The Wars of the States and Empires series covers land battles from wars waged between 1848 and 1879: Gettysburg, Chickamauga and Chattanooga from the American Civil War, and Frontier Battles, Konniggratz and Custoza from the Battles of 1866 theme.
These games portray the area were the battle was fought as a topographic map divided into irregular areas rather than the hexagons used in traditional board wargames. These are not chosen randomly, but rather conform to the lie of the land to channel movement the same way folds, rises and gullies do on an actual piece of ground.
A unit must fit in the area it occupies, in the direction it faces. If the area is too narrow for one of the large pieces, it’s not allowed to occupy the area, or at least not stay there and face the direction the player might like. Thus troops are placed along ridge lines, for example, not across them. Flanks become even more important; if you leave a unit “hanging” in a position where it can’t turn to defend itself fully against an approaching enemy because it can’t be placed in the area facing that direction, be prepared for serious losses.
The game pieces come in two sizes. “Long” pieces are 1 and 1/3 inches long and 2/3 inches wide, a very large piece. These represent infantry divisions. Other pieces are squares 2/3-inch across each side. These represent cavalry, artillery, leaders, and sometimes a specialist unit. Each unit is rated for combat strength and morale.
Combat can take the form of assault, cavalry charge or bombardment. Each player rolls a number of dice equal to the total combat strength of his or her units involved. For each result of 6, one hit is achieved. For each hit suffered by a unit, it loses one “step,” or level of strength.
Before it can make an attack or move, a unit must be activated. Better leaders are better able to activate their units more easily, giving them a significant edge. The Confederate player in Gettysburg, for example, is much happier with Robert E. Lee than the Confederate player in Chickamauga, saddled with the inept Braxton Bragg. Yet leadership will not decide the battle all by itself: After all, the Confederacy lost at Gettysburg but won at Chickamauga.
Victory is ultimately achieved by one side obtaining its objectives: usually a combination of capturing locations on the battlefield and inflicting casualties on the enemy. The games do not take long to play; even the largest battle designed so far (in Battles of 1866: Koniggratz) can be finished in a single evening.