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Subject: Hooker and Lee and Berg and What? rss

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Chris Rush
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I respect Pete Belli, and I know under the folio listing for this game he has a very enthusiastic assessment of this game, but I did not see anything near that positive on this play through. True, this is my first time playing it, and I am no expert on the American Civil War (or wargames), but this little game did not match up my expectation of playing a game by Richard Berg. I acknowledge that is a bit unfair, since he has dozens of games, some good some not, and this was early in his career, but the sense I got from this - from before even playing it, straight from reading the rules - was this scenario only exists because of the Grand Campaign option of adding Fredericksburg to Hooker and Lee. While this is an exciting idea, and I'm sure at the time the existence of a "grand campaign" with multiple maps was entertaining to several players (not that it hadn't happened before '75), the absence of attention on making this particular folio game work is disappointing. I don't understand why each quad had to have a clunker, especially when different designers were working on them (other than the ridiculous pace and workload SPI was putting on their small staff at the time, I guess).

It could probably be fixed quite easily. If the game had more play turns than the rapid 9, it's quite possible this game would work very well. This sounds more like a review than a session report, but that is the more exciting part of my "report."

My dad was the Confederates; I was the Union. My dad attempted the Jackson outflanking maneuver, which ended up with the Confederates having to sit out half the game waiting to make an effective charge while the Union slowly but surely collapsed on top of small units and moved the western units into an impenetrable barrier, effectively blocking any effective assault by Jackson's units. I suspect the game was not supposed to work out this way.

Even with the painful limitation of moving only 6 units, before nightfall I had eliminated almost a dozen Confederate units and lost none. By the end of the game, I only lost 1 unit because of a silly Exchange role when I was attacking. The Confederates could not eliminate any units. On the penultimate turn, my dad thought he had eliminated a couple of my units, but then we realized he had some of the units set up from the Grand Campaign scenario ... which should not have affected the way he played the game, so I am not quick to assume the game would have been drastically different without those mirage units. The genuine problem of not enough turns persists.

Speaking of not enough turns, what practical good do the Union reinforcements serve? Reynolds can't possibly get anywhere useful. Similarly, the Union cavalry, even if they arrive on the first turn with a lucky 1 roll, there are not enough turns to get anywhere near the battle. If the Confederates attempt Jackson's maneuver, there is no way they will be in position to be reached by any Union reinforcement. There are not enough turns. Perhaps if the Confederates do not try Jackson's flanking run, and consequently don't sit out half the game, maybe they could do something, but the bizarre road network allows no helpful or meaningful movement anywhere north of the original setup positions.

Even with the imaginary unit losses, the final victory tally for the Union was over 140 to 75 or so - and remember the only reason the Confederates got any points at all was because of 1 die roll of a "6" on a 6:1 (which was more like 18:1). I highly suspect the Confederates should not send most of their forces out of the game for half the turns if they want to win. Also, I suspect if this game was treated more respectfully for its own existence and not as an excuse to make a grander 2-in-1, this game could be better quite easily.
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Ian Raine
Australia
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Honi soit qui mal y pense, motto of Sydney Uni Rugby Club, est. 1863
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General Sir John Monash, victor of Le Hamel
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Quote:
I don't understand why each quad had to have a clunker, especially when different designers were working on them (other than the ridiculous pace and workload SPI was putting on their small staff at the time, I guess).


It was apparently down to the 'conveyor system', which turned out a flow of magazines & games to keep the cash flow ticking over, and the company alfloat. The company managed to operate for more than a decade without much (any?) working capital, which, if you think about it, was quite an achievement.

The conveyor system has been described by some of the old SPI staffers in various commentaries and postings, on this site and elsewhere. There are clues about it in the columns of the contempoary magazines, as well. The impression I have from reading those is along these lines:

1. The feedback was used to select which games went into the 'program'. There was an occasional 'captain's pick' in S&T. Scrimmage may have been one such.

2. Depending on what size/type it was, it got a budget, which translated into person-hours on design, development and playtesting, and in the art department, and 'notional' cost of advertising in the magazines.

3. Once it was in the system and budget had been spent on it, it was likely to be published no matter what - they couldn't afford to write off the money spent. Hence, games like Remagen, Freiburg, Bloody Ridge etc were published after whatever attempts that could be made to make them workable had been made, given the time and money that the schedule allowed. Some real stinkers got through - Armada. In some cases a new developer was brought in to try and fix something before it was released.

4. There were some exceptions to the above. In 1975 the '20th century' magazine game project was dropped. An Loc was dropped from MQ1, Wurzburg moved from S&T to the quad, and Battle for Germany and World War 1 went into the magazine instead, if my recollection of reading the editorial comments in S&T & Moves is correct. David Isby's Soldiers was an early project that was done outside the usual constraints. He may also have some comments about To the Greenfields Beyond.

I'm not sure that every quad had a stinker, but a few certainly did; others had not so much stinkers, as poor games that suffered round peg/square hole syndrome. They needed more components than the quad folio allowed at the standard scale. Cemetery Hill, Battle of Nations, DMZ fit in this category.
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