I try out In Magnificent Style, by Victory Point Games


Cover

I’ve had this game on the shelf since (I think) Fall-IN! 2014.  IN MAGNIFICENT STYLE is a solitaire boardgame of Pickett’s charge on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  As most gamers with a schoolboy’s notion of history may attest, the charge was Lee’s last big attempt on the Union Center after probing attacks on the North and South ends of the line failed to achieve victory on days one and two.

Now, this is a tactical situation where a long line of men (three divisions of three brigades each) are marching across a very open area, moving up gently rising terrain, stopped here and there by obstacles like fences.  The attacking forces are moving onto a position where the opposing forces are behind cover, with direct artillery support firing into the advancing line.  This may seem like a difficult situation to turn into a game, but many designers have given it a go with various results.  In Magnificent Style departs from a traditional hex and counter set up to present a sort of ‘push your luck race’ down semi-abstracted terrain, trying to win the race of “which will get used up first, the Union strength or the Confederate?

The game’s story unfolds from the view of Longstreet on the Confederate side.   The mapboard facing him is a truncated view of intervening distance between Seminary Woods (the Confederate Line) and Cemetary Ridge (the Union line).  Smallest units of maneuver are Brigades, which are represented as tiny lines of men on VPG’s now-standard thick-cut counters.  “Unit of Maneuver” is misleading somewhat– the battle space is divided into a long gridwork consisting of Divisional and Brigade lines of advance running up and down the map and a further gridwork of “3 x 3 areas” which are numbered 1-10.  The areas are numbered for random event purposes to see what befalls the units currently in that area when a chit is drawn.

The Mapboard, from the Confederate View

I’m using stands of 15mm ACW soldiers to make it look more authentic here.  It adds a certain je ne sais quoi.

A turn unfolds with the Union drawing events to implement on the Confederates.  These are a series of chits pulled from an opaque cup that usually provide beneficial events for the union.  It could be targeting a brigade, a division, or a geographic area on the map.  It could add an obstacle to a line of march, or cause other mayhem somewhere.  Usually, if it impacts the map, it impacts a zone in the map (1, 2, 3, etc up to 10) and if you don’t have troops occupying it, you skate that turn.    As you can see below, a Union barrage lands in Area 5, not hitting anyone this time.

The event, a barrage of some sort, lands safely in Area 5, making the ground blow up but not killing anyone. I love this mechanic, it adds a true feeling of battlefield chaos.

Confederates taking long range rifle fire at the Union, measured by Zone bands (green, pretty hopeless, yellow, kind of hopeless, red, your best shot).  Your leader may expend a once per turn bonus if he is marching with you in your stack.   Next, you move out, by rolling a pair of dice and cross indexing them.  The result will indicate what happens when you move– 1s are very bad, 6s pretty good.  If you take HEAVY FIRE, you don’t advance but you can try again, but now you are shaken and pull a blue event chip (more on this below, it’s involved).  If you take LIGHT FIRE, you take a loss (these are tracked with numeric strength markers directly behind the units.. as you can see in the illustration above, Kemper’s Brigade (far right) has already suffered a hit as he is strength 9). ADVANCE is

From Boardgamegeek.com

Each Brigade has a RALLY POINT, which is a round marker you set on your start point.  The rally point is kind of your insurance for making gains.  As you move up the battlefield, you can continue trying to advance, or consolidate (and not advance).  Certain battle results will throw your brigades back to their rally points so it behooves you to balance between constantly moving to the Union line at the end of the field, or making your advance “safer” (relatively speaking) by moving the rally point up so a retreating brigade doesn’t go all the way back to start.  Certain events will also trigger damage results that are measured as equating to the distance between the brigade and the rally point, so it is in the player’s interest to keep that number low.  I really, really like that “push your luck” element of these solitaire mechanics.  It’s lifted right from Sid Sackson’s venerable CAN’T STOP, and works very well as an indicator of Brigade morale.  I’ve played IMS a few times now, and it took a while to finesse the balance between making gains and consolidating gains.

The climax of most games. I admit it; I got lazy with the markers and just kept track in my head. The Union is down to like 1-2 SPs a piece for their brigades and the Rebs probably had 3 as their highest strength as they go in for bayonet combat. VERY BLOODY!

IF the Confederate brigades make it across the field at all, they end up ripped to shreds in front of the Union stone wall, where they have bonus shooting at Confederates. If they survive that, they engage in very bloody bayonet fighting. There are advanced rules, but I didn’t bother with them (yet).

SUMMARY

I have to give this game some high marks. I like Luttman’s design work here. He takes an unwinnable situation, and by focusing in on a very NARROW slice of the action, he adds excitement, style and dash to a very fun little game. It certainly isn’t perfect (i think it drags a little in the middle), but it does deliver consistently on the fun (vice simulation) element. I like IN MAGNIFICENT STYLE. Do yourself a favor and make some simple 15-20mm scale 3D markers out of toy soldiers you won’t regret it.

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