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Subject: Dixie, SPI 1976 rss

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James Terry
United States
Somersworth
New Hampshire
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I happened to be telling my wife about alternate history games and I mentioned the premise behind Dixie. Although I've had it for years I've never played it - my conversation spawned a nostalgic yearning to give it a try and I pulled it off the shelf.

For those that don’t recall Dixie posits the South winning the Civil War and the two combatants facing off again in the 1930’s. It’s a classic SPI folio game - 100 counters, 17” x 22” map and eight pages of rules.

The game uses some pretty novel mechanics for 1976. All activity (movement, combat, even bringing in reinforcements) requires the expenditure of “Adminstrative Points” (AP for short). Each side in a scenario is given a fixed number of AP’s to use per turn. Also, the turn order is not fixed - whichever side lost the fewest number of steps the previous turn can choose who goes first on a given turn. A couple of other minor wrinkles are present, all in all it must have seemed pretty radical in S&T 54.

I read through the rules and decided to give the first scenario “Alternate World I: The War for Hemispheric Security” a spin (love those alternative history names). The first thing I noticed was the flexibility provided by the AP’s. I started the USA on a determined strike into Texas and since I was able to use AP’s as a modifier in combat I was able to ensure a good start on my offensive. (The scenario requires the North to seize oil fields or a major city in the South.)

The CSA quickly recovered and pretty easily pushed the North out of Texas. In this scenario the South (I guess for being on the defensive) get’s 10 more AP’s. The advantage is significant. Dixie provides a lot of help for the defender. First, terrain effects are ignored for movement on your side of the boarder. Additionally a separate rail movement phase allows you to reposition forces anywhere on the map (as long as you stay on your side). These rules combine to allow a defender to quickly parry any concentration of forces.

The game also allows “dead” units to be revived and returned to the game as replacements. The initial USA offensive into Texas in my game killed a pile of CSA units, but with the CSA’s surplus of AP’s they were back in the game the next turn. It turns into a sort of a “Night of the Living Dead” effect.

The North then tried a broad attack across a few front. The decision of who should go first could be interesting. On a couple of turns the South had initiative but allowed the North to go first so it could use the defensive advantages described above to react, rather than trying to anticipate what the USA would do.

My game ended with the North taking Atlanta, but then being pretty easily kicked out and the CSA winning.

I found the game intriguing – the AP’s and variable initiative give each player a lot of freedom and possible tacks. Unfortunately I feel a lot of the intrigue and possible fun is lost when playing, as I did here, solitaire. I’m now hoping I can talk someone into playing Dixie and see if it works as a two player game. Despite its historical (in war gaming history) reputation as a “notorious turkey” – (see http://www.costik.com/spicom/gamescd.html) I have some hope for it.
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