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One Battle - Two Designs

The Talonsoft and WDS Battles of Gettysburg

By Blake Strickler

December 2023


In 1995, Talonsoft released Battleground Gettysburg. Nearly ten years later, HPS (hereafter referred to as WDS) released Campaign Gettysburg. While both titles contained numerous other scenarios, the star of both was undoubtedly the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg. You would be forgiven for assuming these two scenarios would be the same. Afterall, how different could they be since they both used the same basic game structure and style. But these two scenarios are really very different from one another. So much so that they almost play like two wholly separate battles rather than different takes on one single battle. Why these differences exist is an interesting story.  


Doug Strickler [no relation to myself], the chief designer of Campaign Gettysburg, wrote in his game notes that, “The battle has been done, and done again.” So why do I even bother to write this paper and reexamine the scenarios? The answer to that, for me, is simple. Because we are all Civil War historians (amateur though we may be) and gaming the Civil War is one of the ways we choose to learn more about this period in American history. I sometimes feel I learn more about a battle by dissecting the game design piece by piece, than I do reading a full history on the battle. I think we must also confess that the Battle of Gettysburg continues to fascinate us all. Never were the stakes so high for the Confederacy or the Union, nor would they ever be so high again. Because of this, the battle draws us back to it like a siren in the night. We may dally with Shiloh and step out with Antietam, but we always end up coming home to Gettysburg.


It has also been 20 years since WDS Campaign Gettysburg was released. I never knew the game designers personally. Maybe that disassociation will allow me to write the following thoughts with a more unbiased point of view than someone who knew these men extremely well. But rest assured that I have the utmost respect for their work with these games. Having spent countless hours dissecting their scenarios and picking apart every decision they made, I am repeatedly floored by how many excellent choices they made. Their commitment to their work (or more likely, lifelong obsessions) still shines through decades later. To these men I offer my sincerest appreciation and thanks. If I misinterpret anyone's intent with their decisions or designs in this paper I apologize. I have a limited amount of information on the design philosophies of the creators and so must interpret as much as I can from existing interviews, notes, and the scenarios they created. 


The following paper is divided into multiple parts. We will start by looking at the basic setups and goals of each series and how their scenarios were designed to achieve those goals. Then I will give you the raw statistics for the two Battle of Gettysburg scenarios as designed by Talonsoft and WDS. I will then show how these two scenarios share much of the same data – that part of the game that goes on behind the scenes. We will then pivot and discuss the ten major differences between the two scenarios which make them completely unique from one another. I will also attempt to explain how these design differences influenced and altered the way people have played the Battle of Gettysburg over the years. Lastly, I will unveil my own humble addition to the Battle of Gettysburg gaming library. 


Part One: The Premises of the Games

Part One

Talonsoft’s Battleground Gettysburg did not seek to tell the whole story of the Gettysburg Campaign. Its focus was front and center in its title – Battleground Gettysburg. The game included 24 different scenarios which all took place at Gettysburg between June 30 and July 3, 1863. These scenarios included historical setups for events such as Little Round Top, Pickett’s Charge, and Culp’s Hill, all of which took place as part of the larger Battle of Gettysburg. And then, of course, there was the main attraction, the Battle of Gettysburg. The designers also included an alternate Battle of Gettysburg scenario where Stuart arrives early and the battle begins a day earlier than it historically did. But largely, this title was all about the immediate and historical Battle of Gettysburg.


WDS’s Campaign Gettysburg is a different thing altogether. Doug Strickler wrote that, “I didn’t regard this as a ‘Gettysburg’ game. This is a game of the Confederate summer offensive of 1863 in the east.” Doug’s goal was to present the Battle of Gettysburg within the larger context of Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. Because of this, the battle itself receives no special fanfare on the title and can easily be lost amongst the hundreds of alternate scenarios produced by Doug for this title. But Doug, and by extension WDS, also had a plan to improve upon the traditional Battleground games by massively expanding the maps. Doug wrote that, “I wanted to take gaming beyond the limits imposed by maps of single battles [such as in the Talonsoft series], encouraging gamers to deal with real life problems without the artificial constraints imposed by limited scale maps.”


And so here we have two gaming series with two different purposes. The Battleground series limited their focus to the battle itself and the core events around Gettysburg. The WDS series focused on the entire campaign, with Gettysburg merely being a single part of a larger series of events happening in the summer of 1863.


If WDS’s goal was to create an entire campaign around Gettysburg, then why am I pinpointing a singular scenario to dissect? The answer to that question is simple – because it is the most important scenario. The Battle of Gettysburg has always, and will always, overshadow all other events in the American Civil War. The battle also overshadows all the other scenarios on the Campaign Gettysburg title. Fact.

Part Two: The Basics

Part Two

Talonsoft Gettysburg is 149 turns in length. It runs from 7:40 AM, July 1, 1863, to 7:40 PM, July 3, 1863. It is scenario 13h. The Battle of Gettysburg.


WDS Gettysburg is 156 turns in length. It runs from 7 AM, July 1, 1863, to 12 AM, July 4, 1863. It is scenario !historical 1. gettysburg - july 1 - 3, 1863.

The artillery batteries are presented as full units in Talonsoft’s version of Gettysburg but as sections in the WDS version. The cavalry is also divided in the WDS version whereas the Talonsoft version uses full regiments.  


The above table easily shows how different these two scenarios are in their total numbers, the number of units created in their respective orders of battles, and their interpretations of how best to represent and use both cavalry and artillery.

Part Three: The Similarties

Part Three


Although the numbers engaged may be different, the Talonsoft and WDS versions of the scenario share many similarities with their orders of battle and ratings system.


To start with, the leaders in both scenarios are rated the exact same. Every officer, from Meade and Lee down to Custer and Hampton, are rated the same. This makes the command and control elements in these two scenarios play out with the same probabilities as the other would.


Another similarity is the ratings for the individual infantry units. All of the infantry units in the two scenarios share the same ratings. Extremely minor variations exist in the ratings for the artillery units which are not worth mentioning here in any detail. The ratings for the cavalry units vary greatly and will be discussed later on.


Beyond these basic similarities, the scenarios are really very different.  

Part Four: The Differences

Part Four

There are ten major differences between the Talonsoft and the WDS versions of the Battle of Gettysburg. These differences are:

1) The size of the battlefield map.

2) The total numbers involved in the battle.

3) The cavalry forces in the battle.

4) The arrival location of Doubleday’s division.

5) The arrival location of Rodes’s division.

6) The arrival time of Hancock’s II Corps.

7) The arrival location of Sykes’s V Corps.

8) The ammunition supplies for the two forces.

9) The value of objective hexes on the map.

10) The Victory Conditions.

Difference #1: The Map Size

Talonsoft’s Battleground designers, as discussed earlier, were only concerned with recreating the core Battle of Gettysburg map. Technological limitations with computers of the 1990s also limited the size of the maps they could create. But they purposefully chose to concentrate on just the core of the Gettysburg battlefield with their design. They would even cut off the eastern part of the battlefield where the July 3 cavalry clashes occurred – a decision which surely upset some people and confused others.


But with the WDS Campaign game, that would change. Doug Strickler wrote, “I consciously began development with a desire to go big in regard to the maps involved.” Looking only at the Battle of Gettysburg scenario, he surely accomplished that goal. The Talonsoft map covered an area of 89 x 69 hexes (6,141 hexes) while the WDS map covers an area 154 x 161 hexes (24,794 hexes). This creates an area 75% larger to play on than does the Talonsoft version of the map. 

The picture to the right shows the Talonsoft Gettysburg map laid atop the larger WDS Gettysburg map. It is easier to appreciate how much larger the WDS map is when you view it in this manner.


The larger WDS map would forever change the way we play and view the Battle of Gettysburg. Doug Strickler’s chief concern was to give the armies room to maneuver and not restrict them to just the traditional battlefield area. Doug wrote, “I have attempted to provide a vehicle that encourages the use of maneuver. Napoleon analyzed all warfare as a combination of mass and maneuver. Smaller maps covering historical situations virtually remove the element of maneuver from any but a purely tactical context. Maneuver engenders employing your cavalry in its true roles of screening and scouting. Maneuver encourages confronting a position with non-frontal assault. There's a time and place for everything, but, I think that you'll be surprised by the avenues that open up when one is not shoehorned into a short list of options by a map.” I believe it is safe to say that Doug wanted to create a map large enough to where the players prioritized maneuver and strategy over brute strength and straightforward assaults.


Doug and WDS succeeded in creating an excellent Gettysburg map which encompassed a far larger area than the Talonsoft map did. They surely succeeded in opening up new avenues for strategy which players could now utilize in their games.


But Doug had another goal in mind while creating the maps for Campaign Gettysburg. Doug had a serious problem with the ahistorical tactics being utilized on the smaller Talonsoft maps – and he wanted to use the new maps as a way to address these problems. Doug wrote that while designing the larger maps that he, “wanted to do what I could to discourage various ‘gamey’ aspects of play.” And that he, “wanted to make the maps aid in restricting certain ‘gamey’ aspects.” Those are very interesting statements. They point to the fact that individuals have always struggled with what can be described as “gamey” play, versus what can be described as “historical” play in the games. Also, it lends itself to the endless debate of whether or not there is a definitive “right way” to play the games.


How could a map be used to disrupt “gamey” play though? Doug went on, “Fields of view were limited/broken up where possible consistent with the terrain. Movement was restricted – again where possible consistent with the actual terrain. In short I did what I could to encourage the player not to use his forces as if they were some 19th century version of a panzer division. While other aspects of the game system have a greater effect in this regard than do the maps, I did what I could with them to try and contribute to restricting what I regard as ahistorical play.”


I think it is safe to assume that Doug was not a fan of “gamey” tactics or ahistorical play. And I understand and appreciate that sentiment in some respects. But it also means we must have a conversation now about whether or not Doug’s larger maps actually helped derail “gamey” tactics (as he hoped) or not.


I’d argue that “gamey” tactics were not at all derailed by the new larger maps. I think Doug, and WDS, simply failed to anticipate the ways in which a larger map would actually create new and different opportunities for “gamey” play – and on a scale I doubt anyone saw coming. I cannot fault them for this. It is only human nature to find new and ingenious ways to defeat your enemies using any and all tricks, strategies, and movements allowed within a gaming system. That has always been, and will always be, part of competitive gaming. And in our Club, specifically, there are very few limits on “gamey” play.


I think the bigger question which must be asked is whether Doug’s larger map actually opened up more opportunities for “gamey” play?


I would argue that gamey tactics are not affected at all by the size of the game map. In fact, I believe that larger maps actually increase the likelihood of “gamey” tactics rather than work to reduce them. The larger maps allow more space for players to run, hide, flank, attack, and ambush high value rear units moreso than a smaller map does. While small maps can restrict movement too much, large maps can create too many possible avenues (and room) for gamey tactics.


Based on what Doug wrote in his notes, I think he had two goals in mind when creating the larger maps. First, he wanted to create more room for armies to maneuver in a manner which was in line with 19th century military strategy. Second, he also wanted to create maps large enough where the “gamey” tactics being played out tactically on small maps, could not be utilized strategically on the larger maps. He was very successful with his first objective but failed in his second objective. Players will always adjust to whatever map size or terrain you create. Eventually, the gamey tactics always reappear.


How do I feel about the larger Gettysburg map in the WDS version? I feel it is too big. I will detail much more on this as we progress in this paper. But I contend that the larger WDS map inadvertently created a battlefield with too much “dead space” around the peripherals of the map. This space would eventually become a sort of haven for roaming units dispatched by gamey players. It would also eventually help create more possibilities for panzer tactics which have only grown more sophisticated and deadly over the years. But I will also state that the Talonsoft map was too small. It limited maneuver too much and created a situation where innovative tactics were hemmed in by the size of the map. But I think there is a happy medium available between the two which I will also discuss and reveal later on.

Difference #2: Total Numbers

Next, let’s examine the total number of soldiers involved in the battle. Compared to the Talonsoft version, the Federals in the WDS version have 8,215 additional men and the Confederates an extra 2,239 men. Why are the numbers so different?



The answer has everything to do with the larger map used in the WDS version of the scenario. The expanded battlefield map would now include areas which Talonsoft left off their smaller map back in 1995. Because of this, additional units which only fought outside the boundaries of the original Talonsoft map area, would now be included in the battle. This brought into the battle the Federal cavalry brigades of McIntosh, Gregg, and Custer for the Federals, and Jones’s cavalry brigade for the Rebels.  


In addition to these units which were now included in the main battle, smaller peripheral units attached to divisions, corps, or army, were also added. This would bring onto the board the Federal Provost Guard under Marsena Patrick and numerous other smaller “attached” units to the order of battle for both armies. The majority of additional men in the WDS version are cavalrymen which only join the two armies as a result of the increased map size.

The most interesting order of battle addition by WDS was probably the inclusion of the Union’s Provost Guard. The Provost Guard was largely responsible for policing the army, guarding prisoners, and serving as a headquarters guard. At the Battle of Gettysburg, the Provost Guard units suffered less than a dozen casualties and operated only in their traditional role as military police. Do they really belong as movable units on the map? It is an arguable point. They were armed Federal soldiers who could have been used in front line combat if needed. But this was extremely unlikely to occur. Afterall, these men were very busy in the rear guarding hundreds of prisoners and supply wagons while trying to maintain military order. If they were sent to the front firing line, then other Union soldiers would have to be pulled back to replace them in the rear. I would argue that their addition to the order of battle was a mistake because these men become supernumerary regiments without a clear purpose in a video game. Therefore, they simply become tactical reserve units (which they were not) and scouting units (which they weren’t either). And giving either side an extra 1,134 men (including 570 cavalrymen) matters on such a large map as is used at Gettysburg. These units should have been left off of the order of battle.


I feel that the presence of too many “unimportant” peripheral units, especially small infantry Provost units and/or company-sized unattached units, give human players in video games an extra opportunity to scout and picket key areas, and use the intel thus gained in real time to make critical command decisions. I contend, simply, that these units add nothing to the fighting abilities of the main armies and more often become tools which human video game players can utilize in ahistorical (gamey) ways. Doug repeatedly stated in his notes that he was looking for ways to reduce the amount of “gamey” tactics and nudge people to use more 19th century tactics. Unfortunately, by adding dozens of smaller peripheral units – he did the opposite.


Looking at the situation as a whole though, one must admit that the order of battles for the WDS game were far better constructed and fuller than those for the Talonsoft game. Playing the Battle of Gettysburg without numerous cavalry brigades which were present in the battle never felt right in the Talonsoft version. I’d argue that WDS did right in bringing these brigades into the new scenario. But I would also question their inclusion of so many additional “small” units into the game. These units are too small to serve a tactical purpose and so become prime candidates to serve gamey purposes. The scenario would have been better without them.

Difference #3: Cavalry Forces at Gettysburg


Having already touched upon how the larger WDS map would encompass areas of the battlefield left off the Talonsoft map, let's examine how these changes would help bring thousands of additional men into the WDS version.


The Union Cavalry

The Federals army in the Talonsoft version of Gettysburg have only the brigades of Buford’s division (Devin, Gamble, Merritt) and the brigade of Farnsworth on the field of battle. Devin and Gamble begin the battle on the field while Merritt and Farnsworth do not arrive until 1 PM on July 3. This gives the Federals a total of 5,750 cavalrymen in the battle.


The Federal army in the WDS version of Gettysburg includes all the cavalry brigades in the Federal army except Huey’s brigade of Gregg’s division (detached to Westminster to guard a depot there). These additions bring the number of Cavalry Corps men to 10,956. Other Union cavalry detachments attached to other units in the army bring the total number of Union cavalrymen in the WDS version up to 12,240. This creates a difference of 6,490 men between the Talonsoft and WDS versions.


Every Federal cavalry brigade brought to Gettysburg participated in the fighting there. Most famously, Buford’s two brigades under Devin and Gamble were engaged on July 1. After their part in the battle was completed, they were ordered southeast to guard the army’s supply depot in Maryland. Buford’s other brigade, Merritt’s, was engaged on July 3 along the Emmittsburg Road. In David Gregg’s division, the brigades of McIntosh and J. Irvin Gregg were involved in the fighting east of Gettysburg on July 3. Kilpatrick’s division was also fully engaged at Gettysburg. Farnsworth’s and Custer’s brigades fought briefly at Hunterstown late on July 2 before being ordered south to Two Taverns that night. On July 3, Kilpatrick was ordered to the opposite flank of the army with Farnsworth’s brigade and was engaged there that afternoon. Custer was left with Gregg’s division and fought with them in their battle on July 3.


The Talonsoft version of the Gettysburg map is smaller and does not include the areas where most of the Federal cavalry fought on July 2 or July 3 – thus they are absent from the main battle scenario. Hunterstown is not on the map in the northeast and East Cavalry Field (modern name) is also not on the Talonsoft map. Two Taverns, located southeast of Gettysburg along the Baltimore Pike, is also missing from the Talonsoft map. The absence of these places means that the Federal cavalry (aside from Buford’s division and Farnsworth’s brigade) never reach the “main” battlefield as designed by Talonsoft.


In the WDS version of the game, the main battlefield map is expanded in all directions and includes areas missing in the Talonsoft version. This map expansion adds Hunterstown, East Cavalry Field, and Two Taverns, to the battlefield map. Because of this expansion, the “missing” brigades from the Talonsoft version are added to the WDS version of the game since the areas they were operating in are now shown on the map.



The Journey of Farnsworth’s Brigade

In the Talonsoft version of the battle, Farnsworth’s brigade arrives at 1:20 PM on July 3 along the Taneytown Road. But in the WDS version he arrives at noon on July 2 along the York Pike. How is this possible? Remember that Kilpatrick actually arrived on July 2 on the right flank of the army with his division. After a brief engagement at Hunterstown he was ordered south on the night of July 2 to Two Taverns. The next morning he was ordered to move to the left flank of the army with Farnsworth’s brigade (Custer’s being left behind with Gregg’s division). Therefore, in the WDS version, his initial arrival is on the right flank with the rest of Kilpatrick’s division because that area is included on the WDS maps. But in the Talonsoft version this part of the map does not exist, and so Farnsworth only arrives on July 3 from the south when he finally reaches the main battlefield as defined by Talonsoft.



The Rebel Cavalry

The smaller Talonsoft map also affects the Confederate cavalry situation at the Battle of Gettysburg. In the Talonsoft version of the battle, the map does not include the area of Fairfield west of Black Horse Tavern. It was here on July 3 that Jones’s Confederate cavalry brigade was engaged in a brief skirmish with the 6th U.S. Cavalry of Merritt’s brigade. The larger WDS map includes the Fairfield area and so Jones’s brigade arrives at 10 AM on July 3.

New Ratings

In the Talonsoft version of the battle, all of the cavalry units on both sides are rated as "B" units. It is unclear why this was done but it feels very unrealistic. The WDS version updates the quality ratings for all of the cavalry in the battle. Doug chose to use a number of different factors when determining the individual ratings for units. These included the length of service of the regiment, the number of engagements they had fought in, and any special circumstances which would lower or raise their rating at Gettysburg. The result was a much more realistic ratings system for the cavalry in the WDS version as opposed to the Talonsoft version.



The Problem with Cavalry

Another change from the Talonsoft version to the WDS version was the breakdown of cavalry units from full regiments to a regiment plus a 100-man detachment. It was Doug’s stated hope that the additional cavalry units would create more maneuverability for the armies by allowing the cavalry to perform “its true roles of screening and scouting.” But this idea also caused Doug some concern – and rightfully so. Doug did not wish for the abundance of cavalry units to open the door to new “gamey” tactics and sought a way to prevent this.  


To combat the phenomenon of players using cavalry in ahistorical ways, Doug decided to “substantially” increase the victory points for cavalry losses to twice their usual value. Doug believed that “concern over the effects on one's Victory Points should lead to cavalry being employed against cavalry when at all possible, as the points net out unless one side takes a drubbing. Again, I think this is historically accurate in general. If more cautious play is encouraged as a side benefit of these changes, that too would more accurately reflect warfare of the age.”


I find this very interesting. While admitting that cavalry tactics were increasingly gamey and ahistorical, he chose to double the number of cavalry units simultaneously. The larger maps created for the Gettysburg game seemed to scream for additional mounted units to cover all the extra space on the map. I can understand why Doug felt the need to give the players the mounted units necessary to scout and cover the larger maps. But I think Doug knew that these units wouldn’t likely be used in only the traditional roles of cavalry in the 19th century. He knew that they would become “panzer” units which both sides would use in ahistorical ways. His solution to the problem was to double the amount of victory points for their loss.


Was Doug’s overall experiment with the expansion of cavalry units to regiments plus a detachment, and the raising of cavalry victory point losses to twice their normal value, successful in stopping gamey cavalry play? Looking only at the Battle of Gettysburg scenario, I would say no. Over the past twenty years there have been a plethora of new Optional Rules which have incentivized uber-aggressive cavalry tactics in order to isolate and quickly “gobble up” lone units. Also, players continually adjust their tactics over time (just as generals did during the war). Once it was discovered how easy it was to use the 100-man regimental cavalry detachments to cause havoc on any enemy position left even vaguely weakened, this became a very popular tactic for many people. The doubling of victory point losses for cavalry units was meant to limit this sort of gamey ahistorical play – but it didn’t. In the end, the penalty wasn’t enough to force people to only use cavalry in its “true roles of screening and scouting.”


The addition of the three missing Federal cavalry brigades, and the one Confederate cavalry brigade, makes the WDS version of the Battle of Gettysburg far more “complete” than the Talonsoft version. But the doubling of movable cavalry units by creating 100-man detachments was a mistake in my opinion. There are 124 movable cavalry units between the two sides in the WDS version, versus just 39 in the Talonsoft version. In nearly all other scenarios released by WDS, the cavalry units are left whole. I think this was likely an admission that the idea of doubling movable cavalry units created more issues than anticipated. I’d argue doubling them actually increased the likelihood of gamey play rather than worked to force players to use them more conservatively (despite the doubling of victory point penalties).

Difference #4: The Arrival Location of Doubleday's Division


One of the odder aspects of the Talonsoft version of the game is the seemingly random arrival of Doubleday’s division on the map at Black Horse Tavern. This is in stark contrast to the WDS version – or is it? Again, the answer has to do with the maps – and also, in this case, history.  


The Talonsoft map is shown to the left. Doubleday arrives along the western edge of the map across Marsh Creek. 


In the Talonsoft version of the game, the encampment location of Doubleday’s division on the night of June 30 is not shown. But on the WDS map the encampment area is included and nearly the entire First Corps is located along the Emmitsburg Road at the start of the scenario. Cutler’s brigade led the First Corps march to Gettysburg with the Iron Brigade following and then Robinson’s division behind them. Historically, Doubleday’s division took an odd route to the battlefield. According to one source on the battle, the division moved north with Stone’s and Biddle’s brigades until they crossed Marsh Creek west of the Emmitsburg Road. Presumably they marched in this direction to avoid a bottleneck at the Marsh Creek crossing point along Emmitsburg Road. Doubleday’s division split once it reached March Creek – but I do not have an answer as to why. Stone’s brigade turned east and then fell in line behind Robinson and followed the Emmitsburg Road to the battlefield. But Biddle’s brigade was led north and eventually reached Black Horse Tavern and the Fairfield (Hagerstown) Road. “Although he did not realize it at the time, his approach had brought him to the right and rear of the Confederate line along Herr’s Ridge. While his scouts reported the presence of Rebel artillery ahead, Biddle himself had no clear picture of where the enemy strength lay, so he gratefully followed the guides sent out by John Buford to lead him to the battlefield. On his arrival from the west, Biddle was instructed to cover the open southern portion of McPherson’s Ridge.” [Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage (pp. 303-304). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.]


Because the WDS version of the map includes Doubleday’s encampment, his entire route to the battlefield is left up to the player to determine. But in the Talonsoft version, the designers opted to follow the historical path of Doubleday’s men only once they entered the confines of the map as designed. So why does all of Doubleday’s division arrive at Black Horse Tavern and not just Biddle’s brigade? I don’t have an answer to that. Biddle’s report on the battle mentions only his brigade and a four-gun battery of artillery taking their roundabout route and arriving “1 ½ miles in advance” of the other divisions then defending McPherson’s Ridge. The official reports of the Federal commanders of Doubleday’s division give no clear answers as to the reason for the detour nor why the division divided up. Nonetheless, it would appear that Talonsoft got the arrival location right for Biddle’s brigade, but not for Stone’s brigade.


Below is an estimation of the routes taken by Stone and Biddle to reach the battlefield as interpreted from various sources. Its accuracy is suspect but is the best I can do given the paucity of information.

Doubleday WDS.png

Difference #5: The Arrival Location of Rodes's Division


Rodes’s arrival on the battlefield in the Talonsoft version of the scenario is another oddity which appears very confusing at first. Rodes arrives along Oak Hill within the woods and away from the nearest roads. It is an unusual way for units to arrive on the battlefield as all others in this scenario (and in most scenarios generally) arrive along roads for rapid movement. The reason for this goes back, once more, to the smaller Talonsoft map.


On July 1, Rodes’s Division moved south towards Gettysburg along the Bendersville Road. As he approached the battlefield he had a decision to make: should he remain on the road and march into Gettysburg, or angle off toward the sound of the guns? As Rodes later explained it, “By keeping along the wooded ridge … I could strike the force of the enemy with which General Hill’s troops were engaged upon the flank, and [I reasoned] that, besides moving under cover, whenever we struck the enemy we could engage him with the advantage in ground.” Richard Ewell, who was riding with him, concurred, so as Rodes’s units reached Keckler’s Hill, they peeled off to their right, making their way warily along the wooded ridge.


On the map below you can see how Rodes’s Division arrives along a main road in the WDS version with the alternate option of continuing on along the road. But in the Talonsoft version, the decision has already been made to move over Oak Hill towards the flank of the Federals then engaged with Hill.



The expansion of the WDS map to the north was one of the better decisions that WDS made. I will get into this much more later. But the opportunity for Rodes to take multiple approaches to the battlefield opens up many new strategies for the Confederate player.

Difference #6: The Arrival Time of Hancock's 2nd Corps


Arguably, the biggest difference between the two versions is the arrival time of the 2nd Corps. Once more, this all comes down to the size of the map.


In the Talonsoft version of the game, the 2nd Corps does not begin to arrive until 5 AM on July 2 along the Taneytown Road. But in the WDS version, the 2nd Corps begins arriving at 6:20 PM on July 1. Historically, Hancock’s 2nd Corps encamped about three miles south of the battlefield and were not engaged in the fighting on July 1. Nor did they move to take up any tactical positions after their grueling march to reach the battlefield on the 1st. The corps rested for the night and did not begin to maneuver again until dawn. The area they encamped in is located south of where the Talonsoft map ends – thus they don’t enter the battlefield until the morning of July 2.


I feel I must comment on this change between the WDS and Talonsoft versions more. Obviously, WDS wanted to expand the map in all directions to allow the players greater latitude to determine their own strategies. In order to do this, the map had to be expanded. But the early addition of Hancock’s men fundamentally changes the battle and creates an ahistorical opportunity for the Federal player to redeploy Hancock twelve hours earlier than Meade actually did.


On July 1, 1863, Hancock’s men were exhausted after marching about 30 miles to reach the area south of the main battlefield. They encamped nearby in reserve and were located south of the Big Round Top. In the Talonsoft version of the game, these troops are wholly unavailable on July 1 – just as it should be. But in the WDS version, they are free to move around the board for a number of hours before sunset on July 1. This easily gives them enough time to establish a defensive line somewhere in the “fishhook” and then spend the night entrenching instead of resting as they would have been doing historically. This change (and a few others) also radically increases the number of Federal troops on the battlefield by nightfall on July 1 when compared to the Talonsoft version.


In the Talonsoft version the Federals have 34,725 men at 8 PM on July 1. But in the WDS version, they have a total of 53,938 men. This is no small variation! Where do these troops come from? 1,100 of them come from the Provost Guard which arrives with Meade at 8 PM. 11,250 of this number come from the 2nd Corps which is fully on the field by nightfall in the WDS version, but not even on the map in the Talonsoft version. An additional 3,500 men come from Humphreys’s division of the 3rd Corps which arrives a number of hours earlier than in the Talonsoft version of the game. The final few thousand men come from various small units and are not worth mentioning in more detail.


For the Confederates, the difference in the size of the Army of the Potomac at nightfall is an important variation which can’t be understated. The Rebels have 43,175 men at 8 PM on July 1 in the Talonsoft version, and 44,266 in the WDS version. So, for the Rebels, nothing significant changes with their side of the equation between the Talonsoft and WDS versions. But their overall strategy is fundamentally altered by the radical change in the Union numbers by nightfall of July 1.


In the Talonsoft version, the Rebel army goes to sleep outnumbering the Federals by 8,450 men. This encourages them to be aggressive at dawn and to continue the attack with a real hope of breaking the Federals. But in the WDS version, the Rebel army goes to sleep being outnumbered by 9,672 men. To pretend that that does not factor into the July 2 decisions of the human players in these games would be naïve. Attacking a Union army scrambling to reposition on the morning of July 2 in the Talonsoft game offers the Rebel player a greater opportunity for success based on the historical arrival times and decisions made by Meade. But attacking the Union army in the WDS game on the morning of July 2 is another beast entirely. Having had all night to build breastworks and position the 2nd Corps, the Federal player will be far more prepared in the WDS version than in the Talonsoft version.


I mentioned earlier (in Difference #1) that I believed the WDS map was expanded too far in some directions. This is most relevant when discussing its southern expansion and how it relates to the earlier arrival times of some units. The decision by WDS to expand it that far to the south was done with the best of intentions. But because of the fact that the 2nd Corps, specifically, can be utilized in radically ahistorical ways during the night hours because of their earlier arrival, it alters the entire battle’s historical veracity.


I would argue that the Talonsoft version does a better job recreating the Battle of Gettysburg’s situation at nightfall on July 1 than the WDS version does. While the larger map has its advantages when expanded to the north and east, expanded to the south it creates problems. Again, I will return to this point in my final section and discuss a possible compromise between the two versions.

Difference #7: The Arrival Location of Sykes's 5th Corps


Another key, and controversial, difference between the Talonsoft and WDS versions is the arrival location of Sykes’s 5th Corps. In the Talonsoft version, the 5th Corps arrives along the Baltimore Pike at 7:40 AM on July 2. In the WDS version, the 5th Corps arrives at 4:20 AM along the Hanover Road. Again, this is because of the size of the maps used by Talonsoft and WDS. Historically, Sykes led his 5th Corps west along the Hanover Road on the morning of July 2. He then turned south to join the main body of the Federal army and was placed into a reserve position between Power’s Hill and Rock Creek. In the Talonsoft version this is represented as occurring by having Sykes arrive along the Baltimore Pike behind the Union right flank and center. In the WDS version, his historical arrival location is along the Hanover Road where he has the option to either turn south or attack to the west towards Gettysburg.

Sykes Map.jpg


I would argue that this decision, right along with the earlier arrival time of the 2nd Corps, are the two biggest decisions from WDS which inadvertently changed gameplay too much. Doug, understandably, wanted the players to decide for themselves how best to use the forces at their disposal and not decide for them. This idea is a noble one and few would argue with it. But in practice it is very often true that players will utilize preexisting knowledge of a scenario (and its game design) to make far more aggressive movements than the commanders would have in 1863. There is almost nothing that a game designer can do to prevent this. Doug merely had the 5th Corps arrive where they did historically and left it at that.


This was a design decision by Doug which I disagree with. Doug had a clear option of having the 5th Corps arrive conservatively along the Baltimore Pike to reach their historical destination on July 2 in reserve, or arriving along the Hanover Road and leaving it up to them to decide where to go. Doug opted to go with the latter.


While historically accurate, Doug’s decision radically changes a number of dynamics for those seeking to fight a more “traditional” version of the Battle of Gettysburg. Sykes was not an aggressive commander, was fighting his first battle as a corps commander, and had an exhausted corps of men marching behind him. It was completely illogical that Meade (then in full defensive mode) would have ordered Sykes to attack Gettysburg or the Rebel flank without support. But in our games, that is often what happens with Sykes. The Federal player will know the Confederates are weakest on that flank and will frequently move to take advantage of the situation by using Sykes offensively rather than conservatively as was done by Meade.


I fully expect people to be divided on this point. Should Sykes arrive along the Hanover Road, or should he arrive along the Baltimore Pike? Those wishing to allow the greatest degree of latitude to the players should be in favor of using the Hanover Road. But those in favor of playing the battle out in a more historical manner (i.e. “the fishhook”) should prefer the Baltimore Pike option.

Difference #8: The Ammunition Supply


Another large difference between the Talonsoft series and the WDS series is the design of Supply Wagons. In the Talonsoft series the wagons were designed to resupply X number of units per wagon. An example is shown below. In this instance the Confederate wagon is able to resupply 8 regiments of infantry or cavalry before running out of supplies. Whether the unit has 25 men or 850 men does not matter – 1 supply point resupplies 1 regiment of any size.


In the WDS games, the Supply Wagons resupply 10 men for every supply point. In the example below, the Supply Wagon with 400 points could resupply 4,000 men before running out of supplies.


The most important units in any battle are the Supply Wagons. The change from the Talonsoft wagons to the WDS wagons was a positive one.


In the Talonsoft version of Gettysburg the Confederate Supply Wagons have a total of 70 supply points. They can resupply Confederate units 70 times before running out of ammo. The Confederates have 192 Infantry and Cavalry units in the scenario. This means the Confederates can resupply 36% of their regiments one time. Meanwhile, the Federals have a total of 114 supply points and 253 total units. They can resupply 45% of their regiments one time during the battle.


With WDS, the numbers are trickier to determine because units of various size only use 1 point per 10 men. At Gettysburg the Rebels have 4,400 supply points and the Federals 6,900. The average Confederate infantry unit at Gettysburg is 333 men and the average Federal unit 279 men. If we then assume each regiment uses 34 supply points and 28 supply points on average, then the Confederates can resupply 129 units (67% of their force) and the Federals 246 units (88% of their force).


The usage of artillery ammunition is another difference between the two series. In the Talonsoft series, every battery which fired used 1 point worth of artillery ammunition. Whether the battery was composed of one gun or six did not matter. In the Talonsoft version, the Rebels have 1,400 rounds of ammunition and 69 artillery units. The Federals have 1,900 rounds of artillery ammunition and 62 artillery units. 


In the WDS series, the commonly used Optional Rule “Artillery Ammo by Cannon” changes things to where artillery ammunition is used according to how many guns are in a battery. When this rule is in use, the Federals have 11,335 rounds of ammunition and the Rebels just 5,940. This means the average 6-gun Federal battery can fire 1,889 times and the average 4-gun Rebel battery 1,485 times. Not coincidentally, it seems the 1,900 and 1,400 figures from Talonsoft were simply multiplied by 6 and 4 respectively for the two sides.


To break this math down further would become too complicated and time-consuming. The increase in small arms ammunition in the WDS version was a step in the right direction – but didn’t go far enough. Small arms ammunition “running out” for any army in a major battle is something I can’t recall ever reading about in my Civil War studies. Units might run low on ammunition, but they always seem to find a way to make it to the rear to resupply sooner or later. That does not mean there should be an unlimited amount of small arms ammunition, but there should be enough to where both sides can fight without it being their chief concern by day two or three.


By giving the sides less than enough ammo to survive the battle, you unwittingly open up an avenue of strategy for the “gamey” player – outshooting your enemy. If you can constantly drain their ammo supply down to nothing, you can win the battle. Such a tactic is the most gamey and obnoxious of all tactics (my blunt opinion). But this gamey strategy is the easiest of all to shut down by WDS by simply increasing the ammo supply for both sides to the point where that strategy is no longer feasible. 


Another factor we should discuss is the ahistorical casualty rates in our games. Doug attributed this tendency towards the ultra-violent as a result of “play style as much as anything else.” When there is “no tomorrow” in the game, players will play with reckless abandon. You must win or lose this battle only, saving ammunition for another battle is not necessary. The amount of small arms ammunition should have then been increased even more in the WDS design to eliminate the manipulation of ammo shortages as a viable “gamey” tactic. If one side knows the other does not have enough ammo to fight for the full scenario, they have an unfair advantage going into the battle. 


Doug hoped that the larger maps might make maneuvering paramount and subsequently might “lower the casualty rates” in the games. If this had occurred then his ammunition levels likely would have sufficed. But this hope of Doug’s never came to fruition. Our games are as violent as ever and this long-established trend shows no signs of abating. 

Difference #9: The Objective Hexes


Both versions of the Gettysburg scenario have high-value objective hexes across their maps. But only some of these are the same in both versions. Both have a total of 13 objective hexes on the map. But in the WDS version, 4 of these are on the edges of the map. None are on the edges of the map in the Talonsoft version.


Here is a quick rundown of where the objectives are and what their worth is.



Why did Doug choose the objective hexes that he did? In an interview with Brett Schulte in 2004, Doug stated the following:

In a scenario covering an entire big map - in which geographical VP's [Victory Points] would tend to force game play along a preconceived line - I've tended to lessen the importance of objectives nearer to the front, and used exit hexes and geographical points far to the rear of where the action is liable to develop.


Doug surely was referencing Gettysburg in the above statement. The value of victory point hexes in the WDS game follow the pattern outlined by Doug. Along the edges of the map are the largest victory point hexes in the scenario. This was done as a way to force the players to recognize the fact that neither Lee nor Meade could afford to have their lines of retreat cut off by the enemy. Whatever happened at Gettysburg was possibly inconsequential if their lines of supply and communication were cut and their rear threatened – that could not occur. Doug made these border victory hexes worth more than historically significant hexes such as Cemetery Hill or Little Round Top.


In the Talonsoft version, the scenario is designed only around the core battlefield area. Whatever happens in the rear is a problem for “after” the battle and is not a concern for the players in their version. The largest victory point hexes are then reserved for key historical points such as Cemetery Hill and “The Angle.”


The location and value of victory point hexes is something that no two people will likely ever agree on. I could nitpick the decisions of both Talonsoft and WDS but then someone would nitpick my nitpicking. I believe there is an extremely fine line that Doug was trying to walk between gearing the scenario between a traditional Gettysburg battle where the “center” of the map mattered, and a campaign battle where the lines of supply and communication also mattered. Doug wanted to make his scenario a hybrid between the two and, on the whole, succeeded.


I believe, in hindsight, that Doug erred by using the extreme edges of the map for his largest victory point hexes. Using the absolute map edges creates problems for both attackers and defenders because the edges offer no flank or rear to units on those particular hexes. I believe the hexes chosen by Doug for the rear areas should have been spotted at least 7 – 12 hexes from the very edges of the map. This would have altered the tactics around these points and prevented the map edge from becoming a tactical (gamey) tool for one side or the other to use.

Difference #10: The Victory Conditions


The two versions of the Gettysburg scenario are very different when it comes to the level of victory points needed to achieve a victory. In the Talonsoft game, the margin of between a victory and a defeat is extremely thin (300 points). In the WDS version, the difference between victory and defeat is 4,000 points. The Talonsoft version forces the Rebels to act offensively or suffer a defeat in the game if they choose to do nothing. But in the WDS version, the battle begins as a Draw. This means that the Rebels aren’t required to attack in order to play for a Draw result. This is undoubtedly another decision by Doug to make the game more “historical.” Lee needn’t have attacked Meade at Gettysburg and could have disengaged on day one. That wouldn’t have been a “defeat.” Therefore, Doug allows the Rebel player the option (though an unlikely one) of refusing to engage the enemy and falling back to a defensive position and hoping Meade follows.

The two victory dialogues are shown below for the scenarios at turn number one. On the left is the Talonsoft version and on the right is the WDS version.



Why is there such a large difference in the amount of victory points needed for a victory in the two scenarios? There are two main reasons for this. First, the Victory Points awarded for losses are different in the two scenarios. Second, Doug had a desire to force the two sides to gain victories through both the capturing of objectives and battlefield success - not just one or the other.

To begin with, the "usual" points which are given as a result of battlefield losses are 0.4 points per infantryman, 0.8 points per cavalryman, and 30 points per guns destroyed. This is the case in 98% or more of the WDS scenarios as well as in the Talonsoft series. But Doug, as discussed in Difference #3, wanted to penalize players for ahistorical usage of their cavalry against enemy non-cavalry units. To do this Doug doubled the amount of points associated with cavalry losses. He also doubled the amount of points for artillery losses for the same reasons of wishing to force more tactical historical play. Because he increased the points for losses, he had to increase the points for victory conditions. 

Doug also wanted to force the two sides to utilize the objective hexes, in conjunction with battlefield losses, to reach a victory status. Doug told Brett in his interview that, “For the larger scenarios I've tried to have a minor victory achievable by taking most of the hexes through the middle of a map, with a major victory requiring either the taking of some hexes on the opposing players side of the map - deep to the rear, or by inflicting seriously higher levels of casualties than the other side.” Achieving a victory through only victory hexes or battlefield losses is pretty unlikely in Doug’s version of Gettysburg. Victory in his scenario requires you to achieve both strategic and tactical victories. 


I believe Doug was correct in his goals when it came to victory points and determining a winner in the battle. I agree that it is best to force the players to achieve a victory through the taking of objectives and by inflicting higher losses on the enemy through sustained combat. The margin between victory and defeat in the Talonsoft version was simply too thin. 

Part Five: Final Analysis

Part Five


Both Talonsoft and WDS gave us very enjoyable interpretations of the Battle of Gettysburg. While Talonsoft gave us a battle that concentrated on only the core battlefield areas, WDS gave us a scenario that puts that battle into a larger context. Talonsoft gave us a more historically accurate representation of how the battle was fought (minus the cavalry), while WDS gave us a better set of choices to determine how the battle could have been fought. But each scenario also has legitimate drawbacks which hurt the playability of each.


In the late 1990s, Doug analyzed what Battleground Gettysburg was and felt he could make it better. WDS gave him that opportunity. I feel that Doug succeeded and gave us a wonderful scenario with many innovative and well thought out ideas. His decision to include the eastern and northern parts of the Gettysburg map were spot on. This allowed all the historically relevant units to reach the battlefield and take part in the scenario. His decision to increase the small arms ammunition was a step in the right direction as was his separating of batteries into sections as opposed to full batteries. Generally, his decision of where to put the objective hexes was correct, as was his desire to see maneuver take precedence over pre-determined courses of action. Lastly, his decision to expand the point margins between victory and defeat, forcing players to earn victories through a combination of taking objectives and superior fighting, was exactly right.


But Doug also made miscalculations which have harmed the long-term playability of the scenario he created. Doug mentioned, numerous times, that he was searching for ways to cut down on the gamey play of human players. That is a battle no designer will ever win. Humans are too smart and will always find whatever "gamey" angle they can to give them an advantage never intended by the scenario designer. This is neither right nor wrong - it "is what it is." But designers should always do all they can to eliminate the most obvious avenues of gamey play and Doug rightly attempted to do just that. But did he do it the right way?


Doug wrote that, where acceptable and justifiable, he edited the maps with an eye to cut down on possible gamey moves. I'd argue that is a mistake. Without knowing specifically what things he changed it is hard to say how it affects gameplay. But the terrain, roads, elevations and trails around Gettysburg in the maps released by Talonsoft and WDS are shockingly different in places. Were these changes based on real data or were these changes Doug trying to manipulate gameplay? My opinion is the terrain should always be what the terrain was. Trying to combat gameiness through map manipulation was a poor decision. 

Doug made other errors as well. The lack of small arms ammunition is probably the greatest problem with the scenario. You can’t fight without ammunition and you are not given enough to make it through a full three-day battle. I do not know when or where the strategy of "outshooting" your opponent originated in the history of the Talonsoft/WDS games. But it is a legitimate strategy which can be used in numerous scenarios in which the quantity of ammunition is insufficiently allocated. Doug increased the ammunition numbers from the Talonsoft version of Gettysburg probably hoping to eliminate this strategy - but he did not raise them nearly enough. 


Another problem with Doug’s design was the overexpansion of the map into the “dead spaces” of the south and the west. While the decision to push the map edges back a little in these directions is justifiable, I would argue he pushed them back too far. These map expansions allow the earlier arrival of key units for the Federals on July 1. They also expand the number of gameplay options for the Federal player beyond what was possible for Meade on the night of July 1. There is also nothing materially gained from expanding the maps to the south or west. No key new areas are uncovered nor does the strategy of the players really alter because of the extra acreage in those regions. While the occasional skirmish does occur in the west, it almost never occurs in the south.


An additional error, in my judgment, was the decision to have Sykes' 5th Corps arrive along the Hanover Road very early on July 2. This arrival point allows the Union player the option to immediately attack with Sykes against the Rebel flank. Historically, this was never considered by Meade. This is a very hard thing to criticize Doug for though. Sticking to historical facts is paramount, right? I would argue that there are times and circumstances where there are gray areas which allow designers a number of different options. I just happen to believe Doug chose the wrong one. Having Sykes arrive along the Hanover Road (in the WDS version) creates a totally different Gettysburg experience than if he would have arrived along the Baltimore Pike (as in the Talonsoft version). Doug wrestled with this I am sure. He must have asked himself, "Do I allow the Union player to decide for himself what Sykes should do, or do I decide for him as Meade did and use the Baltimore Pike?"


I will state my opinion now. Sykes’s men had slept little the night before after conducting a 12-mile march during the day and an 8-mile forced march that same night – not stopping until midnight. Up again at 4 AM, the corps marched the final six miles to reach the battlefield and were then sent to a reserve position to rest. These troops would have been in no condition to immediately jump into a major offensive battle over unfamiliar ground against an enemy of unknown strength. Because Doug’s design gives them that ahistorical option, I’d argue he made the incorrect decision in using the Hanover Road as their arrival point. If they had arrived on the map with moderate fatigue levels, maybe this would temper the desire of the Union commander to utilize them in an offensive capacity. But the units arrive 100% fresh and ready for battle – a completely ahistorical thing. But why open that can of worms? If we did, then nearly all units arriving at Gettysburg would be fatigued to some degree.


Therefore, I continue to believe that the best compromise to keep the historical Battle of Gettysburg “historical” would have been to have them enter along the Baltimore Pike and fully rested. This is what Talonsoft did. This also gives the Union a full corps arriving at roughly the same location where they ultimately ended up, and in a state of readiness to move in any direction should they choose. This is preferable to them arriving, fully rested, in an ideal position along the Hanover Road to radically alter the course of the battle by acting aggressively. Especially since, historically, this was a totally unrealistic tactic that Meade would have never dared to consider.  


Having called out these two decisions by Doug, why don’t I call out his expansion of the map to the north? Doesn’t that give the Confederate player an advantage on July 1 because he can utilize the roads south to Gettysburg easier than he can in the Talonsoft version? That is a fair question. I believe Doug was correct to push the map to the north and allow Ewell to deploy as he saw fit. Lee’s orders for Ewell were to use his discretion on July 1 on whether to attack or not – he preferred that Ewell not attack but events occurred too quickly to stop the chain of events from unfolding. Doug allows the Confederate player to decide for himself, just as Ewell did, what to do. The difference between this situation and the ones for Hancock and Sykes are obvious. Hancock was ordered into a reserve position on the night of July 1 and arrived after the fighting concluded. There was no discretionary part of his orders. The same holds true for Sykes early on July 2. Sykes was ordered to join the main army and take up a position in its right and rear. I maintain that the decision to give Ewell full latitude to decide his line of march makes sense. But the decision to do the same for Sykes and Hancock does not.


What about the expansion of the map to the west? I’d argue it was overdone as well. It adds very little to the scenario and largely includes areas which I term “dead space” on the map. The Confederate player is extremely unlikely to do anything except move directly down the Chambersburg Pike. The Federal army, and all the objective hexes, lay in that direction. While the opening of the western part of the map expands options for the Rebels on days two and three to move around the enemy left flank, it also increases their area of responsibility by giving them an expanded flank and rear to guard during the battle. In the end, I would argue this area is expanded too much and negatively affects the scenario gameplay.


Lastly, Doug’s decision to double the number of cavalry units on the field also did not work out the way he had hoped. Instead of these being used to reel in gamey play, they exacerbated it. Risking a 100-man cavalry unit to ambush an enemy battery, wagon, or leader, is a small price to pay for the possible reward to be had. Isolation Rules also make it very enticing to use these small units as “panzer” units to outflank the enemy lines and quickly isolate or turn an enemy flank. This is the only real instance where WDS experimented with splitting apart cavalry units in such a major battle. I am glad the experiment ended here. While it does achieve the goal of allowing more tactical units, it also increases the gamey play exponentially by those who are masters at it. In the end, the advantage of having additional tactical units was overshadowed by the increase in gamey play options. This was contrary to Doug’s hopes.  

Doug unfortunately passed away a number of years ago. Others who contributed to the game, such as Rich Hamilton and Rich Walker (and likely others), are still active in game development. My criticisms and opinions are not meant to disparage the monumental work they did in any way. I have great respect and admiration for these gentlemen. But I’d like to think that when they read these notes, potentially disagreeing with some parts and approving of others, that they would politely ask me the same question that I am sure was asked of Doug long ago, “what are you going to do about it?” It was that question that prompted Doug and others to undertake to design a brand-new Battle of Gettysburg scenario when the old one by Talonsoft was hardly a decade old. It’s been twice that long now since the Campaign Gettysburg release… and I think it is time to review the battle once more, perhaps with a new vision and take on the battle.


I will now humbly add my own interpretation of the Battle of Gettysburg for you all to play, dissect, and comment on. With a nod of the head to Doug Strickler and the other designers who have done this before me - here I go. 

Part Six: Designing a New Gettysburg Scenario

Part Six

Every designer has to have a vision of what they want to create. Merely changing the arrival times of a unit or two does not really change the substance of a scenario and, in my opinion, really warrant the effort. Both Talonsoft and WDS had visions about the Battle of Gettysburg they wanted to create. I believe that Talonsoft wanted to recreate just the core battle only. Meanwhile, Doug Strickler wanted to recreate a Gettysburg that was really just taking place as part of a larger campaign in southern Pennsylvania. Both are wholly acceptable visions and unique from one another. My vision is different than either of theirs. 

My design vision is to create a scenario that maximizes the importance of July 1 - to me, the most fascinating day of the Civil War. There is a misconception that the Confederates simply rolled over the Federals after Heth's initial stumble on the Chambersburg Pike. This is totally untrue. The 1st Corps bloodied Heth badly because they were always a step ahead of them. First, Wadsworth arrived before the attack of Archer and Davis. Then Robinson and Doubleday arrived before Heth fully attacked a second time. Later, once Rodes arrived and began his attack, the Federals were already lying in wait and shredded two of his brigades. The 11th Corps arrived on the field during a midday lull while the Confederates licked their wounds and regrouped. Only the timely arrival of Early on the flank of the Federal line finally began to throw  back the Union forces. A rejuvenated Confederate army renewed the attack all along the lines and drove the exhausted Federals back through Gettysburg and beyond. Then stopped...


To me, that is the critical moment of the battle and possibly the war. The scenario I want to create will seek to bring to life the back and forth nature of the fighting on July 1. Because in my mind, the battle is decided on that day.

Luckily for me, I am not completely reinventing the wheel here. The leg work of creating the Order of Battle and the research for unit arrivals has already been done by Talonsoft and WDS. While I could make minor adjustments to their basic research, I don't see any need. Unit histories and the number of men engaged with regiments almost always varies from source to source. Having read the methodology of how these numbers were arrived at - I am satisfied any work on my part to improve upon it would be superfluous. 

I would love to redesign the topography of Doug's Gettysburg map. Nothing radical, but Doug made some interesting decisions which vary from the map design of the Talonsoft game. Is one more right than the other? I'd love to tinker with it and dive into the maps more. Unfortunately, the maps remain locked by WDS and so this is not possible. The best I can do is work with the map designed by Doug and go from there. It is still a good map but the creator in me wishes I could at least double-check a few things. 


The first step in any scenario design is to choose your battleground map. Obviously, for me, that is the Gettysburg map by WDS. This map measures 154 x 161 hexes.


But I feel it is too large to suit my design purposes. So, I will make my first changes. First, I will bring in the western edge of the Gettysburg map by 12 hexes. Second, I will bring in the southern edge of the map by 40 hexes. Doing so will eliminate a lot of the rarely used “dead space” along the edges. The northern and eastern edges of the map will remain unchanged.


The map I am now working with is 142 x 121 hexes (17,182 hexes). This is still far larger than the Talonsoft map (89 x 69 hexes - 6,141 hexes) but smaller than the WDS map (154 x 161 hexes - 24,794 hexes). I am searching for the right balance of giving the two sides enough room to maneuver and play, but not so much room that the scenario feels like the “Battle of Adams County” instead of the Battle of Gettysburg. It also eliminates some of the road network west of Marsh Creek which was a haven for gamey players looking to sneak around the flanks of opposing armies to capture lone units or objective hexes. I think it is also justifiable since almost no significant action took place west of Marsh Creek during the battle. Sacrificing a bit of this terrain then does not affect the overall main battle nor the historical accuracy of the battle.


The elimination of a forty-hex swatch across the southern part of the map may be a lot for some people, but I feel it is just as justifiable. Seldom does the southern part of the map ever factor into the events which play out in the center of the map around Gettysburg. Instead, the southern part of the map is just a “dead space” which serves no real purpose. It also forces key units onto the map too early at the end of July 1 which, I argue, negatively affects gameplay. Therefore, I have eliminated it.


Below is a graphic showing the original Talonsoft map atop my edited map for the scenario. Behind that is the non-colorized version of the larger WDS map.

New Map.png


The next thing you do when you design a game is to look at the Order of Battles for the two sides. I will use WDS’s excellent Order of Battle as my base and make changes from it. I will not touch the unit ratings nor the commander ratings. WDS honored the ratings of the Talonsoft design and I will continue to honor that tradition. But I will opt to make minor changes to the order of battle for gameplay purposes. To quickly summarize here, I eliminated all non-frontline units such as Provost Guard companies and train guards. With detachments, if I could not justify keeping the detachment as a separate unit, I added it back to its parent unit. While some might object, I believe whether or not a 30-man company is detached won't matter in the grand scheme of things. Keeping it detached merely creates another unit to move - a unit too small to serve any purpose aside from recon (which they would not have been used for). 


The biggest change I made to the Order of Battle was to eliminate the 100-man detachments within the cavalry forces of the two armies (leaving only some of Buford’s detachments which picket the roads north of Gettysburg). These 100-man detachments have always been prime candidates for gamey players, or even non-gamey players, to make ahistorical moves and scouting expeditions. The removal of these units should force the players to make harder decisions about dispatching full regiments on their own to raid or scout behind enemy lines (given their larger size and subsequent point loss if damaged and/or captured). Another large change was the decision to eliminate the Provost Guard force from the Union Order of Battle. As stated earlier, these troops could only have been committed to a combat role if another unit took their place in the rear to do their critical duties. Therefore, I see them as unnecessary units whose main purpose is not applicable in a video game.  


For both armies, I divided any infantry regiment with more than 600 men into two battalions. Why? Because one of the most popular Optional Rules used today is the Density Fire Modifier. This rule increases losses in hexes which contain 666 or more men. For a large unit like the 26th North Carolina or the 16th Vermont, this immediately puts them above the limit and increases their losses when in combat. By dividing these units into two, the regiment can either stay stacked, or split into separate hexes to avoid the Density Fire penalty. For cavalry regiments, any unit over 500-men was split into two battalions. 


For the artillery units, I simply felt there were too many sections on the field of battle. So I made the decision to begin consolidating some batteries from three to two sections, and some batteries to full strength. As a result, artillery units now have anywhere from one to six guns. This will give the players the ability to send a full battery to take up a position, or just use a section if they wish. Part of my goal was to reduce the number of movable units on the field to force players to make harder decisions about where to send men and guns.


With Supply Wagons, I chose to increase the Rebel divisional trains to 500 points per wagon. The Federal trains for divisions were kept at 300 points. I added additional Supply Wagons to each corps on both sides. The Federal Corps wagons are worth 600 points and the Rebel Corps wagons are worth 500. The Confederates have 18 Supply Trains with a total of 8,200 Supply Points. The Federals have 34 Supply Trains with a total of 12,000 Supply Points. In order to avoid the gamey strategy of simply outshooting your opponent until they run out of small arms ammunition, I greatly increased the available Supply Points for the two sides. The scale I used to determine ammunition supply can be viewed here.


Below you will see my statistics for the scenario I have created alongside those of the WDS and Talonsoft versions. I eliminated about 20% of the total units from the WDS version by reducing the number of cavalry detachments and artillery sections (not to mention the general elimination of company-sized detached units).


With artillery ammunition, I chose to make no changes. I felt that the artillery ammunition was “good enough” and that I would have a hard time finding a number to adjust the limits to that would appease everyone. The number developed by Talonsoft was good enough to be used by Doug Strickler in his design. Doug would have changed it if he had found a solid historical reason to do so, but he didn’t. I will, therefore, continue the tradition and use the same numbers for my design.


The next step in designing is to actually put the men on the map. This is where things begin to get more difficult and where you will be second-guessed the most.


My main goal was to replicate the excitement and intensity of the fighting on July 1. The WDS and Talonsoft scenarios both do an okay job of this, but for various reasons, I never liked the timing of the arrivals or the start time of the scenarios. Heth took a very long time to move his men into line and did not really begin to advance until after 9 AM. Therefore, that is my start time. By the time Archer and Davis began forward, Wadsworth's division was already moving into line and making Heth pay for his tardiness. Once Pettigrew and Brockenbrough arrived, Heth sent in the these units piecemeal the same as he did Archer and Davis. Heth's Division had a very rough morning. 

In my scenario, Wadworth will arrive around the same time that Heth really begins to get his first attack moving forward. Robinson's division will not be far behind. But with numerous threats from the west growing, and a column known to be coming from the north (Ewell), the Federals will have to make some tough choices very quickly. Behind Robinson will come Doubleday and then the 11th Corps divisions. Heth will soon be joined by Pender about the same time Rodes comes down from the north. Rodes will have his hands full (just as he did historically) until the arrival of Early's Division. The Federals will always be one step ahead of the Confederates. This is how July 1 played out. 

The Confederates made many errors on July 1 which have been forgotten because of their eventual victory that evening. Heth moved too slowly, AP Hill vacillated, and Rodes and his brigadiers made tactical errors. But the weight of Confederate numbers, and the strong flank attack by Early's Division, soon began to unhinge the Federal lines. Quickly the retreat became a rout all the way back to Cemetery Hill. The timing of my unit arrivals is meant to recreate these events. 


From here I had to make hundreds of decisions about the arrival times of the various units. Because of the varying map sizes for the three scenarios, some of this required estimates and compromises. But I did the best I could to be as true as possible to the history while balancing gameplay considerations. Neither side will find a simple duplication of the Talonsoft or WDS scenarios when playing my version. There are changes for both sides which will alter their experience and which make this scenario unique. 


The biggest changes were those moving the arrival of the 2nd Corps to dawn of July 2, and the arrival point and time of the 5th Corps along the Baltimore Pike. Both of these decisions reflected more the setup of the Talonsoft version which did a better job, I think, of capturing the setup on the morning of July 2. The only other notable Union change was to move the arrival point of Kilpatrick’s division from the York Pike to the Hanover Road, and to delay it one hour. Kilpatrick did not spend much time on the extreme right and rode south to join the main force. My decision to move him behind the line of march of Gregg’s division on the Hanover Road is a gameplay one to remove the temptation for the Confederate players to attempt to isolate him in the corner of the map upon his arrival.

For the Confederates, the arrival of Anderson's Division was pushed back two hours and behind the arrival of Johnson's Division - too late to get into the action on July 1. This is going to be controversial. But this is accurate historically. On July 1, Anderson's Division was stopped by Lee and placed into a general reserve a few miles from the battlefield. Anderson would remember the commanding general being “very much disturbed and depressed.” What seemed to disturb Lee the most was not having Stuart on the scene. “In the absence of reports from him,” Lee said, “I am in ignorance as to what we have in front of us here.” Lee would also tell him that "a reserve, in case of disaster, was necessary.” This is why Anderson was never engaged on July 1 and why I chose to keep him out of the fighting this day as well. Lee fought with just Heth, Pender, Rodes and Early on July 1, that is replicated here. 


Doug Strickler admitted to making minor changes to enhance gameplay – I feel my changes are along the same lines. The decisions I made were “coin-flip” decisions. Talonsoft and WDS did not produce the same exact scenario because they made different decisions based on various factors. My scenario does the same thing. While some will agree with my decisions, others won't. That’s life.

The final steps in scenario design are creating objective hexes and establishing victory conditions. Once again, I took what I liked from both the Talonsoft and WDS versions. From the Talonsoft version, I emphasized the importance of the traditional “fishhook” position held by the Army of the Potomac. I eliminated some of the “rear position” objectives behind the “fishhook” that WDS had added. From the WDS scenario I kept the “supply line” objective hexes that Doug implemented. I did move them out from the edge of the board a little to remove the edge from being utilized in gamey ways.


With victory conditions, this was tricky. The goal is always to force the two sides into conflict as much as possible to determine a winner in the battle. Allowing one side or the other to gain a victory by just taking an easy objective or two is not the way to effectively design a game. Because the Confederates are the “attackers” at Gettysburg, they must attack in order to win. The battle begins as a Draw just as it did in the WDS version. The Confederate player must take numerous objectives to gain a victory and still inflict heavier losses on the Federals. For the Federals to win, they must hold the main objectives (or take additional ones), as well as greatly harm the Confederate army in order to win the battle. I narrowed the margin of victory and defeat from 4,000 points in the WDS game, to 3,000.


After doing some playtesting and some final adjustments – my design is complete.

You may download and play the scenario as part of the general release of Gettysburg scenarios available here

Epilogue: Four Gettysburg Battles



Throughout this paper I have only referred to the two main Gettysburg scenarios produced by Talonsoft and WDS. But buried on the Gettysburg title is a second Gettysburg battle, "007. The Battle of Gettysburg," also by Doug Strickler. This scenario features a gigantic map and takes Doug's ideas and wishes for a massive campaign of maneuver to new extremes. How large is the map? Try 323 x 363 hexes (117,249 hexes). This makes it, by far, the "biggest" of the Gettysburg options. If you are one of those people who want the maximum amount of room to fight a battle, this is your scenario to play. 

There are then four different and distinct Gettysburg scenarios for gamers to choose from:


1) Talonsoft's Battle of Gettysburg (imported into WDS as !BG 001 - The Battle of Gettysburg). This is the smallest of the Gettysburg scenarios. It places extreme importance on the armies fighting only over the core parts of the battlefield and limits the amount of ahistorical maneuvering possible because of that. 

2) The Updated Battle of Gettysburg (!BG 000 - Updated Battle of Gettysburg). This is my own creation and increases the size of the Gettysburg map over the Talonsoft version. This version seeks to recreate more of a traditional Gettysburg feel on July 1 while allowing limited room to maneuver on July 2 and 3. 

3) WDS's original Battle of Gettysburg (!HISTORICAL 1. The Battle of Gettysburg). This is the primary Gettysburg scenario on the WDS title. It features a larger map than the above versions of Gettysburg and allows players more room to maneuver. But the increased space can lead to a much different type of battle being fought around Gettysburg that may not satisfy those looking to play a more traditional Gettysburg. 

4) Doug Strickler's expanded take on Gettysburg (007. The Battle of Gettysburg). This is the largest of all the Gettysburg options. If you are not looking to necessarily refight the Battle of Gettysburg, but rather reenact events in Adams County, Pennsylvania, then this is for you.

Below is an image showing all four maps in relation to one another. The Talonsoft map is at Gettysburg, followed by the sepia colored map of my own creation, then the WDS Gettysburg map in black and white, and then the massive Gettysburg area map created by Doug Strickler for Campaign Gettysburg. 


Should you take the time to play my Gettysburg creation I would be interested to hear your feedback someday. Remember, it is not a clone of either the Talonsoft or the WDS versions. It is a wholly different scenario altogether. Treat it as such. Talonsoft’s and WDS’s Gettysburg scenarios are very different from one another, and mine is just as different from them. Sure, they share similarities and orders of battle, but each has a different design vision and take on the battle. You may prefer one more than another in the long run – which one will it be? There is only one way to find out.


Having four Gettysburg options to play now may seem “too many” to some people. As Doug Strickler said, “The battle has been done, and done again.” But I see no problem with trying to reinterpret the scenario from time to time. When Doug created his scenario in 2004 our gaming mechanics were nowhere near as complex as they are today. Play styles and philosophies have also changed in the past twenty years. I’d also argue that “gamey” tactics are more sophisticated and vicious than they have ever been. My alterations and decisions with my version of Gettysburg have taken all this into account. I have made some of the adjustments I did with an eye to limit the amount of gamey play and ahistorical maneuverings available to the players. These things can never be stopped or fully contained, but they can be reined in through certain methods. I've also offered up a new vision on how the scenario should be played and created that is different than either Talonsoft's or WDS's. 

There will never be a "definitive" version of Gettysburg. Everyone reading this is thinking, "I'd do it differently." If you are intrigued by scenario design and wish to spend some enjoyable free time creating your own take on the battle, I encourage you to pursue that idea. Scenario development forces you to think more deeply about the game mechanics and how they affect gameplay. It is also a lot of fun. Diving into history books, looking over maps, reading the official reports - telling the wife you are working hard on an important project - all grand fun! And that is why we are all playing these games in the first place. 


I do wish I could have talked to Doug about his design and asked questions. I have surely gained a solid respect for his work and his designs while working on this project of mine. I believe he’d be happy to see the games still being played and that we are still working to make them better all the time. In the future, if I am lucky enough to see it, perhaps someone will edit my scenario in 2044 and adjust it to whatever changes come our way over the next twenty years. What will WDS have in store for us by then?


For now… who wants to play Gettysburg?



For an Interview with Doug Strickler you can view this page -

The Design Notes for Campaign Gettysburg are located in the game's "Manual" folder under "notes" as a PDF document.


Additional information on the Gettysburg Campaign was attained through a number of books and websites. 

Of particular note:

Gottfried, Bradley M.. The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3–July 13, 1863, Savas Beatie, Kindle Edition.

Sears, Stephen W.. Gettysburg, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston & New York, 2003

Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, HarperCollins, Kindle Edition, 2002

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