I got a tipoff today from the fellas over at THE BITSTREAMERS about their upcoming Battle of Fredericksburg game. As I have waxed enthusiastic about several times on this blog, I’ve been waiting for a REAL wargame for the Ipad for a while. There’s been a few candidates so far that are definitely in that category but the real traditional hex-based simulation of moving cardboard pieces on a map seems to have eluded us. So far.
The Bitstreamers’ new release, THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, is retro AND historical, being a two dimensional overhead look of a battlefield, where the user maneuvers units around and combats enemy units. E.G., a real wargame of the old school.
I like the look of this product, quite a bit. The Battle of Fredericksburg is, alas, not a historical event renown for tactical genius displayed on either side. Essentially, the Army of the Potomac was being pressured from without to do something, anything positive to further the Union war aims. General Burnside marched his men to Fredericksburg with the vague intention of flanking the Army of Northern VA to the South and pushing on towards Richmond. Amazingly, if everything had been in place, Burnside might have managed something decisive. The Army of Northern Virginia was not present in strength when the Union Army arrived. Unfortunately, as the long, sad story of the AotP attests to, nothing seems to have gone right. Again. The pontoon bridges didn’t show up until a day later, so the AotP kicked its heels on the banks of the Rappahanock, watching the Army of Northern Va. file in at St. Mary’s Heights as they took up an almost impregnable position behind a rock wall. A more inspired commander might have tried something else. Burnside was not that kind of commander, and he just sent his men forward in a series of ill-timed and ill-considered frontal assaults on the works at Saint Mary’s heights. If you know your civil war history, you’ll know this didn’t go well for the AotP. COL Joshua Chamberlain, of the 20th Maine, future hero of Gettysburg, had to shelter under a breastwork of corpses of previously slaughtered assault waves, as the bullets whistled around him all night.
What kind of game will this historical scenario create?
I imagine we will see a game that will be simulating a series of frontal assaults. There’s potential for a balanced game there, maybe, if you allow the odds to shift a little bit to help out the attacker. It is not impossible to imagine the Union breaking through… somewhere. The ANV couldn’t be everywhere at once. So if the Union player works his attack right, and doesn’t rely solely on assaults, perhaps moves his attack to the South a little, he might have a chance. Or perhaps there will be a campaign layer to this game, with other scenarios and battlefields.. maybe Burnside can adopt a less suicidal strategy. Whatever.
For what it appears to be, I’m enthusiastic about the idea.
My only quibbles: Why the cutesie unit interface? Why the cartoonish units? There was hardly anything cutesie about the Battle of Fredericksburg. Why pretend that Civil War soldiers are anime or little kids? What is UP with that graphic trend? Don’t adults fight wars any more? Other than that, I like the flat 2D aspect of the game, and I like the town, hex, and strategic layer (from what I can see of it) of the game map. However, I think the buildings are far too large and not in scale on the map, I don’t think the battle map is big enough and doesn’t display the area around the town.. where other possible crossing areas would be, etc. If the game is simply “the Union goes into the meat grinder without much chance of winning” and nothing else, it’s going to have very limited game play. One can see (briefly) a map that shows a much wider scope of the campaign than just the city of Fredericksburg on the Bitstreamers website, and that makes me think that there will be more grand tactical maneuvering to this game than is immediately evident in their Youtube presentation above. We’ll see!
So, yep, I’m looking forward to this one a lot. I will have a more substantive review when I get a chance to give it a try.