Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Has it just been 25 years?! Gettysburg 125th Anniversary Edition reviewed

The 125th anniversary of something isn't usually a big deal, but Avalon Hill decided it was enough of a hook to latch onto for the 1988 update of the venerable Gettysburg title. The resulting Gettysburg 125th Anniversary Edition didn't bear much resemblance to its predecessor -- a good thing as it turns out.

While remaining an introductory level wargame, the 1988 version of Gettysburg introduced a new basic game engine that eventually became known as the "Smithsonian" series, which was applied to a diverse group of titles, most updates of of classic AH titles such as Midway, D-Day and Battle of the Bulge.

The essential element of the "Smithsonian" series was a combat system that eschewed the old CRT for a competitive D10 die roll modified by units strengths and other factors. Based on how much the winner won by, the loser suffered certain results.

While this worked pretty well in Gettysburg 1988, I didn't care for it as much in the other Smithsonian games, although I ended up buying and playing all of theme before I finally decided I didn't like it.

The only survivor of the bunch in my collection is Gettysburg 1988. The system seems to work reasonably well in this case.

Probably the biggest limitation of the system is that it's prone to more extreme results when there are smaller numbers of units involved. A 1-7 fighting another 1-7 can more easily double the result of its foe than a 10 factor stack fighting a 10-factor stack.

At start positions
Like the original Gettysburg, Gettysburg 1988 depicts the order of battle for both sides at the divisional level for infantry, with cavalry brigades and artillery battalions.  Unlike the older game, all the artillery battalions appear, so the Union has the proper edge in artillery strength. There's more differentiation between the infantry\ divisions than the 1964 game had, which helps the CSA a bit. The CSA player is, however, still vulnerable to bad luck because he has only nine infantry units. Eveyr loss will be keenly felt.

The victory conditions award significant points for holding specific points of geography, so the federal player will have to fight forward. A common problem with Gettysburg games is trying to properly capture the pace of the battle, and like most earlier efforts this version of Gettysburg doesn't grapple with that problem. While the actual battle saw extensive lulls in the action on July 2 and July 3, in Gettysburg 1988 that's not likely to happen and the game will therefore tend to be relatively more bloody than the real thing.

Mitigatuing that a bit is the game's option for starting on July 2 and on July 3, so that even though a full July 1st start game probably won;t see anything like Longstreet's two charges, players can still expereince them with the later start times.

Like many Gettysburg games, the 1988 edition brings the cavalry onto the main battlefield even though they really fought off map. An issue of The General included a map extension that lets players include the eastern cavalry field for those who have it.

Overall the game is a decent little introductory game, but comes off second best to some of the most recent forays that cover the battle with similar playing time but more interesting player decisions. As far as simulation value goes, it's fairly mediocre because of the lack of attention to command control and pacing alluded to.

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