OH BROTHER . . . AND WHY BOTHER
THE CIVIL WAR, THE WAR THAT PITTED BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER, Foisted on the public by MIKE CRANE
from FRESNO GAMES ASSOCIATED (RMW Division, no less)
Three 22" x 34" maps, 960 counters, one Rules/History Book, 14 Play-Aid Cards, one die. From FGA Games, 228 S. Lind Ave., Fresno CA 93727; $40.
Reviewed by RICHARD H. BERG
I'm not going to waste too much of your time - and my editorial space - with extensive FGA Bashing. It's too easy, like kicking a very dead and overly putrefied horse. Pure and simple, this is A Very Bad Game. Paying money to buy Brother vs Brother is akin to throwing it into a trash bin - even if you get it back, the stench of decay hovers about it.
Some brief notes of obituarial interest. That the map is pretty much a direct adaptation of the Terry Hardy/SPI War Between the States map is well known. There are, though, a few interesting changes (some of which are for the better) together with some placement and proofing errors which lead one to believe that final copy was reviewed by Stevie Wonder. Most illuminating, though, is the use of the WBTS road network on the SW map for a rail network on the corresponding BvB map! Further proof that Plagiarism need not be sullied by Intelligence.
Yet again, FGA is doing the box before they have the design. (Then again, word has it that design work on BvB did not start in earnest until fall, 1991 - about 11 hours before they shipped it to the printer.) The Box Blurb insists there are two 11"x17" maps along with the other three. Search in vain, my friends. Further proof that Advertising need not be sullied by Truth.
The game has one - ONE!! - scenario: the entire war, starting in early April, 1861. Heaven forbid you should not have the several weeks it would take to play this thing (which, incorrectly, assumes it is playable). If you want to game, say, 1862, you're dumb out of luck - which is what you are in the first place if you paid for the game. Of course, starting the war in April, 1861, thus eliminating scenarios, means you don't have to go slogging through books to find out who was where with how many men. Further proof that Publishing need not be sullied by Work.
The system for using leaders in combat is actually quite interesting; they actually had the germ of a workable idea there. That it is not fully explained, and that some of the leader ratings have all the historical efficacy of one of Bomba's "Surf Nazis Go to Dubuque" games, obliterates the one (grantedly slim) chance FGA had for any sort of historical insight.
And, speaking of history, fully half the Rules Book is taken up by a purportedly "historical" article on the war by Mike Crane, a writer of such minimal talent that you pray he gets a government-supported position somewhere; something, one hopes, where skill has nothing to do with earning power. I have been informed that one Famous Game Designer, an historian/writer of no little note, had to be restrained from violence upon reading it. I, fortunately, was in a commuter train when my Perusal of Doom occurred. Luckily, the crew was knowledgeable in CPR, or my apoplectic Conniption Fit could have been fatal.
Did you know that the Battle of Chancellorsville was won when Jeb Stuart's cavalry destroyed the Union left wing? No? Well, that's just one of the Amazing Cranic Revelations one comes upon in the back pages of the BvB Book. Or how about such statements as, " . . . I can't recall of [sic] a single instance in which Confederate failure in battle was attributed to a lack of powder." [Hmmm . . . one wonders whether the reference is to gunpowder or Max Factor. With FGA you never can be sure.] Or, " . . . when was the last time you heard or read of someone arguing that a particular battle was lost by the Confederacy because the soldiers had no weapons?" Perhaps literally true - but NOT the point. You don't "Lose" a battle from lack of supply - you don't "Engage" in battle because of that dearth. To wit, (from "Confederate Supply", by Richard Goff, page 208):
As the campaigning progressed through 1863, supply problems, particularly logistics, had . . . become a determining factor in the inception and conduct of military operations [my emphasis] . . . . only Lee had been blessed with enough freedom from supply worries to base his movements primarily on strategic considerations. . . . By the autumn . . . Lee's supply problems had crippled his activities and by the winter he found himself bound to his railroad supply line and, thanks in part to Davis's fondness of laissez-faire railroad transportation, almost starved.
The effect of supply, in terms of the South's "winning/losing", was not whether they could put a gun and a biscuit in someone's hands; the effect of the Confederacy's supply problems is what reduced availability, difficult logistics, and concomitant organizational problems can do to a War Effort. I sincerely doubt Crane got within five miles of Goff's book or any of the recent, cogent works of Archer Jones and his compatriots. It will come as no surprise, therefore, to find that the game has NO supply rules. Further proof that Insight need not be sullied by Research.
Brother Against Brother is so worthless and stone-stupid that a career could be spent covering its failures, its ineptitudes, and the unmitigated gall it exudes. That the game is a thinly disguised effort to make money off what FGA perceives (and perceives wrongly, it turns out) as a gullible public is monumentally evident from the sheer lack of work put into it. Rob Markham, in "Volunteers" magazine, summed it up quite succinctly when he said that the game took away his breath - much the same as did his last asthma attack. He fervently hopes he never re-experiences either one again. Amen to that, brother.
Only One: Don't buy it. And if you have, ask for your money back on the Implied Warranty that the damn thing was supposed to be playable - because it ain't.