Review – Shenandoah: Jackson’s Valley Campaign
Designers – Tom Dalgliesh and Gary Selkirk
Art – John Paul Strain
Columbia Games provided a review copy of this game
Woohoo! I was very excited to get my mitts on Shenandoah. Having only recently become acquainted with Tom Dalgliesh and his publisher Columbia Games through playing Julius Caesar, I was particularly interested in a campaign game based in the American Civil War as that has is one of my favourite periods of military history to read about. I am by no means an expert by any stretch, but I do know what I find interesting and enough about the history to have a sense if a game feels more or less right.
This game is about Stonewall Jackson’s campaign in the Shenandoah Valley during May and June of 1862. Historically – Employing audacity and rapid, unpredictable movements on interior lines, Jackson’s 17,000 men marched 646 miles (1,040 km) in 48 days and won several minor battles as they successfully engaged threeUnion Armies (52,000 men), preventing them from reinforcing theUnion offensive against Richmond. (from Wikipedia) It would be interesting to see how Shenandoah: Jackson’s Valley Campaign plays this out.
So what’s in the box?
This game is certainly on at the basic end of the scale and targeted as an entry level so the components are less than you would find in other games. Having said that, the quality I have discovered with Columbia Games is there. The mounted map is gorgeous and at first sight, I just couldn’t wait to get the game set up. The main towns and geographic features are clearly marked and for a wargame map, this is first class. It looks great with the blocks on it!
The blocks are sturdy, and the artwork on the stickers is nice and clear. There have been some comments about difficulty taking the stickers off their sheet but I had no problem. Don’t know what the fuss is about. 4 Dice, 2 starting set-up sheets and 8 pages of rules completes the package.
A 2-player game for age 12+, Shenandoah: Jackson’s Valley Campaign has a game process that is very well suited to new war gamers in particular.
Each of the 16 game turns represents 3 days.
Initiative phase – whoever rolls the highest die roll is the starting player (the CSA player wins ties)
Movement phase – Player 1 activates then their HQ units which in turn activate their units within range for movement and combat. Movement is 1-2 towns or only 1 town for combat and reinforcement. HQ’s are reduced 1 step after movement. Player 2 then repeats this for their units.
Battle phase – Battles are fought between opposing units in the same town, over a maximum of 4 rounds, the first of which is mandatory. If the attacker hasn’t defeated the enemy by round 3, they must retreat on round 4.
Supply phase – Both players get supply points for rebuilding damaged units and HQ’s if they can trace a line of supply.
Further rules cover Towns and Town control, Stacking limits, Terrain, Movement, combat, pinning enemy units, Battle rounds, reinforcements, etc.
Winning comes from victory points gained by destroying enemy forces and capturing enemy towns. The Federals also gain VP’s for Shields’ units off-board.
The core engine of the system revolves around the blocks which indicate the combat strengths and die roll firepower values required to cause the enemy damage. The trick is ultimately to survive the first mandatory round of combat, then you can choose to risk carrying on or choose to withdraw, hoping to use supply points to fight again. Trouble is, there just aren’t too many supply points available and usually, not as much as you really need. This means that the combat can be brutal and units fairly brittle, despite having steps to go through before being damaged enough to be knocked out of the game.
So, you need to be fairly selective with combat, looking to maneuver where it could bring an advantage. The Federals have the advantage in numbers but the disadvantage in that there are 3 distinct armies, that cannot combine forces. The Confererates have the disadvantage of lower numbers but advantage of a central position and Jackson’s ability to command all their forces. It seems like Jackson needs to strike early and play aggressively while the Union need to consolidate, give ground and allow the Southerners to lose steps on the offensive and then counterattack. Having said that, I think its tough for the Southerners to win which is how it looked on paper historically, but then the North was facing Stonewall Jackson and his foot cavalry. There is an optional historical set up which has Shields’ division off-board which give Jackson more of an edge, maybe too much?
Did it work for me?
Overall I really like Shenandoah: Jackson’s Valley Campaign very much, primarily because I can get into it very quickly and get it played. This is a casual player’s game as opposed to a heavy war gamer’s game. If you want heavy detail and painstaking simulation, look somewhere else. If you a sleek, clean system which focuses on fire and movement/positioning, then this is a great game for that. I would have liked a bit more meat say for Jackson’s foot cavalry and perhaps specific Jackson benefits in the core game as I think its tough for the Confederates to win. Perhaps cards with events, extra benefits as in Julius Caesar but otherwise, I am very pleased with this game.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7.5 out of 10
No this is a game for war gamers
For more information go to – http://columbiagames.com/