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Against the Odds magazine investigates military history from a broad perspective. The economic, political, religious and social aspects of warfare are examined in concert with events on the battlefield.

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19 - Not War But Murder


2007 Charles S. Roberts Award for Best Magazine Wargame

"June 3 1864. Cold Harbor. I was killed."

Thus read the last diary entry, found in the pocket of a dead Union soldier. He had made the entry himself, while all around him, other soldiers were writing names and home addresses on slips of paper and pinning them to the back of their coats.

These veteran soldiers knew what was coming, although it seems their commanders did not. Three full corps launched a disjointed attack against well-entrenched Confederates. In just eight minutes, the attack had petered out. Over 7000 Federals covered the Virginia soil. A few minutes later, the orders came down to renew the attacks, but at each level, from corps commander to captain, the orders were "followed" only by increased firing -- most of it blindly -- while remaining in position.

Grant said, "I regret this assault more than any one I ever ordered." Today it sounds more like WWI madness than part of Grant's successful campaign to end the Civil War.

But it was not so easy on the other side. While one CSA staffer called it "perhaps the easiest victory ever granted to Confederate arms by the folly of Federal commanders," from Lee's point of view, anything could happen. His army had "not a regiment" in reserve, and the volume of sound -- "It seemed more like a volcanic blast than a battle," -- rattled windows all the way back in Richmond.

Not War But Murder covers the week-long operation which marked the end of Grant's 30 day, "smash 'em up" campaign begun at Wilderness. Like a bloody chess match, Grant and Lee made move and counter move to get to this point, with Lee well aware that a false move could end the war quickly.

Not War But Murder, by designer Michael Rinella, is his first take on an American Civil War battle. This game includes one 22" by 34" inch area map, 170 5/8" counters, and 12 pages of rules that include designer notes, and optional rules. It also marks the debut of what Rinella calls the "diceless advantage". In previous area-impulse games, from Monty's Gamble all the way to the Avalon Hill games of the early 1990s, an "advantage chit" allowed the person holding it to re-roll an single die roll (or rolls if it was a combat). In NWBM this changes. The player may spend the advantage to gain specific game benefits, automatically. Thus, rather than being hoarded, this "twist of fate" is likely to hop back and forth, as each player strives to save a desperate situation.

What is most amazing about NWBM is how much of a "game" it actually is, offering both players challenges and fateful decisions to make, in this classic face-off of well-known leadership. What will you do?

Bonus Pocket Battle Game Included! Also included in all copies of this issue is a second, bonus game, Some Poles Apart. As the world collapsed around them in September, 1939 the brave Polish defenders at Danzig put up such a fight the Germans were forced to grant them alone "honors of war" in order to end the fighting.

Not War But Murder and issue #19 of ATO

Maps - One full color 22"x34" area mapsheet
Counters - 170 full color 5/8" die-cut pieces
Rules length - 11 pages
Charts and tables - 1 page
Complexity - Medium
Playing time - Up to 4 hours

How challenging is it solitaire? - Poor

Design - Michael Rinella
Development - Paul Rohrbaugh
Graphic Design - Craig Grando

Product Prices (includes shipping)
SKU Back Issue Type Price Qty.
A053Z-US Ziplock USA $39.95
A053Z-IN Ziplock International $49.95

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19 - Not War But Murder
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Click here to view the contents spread below (in PDF format) for this issue of Against the Odds Magazine!

Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader version 5 or later. Free download here.

Download the latest rules for Not War But Murder (in PDF format).

Download an expanded example of play/demo scenario here (in PDF format).

Read more about this game on Consimworld.

Read more about this game on BGG.

And, the publisher of this game recommends the books below if you would like to learn even more about this battle: