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Steven Dolges
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Hello all, I received my copy of Clash of Giants: Civil War and noticed that some folks rated the game poorly on BGG because it hadn't come out yet. This boggles my mind, so in an effort to get a real rating I have played through the Second Battle of Bull Run and give a review!

With this game being Civil War and all, I decided to put on my Blu Ray copy of Ken Burn's Civil War my wife got me for Christmas while I played. It was a nice accompaniment. http://imgur.com/a/VvcXL

I should point out to start I have not yet played the Gettysburg battle included in this game but I may append this review once I have.

For those who don't know, the Clash of Giants series originally started as a WWI series, but with this 3rd volume it has broken into the American Civil War. While I am very interested in WWI, the older CoG games are out of print, so this is my first Clash of Giants game and likely the only one I'll get to play for awhile. Thus the system is brand new to me, so this review is a fresh look and won't be a comparison between it and other games in the series. Also, I am by no means a Civil war expert, so it will be difficult for me to talk to historical bits of the game. I'm sure other experts will talk to this aspect in future reviews.



Components and Rules Organization: The game comes in a typical bookcase box from GMT, though it doesn't seem to be one of the thicker material ones. The game comes with two books, one for the rules for the overall system of CoG and a Battle book containing battle-specific rules and some other bits. Both books are in full color and do a good job of getting information across. The general rules are pretty short, only around 12 pages but if a rule is unclear the Battle book gives numerous pages to illustrated examples of mechanics. I had little trouble with the rules, but the examples are a great addition and much appreciated. My only issue with the rules were that in a number of places the terms 'units', 'formations', 'Divisions', and 'Corps' get thrown around but only Formations is included in the Glossary on the back of the Battle book. I did find what seemed to be a case where 'Corps' was written in a rule but it actually seemed to refer to a 'Formation'. Hopefully future errata will clear that up, but it wasn't a hindrance to play for me.

The mapsheet is a paper map with one side dedicated to each battle in the game. Some folks don't like paper maps, some do, but this is typical fair for this sort of game. I put plexiglass over my map for play and that worked great. Having mounted boards would have increased the price. The maps are aesthetically pleasing to the eye with hexes numbered for reference purposes. They also include some charts like the turn track, and for the Bull Run map movement charts (which also includes notes regarding special rules which means less rule juggling which is nice). The Gettysburg movement charts are on separate player aids, since every inch of mapsheet is needed for the battle field.

The counters are standard fair I suppose. They are the thinner/flimsier variety which makes hand-punching a bit annoying. I used an exacto knife to help with the process but ended up giving one counter too close of a shave, that's on me though. Thicker/sturdier counters like the latest printing of Paths of Glory would have been nice, but again would have impacted the price. The price is very reasonable by the way, so there is that.

Baggies are provided, though I used some ziplocks of my own to sort the counters between battles. Different counters are used for each battle so it makes sense to sort them by battle, then faction.

The only real bad marks on components are the counter quality (which is fine but I'll nitpick) and a some clarification needed on terms. Overall pretty solid.



Gameplay: Being a relative newcomer to this system I can't say I have figured out the best strategies or ideal stack compositions, but I'm sure more plays will refine my skill. Just a warning to qualify my statements.

Starting a battle involves placing units according to set-up while organizing the rest to come in later depending on what turn it is (I just put them on the turn track). The game uses interesting reinforcement rules where it is possible to gamble on getting formations in a turn early, at the risk of delaying them a turn or two. For Bull Run, there is a second rule where forces may get delayed anyhow, instead of coming in when they are supposed to. This all can be a stressful affair, as my Confederates found out when they tried to get more guys in early but in the process pushed them back, giving the Union more free reign to pound them.

Once units are placed from reinforcements, Artillery Markers (AMs) are placed into a cup with half of them being drawn. Artillery are not on the maps as actual units in this game, but are abstracted heavily. Since half the AMs get pulled for a turn, one could be unlucky and not get any of theirs for the turn if the opponent has more in the cup and most of them get pulled. AMs can be used in a combat involving a formation the AM is designated to. For example, if the 'light blue' AM got pulled but my 'light blue' formation isn't in a position to attack this turn, it isn't very helpful. The actual AMs provide a +1 combat factor to the battle, which can actually be a huge difference when it comes time to calculate combat odds. There are some special AMs that the Battle Book describes for Bull Run, usually being an AM that is available every turn for the CSA to be used with certain restrictions like being with 6 hexes of a particular unit.

The game utilizes a chit pull system for activation units. Individual counters are components of an overall formation. In the Second Bull Run battle, for example, units may have the same color bar near their name thus being in the same formation. Those formations may in turn be members of Divisions and Corps. There are marks on the counter to denote this but I found the movement charts to be a good way of identification as well. During the Operations Phase of each turn, one command chit is pulled from a cup containing all available. The player who owns the formations indicated on the counter then rolls to see how many movement points the formation will get this turn, usually producing somewhere between 4 and 10 MPs. This is determined on the movement charts. Each counter in the formation gets to move with the allotted MPs, clear hexes costing 1 MP per hex with differing terrain costing more. Once movement is complete, either a combat phase is taken or another activation counter is pulled for a new set of movements. Each faction gets one 'Combat' phase per turn.

Basically, it seems like you need to find the right opportunity for combat, waiting until several of your formations have been moved and positioned to greatest advantage. This can be tough if the opponent manages to move his units prior or attacks first. Defending units get combat factor bonuses on certain terrain, as one would expect. Actual combat involves totaling combat factors for both sides and determining odds (4-to-1, 3-to-1, etc.). Then, starting with the defending player, each defending unit has a die rolled for it (modified by the odds results). If the die roll is greater than the units Tactical Efficiency Rating (TER) it takes a step loss and retreats. Some units only have one step. The attacking player then also does the same. To be honest this system seems weird to me, where I am used to rolling to see how much damage you inflict to an opponent, not rolling to see if your guys don't freak out. It is not bad, just different than what I am used to. I think with experience someone will find the best ways to get the most advantageous combat odds and have units that hardly ever take losses. Since step losses equal VPs, you will want to watch out for low TER units seeing too much action. Good odds for the attacker also means fewer attacking units have the potential to take losses.

There is a replacements mechanic, but it only happens three times in the Bull Run battle. On turns 6, 12, and 17 (Night Turns) you can give up a unit's activation marker by not putting it in the cup. And at the end of all activations one counter within the given formation recovers one step loss (also deducts VP). Night turns don't have combat, but do have movements and possible surrenders if a unit is surrounded.

For the Bull Run battle, victory is determined by accruing VPs. This is gained by inflicted step losses on the enemy and also holding some of the 3 Control spaces (Manassas Junction, Stony Ridge, and Centreville). If a faction holds all three at the end of a Night Turn they win an automatic victory. An automatic victory is also possible on a Night Turn if your VPs have reached a high enough value. Each battle has specific rules with Bull Run's involving restrictions on movement and combat. Some Union formations are locked into moving towards certain areas of the map before they can really do whatever you want. This is stopped by reaching the destination or running into enemy forces. Confederate forces sometimes can't attack until a certain criteria is met. These rules are meant to reflect certain historical realities, but I appreciate that the author also provides an alternative if you wanted to abandon some of those rules, with some caveats to keep the game balanced.

If one wanted to jump right into the action, the Second Bull Run battle also has an August 29 Battle Scenario that starts in a later turn after some forces have already maneuvered into the fray. I played the full campaign so I'm not sure how that goes, will need to try it.

In my solitaire play-through, I had Ewell's division set up at Manassas Junction and Light's in Centreville with the idea of holding the Control spaces. Hooker and Kearny managed to get through and eventually I had Ewell surrounded and utterly annihilated. Picture here: http://imgur.com/a/1BPal

Other Union forces were sent North to take Stony Ridge though King's forces sailed right on by on their way to Centreville. Taliaferro took defensive positions on the hill itself. Picture here: http://imgur.com/a/ABvyN

At the end of the first day, Union forces were coming around the ridge while Hooker's forces regrouped and started heading towards Centreville. You will note here that King's forces (yellow tag) were mistakenly heading towards the wrong place (special rules force them towards Centreville). This was corrected right after the picture was taken. Picture here: http://imgur.com/a/4XM9s

Confederate reinforcements started to come in, while Centreville was attacked by (probably) more forces than was likely needed. Stony Ridge was taken but the Union position wasn't without risk. Picture here: http://imgur.com/a/C0Rcq

After taking Centreville, Union forces realized they were far away from the rest of the real action. CSA reinforcements had pushed Union forces back with casualties mounting heavily for both sides (both getting close to automatic victory thresholds though Union was ahead). Stony Ridge was nearly overrun and cutoff but timely Night-time positioning saved them and the Union won an automatic victory at the end of the 2nd day for controlling all three VP spaces. Technically they would have won anyway due to high VPs. The last couple of turns was all about the Union maintaining control and trying not to lose too many units or else the CSA would also be getting close to automatic victory VP range. The final Night turn was tense, as some Union units needed to move before certain CSA ones to make sure the Stony Ridge units were not considered surrounded. Picture here at game end: http://imgur.com/a/tMKWU
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Overall I have enjoyed Clash of Giant: Civil War. I will definitely want to play it some more, especially against a real player. Same goes for the Gettysburg battle, which I imagine is a tad more complicated than 2nd Bull Run. The components are solid though not extraordinary. The rules are easy to learn and with plenty of examples. The game is fun and tension filled, though perhaps combat rolls will seem odd to some like myself.

I recommend this game to anyone who enjoys the American Civil War as a topic and who enjoy hex and counter games.

Overall Rating: 8/10
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Paul Marjoram
United States
Harbor City
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Steven, thanks for taking the time to post such a long review of the game. I'm glad to hear you are enjoying it. The combat system, which, as you say, is somewhat atypical, is part of the "Clash of Giants" system (i.e., it works much the same way in the earlier CoG games). It's particularly nice to see the Bull Run scenario being played, because I imagined most folks would go straight for Gettysburg.
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Gr Wr
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Smyrna
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Thanks for doing this review, Steven. I'm waiting for my copy of the game to arrive, and this was a great overview. Think I'll start with Bull Run as well.
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Tom Stearns
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Second Bull Run is interesting battle. Confederates hiding in the unfinished RR "trench" and lashing out at the unsuspecting Union forces marching toward Manassas Junction. Union gathering itself to assail the entrenched Rebs. Longstreet arriving in the nick of time to save the day. Will be interesting to see how the game handles some of the special situations and command issues.
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Terry Lewis
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I have both Clash I and Clash II, and Clash III [Civil War] arrived earlier this month. Although I and II are out of print, I had no trouble finding and purchasing them earlier this year.

WW I is one of my favorite eras to study as well as for collecting and playing historical conflict simulations or HCSs ["war games"]. The Clash system seemed a bit odd when I first started playing, but I quickly became a big fan of it. I really like the ebb and flow feel,the attrition of units, the need to carefully monitor units to be pulled back for recovery, and what units can continue to attack and defend. Of course when a situation gets desperate, there is not the luxury of pulling a few units back to refit. It is to be noted that a line with a number of units with step loss can disintegrate quickly, leaving gaps that the opponent can exploit.

I purchased Clash III because I like the Clash system, even though the US Civil War is not one of my top areas of interest. I have not yet had an opportunity to play Clash III, but I am looking forward to doing so.

tml [a retired professor in Oregon]

ps: I've been collecting and playing HCSs since the late 1960s/early 1970s.
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Steve Duke
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Nice review, thanks for writing.

Just to clarify, aren't you only allowed to conduct combat (attack) when you draw your side's combat chit?
 
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Steven Dolges
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sduke wrote:
Nice review, thanks for writing.

Just to clarify, aren't you only allowed to conduct combat (attack) when you draw your side's combat chit?


No, while there is a 'combat chit' it is there only as a mnemonic. Each side can conduct combat once per turn after finishing movement of an activation. There are special commands markers that allow only just the activated formation to conduct combat, which is separate but in addition to the big combat activity of the turn.

You choose when to conduct combat, the trouble is determining and executing on the best conditions.
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Karsten Engelmann
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Steven,

Dont know how it can 'boggle your mind', as there were high ratings for the game as well...and the BGG page oroginally had NOTHING on it but an ad. People can advertise all they want to, but to say a game is a '10' when there is no map, rules, counters, etc...that has to be stopped.

Since the game is now out, I removed my counter to the fake wonderful ratings, and I am happy that you did a great review of the game and look forward to getting it!
 
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Steven Dolges
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karstenengelmann wrote:
Steven,

Dont know how it can 'boggle your mind', as there were high ratings for the game as well...and the BGG page oroginally had NOTHING on it but an ad. People can advertise all they want to, but to say a game is a '10' when there is no map, rules, counters, etc...that has to be stopped.

Since the game is now out, I removed my counter to the fake wonderful ratings, and I am happy that you did a great review of the game and look forward to getting it!


I wasn't watching the game page when the very first ratings where applied by people. It boggles my mind because there shouldn't be ANY ratings until release (perhaps ratings from playtesters but that is hard to manage). I wouldn't rate a game '10' before playing it, and likewise wouldn't rate '1'.

What is really unfortunate is that a couple of 10s and 1s gives an average 5 rating which is what the game had when I reviewed and rated it. I think that sucks because it might turn people away without proper judgement, 5 can be seen as 'not good'. I suppose until BGG figures out a way to deal with that it is just the way it is.
 
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Karsten Engelmann
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srd5090 wrote:
karstenengelmann wrote:
Steven,

Dont know how it can 'boggle your mind', as there were high ratings for the game as well...and the BGG page oroginally had NOTHING on it but an ad. People can advertise all they want to, but to say a game is a '10' when there is no map, rules, counters, etc...that has to be stopped.

Since the game is now out, I removed my counter to the fake wonderful ratings, and I am happy that you did a great review of the game and look forward to getting it!


I wasn't watching the game page when the very first ratings where applied by people. It boggles my mind because there shouldn't be ANY ratings until release (perhaps ratings from playtesters but that is hard to manage). I wouldn't rate a game '10' before playing it, and likewise wouldn't rate '1'.

What is really unfortunate is that a couple of 10s and 1s gives an average 5 rating which is what the game had when I reviewed and rated it. I think that sucks because it might turn people away without proper judgement, 5 can be seen as 'not good'. I suppose until BGG figures out a way to deal with that it is just the way it is.


There should not even be a page unless there are maps, rules, photos, counters, etc. When I posted many months ago - it was just an ad, nothing more...and it is wrong, IMHO, to have an ad masquerading as a game page. So I rated it as such. Now that the game is out, I removed it.
 
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Steven Dolges
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karstenengelmann wrote:
srd5090 wrote:
karstenengelmann wrote:
Steven,

Dont know how it can 'boggle your mind', as there were high ratings for the game as well...and the BGG page oroginally had NOTHING on it but an ad. People can advertise all they want to, but to say a game is a '10' when there is no map, rules, counters, etc...that has to be stopped.

Since the game is now out, I removed my counter to the fake wonderful ratings, and I am happy that you did a great review of the game and look forward to getting it!


I wasn't watching the game page when the very first ratings where applied by people. It boggles my mind because there shouldn't be ANY ratings until release (perhaps ratings from playtesters but that is hard to manage). I wouldn't rate a game '10' before playing it, and likewise wouldn't rate '1'.

What is really unfortunate is that a couple of 10s and 1s gives an average 5 rating which is what the game had when I reviewed and rated it. I think that sucks because it might turn people away without proper judgement, 5 can be seen as 'not good'. I suppose until BGG figures out a way to deal with that it is just the way it is.


There should not even be a page unless there are maps, rules, photos, counters, etc. When I posted many months ago - it was just an ad, nothing more...and it is wrong, IMHO, to have an ad masquerading as a game page. So I rated it as such. Now that the game is out, I removed it.


I disagree that there shouldn't be a page at all. Having a page allows for game specific content to be posted here as well as provide a location for people to discuss the title. I guess it's all well and good you removed your initial rating. There are many unreleased games with pages on BGG, I hope for their sake you aren't rating them poorly for that. Sounded like you did here to counter balance the dishonest '10' ratings given prior to release, which I guess makes sense.
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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
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Sorry, I am guilty of posting a 'dishonest' 10 to counter the dishonest 1 and 2 ratings stating it was only an advertisement...
The 1 & 2 ratings have been removed and I just mine now that I have th game.
I am personally very happy to follow game development and design progress here on BGG and I don't consider then ads at all.

 
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