J. Sharp
United States
Dayton
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The time finally arrived where I was able to crack the box and start to play the game. Pvt’s Silvers, Judge and Springer joined me on a Saturday to open the box and get to business on a much anticipated game.
As we set up the board, I think everyone was taken aback by its massive size. It nearly covered my entire table! There were a few concerns stated regarding the small borders on the edge of the map tiles as well as the bowing that I mentioned in the previous part. This was communicated to Gordon & Hague and met with a reassurance that those issues are corrected in production copies of the title.

In skimming through the rules, we decided that we would do a 2 vs. 2 battle, with Springer and myself taking the Union force while Silvers and Judge would take the assaulting Confederates.

Next, we chose a scenario by putting objective counters on Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield, the woods right behind the ridge and Trostle’s Woods; we all felt that these would be good considering our deployment points. We originally followed the rule set’s suggested deployment and ran out of room. Upon further review, we noticed that this was merely a suggestion and decided to deploy in our first row of tiles instead.

After our initiative rolls, we began to advance our respective forces. In The Valley of Death, each unit is limited to 2 actions per turn. This can be a combination of several types of movements and shooting. The feel and pacing are very representative of my experiences in the field as a living historian for 18 years.

When performing actions, one is allowed to do a number of things: attack, charge, move, wheel as well as make several different morale checks to remove effects from your troops (such as being shocked). The movements can be augmented by doing a “double quick” command that allows for an extra hex of movement. The tradeoff here is that you must roll afterwards to see if your unit can take the extra punishment.

One thing that was of interest to us is that unit facing does not have to coincide with the sides of the hexes. Wheels are conducted increments up to 90 degrees. For simplicity of gameplay, we would suggest aligning with either a side or intersection. There are no flanking bonuses in the game, so facings are only used for the sake of field of fire.

Difficult terrain was a major hold up for us. With the rules being vague about what qualifies as difficult terrain, we were left to interpretation. You will find that there are a few rules that require interpretation; this is by design as the developers wanted to create a very flexible format in which players can augment to their own liking. However, having the difficult terrain marked somehow could have made things progress a little better. It is a good suggestion to determine these “constants” before playing to avoid in-game disagreements. For those of you that are familiar with Flames of War, the difficult terrain movements will feel familiar. It’s fairly simple…if you move across rough terrain; you must roll a check to see if you become disorganized. Disorganized is not as bad as it may sound, just gives you a penalty to attacking.

After a few turns of movement, we were finally able to get some combat rolling. Combat is quick, ruthless and lethal. Very quickly were units forced to retreat in the face of fire. Ranged combat is quite simple, depending on the range; it is a 3+, 4+ or 5+ to hit. If the target is in any sort of cover, they get to roll off a check to see if the round hits or not. Once a hit is issued, then a morale check must be taken to determine items such as retreating. Units in retreat may attempt to rally in the next turn with a morale roll. A unit more or less has 5 hits it can take as each time they are given a 20% casualty marker. However, the morale/retreat mechanic makes it next to impossible to wipe a unit off the map, they just fall back. Based upon the experience of the unit, the morale rules can be augmented, as experienced units are more stubborn. All of these bonuses go away once a unit has more than 40% casualties. Units in cover were simply a bear to deal with.

As a point of strategy, putting a unit in cover (Devil’s Den, for example) and then having them “Hunker Down” will create a near-impregnable position. In situations such as this, their deflection roll (cover save) goes from a 5+ to a 4+. This little detail stalled our game’s attack on Devil’s Den to a halt.

Charging is another item that you may do in the game. Charges work in the same manner as many other games, bonuses + roll vs. bonuses + roll. It’s a very straight forward system; however we all agreed that many of our issues could have been solved with a reference card of all of the charts. On the charge, cavalry can move at 3 hexes straight or at an angle.

Our game lasted about 2 hours total, the Union was only able to capture one objective, making the Confederacy the winner. In this game, we were able to test every aspect of the system and its mechanics.
To further add to the game’s randomness, you are allowed to issue out several items to augment your troop’s diversity. Items such as “Fresh Boots” and “Rifled Muskets” allow you to reroll failed attacks and “Double Quick” movements. These could also be used as objectives on the board if you want a very dynamic scenario rather than the standard issue of 2 per side. Everyone loves loot!

The system itself is quick, clean and very efficient at representing its goals. Charts have been added to the manual to make chart lookups much more efficient. The system itself could be taught and executed within 15 minutes or so. By varying deployments, objectives and whatnot, the game has a nearly-unlimited playability and will offer many replays with nothing being the same. Your own creativity is the limit.

Overall, everyone enjoyed the game very much. The few problems we found not show-stoppers in the least. We all felt that the game was a fantastic gateway game to get more people interested in this style of combat. We have offered up our feedback to Gordon & Hague regarding the catch points that we identified and they should be clarified in the production soon. Gordon & Hague have established a very solid franchise here and I can only hope in the future they release more games such as this. (Perryville, KY is a good suggestion!!)
At a price point of $70.00 via their Kickstarter deal, the game is a great value as well (shipping is free). In the near future they will be releasing miniatures for the product as well for approximately $200 USD, I believe. While this price seems high on the surface, getting 250 pre-painted 15mm figures is worth more than that alone. I personally charge approximately $2-$3 per 15mm figure I paint. To have them all based, painted and ready to play at this price is quite frankly, a steal.

We have already discussed a plethora of house rules that we will end up adding to the game that will offer us a deeper and authentic experience, but these are far from necessary to enjoy the game; merely a bunch of Civil War Re-enactors looking for a deeper level.

I would like to thank Gordon & Hague for allowing us the opportunity for play testing this game. It was a great time and I look forward to seeing the production copies on people’s shelves. Do not miss out on the chance to back their Kickstarter project and get this game into production!

Final Game Ratings:
Silvers: 4.0 / 5.0
Sharp: 4.5 / 5.0
Springer: 4.7 / 5.0
Judge: 4.5 / 5.0


http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/270194544/gettysburg-the...
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Mayor Jim
United States
Fort Wright
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Thanks for the review...the game sounds just a step up from a beer & pretzels type...with a great looking board.
 
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J. Sharp
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Thats not a bad assessment. I would say it felt like playing Space Hulk...if you have played that. I found it very slick and refreshing.
 
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