Dug in like an ox – my thoughts on a BGG variant for Chantilly: Jackson’s Missed Opportunity, 1 September 1962 (Decision Games, 2013). #coronapocalypse #wargame

Over on BoardGameGeek user Tom Krynicki (@krygfam) posted a set of variant rules for Chantilly: Jackson’s Missed Opportunity, 1 September 1862 (Decision Games, 2013). I have a soft spot in my heart for this Mini Series game not because of the game play (I rate it a 5 – Mediocre Take it or leave it on BGG) but because the battle took place not far from my home. The game uses a QuickPlay version of DG’s Musket & Saber rules. Personally, they are not for me. When I saw this variant pop up on BGG I was interested in trying to make the game better so I got it to the table.

Mr. Krynicki’s variant rules aren’t that long, only six rules actually, so I will post them in their entirety here:

What I find the most disheartening about DG’s Chantilly is that with just a little play-testing and thought, this could have been an excellent historical simulation AND game. Try these simple changes…I think you will find it makes for a much better historical simulation AND a much better game:

1) Make the Union player the FIRST player during every turn. Union forces showed more energy and seemed to have a clearer picture of what needed done….thus they had the initiative. This has the pleasant side effect of getting rid of the two free Confederate moves before the Union gets a chance to react, allowing the Union to get into position near to where the historical battle took place.

2) Get rid of the whole Confederate “Half/Full Movement” Initiative roll (Scenario rule 15.0). It’s gamey and has way to much impact on play balance. Reducing the Confederate’s infantry and artillery MA to “4” movement points is sufficient to show that the Confederate soldiers were “burned out.” Again, Union forces showed more “get-up-and-go,” mainly because they rightly perceived they were in eminent danger of being cut off and surrounded. Therefore, ALL Union infantry and artillery should keep the “normal” Musket & Saber MA of “6” movement points.

3) March Movement (QP rule 4.3) should not be allowed. It rained the entire night before the battle. During the battle it poured most of the day. The roads and the ground were a soupy mess, nobody was going to go anywhere quickly.

4) In keeping with the very poor ground conditions, the Terrain Costs should be modified:
ROAD:
1/2 MP
RR BED: 1 MP
CLEAR/LIGHT WOODS/DEEP WOODS: 2 MPs
(only infantry allowed in Deep Woods and must stop upon entering).

5) Initial Movement Restrictions:

UNION: Formation #1 (the two units which begin the game in Germantown hex 2208).
These units must remain within 3 hexes of Germantown (hex 2208) until:
a: A unit of Formation #1 is attacked.
b: An enemy unit moves adjacent to one of the units of Formation #1, or a unit of Formation #1 moves adjacent to an enemy unit.
c: An enemy unit moves to within three hexes of Germantown (hex 2208).
Should any one of these events occur, all movement restrictions on Union Formation #1 are lifted.
 The “task and purpose” given to this formation (a reinforced brigade from the AoV) was to secure Germantown and the road intersections around it, in order to allow Union freedom of movement along the Warrenton Turnpike. They would never have moved away from the vicinity of Germantown unless forced to do so (BTW these two units should have MAs of “6”).

CONFEDERATE: Formation #1 (the FLee cavalry brigade which begins the game in hex 1204).
At the beginning of Confederate Game Turn 1, the MA of the FLee cavalry brigade is determined by a special die roll, similar to a morale check.
The Confederate player rolls one die and compares the result to the FLee brigade’s morale rating of “3.”
If the FLee brigade “passes” its morale check (rolls a 1, 2, or 3), then the number rolled is its MA for that turn (i.e. 1, 2, or 3 movement points).
If the FLee brigade “fails” its morale check (rolls a 4, 5, or 6), then it must remain in hex 1204 for the turn.
The FLee brigade moves normally starting on Game Turn 2 and after.

Other than “scout for and screen Jackson’s movements” F. Lee really didn’t know what he was supposed to do that morning…He had attacked Germantown the previous evening where he had been chases off by the garrison stationed there (this had alerted Pope that something dangerous was amiss on his flank). Should he head back up the Little River Turnpike to Germantown, or should he head south toward the Warrenton Turnpike? After he found out that Jackson’s lead elements were going to bivouac at Ox Hill, he pushed further south and ran into Stevens’ Division coming hard up Ox Hill Road, and the fight was on.

6) Adjust the Union Major Victory conditions to read: At the end of Turn Six, the Union player wins a major victory if an undisrupted Union unit occupies a hex on the Little River Turnpike between hexes 0501 and 1204 (inclusive). Cutting off a portion of Jackson’s overstretched command would have been a huge coupe for the Union effort, coming close to erasing the Union defeat two days earlier. This entire stretch of road would have been critical, not just the crossroads at 1204.

With these changes I think you’ll find this a better historical simulation AND game. The fighting will usually start close to the location it did historically, with the historical outcome a distinct possibility. The Confederates can try to bludgeon their way down Ox Hill Road, in an attempt to cut the Warrenton Turnpike, or they can try to “stretch” the Union forces by leaving a holding force on Ox Hill Road and making a stab for Germantown. Be careful though, the Union forces are more agile, and if they cut the Little River Turnpike, all of the Confederate maneuvering will be for not.

As you can see, rules 1-4 have to do with movement. You can also see Mr. K focuses on initiative and movement in bad weather. My reactions after playing with the rules once are:

  1. Automatically allowing the Union to always move first is too rigid. Maybe historically the Union was a bit more spry than the Confederates, but to make that an automatic condition seems too favorable to the Union. Not to mention, it avoids many “what if” versions of the battle. This rule seems to be a matter of taste; if you want to be tightly bound by history then go ahead and use it!
  2. Mr. K seems to be of two minds here. On one hand he wants to reduce movement due to the weather but he ends up penalizing the Confederates because they were “burned out” while giving the Union full standard movement (extra in this game). What’s wrong with everybody being reduced to 4 from the standard Musket & Saber rules and keeping the Confederate half-moves? Of, see rule 1. Mr. K wants the battle to be where it historically happened.
  3. The weather made things miserable. No problem.
  4. The weather made things miserable. No problem again.
  5. I have to agree that the Union restrictions make sense. For the Confederates though, this seems like an awful lot of rules for one unit for one turn. I guess if one wants to surrender player agency to the randomness of the Dice Gods in the name of “historicism” than by all means, use this rule.
  6. Well, I think this new condition will only work if you give the Union the advantages of movement rules 1 & 2. Without those, no.

So…I guess if you want this small game to ‘recreate’ the Battle of Chantilly and be assured that the outcome will always be close to the historical then use of Mr. Krynicki’s variant rules. However, if you are like me and you want to use the game to experiment with the situation and explore potential “what-ifs,” then the rules as written are good enough.

@Mountain_Navy 2019 half-year #wargame #boardgame stats check-in

Almost a month late, but here are my wargame/boardgame stats for Jan 01 thru June 30, 2019. Compiled thanks to BoardGameGeek and BGGStats.

So, does this make me a better gamer than you? NO! I am just gaming in my own way and enjoying it. I’m not looking to compare myself to others but rather share with all of you the joy gaming has brought to myself and my family. It’s not important if you play one game a month or 100; the important part is to enjoy the hobby!

How I was shocked in my February #wargame #boardgame Month in Review

Shocking few games played…

According to my BGStats app, in February I recorded 26 plays of 21 games. This is a 60% drop in games played compared to February 2018. On the positive side, the 21 different games played is an increase over the 16 last February.

IMG_0205
February 2019 BG Stats

A major factor in the large drop was last February I played 16 games of Rhino Hero (Haba). This year there were few light family/party games played. Need to work on that; maybe trying to play a light weeknight game with the RockyMountainNavy Boys is worth the few minutes of family time spent together rather than just depending on our weekend game.

…a shocking mix of old and new…

This month I accomplished my first play of Colonial Twilight (GMT Games, 2017) which I really enjoyed. It can be a good introduction/refresher on the GMT COIN system. The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself also went a bit retro with an awesome play of Wooden Ships & Iron Men (Avalon Hill, 1975). I also got Brave Little Belgium (Hollandspiele, 2019) to the table and really enjoyed the tight gaming situation.

Continuing on my Wargame Challenge, I kept up with the retro theme by playing Azhanti High Lightning (GDW, 1980), Car Wars (Steve Jackson Games, 1981+), and Wings (Yaquinto, 1981). As much as I liked these old games, I also got my new games to the table including designer Michael Rinella’s Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 (Take Aim Designs/Revolution Games, 2019) as well as The Expanse Boardgame: Doors and Corners (WizKids, 2019).

I stepped out of my comfort zone a bit this month and tried to seriously playtest a game. To the Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games) has much promise and I hope it gets published. I was also fortunate to get a day of multiple games played during a snowstorm; there are worse things than being stuck with your family! Continuing the bad weather gaming I revisited, and enjoyed, solo versions of Gravwell (Crytozoic, 2013) and Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018). I ended the month with a revisit to game that I had discounted a bit before; Villainous (Wonder Forge, 2018) and discovered it to be better than I remember.

…shocking few purchases…

In February I tried to limit my spending on new games. Sure, I still purchased a few but more importantly (for me) I passed on several Kickstarter campaigns that tempted me. I also paid more attention to my existing Kickstarter and Pre-order games; in the end I will still be getting new games, but just at a more reasonable pace (and cost). Potentially I could see most of my KS/pre-order list in my hands by the end of 2019 [sure….]. On another positive note, the reduction of incoming new games has let me focus more of what I already have and explore several good titles in already possess.

…shocking blog numbers…

In mid-January I changed my blog theme to the current version and since then my views have skyrocketed. In February I logged over 5,800 views – as compared to 14,000 views in ALL OF 2018! There certainly was a bounce in views as part of the “shocking” kerfuffle I will discuss in a bit but I cannot help but notice that the new format, which is much more visually appealing, gets visitors to click around more. So to all my readers I say welcome and thanks!

…but the real Shock of the Month…

In early February, I talked about a company that was running a Kickstarter and using a game title identical to a “serious” game from a designer/humanitarian I admire. I apparently ruffled more than a few feathers and at one point was blocked by the publisher. The issue was quickly resolved and all made better. Here at the end of the month Stronghold Games has re-Kickstarted their game Aftershock: San Francisco and Venice. Give it a look!

…and my after shock.

I am very conscious that as a wargamer I am already a member of a subset of a very niche hobby. Further, as a sometime “professional” wargamer or “serious gamer” I realize that I am in an even smaller (microscopic?) subset of the wargaming subgroup. In the “shocking” kerfluffle of the month I saw too many comments that denigrated my small gaming clan. Although it admittedly seems relatively benign, the comment that upset me the most was this:

This site is a hobby game site, if someone is coming here and searching for Aftershock, likely they are looking for the Stronghold published game.

The “site” referenced is BoardGameGeek. This poor soul does not understand (nor does he seem to want to tolerate) that BoardGameGeek is used not just for gaming, but as a leading portal to all things boardgaming. This means it is used by hobbyist and “professionals.” I have been at professional wargaming/serious games conferences where the question, “Where do I find games?” is asked. Invariably, the first answer is, “BoardGameGeek.” This is a good thing; BGG serves a wide array of boardgamers, from the very playful to serious. To say it is “just” a hobby game site is ignorant at best. Possibly I am taking the “serious games” moniker a bit too seriously; but then again I am a strong proponent of gaming for fun, learning, and military planning and government policy making.

Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold Games responded with a very thoughtful post that deserves much more attention that it is getting (emphasis is mine):

All,

As has been posted here above, Rex and I have discussed all of this.

We will make a name change to our game. This will settle the issue completely, and it will make both parties happy.

Neither of us wants the negativity that has been seen throughout this, and most of all, neither of us wants any harm done to the reputation of the other.

What we do want is happiness among gamers, including of course everyone that has participated in this dialogue, whether they favored one side or the other.

This is what it is all about. We are in an industry that creates FUN. There is no other industry in the world like this. We create FUN, so that families, friends, acquaintances, strangers, and everyone, can come together and compete or cooperate across a table in a social, happy, and fun way.

Thank you to all out there for your passion and love of board games. Without all of you, this industry would not exist.

Best,
Stephen M. Buonocore
Stronghold Games

Surprisingly, the event that calmed me down the most was not Stephen’s comment but Villainous winning the The Toy of the Year Award. As much as I love BGG, listening to the comments of Mr. Francke about the 250,000 units sold in late 2018 (as compared to ~5,200 “owned” in BGG) illustrated for me that even BGG is a small portion of the hobby boardgame market. For Villainous, BGG users possibly represent as little as 2% of the players. This makes even BGG a very small niche within a niche.

Still, I cannot ignore the attitude behind some comments from the past month. I really am trying to keep Mr. Buonocore’s comments in mind but it’s hard. This was more than a simple “Ameritrash vs Eurogamer” flamewar;  it was rank intolerance of a minority sector of our hobby. Sure, it was just a few loud-mouthed a$$hats but they did a fine job of showing me a dark side of our hobby. Part of the reason I write this blog is to show my happiness with the hobby I enjoy. This month was very discouraging to do so.

I’m going to leave it there and hope for a better March.