By Craig Robertson, Chief Game Developer, 1A Games

July 3rd marked the 150th anniversary of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. We at 1A Games felt it proper to observe the occasion with a demonstration game of America Divided: Gettysburg by John Hill and Todd Davis. I was joined by three young men at Game Kastle Fremont (www.gamekastle.com), one of whom had never played a tabletop wargame before. Liyen Liu commanded the Union forces, Michael Brooks commanded the Confederates, and Jarrel Guieb served as military advisor (and impartial kibitzer) to both sides.

Playtest of America Divided Gettysburg at Game Kastle Fremont

General Liu deploys Doubleday’s division while General Brooks makes a rapid flanking movement to the soda case.

After a quick overview of the events leading up to the battle, we began the game with the July 1st, 9:00 a.m. Union player’s turn. In the game, the Union has the initiative during the first day until Lee arrives in the afternoon, so Liyen began with a lively fire by Devin and Gamble’s cavalry brigades. Archer’s brigade took heavy casualties, losing two steps out of the four that each unit has in the game. However, the Confederates were highly motivated, and refused to retreat despite multiple morale checks. Meanwhile, the Union rushed the leading elements of I Corps to the battle line.

I Corps marches to the sound of the guns

9:00 a.m., July 1st: General John Reynolds’ I Corps marches to the sound of the guns.

As the Confederate player turn began, Michael decided on his goal for the game: he would give the Union cavalry the bayonet! He was ready to declare a charge with Davis’s brigade, but I advised him to first deploy his artillery on Herr Ridge and soften the Yankees up before the charge. The Confederate batteries failed to cause any casualties, but Devin was forced to retreat. Finally, Davis’s boys gave a fearsome Rebel yell and charged Gamble’s position. Liyen used the dismounted cavalry’s ability to withdraw from a charge, and so avoided the full impact of the charge. However, the Rebels caused devastating casualties to the Union troopers with a close-range volley.

It was during the second (10:00 a.m.) game turn that our players’ personalities began to have a serious impact on the game. Liyen continued to bring up Union reinforcements and decided to husband his cavalry forces by withdrawing them to positions that would protect them from the Confederate artillery that was rapidly accumulating on Herr Ridge. Gamble withdrew to the depths of MacPherson’s Woods, while Devin took cover on the reverse slope of MacPherson’s Ridge. Cutler and Meredith’s brigades of 1st Corps finally arrived, deploying into line under cover of the ridge.

During his turn, Michael brought up more artillery, and took advantage of the lull in the battle to advance Davis’s brigade to support Archer’s boys. At this point, we had to call the game due to real life commitments. Overall, it was a draw, but considering the fact that the Confederates had a chance to bring up reinforcements unmolested, the game ended with a local Confederate advantage.

Believe it or not, my favorite part of the game occurred while putting everything away. The players and I, along with a couple of bystanders, had a great discussion about the historical course of the battle and the war in general. Having the beautiful, large-hex map there to point out the various turning points and key positions of the battle was a great help during the discussion.

Positions at the end of playtest

Positions at the end of the game.

Here were three young high school graduates choosing to spend a summer afternoon talking history, and asking some very insightful questions. Without a doubt, that conversation would never have happened without the game. Not only that, but I may have made a couple of tabletop converts; both generals asked when they’d be able to get their own copies of America Divided: Gettysburg.