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Designer's Notes

Antietam was a fairly uncomplicated game to design in as much as most of the game system and rules already existed - partly from earlier games, such as Borodino and Austerlitz, and partly from Antietam's companion games of Chickamauga, Gettysburg and Shiloh. Having one basic set of rules made much of the work simpler. The game did, however, have some problems and elements peculiar to itself.

For one thing, Antietam has largely been ignored by Civil War historians. Relatively few in-depth studies of the battle have been made. Most general histories seem content to write the battle off as an indecisive bloodbath and look no further. This attitude largely stems from the uninspiring nature of the campaign. In a war known for unique, illogical, and unpredictable battles, Antietam stands out as a triumph of mismanagement. For instance, Lee allowed a copy of his marching orders to fall unto Union hands and permitted himself to be trapped against the Potomac by an army twice his size in what was only a fair defensive position. In case of a major defeat, there would have been no place to go; the Army of Northern Virginia would have ceased to exist. Lee knew this, but took a calculated risk, apparently pinning his hopes of victory on McClellan.

For his part, McClellan did all he could to throw away whatever advantages he had. Once he had succeeded in trapping Lee, McClellan did nothing and allowed reinforcements for both sides to come up. On the next day (September 17), he launched a series of ill-coordinated piecemeal attacks, keeping large parts of his army in reserve. On the 18th both sides did nothing, even though the number of previously uncommitted Union troops exceeded the number of men in Lee's entire army. That evening, the Confederates escaped across the Potomac into Virginia. Characteristically, Mc Clellan did not pursue.

Naturally, for Antietam to be a game at all, these conditions had to be recreated. The Special Rules are an attempt to do this. The Union Movement Restriction reflects the uncoordinated nature of the Union attacks and their reluctance to commit the entire army to the struggle. Other rules represent various factors such as the presence of Parrott 20 lb. guns (the Union rifled artillery units).

The orders of battle and the Union Combat Strengths were not difficult to arrive at. However, the Confederates presented a problem. On September 17, 1862, the Army of Northern Virginia had a paper strength of about 55,000. But straggling, desertion, and desease had greatly reduced that number. While exact figures are impossible to arrive at, it is probable that no more than about 37,000 Confederates took part in the battle.

Other features in the game reflect the realities of the period. All units have the same Movement Allowance because there was no great tactical difference in speed between the various combat arms. Incidentally, the artillery units included in the game represent only corps and reserve artillery; with the exception of Stuart's horse artillery, divisional artillery was built directly into the brigade strengths.

Victory Conditions presented the final problem.. In an objective sense, the South could not win Antietam. At best, Lee would come out on the plus side of an attrition battle. This, in itself, would accomplish little due to the North's overall manpower advantage. But a Confederate victory, or even a draw, would have important strategic and political effects. Although Lee would probably still have had to retreat out of Maryland, a Southern victory would prevent Lincoln from issuing the Emancipation Proclamation and would encourage foreign powers to recognize the Confederacy. Ultimately, this, and not the bloodshed, was what Antietam was all about. The Victory Conditions, as well as the game itself, are structured for this purpose.

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