Billabong Boardgamers - 4th July, 2000
Present: Alan, Doug, David, Craig, Torben, Debbie, Steve, Julian, Jack
David Coutts writes:
I know I don't write too many reports these days, but today I have 3 to write. Usually I don't have the time, and my fellow Billabongers are happy to oblige (thanks guys). At the moment I'm off work, between contracts, so I have some time.
Lately I've been getting back into a little wargaming, with a preference for playability over historical accuracy. Classics like the Australian designed The Russian Campaign (originally by Jedko games of Melbourne) I now get to play again (the Avalon Hill version) thanks to Play By Email, a very convenient way to play longer games.
Antietam, 17th September, 1862.
I picked up my copy of Battlecry in the morning and, with the aid of my modelling knife, had all the pieces out of their sprues with their little flags attached in an hour or so. What a great looking game! The production is excellent, and a quick look through the rules book was enough to convince me to take a wargame to Billabong. We play very few wargames at Billabong, due to theme, game length and the fact that many are only 2 player (thus taking 2 players out for the night).
Lucky for me that damn Yankee, Doug Adams, was in a fightin' mood. Young Doug was hankering for a fight at Antietam, and I was happy to oblige him! Having diced for sides, I assumed my best Southern accent (...which leaves much to be desired...). Here we were, fighting a battle from the USA's bloodiest war, and Antietam being the bloodiest day of that war. All was as it was, except this time WE were in command!
The action opened at Burnside's bridge, with Burnside's first sortie there repulsed with heavy losses. The Yankees seemed to come over the bridge piecemeal, and Toombs' men had no trouble securing the first of our required 6 flags. In the centre, Stonewall Jackson secured the sunken road for the Confederacy and annihilated the oncoming Union divisions. In all, 3 flags were gained here by Jackson at Bloody Lane. They were ably assisted by some surprise reinforcements, which then swung away to assist Toombs in holding back another Union assault over Burnside bridge. At the bridge, our numbers were severely depleted and I regret to report that we lost our first flag.
Hooker's men had, all this time, been attacking my left flank. I had prudently withdrawn my advance cavalry there to delay contact, and was then fortunate to see Hooker's lead unit (lead by Hooker himself, I gather) withdrawn from the front line due to lack of supply. With the centre won, Jackson lead his men into the attack North against Hooker's remaining divisions. Confederate units near Dunker Church then advanced through Miller's Cornfield against Hooker to gain our 5th flag.
Finally, a reinforced Toombs advanced against Burnside at the bridge to take our 6th flag. A glorious victory for the South, six flags to one! In fact, in completing our designated attacks, a 7th flag was also taken. There was no stoppin' my boys!
Okay - back to reality for a moment. Doug has played a few games of Battlecry, and appears to have read some of the many postings on r.g.b and elsewhere. He's a big fan, and owns 2 copies for those really big battles (over and above the 15 scenarios that come with the game). I've only played this once, but loved it before I rolled a single die. There is sufficient flavour in the map layouts and scenario notes, plus the great physical components, to satisfy the military history buff. And it played in under an hour! Perfect.
As to scenario balance, Doug mentioned that all the scenario's are meant to be balanced. (Doug here - I actually said all scenarios are meant to be historical, ie. not evenly balanced) With Doug playing the over-cautious McClellan his hand-size was only 3 cards, and this seemed to be a telling factor (at least, this time round). The great Robert E. Lee, played by the less-great me, has a hand-size of 5 cards at Antietam - a distinct advantage. Plus, the Sunken Road provides a great defensive position in Lee's centre. And Burnside's bridge isn't easy to cross for the Union.
Still, even if a scenario is unbalanced, Battlecry lends itself to match-play (swap sides and play again, best overall tally wins).
I commend Richard Borg, and Hasbro, for a fine game.
Doug writes:: David bought Battle Cry along, a American Civil War battle game that has received a lot of favourable press lately. It is a very simple wargame that blends simple wargame mechanisms with some elegant mechanics - a deck of cards that are used to activate units.
The game looks superb when set up. A large game board is overlayed with a plain hex grid. One of the fifteen scenarios are selected to play, and terrain hex tiles are used to build the historical battlefield. Add some detailed plastic miniatures, of course in blue and grey, and you have a very nice looking game.
The game mechanics are very simple. Play a card, follow instructions, draw a card. Command and control is built into the hand sizes for each side, and this changes from battle to battle. The cards come in two flavours - events, or activations. Activations allow you to activate a number of units, from one to all of them, one of the battlefield sections - left, right or centre. Units can move and/or fire, with a couple of extra rules for unit types (infantry, artillery, cavalry).
The game ends when one side has eliminated six units of the enemy. The game is very fast - it almost takes as long to set up as it does to play!
David and I selected Antietam. This is an interesting looking battle that I hadn't played yet. As this was David's first game, we were both facing the unknown. David drew the Rebels, I drew the Union. I had a paltry 3 card hand, David a delightful 5 card hand.
Right from the beginning I could see I was in trouble. On the Union left, the troops must cross Burnside's Bridge in single file, and try and force the heights on the opposite side of the river (guarded by Rebels, of course!). In the centre, the Sunken Road sits there like a fortress - not a lot of hope there as the Union has to be virtually adjacent to have a chance at hurting the Rebels. On the Union right there were possibilities - Fighting Joe Hooker has a nice force of troops, with the cornfield and West Woods offering good cover. It was here I decided to fight the battle, turning the flank on the Sunken Road.
Ha! My three card hand gave me perhaps 4 right flank cards for the entire game. Most of the cards were left flank and centre, so I decided to make the best of a bad lot, and advanced in those two sections. David had a ball, and I was quickly 5-0 down in flags. The card draws were painful right through the battle - at one stage I was holding two Centre cards (no units in the centre) and a Cavalry Charge (no cavalry in this battle!). I did manage to take one flag to bring the battle to the threshold of victory (ie. only 5-1 down!) when David majestically played ALL OUT OFFENSIVE which allows him to activate everything.
After the smoke cleared, th