Monday, November 3, 2014

A Tale of Two Cedars

Receiving the latest from GMT Games recently, I drew a little inspiration from Dickens as I re-examined my ever-lengthening wargaming journey.  With the release of GMT's Twin Peaks, an old battle gets a new face.  One of the battles in the sixth volume of GMT's Great Battles of the American Civil War (GBACW) series refurbishes the 1981 edition of Cedar Mountain.  The GBACW must be one of the longest running wargame series seen.  Richard Berg began in 1976 with Terrible Swift Sword.  I began my series' journey with the 1978 big soap box game of Bloody April.  Even with space at a premium in a small apartment on campus, I had Bloody April mounted up on my wall so that I could game it PBM.  Anyone remember the old days of PBM and using stock quotes published in the Wall Street Journal as a random number seed?  Boy, we have come a long way.  

Being a subscriber to Strategy & Tactics magazine in those days, Cedar Mountain arrived in S&T86 in 1981.  GBACW series has undergone numerous changes throughout its history and through several publishers.  Early adopters to the system would unlikely recognize most of the system today. 

The battle of Cedar Mountain, has been an ACW battle that has interested me since the arrival of that S&T magazine 33 years ago.  Thirty-three years ago?  Wow, hardly seems possible that thirty-three years have passed under the bridge since that day in 1981 when Cedar Mountain first arrived.

Cedar Mountain has likely been replayed on my gaming table more than any other battle for any period.  I still pull the S&T from the shelf and give the game a whirl on a regular basis.  The battle has been refought in 15mm multiple times and in 10mm multiple times.  My last 10mm miniatures participation game is documented on the blog (see BatRep).  The fields of Cedar Mountain are often a starting point for new rules trials too and are well trampled. 

In a map comparison, the old Simonsen map still looks pretty good.  Pleasing to the eyes and both high ground and woods are easily discerned.  By the width of Cedar Run on the S&T map, I figured the waterway was a significant obstacle.  When I visited the battlefield in 2012 (see Cedar Mountain Walk), I was surprised how little water was flowing through.  Of course, much could have changed in 150 years but, still, I was surprised.
Cedar Mountain game map S&T86
Looking at GMT's map of the battle in contrast, it seems as if the S&T map was condensed vertically to fit the battle within a single map allowing space for all of the game charts.  Even though the scale of the game is the same at about 120 yards per hex, distances on the GMT map are much greater.  When I stood at The Gate, I was surprised by the distance between it and the Crittenden house.  On the S&T map, it did not look so far!  How will these distance differences alter my time/space relationship to which I have grown so accustomed?  Time will tell.  In any case, the GMT map is quite handsome but no rail fence surrounding the wheat field?  In the old game, that was a good defensive line to take.  
Cedar Mountain game map GMT
The counters have been given a significant face lift too.  From the functional but drab counters in the original, the gamer is treated to an explosion of color and information on the new unit markers.  I never cared much for icon counters.  Facing just looks odd.  A battlefield, seen from above, ought to display regiments from a birds-eye view.
S&T86 Countersheet
Twin Peaks' Countersheet
Rules wise, that evaluation must wait until I have been able to spend time reading and working through a few examples of the game mechanisms.  Perhaps, if a VASSAL module materializes soon, I will be able to give it a try.

The components of the new version of Cedar Mountain are quite inviting but there is comfort in looking into the face of a weathered, old friend.

14 comments:

  1. Both maps are nice, but the differences are interesting, and of course no map is ever a substitute for walking the ground where the opportunity presents itself!

    I was trying to think which Napoleonic Battle I have played more than any other, and no one battle comes to mind. Many of the ones that have been played 3 times are due to playtests and or convention games inflating the numbers. Also, many of battles were generated form fictitious campaigns using Warplan 5/5.

    I have never been much of a (wargame) board game player. OTOH, we were still using stock quotes as random # generators in the PBEM game of exploration and conquest set circa 1500, "Europe Way Back When", as detailed in my "Of Dice and ()Tin) Men" series, through at least 1985 (at which time I bought my first computer, an Apple IIe, and programmed it for a linked list to keep track of my assets in said game!)

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    1. Nothing beats walking the battlefield for truly getting the lay of the land. Advancing on Bloody Lane at Antietam was an eye-opening experience for me.

      For Napoleonic battles, either Maida or Vimeiro would be my most frequent games. Probably have gamed each over a half dozen times. Still enjoyable to refight too.

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    2. The maps certainly do look very different, us as a group never played this type of game, we kinda jumped from Axis & Allies and Shogun, to all painting up various countries for the Sport of Kings Campaign in the Age of Reason ruleset......and that was 20+ years ago!!!
      We've played loads of ACW battles but never Cedar Mountain?? I'll have to get Postie on this one!

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    3. Cedar Mountain presents a modest sized battle that could be fought to conclusion on most gaming tables. With the size of Postie's layout, it would be a snap!

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  2. That GMT map is beautiful. At the club we've discussed using maps like this for overall battlefield dispositions and troop movements, and then zooming in on a certain area, thus creating a scenario for a 28mm game. Stringing 28mm games together that way could potentially be very rewarding, and a way to refight a battle, without refighting the same scenario over again, even though that has its own charm.

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    1. Quite right about the map. Very handsome.

      I also use these board, wargames as a basis for miniatures battles or campaigns. These can be valuable reference materials to aid us in our miniature wargaming. They should not be overlooked and many cost not much more than a book on a battle or campaign.

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  3. Cedar mountain is a decent sized scenario in Fire & Fury (my game: http://mazikainen.blogspot.fi/2013/01/fire-fury-cedar-mountain-1862.html) and I've rather enjoyed the battle in the PC game Take Command: Second Manassas as well. It gives both sides the opportunity to play both offence and defence.

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    1. Mikko! Your Cedar Mountain game is fine looking. Having Jackson, Winder, and Taliaferro go down in one turn is brutal!

      I have fought this battle at least twice in 15mm using Fire and Fury. Never had those high levels of leader casualties. Union artillery had a tough time in your game too. Such extreme results.

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  4. I'm personally not much of a board game players, but the map does look interesting and I wholly agree in that walking a battlefield can really be an eye opening experience.

    Christopher

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    1. I understand. I don't play them much either but I find them a very useful tool for scenario design and inspiration.

      I hope the table for my Chadd's Ford scenario is somewhat representative of the actual ground. Since you recently walked Brandywine, let me know where I have oversimplified or just plain got it wrong.

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  5. No doubt, GMT does superb work. I'd love to play either of these!

    I've unloaded most of my boardgames over the years but kept C & C Ancients for the scenarios.

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    1. The SPI Cedar Mountain is definitely an oldie but a goodie. GMT's remake of that SPI classic looks very good, indeed.

      I am often tempted to lighten my boardgame load. I don't, because I can justify keeping them based on my notion that they really are valuable reference materials. Maybe I should clean house a bit?

      Have you been playing much C&C Ancients? I really enjoy that system with miniatures.

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  6. Hello Jonathan:
    That's a great writeup on the two games with several interesting links. You are making me wish I knew the Cedar Mountain battle better, but hey, I have the GMT game and I have no excuse.
    You and I need to talk about playing something by VASSAL. Email me at mad padre @ gmail (dot) com and we'll talk.

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    1. Michael! You beat me to the punch with your Twin Peaks' Out of the Box impressions.

      If you are interested in the battle, pick up Robert Krick's book, "Jackson at Cedar Mountain."

      Email incoming to you...

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