Taking inspiration from one of my fellow blogmates (The Boardgames Chronicle) I am going to start writing a series of fairly short, first impression type series of posts on games that we have recently played. And if you know my writing style, short is going to be a real challenge as I tend to drone on and on spewing out thoughts as they come to me as I remember (or rather misremember) our plays of games and what I liked and then trying to share my thoughts with you.
In Magnificent Style: Pickett’s Charge is a classic press your luck solitaire wargame designed by the great Hermann Luttmann (of Blind Swords Series and Dawn of the Zeds fame) originally published by Victory Point Games in 2012. The 2012 version came in their famous red pizza box and had those amazing campfire smelling sooty laser cut counters. The game was well received and became somewhat of a white whale as it went out of print and was pretty challenging to get at a reasonable price. In 2020, Worthington Publishing called on Hermann and asked if he would be willing to sign with them to release a Deluxe Edition of the game with new spiffy components and incorporating some minor changes to the way the game plays, mainly in the change from a Chit-Pull System to a game based on card draws.
The game came to Kickstarter in July 2020 and was successfully funded and now has hit general distribution. You can obtain a copy from the Worthington Publishing website for $75.00 at the following link: https://www.worthingtonpublishing.com/collection/in-magnificent-style-picketts-charge
The game is played on a board that represents the Gettysburg battlefield at the center where Pickett’s Charge occurred on that fateful 3rd day of the battle on July 3, 1863. There are three grouped Confederate Brigades categorized into a Left Wing, Center and Right Wing all under the overall command of General Longstreet. These Brigades must advance across the battlefield, avoiding and overcoming obstacles such as Emmitsburg Road, stone walls and fallen officers, to ultimately reach the Union positions at the top of the map and overcome the forces there to capture these positions. That is the goal of the game….that and to have as many men in your formations survive so that you still have a Division left to fight on later! And that is the trick! You will take horrendous fire from cannons, volley fire from the Union positions as well as counter charges from reinforced Union troops to try and drive you back. The Angle on the Left Wing is especially deadly for the advancing Confederates as the last two spaces will cause +1 Hit to be inflicted when the Brigades are attacked. You don’t want to linger here for sure!
Here is a look at the board:
One thing that I immediately loved about this Deluxe Edition was that everything you need to play is found printed on the board itself, from the Sequence of Play, to the Division General Table and the Movement Dice Results Table with a more involved description of each possible result color coded below for easy reference. It just made the game a joy to play as I only had to look in the rulebook for a few pieces of information. And this is the design’s greatest strength. It is very playable. Games take about 45 minutes and you can learn the rules as you go as nothing is really overly complex, with the exception of the Bayonet Combat as they have multiple modifiers and bonuses that you have to be aware of. But this Deluxe Edition even helps you there as there is a Bayonet Charge Card that you simply place on the board in easy view to reference the various modifiers.
But I want to warn you. If you like control in a wargame, I am not sure that this one is going to be for you. Everything that you do, mostly moving across the battlefield until you get in position to bring your soldier’s rifle fire on the enemy and ultimately conduct bayonet charges to control each position, relies on the luck of the dice. You will start each turn by activating a formation in turn and then roll 2d6, one die being red to determine the row you consult on the Movement Dice Results Table and one being white to determine the column. You then rinse and repeat until you decide you have accomplished enough with that Brigade and decide to regroup, moving your Rally Marker up from it’s last location to sit with your men. I found that I wanted to keep rolling and rolling until I got all the way up to the front and was ready to perform a heroic bayonet charge. But, you cannot do this with every Brigade as you will pay the price and find out soon enough that you don’t have enough force to make a difference at the end. That is the key. Knowing when to take your progress as enough and decide to no longer press your luck. Those dice may get hot for you and you may roll a lot of good results in a row, but soon enough your luck will run out and you might pay the price of your brashness by having to retreat all the way back to where you started!
The cards used in the game are simply fantastic…and gut wrenching….and enraging all in the same breath! The cards are drawn as a result of good things happening such as rolling a 6 on the white die and getting a “C’Mon Boys” result (I find myself yelling C’Mon Boys in that general type voice each time I roll this result) and getting to draw and resolve a Gray Event, which are always good for you with the exception of “God is a Yankee”. You can also get bad results though and have to draw a Blue Event and these are almost always bad for you with the exception of the “God is a Rebel”. Throughout a game, you will draw a card one time that will give you +2 Strength Point reinforcement and you will begin to get cocky as you see that this Brigade now has 12 SP and can take some more hits so let’s keep going. Then you draw the next card and your luck holds as you also get a good result in getting to attach a Rebel Yell marker to one of your Brigades, which gives them the ability to reroll any movement dice result or add +1 dice to a Bayonet Combat by discarding the marker (and letting out a blood curdling Rebel Yell!).
But this is where it gets you. You think you are invincible and you push on continuing to roll your dice and the inevitable happens. Snake eyes! Double 1’s, which is the worst result that can befall a Confederate Brigade moving across the battlefield called Rout! as you will have to take a number of hits equal to half the distance (rounded up) to your Rally Point and what is worse, you must now retreat to your starting position where your Rally Point lays and end your turn, but that is not all. You next have to draw another card but this time refer to the bottom Union portion of the card which is never good. Up comes a Volley Fire vs. Center….and you take hits equal to one half of the Union’s SP (rounded up) based on where you are on the board. This could mean 4 hits or as little as 0 but each of your Brigades in the Center will suffer this result! This is how this game goes. It is going well and all of a sudden on a dime your luck changes and you find yourself defeated and smarting as you are forced to quit with that Brigade, what is left of it, and move to the next activation. And then you repeat this over and over again until you come to the end of the game, which only lasts 5 turns, and then have to add up your Victory Points.
One of the other parts that I really enjoyed was the availability of various expendable resources, for lack of a better word, that the player has at their disposal to aid them in this arduous task. These resources are in the form of General Markers. These General Markers, there are 5 total with 3 being available to attach to any of the Brigades and then 2 being available to be used at any time, provide the player with options. This represents the power and command that a General on the battlefield had to have in order to lead and inspire their men to greater action. First, let’s take a look at the two Longstreet markers which can be committed to use at any time and for any unit. The effect is then the same as any General marker in the game – except Longstreet doesn’t stay on the map and get exhausted but is removed from the game after being used. Think of these two markers as your saviors, as they can stop anything in a reroll or bonus, but they are only single use. The other 3 General markers are attached to specific Brigades and can be used for several bonuses. To reroll movement dice, add dice to Bayonet Combat or even draw a Gray Event at the end of a game turn. These are renewable resources though as they are exhausted upon use and then are refreshed at the end of the turn. I guess that I really like this part because it reminds me of command and control and gives me the option to use them if needed to effect the outcome of combat or movement. A nice addition to an otherwise brutal and generally difficult game!
One other element about these General markers that is really interesting and has been added to the Deluxe Edition is the flexibility of allowing the player to transfer Strength Points from one column to another. This is genius! And a tough choice all in the same breath. This was added to really create a tough decision point for the player. This becomes really key as you move up the battlefield and see a very healthy 9 SV unit in a column next to an empty column because the unit was eliminated. If you can plan correctly, you can move some SV over to that empty column and get an attack moving there again as long as you attach a General marker first. I really like options like this in wargames. It makes for me feeling like I am in control.
Overall, this is a very good game. Great components, nice presentation of the rules and Sequence of Play, tough decisions about when to press your luck and keep rolling the dice and when to accept success and shore up your position. I also really like the way the game scores in the end as it rewards the player taking Union positions consecutively (as you will gain up to +30 points for having 6 or more Union positions captured consecutively) and the number of SV in each Brigade occupying Union positions is multiplied by 3 and those that are only adjacent to positions will multiply by 1. This means that Brigades that are in control of a Union position will have their SV tripled to score that position. For example, if you have 8 SV in the Union position at the end of Turn 5, you will score 24 points for that lone position (3 x 8 = 24).
I recommend you go out and get this one as it is fun, easy to play and you can bring it back to the table often. But remember you will not always be in control! And the dice will hate you for sure. And the cards will punish you most of the time. And sometimes you will get tired of rolling dice. But it is still good, and for these reasons mainly!