Opening Turns at Gettysburg

I was surprised to discover just how easy it can be for Lee to win at Gettysburg on day 1, if the Union player isn’t careful. I always figured that since the battle was so fluid that first day that nobody would be deploying Baggage Trains, and capturing the enemy’s Baggage Trains is usually the quickest way to win.

Usually.

Except Gettysburg is a meeting engagement. That means that on the earliest turns the number of infantry blocks on the board is small, so that inflicting 50% casualties is easy. Let us look at the number of casualties necessary to defeat the opponent.

Turn Union/Confederate
1 1/ 1
2 1/1
3 3/2
4 3/3
5 3/4
6 3/4
7 5/6
8 5/8

It can be seen that the Union actually outnumbers the Confederates on turn 3, and then the following turn this reverses. The bare numbers don’t tell the whole story. On the first two turns it is nearly impossible for the opposing infantry to meet. On turn 3 the Confederate forces will have local superiority as the Union troops lose a turn getting to the fighting. Turns four, five, and six will have the greatest chance for a Confederate victory as this situation lasts. The overwhelming Confederate forces arriving on the final two turns will be in column and not likely to participate in combat. By turn 1 of Day 2 the infantry forces will be equal, with the union having more artillery, and three fresh divisions will arrive on turn 6.

It may seem like a relatively easy scenario for Lee to win, but he has some difficulties. First off, it is very hard to actually eliminate units if your opponent is intent on conserving their strength. This is best done by avoiding even odds combats, keeping to cover, and retreating after the first round of combat, rather than fighting to the bitter end.

This also keeps the game very dynamic, as early losses by the South can see the Union player striving for an early win of their own!

Neither commander was expecting, or wanting, a battle at Gettysburg. Unacceptable early losses by either side could have led the commanders to halt the engagement, or failing that, alter the conditions enough so that the battle of Gettysburg would have been entirely different. These issues are too complex and speculative to be decided in-game. The results are best discussed over a pint at the pub.

This early victory topic comes up as my last video is an excellent demonstration of an early win. But who gets the early win?

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