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Game #79 : Battle of Gettysburg (1982)

[Softwride, Tandy Color Computer]

I don’t have any box art for the game so here is a cover from The Bluecoats

General ! The Rebels ignored our troops and are now heading toward our HQ !

What do you mean “ignored” ?

They moved diagonally between them and refused to fight.

Fine ! I did not want to do this but we have no choice ! Let’s bunny-hop our HQ all along the battlefield to distract their forces while we receive the rest of the reinforcements.

I am sorry to break it to you, computer, but General “Stonewall” Jackson is dead. I picked General R.E. Lee as my opponent. He has more stars so he must be better.

Softwride’s Battle of Gettysburg opens on a difficult situation. Two Union divisions under the player’s control must delay 6 Confederate divisions long enough so that reinforcements can arrive. If the Confederates reach the “target” (presumably the Union HQ), it is game over. Once the Union reinforcements arrive, the target will be easier to defend and it will be time to crush the Rebs!

I immediately drag & drop my forces so they take a defensive position on the South-Western hills (representing McPherson’s Ridge). It looks like a strong position, but the Confederates don’t care and just bypass it – no zone of control in Battle for Gettysburg.

Not a problem. I teleport my troops to the second hill – Seminary Ridge. Teleport ? Yes, teleport. Battle for Gettysburg is one of the earliest real-time tactics wargames, but only the Confederates move real-time. To move your own troops, you pick them up with the cursor and drop them somewhere else, and voilĂ , that’s their new location. Of course, there is a maximum distance you can teleport them that way, but nothing stops you from picking your unit again immediately and moving it further.

The AI ignoring me in real-time and me teleporting my troops to the second hill, accelerated 2.5x

The Confederates carry on ignoring me, and I teleport back further. Eventually, to try to delay the Confederates, I launch several counterattacks, effectively dragging my unit on top of an enemy unit. The results are mixed : sometimes it works and the enemy is repulsed, and sometimes my unit is brought back to where it started.

Finally, the first reinforcements arrive !

Of course, amateurs in strategy may object that the reinforcements came from the South-Eastern part of the battlefield, when my HQ is at the North-Eastern part of said battlefield. Those amateurs forget one important thing :

Chain-teleportation !

I redeploy my reinforcements in front of the Southerners in no-time, helped by the fact that one can teleport further when using a road, as we all know !

One unit is left behind, because I am unable to pick it up with the cursor. Full disclosure : this is an emulator issue (the mouse is offset to the in-game location of the cursor), not a game issue.

Regrettably, my new divisions are ignored just like the first ones were, and the enemy breaks-through. Or bypasses-through, I suppose.

Not a problem : my HQ can also chain-teleport !

Sorry, Robert, the HQ is in another corner !”

Soon afterwards, I receive the last batch of reinforcement. Now, I have enough troops to create a real wall. No more ignoring my soldiers by moving diagonally, Robert !

I fortify the Eastern part of Seminary Ridge. This deployment is slowed down by a combination of the game struggling with BASIC and the emulator making it troublesome to pick up units on the border of the map :

I am happy with my defensive line, but the Confederates respect nothing and bypass it by the South.

To be fair, they also attack in the center along the road. I win some, lose some. When I lose, I have to drag my unit back to its position. When I win, the Rebel unit is pushed back, it has to creep toward my line again. Rarely, one unit of either side is destroyed. This is all very random.

But eventually, the AI’s rugged persistence prevails, and it makes it through :

I could teleport my HQ away again, but I also want this game to end. I stop fighting.

Good luck to historians of the future in creating a satisfying narrative about this battle.

Rating & Review

The two ads I could find for Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg by James Woodruff, published by Softwride, USA
First release : November 1982 on Color Computer (CoCo)
Tested on :
VCC (CoCo emulator)
Total time tested :
1 hour
Average duration of a battle :
30 minutes
Trivial (0/5)
Would recommend to a modern player :
Never !
Would recommend to a designer :
Final Rating : Totally obsolete. Born obsolete
Ranking at the time of review :

Battle of Gettysburg is the only game ever released by Softwride, a Texan company which I assume was founded by James Woodruff, the designer of the game. It ran a few ads in Rainbow, the Color Computer magazine, in late 1982 and early 1983, and then disappeared forever – there is not a single hit in for Softwride after 1983.

As so many Coco games, Battle of Gettysburg was not released on any other platform.

And now, moving directly to the review :

A. Immersion

Very poor. The relatively sizeable manual comes with a map of the battlefield and explains how “considerable research” went into the game. It challenges you to emulate the performance of General Hancock and General Reynolds. It analyzes the general situation and warns you that some positions are more difficult to attack and defend, reminding you of the ill-fated charge of General Pickett between Cemetary Hill and Cemetary Ridge.

Unrelated, here is a GIF of the target (presumably my HQ) crossing the battlefield by bunny-hoping through the Confederate lines :

B. Systems

Terrible. I could absolutely forgive the teleporting units as I have already played good games which used this simplification… but in those games “teleport” has a cooldown to emulate the fact that the soldiers don’t actually teleport on the battlefield, even according to the most revisionist historiography. And none of those games allows you to teleport the target of the enemy, something that is – I feel like I have to insist on this – a feature and not a bug (eg the manual states “you will want to move the target about and try to control the game“).

Note that the game is asymmetric : the Confederate units don’t teleport and instead move tile after tile in the general direction of their target.

The rest of the game is not any better. There is no zone of control. Combats feel absolutely random. There is no fatigue and no strength points, or if there is I never noticed them.

C. UI, Clarity of rules and outcomes

Terrible. I have no idea why I win or lose battles – as I said it is most probably totally random. I am not even clear if and when I have a defensive (or offensive ?) bonus owning to the terrain.

Moving units with drag & drop probably felt modern in 1982, but it is also horribly executed, with the cursor regularly disappearing while BASIC is struggling in background with the calculation. Emulation issues did not help, but I don’t need to blame the game for that.

D. Scenario design and balancing

Terrible. There is only one scenario with no randomisation and 3 levels of difficulty going from “Jackson” (the hardest) to “Pickett” (the lowest). The better the commander, the faster its units move and the more likely its units are to prevail in battle. In all cases, AI’s strategy is to slowly creep toward your HQ, with some random walk effect added.

E. Did I make interesting decisions ?

Only two :

  • Is this game going to be a BRIEF or a full-fledged article ?” => “It is undeniably a wargame.
  • Is this game worse than New World ?” => “Yes.

F. Final rating

Born obsolete. Battle of Gettysburg was one of the few wargames available on CoCo and included incredibly modern features for 1982 (real-time, drag & drop). Alas, the game was clearly the work of a hobbyist and not of a professional, and those features were woefully executed. In particular, the real-time part is only for the AI : your own units move only as fast as you can drag & drop them. All in all, the worst game I did not BRIEF, and probably worse than any game I BRIEFed so far except, maybe, World Power.

Contemporary Review

The only review I could find for Battle of Gettysburg is in the February 1983 issue of Rainbow. The reviewer, Nevin J. Templin, describes himself as a wargamer of 20 years and a recent acquirer of a CoCo. Templin was happy to find a wargame for his platform for the first time, as before Battle of Gettysburgall [I] could do was shoot down spaceships. A test of hand/eye coordination, not tactical skill“. Lacking any point of comparison, Templin’s review is generally positive. My own conclusion after reading his review is that as a wargamer he should have bought an Apple II or an Atari.

As shoddy as Battle for Gettysburg is, I would like to thank Lance [LanHawk] for finding the game and L. Curtis Boyle for helping me with its emulation.


  1. LanHawk LanHawk

    Probably not surprising that another one of the “early” games turned out to be a bit of a dud. But at least you got to see for yourself!

  2. Harland Harland

    Fascinating even if it came out terrible.

    You can see how these games were done by programmers. They just had an idea for a game and then programmed it. The fact that this was done in BASIC just makes it cooler.

  3. Coco games, even if they’re rarely good, are interesting from a gaming history perspective. Influence rarely came from off-system games except in the form of major titles and practically nothing on the systems seems to have gone onto other systems or even influenced other titles. Kind of like being able to look at an undiscovered, isolated tribe of people without them knowing about it.

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