A few years ago, Sergio Schiavi broke onto the scene with his new company called Dissimula Edizioni with their first Kickstarter called Radetsky’s March: The Hundred Hours Campaign and that game was then followed a few years later by From Salerno to Rome: World War II – The Italian Campaign, 1943-1944. Now comes the third game to Kickstarter which is a look at the American Civil War and the Chancellorsville Campaign involving the Union Army of the Potomac commanded by Joseph Hooker and the Armey of Northern Virginia commanded by Robert E. Lee and is called Give Us Victories: The Chancellorsville Campaign. I reached out to Sergio and he was more than willing to give us an inside look at the design.

The Give Us Victories Kickstarter campaign is currently ongoing and will conclude on Sunday, April 25th at 4:20AM EDT. As of the posting of this interview, the campaign is funded with $15,517 toward its goal of $11,633.

If you are interested in Give Us Victories: The Chancellorsville Campaign, you can order a copy from the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/guv/give-us-victories

Grant: With 2 previous successful Kickstarter campaigns under your belt (Radetskys March and From Salerno to Rome), what lessons have you learned about game design and running a Kickstarter?

Sergio: I always have the same astonishment as I see people supporting my games. It’s an incredible feeling, that I can’t, and don’t want to, get used to it. However, my question is always the same: will they like the design? Did I do everything right? I think the most important thing is to have made a good game, presented in a simple way. And keep very calm when the KS campaign starts…

Grant: What is the focus of your newest Kickstarter Give Us Victories: The Chancellorsville Campaign?

Sergio: I was interested in examining the differences in reaction and movement of the two armies. Hooker is a very strong leader but the Army of the Potomac is slow but powerful, but moving in difficult terrain can be very difficult to coordinate. Lee on the other hand has a much smaller army (very much smaller!) but it is easier to activate and has more advantages in combat. Even the artillery is organized in a very different way and this has its importance in the game. I’m also starting to work on the expansions to Give Us Victories, which is dedicated to the Wilderness; Grant’s Army of the Potomac is much more flexible by comparison. Fewer corps, more willing to take losses, and more aggressive.

Grant: Why did you want to design an American Civil War game on this campaign?

Sergio: In the past I had the privilege of working for Raimondo Luraghi, an Italian historian who wrote an important and complete history of the American Civil War (in addition to the history of the Confederate navy). When I was a boy I was fascinated by that reading and his maps. Indeed, it is that book that prompted me to draw when I grew up and by pure coincidence I happened to work for him as a cartographer.

Chancellorsville is perhaps the most difficult campaign to simulate of the entire war, but for me is by far the most interesting.

Grant: What sources did you consult about the history of the campaign? What one source would you consider a must read on the subject?

Sergio: Jack Greene (Quarterdeck International Games), a great friend, gave me the Sears and other books. Then I found other sources like the Bigelow but the most important and the most fascinating remain the War of The Rebellion, Official Records; there are hundred of pages dedicated to Chancellorsville full of reports ranging from army commanders to individual regiments…fascinating! An essential reading if you want to understand how things really happened.

Grant: What is your overall design goal with the game?

Sergio: My goal is to design a game about a very difficult campaign with a fairly simple but fun system for both players. They have to adopt very different strategies, of course.

Grant: What from the history of the American Civil War did you want to make sure to model in the game?

Sergio: This is a hard question! The more I deepen my understanding, and the more I read, the more I find elements of interest that I would like to report in some way and model in my game. In this case, Give Us Victories allows us to understand why, if I manage to do the expansion, even under the same conditions, Grant was able to continue in the campaign the following year (in the Wilderness).

Grant: Where did the title of the game come from? What do you want this title to convey about your design?

Sergio: The title is the last sentence that Lincoln writes to Hooker in his beautiful engagement letter as commander of the Army of the Potomac. He says: ‘Go forward and Give Us Victories’. I find it perfect as a game title, along with the cover photograph. Those soldiers seem to be saying just that.

Grant: What is the scale of the game and the force structure?

Sergio: The scale is 1 km per hex (approximately 0.6 miles), while most of the counters are infantry brigades. There are some regiments and artillery battalions. Roughly 1 strength point for every 550 men or 8 guns.

Grant: What area do the maps cover of the battlefield? Who is the artist for the maps? What sources did they consult for the most correct information on terrain?

Sergio: The map covers a large area of Virginia, from Kelly’s Ford to Spotsylvania, with a lot of space in between. It allows for a lot of maneuvering (and can be used with the Wilderness and Spotsylvania expansions, if I manage to do those in the future). I drew the map and it was a really fun map to draw, I also used as reference the maps of the Virginia landowners in 1860-63, downloaded from the Library of Congress. I had never drawn so many forests!!!

Perhaps it is the most beautiful map I have ever drawn and I truly hope that the players like it! As a small publishers, I always make maps by myself for my games! And often, even all remaining graphics too…

Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters?

Sergio: The counters are very large, 17 mm (approximately 5/8″)! They report two values, combat and movement. You may find sometimes a combat bonus inside a white circle. More, there is the State of origin or a particular designation. Finally a colored band identifies the formation, the name of the brigade commander. There are two different sets, one NATO, with classic symbols, the other with icons. The Confederate counters of the NATO set have very different colors, I wanted to bring back the extreme variety of gray and butternut of their uniforms.

The set of icons instead has a few designs but slightly different from each other. Pier Giorgio Lovera designed them, my friend who designed the From Salerno to Rome tanks. He’s very good!

Grant: Why are you offering two sets of counters, one with NATO symbols and one with silhouettes?

Sergio: Well, I think having two sets of counters is an advantage for the players and makes the game richer, more beautiful to play and to collect.

Grant: What system is being used for the game? How is the system changing to model this war and campaign? What advantage does Chit-Pull give the design? Once activated what actions are available to players?

Sergio: The system’s heart is the same as Radetzky’s March: activation of the formations by Chit-Pull, which are extracted at random so this mechanic creates a lot of uncertainty. Of course players cannot activate their whole army during a turn (which lasts 4 hours if a day turn or 8 if night turn), they have to make some difficult choices. The Radetsky’s March system is well suited for this war; I just made a few changes, for example now artillery can bombard and trenches are used.

The activation of the two armies is very different: Confederates have smaller formations but have more points to spend; they also have Lee and Jackson who may coordinate multiple formations simultaneously. Federal formations are larger but the North doesn’t have many points, so it has to carefully choose what to move and where. And Hooker can only command 2 corps simultaneously.

Generally, when a formation chit is drawn, the formation moves and fights on their own; if instead a commander is drawn then all his formations within his command range may move together and fight in coordination.

Grant: What Special Rules are there covering things like skirmishers, trench building, and bridge building?

Sergio: Skirmishers represent armies’ ability to absorb losses. They are spawned when players wish, but they are limited in number, so sooner or later, as fighting wears on, they will be finished, and then the losses will have to be absorbed by the brigades. A simple system but it seems to work fine.

Trench building is practically automatic: when a player wants and decides to accept combat then he generates trenches and skirmishers.

Bridge building is simple too: it just needs a unit in command next to a ford, which does not move.

Grant: What are the Event Chits and how do they change the game? Are these optional? What are some examples of these events?

Sergio: Events are optional and have different effects; some are very powerful and can only be used once; for example, there is an event that allows you to immediately activate the VI Corps; or it allows Hooker to coordinate armies on the eastern side of the map as well. Another very interesting event is the one that allows the Confederates to build a bridge. Minor events represent small tactical advantages: the discovery of hidden trails, the ability to make a night attack, and so on.

Grant: How does combat work in the design? What is unique about the CRT?

Sergio: Combat has changed, and the CRT no longer exists. The ratios are always calculated but both players roll some dice: a result of 5-6 inflicts a loss. Of course, there can be modifiers: the terrain, the bonuses of some elite units, the trenches defensive benefit…I think that this is the greatest innovation of the system and it is really a lot of fun, at least for me!

Grant: What different scenarios are available?

Sergio: There are many scenarios: Jackson’s attack, Salem Church, on May 1st…but the best is to play the whole campaign. It is a fast affair, it’s not like From Salerno to Rome!!!

Grant: What Variants are available? How is the special Strategic Map used in connection with the Variants?

Sergio: The variants are many and I hope interesting; the most important are those concerning the chance to bring into play as reinforcements the divisions of Longstreet (which did not participate in the battle because they were too far away) and the cavalry corps of Stoneman; the game changes a lot in this way. Another important variation uses a small strategic map where the two players, from the start of the campaign (April 27th), can deploy their formations in a different way than Hooker and Longstreet did.

Grant: What does this Strategic Map look like?

Sergio: The Strategic Map for the extended campaign variant will be this one; keep in mind it may change though.

Grant: The game has a solitaire option. What is the Fighting Joe HooBot and the Stonewall JackBot? How does it work? What type of experience is it hoped to create?

Sergio: These are the working titles that Giacomo Fusetti gave to the AI, to characterize them. Inside the game, however, there will only be the Union one, the other is just too complex to develop and we will work on it later for future expansions.

So, Giacomo is at his first publication, despite the fact that he has already created some very fun and interesting prototypes. I asked him to lend a hand in developing a system that helps players who cannot find an opponent. You know that the Radetzky’s March system already has high solo playability, but I wanted to increase the possibilities for fun without developing a complete system. Giacomo immediately attacked this thing with a great commitment, going beyond what I had asked him, developing a complete system.

The solo system is managed by a paragraph booklet that mainly performs three functions: setting objectives for the Union Corps, defining their behavior during the turn and partially regulating the combat system. In addition to this there are dedicated rules for establishing movement on the map and particular reactions to certain game events (proximity to the enemy, creation of trenches, etc.). As you can imagine, managing the AI ​​of a brigade-level game with several units on the map, trying to remain faithful to the original game and without making the experience too abstract, is not a very simple activity: the complete solitaire system is therefore quite complex and dedicated to determined players. However, a “basic” variant will be included that will allow a simple game based on the old-school method of playing both sides, ensuring a little more dynamism thanks to the partial use of the booklet I mentioned earlier.

The game experience we are trying to create is that of a clash with a tough opponent, sometimes unpredictable: a challenge that, depending on the case, can follow the historical trend of the maneuvers or suddenly depart from it, and which in any case will give a hard time for the Confederate player. Furthermore, the use of a paragraph system favors immersion in the narrative of events, also guaranteeing a certain vintage feeling that I personally love so much.

Grant: What are you most pleased about with the design?

Sergio: I think the most interesting thing for me is the large number of choices both players have. There are several strategies that can be applied to win the game, and by the way I still haven’t figured out, I must admit, which one is the best!

Grant: What stretch goals are being offered?

Sergio: The stretch goals are particular, practically they are two additional games; the first is a set of paper toy soldiers, obtained from the figures for the modified and enlarged pieces. There is a small set of rules for simulating fast skirmish games on man to man level. The game is from my friend Giuseppe Tamba, a miniature wargamer and game designer who is in charge also for the translation of Give Us Victories. The toy soldiers stand alone without a base, but maybe we can put additional bases in the box. In any case, the files to print the bases with 3D printers will be available on the site for free.

The second game is a strategic game, signed by Giovanni Maccioni, the friend who shares the whole work and development process with me. He has a small map of the Chancellorsville area divided into zones that is not that of the main game variant and about thirty tokens. Quick and introductory. Even here the rules are very few.

We would like to offer three games in the same box, in order to cover the whole experience of the battle: tactical, operational, strategic. So I hope that all the stretch goals can be achieved!

Grant: When do you expect to fulfill the game?

Sergio: I think I’ll print by the end of the year and ship by January 2022.

From experience, I can say that Sergio is a good designer and his games have been a joy to play. Most recently, we played From Salerno to Rome and it was a fantastic game.

If you are interested in Give Us Victories: The Chancellorsville Campaign, you can order a copy from the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/guv/give-us-victories