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24 March 2010

 Products The Guns of Gettysburg Design Diary Tokens of My Esteem

Tokens of My Esteem

One physical element that differentiates The Guns of Gettysburg from its Napoleonic predecessors is the use of die-cut cardboard tokens. The token sheet (front and back) is shown below. (Click to open either in its own window.) The sheet includes different kinds of tokens, which are explained in this diary entry.

Token Sheet Front

Tokens Front

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Token Sheet Back

Tokens Back

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Time and Reinforcement Tokens

Time System Tokens

About half the tokens in the game are for tracking time and reinforcements (the two being very closely related in the game). I’ve explained previously about how the reinforcement system and turn duration systems work here and here, but I don’t have much more to say about these tokens at present. And so I’ll just content myself with showing you which types of tokens make up this set and then move on to the more interesting battle tokens.

Battle Tokens

Battle Tokens

Broadly speaking, there are two types of battle tokens: march/field-works tokens (as shown on the left) and artillery tokens (as shown on the right). While I have talked some about artillery tokens already, I haven’t said all I want to say yet and will say more in this diary entry. As for the march/field works tokens, I don’t think I’ve talked at all about them at all and will rectify that omission here.

March/Field-Works Tokens

March / Field Works Token

These little guys have their origin in my desire to have a simple system for representing field works in the game. Now one concern I had about field works is that I have seen Gettysburg games that tend to turn into Verdun during the second and third days, with massive and ever growing lines of entrenchments. From a simulation point of view, this is pretty problematic, in that these two armies weren't fighting that way at this point in the war. The trench warfare of 1864 was still a year away. Even worse, from a game point of view it is a disaster. It buries the map with a sea of ugly entrenchment markers, produces turn after turn of boring entrenchment building, and turns attacks from dangerous exercises (which they were at Gettysburg) into exercises in suicidal futility.

Still, some entrenching was done at the battle, and I didn’t want to omit it entirely, I just wanted to keep it within historically reasonable bounds. That was the motivation for the field works tokens. Like other battle tokens, they are blind-drawn from a pool, and players can keep them in their battle tray. During night turns (only) they can be played on the map to create improved positions. Now, players don’t generally draw a lot of these (there are only 6 in each player’s pool), and don’t always want to hold onto them until night (they take up a slot in your tray, and you often want that slot for an artillery token), and so entrenchments, while they do happen, are not common. Quite a few games were played without any being built, with 1 or 2 being pretty common, and I think one game had 3. Overall, a historically reasonable amount of entrenching occurs. Aesthetically, they look OK: they don’t clutter the map and are reasonably evocative. Finally, they add very little in rules complexity. Overall I’m satisfied with how they work in this role.

So, you might ask, what about the "March" part of ”March/Field Works”? Well, one problem I had was that it didn’t make much sense for only the Union to have these tokens, but the Confederates didn’t have a lot of use for them and the Confederate player would generally see it as a wasted token. And so I decided to give the tokens an alternative function: in addition to being playable as entrenchments, they could also be played to allow units to march a little farther (1 extra step for 3 units). This actually was kind of nice in that it threw some uncertainty into the movement system: generally you would know how far your opponent’s blocks could move, but you could get surprised from time to time. Both sides could use them in this role, but the extra march distance is generally more useful to the Confederates than the Union, and so the "March" function tends to balance the tokens’ utility so that it is roughly the same for the opposiing sides.

Artillery Tokens

Artillery Tokens

Now I have already talked about how the artillery tokens work with respect to combat here, and I can’t see any reason to rehash all that in this diary entry, and so I won’t. Still, there are a few topics that I do want to address that I haven’t really covered yet. The first of these is how the token mix originated. Once I developed the idea of using artillery tokens, I still didn’t necessarily know how strong they should be, how many tokens should be in the mix, or how the tokens would relate to the historical artillery organization. In general, I wanted the number and strength of the tokens to correspond to how the armies organized their artillery historically, but since the tokens were actually a multi-function design element (more on that later) following it exactly wouldn’t necessarily work.

One question was how strong to make the individual tokens. Originally, the token strengths were to be in a range of 1 to 3, but it quickly became apparent that 3 was too big a number to use in the game. It just made defensive artillery overpowering to have tokens that strong. And so I adjusted the token strengths to be either 1 or 2. Now originally I intended to represent Union artillery superiority by making their tokens 3's and the Confederate tokens 2's, but with 3's eliminated, I had to model it differently. After some reflection I decided to make the Confederate artillery a mix of 1's and 2's, while the Union artillery was (except for the ANYs — more about them later) all 2's. These ranges have held up well in testing and haven’t changed much: the inconsistency of Confederate artillery is reflected well by the variation in the strengths of their tokens, while the superiority of the Union artillery is very much felt by both players.

Another question concerned the organizational modeling, which was different for the two armies. About two-thirds of the Confederate artillery was attached at the division level to the nine Confederate divisions, with the remaining one-third divided among the three Confederate corps. The Union, on the other hand, attached about two-thirds of their artillery to their seven corps, while the remaining one-third was concentrated in the army Artillery Reserve. These organizations are pretty-well reflected by the token mix: the Confederates have 27 points of division artillery and 15 points of corps artillery, while the Union has 40 points of corps artillery and 12 points of reserve artillery. Probably the most conspicuous difference between the token mix and the historical organization is the Union reserve artillery, which appears shorted. However, in play, the Union Reserve artillery is considerably more powerful than its token count would suggest owing to its great flexibility in use. (Incidentally, if you look closely, you will see that the overall uniformity of the Union mix is broken by Howard’s corps: the artillery of that corps had taken heavy losses at Chancellorsville, and had not been made up by the time of Gettysburg.)

While the relative token mix (the ratios of tokens between the different organizations) is largely taken from the historical artillery organization, the absolute number of tokens reflects mostly the staying power of the opposing armies, including, but not limited to, artillery ammunition. Generally speaking, artillery units had three classes of ammunition: rounds carried with the gun itself, rounds carried in battery caissons (separate wagons that were attached to the batteries), and finally rounds carried with the baggage trains of the army (or corps, or division) Only the rounds on the gun were immediately accessible, but there weren‘t many of them. Rounds on the battery caissons were next, and these were generally well behind the line and out of sight of the enemy (the exact distance would depend on terrain, but fifty yards or so would be in the ballpark). Finally, there was the ammunition in the trains, which could be a great distance, even a mile, away. Generally speaking, as the nearer supply ran low, the gunners would refill from the more abundant remote supply: guns would refill from battery caissons, and battery caissons would refill from the train. Anyway, there wasn’t an infinite amount of ammuntion even in the trains, and gunners always had to conscious of their ammunition supply. Wasting rounds firing at distant targets and then ending up out of ammunition when it was badly needed was a hallmark of unprofessionalism. So, in general, the number of tokens was intended to broadly model the limits of ammunition without complicating things: players need to be conscious of their use and not waste them. As was the case historically, the Confederates tend to feel the pinch of low ammuntion more than the Union, typically at some point during the third day. (In the game, as historically, offensive artillery usage tended to use ammunition faster than defensive use: offensive use was centered around many rounds fired at longer range, while defensive use was centered around a few rounds fired at shorter range.)

One other function of the token system was to provide organizational modeling. The game has no explicit command rules: if you want to mingle units of different parent formations you are free to do so. The effect, however, is that doing so weakens your army because the artillery tokens are tied to your organization, and your organizations must be maintained in order to play them. For example, if the two blocks that make up a Confederate division aren’t in the same or adjacent positions, the artillery tokens for that division can’t be played. For the Union, it is 2 out of 3 of the corps blocks to play a corps token. Similarly, you can only play a Confederate corps token where you have three blocks of that corps together, and a Union Reserve token requires 3 or more Union infantry blocks. The token system thus subtly nudges the players into observing their army’s organizational structure, without an actual command-and-control system.

Another point related to organizaation are the •ANY• tokens. These tokens function to reflect the general habit that the armies had of moving guns around between the organizations to which they were nominally attached, but more than that, they are also intended to smooth out the randomness and luck in the token system, particularly early in the game when many tokens are unplayable because their parent formations are not yet in play. These tokens, though weak, are very flexible in play and make the armies less dependent on the luck of the draw: if a given unit doesn’t get much in the way of artillery draws, the odds are still good that some •ANY• tokens will be available as a stop-gap. As with the general token system, the number of these tokens in the game was largely arrived at by subjective feel.

The battle tray itself, with its limit of 8 tokens at a time, has a more general function in the game than just modeling artillery: it is part of the general modeling of Clauswitzian friction and is the game’s main uncertainty engine. If you look at how a traditional wargame works, like The Great Battles of the American Civil War Series (and I do NOT want to be understood as attacking that design), it has multiple sub-systems, each of which models uncertainty in a different way: it has systems with tables and die rolls for activation, changes of orders, coordination, fire, shock, morale and rally. All of these systems, taken together, limit players’ ability to predict and control what is going to happen. The battle tray in The Guns of Gettysburg abstracts all of these same sorts of problems, with the intent of achieving the same general effect, but with much less complexity (and of course much less detail). The difference (in my view) is not that one system is good and the other is bad, it is that they are made for different kinds of games and provide a different kind of gaming experience.

Hey Look — Game Rules!

I do have one final note in this entry: here is the first full copy of the rules I’ve made generally available. They are very close to what I expect to publish, but are still in need of more proofing. If you read them and have any comments or questions, feel free to contact me about them! I support the CSW and BGG community sites, and can also be contacted by email. Think of it as a chance to get your answers to your questions baked into the game rules themselves, rather than having them in some forum or faq somewhere. Just click on the image to begin a download.

Gettysburg Rules

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