Wednesday, April 18, 2012

GCACW at Games Plus

Tuesday night was the second meeting mith Mike L. to continue our foray into the GCACW at Games Plus.  We decided once again to go with some extremely low unit count introductory scenarios so that we could play out a few different situations. 

The first action we went with was the Bath Scenario for Stonewall in the Valley available from the GCACW website.  We picked random sides and I drew the hapless USA forces.  Jackson's 5 rating attacks, even with disorganized and exhausted troops, cleaned up against the average rating of 1 for most Union units.  We did forget to use the new standard rule that reduces Jackson to a 4, but the results were never so narrow that they would have altered the outcome. 

The second scenario was New Market, also taken from the GCACW website for Stonewall in the Valley.  Here I took the South and was tasked with pushing the Union back during one rain turn.  My initial attacks bogged down in the mud and I was never able to catch up.  The turn, and game, ended quickly, once my limited number of units fatigued out. 

For the third engagement we went with the Brandy Station scenario from Stonewall's Last Battle.  Here Mike took the Union and was charged with following Pleasonton's historical plan as per scenario rules to cross at two widely seperated fords.  With luck the Union has a chance to overrun the Confederate cavalry artillery park thereby eliminating the artillery factor from the Southern units for the balance of the game.  The Northern horse broke through the ford but could not quite charge the camp.  Stuart was able to disperse the guns and managed to oppose the additional Union crossings for the win.  Another very enjoyable evening campaigning in the American Civil War.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Great Campaigns of the American Civil War

The Great Campaigns of the American Civil War (GCACW) series remains, after ASL, my most often played collection of games.  Since the publication of Stonewall Jackson's Way in 1992 I have remained a devoted follower of Joe Balkoski's inspired operational system.  In the years that have followed, Ed Beach has continuted to develop and refine the project.  In my opinion, there is no better duo than Joe and Ed when it comes to writing concise and understandable rules.  They have proven time and again their individual technical skills by writing some of the most accessible rules of modern wargaming.  Balkoski's inception for the system came about with his 1988 release Lee vs. Grant, which created a blueprint for the command and control model that would be the centerpiece of the series, albeit at a slightly higer unit scale.  Since that time, the system has grown to include almost every major campaign in the Eastern theater and has recently moved out West with the release of Battle Above the Clouds. 

The great enjoyment of the game, as is often said of ASL, is that it creates such memorable narratives in the course of play.  Playing ASL creates a narrative that resonates with people's experience at reading, hearing and watching World War II small unit war stories.  In a similar vein, the GCACW builds an operational narrative that replicates the tensions of Civil War command as we encouter them in army and unit histories from the period.  In spite of being an operational level game, the system smartly relegates logistical concerns to simple procedures and instead places the emphasis squarely on that part of the ACW that we most often consider: the performance of individual corps and army commanders.  As anyone who has ever participated in a discussion of Civil War leaders knows, much blood and ink is spilled by devotees and detractors of the various personalities from the age.  The game system expertly generates these same command controversies by placing the player largely in the role of the army commander.  You too will be elated by Stonewall Jackson pulling off a lengthy flank march or exasperated by Burnside marching all of four miles in one day.  The impuse initiative die roll and variable movement rate subsystems elegantly recreate the tensions found at the army command level of the ACW.  It remains to this day my favorite treatment of the ACW. 

Beginning this week, fellow PAASLite Mike L. has expressed an interest in learning the game and we plan on holding weekly sessions at Games Plus in Mount Prospect, Il.  This week was our first session where we did two quick introductory scenarios: The Race For Spotsylvania from Grant Takes Command and Salem's Church from Stonewall's Last Battle.  My plan is to offer session reports on our weekly confrontations starting soon.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

ASL Offboard Artillery Cards

More from the ASL accessory department.  Here is a selection of my personalized OBA battery access cards.  The back of each card features a standardized OBA design using VASL as my template.  The face of each card has a unique background picture typically based off a dramatic photo of an artillery piece in action for the black chit draws or a humorous picture for the red draws.  Whenever I run across a photo that is a good match for one of the decks I can just print out a new card and add it too my existing library.  Then an OBA draw deck can be custom built for each module from the available pool of cards. 

I use the same technique for construction of the OBA deck as I did with the Sniper Reminder cards.  Workplace ID lamination sheets are the perfect tool for building playing card sized game pieces.  They provide the uniformity and durability necessary for a working card deck of this size.

Monday, April 2, 2012

History Traveller: National Hellenic Museum

In an attempt to expand topics for the blog I will submit reports about local Chicago area attractions related to military history. 
Last Friday I was with my daughter in Chicago's Greektown area just north of the UIC campus.  We had an hour to kill while waiting for my wife to finish her lunch meeting so we decided to try out the National Hellenic Museum.  The brochure at the door promised exhibits on all aspects of Greek culture including Greek myth, the history of Greece from ancient to modern times, and, the clincher for me, an entire floor dedicated to the War for Greek Independence with displays highlighting "key players and battles".  Unfortunately, the experience did not live up to the pitch.

We started our tour on the first floor of the very beautiful glass and steel modern structure that houses the museum.  Here was located the exhibit titled "Gods, Myths and Mortals" which featured the traditional Greek myth icons in a format that was targeted for the under 10 crowd.  It had a replica temple, trojan horse and path to follow to relive the adventure of Odysseus.  Great for the kids but not much new for the adults.  Sadly, this was to be the highlight of the museum.

The second floor promised to be the centerpiece of the museum, but it is still under contruction.  In lieu of actual exhibits the walls are covered with blueprints, conceptual art and samples of artifacts that will one day be showcased.  It will all look great once it is finished, with planned nods to Alexander, Byzantium and a host of other topics of interest to the history traveller. 

We proceeded to the third floor where I hoped that the journey would be redeemed as promised.  The history of the War for Greek Independence was presented down a hallway with nothing more than a series of printed display placards hanging on the wall, no more than ten on each side of the hall, each briefly detailing major events from the war.  Needless to say very disapointing.  No artifacts, no dioramas, no nothing.  The third floor also features the museum library and oral history center which is certainly the reason for the existance of the museum and a critical focal point for local historians and researchers.  As an historian I can deeply appreciate the need for such collections to be kept alive, but as a museum experience there was much left to be desired.

The admission to the museum was $10 per person (with the typical discounts for children and seniors) which is quite a bargain for Chicago area attractions.  I usually have no problem with donations supporting museums and cultural endeavors, but something about the real lack of anything just didn't sit well with me. Perhaps if they were more up front in their marketing that the price of admission is really more of a donation to get a preview of a seriously unfinished museum would have made the experience more acceptable.  In its current state I cannot recommend a trip to the National Hellenic Museum except to those who really desire to support the cause of the museum.