Avalon-Hill's 1961 "Chancellorsville" Game

James N.

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James N. has been treating us to great memories of board games past...
With that note of encouragement, I'll add the final of my collection of Centennial-era Avalon-Hill games, their 1961 Chancellorsville; unfortunately, we found this to be just another unsatisfactory attempt by our old favorite game company. After enjoying their previously featured Gettysburg game https://civilwartalk.com/threads/avalon-hills-1958-game-gettysburg.176489/ we had high hopes for another classic Civil War battle, but instead found this:

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I think our greatest disappointment was with the *NEW* "improved" hexagonal-spaced gameboard, so unlike the realistic terrain map of the predecessor. Above shows the entire mapboard, which includes the whole area over which was fought the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Salem Church, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania. More recent games featuring such a map might've included rules and additional counters to allow the players to recreate all of these various encounters, but at this point in 1961 A-H saw fit to only have the armies of Lee and Hooker for the Chancellorsville scenario.

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Here's a close-up of the area of Fredericksburg from the Rappahannock to Hamilton's Crossing and includes Marye's and Stafford Heights as orange/brown hexes. Smaller streams are in blue, as are the fords which are so important for the Union player, while the heavy wooded terrain of the Wilderness is represented by the green hexes. The basic problem with the Chancellorsville game is that since Lee's army is outnumbered two-to-one by Hooker's it is as usual almost impossible for the South to win. My particular complaint was always that due to it being a board game it was likewise impossible to win by any such unseen maneuver as Hooker made when he crossed the Rappahannock in the first place, or Jackson made during the battle with his legendary flank march. The Gettysburg game, despite its limitations, was much better at giving one the feeling of leading troops across terrain and watching the actual battle unfold. This simply became a slugfest to see how long it took for the South to be obliterated!

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Unit types are represented above; unfortunately, the numerous Headquarters units - here Lee, Jackson, and McLaws for the South, Hooker and Howard for the North - have NO bearing on the game and are included only for historical reference. (Similarly, I added numbers in ink to indicate to which corps the units belonged.) It is common and traditional on most military maps for the opposing sides to be represented in red and blue; unfortunately, here and in most other A-H games, red becomes an annoying shade of PINK. As can be seen, most of the combat units are also traditional arms - infantry, cavalry, and artillery - but the Northern player also has units of pontoon bridges and assault boats for use in addition to the fords in crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers. (The latter were actually only the pontoons without their bridging.) The white pieces indicate hastily-erected fieldwork entrenchments to increase combat factors on defense. There was no limit to the stacking of units, making for awkward and unwieldy stacks cluttering up the gameboard.

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To complete the game a simple rules sheet and reference folder above and the usual Time Record Card and innovative but essentially useless "slide rule" with which to compute the combat odds below were the only other elements included with the game.

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Pat Answer

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Wow. That map is what not to do with hexes, alright. And I would refuse to play with pink Confederate counters on principle. LOL

As a battle, Chancellorsville is a tough one without a real double-blind system complete with being able to use decoy counters. It is probably best to just have the first turn be Jackson’s May 2 flank attack.
 

James N.

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Wow. That map is what not to do with hexes, alright. And I would refuse to play with pink Confederate counters on principle. LOL

As a battle, Chancellorsville is a tough one without a real double-blind system complete with being able to use decoy counters. It is probably best to just have the first turn be Jackson’s May 2 flank attack.
They made the mistake of redesigning their Gettysburg into this ridiculous format, pink Confederates and all; Mike @mkyzzzrdet bought a copy of THAT which we also played and found just as unsatisfactory as Chancellorsville and it consequently received just as little play time.
 

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