"Storm Over Gettysburg" Generals Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet, July 3, 1863
In 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.
General George Gordon Meade
On the morning of July 2nd, Lee fixed his main attention on the Union Left. Longstreet, supported by Anderson’s division would attack the poorly positioned Yankees in the Peach Orchard and then move forward against the stronger Federal positions to the south. Once the Unionists on the left were heavily engaged, Ewell’s men would storm Cemetery Ridge and Culp’s Hill on the Federal right. Even if the Federals held fast on their right, Lee was confident that Longstreet’s corps should be able to turn Meade’s flank; such a turning maneuver might make it possible to capture Little Round Top as the Federal line was pushed back. 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 tenaciously defending Cemetery Ridge below. The Confederate commander knew that if his men captured Cemetery Ridge on the right or Little Round Top on the left, 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.
LEE vs. MEADE: The Battle of Gettysburg is a grand tactical (brigade/division) level simulation of the climactic three-day Civil War battle at Gettysburg, 1-3 July 1863. The two-color 'square tessellation style' game map represents the area in Pennsylvania in which the battle of Gettysburg was fought. The blue and grey counters represent the historical units — divisions for infantry, and brigades for both artillery and cavalry — that actually participated, at some point, in the battle. Combat units display only one number: their combat power. All infantry and artillery units have a standard movement rating of ‘5’, and all cavalry, horse artillery, and the headquarters unit have a rating of ‘8’. LEE vs. MEADE is played in game turns which are further divided into two symmetrical segments: a Confederate and a Union player turn. Each game turn begins with the Confederate player turn and proceeds in a set sequence: first the reinforcement phase; next, the movement phase; and upon completion of all movement, the combat phase. Once the Confederate combat phase is completed, the Union player then repeats the same sequence of actions. At the conclusion of the Federal player turn, the game turn marker is advanced one space, and the turn sequence is repeated until the game ends.
General Pickett receives the order to charge from General Longstreet, Battle of Gettysburg, 3rd July 1863, painting by Henry Alexander Ogden
The game mechanics of LEE vs. MEADE are generally easy-to-learn and intuitively logical. The movement rules — although admittedly somewhat unorthodox at first glance — once learned, are extremely simple to remember and use. Instead of a hexagonal grid, the game map (based on an idea from Phil Orbanes) is divided into 144 squares — referred to by the designer as a Time/Space Grid — with movement costs for entry into the next square marked at the sides and corners of each box. In those scenarios in which night movement occurs, the phasing unit’s movement factor is reduced by ‘1’ and no movement into an Attack Position is permitted. Stacking is the same for both players: three artillery-type units and three infantry and/or cavalry units (for a total of six) may occupy a sector or any of its boundaries (relevant during attacks against adjacent enemy occupied boxes). Headquarters units may stack free. All terrain (typically high ground) that confers an advantage to the defender is noted by the presence of either one or two solid ‘triangles’ in the affected square. What this means is that no terrain effects chart is required for play. Because of the time scale of the game, there are no supply rules.
There are no conventional zones of control (ZOCs) in LEE vs. MEADE; however, units may not move diagonally between two adjacent enemy occupied sectors (boxes). To attack an enemy occupied sector, a phasing unit or units must have enough movement points to move into Attack Position on one of the target sector’s side boundaries (no corner moves are permitted) and combat between units in Attack Position and adjacent enemy units is mandatory. Five different types of ground attacks are possible: Frontal Attack, Flank Attack, Pincers Attack, Double Envelopment, and Encirclement Attack. Artillery is a special case: it may either participate directly in a regular attack (just like any other unit) or it may bombard offensively against any one of six adjacent sectors if it has not moved into Attack Position on a sector boundary. In addition, the defender may also use artillery bombardment to add support to an adjacent sector that is under attack.
"For God's Sake Forward" Gen. John F. Reynolds leads the 2nd Wisconsin (Iron Brigade) into the grove of trees on McPherson's Ridge to stem advancing Confederates during an opening encounter at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863.
Combat resolution is a two-step process. First the opposing players secretly select one of six tactical cards, each of which signifies their choice of a specific battlefield option. For the defender, the choices are: Linear Defense, Delay, Withdrawal, Aggressive Defense, Counterattack, and Central Position. For the attacking player, the available tactics are: Cautious Advance, Linear Attack, All Out Attack, Rapid Deployment Attack, Attack Supported by Artillery, and Attack Preceded by Artillery. Interestingly, when faced with a purely Frontal Attack, the defender, if he thinks discretion is the better part of valor, can always choose Withdrawal and retreat without loss, regardless of the tactical option selected by the attacker. Once both players have made their selections, their options are matched up using the matrix-like Tactical Analysis Chart. The tactical cell determined by the intersection of the players’ choices will either indicate a retreat result or it will specify which one of six Combat Computation Charts (CCC’s) is to be used for actual combat resolution. LEE vs. MEADE employs a set of six ‘odds differential’ type CCC’s. However, because artillery fire plays an especially important role in this combat system, CCC’s #5 and #6 are reserved exclusively for attacks involving artillery. In any case, once the appropriate CCC for the battle currently in progress has been determined, the regular ground attack is then rolled and the result adjusted to account for all bonuses (represented by plus or minus Die Roll Modifications) for artillery participation, terrain, and adjacent headquarters. One of the more intriguing aspects of the LEE vs. MEADE combat system is that the phasing player, if he announces his intentions before hand, may choose — instead of combining his forces into one large attack — to make smaller multiple attacks against the same enemy-occupied sector using units positioned on different boundaries of the same target sector.
The winner in LEE vs. MEADE is determined by comparing the victory point totals of the Confederate and Union players at the end of the last game turn. Victory points are awarded to both players for the destruction of enemy units, and — depending on the scenario — for control of certain geographical objectives.
LEE vs. MEADE offers four short scenarios: Scenario #1, 0700 hours 1 July to 1400 hours 1 July 1863 (8 game turns); Scenario #2, 1400 hours 1 July to 1900 hours 1July (6 turns); Scenario #3, 1400 hours 2 July to 1900 hours 2 July (6 turns); and Scenario #4, 1400 hours to 1900 hours 3 July 1863 (6 game turns). In addition, players have three additional scenario options in that they may also begin with any scenario start time and continue play through to the end of game turn 41 (the last turn of Scenario #4). In addition, to the regular game rules, the designer has also included a pair of ‘Optional’ rules cases to add a little variety and uncertainty to the game. These are: Rules for Cavalry Raids; and Rules for Screens (limited intelligence).
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
Col. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Regiment vs. the Alabamans LittleRound Top, July 2, 1863.
LEE vs. MEADE: The Battle of Gettysburg, in keeping with the majority of the Rand Game Associates titles, is really an eccentric little game. Sadly, it also tends to fail to make a good first impression. I confess that when I first unboxed my own copy — it came packaged inside the distinctive red cardboard ‘Command Series I’ storage cupboard — I was a little nonplused. I don’t remember precisely what my own first impression was, but I do remember the unenthusiastic reaction of two of my regular opponents who had both dashed over just to see the first of the new Rand games: “Congratulations,” the first of my guests observed sarcastically, “you are now the proud owner of a brand-new copy of GETTYSBURG ’63½; let me know how it stacks up against its successor.” Not to be outdone, my second visitor quickly chimed in: “What’s the next game in the series, KRIEGSPIEL: THE WEIMAR YEARS?” A few more snarky comments followed, but I forged ahead anyway and continued to unpack the game. However, when I suggested that we set the map and counters up and give it a try, both of my guests suddenly remembered that they had urgent business elsewhere; thus, I found no takers that first day for an inaugural LEE vs. MEADE game. In fact, my two visitors had made their escape before I had even managed to punch out all of the counters. So, I gave up for the time being. And with those two endorsements still ringing in my ears, I carefully put the game back into its storage cupboard; I would withhold final judgment, I decided, until I actually had given the game a careful look. I think that my reaction was probably the same as a lot of players when they received their first Rand title.
Several weeks went by before I finally found the time to take that careful look at LEE vs. MEADE that I had promised myself; and when I did, my initial reaction was mixed. The counters were legible and nicely done; the map was clear but, if one’s favorite color wasn’t green, a little on the monotonous side; the rules were more or less comprehensible, although it was immediately clear that there would probably be some DRM errata coming before much longer (there was); the game charts, however, were a problem. First, the print on both of the charts was VERY small: magnifying glass small, in fact. Second, the combat results were displayed as symbols and not as text. So, instead of D Elim., for example, the Rand Combat Computation Chart (I still don’t know why the designer discarded the familiar term: Combat Results Table) showed a tiny solid dot. All in all, things did not look all that promising for LEE vs. MEADE as I dug into the game system.
Nonetheless, I soldiered on and, after a bit more study, I discovered — much to my relief — that there really was a modestly intriguing, relatively fast-playing game hiding amongst all the unfamiliar, irksome dross that seemed to be intended only to conceal the better features of the game’s design. And I was not alone. Several of my regular opponents also finally agreed to try LEE vs. MEADE and, much to their surprise, discovered that they didn’t completely hate it. Granted, the game mechanics are a little odd, but movement costs and terrain effects are both unambiguous; more importantly, the combat system, once it is finally internalized, actually works rather well. Moreover, because the piece density is low, the game puts a real premium on maneuver; and unless an enemy position can be turned or penetrated, decisive attacks are virtually impossible to bring about through frontal assault. This is particularly true if a powerful force occupies high ground with both its headquarters unit and artillery near by. This is really the central challenge of the game for Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia: to force a decisive battle on Meade’s assembling Army of the Potomac before it can complete its concentration. In LEE vs. MEADE, just as it was in real life, this is surprisingly difficult to do.
LEE vs. MEADE is not a great game by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not (at least, once errata is in hand) a particularly bad game either. In fact it is no worse and, in some ways, a bit more interesting than GETTYSBURG ’88. Unfortunately, even in the upgraded, licensed edition put out in late 1974 by Gamut of Games (GOG), it remains pretty much unchanged; virtually all of the problems that plagued the subscription copy were left untouched in the somewhat nicer (mounted game map and colored game charts) GOG boxed-version. However, given the original design’s pros and cons, I think that I can still, with reservations, recommend this title. Without doubt, it would have benefited greatly from a major face-lift. That is: from better, more traditional graphics; from expanded and rewritten rules; and from larger, more legible charts. Oh, and a bigger, more interesting game map would have been nice, too. Nonetheless, for all of its faults, it is probably a moderately good choice for a casual player, and an interesting, if frustrating little trip down ‘memory lane’ for the seasoned gamer. But a word of warning: if any of you, my readers, actually decide to give this old title a look, remember to have a magnifying glass handy; believe me, you’ll need it.
- Time Scale: 1 hour per game turn
- Map Scale: ½ mile per square
- Unit Size: brigade/division
- Unit Types: headquarters, infantry, cavalry, artillery, horse artillery, and ‘screen’ counters
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: average
- Average Playing Time: 2–6 + hours (depending on scenario)
- One 17” x 25” Time/Space Grid (square boxes) Map Sheet (with detachable Union and Confederate Order of Appearance Tracks incorporated)
- 72 ⅝” cardboard Counters
- One 8” x 8” LEE vs. MEADE Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions incorporated)
- Two 8” x 8” back-printed combined Tactical Analysis and Combat Computation Charts
- One 3” x 4” ‘Games & Puzzles’ Ad Insert
Universal ‘Command Series’ Components Required:
- Universal Turn Recorder
- Twelve Tac Cards (six red and six white)
- One six-sided Die
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.