Recommend
11 
 Thumb up
 Hide
12 Posts

Malvern Hill» Forums » Reviews

Subject: 7 Days Battles rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Dan Taylor
United States
Berryville
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
Just Another Washed Up Wargamer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Malvern Hill is the thirteenth(!) game in The Gamers (now MMP’s) Civil War brigade series. It serves as the capstone for two other games, Gaines Mill and Seven Pines. This review will look at all 3 together.

If the reader isn’t familiar with the Civil War Brigade Series as a whole, it might be wise to check a more general review of the series at some other location before looking at this game's specific review. This review will assume general knowledge of the series’ concepts and ideas, and will seek to review the game’s specific ideas.

The series’ graphics have improved dramatically through the years, and these games reap the benefits. Union units are color-coded according to corps (in a nod to historical accuracy, as Kearny and Hooker’s badges had not yet been used), while Confederates have their usual state icons. The unmounted maps (all 9 of them, in the full game) are clean, if a little sparse near the top (alas, mapmakers are constrained by historical reality.)

The series rules are more complicated, as benefits a campaign game of this size. Much time is spent dealing with the various command structures used throughout the battle (Confederate and Union wings) as well as an optional set of rules dealing with fatigue. (The CWBS usually encourages “resting for the night” to pick up stragglers, but even that incentive may not be enough given the week-long nature of the battle.) Stonewall Jackson’s odd lethargy is handled in an interesting manner by rolling to see if his counter flips from a “0” to a “2” every turn. Old Blue Light spent most of the battle in an apparent mental fog much to the frustration of Lee, and command system reflects this.

The Union command structure is, in a word, terrible. “Little Mac” doesn’t want an offensive and as a result corps stoppage checks are easier to fail, if the player manages to get an offensive going at all. Fortunately, the Union commander is blessed with a fairly decent roster of corps and divisional commanders, which help to offset McClellan’s paranoia. The Union troops (especially in the 5th and 2nd corps), are fairly solid troops, waiting for their first real baptism of fire.

The Confederate command structure has only one multi-divisional formation (Jackson’s army) at the start of the game, so Lee will be very busy attempting to get an offensive going. Separating into wings (“corps”) can make things a little easier, but the player must pay attention to the “seniority number” of the generals in question – Huger will not want to serve under newcomer DH Hill, for instance. Fortunately, the Confederates have their usual roster of excellent brigades and their army is at the peak of its strength.

All this, plus the gigantic map size, translate into one of the most epic Civil War games on the market today, if you can manage to find room. (One suggestion as to how to set it up might be to realize that 1/3 of the map, usually the top or bottom, isn’t really “in play” in an active way. As a result, you can move them to the side or put them down until needed. While somewhat spoiling the effect of 9 maps, it does manage to keep things a little saner.) The Union begins with one corps across the river with the potential to be flanked, and the battle begins from there, as both sides jockey for position and VP areas.

One interesting idea used in the game is that various areas are worth victory points, but depending on if the Union army has decided to “change its base” or not. If the Union so chooses, it’s an easier defensive fight, but the Union player must then escort a painfully slow moving logistical train through many maps and a swampy, nasty area. Rarely do tactical games offer this level of operational flexibility, and I think (especially if the union plots and moves the train in secret) it can more accurately recreate some of the oddities of the battle.

However, there are some downsides. Due to the bloody nature of the CWBS (a topic worth looking into in much more detail at some other time), some of the battles the player will fight will be a little more damaging to his army than historically. Outside of one brigade, for example, the 5th Corps takes an average of 300-400 casualties per brigade historically during the battle of Gaines Mill, a statistic unlikely to be duplicated using the fire combat tables as written. Once players understand this limitation and don’t push their brigades so hard, the game will play out in a more historical manner. And then there’s the map size, difficult to set up even in the largest of game rooms.

Make no mistake, the number of maps in the game make it a real monster. But with regards to forces (and counters), the number of forces is surprisingly low, roughly on par with Gettysburg. If one can find the space (and the time), these games are quite possibly the best games available on the Seven Days’ battles, and show off Civil War command problems in all their difficulty and glory.
9 
 Thumb up
6.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Will Green
United States
Alameda
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Dan,

This is a really powerful report. It makes me want to play the game, and face the vast challenges, and interesting situations that both sides find themselves in. Thanks for a great job!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
oystein eker
Norway
Unspecified
sola
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for bringing this one up from the shadow.

I own all 3. (and No better place to die).

Tested maps layout at my game club. Putting 6 tables together, it was an awesome sight.

Have played just a few scenarios in Seven Pines. Love the Command system -makes a solitaire exciting.

Started with Napoleonic Brigades -but skirmish unit rules and effective cavalry charges make the game complicated. CWB does not need those rules.

Read Designer`s Notes and play in the spirit of the game - not necessary word by word in the rulebook.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Taylor
United States
Berryville
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
Just Another Washed Up Wargamer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
eker wrote:
Read Designer`s Notes and play in the spirit of the game - not necessary word by word in the rulebook.


I'm _almost_ willing to say the game can't be played competitively. I guess its possible, but even then the game may break down if played outside of the "spirit."
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
oystein eker
Norway
Unspecified
sola
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
No doubt the game will break if players try to tilt given orders in his favour. And it is possible within rules -but not in the spirit of the game.

Play it together in a kind of RPG style. Let the game play by itself and tell you a story. Do not mess it up with a lot of new orders and initiative to fix a desperate situation.

Here is a wonderful seven pines session report from Elias Nordling at Grognard site.

Please note how excellent it plays solitaire and very few orders are given/initiative roll used.

http://grognard.com/gamers/re_7pines1.html
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Windsor
United States
Fort Worth
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I don't have the time or a place for even a six map campaign. If I only get one of the three, any suggestions? I'm leaning away from Malvern Hill because, as I understand the battle, its a Confederate attack against an well-defended Union (so not much for the Union player to do).

Thanks.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Taylor
United States
Berryville
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
Just Another Washed Up Wargamer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
That's a tough question.

I think you're right to stay away from Malvern Hill as a solo game. The union position is pretty strong and difficult to take, at least when supported with guns. The fight at Glendale isn't that interesting either, which is the other "days" battle covered there. The Union army has almost reached the James... not much more can be done. (In my opinion - I've not played any of the Malvern Hill scenarios myself, just trying to think about historical situations.)

The other two options are Seven Pines (the "middle" game) and Gaines Mill. It's a very tough call between them as separate games. Gaines Mill was the scene of the fiercest battles of the Seven Days, but tactically it looks a lot like "defend the fort with the 5th Corps." You do have the option of using the 1st Corps (heading down from Fredericksburg) to mix things up, but in this particular case the Union is really outnumbered and extremely unlikely to do much outside attempt to survive. If you don't like Malvern Hill, you won't be interested in this one.

Seven Pines includes scenarios in the 7 days, but those require counters from Gaines Mill to use. (You could probably proxy things pretty well, but I leave that to your discretion.) That's a shame, as I think the Union army's withdrawl through the swampy regions of Virginia make for the most interesting part of the game, in my limited experience. The Seven Pines game mainly features the titular battle, a relative unknown battle whose main result was the wounding of Johnson and the appointment of Lee. It does include rules and scenarios for the complete battle, though.

It's up to you, but probably Seven Pines is your best bet, since you get a complete battle in it (with actual chances for both sides to do something more than hold a position.) Gaines Mill and Malvern Hill feature the Union 5th corps holding off the poorly position Confederates, so if you're not interested in one you'll probably not like the other.

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
oystein eker
Norway
Unspecified
sola
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

The monster game (7 days battle) consists of all 3 games put together. I guess very very few has played it as a monster.

"Normal" players picks smaller scenarios from modules -using 1 or 2 maps


Elias Nordling`s session report mentioned above is a medium size scenario from Seven Pines.

My opinion -Seven Pines is the best of 7 days battle modules. You can play all scenarios except Savage Station.


 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bob Nash
United States
North Chesterfield
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Great Report. I have seen all 3 set up in full.. impressive. Seems manageable, but have never tried to play more than one game in series at a time due to space limitations of my game room. I grew up and live within 20 miles of the battlefield and visited often as kid. Sold my copies, but may have to pick them up again.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
André van Gils
Belgium
Lint
Antwerpen
flag msg tools
mb
It can now be done without lossing a single counter and without one inch of room space needed.

Just download the cyberboard gamebox from

http://loakes.game-host.org/limeyyankgames/

and together with the software (freeware) version 3.03 one can upload from the same site you are in for a treat
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Thomas Beach

Burlington
Wisconsin
msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks very much for the insightful review as well as your thoughts, Dan.

I really love the CWB system and spent the last year acquiring the three games with the intention of playing the entire Battle's of The Seven Days with my game group which should be this fall. I can't imagine the 9-mapper to be either unmanageable or disappointing. I say this because I have heard good things about the campaign game as played at one of the Expo conventions in recent years. I also have immense respect for Dave Powell and faith in this three-game opus of his. Really looking forward to playing this one.

4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Greg Bales

Indiana
msg tools
mb
Thanks for these reviews. I just got into the CWBS (!) after playing the GBACW series for the past few years. I also just finished reading the Peninsula Campaign/Seven Days section of the great "Battles and Leaders" book. I haven't studied the Peninsula campaign in any depth (McClelland frustrates me to tears even 150+ years later) and after I finish the Antietam game (ITQF2) I'm looking forward to trying out the Seven Pines game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.