Glory, glory, Chickamauga!

[Crossposted from On the table at Consimworld, but updated.]

On the table, Chickamauga from Glory 1. (A Richard Berg design, published by GMT.) Having tried the Gamers’ Barren Victory, and West End’s Chickamauga, I continued my Dave Powell inspired look at the Battle by stepping down another notch in simulation towards playability.

The Glory system is chit pull activation, with three types of combat: artillery fire, charge, and defensive fire. Charge is close combat. Units have a front side and a disordered side. A disordered unit that suffers a disorder is withdrawn off the board. It may then recover – and return on its disordered side, with the possibility of full recovery – or be permanently eliminated.

I used the original activation chits, with the original optional Overall Command Capability rule. (I did not like the Corps level activation shits proposed with the latest rules, as it did not fit my reading of the battle.) Essentially, each division gets two activation chits in the Pool. But each turn, the total number of chits drawn from the Pool for that side which actually activate, is randomly determined. So, you get a good mix of chaos and uncertainty, and excellent solitaire playability.

I have played the first day through to a conclusion, but doubt I will try it again. It’s too bland. The combat system leaves me cold. The activation system makes it a good game – potentially – but I am looking for more than that. I wish I had the space and time to attempt the Regimental level River of Death. When the designer tells you it will take a couple of hours for each game turn, you know you are in for a long game!

I took a look at the Avalanche Press game on Chattanooga and Chickamauga. The division level of the game does not appeal to me, so that will have to wait for another time.

Having finished volume one of Dave Powell’s trilogy, I’ll probably take a break from Chickamauga (unless volume two turns up sooner than expected).

Update

After I posted this on Consimworld, I got some feedback confirming the combat system seemed to give less than acceptable results; basically, unless you get very unlucky with the chit draws, or are caught at a map edge, it is bloodless. In reality, this battle – and most ACW combat, was a bloody grind. I thought the West End game showed that well, though there is some suggestion that it is too easy for units to recover. Well, although I am moving off the battle now, I expect to return. And while I have run out of ready to play games on the battle, I have some mix and match ideas that I would like to try, time and resolve permitting.

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More Chickamauga

Early on the first day, Brannan's Division is set to clobber Pegram (top left), while Bragg gathers his forces for his assault (middle right).

Early on the first day, Brannan’s Division is set to clobber Pegram (middle left), while Bragg gathers his forces for his assault (middle right).

On the table is Chickamauga – about the September 1863 ACW battle of that name – a Jon Southard design, published by West End Games.

Hexes are 275 yards across, turns are 45 minutes, and units are mostly brigades. There are no artillery units, these having been taken account of in rendering the infantry unit strengths.

It is an “I go, you go” system with some command and control limitations popped on top. For example, to get units to move, they either have to be given a command, or have to be in contact. Commands costs CPs, and these are available by random die roll each turn, and a certain potential amount from planning done by the higher level leaders. The effect is to constrain what the players can do, with a certain amount of chaos.

The combat system uses hits – each unit can take 10 – to show the attritional effects. You need to judge when it is time to get units out of danger and allow them to recover. However, recovery takes time, and no unit can completely recover.

I prefer the combat system here to the detail of the Gamers’ Brigade Series, because it is easier to play, there is no bookkeeping, and it gives a realistic impression. The bookkeeping alone would not be a deal breaker, but the Brigade Series has stragglers and casualties, thus complicating matters more than I want. In this game, there is no ‘breaking’ of divisions or Corps Attack Stoppage. However, most players are going to look at a division accumulating too many hits, and do the right thing. OK, I did say ‘most.’

I like the idea behind the command and control system, however I would prefer it were less gamey. For example, in the planning part you can assign points to a future turn to a wing leader. However, you do not need to specify what the points are for. So, at the time of the plan you might be intending to order Division A. But come the time, you might want to give the order to Division B. On Consimworld, I think it was Steve Parker who hinted at a house rule restricting the use of planning points by specifying their use in advance. I have tried that and like it. It still has rough edges, but works OK.

One driver behind getting this and Barren Victory on the table was Dave Powell‘s book, The Chickamauga Campaign: A Mad Irregular Battle. (Highly recommended, but be aware it is only the first volume. I have ordered the second.) Reading the battle history, there are constant descriptions of units and leaders blundering about, not knowing where the enemy were exactly, and not that sure about their own forces, either. Flank attacks happened from chance sometimes. That is difficult to reproduce without adding another layer of complexity, like randomized movement. But I did wonder if a double blind umpired version, especially with a free setup at the start, might get close to it. (Yes, it would be hard work.) Another option might be to use the two map, double blind system from GDW.

I have played through the first day scenario once – a Confederate win – and am restarting because there are a couple of aspects I want to try a different approach with. The hit markers are a bit fiddly, but otherwise the game plays smoothly, and is good fun. The core system promised a bit, though it sadly died out.

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