Mark Simonitch's "The US Civil War"

Pat Answer

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James N. has been treating us to great memories of board games past; in this post I'll share from the other end, time-wise. This game came out in 2015. The designer deliberately draws from Eric Lee Smith's classic from 1983, The Civil War, 1861-1865 and also Mark Herman's For The People (which I, as a strictly hex-map player, cannot comment on further than I've heard and believe it's a good one).

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(Can't go wrong with Thure de Thulstrup's art.)

This game is mid-range in difficulty. If you have played old Avalon Hill hex and counter games before, concepts like leader ratings helping or hurting your chances to move units and win battles, zones of influence/control in the hexes around an army, or having a chance to react at certain times during your opponent's turn are familiar. But if they are not, a real strength of this game is the way such things are streamlined. There are some very complex systems out there - Simonitch has distilled the essence of them and managed to keep the basic rules to twenty pages. Of course, that's nineteen pages too long for some, not nearly comprehensive enough for others... LOL! I have to say, after some "monster" games I've experienced, that I appreciate the simple set-up and pacing that lets you fit at least two game "year" scenarios between lunch and dinner.

The following is a sketch rather than a review or a commercial. I don't have all the nuances down yet myself, but last weekend I had some time to noodle around. Let's take a look at "1861":

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Lyon got thrown from his horse at the end of turn 1. The single most vocalized criticism of the game is that leaders come and go according to historical schedule regardless of what happens on the board. The design point is that leaders were influential but did not in and of themselves decide the course of the war. The better overall strategic plan will win, as it should. You're not locked into history by any means here but still it would be nice, as other games allow, to have 'what-ifs' like Lyon and Jackson surviving.
Curtis, good but not as aggressive as Lyon, has taken over. Van Dorn believes he sees an opportunity but wants to keep the entrenchments so must leave a unit behind.

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In Virginia, everyone digs in.
This game has a very interesting way to activate forces depending on the difference between opposing die rolls. Say the Confederates roll a 5 and the Union a 2. The Confederate player gets to do three "actions" (moving an army, digging in, building a fort, rally a demoralized force, etc.) and then the Union player gets three. This forces you to plan long-term because you will never have enough moves in any one turn. And "cautious" generals, like Little Mac here with the red box around his initiative rating, take two "actions" each time. [McClellan has grown on me enough to dispute his numeric depiction here, but that is another story... at least he has a very good defense rating, which also gives him a high probability of reacting to any Confederate strike at the capital.]
The Union player is on a timer politically, which goes a long way toward balancing the game - an active Confederate defense has a great chance of disrupting the Federal juggernaut, especially before it gathers steam. Or, conversely, entrenchments are a pain in the posterior for an attacker, as they should be. Naval resources aren't there right now so a Peninsula campaign won't be in the cards for a while.

Speaking of cards...
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As in the old great Milton-Bradley game Risk, you can accumulate up to five cards which you may spend to enhance or supplement your actions during a turn. Had this been the actual Union hand at the time, I would have definitely been looking at the James River. However, a Confederate seizure of an under-defended Washington is close to 'sudden death', so the timing would have to be right. Those "Any" cards can lead to real nastiness if you haven't thought things out.

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Kentucky is scheduled to go Union at the end of the year, basically unless invaded first by the Federals. Lincoln will keel-haul any general who thinks about it. This game mechanic makes what was in my opinion the single greatest Confederate mistake of the war into an opportunity to grab objective hexes (labeled in bold print) and add resource points at least temporarily. On the other hand, I decide that building forts is a better way to use the lull. A Johnston's forces here are just not that large.

More later, I hope...
 
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Pat Answer

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Conveniences abound: track game time, leader arrivals/promotions/removals, and political and economic factors all in one place. (Remembering to move a counter is harder than any of the math. LOL) And if an army stack gets a little too big just replace it on the board with its designated marker and use the display space to do your organizing and fighting with ease.

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I had time to get into "1862" before calling the experiment a marginal Confederate victory on points:

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The Union really struggled to get an effective blockade set up. Capturing a fortified port is harder than it looks; a coastal fort has an "intrinsic" strength and amphibious assaults are limited in size besides needing those naval cards. The result was a much steadier stream of Confederate imports. (Fear not, naval buffs! This is just the basic game. You have the option to play the advanced game with the actual naval counters and leaders included.)

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Van Dorn was an absolute disaster in the Trans-Mississippi. In a longer game, this would be quite significant, but here it wasn't enough to offset the 'timer'.

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Strategic movement between turn phases adds flexibility to your plans if you have transport capacity, and of course the Union has the capacity, not only by rail but by river. A Johnston chose to avoid any big 'Donelson' losses of units but cavalry raids could not shut down the rail lines long enough to keep Buell at bay. Federal forces methodically rolled through Kentucky and into Tennessee. Next time Rebel Pat will try seizing any Kentucky objectives that can be occupied and held for at least one turn.

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But in the East, not only stalemate on the main front, but deciding on a pincer movement in the Valley with Fremont and Banks (yeah, what was I thinking?) turned out, well, as you can see if you don't plan for the 50-50 chance your opponent will end up with the initiative for the turn, and have some cards to enhance combat rolls under a highly rated leader with a clear line of supply... you get much Yankee fanny kicked by a Stonewall. Reinforcements now needed to hold onto Harper's Ferry (and its victory point) will have to come from McClellan, who will be facing Lee instead of J Johnston next turn when the latter will get the flu as there never was a Seven Pines.

So, there you have it: one of the stops on the road from the board games of the Centennial era. It is definitely something I would recommend - if you are into this sort of thing of course.

(There are other stops on that road, one of which I will have to share at some point so you all can see what do-not-try-this-at-home really looks like...) :D
 
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Pat Answer

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In my enthusiasm I didn’t mention the potential drawback that the board is just shy of 3 x 4 feet! It is well the short scenarios play so smoothly; not everyone can hold onto a dining room table for a whole campaign. My wide camera angles didn’t do justly in the semi-permanent space a gracious Mrs has allowed me in this age of house arrest and next to no guests...LOL I will try again later in a room with better light.

Here is a clear image of the prototype map from the Boardgaminglife website:

https://images.app.goo.gl/WUEMZrHKFpsHsaVu8
 

Lubliner

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In my enthusiasm I didn’t mention the potential drawback that the board is just shy of 3 x 4 feet! It is well the short scenarios play so smoothly; not everyone can hold onto a dining room table for a whole campaign. My wide camera angles didn’t do justly in the semi-permanent space a gracious Mrs has allowed me in this age of house arrest and next to no guests...LOL I will try again later in a room with better light.

Here is a clear image of the prototype map from the Boardgaminglife website:

https://images.app.goo.gl/WUEMZrHKFpsHsaVu8
Perfect, thanks @Pat Answer.
Lubliner.
 

Pat Answer

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Depends on how detailed the game itself is and whether you choose a scenario (usually a year) or a full campaign game. The three games I know best are The Civil War (Victory Games), War Between the States (both 1977 and 2004 editions), and the one in this thread. Of the three, this one is the most streamlined and the full campaign solitaire takes me the equivalent of a day and a half of uninterrupted playing time. (One weekend, the Mrs took the kids to visit family... I got all my chores done the night before, stocked the fridge with some quick meals, turned up the brass band and fife and drum music and had a blast... :D)
With opponents who generally know how the game works and aren't there to quibble over rules interpretation, it would go faster. The smaller scenarios can be played on a rainy afternoon.

TCW-VG is not ideal for solitaire because a major point is hidden strategic priority decisions. It is more complex and you never know whether a turn will end quickly or drag on because one or both sides gain more move points on a roll. Figure maybe two "days" when playing with opponents.

Both do-able compared to WBtS! You can barely fit a year scenario in a weekend. The only campaign game I ever did was back in college and it took five of us in two teams about two months of weekends (and IIRC we called it 'early' when Lincoln was going to win the election). That's 216(!) turns, week by week from April 61 to May 65 if it goes the distance. It isn't actually hard to get the hang of, but it is huge in terms of counters and map/chart space and you spend a lot of time managing your budget and counting and distributing supply points... Solitaire? Not even in this age of COVID.

Sorry for the book and I hope that somewhat answered your question. LOL
 

Leigh Cole

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Depends on how detailed the game itself is and whether you choose a scenario (usually a year) or a full campaign game. The three games I know best are The Civil War (Victory Games), War Between the States (both 1977 and 2004 editions), and the one in this thread. Of the three, this one is the most streamlined and the full campaign solitaire takes me the equivalent of a day and a half of uninterrupted playing time. (One weekend, the Mrs took the kids to visit family... I got all my chores done the night before, stocked the fridge with some quick meals, turned up the brass band and fife and drum music and had a blast... :D)
With opponents who generally know how the game works and aren't there to quibble over rules interpretation, it would go faster. The smaller scenarios can be played on a rainy afternoon.

TCW-VG is not ideal for solitaire because a major point is hidden strategic priority decisions. It is more complex and you never know whether a turn will end quickly or drag on because one or both sides gain more move points on a roll. Figure maybe two "days" when playing with opponents.

Both do-able compared to WBtS! You can barely fit a year scenario in a weekend. The only campaign game I ever did was back in college and it took five of us in two teams about two months of weekends (and IIRC we called it 'early' when Lincoln was going to win the election). That's 216(!) turns, week by week from April 61 to May 65 if it goes the distance. It isn't actually hard to get the hang of, but it is huge in terms of counters and map/chart space and you spend a lot of time managing your budget and counting and distributing supply points... Solitaire? Not even in this age of COVID.

Sorry for the book and I hope that somewhat answered your question. LOL
You surely did answer my question and I thank you for that. I am not at all surprised. Those are big games!
 

Ct Yank

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Depends on how detailed the game itself is and whether you choose a scenario (usually a year) or a full campaign game. The three games I know best are The Civil War (Victory Games), War Between the States (both 1977 and 2004 editions), and the one in this thread. Of the three, this one is the most streamlined and the full campaign solitaire takes me the equivalent of a day and a half of uninterrupted playing time. (One weekend, the Mrs took the kids to visit family... I got all my chores done the night before, stocked the fridge with some quick meals, turned up the brass band and fife and drum music and had a blast... :D)
With opponents who generally know how the game works and aren't there to quibble over rules interpretation, it would go faster. The smaller scenarios can be played on a rainy afternoon.

TCW-VG is not ideal for solitaire because a major point is hidden strategic priority decisions. It is more complex and you never know whether a turn will end quickly or drag on because one or both sides gain more move points on a roll. Figure maybe two "days" when playing with opponents.

Both do-able compared to WBtS! You can barely fit a year scenario in a weekend. The only campaign game I ever did was back in college and it took five of us in two teams about two months of weekends (and IIRC we called it 'early' when Lincoln was going to win the election). That's 216(!) turns, week by week from April 61 to May 65 if it goes the distance. It isn't actually hard to get the hang of, but it is huge in terms of counters and map/chart space and you spend a lot of time managing your budget and counting and distributing supply points... Solitaire? Not even in this age of COVID.

Sorry for the book and I hope that somewhat answered your question. LOL
Thanks for a great summary of this game. I read through all 13,000 posts on ConSimWorld about this game and have ordered it, although the reprint won't happen for another 4-6 months. Have you played it using Vassal at all?
 

Pat Answer

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Thanks for a great summary of this game. I read through all 13,000 posts on ConSimWorld about this game and have ordered it, although the reprint won't happen for another 4-6 months. Have you played it using Vassal at all?

Yes, I’ve heard a new edition is on its way after player feedback. I’m not up on the Consim discussion but I’ll bet the scripted leaders is a big if not the big issue. But I hope not too much changes; this is a good game.

I’m such a dinosaur when it comes to moving counters and rolling dice. I’ve never played anything on Vassal... but I am impressed with what I’ve seen around the ‘net and know I will have to try it at some point.
 
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