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  The Hill of Death: Champion Hill by Tiny Battle Publishing  I will be the first to admit that I knew very little about the campaign to tak...

The Hill of Death: Champion Hill by Tiny Battle Publishing The Hill of Death: Champion Hill by Tiny Battle Publishing

The Hill of Death: Champion Hill by Tiny Battle Publishing

The Hill of Death: Champion Hill by Tiny Battle Publishing

 The Hill of Death: Champion Hill


Tiny Battle Publishing

 I will be the first to admit that I knew very little about the campaign to take Vicksburg and some other events in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. So, I did what every other red blooded grognard would do and I read up on it. For me, wargaming is as much about the playing of the game as it is in learning about the history of what is depicted.  Rather than me just spouting off some history that I just assimilated I will leave it to the master, Hermann Luttmann, to describe the history and the game.

"The Hill of Death is the first game in the new "Shattered Union" American Civil War series by Tiny Battle Publishing. The series is designed to be accessible and fast-playing, suitable for gamers of any experience level. It is based firmly within the core design philosophy of the Blind Swords and Black Swan systems, but will focus on more obscure or over-looked battles and campaigns, including some fictional "what if" battles that could have occurred during the war. The entire series is governed by one relatively simple set of standard Series Rules, which are altered in each game by a few Game Module specific rules.

The Hill of Death is the first Game Module in the Shattered Union series and covers the entire Battle of Champion Hill. This critical engagement was fought just outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi on May 16th ,1863, between the Union Army of the Tennessee (under Major General Ulysses S. Grant) and the Confederate Army of Vicksburg (under Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton). Grant successfully landed his Union army on the shores of the Mississippi River and quickly advanced inland towards the Mississippi state capital of Jackson. General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate force made only a token effort at defending the city and then Johnston instructed Pemberton to sally forth from the Vicksburg fortress and attack Grant’s line of supply. On the morning of May 16th, Pemberton’s Army of Vicksburg was in route to fulfilling that mission when it received new orders from Johnston to turn around and join him near the town of Clinton. Pemberton hesitated and as he contemplated his next move, Grant about-faced the Union army. Leaving most of Sherman’s Corps to hold Jackson, he began a determined advance against Vicksburg and Pemberton’s strung out and confused Rebel army. The Battle of Champion Hill was underway, and the fate of Vicksburg hung in the balance."

 This is what comes with the game:

1 – 17" x 22" Map

189 – Counters

45 – Cards

1 – Player Aid

1 – Series Rulebook

1 – Game Module Rulebook

5 – Six-Sided Dice (Red, White, Black, Blue and Gray)

 So, Mr. Luttmann has developed a third rule set of games for American Civil War Battles. This can only be a good thing for us grognards (Along with being a terrible thing for our wives and wallets. Come to think of it, someone should use wives and wallets somehow in a game or company title. Maybe even a gaming convention named 'Wallets sans Wives') 

 If you did not know, Tiny Battle Publishing is the little brother of 'Flying Pig Games'. To illustrate the difference just look at A Most Fearful Sacrifice and this game next to each other. Unlike David and Goliath you do not have to pick a side with these two. With Tiny Battles games you get the best of both worlds: great games with a very small footprint and quick play. You do not have to build on an addition to your house and buy a regulation pool table to set up your copy of A Most Fearful Sacrifice.

 The map is smaller than usual for most games at 17" x 22". However, this is to be expected from a company named Tiny Battles. It looks even smaller because the hexes are one inch wide. So, there is no trouble with cardboard clutter. The map is very well done and very easy on the eyes. It is one of those maps that you would like to copy and put on your wall. As you can see, it is easy to see what terrain each hex is made of. The addition of the names of the different families and their dwellings is a nice touch. It also helps to use the map to follow along with books about the battle. The counters are large at 3/4". They are extremely easy to read, and you can eschew your magnifying glass when playing. The colors are the standard blue and butternut for the Union and Confederate units. The game comes with one large 11" x 17" double sided Player Aid. It is in full color and made from hard stock and laminated. It really reminds me of a restaurant menu in size, color, and the type size. One side has all of the tables needed for the game. The other side has the Sequence of Play etc. on it. Like most games in a series there are two different Rulebooks: one for the series and another for rules that will only apply to the game itself. The Series Rulebook is fifteen pages long. It is made of your normal rulebook paper and is in full color. The type is a bit small but still readable. There is an index included on the first page. The game Rulebook is only eleven pages long with the last page of the Rulebook being another copy of the tables used in the game. The rules take up only five and a half pages. After the rules come the setup and Victory Conditions for the two scenarios. This is followed by a write up about the Optional Units that both sides can add to the game. The game comes with forty-five cards. These are the normal game size cards, but they do seem to be a little sturdier than most. There are Event Cards and Formation Activation Cards. The Formation Activation Cards come with a black and white picture of the units' General or CIC. The components as a whole are as good as you would see on more of the 'larger' games in our hobby.

 This is the Sequence of Play:

1. Game Turn Marker Phase

2. Command Decision Phase

3. Held Formation/CIC Activation Card Phase

4. Activation Phase

  a. Draw Activation Card Step
  b. Immediate Event and Wild Card Step

  c. Formation Activation/CIC Card Step

  d. Fire Combat Step

  e. Movement Step

  f. Close Combat Step

  g. Regroup Step

  h. End Activation Step

5. End Phase

  a. Held Event Card Step

  b. Rest and Victory Point Step

 So, what we have here is a new subset of Mr. Luttmann's rules that are a bit streamlined for smaller battles. For those of us who wanted to have the battles of the American Civil War that did not make the 'A' list- Antietam, Chickamauga etc. this is a bit of a Godsend. Champion Hill probably influenced the ending of the Civil War as much or more than any of the much larger battles. 

 How does the game play? Fast and furious, as the designer intended. The footprint of the game and play time are both on the small side. The game is listed as taking two hours to play. From my experience that seems just about right. Of course, it helps if you have played some of his other designs. Naturally, two newbies to the systems are going to take longer on at least their first playthrough.  The game includes rules and counters of the Confederate Army Supply Wagons. As the Confederate player it behooves you to keep them safe. The rules also include some Optional Units for both sides that could have been present at the battle. I would say to get a least a game or two under your belt until you dabble with these 'what ifs'. The game system, like Mr. Luttmann's others, replaces a chit pull or die roll with cards for unit activation etc. So, he has been able to add many different actions that the player would not have if he just pulled a chit that activated x units. It adds a whole new layer to the 'friction' of board wargames.

 One thing about the Tiny Battle games is that if you are so inclined you can buy a PDF of the game and print everything out yourself at a substantial saving. My very few efforts at this have been underwhelming, to say the least. However, I have seen some people who have done it perfectly. Thank you, Tiny Battle Publishing, for allowing me to review another great game from Mr. Luttmann. It plays quickly but is still pretty deep. It also plays well within the bounds of historical accuracy.


Tiny Battle Publishing:

The Hill of Death: Champion Hill:

A review of The Devil's to pay: The first day of Gettysburg:

A review of Cruel Morning Shiloh 1862: