What am I Missing? Chantilly: Jackson’s Missed Opportunity 1 Sep 1862 (Decision Games, 2013)

FOR SOME REASON I have yet to fully fathom, I pulled out Chantilly: Jackson’s Missed Opportunity (Decision Games, 2013) to play today. I have written my first impressions before and find the game a bit lacking. In fact, I rated it as a 5 (Mediocre – take it or leave it) in my BoardGameGeek collection. This is well below my average Board Game Rating of 6.42 and places Chantilly in the lower 16% of my collection. So why did I play it, and did my impressions change?

Given the battle is local to the RockyMountainNavy abode, I have a soft spot for the battle in my heart. The game, like the battle, is a race against time. But the scenario situation strongly favors the Confederates. The designer, Chris Perello, admits that the design had to be adjusted to avoid a Confederate steamroller. In 16.0 DESIGNER”S NOTES he stated, “Second was the need to slow the Confederates. If they retain full initiative throughout the game they will steamroll the Federals in the early going.”

To slow the Confederates, Chantilly uses a special scenario rule, 15.0 CONFEDERATE INITIATIVE. The rule calls for a single die roll at the beginning of the Confederate movement phase. If the die roll is less than the current turn number, the Confederate has  their full movement allowance. If the die roll is equal to or greater than the current turn number the movement allowance is halved.

So what happened in my game?

  • Turn 1 – Die roll = 1 > Full Movement
  • Turn 2 – Die roll = 5 > Half Movement
  • Turn 3 – Die roll = 2 > Full Movement
  • Turn 4 – Die roll = 1 > Full Movement
  • Turn 5 – Die roll = 3 > Full Movement
  • Turn 6 – Die roll = 4 > Full Movement

The Confederates ended up with Full Movement for five of the six turns. No wonder elements of AP Hill’s Light Division made it all the way across the battlefield and set up in Fairfax Courthouse, cutting off the Warrenton Turnpike and assuring Confederate Major Victory (14.1). As a matter of fact, there were five hexes of the Warrenton Turnpike occupied by the Confederates, making this a totally lopsided Confederate major victory.

Lopsided Confederate Major Victory

When I play a wargame I am not looking to recreate the historical result. If I just want that I will read a book! No, I want to explore the alternatives. That said, I certainly expect the actual outcome to be achievable in the game model. I am not sure Chantilly delivers in this respect. It is possible that the historical result is such an outlier that it is near-impossible to replicate, but I feel that Chantilly fails to capture the real essence of this battle. Though the designer acknowledges the impact of weather and tired troops, the game system barely gives the feeling of a Confederate army at the end of weeks of marching and three days of battle now having to slog up muddy roads in a thunderstorm.

I totally understand that the die roll for Confederate initiative was very good for the Confederates; maybe too good and it unbalanced the game. I also get that this is a Mini Games Series product designed to be an introductory game playable is less than an hour. I get all that, yet still feel it fails to deliver compelling game play.

My BGG.com rating of 5 stands. There is some potential here, but as delivered Chantilly comes up short.

[Note to self – If I rated it BELOW my average, think twice before playing again!]

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