A Few Recommended Rules Changes for WAR IN THE EAST


WAR IN THE EAST (1st Ed.) is an operational/strategic level simulation — based on the KURSK Game System — of the Russo-German War, 1941-45. The game was designed by James F. Dunnigan and published by Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) in 1974. When it first appeared thirty-six years ago, the game was a ground-breaking design; nowadays, however, WAR IN THE EAST is probably much more likely to be discovered gathering dust on some game collector’s shelf, than it is to be found set up for play on somebody’s game table. This really is too bad. In my opinion, this title still remains, despite its age and unimpressive graphics, one of the most playable of any of the true monster games, and also one of the best large-scale, strategic treatments of World War II combat on the Russian Front ever to see print. This game may be old, but it still has a lot going for it. For starters, one thing that the title has going for it is situational variety. WAR IN THE EAST offers four comparatively short scenarios (or mini-games) — each of which can be played to a conclusion in the space of a long weekend — and all of which are reasonably well-balanced, challenging, and full of surprises for the unwary or careless player. In addition, the game also offers those players who are truly dedicated (and who also have A LOT of spare time on their hands), the opportunity to refight the entire war in Russia from the start of Operation “Barbarossa” all the way through to the “Fall of Berlin” in one mammoth 208 turn Campaign Game.

Of course, a number of other monster games dealing with the titanic struggle between Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s Russia have made their appearance since 1974; and some of these newer designs, besides being more visually appealing than WIE — the second edition of WAR IN THE EAST (1976) falls into this category — have also been both interesting and well done. Time marches on, and whatever its other virtues, it has to be admitted that WAR IN THE EAST is getting — both in terms of its visual presentation and its game mechanics — a little “long in the tooth.” Thirty-six years, after all, is an eternity when it comes to wargames, and a great deal has happened in the field of simulation design since this title originally debuted. So, while there is little that I would alter about the basic game architecture of WAR IN THE EAST; none-the-less, based on my own not inconsiderable experience playing WIE in both head-to-head and team matches, I have come up with a few experimental rules changes that, if they accomplish nothing else, should at least liven up the turn-by-turn play of the game and, it is hoped, also improve the overall historical feel of this great old title.

Admittedly, WAR IN THE EAST (1st Ed.) really doesn’t require any help from me in order to provide players with a reasonably well-balanced and challenging game situation. The four Standard Scenarios and the Campaign Game already do that, without any significant modifications being necessary. On the other hand, it is also true that players who make the switch to the Campaign Game after trying one or more of the shorter mini-games will quickly discover that the game situations presented in the various scenarios — in terms of front lines, force levels, etc. — will virtually never match those that arise in the course of the much longer Campaign Game. Even putting aside issues such as the extent of the Axis advance or the reach of German supply; the opposing ‘Orders of Battle’ in the Stalingrad and Kursk Scenarios, just to pick two examples, will always turn out to be significantly weaker than will be the forces available to both sides during the same time periods in the Campaign Game. This, for the historically-minded among us, is a bit of a problem. The always self-effacing Jim Dunnigan’s explanation — which appeared in the WIE “Designer’s Notes” — for this irksome little discrepancy, is that the problem does not lie with his game design; instead, it rests with the original German and Russian commanders, who, it turns out, were far less competent in their historical conduct of the war than most gamers will likely be when refighting the campaign on the WAR IN THE EAST game map. This utterly preposterous excuse is both unpersuasive, and a vintage example of Dunnigan’s peculiar brand of “designer-speak.” A simpler and far more plausible explanation for this divergence between the shorter scenarios and the Campaign Game is this: both the combat and supply systems in WIE are simply too predictable, and hence, too easy for players to manipulate. Thus, the rules changes presented here are intended first to modestly improve the historical content of the simulation, and, in the case of the more experimental changes, to inject both more uncertainty and more volatility into the battle space. For this reason, some of the following suggestions can be adopted with little, if any, discernable impact on the general course of play; while others (which will be identified as such) can, and probably will, have a dramatic effect on the turn-by-turn flow and tempo of the game. The recommended rules changes are listed in the order that they appear in the WAR IN THE EAST rules booklet.


1a. Railroad Repair Units (changes to Rules Case 6.6):

German military train.
At the start of the Campaign Game, instead of the three units stipulated by the standard rules, the Axis receives four (4) Railroad Repair Units; these repair units must start the game on the SW map section, west of the “Barbarossa” Start Line. The Russians begin the Campaign Game — as in the standard game — with no railroad repair units on the map; thus, the Russians, if they wish to bring any of these units into play, must build new railroad repair units using the Soviet Production process. Railroad Repair Units (for both sides) are used to repair “cut” rail lines and to convert enemy rail lines to friendly use for both rail movement and supply purposes. These different operations are affected by the current ownership of the rail line being repaired, and the weather conditions at the time of the repair. That being said, during the initial movement phase of all clear, mud, and snow weather game turns, both German and Russian repair units may move a single hex along a connected rail line, repairing or converting the just-entered rail hex and linking it to the rail net of the repair unit’s owner. This means that, unlike the standard game, BOTH the Germans and the Russians may repair rail lines during snow game turns. In addition to the regular repair procedure outlined above, during the mechanized movement phase of all clear weather (only) game turns, both German and Russian Railroad Repair Units may move one additional hex along a connected rail line and thereby repair or convert a second rail hex during the same turn as the first; this second, mechanized phase repair move, however, can only take place if the newly-repaired rail line began the game turn as part of a friendly rail system. In essence, this rule change allows both German and Russian repair units to repair two adjacent friendly rail hexes that have previously been cut by enemy ground movement.

1b. Optional (Experimental) Rules Change: Repair of “Neutral” Rail Lines (changes to Rules Case 6.6):

T34 Rail-borne tanks bound for the front, WWII.
In addition to the first set of recommended rules changes, add the following: German Railroad Repair Units may repair two “neutral” rail hexes — one rail hex each in the Axis initial and mechanized movement phases — during any clear weather game turn. For the purposes of this experimental rule, “neutral” rail lines are considered to be all railroads in the former Baltic States, Soviet-occupied Poland, and those railroads in the former Romanian provinces of Bessarabia and Bukovina. Note that because the boundaries of these recently occupied Soviet-controlled territories are not printed on the regular WAR IN THE EAST game map, players interested in using this option will have to refer to a detailed map of Eastern Europe (circa 1936-38) to establish the original, pre-1939 borders of the Soviet Union. In addition, Russian railroad repair units may, in a manner identical to those of the Germans, accelerate the conversion of formerly enemy-controlled rail hexes to friendly use, so long as the affected rail lines were originally part of the Soviet rail system, and the rail hexes in question were NEVER converted to Axis use. This means that, during clear weather turns, each Russian repair unit may convert two formerly Axis-controlled rail hexes per game turn, so long as these rail hexes were: a) originally part of the Soviet rail net; and b) had not, at any time, previously been converted to European gauge by a German railroad repair unit.

All other railroad rules stipulated for use in the standard Campaign Game of THE WAR IN THE EAST remain exactly the same. Thus, except for the specific changes outlined above, all other regular game rules which pertain both to Rail Movement and to Rail Road Repair Units, as well as all rules pertaining to the Finnish Rail System remain unchanged.


European gauge versus Russian broad gauge rail.
Probably no other single rules case has ever been the target of as much criticism and outright scorn on the part of the gaming community as the Railroad Repair Rules in WAR IN THE EAST (1st Ed.). Although this single rules section governs one of the most important elements in the simulation, it is mentioned only briefly (one short paragraph) in the game’s “Designer’s Notes.” The folks at SPI may not have initially thought that this issue deserved much attention, but their customers quickly reacted with a storm of disagreement. Controversy over this design feature, in fact, surfaced almost immediately after the game was published; and rightly so. Not only did Jim Dunnigan get his facts wrong when he tried to defend his perverse and utterly implausible treatment of railroad repair in WIE, but he and his small band of supporters clung to this position even though both the historical and theoretical evidence clearly showed that virtually every one of the main points subsequently offered as justification for the Railroad Repair rules was invalid. And in the interests of setting the record straight, what follows are just a few of the counterarguments that quickly bounced back in rebuttal to SPI’s main reasons — at least, officially — for insisting on the unrealistic, unhistorical, and needlessly restrictive WIE railroad repair rules, in the first place.

Russian railroad tracks.
First, counter to the Dunnigan clique’s tired old “regauging” argument, significant sections of the rail system close to the frontier (specifically, most of the railroads in the Baltic States, Eastern Poland, Bukovina, and Bessarabia) were compatible (rail width-wise) with the railroads of Western Europe. In actual fact, the rail lines in these recently-occupied Soviet territories had been laid according to the “European” rail standard and not the wider “Russian gauge” of Dunnigan’s fantasies. Second, the completely arbitrary limit of three German Railroad Repair Units at the start of the Campaign Game makes no sense at all. While the types of railroad operations represented by these units do require dedicated rolling stock, as well as skilled personnel to act in supervisory roles, their main requirement is, and always has been, for large numbers of relatively unskilled laborers. To put the preposterousness of Dunnigan's repair rule into its proper perspective, during the historical period covered by the game, a work gang of twelve men would, under normal conditions, have been expected to regauge about one mile of track per day; normal practice, not surprisingly, would thus have called for a large number of separate semi-independent crews working at intervals along a rail line to repair a much longer stretch of track. Given the record of the Third Reich’s treatment of captive populations and even ignoring the actual historical record, it is inconceivable that the Germans would have showed the slightest hesitation when it came to rounding up as many slave laborers as they felt were needed to advance their railheads east as rapidly as possible.

German panzer division advances in Russia.
Moreover, the restriction on Axis (only) railroad repair during snow months is another rule that has no basis in fact. The idea that the Soviets would force work gangs to repair rail lines in the sub-zero weather of the Russian winter, but that, somehow, the more-humane Germans would not, is ludicrous on its face.

Third, and contrary to the designer’s guesswork regarding the operations actually required to effect rail line repair or conversion, the greatest hindrance to repair — then and now — is not the laying of new ties and rails, but the repair of roadbeds, bridges, trestles, and tunnels. Thus, besides the construction of railroad bridges and the digging of tunnels, the single most significant obstacle to actually building a railroad is not the physical process of setting down track, but the surveying, clearing, grading, and preparation of the roadbed on which the track will ultimately be laid. The soldiers of the withdrawing Red Army did (as the defenders of the original repair rules argue) burn trestles, bridges, and railroad ties; and they did bend rails and destroy rolling stock; but retreating Red Army units rarely, if ever, had either the time or the equipment necessary to seriously damage the roadbed, itself.

Fourth, the argument that the Germans failed to allocate sufficient railroad repair assets at the start of “Barbarossa,” because they anticipated a short military campaign, also fails to hold up to close scrutiny. While it is true that the OKH did not plan for extensive ground operations past the autumn of 1941, they did plan for a permanent occupation of all of European Russia west of the Urals. Also, because Hitler viewed the war against the Soviet Union both in ideological and economic terms, a large-scale, functioning rail system within occupied Russia was seen by the Germans as a critically important adjunct to the long-term goal of robbing the Soviet Union of its resources and of then transporting them west to the Reich.

In the final analysis, for all of the excuses and designer “double-talk,” the standard game’s Railroad Repair Rules were nothing more than an “outcome-based” design trick on Dunnigan’s part to limit the depth of the German offensive during the first year of the war. Clearly, the designer had decided, in the design process, that he did not want the Germans to capture Moscow in the course of the first summer. In addition, he had also decided, it would seem, exactly where he wanted the frontline to form when the fall rains finally stalled Hitler's armies in 1941; thus, the ridiculous and unhistorical restrictions on German railroad repair units, in combination with the game’s regular supply rules, pretty much guaranteed Dunnigan the game results that he wanted.

Russians in trench, Battle of Leningrad.
The problem with modifying the Railroad Repair rules in WAR IN THE EAST is that a great deal of the game’s design architecture is based on certain assumptions intrinsic to this rules set. Hence, the first set of (1a) rules changes recommended above are comparatively modest. The addition of a fourth German Railroad Repair Unit and the new-found ability of the Germans to repair rail lines during snow games turns will have little appreciable effect on the outcome of “Barbarossa.” At most, these rules changes provide the Axis with a little more flexibility with their supply lines during the early game turns and better supply coverage for their frontline units during the later stages of the first Russian winter. The second (1b), ‘Experimental’ rules case, which pertains specifically to the Axis repair of railroads in Soviet-occupied “neutral” territories, is a whole different matter. Although this ‘optional’ rules set can be justified purely on historical grounds, its actual use in the game should, none-the-less, probably be approached by interested players with extreme caution. Adopting this second set of rules will have little effect on the southern section of the front, but will have profound consequences for the combat operations of German Army Groups North and Center. Thus, to say that the use of the ‘1b’ experimental rules makes things difficult for the Russians, particularly during the critical first summer of 1941, is probably to make a gross understatement.

Probable Effects of Recommended Changes:

Kleines Kettenkraftrad, driving through mud on the Eastern Front.
The likely effects on play from adopting the first (1a) set of changes to the Railroad Repair rules, as already noted, will be relatively small. German operations during the first summer will see little, if any, real impact from these minor adjustments; and the frontline positions of the opposing armies will pretty much mirror those of the standard game. On the other hand, German supply problems, particularly during the late winter and early spring of 1942, will be considerably eased; and, because of this fact, the effects of the inevitable Russian winter attacks will be partially blunted, especially during the last few weeks of the Russian counteroffensive. One other benefit to the Axis of this rules change worth noting is that, because of the addition of an extra repair unit and the ability to repair rail lines during snow turns, the Germans will be able to start creating a few north-south rail lines so as to provide some capacity for lateral movement of Axis forces in the summer of 1942.

Axis winter dead, 1941-42;
the coldest winter in 40 years.
In contrast to the first set of “minor” rules changes, the probable effects on play from the adoption of the second (1b) ‘Experimental’ rules set will be as great as the effects from the first are modest. To begin with, Soviet units in the south will find themselves under more pressure, because of the “neutral” repair rule, than they would be otherwise: Kharkov and the Crimea, for instance, will come within range of supplied Axis attacks a few turns earlier than in the standard game; this, however, is only a minor nuisance compared to the Axis threats that will quickly develop along other sections of the Russian Front. And unfortunately for the Soviets, it is in front of Leningrad and Moscow that the Red Army will encounter its greatest defensive challenges. Moreover, because of the nature of these new Axis threats, a number of previously effective Red Army responses to “Barbarossa” will prove problematical at best and suicidal at worst.

German soldiers, Battle of Leningrad, 1941.
Consider just one well-known, if notorious, example: Oktay Oztunali’s Russian “Quick Step” Strategy (Moves nr. 20, April/May 1975) which calls for an immediate and complete Soviet withdrawal — during the critically-important first weeks of the war — to a final defensive line beyond the farthest reach of Axis supply in summer, 1941. Unfortunately for the Russians, the accelerated advance of the Axis railheads in the north and center really makes the standard version of the Oztunali “quick step” defensive approach totally unworkable. Such a precipitate withdrawal, given the rapid Axis conversion of the “neutral” Baltic States’ railroad hexes to friendly use, would necessitate the premature abandonment of Leningrad because the westernmost hex of the city could come within Axis supply range as early as game turn seven. This means that, if the Russians do decide to fight for Leningrad, they must immediately begin to establish a solid defense along the Luga River in the first few game turns; and further, they must then reinforce this first defensive line as quickly as possible with a series of strongly-garrisoned fortified zones extending all the way back to and through Leningrad, itself. It goes without saying that neither the withdrawal nor the ‘die-hard defense of the city’ options, seen from the Soviet standpoint, are particularly appealing.

Battle of Moscow, first successful Russian counterattack.
Things are slightly better for the Soviets in the center. This is because, Moscow, unlike Leningrad, will not come within supply range of the Wehrmacht during the first sixteen weeks of the German offensive. The “neutral” railroads in Poland simply do not extend far enough to the east to allow supplied attacks against the Soviet capital during the first summer of the war. This does not mean, however, that this sector of the front can be neglected by the Soviet high command. On the contrary, the Russians will almost certainly have to begin strengthening Moscow’s defenses well to the west of the city if they are to have any chance of holding the Soviet capital through the second summer. In short, the Russians will have to make an early and firm strategic commitment to hold the Germans as far west as possible; and once they do, they will have to stick to it — even in the face of heavy losses — if they are to prevent the Wehrmacht from gaining an advanced lodgment that would place the Germans too close to the Soviet capital at the outset of the Axis ’42 campaign season. Obviously then, fighting will be both bloodier and more prolonged if this version of the Railroad Repair rules are adopted. And although this second (1b) rules set will certainly inject the game with greater excitement and more historicity, it is still not for the faint of heart. Preliminary play-testing through 1941 suggests that, while this rules option does not make the game unplayable, it does make it highly volatile. Moreover, because the adoption of the “neutral” repair rules set inevitably will place a great deal of pressure on the Red Army during the summers of both 1941 and 42, it is strongly recommended that — if this rules set is used — that the strongest, most-experienced players manage the Soviet defenses. And even then, the Russian commanders will probably need every bit of skill and cunning that they can muster to prevent the game from turning into an Axis “romp”.

2. Kampfgruppen and Battlegroups (changes to Rules Case 10.3):

Russian guard lights two German POWs cigarettes. 
The formation of Kampfgruppen or Battlegroups (hereafter referred to as BGs) upon the elimination of German infantry divisions or Soviet rifle corps is no longer automatic. Instead, a die is rolled for each infantry division or rifle corps destroyed in combat and — depending on the affected unit’s circumstances, nationality, and type — may or may not result in a BG being formed. Note that this rules change does not affect armored or mechanized divisions or corps; nor does it pertain to those German infantry divisions reduced to BGs to satisfy the “First Winter” rule; in both of these situations, the affected units always form BGs. In all other cases, the aforementioned rules changes apply. The process for actually determining infantry Kampfgruppe and Battlegroup formation is, as follows:

a) All regular German infantry divisions (6-5s) and Finnish divisions (4-5s) form a BG on a die roll of 1 to 6.
b) All Soviet Guards rifle corps (5-5s) form a BG on a die roll of 1 to 5.
c) All German security divisions (6-3s) and regular Soviet rifle corps (4-4s) form a BG on a die roll of 1 to 4.

In addition to the above changes in the procedure used to determine BG formation, individual BG die rolls may also be subject to certain adverse adjustments. These die roll modifications (DRMs) are cumulative and are applied in the following combat situations:

a) +1 DRM: If the unit is eliminated while defending against an attack (Finnish divisions defending in “Old Finland” are not affected).
b) +1 DRM: If the unit is eliminated (whether attacking or defending) while unsupplied.
c) +1 DRM: If a German (only) unit is eliminated (whether attacking or defending) during game turns 21-40 (the first Russian winter), inclusive.


Russian Siberian soldiers, Battle of Moscow.
Kampfgruppen and Battlegroups represent — at least, in game terms — that cadre of officers, NCOs, and seasoned veterans around which a combat unit can, with the infusion of fresh manpower and new equipment, be restored to full effectiveness. Needless-to-say, the survival of this core manpower component during heavy or prolonged fighting is a function of a variety of factors; the most important of which are: training, leadership, logistical support, experience, and morale. And it is because of the effects of several critical factors that the recommended rules for German and Russian BG formation vary. To explain why this is so, a brief historical detour is probably in order.

Russian troops on the march, December 1941.
At the outset of “Barbarossa,” the German army — having already fought victorious military campaigns in Poland, Denmark, Norway, France and the Low Countries, and the Balkans — was unequalled in terms of operational leadership and doctrine, morale, unit cohesion, and combat effectiveness. The opposing Red Army, in contrast, was in disarray. Stalin’s senseless and brutal purge of the professional officer corps had stripped the Soviet army, not only of almost all of its senior leadership, but also of many of its most experienced intermediate-level commanders. The consequences of this ill-considered policy were soon exposed, in the course of the Russo-Finnish War, both to the Soviet Union’s political leadership, and to interested eyes in Berlin. The war with the Finns lasted barely five months, yet it still managed to present an unflattering image of the Red Army’s battle-worthiness. Russian forces finally managed, by March of 1940, to grind out a victory of sorts against the outnumbered Finns, but, much to the shock of Stalin and his small clique of loyal generals in Moscow, the war’s cost in Soviet battlefield casualties, and destroyed and lost equipment had been horrific. Moreover, the miserable performance of the Red Army in its campaign against the Finns was not lost on Hitler or the Oberkommando des Heeres. To make matters worse, the rapid collapse of France and the Low Countries in the spring of 1940 convinced the Soviet high command to abandon its original strategy for a “linear defense” of Russia’s western frontier, and to adopt, instead, a “defense in depth.” Unfortunately for the Russians, this hastily-planned redeployment of frontier forces was still underway when Hitler struck on 22 June, 1941.

Russian column on the move in winter, WWII.
Obviously, the German and Finnish advantages in overall unit quality at the onset of the war were pronounced; just as important, however, the historical record suggests that this advantage in organization and unit cohesion persisted right up until the end of the war. The “die roll modifiers” are based on the more general effects of different types of combat operations. For example, it is much more likely that a defending unit that has been overwhelmed by an attacker would be completely destroyed, than it is that an attacking formation would press an assault to the point that its core infrastructure of equipment, combat leaders, and veteran soldiers would be wiped-out. On the other hand, the increased likelihood that either an unsupplied attacking or defending unit would lose its unit cohesion, particularly when engaged in prolonged combat, seems, on its face, to be reasonable. Finally, the effects of the first Russian winter on German combat operations are well enough documented that they really require no elaboration. Suffice to say that the Germans were both unprepared and ill-equipped for the conditions that they encountered during the Russian winter of 1941-42, and that they paid an exorbitant price for their triumphalism and for the short-sighted planning that resulted from it.

Probable Effects of Recommended Changes:

Nazi graves near Leningrad, 1943.
Both sides should see a lot more casualties as a significant number of Russian rifle corps (particularly during the first two summers) and German divisions (during the first winter and then resuming in 1943-45) go straight into the “dead pile” without forming Battlegroups or Kampfgruppen. For the Russians, these additional infantry losses will typically require a heavier than usual investment in both rifle division construction and conversion, at least until the winter of 1943; for the Germans, this means that the Rebuilding Track will fill up very quickly, and will pretty much stay full for the balance of the Campaign Game. For both sides, armies will be weaker, and this, in turn, will mean that frontlines will be thinner and reserve formations will be less plentiful in 1942 than in the standard game. Moreover, because of the across-the-board reduction in unit density brought about by this rules change, the possibility of breakthroughs will be increased; therefore both sides will have to tend very carefully to their defensive arrangements, particularly if they face a determined and well-supported enemy offensive. Lastly, in and of itself, this rules change probably won’t break the WAR IN THE EAST Campaign Game wide open, but it will insure that both sides will, at different stages in the war, face much thornier than usual defensive challenges as the game wears on.


German cavalry, WWII
More recommended WAR IN THE EAST rules changes are coming soon. This essay is the first of several that will propose a collection of — in my opinion, at least — challenging and historically-grounded changes to the standard rules for the first edition of WAR IN THE EAST. My goal, in presenting these rules alternatives, is to rekindle a little interest in this great old title, and perhaps, to spur a few players to do a little experimenting with the game on their own. That being said, Part II of this series will — when I get around to publishing it — offer yet a few more recommended changes to the standard WIE Campaign Game rules that, hopefully, will complement those presented here. Of course you can’t please everyone, so for those readers who don’t like any of the recommendations that I have put forward thus far, I urge them to do a little rules tinkering on their own. While it is rarely worthwhile to radically alter a simulation’s basic design architecture, sometimes one or two small tweaks can have a very pleasing effect on a game and its playability. And when looking for rules inspiration, the historical record is almost always a great source for new ideas.

Finally, for those players who prefer to leave the ‘rules writing’ to others, I offer a word of warning: some of the rules modifications recommended herein have been tested fairly extensively, but some have not (much like most commercially-produced games). For this reason, those readers who are tempted to actually experiment with one or more of these optional rules are urged to proceed with caution; some changes, as already noted, will have only a modest effect on the game, but others have the potential to affect play and play-balance significantly. Consider this “a word to the wise.”

Recommended Reading

See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background, or just go ahead and get the books:

Book Review:  Battle of Kursk , Book Review: Panzer Battles, Book Review:  German Army 1933-1945
, Book Review:  Genius for War, the German Army ,Book Review:  Command Decisions


Read On



I have been in a serious funk during the last ten days or so; which probably explains why I have found it so difficult to write anything worthwhile of late. Needless-to-say, this temporary mood of mine largely accounts for why it has been almost two weeks since I published anything new on my blog. That being said, I thought that, for those visitors who might be wondering about my lack of new posts, I would offer an explanation for my uncharacteristic silence.

LSR Clue, 1995 - 2010
A little over a week ago, my wife’s and my female Boxer dog, ‘Clue,’ passed away quietly in her sleep. Clue would have been fifteen on Valentine’s Day. Despite her age, our brindle-coated friend’s death came without any obvious warning signs and hence, was something of a shock to both me and my wife. One day she was with us; the next day she was gone. As is our family custom, she was laid to rest only a short walk from our backdoor; like the two family dogs that, years earlier, had preceded her in passing, she is now buried in our backyard. Out of both love and respect, I performed the actual interment, myself. My deepy-saddened wife could not bring herself to be present for this melancholy ceremony; thus, this last ritual of farewell was reserved only for me and our beloved canine friend. Even though I personally took care of the burial, it is, even now, still hard to believe that she is really permanently gone from our lives.

I am sure, about now, that some of my readers will be thinking that the observations contained in this post are both a little maudlin and a bit overdone. The death of a pet, to those who have never had an animal companion, probably does not seem like a major loss when considered in the greater scheme of things. In thinking this, however, I believe that those unlucky individuals who approach animals in this way could not be more wrong.

Not an hour goes by, but that I am reminded of the gap our dog’s death has created in our daily lives. Clue was really mainly my wife’s dog. This is not a complaint, but simply an observation. I have enjoyed the loyal companionship of many wonderful canine friends over the course of my life, but for my wife of almost forty years, Clue was special. She was, in many ways, the perfect dog that my wife, from her earliest childhood, had always wanted: obedient, well-mannered, startlingly intelligent, affectionate to everyone she met, and in her younger days, full of playful energy and boundless enthusiasm. Of course, in her later years, Clue’s playful energy and enthusiasm declined markedly. Nonetheless, she was still a constant and welcome part of our family's everyday routine. On most afternoons, while my wife was at work and I sat at home staring blankly at my computer screen trying to think of something modestly sensible to write, Clue would wake up from her morning nap — old dogs sleep quite a lot — and amble a little unsteadily over to curl up right behind my chair. There she would stay until either my wife returned home from work in the late afternoon, or it was time for her dinner (curiously, her “appetite” clock always seemed to run about a half hour faster than any of our real clocks).

Clue, as those who are familiar with the breed will know, was actually quite old for a Boxer when she died, and because of her advanced age, her day-to-day behavior around the house gradually changed in a number of eccentric, but endearing ways. She had become quite deaf in her later years, so she learned to communicate her various wants (to go outside, to eat, etc.) by licking my or my wife’s leg. Her deafness also led her to stay within eyeshot of either my wife or me at all times; if she woke up to find herself alone in a room, she would immediately patrol the house until she had located one or both of us. If I retreated to my game room — the only room in our house to which she was never allowed entry — she would follow me down the hall and curl up quietly outside the closed door until I finally emerged. Her devotion and good spirits were present to the very end.

The long and the short of it, I guess, is that I and my wife heartily miss our dog now that she’s gone, and will for a very long time to come.

Different cultures, I know, have very different attitudes towards dogs, as pets; however, for my own part, I tend to agree with the unnamed Englishman who long ago observed that any man who did not love dogs was unworthy of either trust or friendship. I would go one step farther and say that anyone who has not enjoyed the companionship, loyalty, and utterly uncritical devotion of a dog is, and always will be, the poorer for it. Our dog Clue is gone, but my wife’s and my lives are immeasurably richer for having known her; and the many happy memories of our years with our Boxer friend, I am positive, will be with us until the end of our days.
Read On



In the course of writing my memorial post on the recent passing of Charles Roberts — the founder of modern “adventure” gaming — I was reminded of an unfinished game profile that I had, for a variety of reasons, allowed to languish in my documents folder for over a year. The passing from the scene of Charles S. Roberts, however, finally moved me to complete this long-neglected game review and it is presented here. - JCBIII
GETTYSBURG ’64 is a historical 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, more than any other single engagement between the Unionists and the Confederates that, however long the American Civil War might last, the South would not prevail. GETTYSBURG ’64 was designed by Charles Roberts and published by The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC). The game profiled here is the 3rd edition of the game, reissued in 1964 after substantial changes from the earlier 1958 and 1961 versions.


General Picket receives the order to charge from General Longstreet at Gettysburg

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 Yankees to abandon their attempt to forcibly compel the political reunification of the North and South. So, in spite of 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 in the summer of 1863.

On 1 July, near 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 strong army continued to arrive, the Union commander immediately deployed them on the ridges to the south overlooking the now Confederate-occupied town. As night fell on the first day, the stage was already being set for the battle to be renewed as soon as the sun rose on 2 July, 1863.

Col. Joshua Chamberlain and his 20th Maine, the lions of Little Round Top.

In the Confederate camp, General Lee had some reason for optimism as darkness settled over the battlefield. Although his army had been unable to rout the Yankees completely, it had succeeded in pushing the Unionists back. On the first day of the fighting at Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia had attempted, without success, to break the Union Right; when the battle resumed on the second day, Lee had decided that he would shift his attention to 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 ’64 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. The four-color square-grid game map represents the ground in rural Pennsylvania over which the opposing armies fought: an area of approximately thirty-five square miles. Each one inch square on the map is ¼ mile from side to side. Each game turn is equal to one hour of real time, and a complete match of GETTYSBURG ’64 can last up to forty-nine game turns. The differently-sized game pieces represent the historical leaders and combat units that actually took part in the three-day battle. Each combat unit is printed with its historical unit designation, its facing (important for both attack and defense), and its combat and movement factors. One player commands the Union Army of the Potomac; the other controls the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. GETTYSBURG ’64 follows a simple game turn sequence: the first player (Union commander) brings in his scheduled reinforcements (if any) and then moves and initiates combat; then the second player (Confederate commander) repeats the same sequence. Once both players have completed their moves, the game turn ends and one box is checked-off on the game’s turn record chart.

The game mechanics of GETTYSBURG ’64 are comparatively simple but show a noticeable “miniatures” influence. Although conventional stacking is prohibited in GETTYSBURG ’64, one artillery unit may occupy a square with any other type of unit, including another artillery unit. Interestingly, terrain has no effect whatsoever on movement, but ridges do affect combat by doubling the defense strength of units defending on their crests. The afore-mentioned “miniatures” aspect of the game emerges during the resolution of attacks in which the opposing units are not directly facing each other. The combat strength of an attacking unit, for example, that achieves a “partial enfilade” against a defender or that attacks from the rear is doubled; an attacker that achieves a “full enfilade” (the traditional “flank attack”) has its combat strength tripled; in addition, the combat strength of a unit attacking ‘downhill” is also doubled. Combat is resolved using the standard Avalon Hill “odds-differential Combat Results Table (CRT).

Victory in GETTYSBURG ’64 is determined purely on the basis of casualties; the capture or control of geographical objectives has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the game. The Confederate player wins if he has eliminated all Union combat units by the end of the July 4, noon game turn. The Union commander wins if he either destroys all Confederate units on the game map, or, alternatively, if he avoids losing all of his own units by the end of the Confederate portion of the last turn of the game.

GETTYSBURG ’64 presents only one game situation: an hour-by-hour simulation of the entire three day battle; there are no shorter scenarios, so players who sit down to reprise the battlefield roles of Generals Lee and Meade must be prepared to slug it out for as many as forty-nine game turns. In addition, the designer includes only one “optional rule”: a short but somewhat awkwardly framed set of instructions for incorporating Hidden Movement into the play of the game.


The first version of Charles Roberts’ Civil War game, GETTYSBURG, was published as one of three initial product offerings from the then fledgling game publisher, Avalon Hill, in 1958. The other two titles were TACTICS II (an abstract military strategy game) and DISPATCHER (a railroad game). The first (1958) edition of GETTYSBURG was interesting — at least from the standpoint of “adventure” gaming history — for two reasons: it was the first commercially produced board game that attempted to simulate an actual historical battle; and it was the one and only game published by the Avalon Hill Game Company that was marketed without having been play-tested. Not surprisingly, given its lack of pre-publication de-bugging, problems with the first edition of GETTYSBURG — particularly in the area of play balance — quickly surfaced; nonetheless, the Civil War game, despite its numerous problems, was a commercial success: a fact that encouraged the designer and head of Avalon Hill, Charles S. Roberts, to correct the first edition’s defects by redesigning and reissuing the game.

It took Avalon Hill three years, but in 1961, the second version of GETTYSBURG finally made its appearance; and in a form that was noticeably different from its predecessor. While Roberts had opted to make a number of alterations to his earlier design, the most significant (and obvious) change was that, while GETTYSBURG ’58 had made use of a square-grid map board, GETTYSBURG ’61 presented players with a hexagonal-grid playing area. Despite the game’s several improvements, it proved to be a commercial failure; neither Roberts nor the gaming public, it turned out, could muster much enthusiasm for the second edition changes, and in 1964, Avalon Hill reverted to the earlier design format and reissued the game yet again, this time in the square-grid version presented here.

I purchased my own copy of GETTYSBURG ’64 in the late 1960’s and, after sitting though a couple of uninspiring play sessions, I put it aside in favor of BULGE ’65 and AFRIKA KORPS (1964) and did not look at the title again for almost twenty years. Interestingly, when I finally took up the game again, I discovered that, although the square-grid map design seemed antiquated and awkward, the combat system was actually more sophisticated and challenging than I had remembered. The combination of enfilade and down-hill attacks tended to make for very interesting tactical problems for both players, particularly where the defender was forced to create an angle by bending his line. To make a long story short: although I had barely played GETTYSBURG ’64 when I first purchased it, I ended up playing Robert’s Civil War game — both face-to-face and solitaire — more than twenty times on this second time around before I finally tired of it and moved on to other titles.

Nowadays, of course, players can select from an extensive library of different game titles which, employing varying scales and levels of complexity, all attempt to simulate the Battle of Gettysburg. Even Avalon Hill returned to this popular topic two more times: first, with the somewhat disappointing GETTYSBURG ’77; and then again with the simpler, and much more popular, GETTYSBURG ’88. Thus, given the fact that there are currently a large number of Gettysburg games to choose from, the obvious question is: Who would most likely be interested in owning GETTYSBURG ’64? The short answer is that this title will probably mainly appeal to collectors; moreover, I personally believe that it also has enough play value to suit both soft-core Civil War buffs and casual gamers. However, those players who are looking for a richly-textured, highly-detailed simulation of the battle should, in all honesty, probably give GETTYSBURG ’64 a pass. The game was cutting edge in its day, but that day was almost fifty years ago.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 hour per game turn
  • Map Scale: ¼ mile per 1” square
  • Unit Size: battalion/brigade/division
  • Unit Types: infantry, cavalry, artillery, and leader counters
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: below average
  • Solitaire Suitability: average
  • Average Playing Time: 3-6+ hours

Game Components:

  • One 22” x 28” square-grid mounted Map Board
  • 14 ½” cardboard Counters
  • 13 ½” x ¾” cardboard Counters
  • 15 ½” x ⅞” cardboard Counters
  • 28 ½” x 1” cardboard Counters
  • One 5½”x 8½” Battle Manual (with additional optional rules and examples of play incorporated)
  • One 7½” x 10” Combat Results Table
  • One 7” x 10” Union Units Starting Set-Up and Order of Appearance Chart
  • One 7” x 10” Confederate Units Starting Set-Up and Order of Appearance Chart
  • One 8” x 10” back-printed Game Turn Record Card
  • One six-sided Die
  • One 5½” x 6½” Customer Response Card
  • One 11½” x 14½” x 2” flat Cardboard Game Box with two Storage Trays

Recommended Reading

See 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, 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 Artwork

This 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.
Buy at Art.com
Battle of Gettysburg - Civil War Pano...
9x12 Giclee Print
Buy From Art.com
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