First Take on Last Chance

Way back in late June of last year, right about the time I was taking a little break from blogging (I’ve done a lot of break-taking this past year), the folks at MultiMan Publishing opened pre-orders on “Last Chance for Victory” (or “LCV”) — Dean Essig’s fresh take on the Battle of Gettysburg using the Line of Battle rules system. Ooo. Just in time for the 150th anniversary of the battle, no less. How could I resist “special 150th anniversary pricing”? Especially considering that I liked the first Line of Battle game, “None But Heroes” (or “NBH”, on Antietam), much better than the older Regimental Sub-System (RSS) games.

So much for flashbacks… elegant dissolve to the present. A big box of Gettysburg, wargame style, plopped onto my doorstep the other day, which means Last Chance for Victory is now taking its turn on the virtual table (via VASSAL, mainly because the Not So Big Anymore Table is not so big anymore and strains under the stress of even a 2-map scenario). Why, I’m so excited by this game’s arrival at the swamp bunker that I’m moved to writing a brand-new blog post. After several months of moderately “meh” games on the table, what we have here ladies and gentlemen is something worth getting worked up about.

VASSAL screen shot of the Confederate player's initial deployment.

VASSAL screen shot of the Confederate player’s initial deployment.

First of all, this is a huge — HUGE — box of old-fashioned wargaming goodness. I’m not the sort to judge a game on the price per pound metric, but it’s gratifying to see such a level of physical effort put into an old-school hex-and-counter game. Six maps, eight sheets of counters and more pages of bookage than a single “out of the box” photo can accommodate. And while bookage alone doesn’t predict quality, a slow scan through all of the information soon reveals the impressive amount of research and organization that’s gone into LCV. There’s none of that trendy, post-Ameritrash game bling in the box. No cards, no plastic miniatures, no standup doodads nor any wooden Killer Meeples. Just lots of well-done wargame stuff.

An electronic version of the Line of Battle v2.0 rules has been online for quite some time, so I’m pretty familiar with the new rules (and with the special rules for LCV). They’re a considerable improvement over the v1.0 rules, which were themselves a major improvement over the old RSS rules. The sequence of play is streamlined, the orders system is improved, charges and defensive combat effects have been overhauled. A couple of months ago I used the v2.0 rules in smallish play of an NBH scenario and was suitably impressed. It’s obvious that a lot of design experience and plenty of hours of tinkering have gone into Line of Battle 2.0 — the rules definitely aren’t a snatch-and-grab from the Big Bin of Trendy Design Mechanisms.

Ah, yes. The special rules for LCV. There are a bunch of them, including an impressive array of special rules regarding the action on Day 1. Since I’m just now barging into this thing, I can’t speak to whether or not they’ll be a gaming straightjacket. But I’m pretty sure they’ll snap together to build a framework that imposes some historical constraints on the morning (especially) activity. With apologies to all of the semi-historical sort-of-fiction floating around popular culture, the special rules are aimed at eliminating the typical Gettysburg wargame flow of Archer’s and Davis’ brigades charging into the Union cavalry (which they didn’t) only to be mowed down by the cavalry’s rapid-firing carbines (which they mostly didn’t have). What you’re going to get instead is something closer to history: Heth’s division traipsing slowly down from around Cashtown with skirmishers out against some pesky vedettes and ‘militia’, certain that Federal infantry was still at least a day away and with an eye toward bivouacking near Gettysburg and finishing up the “contributions” Jubal Early had started to collect from the town when his division marched through about a week earlier. As a gamer, you know that the troops of Reynold’s I Corps are hot-footing toward town. But on the real-world morning of July 1, 1863, neither Harry Heth nor A.P. Hill had the slightest inkling their troops were about to run smack into the Army of the Potomac.

Most of the Day 1 special rules deal with that pivotal morning encounter, but there are other topics to address as well. Lee’s late appearance on the field, the arrival of Ewell, Reynold’s death, Howard and Hancock debating who’s in command. Just to name a few. Probably a daunting array of special rules for those who aren’t familiar with the historical details of the battle, but not that hard to put in the right place if you’ve read around a little bit.

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