Seth Owen
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The Blue & Gray system was a passably authentic depiction of Civil War battles at the introductory level that was very popular in the 1970s under SPI and was updated with some changes by Decision Games a couple of decades later.

Originally published as folios and quad games, the system operated under some severe constraints as far as components went, but it really wasn't half bad most of the time and most of the time a judicious use of special rules and set ups would provide something remotely close to the actual event.

The conventional wisdom is that Cemetery Hill represented the weakest entry in the series and in this case the conventional wisdom is correct. Many were surprised when Decision games redid the Blue & Gray quad that the battle they dropped in order to make room for the Bull Run battles was Antietam instead of Cemetery Hill.

At the root of Cemetery Hill's problems was the ill-advised decision to depict the order of battle at the division scale (or half-division in the case of the Rebels) instead of the brigade level used for every other Blue & Gray game. While this was perhaps an understandable, if incorrect, decision when SPI published it as a folio, it was a very poor decision when Decision Games re-issued the game in a boxed edition where the same constraints did not apply. Gettysburg was a large battle -- the largest ever fought in North America, actually, and a B&G treatment of it at the brigade level might have been interesting.

Instead we have a clunky division level game with huge combat factors.

Compounding the problem is a peculiar treatment of terrain. Urban combat was very rare in the Civil War, and the few times it did occur, such as at Gettysburg, provided no evidence that defending a town represented much of an advantage. But Cemetery Hill makes the Town of Gettysburg into an important fortress-like defensive position that will always figure in the Union player's plans.

Likewise the game provides triple defense for defenders of Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill and the Round tops -- an astounding upgrade of some pretty unspectacular elevations a few dozen meters above the surrounding countryside.

Finally, the game starts at a strange time for a Gettysburg game -- around 2 p.m. on July 1st, just as Ewell's corps was about to rout the hapless XI Corps. One suspects that this was done to finesse that the game couldn't really cope with the swirling action of the morning and early afternoon of July 1st, as designed.

So what we're left with is a game that fails to develop in an authentically plausible way to depict the Battle of Gettysburg with very little chance of the historic "fishhook" developing or events resembling Longstreet's offensives.

This might have been acceptable if the result was at least an interesting game, but here, too, Cemetery Hill falls short. The online game site Hexwar.com provides Win-Loss stats for Cemetery Hill along with other games it offers and those statistics reveal that the game is severely imbalanced in favor of the Union side, with the Blue beating the Gray almost 2-1. Interestingly it doesn't matter whether the game is played with the classic SPI-era rules or the modified Decision Games version (with the "attacker ineffectiveness" rules).

As of late June, 2013, the Union players won 2,002 of the 3,080 games played under the new rules, for a winning percentage of 65%. This is essentially the same as the classic rules, where Union players won 977 of 1,559 games played, or 63%.

The outcome of the game depends enormously on how well the first couple of CSA attacks go against the federal XI Corps. If they go well, then the South can have a shot at victory, but if they go badly, one might as well just start over, with suggests that the better design choice would have been to start the game even later and just give Lee credit for beating Howard.

With a number of new games out depicting the Battle of Gettysburg as its 150th anniversary approaches there's little reason to revisit Cemetery Hill as part of your commemorations. It's very appropriate that it was called Cemetery Hill, because it isn't much of a Battle of Gettysburg game.

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Michael Sommers
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wargamer55 wrote:
At the root of Cemetery Hill's problems was the ill-advised decision to depict the order of battle at the division scale (or half-division in the case of the Rebels) instead of the brigade level used for every other Blue & Gray game. While this was perhaps an understandable, if incorrect, decision when SPI published it as a folio, ...

It was the only decision possible if the game were to be a Folio game, which by definition limited it to an 11x17 map and 100 counters. While you (and I) might have preferred a brigade-level game, that was not possible under the circumstances. So it could hardly be described as "incorrect".

Quote:
Instead we have a clunky division level game with huge combat factors.

Why is it any clunkier than the other games in the series, which had the same size map and the same number of counters? Are you saying that if the combat values had all been cut in half the game would be less clunky?

Quote:
Compounding the problem is a peculiar treatment of terrain. Urban combat was very rare in the Civil War, and the few times it did occur, such as at Gettysburg, provided no evidence that defending a town represented much of an advantage. But Cemetery Hill makes the Town of Gettysb urg into an inportant fortress-like defensive position that will always figure in the Union player's plans.

There has been plenty of experience both before and after the Civil War that defenders in a built-up area have an advantage. One might argue about how much of an advantage, and about unit frontages, but surely no one would claim that defending in a town is no different from fighting in the open.

Quote:
Likewise the game provides triple defense for defenders of Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill and the Round tops -- an astounding upgrade of some pretty unspectacular elevations a few dozen meters above the surrounding countryside.

Culp's Hill and the Round Tops are heavily wooded, which adds to their defensive value. Cemetery Hill, as I remember it, was tall enough and steep enough to be a real obstacle to an attacker (although tripling the defender does seem a bit much).

Quote:
Finally, the game starts at a strange time for a Gettysburg game -- around 2 p.m. on July 1st just as Ewell;s corps was about to rout the hapless XI Corps. One suspects that this was done to finesse that the game couldn't really cope with the swirling action of the morning and early afternoon of July 1st as designed.

I agree it is an odd time to start the game. Perhaps your suspicion is correct, but I would like to see actual evidence before deciding.

Quote:
So what we're left with is a game that fails to develop in an authentically plausible way to depict the Battle of Gettysburg with very little chance of the historic "fishhook" developing or events resembling Longstreet's offensives.

CH is part of a system, and the system does a reasonable job on the other battles. Perhaps it does not usually follow the course of the real battle is because the actual course of the battle was the anomaly, not the game system. Maybe Lee just had a really good series of die rolls, metaphorically speaking.

Quote:
This might have been acceptable if the result was at least an interesting game, but here, too, Cemetery Hill falls short. The online game site Hexwar.com provides Win-Loss stats for Cemetery Hill along with other games it offers and those statistics reveal that the game is severely imbalanced in favor of the Union side, with the Blue beating the Gray almost 2-1.

Non sequitur.

Quote:
Interestingly it doesn't matter whether the game is played with the classic SPI-era rules or the modified Decision Games version (with the "attacker ineffectiveness" rules),

An ineffectiveness rule was in the original SPI game as an optional rule. I don't know if DG changed it later, but it was not a new rule with them.

Quote:
The outcome of the game depends enormously on how well the first couple of CSA attacks go against the federal XI Corps. If they go well, then the South can have a shot at victory, but if they go badly, one might as well just start over, with suggests that the better design choice would have been to start the game even later and just give Lee credit for beating Howard.

Or it suggests that maybe Lee should have "started over" in reality. Do you really think Lee had a 50% chance of winning the battle? Would not changing the game to give him a better chance introduce some severe distortions?
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Seth Owen
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tms2 wrote:
wargamer55 wrote:
At the root of Cemetery Hill's problems was the ill-advised decision to depict the order of battle at the division scale (or half-division in the case of the Rebels) instead of the brigade level used for every other Blue & Gray game. While this was perhaps an understandable, if incorrect, decision when SPI published it as a folio, ...

It was the only decision possible if the game were to be a Folio game, which by definition limited it to an 11x17 map and 100 counters. While you (and I) might have preferred a brigade-level game, that was not possible under the circumstances. So it could hardly be described as "incorrect".

Quote:
Instead we have a clunky division level game with huge combat factors.

Why is it any clunkier than the other games in the series, which had the same size map and the same number of counters? Are you saying that if the combat values had all been cut in half the game would be less clunky?

Quote:
Compounding the problem is a peculiar treatment of terrain. Urban combat was very rare in the Civil War, and the few times it did occur, such as at Gettysburg, provided no evidence that defending a town represented much of an advantage. But Cemetery Hill makes the Town of Gettysb urg into an inportant fortress-like defensive position that will always figure in the Union player's plans.

There has been plenty of experience both before and after the Civil War that defenders in a built-up area have an advantage. One might argue about how much of an advantage, and about unit frontages, but surely no one would claim that defending in a town is no different from fighting in the open.

Quote:
Likewise the game provides triple defense for defenders of Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill and the Round tops -- an astounding upgrade of some pretty unspectacular elevations a few dozen meters above the surrounding countryside.

Culp's Hill and the Round Tops are heavily wooded, which adds to their defensive value. Cemetery Hill, as I remember it, was tall enough and steep enough to be a real obstacle to an attacker (although tripling the defender does seem a bit much).

Quote:
Finally, the game starts at a strange time for a Gettysburg game -- around 2 p.m. on July 1st just as Ewell;s corps was about to rout the hapless XI Corps. One suspects that this was done to finesse that the game couldn't really cope with the swirling action of the morning and early afternoon of July 1st as designed.

I agree it is an odd time to start the game. Perhaps your suspicion is correct, but I would like to see actual evidence before deciding.

Quote:
So what we're left with is a game that fails to develop in an authentically plausible way to depict the Battle of Gettysburg with very little chance of the historic "fishhook" developing or events resembling Longstreet's offensives.

CH is part of a system, and the system does a reasonable job on the other battles. Perhaps it does not usually follow the course of the real battle is because the actual course of the battle was the anomaly, not the game system. Maybe Lee just had a really good series of die rolls, metaphorically speaking.

Quote:
This might have been acceptable if the result was at least an interesting game, but here, too, Cemetery Hill falls short. The online game site Hexwar.com provides Win-Loss stats for Cemetery Hill along with other games it offers and those statistics reveal that the game is severely imbalanced in favor of the Union side, with the Blue beating the Gray almost 2-1.

Non sequitur.

Quote:
Interestingly it doesn't matter whether the game is played with the classic SPI-era rules or the modified Decision Games version (with the "attacker ineffectiveness" rules),

An ineffectiveness rule was in the original SPI game as an optional rule. I don't know if DG changed it later, but it was not a new rule with them.

Quote:
The outcome of the game depends enormously on how well the first couple of CSA attacks go against the federal XI Corps. If they go well, then the South can have a shot at victory, but if they go badly, one might as well just start over, with suggests that the better design choice would have been to start the game even later and just give Lee credit for beating Howard.

Or it suggests that maybe Lee should have "started over" in reality. Do you really think Lee had a 50% chance of winning the battle? Would not changing the game to give him a better chance introduce some severe distortions?


I'm not entirely sure why this rather poor game makes you rise to its defense, but I stand by my comments. The game simply doesn't work as a simulation of the Battle of Gettysburg nor does it succeed as a game. Whether or not Lee had a 50% chance of winning the battle, a player should have a roughly even chance of winning his game. Two different issues.

The B&G system, as I made clear, works reasonably well at the brigade level. As a divisional level game it does not. Rather than trying to shoehorn the whole battle into a division scale, the designers could have chosen to do a portion of the battle at the brigade level. They could have limited the game either by geography or by chronology.

You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but I can't recommend players spend their time on this game now.
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Tim Benjamin
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I recently tried this game again solitaire (No Atk Eff). As with our previous ftf experiences, the Confederates stall out in a E-W line that passes through Gettysburg. Other Gettysburg games often make it too easy on the 1st day for the Rebels but not this poor choice for a folio game.
 
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Colin Raitt
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I mostly agree with Owen on this. The divisions are clunky. As the union, I'm wise to give ground to form a line that can't be flanked but where I stand in defensive terrain I'm immovable. Giving ground also delays the arrival of confederate reinforcements to the front. The confederates have a choice of 5 or 6 strong hexes to attack, on average they will cause a little damage but have so much of their army attack ineffective that they can't continue. That's not as much fun as combining attacks on adjacent brigades so one will be caught unable to retreat. A larger map with more counters is exactly what is needed for more fun.

I think the results match history, probable union victory, defense has the advantage over offense. To be fair to players, double bragging rights if you win as the rebels.
 
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Kim Meints
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It's been mentioned for many years and even soon after the game came out to drop "Fortress Gettysburg" with no doubling and the game starts to play better.

As in many reviews here or in mags the Reb's must work far harder than the union to pull out a victory.I've only had a handful in the many decades I've played the game so it can be done.

Yes I also thought the starting time of the game should have been made earlier but I'm sure the designer/developer thought a later start would be a balancing factor in favor of the Reb's
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I agree. My group has always 'un-doubled' the Gettysburg hexes.
At least it forces the Rebs back to fight for the historical hills.
 
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Michael Sommers
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wargamer55 wrote:
I'm not entirely sure why this rather poor game makes you rise to its defense, ...

If it matters, I am not defending the game per se, but I think some of your criticisms of it are not valid.

Quote:
... but I stand by my comments. The game simply doesn't work as a simulation of the Battle of Gettysburg ...

Just because the game doesn't often follow the actual course of events does not mean that it is no good as a simulation, especially when the same system works okay for other battles. As I said, it could be that the real battle was the anomaly, not the game.

The real question is not whether the game usually follows the historical course of events, but rather it is why it does not. You suggest it is because the units are division and because of the defensive benefit of the town. I don't think either of these explanations works, but maybe you are right. However, "Because I say so" is not a valid argument.

Quote:
... nor does it succeed as a game. Whether or not Lee had a 50% chance of winning the battle, a player should have a roughly even chance of winning his game. Two different issues.

If you have to distort a working system to improve the winning chances of a player, then you distort the simulation, which is what you are complaining about.

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The B&G system, as I made clear, works reasonably well at the brigade level. As a divisional level game it does not.

The game system doesn't know whether the counters represent brigades or division, or battalions or army groups, for that matter.

Quote:
Rather than trying to shoehorn the whole battle into a division scale, the designers could have chosen to do a portion of the battle at the brigade level. They could have limited the game either by geography or by chronology.

They could have, if they weren't constrained by the feedback. Maybe they should have, anyway, or made an entire quad game on the battle, sort of like they did with Waterloo (but that was separate engagements).

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You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but I can't recommend players spend their time on this game now.

I'm not asking you to.


It is definitely a somewhat odd game, but I think a deeper analysis is required to determine why it gives such odd results.
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Michael Sommers
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polate wrote:
I mostly agree with Owen on this. The divisions are clunky. As the union, I'm wise to give ground to form a line that can't be flanked but where I stand in defensive terrain I'm immovable.

So was Meade, on the 2nd and 3rd days.
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Michael Sommers
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pete belli wrote:

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There has been plenty of experience both before and after the Civil War that defenders in a built-up area have an advantage.


The town of Gettysburg was a military obstacle. It should offer no defensive benefits.

Aren't "military obstacle" and "defensive benefit" just about the same thing?
 
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That's very true. You hear of the Civilians in Gettysburg during the battle and the tending of the wounded but no heavy action occurred there and why was that. It was close to Culp's Hill and Cemetery Ridge but still no major fight even when the Union on Day 1 were retreating through it to get to the high ground beyond and from the point Pete made the reason why it wasn't used by either side. And the town sure doesn't figure into other games on the battle where you use it as a defensive bulwark.

But in this game the town does matter and that frankly is a design flaw that the play testing should have shown(or maybe it did and still got ignored)
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Michael Sommers
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pete belli wrote:
The town was an obstacle to both offensive and defensive maneuver. With the exception of Confederate sharpshooters positioned in buildings which faced the Union lines, soldiers avoided operating in Gettysburg.

They didn't avoid it, per se. The only chance for a fight in the town in the real battle was lost because the Yankees were running when they passed through it. Had they stood and fought in the town, do you really think it would have been the same as fighting in the open?
 
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Seth Owen
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tms2 wrote:
wargamer55 wrote:
I'm not entirely sure why this rather poor game makes you rise to its defense, ...

If it matters, I am not defending the game per se, but I think some of your criticisms of it are not valid.

Quote:
... but I stand by my comments. The game simply doesn't work as a simulation of the Battle of Gettysburg ...

Just because the game doesn't often follow the actual course of events does not mean that it is no good as a simulation, especially when the same system works okay for other battles. As I said, it could be that the real battle was the anomaly, not the game.

The real question is not whether the game usually follows the historical course of events, but rather it is why it does not. You suggest it is because the units are division and because of the defensive benefit of the town. I don't think either of these explanations works, but maybe you are right. However, "Because I say so" is not a valid argument.

Quote:
... nor does it succeed as a game. Whether or not Lee had a 50% chance of winning the battle, a player should have a roughly even chance of winning his game. Two different issues.

If you have to distort a working system to improve the winning chances of a player, then you distort the simulation, which is what you are complaining about.

Quote:
The B&G system, as I made clear, works reasonably well at the brigade level. As a divisional level game it does not.

The game system doesn't know whether the counters represent brigades or division, or battalions or army groups, for that matter.

Quote:
Rather than trying to shoehorn the whole battle into a division scale, the designers could have chosen to do a portion of the battle at the brigade level. They could have limited the game either by geography or by chronology.

They could have, if they weren't constrained by the feedback. Maybe they should have, anyway, or made an entire quad game on the battle, sort of like they did with Waterloo (but that was separate engagements).

Quote:
You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but I can't recommend players spend their time on this game now.

I'm not asking you to.


It is definitely a somewhat odd game, but I think a deeper analysis is required to determine why it gives such odd results.


While the game system doesn't know whether the units are brigades or divisions, the players do and the fact is that divisions behave differently than brigades, which, in turn, behave differently than regiments, etc. This is why there are different levels of warfare -- and of wargames, for that matter. For an extreme example, simply calling them "divisions" instead of "squads" would not make a wargame about the Moscow campaign using ASL rules satisfactory.

The case of Cemetery Hill is not so extreme, of course, but the scale actually does matter. The combat factors of the divisions are very extreme, especially compared to the combat values of the artillery units (which have not been adjusted from the typical B&G values)and changes the relationship between them excessively. Added to the ill-advised terrain analysis and we have a recipe for a very historically suspect game.

Making Gettysburg town hexes doubling terrain is, simply, wrong as a historical fact. Civil War armies rarely encountered urban fighting situations but whenever they potentially did they invariably preferred to fight outside the built-up areas rather than inside of it.

This is in marked contrast to 20th Century practice or even contemporary European practice. There are a lot of reasons for this, such as differences in construction techniques, settlement patterns, weapons and doctrine but regardless of the reasons, no proper historical wargame of the Civil War should encourage units to occupy town hexes and fight from them because that's not what civil war troops did.

Quote:
Just because the game doesn't often follow the actual course of events does not mean that it is no good as a simulation, especially when the same system works okay for other battles.


I simply don't follow your logic here. Of course it's no good as a simulation if the battle does not often follow the actual course of events if the reason for it not following the actual events is a lack of historical authenticity. You insist on treating this as some sort of general critique of the B&G system despite my disclaimers.

Quote:
As I said, it could be that the real battle was the anomaly, not the game.


I don't get this one, either. this seems to privilege the model over the thing being modeled. It's the job of the model to reflect the essential elements of its topic in order to succeed.

Quote:
If you have to distort a working system to improve the winning chances of a player, then you distort the simulation, which is what you are complaining about.


Another criticism I don't understand. Adjusting victory conditions to make the game experience challenging for both players regardless of the objective military chances of each side is such a routine part of wargame design that I don't see how you can excuse the egregious failure in this case.

Let me try again. If the game was a worthwhile simulation then one might excuse its imbalance as being the price you might pay for the insights the design can provide. If, however, the simulation value is minimal, a wargame might still be a worthwhile player experience if it provides an interesting competitive experience that rewards player skill. The game is neither. Hence, in a world that includes a dozen or more other games about Gettysburg, this particular one is not worth your time. In a world with a dozen or more other Blue & Gray system wargames, this is also not worth your time when you could play one of the other ones.
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Michael Sommers
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jackiesavon wrote:
That's very true. You hear of the Civilians in Gettysburg during the battle and the tending of the wounded but no heavy action occurred there and why was that. It was close to Culp's Hill and Cemetery Ridge but still no major fight even when the Union on Day 1 were retreating through it to get to the high ground beyond and from the point Pete made the reason why it wasn't used by either side.

You and the others seem to be arguing that since in the real battle there was little fighting in the town, there could not have been any major fighting there, even if the course of the battle had been different. That is not logical. It is like saying that since there was very little fighting around the defense works around Washington, those works provided no benefit to the defenders.

Quote:
And the town sure doesn't figure into other games on the battle where you use it as a defensive bulwark.

The question is why. How do other games treat the town? The only other Gettysburg games I have played are the 1958 AH game and TSS, neither of which is conveniently available for reference at the moment. I also just got, but have not played, XTR's Gettysburg: Lee's Greatest Gamble, which does give a defensive benefit to the town, equal to ravines, slopes, and heavy woods.

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But in this game the town does matter and that frankly is a design flaw that the play testing should have shown(or maybe it did and still got ignored)

Then any CW game that gives a defensive benefit to towns must also be flawed.
 
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Seth Owen
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tms2 wrote:
jackiesavon wrote:
That's very true. You hear of the Civilians in Gettysburg during the battle and the tending of the wounded but no heavy action occurred there and why was that. It was close to Culp's Hill and Cemetery Ridge but still no major fight even when the Union on Day 1 were retreating through it to get to the high ground beyond and from the point Pete made the reason why it wasn't used by either side.

You and the others seem to be arguing that since in the real battle there was little fighting in the town, there could not have been any major fighting there, even if the course of the battle had been different. That is not logical. It is like saying that since there was very little fighting around the defense works around Washington, those works provided no benefit to the defenders.

Quote:
And the town sure doesn't figure into other games on the battle where you use it as a defensive bulwark.

The question is why. How do other games treat the town? The only other Gettysburg games I have played are the 1958 AH game and TSS, neither of which is conveniently available for reference at the moment. I also just got, but have not played, XTR's Gettysburg: Lee's Greatest Gamble, which does give a defensive benefit to the town, equal to ravines, slopes, and heavy woods.

Quote:
But in this game the town does matter and that frankly is a design flaw that the play testing should have shown(or maybe it did and still got ignored)

Then any CW game that gives a defensive benefit to towns must also be flawed.


Actually, few Civil war games do give a defensive benefit to towns and any that did so would be flawed.

I think you make an odd argument. You admit you have played hardly any games on the battle and of the two other games that you have played neither one makes Gettysburg a bastion, so I'm not sure I understand why you feel the need to defend Cemetery Hill on this point. As it happens I have played other Gettysburg games and read up on the battle as well and this is why I think the town terrain benefit in Gettysburg is a design error. In Gettysburg, for one recent example, defending in the town is penalized.

Quote:
You and the others seem to be arguing that since in the real battle there was little fighting in the town, there could not have been any major fighting there, even if the course of the battle had been different. That is not logical. It is like saying that since there was very little fighting around the defense works around Washington, those works provided no benefit to the defenders.


As I just said, there were a number of occasions when battles occurred near enough to towns that if there had been advantage in fighting there they would have done so.
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wargamer55 wrote:
...in a world that includes a dozen or more other games about Gettysburg, ...


I think your count might be a little low, otherwise fascinating discussion - I love the B&G system, tho- I fall in with the 'Cemetary Hill is a lousy sim/game' crowd. Antietam is no peach either!
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Seth Owen
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oldbrownsfan wrote:
wargamer55 wrote:
...in a world that includes a dozen or more other games about Gettysburg, ...


I think your count might be a little low, otherwise fascinating discussion - I love the B&G system, tho- I fall in with the 'Cemetary Hill is a lousy sim/game' crowd. Antietam is no peach either!


It's very hard for a game to account for McClellan.
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Michael Sommers
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Regarding the "no fighting in towns" issue, I am currently reading Guelzo's Gettysburg. Guelzo mentions that Reynolds planned to barricade the streets and defend the town if it came to that, so obviously fighting in towns was not unthinkable.

In game terms, however, I do question whether several divisions could fit in the town and fight. Perhaps a simple rule change could help things: friendly units in the town may not be adjacent to each other. I haven't tried this, though.
 
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Seth Owen
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tms2 wrote:
Regarding the "no fighting in towns" issue, I am currently reading Guelzo's Gettysburg. Guelzo mentions that Reynolds planned to barricade the streets and defend the town if it came to that, so obviously fighting in towns was not unthinkable.

In game terms, however, I do question whether several divisions could fit in the town and fight. Perhaps a simple rule change could help things: friendly units in the town may not be adjacent to each other. I haven't tried this, though.


It might help, although I think the divisional scale is also part of the problem because the game system was not adjusted to reflect the scale change.

I don't doubt that some house rules, or even a redesign, might salvage the game. As a reviewer I feel obliged to deal with the game as published, however, so my reviews don't normally account for player-modified versions of games unless it becomes official errata.

 
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Enrico Viglino
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Eugene
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Slowed - BGG's moderation policies have driven me partially from here
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To be reasonable, town fighting would be a very complicated situation.
For the type of game this is, it's probably best to treat it as the
system does woods - no benefit but also no penalty.

A more detailed treatment would worry about limited frontage, disruption
and other effects which probably come out to a minor advantage on defense
in most cases - but NOT 2:1 for divisional sized units!
 
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Eric Brosius
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Needham Heights
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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The characteristic of the town of Gettysburg that sticks in my mind is that defending troops found it hard to coordinate with other units just a few streets over, and that retreat was difficult to the extent that some units found themselves cut off. So if you were going to reflect the town's effect, perhaps you'd roll a die for a unit that was defending in a town hex and had to retreat, and on a 5 or 6 it would get lost and be eliminated.
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