Old Gamers Never Die: War is All Hell in Ultimate General: Civil War’s Battle of Philippi

Screengrab from today’s session of Ultimate General; Civil War. Game elements and graphics (C) 2017 Game-Labs

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s midafternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Saturday, August 7, 2021. It’s a typical summer day. Currently, the temperature is 83˚F (28˚C) under partly sunny skies. With humidity at 59% and the wind blowing from the south-southwest at 8 MPH (11 KM/H), the heat index is 90˚F (33˚C). The forecast calls for scattered rain showers later this afternoon and a high of 92˚F (34˚C). Tonight, scattered rain showers will continue, and the low will be 74˚F (23˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 29 or Good.

(C) 2017 Game-Labs

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you probably remember that earlier this week I bought Ultimate General: Civil War on Steam. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Civil War “buff,” but I am into military-themed games. So after I watched a couple of playthrough videos on The Historical Gamer’s YouTube channel, I thought it might be a fun game to play. And, voila! I bought it.

Ultimate General: Civil War was created by a Ukrainian game studio, Game-Labs, and designed by Nick Thomadis. Originally released in Steam Early Access in November of 2016, the game was refined and updated for a “complete game” release on July 14, 2017.[1]

From the ‘Ultimate General: Civil War’ Website:

(C) 2017 Game-Labs

Ultimate General: Civil War is our newest game and offers a fascinating campaign system that covers the whole American Civil War 1861-1865! 

Civil War fans will be also excited to play the rich list of historical battles and explore all historical units and events.

First Battle

(C) 2017 Game-Labs

Since I am more familiar with modern (20th and 21st Century) warfare and have not played a lot of Civil War games, I am not ready to tackle the Campaign game in Ultimate General: Civil War. Instead, I am going to take it slow and progress from small engagements – such as the Battle of Philippi – and then ease my way up to the larger battles of Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg.

So far, I’ve fought two Historical Battles: the Battle of Philippi (June 3, 1861) and the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861), both of which were fought in Virginia in the early stages of the Civil War.

Here’s a playthrough of the Campaign’s Battle of Philippi as posted on YouTube by Historical Guy Gaming, (Note, this is not The Historical Gamer, the gamer and history buff that I follow on YouTube.

I tried First Bull Run, or as the Confederates called it, First Manassas, because this was the first big battle of the war. The “Battle” of Philippi, on the other hand, was a relatively minor skirmish and wasn’t even listed in the Historical Battles sub-menu of Ultimate General: Civil War.[2] I played First Bull Run three times in one night – the scenario is not a long one – in an attempt to change history; in reality, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard defeated Union General Irwin McDowell and caused the infamous “Great Skeedaddle” by demoralized Northern troops and a crowd of civilian onlookers from Washington, DC.

This was from my first playthrough of the First Battle of Bull Run. The result? A draw! But, hey, it’s better than Union Gen. Irwin McDowell fared in 1861. (C) 2017 Game-Labs

In Ultimate General: Civil War, I managed to do a slightly better job than McDowell did. I fought the Confederate artificial intelligence (AI) to a draw twice, then won an outright victory in my third playthrough.

Today I played the Battle of Philippi, which in real life was not as violent or bloody as it was in Ultimate General: Civil War. In that scenario,  I commanded a corps of Union forces with a mix of infantry, artillery, cavalry, and scouts (skirmishers). My mission: to capture the town of Philippi in what is now West Virginia and defend it from a Confederate counterattack.

A Bloody Affair

(C) 2017 Game-Labs

Now, don’t fret, Dear Reader. I am not going to regale you with a detailed account of my version of the Battle of Philippi. Suffice it to say, though, that Ultimate General: Civil War divides the battle into three separate timed segments. They are untitled, but I call them “Approaching Philippi,” “Capturing Philippi,” and “Holding Philippi.”

At each stage, I had to figure out how to deal with different battle situations. For instance, in “Approaching Philippi,” do I deploy my entire initial force to deal with the Confederate skirmishers and cavalry outside of the town, or do I detach a division to deal with them and march on to the main objective? In “Capturing Philippi,” how long do I wait to send my troops across the Tygart Valley River and into the heart of the town itself? Where do I site my artillery batteries for maximum effect? How do I prevent being flanked by those pesky Rebels? And, most importantly, when is the best time to order my infantry regiments to charge?

In reality, the Battle of the Philippi was a minor engagement – only 3,000 Union soldiers faced off against 800 Confederates, and there were 30 total casualties (4 killed or wounded on the Union side; 26 killed or wounded on the Confederate side). In the game, it was a mini-Gettysburg, with thousands of soldiers in both armies.

Like Gen. George B. McClellan in real life, I won the Battle of Philippi, but it was a bloody affair. Far too bloody, in fact. The Confederates even used an armored train to wreak havoc on my Union forces, and one of my regimental commanders was killed in battle.

(C) 2017 Game-Labs

[1] According to the game’s Developer’s Blog, a final patch was made on May 18, 2018.

[2] To play the Battle of Philippi, you have to choose Custom Battles and select either “Historical” or “Customized”mode.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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