Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Antietam: Burnished Rows of Steel

George B. McClellan was possibly the most frustrating man to ever command an American Army. He was brilliant and incompetent at the same time. An incomparable organizer, beloved by his soldiers of the Union Army of the Potomac, he was a good strategist. Yet he was also a coniver, a complainer, and a backstabber. He was overcautious and an inept battle manager.
Antietam was his greatest victory, but at the same time his most disappointing performance. The famous "Lost Orders" allowed him to concentrate his entire army against a portion of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. And yet, despite outnumbering Lee by two to one, he failed to destroy him.

The issue game in Command No. 22, Antietam: Burnished Rows of Steel is a moderate complexity wargame depicting the battle. Units are brigades, turns represent 60 minutes and each hex depicts 250 yards.

The large-sized unit counters bear a full-color icon showing a soldier, a morale value, step strength, combat value and movement allowance.Turns comprise a movement phase, artillery bombardment phase and two rounds of combat. Combat is resolved brigade by brigade, with combat strengths comapred for a differential ranging from -1 to +2, unless the attacker is at least twice as strong and qualifies for the 2-1 or more table. Differences between morale levels, being surrounded and terrain effects can modify the die roll, but in almost every case both sides will take step losses on the bloody table.

The heart of the game are the Corps Commitment rules. If McClellan had committed all his troops he would have easily overwhelmed the outnumbered Confederates. Instead he committed his units piecemeal and Lee was bale to counter each blow in turn and stand his ground. The game handles this by allowing the Federal player to commit just two of his six corps at any one time.

The game also includes solitaire rules that use a modified version of the commitment rules, where the game system handles the Union side and the player represents Lee.

The quick set up will take about 20 minutes, while the fixed set up will take about 30 minutes to execute. The 11-turn game is playable in a long evening.


(Yes) for Wargamers. A rare workable hex-and-counter solitaire game. The two-player version is also of interest.

(no) for Collectors. No special collectibility

(no) for Eurogamers. Units are represented by multiple counters for the different step strengths, there are sixteen pages of rules and the combat rules are involved.

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