GETTYSBURG (Command 17)


Playings; 4. Confederate wins 2. Draw 2.


My reaction after finishing my first game of Gettysburg was of disbelief, I played the 5 turn "McPherson's Ridge" scenario to get the hang of the thing. This simulates the very start of the 1st day as units begin to move onto the map, in this playing the Confederates trudged on, marched up to the victory hexes and won. There was absolutely no fighting, a fluke perhaps, I could have made an attack but this was not necessary to achieve victory. After 2 more playings, I declared Gettysburg the 1st pacifist's war game, fighting is rare and the permanent removal of units from the board unusual. Having written this, 2 reviews of this game came to my attention both wanting to marry the game and have its babies. Perhaps I had missed something, I pulled Gettysburg back out and played the 4 day scenario again but did not change my mind. As the victory conditions of many of the scenarios are based on destroying units, a problem begins to raise its head, few casualties on both sides increases the chance of a drawn game.


This situation has come through my use of all the optional rules, if only the basic rules are used, the battle will be more active but take away these rules and there is not a lot left that makes this game any different to the main body of tactical battle games. Why is there so little fighting? Obvious culprit is the army activation system. There are no commanders on the playing area but each side has a supreme commander unit, kept off map. These have a rage of activation values; Lee is a 68, (4). The player rolls 2D6 at the start of every turn, comparing it to the leaders rating, for Lee this means that if above 8 is rolled the army can do whatever you want, from 6 to 8 the counter is flipped over (to show slightly different numbers, it remains flipped for any roll below 8). Then the player can only move a unit adjacent to the enemy infantry if it (the enemy) is already adjacent to a (friendly) unit this can continue like a ripple down the line. If less than 6 is rolled no new unit can move adjacent to the enemy infantry, if less than 4 is rolled the opposing player gains D6 chances to move your units. None of this applies to cavalry or artillery on its own, which can be moved next to regardless.


The purpose of the rule may be to simulate periods of idleness in the battle; it has 2 gaming glitches. Note that the rules only apply to moving units adjacent to enemy units, the gamer will still be able to move units around the flanks. Also, by leaving a thin line of units in front of an advancing enemy he can be blocked by an inferior force, unless the leader rolls high for activation this line can only be bombarded by artillery with very little chance of any damage. The historical inspiration of this is that Gettysburg contained a lot of inaction between assaults. In the game there is plenty of manoeuvre but it takes a lot of dice luck to get a decent assault, this system would not transfer well to Spotsylvania.


The activation rules also affect the use of hidden movement counters; these are useful to bring on new units because they move 6 hexes to other units 4 and count as 1 unit for stacking. Units usually enter the map 1 at a time, the 1st paying 1 mp to enter, the 2nd 2 and so on, thus only 4 units can come on at 1 entry point per turn, using hidden movement, you can bang the lot on at once. When Lee rolls under 6 (the numbers are much the same for Meade), no hidden counter can be moved or broken down unless forced to by an enemy unit.


Fine, you say, this represents uncertainty in the arrival of reserves, the worldly wise gamer forgets about the hidden counters and brings on his units 1 at a time. It can be seen that units do not often come to blows, the probability of this could be worked out but in game turns a good many rolls will hinder combat. When units do fight the results will be disappointing. Combat can result in a unit being shaken (counter flipped), which reduces unit factors, routed (to the rout box), eliminated (dead box) or just disrupted (-2 attack factor, -1 defence). Not much of this permanent, disruption removal costs 2mp's if not next to an enemy, shaken units need to roll a 1 or 2 (infantry, 1-4 cavalry) to recover if at least 2 hexes from the enemy. Even dead units get a 1/2 chance of coming back (combine 2 units, 1 is lost 1 comes back) although they enter shaken, all routed units come back the next turn (shaken again).


Each army has a train marker; this has nothing to do with railroads but represents the "moral and logistical centre of the army" (so says the designer,). Anyway, returned units come back next to this unit, which can be moved around, so long as no enemy unit is attacking it and it has not moved. Use at least 1 of the command check moves to try and move the enemy train. Our cardboard heroes are assumed to all rally around the same point, form up and be ready to move off in 1 turn (1 1/2 hours). Use of the questionable status markers is recommended to improve unit turnover, returned units take a morale check when they 1st fight again, if they fail they rout, note this will mean higher stacks. In practice 2 turns of an active general are needed to do any real damage, if a single turn of action is followed by movement restrictions, the defender will use the time to pull back damaged units and replace them in his front line. The 2nd line will have time to recover and the 1st will be as good as if never threatened.


Combat itself is rather neat, units have ratings for strength, morale and size. The CRT may call for an elimination or morale check, in such a case a D6 is rolled and if above the relevant rating the unit routs or dies. Any other roll and there is no effect (elimination check) or the unit is shaken (rout check), disruption is automatic, a CRT result may require more than 1 type of check on a unit. Artillery usually causes disruption; guns have to be massed for any real effect. Another positive idea is that of co-ordination, each unit attacks individually, 3 attackers make 3 separate attacks on 1 adjacent attacker, and 3 guns bombard 1 defender 3 separate times. Counters can only gang up by rolling equal to or less than the co-ordination rating of the C. in C., this depends on how active he is, if successful this will give each unit a bonus in combat. Targets of attacks cannot be swapped during combat, so if the defender is removed, spare attackers cannot change their attacks. Units act as individuals, rather than as a co-ordinated mass, which is good. In movement it costs 1 mp extra to enter a hex for each unit already in the hex. 3 units is the maximum allowed, 3 guns in a hex may all fire but only 1 unit may fight in combat.


Gettysburg can be compared to Cropredy Bridge, another recent magazine game of the same type of combat, the big battle. In the case of Gettysburg, we have an interesting combat system, at the unit level but everything above that fails to hang together. The 2 games both have the odd good point but are well scuppered by the bad ones, looking pretty will not let Gettysburg off the hook