July 18, 2024

#UnboxingDay ~ Shattering the Shenanddoah with Conquering the Valley: Cross Keys/Port Republic by Tiny Battle Publishing

RockyMountainNavy, 21 September 2023 ~ #UnboxingDay

As a Grognard who often plays my wargames two-handed solo, I have come to like games with Chit-Pull game mechanisms to help randomize unit activations. When it comes to wargames on the American Civil War, Eric Lee Smith’s Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018) is a favorite. Last year I acquired The Hill of Death: Champion Hill designed by Hermann Luttmann for Tiny Battle Publishing (2022) which uses an evolution of Lee’s Blind Swords system called Black Swan. Where Blind Swords is chit-pull Black Swan accomplishes the same—if not a bit more—with cards. Tiny Battle Publishing uses the Black Swan system in their Shattered Union Series of wargames intended to be “accessible to gamers of any skill level.” The latest entry in the series, Conquering the Valley: Cross Keys/Port Republic is designed by Claude Whalen with art by Jose R. Faura. The game was released in August of 2023.

Conquering the Valley covers two smaller battles of the 1862 Valley Campaign fought on June 8 and 9.

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Back of the box (photo by RMN, click to enlarge)


Conquering the Valley comes in a shallow, 1.25″-deep boxcase size box.


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Open box (photo by RMN)


The contents for Conquering the Valley are not numerous; a double-sided 22″x17″ paper map, 189 counters in three sheets, 44 cards, a double-sided fold-out player aid, a Series and a Game Module rulebook, and five dice (Red, White, Black, Gray, and Blue).


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Components (photo by RMN)


The counters for Conquering the Valley are nice 3/4-inch “Grognard-sized” which make them easier to read and move with arthritic fingers (my wargame tweezers are too small for these). The counters will fit nicely in the 1″ hexes on the maps.


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Grognard-friendly counters and map (photo by RMN)


There are four scenarios in Conquering the Valley; two seperate scenarios for each of the first two days, a third “what-if” scenario, and a fourth scenario that covers the entire two days of fighting. The fourth scenario is interesting as players will fight the first nine turns on the Cross Keys map then the last nine turns on the Port Republic map.


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Big counters but small footprint (photo by RMN)


The Grognard-friendly component sizing in Conquering the Valley is also seen in the rulebooks and cards.


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I can see! (photo by RMN)


The colorful selection of dice in Conquering the Valley is tied to the combat system. Players roll a pool of dice and the Combat Results Table shows where each dice is used.


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Dice pool combat…that works (photo by RMN)


I have to admit that at first the counters for Conquering the Valley concerned me. Looking at the counter sheet the sandwich-construction and folded edges looked sketchy.


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Is it supposed to be like that? (photo by RMN)


Once punched out, however, the counters in Conquering the Valley are fine and ready for corner-clipping.


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Layered counters (photo by RMN)


One major complaint I had about my copy of The Hill of Death was the very poor adhesive condition of the box wrap. The problem is not totally absent in Conquering the Valley but far less pronounced.


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Almost sticky enough… (photo by RMN)


One comment about the designer; though Claude Whelan is credited as the designer it is clear he remained very faithful to the essence of Herrman Luttmann’s Black Swan game system. As each scenario of Conquering the Valley is rated at 2 hour of play (maybe three hours for the two-day campaign), I am looking forward to these smaller battles that should be easily playable in an evening.


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In the world of wargames, a delight,
Unboxing is quite a grand sight.
With bated breath, we tear,
Through the packaging, we swear,
To unveil the fierce battles we’ll fight!
The miniatures gleam, so precise,
As we open the box, oh so nice.
With rulebooks in hand,
We’ll conquer the land,
In epic battles of strategy and fights!

Tell us what you think!

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