Had Mark over today to try out Stonewall’s Last Battle. It’s part of the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series, which has a pretty good reputation. Also, there’s a new game for it due out for the first time in almost a decade, so I’ve been wondering how anxious I really am to get it.

This particular one is on the Chancellorsville campaign, where the Union nearly surprised Lee, and then let him take the initiative (never a wise move in the vicinity of Lee…).

Today’s fight didn’t go nearly so well for the South. I took the Confederates in scenario 5, the first of the advanced scenarios. I’d borrowed Mark’s copy last month so I could familiarize myself with the rules ahead of time, which also put me in the position of teaching the Advanced rules to Mark. (He’s only managed a solo trial session before this point; which I also did before today.) It’s pretty much the full battle, starting with Hooker getting his left flank over the Rapidan on April 30.

Teaching and getting through the first couple turns took us the bulk of the day. The game is not horribly complex (though there’s a passel of game-specific exceptions in each one, that I hope they find a way to tone down at some point). Part of the problem is just a very procedure-heavy approach to the rules, and further familiarity would speed things up quite a bit.

At any rate, the Confederates begin with a bunch of restrictions on the first day that limits their ability to respond. The game started with some cavalry skirmishing as I tried to figure out how to slow down the approaching Union troops. I threw what I did have available in his way, but not with much success (even lost a complete brigade).

The second day presented a lot more action. I pulled out the bulk of Jackson’s Corps from around Fredricksburg and attempted to face off with the three approaching corps. Partially due to poor initiative rolls, this was a lot more piecemeal than it needed to be, and Mark promptly wrecked a couple divisions with combined assaults. Part of this was also due to not being able to figure out what to do to get a good defensive position.

As the turn went on, I pulled parts of my forces out the actual entrenchments around Fredricksburg to shore up the rapidly crumbling west. I hoped that what I left would be enough to prevent a Union breakthrough there. More or less in vain. He then attacked out of Fredricksburg and cleared about half the fortifications. At the end of May 1st, there were a lot of Union troops that were going to be too worn out to get too far (hopefully), but the XII Corps was just getting up, and I was in much the same state.

Obviously, good Confederate play is necessary to get far, and I’m a long ways from figuring that out. Also, there is still a ways to go in the scenario, and it has pretty stringent VP requirements for the Union. However, I don’t know how I could have really patched a line together, and (hopefully) managed a counterattack in the interest of keeping the situation from completely falling apart over the next couple days.

So, a fairly convincing win from Mark, and he’s looking at trying out a couple of different short games next time around.