55 - Lee's Greatest Victory
“My God! What will the Country say?"
-- President A. Lincoln
The Chancellorsville campaign, which took place in and around Virginia’s Wilderness in May 1863, is considered by many to be Robert E. Lee’s masterpiece, a true triumph “against the odds.” Opposing Lee was Union commander Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker, who had devised a plan that seemed assured of success. His cavalry would raid deep behind Confederate lines, cutting Lee’s supplies, while Hooker and four of his seven infantry corps would march west, then south, and appear behind the Confederate defenses opposite the city of Fredericksburg.
Lee would be compelled to withdraw south, in which case he would be pursued, or he would be compelled to attack with his numerically inferior army to avoid being crushed between the hammer and anvil of Hooker’s forces. “May God have mercy on General Lee, for I will have none,” Hooker declared.
No plan, however, survives first contact with enemy. With the advantage of interior lines and a great deal of audacity Lee would confound his opponent by continually bringing more rifles to the critical place at the critical time. And it didn’t hurt that Lee’s largest corps was commanded by one “Stonewall” Jackson. . . .
Lee’s Greatest Victory is an area-impulse game but one unlike anything seen before. Since the appearance of the “sunset die roll” nearly three decades ago players have alternated activating a single area, with variation coming in the form of an uncertain turn length. Play has a chess-like feel, with players able to act and react with a great deal of prior calculation. Short turns could be frustrating for one or both players. In this revolutionary development of the genre players no longer know how many impulses they, or their opponent, will have, creating both opportunities and crises that cannot be anticipated in advance—just like real combat. The “momentum” swings back and forth but rarely the same way twice. At the same time, each turn lasts as long as the players wish it to last, ensuring something will happen every turn.
Units of maneuver are Union divisions and Confederate brigades for the most part, with historical leaders present to provide a combat boost though at the risk of being wounded or KIA. Pontoon bridges and entrenchments are part of the basic rules while optional rules incorporate weather and optional units for both sides. Best of all, it's just six turns long and very playable in one sitting.
Lee's Greatest Victory and issue #55 of ATO:
Map - One full color 22"x34" area mapsheet
Counters - 176 full color large 5/8" die-cut pieces
Rules length - 12 pages
Charts and tables - 2 pages
Complexity - Medium
Playing time - Up to 3 hours
How challenging is it solitaire? - Poor
Design - Michael Rinella
Development - Paul Rohrbaugh
Graphics - Mark Mahaffey
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Download the rules for Lee's Greatest Victory (in PDF format).
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A dreadful offensive on the Western Front in 1917 that would be called the "Battle of Arras" but remembered far better for what the Royal Flying Corps called it-- "Bloody April." Still flying mostly outdated aircraft, General "Boom" Trenchard insisted on constant offensive actions and round-the-clock missions for recon, artillery spotting, mapping, etc. Facing up against the likes of Baron von Richthofen's Jasta 11, the results were woeful losses. To the RFC's credit, they continually fulfilled the missions, despite the losses.
The Cruelest Month looks at this struggle, with the focus primarily on air operations and ground battle abstracted. As the British player, you must marshal your limited numbers of fighters to help secure the skies for your 2-seater observation craft. As the German player, you will employ your well-armed modern fighters against waves of RFC planes that simply keep coming, regardless of how many you shoot down.
And, as always, this Annual features an "extra-size" magazine, with in-depth accounts of the history behind the games, plus other articles. Make yourself the proud owner of this challenging look at the "horrors" men would inflict - and endure - to command the sky.
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