Bobby Lee (3rd Edition)
From: Columbia Games
Reviewed by: Michael Collarin
Bobby Lee (3rd Edition) is a new War Game from Columbia Games.
With the 1st Edition originally published 20 years ago, the recently printed 3rd Edition of Bobby Lee not only gave the game a face-lift with component upgrades, but also received a revised rule book. The game focuses on the American Civil War in Virginia (and a few neighboring states). The full game is divided into four years, 1861-64, with the possibility of extending into 1865. There are also options for playing only one year or for starting the campaign later in the war with modified starting Orders of Battle which are included. These could be handy if time is of the essence, as each year is estimated to take approximately 60-90 minutes. Whether you and your gaming partner sit down for just a single year or the entire campaign, Bobby Lee (3rd Edition) will provide you with insight and entertainment as you relive some of the most crucial moments in American history.
From page 5:
“Leaders represent more than individual generals. They are centers of command and logistics and include escort guard, staff, and hundreds of men involved in logistics.”
While most of the block games by Columbia Games use a familiar core system, there are generally subtleties in each that offers a uniqueness to the game play. For Bobby Lee, a key difference would be the command and control of the leaders. Leaders command movement, allow for an additional day of combat, and supply units in their command range that would otherwise suffer step-losses to attrition. In other words, your leaders are critical to your success. There is even a mechanic in the game that replaces leaders if your current leaders aren’t successful in swaying the outcome of the war in your favor.
What measures success? Victory Points (VP) of course.
From page 4:
“The burden of attack rests with the USA. The South has declared its independence and need only defend itself to win.”
There are two main ways to move the “V” counter – Town VP and Time VP. Some towns have a numerical value associated with them which grants a player VP when occupying a town in their opponent’s territory (or to the friendly player when it is liberated). As mentioned above, the burden of attack rests on the USA. The Confederate player will gain 1 VP every Quarter. There are a few other ways in which VP are exchanged. One being the Emancipation Proclamation which is a one time event that the USA may announce during any Supply Turn after 1862 to gain a quick 3 VP. It will however, also provide the CSA 6 additional Replacement Points (RP) for that Supply Turn. Since Victory is determined after each phase of the Supply Turn, the Confederate player needs to be aware of this as it may lead to a Decisive Victory for the USA. The other means in which VP are exchanged is a Draft declared by the either player. Each Supply Turn, a player may declare a Draft to roll for potential replacements (cadres). Doing so comes at a cost. Regardless of whether the roll is successful, the player declaring the Draft will lose 1 VP.
From page 9:
“Fight battles on your terms… If you have any doubt about winning a battle, an early retreat must be considered.”
While movement is conducted on the main mapboard, large battles will be tactically decided on the battle board. A large battle is considered a battle in which each side has at least 3 units committed to the conflict. Anything short of this would result in a quick skirmish reconciled on the mapboard itself. The battle board gives you control of the battlefield. Each unit initially involved in combat will be placed on the map board with at least one unit starting in the Left, Center and Right box – hence the need for a minimum of three units per side. There is also a Reserve box which has multiple purposes. Units in the Reserve box cannot be attacked, nor can they attack. Only units from the Reserve box may perform a special move called an Outflank in which you may attempt to move an Infantry or Cavalry unit from the Reserve box to an opponent’s Left or Right box. Units that enter the battle as Reinforcements use the Reserve box as a staging area. And since units may not move laterally, the Reserve box must be used to move your units around the battle board. Of course, once you’ve assigned at least one unit to each box on your side of the battle line, you are free to deploy any additional remaining units as you see fit. Perhaps you see a position which you can exploit your enemy. Maybe you stack a few weak units together to make a position seem stronger than it is – remember, all of your units remain hidden until they are engaged, so your opponent doesn’t really know what he is up against until perhaps it’s too late. Outsmarting your opponent on the battle board can lead to a rout which can turn the tides of the war! A rout is a costly defeat as every unit in the battle will suffer a 1-step loss which will require expenditure of Replacement Points to rebuild armies that could have been used to bring on new cadres. Routs are avoided by retreating units when they are not engaged in combat.
As for combat, it follows suit with many of Columbia Games’ other block games. Each step on the unit represents its strength. This determines the number of d6 that are rolled when attacking. For example, a 3-step Infantry unit will roll 3d6. The unit’s firepower is represented by the letter “F” and a number, such as F1 or F2. The number indicates the maximum number rolled to inflict a hit. For example, if that 3-step Infantry unit had an F2 for firepower, you would roll 3d6 and inflict a hit for each 1 or 2 rolled. The defender then applies these hits separately to their strongest unit in that battle position, regardless of type. A unit is eliminated if it only has one step remaining and is forced to take a hit.
In addition to the Outflank maneuver, there are other tactical decisions to consider, including long range artillery fire, counter-battery fire, melee, entrenchments, and hex terrain.
Speaking of hexes, the large mapboard is a thick card stock which unfolds several times to reveal a hex map of eastern Virginia that is pleasing to the eye and informative as well. History buffs of the American Civil War will appreciate the detail shown on the map which identifies the locations of actual battles fought.
The rule book is fairly well organized and easy to reference from the index. It’s important to take note of the sidebar text – some of this is flavor text, but some of it is actually pertinent to game play.
So, how did Bobby Lee (3rd Edition) fair? Far better than the outcome at Appomattox Courthouse, but not exactly a Decisive Victory. While my gaming partner, a grognard in his own right, and myself both enjoyed the history, the battles, and generally trying to outwit the other, we felt some things were a bit clunky. Since we each have several plays of Columbia Games’ other offerings under our belts, the combat came naturally. Even if this were your first time playing a block game, as outline above, the combat system is pretty straightforward. However, we found ourselves getting hung up on a few other things: retreats in enemy territory (and the step loss inflicted when the retreat hex was just vacated to enter combat), the supply attrition for a unit in a town in enemy territory without a leader in command range, and overcoming skirmishes in fortress towns. After several plays, these perceived “issues” naturally worked themselves out – for the most part. Skirmishes in fortress towns still present a challenge, but at least it is now a challenge rather than an “issue”.
In conclusion, Bobby Lee (3rd Edition) will provide hours of entertainment with historical flavor, a combination of strategic/operational level logistics and tactical battles, and the suspense of fog of war using Columbia Games’ block system. It’s an excellent gaming experience that misses the mark in just a few areas. Highly recommended for fans of the American Civil War and/or Columbia Games.
For more details on Columbia Games and their new War Game “Bobby Lee (3rd Edition)” check them out at their website http://www.columbiagames.com, and at all of your local game stores.
Rating:15 – Pretty Great
Bobby Lee (3rd Edition)
From: Columbia Games
Type of Game: War Game
Game Design by: Tom Dalgliesh
Contributors: Mark Adams, Grant Dalgliesh, Paul Hendricks, Stan Hilinski, Mark Kwasny, John Longstreet, Matt Looby, Gary Selkirk
Cover Art by:Eric Hotz
Additional Art by: Tom Dalgliesh, Karim Chakroun
Number of Pages: 12
Game Components Included: Mapboard, Battle Map, Wood Blocks (96) & Labels, Order of Battle Cards (2), Dice (4d6), Rulebook
Game Components Not Included:N/A
Retail Price: $74.98 (US)
Number of Players: 2
Player Ages: 14 and up
Play Time: 60-90 minutes for a single year; 240-300 minutes for the full campaign
Item Number: 3301
Reviewed by: Michael Collarin