Playings; 2, 5 hours (USA wins)
3W have maintained a high output of games after selling S&T, Raid on Richmond wormed its way into my collection on the basis of a nice map and a Virgin sale. The pleasant, hexless map of Richmond has a period feel spoilt by an obviously fake sepia background colour. There is no attempt to standardise movement throughout the map, no dots to count or rulers to measure with. Units move in terms of blocks and intersections, 8 a turn and fire up to 6 (with the usual line of sight limitations). Not all blocks are the same size, some are divided into smaller blockettes, open areas are ruled by railway lines or convenient tufts of grass. Despite all this it is possible to move quicker along some routes than others by careful checking of the length of blocks. This tactic will not affect game play but hex counters have been warned. A more serious problem is that the spaces in which the counters are likely to be are not always large enough for same. When troops are spread out this doesnt show but a line of units following a railway line will not fit. The length of a unit is larger than the gap between railway sleepers (which mark movement). Alternate units need to be shunted to one side. The problem is akin to 1/2 counters on a 1/3 hex grid. The counters should be smaller, the movement units larger (at least on rail lines) or the counters could stand up, Dover Patrol style, on bases and be tilted to fit into the tight bits.
I make no apologies for spending some time on the map. It is the best part of the game, street by street maps of cities suitable for gaming are rare. This will just fit a 1/2 counter but with its edges jutting into the surrounding buildings. Thoughts of rolling the tanks up and down with MBT or Firefight are out, pity since I have plenty of BMDs, BTRs and such, Richmond is not that dissimilar to Moscow. Take away the map and not much is left. The Union enters from the north and south map edges on turn 1, very few CSA units begin on the map, plenty enter as reinforcements. Movement and combat is by chit, 2 for the Union (north and south groups) and 5 CSA (map and new units coming from the 4 points of the compass). As the game continues more CSA units appear and a CSA force is more likely to be activated than a USA. On pulling its chit, the force may move, all enemy units capable of firing on any unit of that command may fire, then the command fires. Units get to fire defensively several times if more than 1 enemy group comes in range but a unit can only fire offensively once a turn. Terrain benefits the target so units try to end moves facing the enemy but in a building. There is no opportunity fire, units can run right past the enemy and take up positions in their rear. The plot of the game is for the USA to rescue prisoners and damage Richmond, without losing many troops. The southern command arrives near Belle Isle, an island full of prisoners, naturally it overpowers the guard (singular) and sends the POWs north to safety. The centre of Richmond contains various victory counters that can be captured and buildings that can be destroyed. The victory counters have a ? back but all start within 8 movement points of 1 place and cannot be moved. The few on-map CSA units will soon be overpowered, it is hard to imagine a Union player not capturing all the victory units and still having time to clear a path for the northward heading POWs. Released prisoners can be armed and used to fight but if killed count as Union losses and cannot count as excited POWs, the USA loses both ways so should not put POWs in the front line.
While the USA is escorting POWs north and spreading out to damage the maximum amount of Richmond, CSA reinforcements begin to arrive from the map edges. Luckily, who will arrive and where is printed on the game turn track. Some southern edge units may arrive later than expected and a few militia may reappear in the town centre but the Union player has a pretty good idea what to expect. No units will appear from the east edge until late in the game, a line along the western parts of town will hold up the inevitable CSA onslaught. Most dangerous are northern CSA units that actually appear in the northwest corner of the map. These can edge around USA defences and force any units heading north to make a detour. The game breaks down into phases. USA arrives, liberates prisoners and captures victory tokens, the CSA tries to slow this down knowing that its starting forces are doomed. CSA units begin to arrive roughly to the west of Union lines, the USA anticipates this by putting up a defensive line next to the town suburbs. USA prisoners slip off the north map edge while CSA units snipe at exposed Union units to pull down the victory point differential.
It is not specified that USA raiders may leave the map by the north edge during the game but some have to escort victory units off the map so presumably the rest can. An excited unit cannot be a dead one so late game turns will see the USA slipping away but losing units allocated to hold up the CSA.
While all this is going on a sub-game is played out involving slaves and citizens. Each time a USA unit ends a move next to a city block a D6 is rolled, on a 1 a slave unit appears on a 6 a civilian. Points are gained for moving slave units off the north map edge but only on the last 4 turns. Slaves stick to their liberating units like glue, a minor victory point gain forces several raider units to sit out the game in safe areas to protect these slaves, they can engage in a little destruction while they wait. The USA gains points for lighting fires, the fires spread until all fire counters have been used. This is a good job for the slave minders, careful fire lighting will see all fire counters used before the last turn, the USA might as well get the points for free. The limit on slave counters provided means that the slave game will be over in a few turns. Civilians can be recycled so will be with us for the whole game unless the players agree to give up on them. There is very little that civilians can do, they do not fight and do not block movement. They can build barricades but a better defence is offered by the town houses on most of the map, why choose the weaker barricades to hide behind? The CSA player can build a chain of civilian units from the west map edge to put out fires. The USA player knows this and will start fires far to the east, causing maximum damage long before they can be put out. Raid on Richmond is a shelf game rather than a board game. It lacks alternative scenarios or variants to encourage more than 2 or 3 plays.
What it could be but is not is a 19th century Cityfight. The historical premise is wild but based on fact, alas not deeply enough to enthuse any but the keenest ACW fan (who will probably go for the map).
After I wrote this the 3W glossy Shwerpunkt arrived. The errata ther'in exposed that I had been playing some parts of this game wrong. Union Northern troops arrive at Brook Avenue not on the Northern map edge as I had guessed. CSA "?" counters may move but only within their set up area at a rate of 6 mps. I cannot see that this would do them uch good. A raider unit needs to be stacked with a "?" unit and oll a 5 or 6 to identify it before he can get victory points for apture or destruction. Thes rules should slow the raiders down. The playthrough in the same issue also reveals that there are no restrictions on raider units leaving by the North map edge. None of these clarifications and changes prevented me from taking Raid on Richmond to Northern Militaire, where I was well glad to get rid of it. If I play a "what if?" type of game I want good gaming to make up for low simulation. This leads to the next article, historical purists should stop reading here. Warning the folowing 2 columns contain material of a science fiction nature.