Lowell Drake
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Meridian
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I have a desperate desire to own the game "On to Richmond." I find the Peninsular Campaign to be incredibly interesting, and I have the strongest desire to play a good game of the Campaign because I know I can do a better job than McClellan (OK, just about anyone could have done a better job, but I just want my armchair chance at it). On to Richmond is, without a doubt, the best game out there to depict the campaign, but it’s virtually unavailable at the prices it demands. (If I paid $250 for an unpunched copy of the game, I couldn’t bring myself to punch it out and play it.) So it was an exciting moment when I discovered Forged in Fire. Kind of a Peninsula Campaign lite. FiF has a lot to recommend it, but after one play I’ve discovered some things that disappoint me.

Cody and I played the first scenario, which is the opening of the campaign and uses the same set-up as the full campaign game. There was Magruder with his paltry force behind the Warwick Line, and there was the overwhelming Army of the Potomac in Fort Monroe. But McClellan begins the game with a heavy liability - he has to roll a 13 or greater with two dice (if Cody’d rolled a 13 I’d have wanted a closer look at the dice) to get an extra activation point. So there he is with 3 activation points and a huge army. To improve his odds he has to take either Yorktown or Norfolk. Since it was our first game it didn’t look all that daunting for Cody to take on the CSS Virginia, so the first two turns he spent two of his precious APs to try to take out Norfolk. He managed to score some hits on the Virginia, but since my army hadn’t suffered any casualties it was no trouble to repair it at the end of each turn. Two turns and McClellan had nothing to show for it. So turn three Cody began moving his army up the Peninsula.

In the meantime my two corps led by Smith and Hill had been slogging south from Richmond to help man the defenses of the Warwick Line. The second turn the weather was mud, so they only inched forward, but by the end of the fourth turn they were manning the ramparts of Fort Magruder. Meanwhile, Longstreet had moved his corps up from Fort Magruder and was helping defend Yorktown and Lee’s Mill.

Turn four Cody attacked Lee’s Mill and I was surprised at how quickly my defenders were chewed up. I had to voluntarily retreat to Yorktown, swelling McClellan with confidence, and giving up part of the Warwick Line. Turn five Cody decided to take on Yorktown. Lee’s Mill had fallen so easily, and the Army of the Potomac was way stronger then my defenders, and after our embarrassment at Lee’s Mill it didn’t seem like it would take all that much to force the rebels out of the fortifications around the town.

The Battle: Yorktown was fairly well defended with both Magruder’s and Longstreet’s corps, so it was obvious this fight wasn’t going to be as short as Lee’s Mill. But the Army of the Potomac was SO LARGE and very intimidating. We set up the forces on the Battle Board and began rolling dice. Not a bad system, and I loved being able to rally troops and bring in reinforcements from Fort Magruder, and I rolled especially well so both Smith’s and Hill’s crops were in Yorktown in short order (for some reason Hill was either sick back in Fort Magruder or enjoying a dalliance, because it took a few battle turns to get him into the fray). Cody was also able to bring his reinforcements over from Lee’s Mill, so we ended up with virtually all our available forces in the battle. It was a very long battle. The term "dice fest" might apply. OH MY GOSH WE ROLLED DICE! That battle just went on and on and on. Roll after roll, rallying troops, reinforcing, the Army of the Potomac losing hand over fist, and though the rebels were getting hit, I was able to rally often enough that they weren’t getting appreciably weaker. Since we were under time constraints to finish the scenario, Cody felt Yorktown was a make-it-or-break-it moment. Well, it broke it. He was finally forced to retreat by which time he had one artillery unit remaining. So the rebels on the ramparts of Yorktown hooted and catcalled as four Union corps commanders and a broken 12-pounder Napoleon left the field. McClellan had to take a ship to Europe since he knew he couldn’t return to Washington after annihilating the Army of the Potomac. TALK ABOUT A BUTCHER!

And here are my impressions after the game:
First of all, was Longstreet really that near the Warwick line that he could reinforce Magruder so quickly? From what I’ve read (not enough, but hope to correct that), Magruder was sweating for a while before help arrived.

Second, historically, Norfolk fell without a fight, and the Virginia wasn’t even involved in the defense of the navy yard. In fact, taking Norfolk was Lincoln’s one time in his life when he actually put together a military operation, and it didn’t use any of the units depicted in FiF. I think Norfolk should automatically fall on the ninth turn (mid-May), and if McClellan takes it before then he gets the boost on the Confidence Track, but if not at least it’s neutralized.

And finally, though the battle system is fun with rallying units and bringing reinforcements, allowing a battle to go on until one army is eliminated is totally out of character with a Civil War battle. (OK, Hood managed to pretty much eliminate his army at Franklin and Nashville, but that was the exception, not the norm.) The cleanness of a CRT (like On to Richmond) would expedite this, but it wouldn’t be as much fun.

Looking forward to comments.
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Dave Heberer
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Lake Stevens
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Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.
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I only got to play this once, and I am not up enough on my history to note some of the things you did. I had a bit of trouble getting the game rules right, and I'm not sure we did everything right. It seemed like we didn't maneuver very much and rather had a series of stand up fights that were delaying actions to keep the union from advancing to Richmond.

I want to try it again for sure, but I need more rules clarifications I think.
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Charles Lewis
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West Des Moines
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Having recently punched a copy of On to Richmond, I can say it is great fun.
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Lowell Drake
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Meridian
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Meisterchow wrote:
Having recently punched a copy of On to Richmond, I can say it is great fun.


Rubbing salt in the wound.
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Charles Lewis
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I wasn't trying to be mean-spirited, but rather it was wildly thrilling to be consciously reducing the value of far and away the most valuable game in my collection.

Should you ever get a hold of one, don't hesitate to punch it out - games are meant to be played!
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Cody Laux
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Sparks
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I would also note that the first turn was rain, so I wasn't able to move a siege gun on the board until turn 3.

I'm itching to play again, and I'm hoping the game opens up a bit after what seems to be a very scripted beginning.
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