July 1863

Ahead of the 158th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, I have been indulging in the heady mix of gaming and reading that brings history to life.

On the games table:

This game, part of the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series, includes three campaigns:

  • Here Come the Rebels – 1862 Antietam Campaign
  • Roads to Gettysburg – 1863 Gettysburg Campaign
  • Rebels in the White House – Early’s 1864 Raid on Washington

Each has several basic game scenarios and one or more advanced game scenarios. I am playing the basic game of the 1863 set which runs from June 30 to July 3, allowing me to see the situation before the great battle and how it developed.

To help put everything into context, I have been reading this alongside my game playing:

It’s well written and quick thorough, but – so far – avoiding putting too much detail before the reader so as to blur the overall picture.

Although I am fairly well read about the battle, there are always fresh perspectives; there’s always something new to learn. In addition, it’s fun and educational to compare a serious historical narrative with how the situation is expressed in the game.

For example, in the real campaign, each side only had the roughest idea about the location of the main enemy forces. The battle happened almost by accident, starting as a small encounter that mushroomed. Because the game doesn’t give you that lack of knowledge, it has to use other techniques to try and recreate the situation. For now, let’s say that they work, and although the game that arises is enjoyable, there’s a sliver of a sensation that an umpired version of the game with full fog of war is what we need. Till then, gaming and reading are pretty damn good as they are.