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8 August 2009

 Products The Guns of Gettysburg Design Diary Displaced Displays

Displaced Displays

Just a light diary entry this time around. It occurs to me that while I’ve shown what the map looks like, I haven’t shown what the board looks like — the difference being the inclusion of the play aids. So this is a brief entry to rectify that omission.

The Map Legend

The legend is very far from being the most important play aid, but it is the largest and the prettiest. Its function is really no different than that of a legend on an ordinary map: to tell people how to read the map. As a graphic design, it is fairly simple; it does however have the distinction of being the only place in the game where my name appears, and then only because it gives the map a slightly archaic air, which also is the motivation behind the scalloped corners. Anyway, here it is:

Map Legend

The Time and Date Tracks

The next largest play aid is the date & time track combo. First thing is just that it continues the scalloped corner theme used on the map legend. The second is that each box on the time track, rather than being labelled with a time, is labelled with a time range. I hadn’t done this before, but it really does make sense: each space on the time track represents a one-hour block of time, not just a moment in time. This also helped in some places in the rules where I had to refer to time ranges; it was so much easier to talk about, say, 9:00AM to 11:00AM, and have people know what it represents on the time track when the time track is labelled in this way. (The track, of course, is not this small on the actual board; the boxes are really about 3/4" in height.) Anyway, here it is:

Time and Date Tracks

The Token Stacks

Token Stacks

These small aids are used to keep battle tokens organized after use: the Discard Stack is where a player dumps his extra tokens when he has more tokens than he’s allowed to have in his tray. The two Used Token Stacks are where tokens go (temporarily) after they have been used in combat. The Union and Confederates each have their own copy of this display. It isn’t the most exciting display, but you can see once again the scalloping of the corners.

Entry Point

The blue triangle thingy and the blue lines on the edges of the board indicate reinforcement entry areas. There are three Union entry points (Emmitsburg, Taneytown, and Baltimore) and three Confederate (Chambersburg, Mummasburg, and Harrisburg). Reinforcement entry is more than a little important in the game because the only blocks on the board at start are those of Buford’s cavalry division; every other unit enters the game as reinforcements. The first day, in particular, is quite different from the other days because of this. I could say more about how reinforcement entry works, but all I’m really trying to do today is talk about visual stuff, so I’m going to postpone that subject for now. (Oh, yeah, you can also see the compass rose in the bottom-left corner. See? This illustration is a play-aid two-fer.)

Entry Point

Reinforcements Received Stacks

Reinforcements Stacks

The last play-aid is another small bookkeeping aid: the Reinforcements Received stacks. This display is going to be pretty meaningless to you at present, and I’m going to have to let it stay that way for the moment. But see the pretty scalloped corners? Ooh, pretty. (That’s about as decorative as I ever get, really. I think slathering on decoration without making a mess requires more taste and judgement than I possess. I wouldn’t want to make a game board that looks like Elvis’s Graceland, so I try to err on the side of caution.) I will say I get no satisfaction whatever from the little graphics on these tokens. I think they look rather ugly, frankly, but so far they have defied my efforts to make them any better. Sure, I’ve been able to make them different, but not in any way that I would consider an improvement. They look too much like telephone poles. Sigh. It is at times like these that I think my desire to do it all myself gets in the way of making the game as good as it could be...

Putting It Together

And finally, we put it all together. You can click on this image to zoom in and see the board in its own window. Overall, I think it is a satisfactory design. Its largest defect, I think, is that the Confederate token stacks on the left look rather too much like a reinforcement entry point. It is not uncommon for playtesters to ask if Confederate reinforcements can come in there. (The answer is no.) People don’t make the same mistake with the Union display, presumably because it isn’t near a road. I’ve thought about moving the Confederate display, but the left edge of the board is high-value real estate in terms of game play, and this is the spot where it has played best, so there it stays. Well, that’s it for now!

Gettysburg Board

Click on the image above to open in its own window