Counterus Hex

Hex and Counter games reviewed and discussed by an old Grognard.

my beat to hell copy

Gettysburg 88 is the third and final production from Avalon Hill on the ad hoc battle, July 1st-3rd 1863, when the Armies of Virginia and the Potomac clashed for three days of terrible fighting. The players take control of the armies and attempt to earn victory points by; eliminating enemy units, damaging enemy units (flipped counters at half strength), and controlling the objective hexes printed on the board. The game can be played as a campaign, encompassing all three days of battle, or in scenarios which equal but one of the days. Each side has a unit order of appearance card on which the particular units of a player’s force are placed before starting the contest. These cards dictate on what turn units come into the battle, and where on the map.

The rules are extremely simple, and are printed on a single 8.5 ” x 11″ sheet i.e. two pages, with a few additional rules and examples of play in a small battle manual, which also includes the scenario set up information.

Each of the scenarios have different victory conditions, for example; in scenario #1 July 1st, the objective for the Confederate player is to have twice as many victory points as the Union player at the end of eight turns. The Union player wins by not allowing that to happen. Each turn of the game plays out the same way with the Confederates going first i.e. moving all their units and resolving all if any combat, followed by the Union side doing the same. Once both sides have gone the turn marker is moved and you start the rotation over.

Movement and the use of terrain, is a very important aspect in this game but unlike some more advanced titles not overly complicated. Hexes containing woods, hills, roads, and or combinations thereof simply cost so many points to move through. Terrain also provides defensive bonuses to units when attacked from outside, i.e. units in woods get a plus one to defense if the attacker is not in a connecting wood hex. The over abundance of roads on the map allow units to move rather quickly which gives manuever and position key roles.

Combat is resolved by using what is often called the “Smithsonian method” which replaces the traditional combat results table that Avalon Hill made famous in games like, Stalingrad, Waterloo, and yes, Afrika Korps. With this method both players add up the strength of their units in combat, applying any defensive modifiers for terrain then each toss a single ten sided die. The die roll is then added to the strength and modifiers of the player.
  Defender wins if there is a tie or his total number exceeds the attacker. Attacker wins if his number exceeds defender, and if either side wins by three to five points the losing party not only has to retreat but also must take damage (flip a unit or destroy it). It is very simple and direct and rather easy to explain.

Many players have in the past dismissed this simple game as not realistic enough, and historically inaccurate. For example; there is no “fog of war”, which was a major factor on battlefields, flanking maneuvers and stragglers are not even mentioned in the rules though they are all important aspects of the time. Some of the hexes due to art are unclear as to what terrain modifiers are applied in combat and or movement. (the errata for these hexes are in the battle manual). Another of my favorite complaints was someone whining that the objective hexes on the map did not accurately reflect Lee’s grand strategy of trying to bring the Union to a decisive fight. In that the points of contention were not “really” (according to him) what the battle was all about. 

Sadly it is just such know it all’s that tend to run new gamers off with their negative and snotty points of contention. They are right in that Gettysburg offers no complicated formulas for stragglers or rates of fire, and the map doesn’t reflect absolutely 100% the “thinking” of the generals. However if you are looking at a basic game rated as “Beginner” and cracking on about its inaccuracies and lack of simulation, you are more than likely someone who I wouldnt want to play with anyway.  

Seamus Terror of the North likes this game a lot.

Gettysburg is easy to learn, set up, and play by just about anyone. The backdrop and theme of the Civil War adds flavor and setting while teaching newcomers the very basics of strategy war gaming. Which was, and is, the primary purpose of the title. If you have never played a strategy war game before or have found yourself wondering if they are for you this little old gem is the perfect introduction to the genre. I actually dusted off my copy and played a scenario before writing this up,(less than 45 minutes including set up time) and you know what?
I had loads of fun. 


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