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Bobby Lee (Columbia)

Playings 3, 2 Union, 1 Rebel win (11hours)

I have been using the 2nd edition rules that presumably make the game pretty close to Sam Grant. The changes from 1st edition are marked, they are pretty minor, changes in factors that influence results of play rather than in rule mechanisms. Even so there is still an errata sheet to this edition and a general lack of tightness to the whole. The rules are not long but are hard to play right because they lack detail and examples of certain crucial areas.

Bobby Lee is a block game much like East Front with a certain WW1 feel, considering the time and period this is appropriate if rather frustrating. The hexes are above average size but the block density means that they will not all fit in a single hex. In 1863 some hexes will have blocks 3 high to fit all units in and to avoid mixing with adjacent hexes that are similarly dense. Combat takes place off map on battle boards that use a similar system to Dixie; I am not sure which of the 2 systems came up with the idea first.

There are limits to the number of units that either player can move into combat. Naturally the defender has all his in-hex units to start; the attacker is limited to 4 units per clear terrain hex side in good weather. Terrain can reduce this, woods and rivers allow 2 units, bad weather halves the limits again. Battles can go on for 4 phases in a battle day with either side bringing in new units at the end of his phase. These phase limits are half the limit allowed at the start of the day, 2 for clear 1 most others and a 50% chance for some in bad weather. If only 2 or 3 blocks are involved on each side this will not affect the battle but it is most important in crucial combats. Each side has 4 boxes, reserve, left right and centre, the defender sets up 1st but is not allowed to shove everyone in the reserve and run away before the attacker shows. He must have at least 1 unit in the left right and centre boxes. The attacker must have a unit facing each of the defenderís front line units but because of the hex side limits he may have fewer units at the start and be hoping to bring on more as the day goes on. Only artillery can attack units in opposite positions (my centre to your centre and such). Other units must 1st charge across to close with the enemy but cannot fight on that phase. The attacker has the 1st phase in any battle and can either sit back with his guns and pound away or move up the infantry. Next the defender can either sit still and pour lead into the attacking units that moved across try to run away or charge to the attackerís side and have a go at him before he brings on too many units (but get pounded 1st). Any defending artillery will get to bang away as well although artillery are expensive so will not be present in great numbers. Combat within the same battle position is fire or melee, you get to choose, with fire artillery hits on a 4-6 in the same position (6 across the divide), infantry a 5-6 and cavalry a 6. In melee artillery hits on a 6 and the others need a 4-6. With fire only the defender gets to roll so you take the medicine before hitting back but in melee both sides roll then both go again, the attacker must then retreat if any defenders remain. It is possible to shoot sideways from the flanks to centre if the opposing position is empty or you have taken one of the enemyís flank position, otherwise combat in the various positions takes place independently. Either side can retreat voluntarily taking hits on a 6 from same speed units in the same position or on a 5 or 6 from faster units (cavalry > infantry > artillery). A combat ends when the enemy centre is taken. If the attacker has a HQ present the battle can go on for more than one day.

Due to the limited number of units that can initiate an attack there may be 2 or more battles going on simultaneously in nearby hexes both being fed from the same group of non-engaged hexes. The rules are none too clear on the order of handling this but carrying out each battle phase by phase has the right results and prevents one battle being fought based on the results of the other. Fortresses create a bigger problem. There are 4 of these hexes and they do not use battle lines. All units are supposed to line up in the sole centre box and the defence has an advantage in only taking losses for each 2 hits inflicted on them. The reinforcement system still stands so the defender can pump in new units; these are places like Petersburg so this is reasonable. In other combats a unit can be forced to pull back if it is down to one step (from a maximum of 3 or 4) but there is nowhere for either side to pull back to in fortresses. The solution may be to have a centre and reserve in fortress battles allowing any withdrawing units to hide in the reserve and come back later. The rules are none to clear on this point. The halving of casualties (rounded down) makes fortresses hard to take but if the attacker has artillery he can shell away being fairly safe that the defender will not charge out to and lose his defensive bonus. The moral is that a defender in a fortress without artillery will eventually be worn down.

Strategy is based on supply lines and HQs. Both sides get 4 HQs one of which is the super strategic HQ that can give orders to any unit on the board and can be used for rail and sea movement. All HQs have up to 4 steps one of which is burnt up whenever the HQ is used. All units including HQs can receive new steps bought from a fixed budget each turn if they are in supply. Supply lines are continuos chains of friendly rail lines or ports. The Union has to garrison rail lines in CSA states (the CSA has the same restriction but wonít be worrying about it much) and ensure that his portís access to the sea is not blocked by a CSA port (a lot of these ports are on rivers). If a unit is not in supply it must forage, big stacks take step losses. More importantly stacks that are not in supply cannot receive replacement steps, move a HQ out of supply and it will eventually run out of steps and be eliminated (and rebuilt at a premium price back on home soil). The remaining units can then only be moved by the supreme HQ that pays 1 point to move each unit. The sub-HQs move their whole commands on each point spent and are thus much more effective although only over a limited span. The 4 limit on HQs narrows the war to 1 HQ in the capital, another in the Shenandoah, a 3rd at the main front and the last for that flanking action probably along the Peninsula. Most units will be stacked close to these HQs but there will be the odd stack keeping under forage limits and making some threat of an end run under the central HQís command.

The result of this is quite a lot of battles most of which result in the defender moving away at the 1st opportunity big dice heavy multi-hex battles are very rare. The USA has a higher replacement rate and is forced to attack. Victory is by a sliding scale based mostly on holding towns but which moves steadily towards a CSA win with time. If the USA does not attack and gain some real estate the Rebs will win. Any CSA invasion of the north will result from a series of USA defeats down south; there is no way that the CSA can beat a full strength USA army. Assuming some suitable defeat the Rebs will have to act fast as the USA will soon be up to speed again. Washington is very hard to take, there is a potential CSA victory point each turn for besieging Washington which is just as hard to do as units are required all around the city and the Yanks will not like that. A northern defence is also hampered by the difficulty in keeping the CSA HQs in supply and bumping up their strengths to keep their stacks moving. Baltimore is quite close to Washington, not quite so hard to take and the CSA might get it if the Yanks took a tough enough pounding a few turns ago. Due to the supply situation the new CSA garrison is unlikely to get any support and will have to hold out on its own until the CSA get an automatic win or the USA takes the place back. Baltimore had rebel demonstrations and is in a slave state so we can allow this action. I feel that historically it was never an option because any CSA troops there are doomed to internment, of course we have less regard for these wooden men than for the real soldiers.

The whole feeling to the game is of interest but low on chrome. It can be played for the whole war or as yearly scenarios. I played 1861 and made a mess of it but found 1863 quite pleasant. The campaign just goes on and on. Half the turns are winter, which slows down movement, and halves hex side limits for battles but does not stop the replacement points. Result is that both sides build back to strength in winter although the odd battle is possible. Not much is going to happen in 1861 because the USA have to spend 6 months building the rail junction at Alexandria without which any campaign along the railway south from Washington is not possible. This leaves the Peninsula and taking the odd port. In all games the victory scale leads to odd events as one side reached the automatic or scenario victory level. The opposition then must do something or lose, this will prompt flying columns to take or re-take towns that cannot possibly be held for long, they do not have to be held. If another turn of the game can be bought new units will arrive and something might turn up. The USA is especially prone to this as it has the better replacement rate and will benefit from prolonging the game. This is most unfortunate it is not likely to influence who will eventually win but can change a win to a draw. The alternative is to have a random winning element with the box on the track having a D6 roll required for automatic victory. In turn this can be a blow when you lose having rolled a 6 rather than having lost some town or battle.

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