated and old-fashioned in 1978; in contrast, OPERATION TYPHOON would probably still hold up today against contemporary simulations in overall quality and appearance. On the other hand, everything about the older game isn’t necessarily obsolete: two players who have never seen THE BATTLE OF MOSCOW can both read and understand the rules, and set the game up for play in a about forty minutes or so; and as much as I admire some aspects of the newer game, I challenge anyone to do the same with OPERATION TYPHOON.
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OBJECTIVE MOSCOW: The Death of Soviet Communism is an operational level simulation, based on the KURSK Game System, of a hypothetical invasion of the Soviet Union in the late 1990's. OBJECTIVE MOSCOW was designed by Joe Angiolillo, Jr., and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1978.
INTRODUCTIONThis game dates back to the “golden, if somewhat eccentric years” of Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) when James Dunnigan, Redmond Simonson, and Al Nofi were at the helm of the most prolific game publisher of its day. It was during this period in the early to late 70's that SPI published a number of hypothetical “doomsday” military simulations. This particular game is an especially “over the top” version of this oddly dystopian SPI game genre, but it, nonetheless, falls in the same category as titles like THE NEXT WAR, FULDA GAP, INVASION AMERICA, DIXIE (a magazine game), NATO, THE EAST IS RED (a magazine game), 6th FLEET (another magazine game), the THIRD WORLD WAR, and AFTER THE HOLOCAUST. I’m sure that there were others, but these are the titles that immediately spring to mind.
OBJECTIVE MOSCOW is a hypothetical, semi-historical simulation of a combined air-sea-land invasion of the former Soviet Union. In view of actual historical developments since 1978 (when the game went to press), it is interesting to compare the occasionally odd expectations of the game’s designer with real events. Putting aside the whole issue of “Space Marines,” there are other areas where the designer went more than a little wide of the mark. For instance, given the West’s current difficulties with Iran, it is a little startling to see that nation allied with Western Europe and the U.S. against one of present-day Iran’s staunchest supporters in the current political, economic, and military arena. Of course, who could have known back when this game was published just how precarious the Shah’s political support actually was? Be that as it may, it is fascinating, with all the advantages afforded by 20/20 hindsight, to what the SPI design staff thought that the world would look like by 1998, twenty years into the future.
OBJECTIVE MOSCOW is played in bi-weekly game turns; and for those familiar with the KURSK family of games, the turn sequence is easy to learn. The typical game turn follows a logical, simple to execute pattern: the Strategic Movement phase; Land Movement phase; Interception phase; Vombat phase; Reaction phase; Mechanized movement phase; and the Replacement and Reinforcement phase. The Soviet player turn differs only in the last phase of the sequence: the Russian player concludes his game turn with a Replacement, Reinforcement, and Mobilization phase. As might be expected, considering the game’s counter-mix, OBJECTIVE MOSCOW focuses primarily on ground combat. And, although there is a role for both naval and air units, that role is subordinate to the requirements of land combat. Basically, it is a game of maneuver and envelopment rather than one of static lines, and toe-to-toe slugging matches. This is probably the game’s biggest appeal: because zones of control are too weak to establish defensive lines that can reliably prevent infiltration or breakthroughs, ground battles, except around urban centers, are tests of the players’ command of mobile operations in a fluid, constantly changing battle area.
OBJECTIVE MOSCOW offers three contemporary (circa 1978), semi-historical scenarios: the NATO Front; the China Front; and the Mideast Front. All three of these scenarios are ten game turns long and use only one map section. In addition, players may opt to combine these three different fronts (with their associated forces) into the 26 turn Contemporary Campaign Game. There is also a semi-historical 10 turn Korea Minigame that uses only one map section and simulates a 1970’s invasion of South Korea by the North. The final game in the series is the hypothetical 1998 Campaign Game. This scenario posits a coalition of the forces of NATO (in the west), and China and its allies (in the east) against a beleaguered Soviet Union in 1998. This scenario alone makes the game a worthwhile addition to the collection of anyone interested either in SPI hypothetical titles in particular, or in modern warfare games more generally!
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
OBJECTIVE MOSCOW, like its cousin, INVASION AMERICA, is really a conflict simulation with a little sci-fi and fantasy thrown in. Unlike titles such as THE NEXT WAR or FULDA GAP, however, it is not a conventional (best guess) treatment of a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict sometime in the immediate future. In the case of both of these more traditional “futurist” titles, the designers made extensive and careful use of the publicly accessible military data, available during the periods in which these games were produced, in order to frame the conditions of their hypothetical conflicts.
That, it should be noted, was clearly not SPI’s goal in producing OBJECTIVE MOSCOW. It is something else entirely. In fact, it is so “off the wall” in some of its design assumptions that I suspect that it came about as a weird and perversely interesting product of a few late-night SPI “bull-sessions” about hypothetical East-West warfare that somehow received Dunnigan’s blessing to proceed with actual game development and publishing. For that reason, OBJECTIVE MOSCOW — despite its interesting premise and clean game system — is probably a marginal choice for the historical or military “purist.” On the other hand, for those players who like sci-fi and fantasy games as well as regular conflict simulations, it undoubtedly would be an interesting and unique addition for their game collections.
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ATTACK IN THE ARDENNES is a historical game of World War II combat on the Western Front in winter 1944. The game was designed by Frank A. Chadwick and published by Game Designer’s Workshop (GDW) in 1982.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDAt 0530 on 16 December 1944, a massive German offensive, code-named “Wacht am Rhein,” jumped off with a violent, hour-long artillery bombardment from 1,900 guns along eighty-five miles of the Allied front line in the Ardennes region of Belgium. As soon as the barrage lifted, the 250,000 men and 1,100 tanks of Field Marshal Model’s Army Group B smashed into the dazed defenders of this thinly held section of the American line. The German offensive that would come to be known as the “Battle of the Bulge” had begun.
The German plan was to tear a hole in the American front and then to rush powerful panzer forces through the newly-formed gap. At the center of the American front, Hasso von Manteuffel’s 5th Panzer Army quickly broke through General Middleton’s US VIIIth Corps. After a short, sharp fight von Manteuffel’s panzers shattered the American 28th Division and began their drive west through the Ardennes. On the night of 18 December, elements of the 2nd Panzer Division unexpectedly ran into an ad-hoc American unit, Task Force Harper, and a short violent clash erupted. TF Harper could not stop the Germans, and 2nd Panzer soon pushed its way over and through the outnumbered Americans. At this point in the campaign, 2nd Panzer could have swept unopposed into Bastogne, but the Germans bypassed the town, and by the next morning, the opportunity had passed. During the night the 501st Parachute Regiment arrived and immediately took up defensive positions around Bastogne. If the Germans wanted the town now, they would have to fight for it.
The rough terrain and forests of the Ardennes, even today, make off-road movement for both wheeled and tracked vehicles difficult and often impossible. In December, 1944, roads — particularly roads running east to west, and their junctions — were crucial to the German offensive timetable, and seven different roads passed through Bastogne. Although the initial wave of panzers had bypassed the town, the Germans knew that they had to capture Bastogne: possession of this Belgian hamlet was crucial to the continued supply of their armored spearhead driving towards the Meuse. The Allies, also recognizing the importance of Bastogne, had rushed the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division forward to occupy the town and dig in. The newly-arrived American defenders had been ordered to hold Bastogne whatever the cost; the attacking Germans were just as committed to its capture: one of the great sieges of World War II was about to unfold. And its outcome would be a key factor in the success or failure of the German offensive.
ATTACK IN THE ARDENNES is a grand tactical (battalion/regiment) simulation of the first eleven days of the last major German armored attack against the Western Allies in World War II. Unlike almost all other games on this topic, this title uses a point-to-point rather than a hexagonal map system. One player commands the Allies (American and British forces); the other controls the Germans. The game system, although a little unusual, is not difficult to learn, and even novices will typically grasp the basic substance and intent of the game rules fairly quickly. ATTACK IN THE ARDENNES follows a simple game turn sequence: the first player (German) Moves and initiates Combat, and then Moves any eligible units and initiates Combat again; the second player (Allied commander) repeats the same sequence, after which the game turn ends. Rules governing supply, although comparatively simple, are important to play and to the German victory conditions. Combat is resolved on the basis of “hits;” a system that is virtually identical to that used in GDW’s SOLDIER KING (1981) and A HOUSE DIVIDED (1981). The game uses a modified (inverted counter) step-reduction system to account for combat losses. As might be expected, rules governing bridges and river crossings are critical to the German advance. In addition, weather plays the same critical role in the game that it did in the actual battle. The German player wins by accumulating more victory points than his Allied opponent does by the end of the 26 December game turn. Alternatively, the German player can win an immediate, decisive victory by exiting a specific number of supplied units (depending on the game turn) off the map edge west of the Meuse River, at any point prior to game end.
ATTACK IN THE ARDENNES offers only the standard Historical Campaign Game, and there are no optional rules. The game is twenty-two turns long. It begins on 16 December, and ends at the conclusion of the 26 December 1944 game turn. Unlike a number of other games on this topic, there are no shorter scenarios; so barring an early German breakthrough and decisive victory, players should be prepared to slug it out to the bitter end.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
Every game designer, at some point in his career, just has to try his hand at a “Bulge” game, and Frank Chadwick, it seems, is no exception. ATTACK IN THE ARDENNES, however, is a game with a difference. And, although I needed another game about The Battle of the Bulge about as much as I needed an IRS audit, I decided, years ago, to pick up the GDW version and see how Chadwick had decided to approach the legendary battle. However, the first thing that I had to get over was the box art: it was, to be charitable, a little off-putting. I don’t know what it is about The Battle of the Bulge, but the subject seems to attract ugly graphics like “free buffets” attract “senior citizens.” If you don’t believe me: take another look at TAHGC’s BULGE ’65 or OSG’s DARK DECEMBER; and those are just for starters. Be that as it may, GDW promised that the game would be a lot like A HOUSE DIVIDED, and since I liked that game a lot, that’s where I pinned my hopes. Besides, it is what is inside the box that really counts, I told myself, so I sent off my order and check to GDW and, by and by, the game arrived in the mail.
Despite having already read the ATTACK IN THE ARDENNES ad slick, I wasn’t really sure what I would find when I finally pulled the box lid off and began to examine the game. I have to admit that as soon as I had read the rules, I was immediately skeptical about the game’s mechanics. However, much to my surprise, after a couple of face-to-face matches, I found that the game system worked surprisingly well. The Ardennes — because of its difficult, forested terrain — magnifies the critical importance of the area road net. Thus, the Ardennes is probably one of the few modern battlefields where Chadwick’s choice of a point-to-point movement system for a battalion/regimental level game actually makes sense. ATTACK IN THE ARDENNES takes a little getting used to, but once it has been learned, it is eminently playable and loaded with action. Is it the greatest “Bulge” game that I have ever played? No, far from it; but based on my own experience, I would say that if a player likes A HOUSE DIVIDED, then he should enjoy this game.
Recommended ReadingSee my blog post Book Reviews of most of these titles; all six of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.
THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU
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THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN is a strategic/grand-tactical simulation — based loosely on THE BATTLE OF MOSCOW Game System — of the greatest conflict of all time: the Russo-German War, 1941-45. THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN was designed by John Edwards and, after first appearing in Australia under the Jedco label, was published in the United States by The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in 1976. The American version received the Charles Roberts Award for "Best Game of the Year" in 1976. Since its initial appearance, Avalon Hill published two additional editions (1977 & 1978) of the rules. With the passage of Avalon Hill from the scene, the title was taken over by another publisher. In 2003 THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN was reissued by L2 Design Group after a significant overhaul of the old Avalon Hill 3rd Edition game. The L2, 4th Edition version has extensively reworked game rules and, in the eyes of many players, enhanced graphics and game components. Nonetheless, despite all of the redevelopment and rules tinkering that has been invested in this title over the years, the basic fast-moving and exciting John Edwards game system remains unchanged.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDThe greatest military campaign ever embarked upon began at 0300 hours on 22 June 1941 with a massive German offensive — codenamed: Operation Barbarossa — along the entire length of the western Soviet frontier from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The Russo-German War, 1941-45, would ultimately rage — on a scale never seen before or since — from above the Arctic Circle in the North, to the Caucasus Mountains in the South. It would also turn out to be the largest, most destructive and most brutal military campaign in modern European history.
The stakes for both sides in this struggle could not have been higher: control of the vast natural and agricultural resources of the Soviet Union. An Axis victory would have destroyed the Soviet State and plunged the Russian people into conditions of indescribable misery. A German victory would also have established Nazi hegemony over virtually all of mainland Europe, and vastly prolonged, if not changed the course of the Second World War. It should be noted that, in the years since the end of World War II, many observers have commented that the Russo-German War essentially pitted one murderous scoundrel, Hitler, against another, Stalin. Be that as it may, history also shows that however desperate the condition of the Russian people was under Stalin, it would have become immeasurably worse under a racist, exploitative, and murderous German occupation.
THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN is a strategic/grand-tactical (corps/army) level simulation of the largest military conflict in history: the life or death struggle between Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union. The game map encompasses European Russia and those areas in Eastern Europe over which the actual conflict was fought. One player commands the armies of the German Wehrmacht and its allies, and the other controls the Red Army. The game is played in game turns; each of which is equal to two months of real time. Each game turn is further divided into a German and a Russian player turn; the order in which players move, however, will depend on which of the game’s several Scenarios or “mini-games” is actually being played. Each game turn is composed of a specific sequence of player actions and proceeds as follows: the Weather Roll (German rolls a die to establish weather conditions for the entire game turn); the First German (impulse) Movement and Reinforcement Phase; the First German (impulse) Combat Phase; the Second (impulse) Movement Phase; the German Second (impulse) Combat Phase. At the conclusion of the German player turn, the Russian player repeats exactly the same phases as his opponent, excepting only the Weather Roll. Once both players have finished their moves, the game turn is over and the turn marker is advanced one space; a new game turn then begins.
The mechanics of THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN game system are relatively easy to learn and intuitively logical. Supply rules, for example, although relatively uncomplicated, are important: weather directly affects supply, and unsupplied units are halved during combat. Zones of Control are rigid and “sticky;” that is: units adjacent to enemy counters may not move, and combat is compulsory. The game uses a traditional “odds differential” type Combat Results Table. However, a distinctive, and devastating, feature of THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN is the inclusion of “Stuka” units to represent German air supremacy during the early years of the war. A single German “Stuka,” for example, may be applied to any German attack within its operating range to raise the battle’s odds by three columns. This means that a 1 to 1 attack can be raised to a 4 to 1 with the addition of a Stuka. The Campaign Game can be won either by eliminating the enemy leader and occupying his capital, or by capturing every city on the game map by the end of the last game turn. Alternatively, players may secretly record “sudden death” victory conditions prior to the start of play, and then compete to fulfill their own objectives while working to block the opposing player from meeting his goals.
As might be expected of a game covering “The Great Patriotic War,” a number of special rules add historical color and texture to the game. There are rules covering Russian workers (which affect Russian replacements), Soviet Guards units, surrender results (which permanently remove the affected units from their side’s replacement pool), seaborne movement and amphibious landings, the German SS, Hitler and Stalin counters, partisans, weather, and, of course, rules governing the crippling effects of the first and second Russian winters on Axis units operating deep in Soviet territory.
Besides the twenty-five turn Campaign Game, THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN also offers a set of seven different Scenarios or “mini-games” that allow players to refight a single specific phase of the larger war. Victory conditions vary for these Scenarios from one game situation to another, and are stipulated in each of the different Scenarios’ instructions. The designer has also included a number of “optional rules” and historical (what ifs?) any of which permit the players to vary the flow of the game, and also to adjust play-balance between unequal opponents.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONI have mixed feelings about THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN, having come to it after years of playing STALINGRAD. The “gamer” in me loves the Edwards design for its sweeping action, its unexpected breakthroughs, deep panzer thrusts, and enhanced historical color; the “chess player” in me, on the other hand, hates the game because of the inclusion of the dreaded Stukas. Unlike STALINGRAD, no Russian position can be made impregnable and any Soviet line, no matter how carefully constructed, can be breached. For a player who cut his teeth on STALINGRAD, THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN can be, and often is, a very humbling experience. For someone looking for a great (yet playable) treatment of the Russo-German War, however, it probably still can’t be beat. And for all my carping, while I still have my old copy of STALINGRAD, interestingly enough, I still own two copies of THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN. So, go figure!
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NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG: The Battle of Nations, October 14-19, 1813 is a historical simulation, at the operational level, of the climactic battle that determined that Napoleon’s 1813 campaign ended in a disastrous French failure. The game was designed by Kevin Zucker, and originally published in 1979 by the Operational Studies Group (OSG). Rights to this title passed to another publisher and a second edition was published in 1989 by Clash of Arms Games (COAG). The copy of the game featured in this game profile is from the third edition printing, again published by COAG, which was brought out in 1996.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDToday, a monument stands near the Saxon town of Leipzig; and, at over two hundred and fifty feet in height, it is the tallest structure of its type in Germany. It was erected to commemorate the greatest battle of the Napoleonic Wars: the Battle of Nations. The towering Leipzig monument is a stone testament to those who fell in the actual battle; it is also, however, a monument to German nationalism and its armed triumph over French political domination. During a six-day period in October 1813, a French army that ultimately totaled 175-185,000 men, commanded by Napoleon, faced a Grand Coalition force of 330-350,000 soldiers, composed of troops from the armies of Prussia, Russia, Austria, and Sweden. The Battle of Nations was also Napoleon’s greatest battlefield defeat. In the course of the fighting, almost 50,000 French troops would be killed or wounded, and another 11,000 would become prisoners. The soldiers of the Great Coalition would also suffer greatly. The victorious allies would, in the space of a few days, lose over 54,000 men killed or wounded at Leipzig. Until the industrialized, wholesale carnage of the two World Wars, the Battle of Nations would hold the dubious honor of being the largest battle in modern European history.
NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG is an operational (battery/regiment/brigade/division) level simulation — based on the NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System — of the most critical and decisive battle of Napoleon’s 1813 Campaign in central Europe. During this hard-fought campaign, the French emperor faced a powerful coalition of enemy states that included Prussia, Russia, Austria, and Sweden. In October 1813, the armies of the Great Coalition crashed into the army of France around Leipzig, a major logistical center for Napoleon’s army. In Kevin Zucker’s game, NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG, players maneuver combat units and leaders in an effort to destroy and/or demoralize enemy units. One player commands the forces of France, the other player commands the armies of the Great Coalition. The focus of the simulation is on command and control, leadership, decisive action, combined arms, and morale. The player who most effectively coordinates these separate combat elements will usually win. Napoleon’s position at Leipzig is far from hopeless. And despite the disparity in numbers between the French forces and those of the Great Coalition, the French Emperor — benefitting from better generals, a unified command, and his army’s more rapid concentration — can still defeat the slowly assembling allied armies, burdened by their independent and often uncooperative command structures, before the coalition’s sheer numbers swamp the battlefield.
NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG is played in game turns, and each game turn is further divided into two symmetrical player turns, each of which proceeds as follows: the first player Command and Reorganization Phase; the first player Movement Phase; and the first player Combat Phase; the second player then repeats the sequence. At the conclusion of the second player’s turn, the game turn marker is advanced one space, and the turn sequence repeats itself until the scenario ends.
The game mechanics of NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG are intuitively logical and surprisingly easy to learn. Stacking is typically limited to two units at the end of the movement phase. The supply rules, although important, are uncomplicated: the supply status of both sides’ units is determined during night game turns only, and requires only that a unit be able to trace a line of communication over passable terrain to those supply sources designated by the scenario being played. ZOCs are rigid and “sticky:” once units become adjacent, they may only exit an enemy unit’s ZOC as a result of combat. NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG uses the familiar “odds differential” type combat results table, and terrain effects are typically represented by the doubling or tripling of a defending unit’s basic combat strength, or by the halving of the attacker’s basic strength. Artillery plays an especially important role in this combat system. It can be used both to attack adjacent units, and also to attack (barrage) non-adjacent enemy units either independently or in concert with other attacking friendly units. Both unit and army morale are also important; units, for example, that have become demoralized may not enter an enemy unit’s zone of control. Command and control, and leaders figure prominently in the play of the game: units require commands in order to operate reliably, and they must be within the “command span” of the appropriate leader for those orders to be received. In addition, leaders are required to “reorganize” units disordered (eliminated) during combat. The game offers several levels of complexity: additional rules can be added to increase simulation realism as players become more familiar with the game system. To model these more “advanced” historical elements, there are special rules for combined arms attacks, step-reduction, pre-movement unit orders, unit reorganization, the French Imperial Guard, cavalry actions, and unit integration (enhanced stacking for component units of the same parent organization), among others.
NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG offers several versions of the Campaign Game: the Standard Campaign Game which begins during the last night turn of 16 October and runs to 13:00 hours on 19 October (46 game turns); and the Early Start Campaign Game that begins at 11:00 hours on 14 October and continues to 13:00 hours on 19 October (69 game turns). In addition the designer has also included three shorter scenarios, or “mini-games,” that run any where between eight and eleven game turns and that can be played to a conclusion in a few hours.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONThe NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System is probably one of the most successful conflict simulation design architectures ever created. Besides being used in numerous SPI (and other publishers’) Napoleonic games, it also formed the foundation for the SPI BLUE & GRAY Civil War quadri-games, and showed up in at least one WWII title and even appeared in a modern naval game, SPI’s 6th FLEET. These games all share many of the same characteristics: they are easy and comparatively quick to play, full of action, and they usually model interesting and historically significant conflict situations.
Such is the case with NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG. When I first played the OSG version of this title many decades ago, I was immediately struck with how quickly I and my opponent, despite the fact that neither of us had ever seen the game before, could get right into the play of the Standard Campaign Game. The reason for our effortless comprehension of the new game system was simple: we were both already familiar with the rules to NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG because we had seen most of them before. For anyone who has ever played SPI’s NAPOLEON’S LAST BATTLES quadri-game, this title will seem, if not an identical twin, at least like a strikingly similar cousin. In fact, a player who is familiar with NLB can skim the rules for the Standard Game of NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG and then immediately sit down and play. This probably should not be surprising as both games were authored by the same designer, Kevin Zucker. However, in the case of this game, the designer has been able to add additional rules, in increments. Thus, the more advanced versions of NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG appreciably increase both realism and the historical color of the game over the designer's earlier treatment (for SPI) of the Waterloo Campaign; yet it does so without adding significantly to the players’ rules “learning” load. This means that, almost alone among the many grand-tactical monster games dealing with famous Napoleonic battles, this title doesn’t require weeks of preparation before players finally feel knowledgeable enough about the game system to attempt to play.
The other thing about NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG that I feel compelled to mention is the generally wonderful quality of the game’s graphics. The maps and counters of the Clash of Arms Games’ version are simply gorgeous. The OSG maps and counters were okay, but those in the COAG third edition of the game are absolutely striking.
NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG, like its cousin, NAPOLEON’S LAST BATTLES, is not a particularly complicated game, yet it does have enough historical ornament to be satisfying to any but the most dedicated detail-obsessed monster game fanatics. Moreover, what it lacks in operational “nitty-gritty,” it more than makes up for in ease of learning and playability. Granted, this may not be the definitive conflict simulation of the Battle of Nations, but it is a heck of a lot of fun to play, and different battlefield strategies seem to emerge every time you begin the game anew. For this reason, I recommend this title, both for those experienced players interested in the Napoleonic Wars generally, and for casual gamers who enjoy a challenging, fun game that doesn’t require hours to figure out or to learn. For those players who are particularly interested in the Battle of Leipzig, however, this title is probably a MUST OWN.
See my blog post Book Review of this title which I strongly recommend for those visitors interested in additional historical background.
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GETTYSBURG ’77 is a simulation of the critical battle between the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1863. This bloody, three-day battle determined, once and for all, that however long the American Civil War might continue, the South would not prevail. GETTYSBURG ’77 was designed by Mick Uhl and published by The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in 1977.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDIn the spring of 1863, the Army of Northern Virginia, under General Robert E. Lee, seemed invincible; it had recently won a crushing victory at Chancellorsville, and Lee began to think that one more decisive Confederate victory, particularly if it could be attained on Northern soil, might be enough to induce the North to abandon its attempt to forcibly compel the political reunification of the North and South. So, despite the bitter memories of the Antietam campaign of the previous year, Lee marched into Pennsylvania at the head of an army of 77,000 men. On 1 July, at a small rural town called Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia, quite by accident, blundered into the advanced elements of General George Gordon Meade’s Union Army of the Potomac. In a steadily escalating battle, the Confederate forces of General Ambrose Hill’s corps succeeded, by the end of the day, in driving the Union defenders out of their advanced positions and back into Gettysburg in some disorder. During the night, the Union troops abandoned the town. But Union reinforcements were on the way, and, as additional troops from Meade’s 88,000 man Army of the Potomac continued to arrive, the Union commander immediately deployed them on the ridges to the south overlooking the now Confederate-occupied town. On the morning of the second day, Lee fixed his attention on a small brush and scrub covered hill on the Union Left, known locally as Little Round Top. Although the hill was only 650 feet high, if the Confederates could emplace artillery on its heights, they could enfilade the entire length of the Union line defending Cemetery Ridge below. The Confederate commander knew that if his men captured Little Round Top, Meade’s forces would have no choice but to retire in defeat. Lee was supremely confident in his men as they began their preparations for battle, and he was just as confident that by sundown on 2 July, 1863, Gettysburg would be the site of another decisive Confederate victory — perhaps the crucial triumph necessary to bring the War for Southern Independence to a successful end.
GETTYSBURG ’77 is a brigade/division simulation of the climactic three-day Civil War battle that indirectly decided the ultimate outcome of the War Between the States. At an obscure town in Pennsylvania, General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia faced the untested, newly-appointed General Meade and the recently-defeated Army of the Potomac. These armies had met before on the field of battle, and the outcome had almost always been a Confederate victory. The Battle of Gettysburg would be the most important test for both armies in the entire war. In addition, both generals were saddled with the fearful knowledge that either one of them could, depending on the verdict of the battlefield, lose the war in a single day.
GETTYSBURG ’77 is actually three games in one: the Introductory Game, the Intermediate Game, and the Advanced Game. As players master one set of rules, they can logically, and with a minimum of confusion or difficulty move to the next, more complicated game system.
The Introductory Game is intended to introduce the beginner to the basic elements of conflict simulations. While the Introductory Game uses the same map board as the other versions, the piece count is limited (only army headquarters and division instead of brigade counters are used), the game system relies on a simple, symmetrical move-fight turn sequence, and the game rules are so simple that they require only two pages of text.
The Intermediate Game adds complexity by increasing the numbers and types of units, as well as by adding step-losses, morale, ranged artillery fire, simple command and control, prepared positions, and (shock) assaults in addition to fire combat. Since multiple types of combat are introduced, these new forms of combat bring into play different CRTs. In addition, the game turns each represent one hour of real time, rather than the two hour turns of the Introductory Game. Player actions during each game turn are again symmetrical and follow a four-step sequence of phases: the Disorganization and Breastwork Placement phase; the Movement phase; the Combat phase; and the Reorganization phase. After both players have completed these operations, the game turn ends, and the turn marker is advanced one space. In addition, the Intermediate Game introduces a limited set of three optional rules for players to try. These special rules cover game elements such as: the introduction of Optional Units; rules for Increased Artillery Range of Influence; and rules for the Modification of Headquarters. For many if not most players, the Intermediate Game provides all of the complexity and simulation detail that they could ever want. Some, however, will inevitably move on to the third and final version of the game.
The Advanced Game of GETTYSBURG ’77 represents a quantum leap from its simpler predecessors mainly because its expanded rules introduce a large number of sophisticated new game concepts. For those players already familiar with SPIs TERRIBLE SWIFT SWORD or with the big, grand tactical Napoleonic games, many of the features introduced in the Advanced Game will seem neither unexpected nor particularly complicated. For players not used to these other highly-detailed game systems, however, it will require a little study before they can plunge into the play of the Advanced Game. One advantage of this design, by the way, over similarly detailed but much larger “monster” games, is that GETTYSBURG ’77 does not require a 4’ by 8’ playing surface. Like the Introductory and Intermediate Games, the Advanced Game makes use of a symmetrical, if much longer, sequence of player operations. These different steps in each player turn proceed as follows: the Movement Phase, which is further divided into the Command Determination Segment, the Primary Movement Segment, the Brigade Movement Segment, and the Command Movement Segment; the Artillery Fire Phase; the Combat Fire Phase; and the Assault Phase. After both players have completed these operations, the game turn ends, and the turn marker is advanced one space. In addition to these changes in the player turn, this version of the game includes rules covering, among other things: unit formations, unit facing, variations in elevation, sophisticated command and control, flanking fire, defender’s return fire, defender’s assault, and commanders’ losses. Like many other simulations that offer this degree of operational detail, the Advanced Game also includes a certain amount of record keeping. Fortunately, several “masters” are provided so that players can photocopy the various “unit status sheets,” as needed. There are also three pages of optional rules, which in the interest of brevity, I will not enumerate here. Clearly, the Advanced Game is not intended for the beginner or the casual player. However, for someone who wants a highly detailed, grand tactical treatment of a crucial Civil War battle, but who doesn’t have a large playing area, GETTYSBURG ’77 may just be the perfect choice.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
If I were Mick Uhl, I would have wanted to have the graphic designer, Jim Hamilton, shot as soon as I saw the finished game counters. The box art is fine, the charts, tracks and tables are about what you would expect, and the map is simply gorgeous. Unfortunately, someone — I have to assume that it was the graphic artist — decided that, except for the Introductory Game which uses traditional military symbols, the Intermediate and Advanced games should have unit counters with the colored silhouettes of the various units’ parent State, instead of infantry symbols. If that weren’t bad enough, much of the print on the counters is so small that GETTYSBURG ’77 is probably one of the few games that should have been packaged along with a magnifying glass. Moreover, the same genius who liked the teeny-tiny print and non-traditional military symbols, also decided that the typical, easily distinguishable blue and gray of Civil War game counters was too conventional; so, in the case of GETTYSBURG ’77, he opted to print the two armies’ counters in very light shades of blue and gray. Brilliant! In my opinion, thanks to poor production decisions, a game that could have been a near-classic has instead been turned into an interesting failure. Where was Redmond Simonsen when the designer really needed him?
So far as the actual game design is concerned, I personally think that Mick Uhl did a really excellent job of simulating Civil War combat on the grand tactical level, both in the Intermediate, and most especially in the Advanced Game. While I never had the opportunity to play my own copy, several people whose opinions I trust, were extremely impressed with the detail and intuitive logic of the overall game system. It was on their recommendations that I bought the game, in the first place! Clearly, there was a lot of historical work done in the preparation and design of this game, and it shows. The carefully stepped rules progression from the Introductory to the Advanced game also makes it very easy for a beginner to easily progress in mastering the game system.
Recommended ReadingSee my blog post Book Review of this title which is strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.
THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU .
Also see my blog post Book Review of this definitive three volume work on the officers of the Army of Northern Virginia by Douglas S. Freeman.
Also, for those interested in battlefield maps, the "museum book" collection of historical Civil War maps by William J. Miller, released in 2004, or the atlas compiled by Stephen Hyslop in 2009 of Civil war battlefields are worth collecting.
Recommended ArtworkThis Giclee print of a map of the Battle of Gettysburg is suitable for framing and makes a nice wall decoration for a game room with a Civil War theme.
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