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Bradley Fletcher
United States
Maine
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Clash of Giants: Civil War is nice, solid--if none too flashy--game, which is what I believe it intends to be and, so, is successful. Based upon Ted Raicer's hex/chit pull WWI series now ported to the ACW battles of Gettysburg and 2nd Bull Run. I'll admit that I didn't care much for the original series, but a strong, lifelong interest in the ACW works in the game's favor this time around!

CoGCW is a simple, straightforward game--probably too much so for a lot of true grognards, but I'm appreciating shorter and simpler games these days. It is, of course, most like the original CoG, but in terms of the Civil War, it is somewhere between the old standard Across 5 Aprils, and the Glory games by GMT. Rules and game play are straightforward. Each battle is broke into three days, with five daylight and one night turn per day, and it takes two to three hours to play each battle.

The main mechanic is chit pull, which will turn off some people right there, but as a solitaire gamer I tend to like it quite a bit. Chits activate formations--mostly corps for the Union and Confederate divisions--with a small number of special chits which replicate the decisive and timely actions by certain generals--Longstreet's assaults at 2BR and Gbg, for example. More on these in a bit. A chit activates a formation, actual units are brigades, whereupon a die is rolled to determine the number of movement points, generally four to eight, although a few formations can march up to ten hexes. Why the great difference in movement rates is not explained and generally seems arbitrary--although the difference between the highest and lowest mps has a big impact. Special command chits generally allow the player a +1 mp die roll, which may have a significant impact, but more likely won't.

What the chit pull doesn't necessarily determine, however, is combat. Special chits do allow those activated formations to engage in combat--I used the Jackson chit to push Taliaferro's division east to engage Kearney's men on the opening turn of 2BR, just to signal the Confederate presence--but the regular chits do not. Instead, each side has a combat chit which is not drawn from the cup but is always available and can be used at any time following an activation--and conduct combat with all adjacent enemy units. (Remember that controversial, random combat chit pull mechanic in A5A which so many people--including me--hated? Now you get to decide when to invoke combat.) It still is a difficult decision--do you wait and perhaps bring up more troops, or give the other side a chance to do the same or get away? Combat, in the game, is sometimes obligatory and other times voluntary. Terrain effects are simple, while the rules governing who has to attack, who doesn't, ZOC and impact, etc... are, to my mind, the most and only somewhat convoluted rules in the design. Resolving combat is a bit unusual if you're unfamiliar with CoG. Both sides add up their strength, which is the number of steps involved in combat, possible artillery and terrain modifiers, and get a simple odds ratio which in turn gives a drm. Generally, each unit now rolls a die, modifies it accordingly, and compares this against the unit's TER rating. I forget what that means, exactly, but it is sort of like the units morale, etc... If the adjusted number is equal to or less than the TER, there is no impact. If it is higher, there is step loss and retreat. Altogether a nice, simple system.

Another aspect of combat is the way the game handles artillery, which is very, very simple. In the designer notes, Ted explains that he doesn't like Los rules, which must really be true because he has abstracted artillery down to another set of chits, generally one per formation, which add one to the combat DRM. That said, you can't necessarily count on having those guns available as, at the beginning of the turn, you put all of the artillery chits (from both sides) into a cup and randomly select half which are given to the owning player to use in combat. This can produce some very imbalanced distributions which seems strange, and I don't really get why you choose half, but since artillery doesn't have a significant impact on combat, it probably isn't a big deal. What it does do overall, however, is significantly diminish the role of artillery in CW combat which I'm torn about. On one hand, it feels ahistorical, but I used to hate games where artillery was a separate unit, was too overpowered and functioned like any other brigade formation. Time will tell, I guess, but I'm considering the possibility of permitting unused artillery to do a limited bombardment at the end of a turn.

That is, pretty much, the way the game works. It comes together nicely and plays well with a good overall narrative. The battles tend to play out along historical lines, but there are options for delaying or shifting reinforcements, and the variable command and artillery chits have their interesting effects.

Having said that, and enjoying the game, there are some quirks and minor irritations that I want to mention. The first is the artwork. While the maps are nice (two-sided map sheet) and Gettysburg got new artwork, which I like, the counters for 2BR and the box art are recycled from the old Glory and 3DoG days, which I find curious and a bit disappointing. The chit system is generally fine, excepting the artillery chit issues previously noted. The command chits are functional, but in 2BR they are not well color-coded (or at all in the case of identifying the two Confederate wings or Pope's 3rd corps which has very different colors for each division) and I've found myself occasionally moving the wrong formation or missing units entirely. I also find it a bit weird that there are movement tracks for each formation, especially as nearly all units have the same dr/mp values of 4-6-8 (with just a few units on each side having the difference of ten mps as the top.) Separate tracks seem very unnecessary and while they are printed on the 2BR map and don't take up much room, they are two separate player aid cards for Gettysburg and require a fair amount of (I'd say unnecessary) additional space. Last nitpick: While I really like the idea of the special command chits (although, again, a lot of people will cry that it is a gamey 'design for effect' which I agree it is--but they a) provide an opportunity to move and fight without using the combat chit, b) add color and flavor, and c) could be more dynamic--which is my point here as most of them don't do more than allowing a slight (+1) roll on the mp determination chart. I like the few chits that allow an additional formation activation, or interrupt the enemy's activation, etc... and really appreciate the move/fight mechanic they offer. Why couldn't they influence the combat dr? So, I wish more of them did more of this, which would spice up the game--I'll tinker with a house rule on this as well.

All said and done, I like the game a lot. It isn't the definitive light ACW battle game, but it does what it does solidly and well, and I'll hang onto it while I continue that search which has led from the SPI quads, through A5A, to the Glory games, PKG's efforts, and now to CoGCW.

Last note: This game, and watching the CW Trust animated map of Chickamauga, makes me really want to see that battle done in this system--with a few fixes! A search here for Chick games shows that there haven't been many good efforts lately! How's about it, Ted?




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Benny Bosmans
Belgium
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I have Across 5 aprils.

Do I still need to buy this one ?

Or are the Bull Run and Gettysburg battles not already covered enough in A5A ?

Tx for a reply
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Jason Cawley
United States
Anthem
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Thanks for the review. On SCMs, I consider the ability to move and fight the main effect of using one, with the benefit to movement roll a minor supplement. I use them when I want that unit to fight, without triggering the full turn combat phase or after having done so.

The SCMs also vary in that many of them, in Gettysburg at least, just substitute for a drawn formation chit. Which means they still only activate once in the turn, but have the option to use the SCM and fight immediately. In other cases they let a formation move twice e.g. Union I corps first day at Gettysburg, using the Reynolds SCM then still getting their normal I corps marker.

I also note that sometimes a "replacing" SCM can allow a formation to move once but fight twice. E.g. Rodes or Early using the Ewell SCM before the triggered combat phase launch an attack, but in some places they are stopped and the Union units opposite "stand", hold their hexes etc. On the next rebel chit, they declare their combat phase with Early's units still in contact. Well then they can attack again. This seems to me a much bigger deal than the +1 to the MP roll.

In the multiple tracks for each unit's movement, I like it because it is clean to see who has moved and who is still going to come out of the cup, since the command marker is placed on the track to show how many MPs that formation gets this turn. Yes you coukd stack then on one track, but then you'd have to fish around looking under counters to see who already moved etc. I am also just used to it, though, from earlier games in the series.

As for the artillery chit system, I like it and I think I understand it. There are several scenario specific mods the basic system allows, which feature as important points in Gettysburg. But first, pulling only half means the portion of support each side gets has an expectation set by the artillery strengths on the field, but also some variance. That reflects different success or failure getting most of the guns into positions that "bear" on the points attacked, from turn to turn.

You also know at the start if the turn which of your formations will have their support available, but not which of the enemy (using the optional realism rule, at least, which I recommend and do use). This has the extra benefit of making attacking odds harder to be sure about beforehand - you have to expect the enemy might get artillery support etc. There is also the fact that higher formation guns can support multiple formations, while lower ones can only support their own, which may not be engaged or at the most important spot.

The last neat feature of the "pull half" system is the way it can show stronger artillery support elegantly by leaving some artillery markers out of the cup and awarding them for use automatically. Which not only doubles their expected availability, but removes uncertainty, as well. In Gettysburg, whoever controls Cemetery Hill gets to keep one artillery marker this way for automatic use, of his choice. And the Union Artillery Reserve when it arrives also gets to stay out of the cup, meaning they will always be available - and oh they can also support any Union formation. This neatly shows a growing power of the Union guns and the importance if holding the highest ground with the best fields of fire, without a lot of fiddle.

When I compare this to e.g. the GBACW system, which still as of Twin Peaks hasn't solved its issues with unrealistic use of guns - which has plagued that system since Terrible Swift Sword came out 30 years ago - to me it is a triumph of elegant design for effect.

I like the game, in case it isn't obvious. One man's impressions...
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Bradley Fletcher
United States
Maine
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Great observations--thanks. I've shifted back to Gettysburg and am enjoying it a great deal. I'll keep your insights (several of which hadn't occurred to me) in mind!
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Terry Simo
United States
Las Vegas
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Great "double" review. Glad I picked up this game.
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Rumpelstilskin
Germany
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Ben_Bos wrote:
I have Across 5 aprils.

Do I still need to buy this one ?

Or are the Bull Run and Gettysburg battles not already covered enough in A5A ?

Tx for a reply


A5A handles the First Battle of Bull Run 1861 while CoG offers you the 2nd one 1862.

And you can't ever get enough Gettysburg and ACW-games, can you?

I for myself own and enjoy A5A and the Glory-series and other ACW-games and will buy this one either...
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Devin McCane
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Solid review. I agree with your comments about artillery in the game. I get the designer's aim of making gameplay simple but I feel that simplicity has significantly diminished the role and usefulness of artillery. The +1 DRM for artillery seems too weak for the importance artillery did play in the war. I haven't played the Gettysburg scenario yet, but in the Bull Run scenario, when I did commit artillery to a battle, I quickly realized that it had none or very little impact on improving the combat odds ratio. Either the artillery DRM needs beefed up to a +2 or allow all artillery chit DRMs available that turn to be combined in a battle as long as the artillery's parent formation has units involved in the battle.
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James Miller
United States
Richmond
Virginia
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As I recall the rules, the artillery chit does not add a +1 DRM (die roll modifier) but adds a step. For example, an artillery added to the defender in what was an attack of 4 steps to 2 steps (2-1 odds) now reduces the odds to 1-1 (4 steps versus 3).
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Devin McCane
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dracorex wrote:
As I recall the rules, the artillery chit does not add a +1 DRM (die roll modifier) but adds a step. For example, an artillery added to the defender in what was an attack of 4 steps to 2 steps (2-1 odds) now reduces the odds to 1-1 (4 steps versus 3).


Yea, I misspoke by saying a DRM. It adds a step to the battle but what I've found through several plays is that the extra step from artillery rarely makes a difference for either side. Most battles see combat factors where the added step from artillery will not cause a combat odds shift. It's also not historically accurate that if a division has both divisional and corps artillery available for bombardment, that both arty markers can't be used for the same battle. I implemented a rule where the AM adds a +1 to the opposing player's roll, which makes for much more interesting Battles. Another optional rule is to allow a player to pool AMs for a single battle so long as the AM's parent formation has units participating in the battle. Otherwise, AMs wind up severely underutilized and underpowered for the game
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