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20 April 2010

 Products The Guns of Gettysburg Design Diary Turning Around

Turning Around

The Tutorial Continued: The First Turn

Last entry we started a tutorial on the game. (Here.) It was taken through the end of set-up, and we’ll take it up again here on the first turn of the game. Before starting the first turn, you will want to read Section 5: Sequence of Play. When you do, you will see that the first thing in each turn is the Turn Duration Phase, so you will want to read Section 7: The Turn Duration Phase as well.

The 7:00AM Turn: The Turn Duration Phase

This phase, as its name suggests, is about setting the turn duration for the current turn. To this end, the first order of business is a bit of bookkeeping: we need to update the turn start marker on the time track. For the first turn of the game (right now) this means putting the turn start marker on the time track on the 7:00AM to 8:00AM space.

Next, we figure out who is the first player and who is the second player for the turn. Now, legally, either player can be in either role, but the Confederate player starts in the role of second player, and unless he declares Withdrawal general orders (something he very much does not want to do), he will stay second player for the whole game. The Confederate player does not mind this at all. As second player, he gets to control turn duration, which is a powerful thing to be able to do. At the start of the game though, it is not such a powerful thing, because until both armies have at least three blocks in play, the turn duration is locked at one hour per turn. And so the first turn is one hour long, which is indicated by putting the turn end marker on the same time track space as the turn start marker: 7:00AM to 8:00AM. Once marked, the time track will look something like this:

The Turn Start and Turn End Markers

7:00AM Turn Duration

The 7:00AM Turn: The Union Action Phase

Since you’ve read the rules for the sequence of play, you know that the first order of business is drawing a battle token. For the rules on this, read Section 8: Drawing Battle Tokens. So, as the Union player let’s draw a token. Now, we already have 8 tokens in our tray, so we need to decide whether to keep the token we drew or return it. To make that decision, it helps a lot to have read the sub-section Artillery Organization and Attacks, which is at the very beginning of Section 13: Attack Moves. It also helps to have noticed an odd little rule in step 5 of Section 4: Tokens and Set-up:

“During play, a player can always peek at whatever is currently the top token on each of his own reinforcement token stacks. (he does not have to reveal them to his opponent).”

Now, if there is one thing the rules are infested with, it is “no peeking” provisions, so being invited to peek is a novelty. Before looking at our tray, let‘s peek at the reinforcement tokens on the top of our three queues:

A Peek at the Top Reinforcement Token on each Union Entry Queue


Buford's Left


Buford's Left


Buford's Left

Now, since we’ve read the rules on artillery organization, we know that we can only play artillery tokens on organizationally matching blocks. Thanks to this peek, we also know three of the commands that will arrive sometime in the first 24 hours of the game. If we take a look at the Union tray, we can classify the tokens in it as well as the token we just drew according to the time we might expect to be able to play it (now vs. sooner vs. later), and use that as the basis of a policy for determining which token to keep and which to dump. Because we think it likely that we will be able to play the Sickles token before we will be able to play the Sedgwick token, we’ll keep Sickles and dump Sedgwick:

The 7:00AM Union Action Phase: Drawing a Token and Returning a Token

7:00AM Union Tokens

Before moving on, a couple things are worth noting: First, it is important to be aware of the fact that the Sedgwick token we just dumped was only returned, rather than expended: the difference is that while an expended token is gone for a good, a returned token will be eventually returned to the battle pool, where it might be drawn again later, so don’t mourn the “loss” of the Sedgwick token; we’ll probably see it again. Second, the sooner-is-better-than-later policy we used is just one possible basis for preferring one token over another; there are others and a sophisticated strategy shouldn’t just depend on one criterion for deciding which token to keep and which to drop. The inadequacy of our policy is made evident by the fact that it couldn’t even tell us which of the four “later” tokens to drop. As it happens, I just dropped Sedgwick out of a preference for unique tokens over duplicates. You can decide for yourself whether unique-over-duplicates is a policy you want to emulate.

After drawing a battle token, the next order of business is movement, but we have no reason to move yet. So we’ll just sit tight.

At the end of our turn we need to declare general orders, and this is a good time to read Section 6: Declaring General Orders. Now that section isn’t long, but it is a thicket of special cases. Try not to worry about it too much: they will all make sense in due course. Right now, the applicable special case is that we have to declare “Hold” if one player or the other has no blocks on the map. The Confederates don’t have any blocks on the map, so “Hold” it is.

The 7:00AM Turn: The Confederate Action Phase

The Confederate action phase, like the Union action phase, starts with a token draw. Same process applies: we get to peek at the top token on each entry queue, and we can use that information to help decide what tokens to keep and what to return:

A Peek at the Top Reinforcement Token on each Confederate Entry Queue


Buford's Left


Buford's Left


Buford's Left

Now, as the Confederates we really know quite a lot about the order of our reinforcement arrivals, since we not only can see the top tokens on each queue, we also know the corps order at the Chambersburg entry point. Because of this, we know that we probably won’t see any presence from I Corps on the first day. (Although it isn’t impossible — you never know.) III Corps comes in together and is the most important force on the first day; II Corps comes in rather scattered, making it difficult to collect for use as a corps. Anyway, let’s draw a token. Our initial tray, by the way, is really pretty darn good. We can evaluate it the same we evaluated the Union tray, but we’ll define ”Now” a little more liberally since we have no blocks in play yet. For us, “Now” means any token we can play as soon as our first block arrives, no matter what block it is. Anyway, we drew a II Corps token, so we’ll keep it and dump the McLaws token.

The 7:00AM Confederate Turn: Drawing a Token and Returning a Token

7:00AM Confederate Tokens

Incidentally, we haven’t yet shown where the returned battle tokens go. The locations of the token return stacks for the opposing armies are shown below:

Token Return Stack Locations

7:00AM Confederate Options

After drawing and returning a token, we next do movement. We have no blocks on the map and so have no withdrawals or attacks to make. (The helpful acronym for the move order is WARM — withdrawals, attacks, reinforcements, marches.) So after withdrawals and attacks, we do reinforcements next. Unlike the Union player, we have a time token on the hour for this turn, so let’s turn it face up and see what it is. (It is worth noting that we don’t flip the time token until we are making our reinforcement moves — so we have to make our token decisions and attack and withdrawal moves for a turn before we know what reinforcements we might get.) As it happens, the time token is a Chambersburg arrival token. As we already know, the top token on the right-most queue for Chambersburg is Pender, so Pender is now available.

The 7:00AM Confederate Action Phase: Flipping a Time Token

7:00AM Confederate Time

So, let’s get Pender’s blocks, take the Pender reinforcement token off the entry queue and discard it, and look at the new top token on that queue. A couple things here: First, don’t get confused about reinforcement tokens vs. arrival tokens: reinforcement tokens are the ones on the entry areas, arrival tokens are the ones on the time track. Next, the rule about being able to peek at the top token on our entry queues isn’t just for set-up; anytime we remove a reinforcement token and there are other tokens on the queue, we can peek at the new top token. Anyway, the next reinforcement token is Anderson. With Anderson revealed and Pender’s blocks on the map edge, the entry area will now look like this (of course the Union player won’t see the faces of our blocks or the face side of the Anderson reinforcement token):

The 7:00AM Confederate Action Phase: Chambersburg Entry Area

7:00AM Confederate Entry

Now, by the sequence of play, the next thing we are supposed to do is make our reinforcement entry moves to bring Pender on. But before we look at positions and fields of fire and what not, let’s take a GIANT step back and think about the big picture: What do we want to try to do with Pender? We have a lot of choices. We could transfer him to either the Mummasburg or Harrisburg entry points. We could send him straight up the Chambersburg Pike. We could swing him right. We could swing him left. We could divide his command and send one part one way or one part another. Take a look at some possible movement plans below:

The 7:00AM Confederate Action Phase: Some Options for Pender

7:00AM Confederate Options

Of course, all of these plans would take hours to execute, but before bringing Pender on, it is wise to have some idea of where we intend to send him. Now we could go on and on discussing the strengths and weaknesses of these various plans, but this is a tutorial and not a game strategy analysis, and so we’re just going to pick one without much discussion. When you play the game for real you can make your own choice, or even invent some new option other than the ones presented here. Our pick here and now is to try to work Pender into the gap between the Chambersburg Pike and the Mummasburg Road, hopefully clearing both. We’re also going to try to keep Pender’s command together: we are lucky to have drawn a 2-strength artillery token for Pender, but we only get to play it if we keep the blocks together: even though Buford probably won’t fight, there’s no telling when the Union infantry will arrive or what they will do when they get here, and we want to be ready to hit them. The decision to go into the Chambersburg-Mummasburg gap and the decision to keep both of Pender‘s blocks together mean that our reinforcement entry will be off-road and will look like this (I‘ve shaded Confederate fields of fire red: the darker red is where the fields of fire of the two blocks overlap):

The 7:00AM Confederate Action Phase: Pender's Entry

7:00AM Confederate Entry

We’ve moved as far as we can for this turn, so we’re done moving. The only thing left in this action phase is to declare our general orders. Now, since we want to drive Buford back, and we can’t do that unless we’re able to attack, we’ll declare Attack general orders for next turn. (If we were to declare Hold general orders, Buford could just stay put since we couldn’t attack him.)

The 7:00AM Turn: The Objectives Phase

Now is the time to read Section 16: Objectives Phase and do what it says. Only the Union player is active in this phase, so we will act as the Union player here. According to the rules, for each hour of the turn, we take any arrival tokens off the time track and put them on the Reinforcements Received Display. With only one hour and one arrival token, this is pretty easy. We do it and the display looks like this. (Note: that isn’t a Union token on the left; it is just the display illustration. Also, I’ve rotated the display to make it right-side up in this illustration, but it is on the north edge of the map and not the south edge.):

The 7:00AM Objective Phase: The Reinforcements Received Display

7:00AM Confederate Entry

For each hour where there are more Confederate tokens on the display than Union, and the Union has fewer than four tokens, the Union player gets an objective move. Well, there is only one hour (7:00AM to 8:00AM) for the turn, and for that hour there is one Confederate arrival token vs. zero Union arrival tokens, so the Union player gets one objective move. Unlike blocks, which occupy positions and move from position to position, objectives occupy areas and move from area to area. While we could try to devise a sophisticated strategy for handling Union objective moves (and it is a subject worth some thought), for the moment let’s adopt the simple expedient of moving the most threatened objective farther away from the Confederates. It might not be the best Union strategy for all circumstances, but it will definitely work for now.

The 7:00AM Objective Phase: Moving an Objective

7:00AM Confederate Entry

And that completes the first turn of the game. We’ll save the next turn for the next diary entry.

Another Day, Another Rules Revision

Gettysburg Rules

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Once again, those who have taken the time and trouble to read the rules and send me your comments have my thanks.

Some Box Revisions

I’ve also made some box revisions. There was an inconsistency (Whoops!) in the subtitle between the front and sides of the box. Glad somebody caught that. The back of the box has also been re-laid out (again) and some color changes have been made to try to harmonize the text and inset graphic with the map. (The black frames are gone and the background color for the text is now a shade of green like those used on the map rather than white.) I like it better than the previous version, I think, but I can’t say that I love it. (I love the sides of the bottom of the box, with the generals against the map background, but I don’t love the bottom of the box proper.)

Box top and sides

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Box top and sides

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