Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Reviewing collectible games from a wargamer's perspective: Dixie Gettysburg

Dixie Gettysburg ended up being the final entry in Columbia's Dixie series of collectible card wargames based on American Civil War battles. There were apparently plans to do the Battle of Antietam, as well, but sales evidently didn't support the project. Indeed, first run cards are still available from Columbia, so the game is technically still in print.

Like the earlier games, Dixie Gettysburg is less a card game than an abstract tactical battle game that uses cards for units.

Cards representing units of infantry, cavalry and artillery and the generals leading them maneuver on an abstract battlefield divided into left, center and right sectors plus a reserve position for each army.

Units battle by rolling as many dice as their "combat value" (CV)scoring hits depending upon the type of unit firing and the range. Infantry units, for example, normally fire at "F2" at enemy units they are "engaged" with, inflicting hits on a die roll of "1" or "2."

Units that have been hit make a morale check at the beginning of their next turn, rolling a die for every hit. If any rolls exceed the CV of the target unit it routs out of play. Gettysburg adds a twist to this basic Dixie system by modifying the CV according to the unit's "morale rating" which is a letter rating from A (best) through D (worst).

Unlike the earlier games, in Dixie Gettysburg the cards generally represent brigades rather than regiments, so the regimental illustrations on the cards are selected examples of the uniforms worn during the battle. By this stage of the war both armies were more or less clothed in regulation attire (at least as far as the Confederate supply system allowed) for the most part, so there's less need to get into the regimental variations that made Bull Run and Shiloh so colorful. That said, the federal army has at least a few uniquely uniformed units, so it's not entirely a sea of blue.

Like the other Dixie series games there is no rarity between the cards. so those who purchase decks have an equal chance of getting each card. I skipped that phase entirely by buying the one-with-everything complete set of 250 cards as I found the process of collecting the cards individually rather tiresome, especially after the 400-card Shiloh set.

Like the other Dixie games, Dixie Gettysburg is much more geared for wargamers than the usual collectible game crowd. There's relatively little interaction between cards and no scope for killer combos and the like. It's a straightforward battle game.

Personally I like the game. Like many wargamers I'm somewhat of an OB nerd, so I like having the whole order of battle laid out in front of me. The illustrations by Eric Hotz are well-done and the game is really worth getting for those alone.

Compared to the other Dixie games Dixie Gettysburg adds a few more twists to the game. Besides the morale levels referenced earlier, there's also a rule for corps integrity and for fighting the battle over three "days," giving the game some of the epic feel of the namesake battle. Like Bull Run there are rules for fighting over five columns instead of the standard three, which will also make the game longer and more involved by card game standards, although still pretty light fare by wargame standards.

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