Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Longstreet - American Civil War game first play

My buddy Bill picked up a set of rules for playing American Civil War games called Longstreet.  The rules cover game play, but also provide a campaign system.  Randy and I squared off in a battle over the holiday weekend and Bill taught us the rules.

I have not yet read the rules, (I relied on Bill's read through) so please forgive any mistakes or misunderstandings presented here.
Rebel infantry taking positions along a tree line
Impression:  My overall impression of the game is positive.  It was fun and we had some exciting ebbs and flows where it looked like I would crush the rebels but then they came back and almost took me out.  In the end I won the game and broke the rebel forces, but through the campaign phase, I suffered more losses and didn't get much in the way of reinforcements.  I'll talk about the campaign phase a little more later.
The layout of the Battlefield
As this was a first play we were given very similar armies.  The only difference was the Rebels got 1 artillery unit with 3 guns while I got 2 artillery units with 2 guns each.

The Grand Army of the Missouri Valley included the following regiments (the unit names are real, but their inclusion together and the time frame for service is not):

Leader:  1 Eagle General Douglas Boone Hopkins.  He has had European service and has a personal physician.

11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment - "Fire Zouaves" - Eager/Recruit - 10 bases
89th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment - "The Railroad Regiment" - Eager/Recruit - 10 bases
2nd Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry (Colored) - Eager/Recruit - 10 bases
40th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment - "Mozart Regiment" - Eager/Recruit - 10 bases
Ahl's Heavy Artillery Company (Deleware) - Seasoned/Veterans - 2 bases
1st New Hampshire Light Battery - Seasoned/Veterans - 2 bases
4th Regiment New York Volunteer Cavalry - "Dickel's Mounted" - Eager/Recruit - 6 bases
The glorious forces of the Grand Army of the Missouri Valley
I normally play sci-fi games so I'm used to long ranges and things hitting often.  This game is a bit different and ranges are pretty short and the to hit numbers are high.  I will get used to that, but for this game it was a little frustrating.
Confederate Army forces
Game Play:  The core mechanic of this game is that it is card driven.  Each player gets a hand of cards and they must play cards to activate the different phases on their turn.  So to activate a fire phase, a player can discard any card (the contents of the card do not matter) and then can modify the fire phase with another card from their hand.  The text of the card for modifying the phase matters and dictates how the phase is modified.  The the opponent can play a card to modify the phase to (if they have a card that is appropriate).

This works the same for movement and combat (charging/close assault).  Movement through difficult terrain requires another card to be discarded as well, but 1 card discarded allows all units moving in difficult terrain to move.  You don't need a separate card for each unit.
Shoot the guys in the trees because as we will learn we aren't going to be able to dig them out in close combat.
On your turn you can activate a fire phase (which must go first) and then either a movement phase or combat phase.  That makes decisions challenging at times because you may have to choose between leaving a unit in a vulnerable position while you move units up to support it or charging with that lone unit without any support.

There are also some interrupt cards that can be played in response to certain actions the enemy takes.  These take affect immediately, but are discarded from the game when used so won't be reshuffled into your deck as the game progresses.
Here they come

The goal for the game we played was to break our opponent.  To do that you need to reach their break point.  This brings me to another interesting mechanic.  In the end phase of each players turn you will see if you have met the victory condition.  So I add up the number of enemy bases that I have killed and then roll a D6.  If the total is equal to or more than the break point, then the game ends.  What this does is allow for a (somewhat) varied end point.  My opponents break point was 24.  I had killed 19 bases and rolled a 5 in the end phase to end the game.  If I had rolled 4 or less I would have had another turn of him beating on me.  This keeps you from making those stupid moves that will for sure end the game, but leave your forces open to counter attack.  If you do that you might not end the game and then your troops are standing out there exposed and open to enemy attacks.

To be fair, I am no historical expert.  I don't know how accurate these battles portray ACW tactics, but it was fun and I look forward to another game.
Mid game both forces have advanced a little.
Campaign System:  Now let me talk about the campaign phase.  This is another aspect that I found interesting.  Many games are played with the mindset that the losses faced here don't matter since it is a one off game.  We played this with the intention of playing through the campaign.  So at the end of the game we had to track the losses to our units due to battlefield casualties.  Many of the bases lost in the battle were just wounded or had run off, however, some of the men were really dead.  Each player permanently loses 1 base for each 3 bases lost in the battle.  I lost a few that way.  After that, you have to see how many people died from disease or just went AWOL.  You roll a D6 for each base remaining in your units and on a roll of 1 you lose  a base from the unit.  I rolled a lot of 1s.  Now recruits are more susceptible to disease and running off so each recruit unit loses 1 more base from their numbers.

After you figure out losses, you have campaign cards that you get to draw from to see about adding reinforcements.  I stated the battle with 50 bases.  I ended with 23.  There is some truth to the saying, "Won the battle, but lost the war".  I haven't lost it yet, but feel like I was well on my way with the disease that is running through my camp.
With the campaign cards I was able to add 1 additional guns to each of my artillery units and two bases to a unit.  Since I was still below the minimum force size I was able to request additional reinforcements and received an infantry unit with 6 bases.

You also have to check to see if your units elan and quality have decreased from the losses.  I don't remember exactly how this works, but I know several of my units went from eager to seasoned (that sounds good, but it is actually bad).
The Rebels have advanced and the Union is flanking their position.

I'm slightly worried about my next battle, (my opponent didn't lose as many bases and got reinforced by 2 units).  But I know that by the grace of God, the Union forces will be victorious and will be successful at maintaining the cohesion of this great land.

My Grand Army of the Missouri Valley now stands as:

Leader:  2 Eagle General Douglas Boone Hopkins.  He has had European service and has a personal physician.  6 experience points.

11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment - "Fire Zouaves" - Seasoned/Recruit - 5 bases
89th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment - "The Railroad Regiment" - Eager/Recruit - 10 bases
2nd Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry (Colored) - Seasoned/Recruit - 4 bases
40th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment - "Mozart Regiment" - Eager/Veteran - 5 bases
17th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment - "Stonewall Regiment" - Eager/Recruit - 6 bases
Ahl's Heavy Artillery Company (Deleware) - Seasoned/Veterans - 3 bases
1st New Hampshire Light Battery - Seasoned/Veterans - 3 bases
4th Regiment New York Volunteer Cavalry - "Dickel's Mounted" - Eager/Recruit - 3 bases

Summary:  I like it.  This game introduces an interesting mechanic for ordering units and activating phases.  And the campaign system seems to be well thought out and not too overly complicated like some can be.  I hope to get more games in and look forward to seeing how the campaign progresses.  I am hopeful that the loses suffered in this battle won't destroy my chances as the war progresses.

Thanks to Bill for painting all the models and setting up the game for us.  Thanks to Randy for providing such as skilled adversary.


  1. Hi Sean,
    Great write up for someone new to Longstreet, sounds like you are on a bit of a learning curve on the tactics for this period.
    Nice figures!
    I have just completed a campaign and my friend and I found the campaign phase just as interesting as the games themselves!
    Carry on the good reporting.

  2. Definitely on the upside of the learning curve. I hope I can get through the steep part quickly and make some good decisions on the battlefield.

    I also think the campaign phase will be interesting and to be honest, that is one of my favorite parts so far. I can't wait to see more.

    Thanks for the kind words.


  3. Did you ever play any more games of this campaign?

    1. We did play a couple of games, but we didn't complete the campaign. I failed to write up any reports on the games past this one.

      We have been talking about giving it another go, but I'm not sure when/if that will happen.