Home Store Products Research Design Strategy Support News

16 December 2009

 Products The Guns of Gettysburg Design Diary A Sticky Subject

A Sticky Subject

I thought I’d use this diary entry to show you what the sticker sheet for the blocks looks like, and to explain something about the opposing armies and how they are represented in the game. While I talked about the sticker design from a graphical perspective, and I’ve posted several articles about the opposing armies from a historical perspective, I thought with this diary entry I’d aim for the middle: how the armies in history are translated into armies in the game.

The Confederate Army

CSA Stickers

To the left is the Confederate army portion of the game’s sticker sheet. The stickers show the representations for the full-strength and reduced-strength blocks. The full-strength blocks are easily identifiable by the use of full-color state flags, while the reduced-strength blocks use gray national flags.

The Confederates had a fairly simple and consistent high-level organization. The army was composed of three corps (led by Lonngstreet, Richard Ewell, and A. P. Hill), each of which had three divisions. The names on the blocks identify divisions. Confederate divisions typically had four brigades, although Rodes had five and Pickett only had three. The brigades themselves averaged about 1300 men or so, and the divisions had between 5000 and 7500 men.

The scale here is basically a division-scale game, but with each division represented by two blocks. This enables the divisions to have a fair amount of tactical articulation without having complex rules about division states or formations, and without the explosion of game pieces that a full-bore brigade scale would produce. (Playing time has been the driving force here; as I’ve mentioned before, in general playing time in wargames scales with the piece count: all else being equal, a game with 200 pieces will tend to take twice as long as a game with 100.)

What differentiates the various divisions from each other in the game is the number of reduced-2 blocks (the blocks with two gray flags) in a division. The more of them a division has, the more hitting power it has when attacking and the more staying power it has when defending. Four of the Confederate divisions (Pickett, Johnson, Heth and Pender) have one each, four (McLaws, Early, Rodes, and Anderson) have two each, and one (Hood) has three. This mostly reflects perceived quality, but manpower does play a part; Rodes, for example, merits its second reduced-2 more because of its size than its quality.

Quality ratings are of course a contentious issue for Civil War games. Unlike Napoleonic units, which come helpfully pre-rated into various grades of militias, line, and elite units, Civil War units were almost all formally of the same class. This doesn’t mean that they were all actually equally good, but only that rating them takes you into a murky process involving a lot of different factors, which inevitably leads off into hypotheticals — you might, for example, think that such-and-such a division performed badly in some particular encounter, but you can only guess at what some other division would have done had it been in the same situation. In general, I used the general reputation of the units going into the battle combined with their performance at the historical battle itself.

The Union Army

USA Stickers

To the right is the Union army portion of the game’s sticker sheet. The Union army’s high-level organization at Gettysburg was quite different than the Confederate organization. It had seven corps, generally with three divisions each, although two of the corps present at Gettysburg only had two divisions. In terms of size, the corps ranged from about 8500 men to 13000, with Sedgwick’s large corps as the statistical outlier (it had almost 13000 men while the second largest Union corps had under 11,500).

Just as the Confederate scale is fundamentally a division-scale, even though it has two blocks per division, the Union scale here is fundamentally a corps-scale, but with three blocks representing each corps. As with Confederate divisions, Union corps are differentiated primarily by the number of reduced-2 blocks they possess, but there are many fewer of these blocks in the Union army than the Confederate. Three Union corps (Sickles, Sykes and Howard) have none, three more have one (Reynolds, Hancock and Slocum), while one (Sedgwick) has two. (Sedwick’s extra reduced-2 block is much more a representation of its size than its quality.)

The disparity between the number of reduced-2 blocks in the Union vs. the Confederate army basically reflects my view of their relative infantry quality. If there is a theme to the many encounters between the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac, it is the consistent ability of Confederate infantry units to inflict defeats on equal or larger-sized formations of the Army of the Potomac. The Union army, I think, relied heavily on its superiority in numbers and its general superiority in artillery to offset this disparity.

While the game bakes in a general Confederate qualitative superiority, I did, however, want to acknowledge in the game one large formation of the Army of the Potomac that really did have an outstanding record, even in comparison with the generally excellent Confederate infantry, and that is the Union Iron Brigade, represented in black. (Note: the black is only used on the stickers; the blocks are still blue in order to still support limited intelligence.) I thought special treatment was merited by its general record prior to the battle as well as its performance at the historical battle itself. I also thought that in game terms, giving the Union one unit that could derail Confederate plans made both Union and Confederate play more interesting than it would be without it, and it is a design touch that I think has worked really well.

Before closing on the subject of the Union army, there is one more thing that merits some discussion, and that is the representation of the Union cavalry. When dismounted, cavalry did not tend to fight in the close-order formations used by infantry for heavy combat, instead it tended to avoid such combat and operate in more open formations. These more open formations meant that cavalry generally occupied a wider frontage than an equivilant number of infantrymen, (which was also true when mounted) and so it made sense to use a different scale for cavalry. Rather than having one block = one cavalry division or 3000 cavalrymen, a cavalry block represents a cavalry brigade or about 1500 cavalrymen. Thus, Buford’s division is represented as is also the force commanded by Kilpatrick (which was actually an amalgamation of one of his own division’s brigades and the so-called ”reserve” brigade from Buford’s division). The smaller size and reduced combat power of the cavalry formations also is why they are the only full-strength blocks in the game with a strength of one.

State Flags

There is one more thing. As I mentioned in a previous entry, I had decided as a graphical element to use state flags to honor the practice of both armies to raise regiments on a state-by-state basis. It actually proved, however, to be a major pain to do so for the simple reason that prior to the war, most states didn’t have state flags. This little fact was rather an embarrassment for the Confederate states when they seceded, because they had an awkward intermediate period between secession, which meant running the U.S. flag down the flag-pole, and joining the Confederacy, which allowed them to run the C.S. flag up the flag-pole. In between, they had no ready flag to raise in its stead, and the different states adopted different expedients to deal with this omission.

The default flag states tended to use, in the absence of any better idea, was to take the state seal and put it against a blue background. This common scheme is why so many state flags are rather boring. A few states, like Texas, had official flags they could use prior to the war. Others, like South Carolina, had semi-official flags that they could readily convert into “official” flags. Finally, a few states, like Alabama, cooked up a special flag just for that occasion.

The states that stayed in the Union were no better equipped prior to the war than the seceding states when it came to state flags, and they furthermore lacked the impetus of secession to drive them towards the creation of official state flags. In fact, most of the states in the Union didn’t adopt official state flags until the decades after the end of the war, although unofficial flags were common, generally of the state-seal-on-a-blue-background variety.

And so, my decision to use state flags as decorative elements inadvertently led me into something of a research project, of which the designs used in the game is the result. I can’t and won’t claim for them any authoritative status, but they are at least a good-faith attempt at historical graphical verisimilitude in the face of a rather spotty historical record, although more than that I will not claim.

Just so you can tell which flag belongs to which state, here is a key. (This is printed in the game as part of a play aid at the back of the rule book, but of course you don’t have to ever identify a flag to play the game correctly; they are just decorative.)






N. Carolina

S. Carolina










New Jersey

New York





The Sticker Sheet

And here is the sticker sheet as a whole. Clicking will open a higher res version in its own window.

Gettysburg Stickers

Click on the image above to open in its own window