THE BATTLE OF THE ALAMO


                        Alan R. Arvold


   This article has gone the circuit of submission to various

wargaming magazines. Unfortunately, no one wants to publish an

article about a game from a defunct company anymore. Rather than

letting this article lay in my files, I decided to post it and

give this game the proper review that it deserves.


   Every so often another game about the Alamo comes out into the

wargaming hobby. The most current version is DARK VICTORY, found

in COMMAND Magazine #44 as part of that double game issue. It is

the latest in a long line of Alamo games. The first was THE

ALAMO, a bonus game found in CONFLICT Magazine #7 back in 1974.

In 1981 SPI came out with a small boxed version entitled THE

ALAMO, VICTORY IN DEATH as part of its line of easy to play "beer

and pretzel" games. In 1982 TSR came out with REMEMBER THE ALAMO

as part of its line of pocket sized mini-games. In 1994 a little

known outfit called the Conflict & Competition Game Company came

out with a zip locked version called PRELUDE TO VICTORY: THE

ALAMO GAME, which was easily forgotten shortly after its release.

In 1995 Decision Games released their repackaged edition of the

old SPI game, which except for new box and counter artwork is

basically the same as the old version. (See the game review for

it in FIRE & MOVEMENT #105.) All of these versions had the same

problem of being so easy to play that after a few games they

became stereotyped and players soon lost interest in them. With

DARK VICTORY players will maintain their interest far longer than

was the case with the earlier versions.





   DARK VICTORY is a magazine game that for its size could have

easily been sold as a boxed game in its own right. All of the

components are of the typical high quality one associated with

COMMAND Magazine and their games. There are 420 counters on the

1 and 1/2 counter sheets that come with the game. These are

divided into combat and informational counters. The combat

counters include infantry units, artillery crew units, leader

units, cannon units, and a few miscellaneous counters for POWs

and civilians. The informational counters include ladder

counters, open door counters, extra musket counters, dead body

counters, room ablaze counters, done/fired markers, flag markers,

and markers for the Game Turn/Mexican Losses columns. Of the

combat units all Texan units have a gray backround and all

Mexican units have a white backround. All infantry and artillery

crew units have three values printed on them, these being the

stacking value, the morale value, and the number of the formation

that the unit belongs to. Texan counters have an additional

fourth value which is a fire modifier. All leader counters have

the leader's name, formation number, and morale modifier printed

on them. Cannon counters have the cannon size and combat strength

printed on them. All Texan counters and all Mexican leader units

are back-printed with dead body counters whereas all Mexican non-

leader units are back-printed with reduced step versions of

themselves with reduced morale and stacking values. The cannon

units are back-printed with unloaded symbols to indicate their

unloaded status.


   There are two mapsheets in this game. The main one shows a

bird's eye view of the Alamo and the immediate surrounding

ground. The building and walls of the Alamo are altered to

conform to the hexsides of the map. There is a terrain key on the

corner of the map. The other map is the interior mapsheet showing

the interior of all of the buildings to include rooms and

interior as well as exterior doors. The interior mapsheet is used

when units are inside any of the buildings. The hexes are smaller

on this mapsheet so stacking units in adjacent hexes can get

awkward. One will notice that there are three exterior doors

missing on the main mapsheet that show up on the interior

mapsheet. In this case the interior mapsheet is correct and

players should behoove themselves to draw these doorways on the

main mapsheet.


   The rules booklet contains not only the rules to DARK VICTORY

but also the other game included with the magazine. The rules to

the DARK VICTORY comprise the first 17 pages of the book and are

very comprehensive and easy to understand with only a few typos

and mistakes. There is also a terrain effects chart included on a

separate sheet. Two things which the rules say are included in

the game are missing though. The Turn Record Track and the

Mexican Casualty Track are nowhere to be found. (COMMAND Magazine

personnel said that both tracks were supposed to be on the main

mapsheet but were left off due to a printing error.) The rules

can be read in a half an hour and are easy to understand.





   The Texan side is set up first. The Texan units are divided up

into 13 different groups reflecting the command structure that

existed at the time of the siege. Each group is assigned to

defend different sections of the Alamo. While some counters are

assigned to specific hexes, others may be set up anywhere within

the limits of the area where their group was assigned. With the

exception of the few counters set up inside buildings, every

other counter is set on top of or behind walls on the outer

perimeter of the Alamo.


   The Mexican units are divided up into the five historical

assault columns which attacked the Alamo and are numbered 1

through 4 with the unnumbered one being the Reserve. Each column

is set up or enters the map in later turns in shaded hexes

corresponding to the column number. Only the 4th Column is set up

on the map at the beginning of the game with the 1st, 2nd, and

3rd Columns entering the map in the second and third turns of the

game. The Reserve Column may only enter the map after the initial

Mexican units have reached the Alamo outer walls and the entry of

its units are dependent of a series of die rolls.


   There is an optional rule, which allows the Texan player to

set up his units anywhere on the walls of the Alamo. The Mexicans

in turn are allowed to control the placement and entry schedule

of their four numbered columns anywhere along the edge of the

map. When this option is used, the Mexican player usually brings

all of the numbered columns in on the first turn of the game on

one side of the map, quickly overwhelming whichever wall they are

attacking, but taking massive casualties in the process and the

game is over in about five turns, more or less.





   The game lasts for a maximum of 18 Turns, which equals about

90 minutes of real time, the historical duration of the actual

battle. The game can end sooner if either all Texan units are

eliminated or the Mexicans take an excessive amount of

casualties. Each turn is divided up into two Player Turns, the

Mexican Player Turn followed by the Texan Player Turn. The

Mexican player turn has three Phases, the Reserve Release Phase,

the Action/Texan Reaction Phase, and the Melee Phase. The Texan

Player Turn has only two Phases, the Action Phase and the Melee

Phase. The Mexican Reserve Release Phase is used until all of the

Reserve Column units have been brought on the board, after which

it is ignored for the rest of the game. The Action Phase is the

phase where a side may move and fire its units. The Texans under

certain conditions can react to Mexican moves during the Mexican

Action Phase and move and fire their units in response. The

Mexicans do not get the same privilege during the Texan Action

Phase. The Melee Phase is where adjacent opposing units conduct

melee combat.





   Each unit, with few exceptions, has 12 Action Factors (AF).

These factors are what a unit expends to move and/or fire during

the Action Phase. There is a chart that lists the Action Factor

cost for such things as firing individual weapons and cannons,

reloading and moving cannons, as well as basic movement. There

are a few units such as cannons, ladders, and non-combat unit

counters which have zero Action Factors. These units either

remain where they are placed on the map or are moved by other

units. Units can do a variety of actions such as move and fire,

or fire and move, or move, fire, then move again during their

Action Phase, providing they have enough Action Factors to

expend. Texan units which react to Mexican moves during the

Reaction Phase also get 12 Action Factors to use each time they

react in addition to the 12 Action Factors they receive during

their normal player turn.





   Units expend Action Factors for each hex and/or hexside they

enter or cross. Texan units may move freely but Mexican units

require the presence of an officer either stacked with them or

adjacent to them at the beginning of the turn in order to move.

The Terrain Effects Chart lists the movement cost for each

terrain feature. Units also expend additional Action Factors for

entering a hex with Dead Body counters in it. Texan units expend

a variable amount of Action Factors to pass through a closed Door

Hexside or enter a hex containing other Texan units not in the

same numbered group as themselves. Mexican units may only pass

through a closed Door Hexside by either spending 12 AF trying to

break it down, firing a cannon at it so other units can move

through, or having a friendly unit on the inside opening the door

for them. Of particular interest to the Mexican player are the

wall hexsides. The High Wall Hexsides may not be crossed except

through doors, ramps, and stairs. The Low Wall Hexsides may be

crossed by expending 6 AF. The Intermediate Wall Hexsides may be

crossed in one of three ways, either a unit expends 12 AF to

cross it, uses any door, ramp, or stairs if available, or uses a

ladder for only 8 AF. Ladder counters are placed on the mapsheet

when the first Mexican units use them and are left there for the

following Mexican units to use later.


   The number of units that may stack in a hex is based on the

stacking value of the hex, which is either 4 or 8, and the

stacking values of the units in the hex. Mexican units may only

stack or move through a hex with other units from the same

Column. Texan units may freely stack or move through hexes with

units of other formations not their own but with an Action Factor

penalty. Leaders stack free but may only stack with units of

their own Column or formation except for unassigned leaders who

may stack with any friendly unit. Mexican units must stop when

they move adjacent to a Texan unit unless a wall hexside is

between them. Texan units may move past adjacent Mexican units

but at an increased AF cost.





   There are two types of combat, fire combat and melee combat.

Fire combat occurs during the Action and Reaction Phases of a

player turn. As with movement Texan units may fire freely but

Mexican units may only fire if they are stacked with, or adjacent

to, an officer. Both sides' units may melee freely.


   A fire attack is executed by the phasing player announcing the

target hex that is within the Line of Sight (LOS) and range of

the firing unit. It costs a Mexican player 8 AF, and a Texan unit

6 AF, to fire. In addition, Texan units which are stacked with an

Extra Musket Counter may fire at cost of 3 AF, upon which that

counter is then removed from the board. Leader units do not fire.

The range of Texan infantry units is ten hexes, the range of

Mexican infantry units is four hexes, and the range of the

various cannons are infinite (within the scope of the board). The

LOS has a variable range depending on blocking terrain on the map

and on the level of light/darkness based on the turn. The basic

range for LOS is five hexes in the first five turns, increasing

by one hex for the next five turns, and infinite for every turn

thereafter. This simulates the historical fact that the final

battle for the Alamo started in the pre-dawn darkness and

continued on through the dawn and shortly afterward, which makes

DARK VICTORY the only Alamo game to recognize this fact in its

rules. Only the top most unit in the target hex may be the target

of fire and only the top most unit in a stack of units may fire.

The phasing player then calculates the "To Hit" number by adding

the firing unit's stacking Factor, its Fire Modifier number if

any, and the total stacking value of all units in the target hex.

The resulting number then has fire modifiers added and/or

subtracted which account for such things as relative darkness,

height advantage of the firing unit, and terrain in the target

hex. The final number is the "To Hit" number. The phasing player

then rolls two dice and if the result is equal to or less than

the "To Hit" number then the top unit in the target hex takes a

step loss. When a Texan unit takes a step loss it is flipped

over, showing a dead body picture on the other side and left on

the board. If a Mexican unit takes a step loss, it is flipped

over if full strength, or removed if reduce strength, and in both

cases a dead body counter is placed in the target hex. In

addition if the die roll is a two, any leaders that are in the

target hex are flipped over and left there as all leaders on both

sides have dead body symbols on their reverse side.


   Firing cannons require that a cannon be stacked underneath a

non-leader infantry or gun-crew unit. That unit may fire the

cannon at a cost of 12 AF and may not fire its own weapons when

it does so. The "To Hit" number consists of the cannon's combat

factor, plus the total stacking value of the units in the target

hex, plus or minus any additional modifiers. All cannons in the

game are on the Texan side. They start the game loaded and when

fired are flipped over to their unloaded side. While any

non-leader unit may fire the cannon, only an artillery gun-crew

unit which is stacked with it may reload it which costs 12 AF.

Since there are 11 cannons and only 8 Texan gun-crew units, some

cannons will probably be fired only once during the game. When a

Mexican unit enters a hex with a cannon in it, it is considered

to be captured and they may use it. There are only four Mexican

gun-crew units who are brought in to reload the captured cannons

and they may only do so when their officers are stacked with them

or are adjacent. In addition, cannons which are located in

intermediate or high level hexes may not fire into adjacent

ground level hexes, thus creating a dead space where enemy units

can not be hit by cannon fire. Only the light Four and Six

Pounder cannons may be moved by a unit, at a rate of 2 AF per

hex, and may only move into clear and/or ramp hexes. Mexican

units may move cannons adjacent to door hexsides so they can be

used to blast them open when they are later fired.


   Melee combat occurs at the end of the each Player Turn in the

Melee Phase. It occurs between adjacent units and/or stacks of

units with the phasing player as the attacker. Melee combat is

voluntary on the part of the attacker but the defending player

may not decline combat if so attacked. A melee attack consists of

all attacking units in a hex attacking all the defending units in

the adjacent hex. The melee strength for each stack is the total

morale values of all units in the stack, plus the morale value of

one leader if any in the stack, plus a bonus point for every four

stacking points worth of units in the hex. The defending stack

also adds points to its melee strength for any terrain hexside

between itself and the attacking stack. Melee combat which occurs

inside the interior rooms does not incur any bonus points for

having four or more stacking points. Units behind intermediate or

high walls can only conduct melee combat through those walls in

hexsides that contain doors, ramps, or ladders. Both players each

roll one die and add the results to their respective melee

strengths. The side with the higher total wins the melee and the

losing side suffers a step loss from his stack. If both totals

are tied, both sides suffer a step loss. If any leaders are in

the melee, the owning player rolls two dice for each leader, if a

two is rolled the leader is killed and flipped over. Defending

units in a hex may be attacked more than once during a melee

phase but the attacking units in a hex may only participate in

one melee combat per melee phase.





   During the Mexican Action Phase, the Texans have their own

reaction phase where they may react to Mexican unit movement.

Whenever a Mexican unit or stack of units moves within the range

and LOS of a Texan unit, the Texan player may order the Mexican

player to stop the movement of that unit or stack, and the Texan

player may then react with his unit. The reacting unit gets 12 AF

to expend over and above the 12 AF it gets in the Texan Action

Phase each time it reacts. A Texan unit may react more than once

during the Mexican Action Phase to different Mexican units or

stacks, however it may only fire once during the phase, all other

reactions must be movement only. A Texan unit may not react when

a Mexican unit becomes adjacent to it and there is not a wall

hexside separating them. Also if a reacting Texan unit moves

adjacent to a Mexican unit and there is no wall hexside between

them, then the Mexican unit gets a free fire attack against the

reacting Texan unit. The Mexicans do not get a reaction phase of

their own during the Texan Action Phase.





   There are certain counters which serve no other purpose but to

add historical accuracy to the game. The "Women & Children"

counter does nothing once placed on the board. Yet if it is the

only Texan unit left on the board at the end of the game then the

Texan player can still claim victory, a decidedly unhistorical

and absurd notion. The "Patient" counter also may not be moved

once placed, but at least it can fire and melee. The "Slave/POW"

counter may move and fire, but once it becomes adjacent to a

Mexican unit it surrenders and is removed from the board.


   There is also a rule for arson. Certain Mexican units may set

fire to room hexes inside the Alamo. Although one would think

that this is a bit of cinematic chrome from the movies, the

Mexicans really did set fire to two rooms during the actual

battle. Any Mexican sapper unit that begins the Mexican Action

Phase adjacent to a room hex, and is within the Alamo's outer

wall perimeter, may start a fire in that room hex by expending 12

AF. A flame marker is placed in the room hex and any Texan unit

in that hex must make an immediate morale check to see if it will

stay in the hex. If it passes its morale check the unit may stay

there, otherwise it must move out of the hex and if unable to is

eliminated. Texan units which stay in a burning hex must make a

morale check every succeeding Mexican Action Phase to see if they

will continue to stay.


   For a game which prides itself on its historical accuracy

there is one thing that was left out. There are no rules for

rifle armed units for either side. Granted rifles, which would

give a unit a longer range for fire combat, are kind of wasted in

the first half of the game as the pre-dawn darkness precludes

using their longer range. But in the second half when it is light

out they would certainly be of great use, especially when trying

to pick off enemy artillery gun-crews. At the very least the

designer should of included a set of optional rules for rifle

fire, but alas he did not. So much for the game's claim to total

historical accuracy.





   If at the end of the game the Texans still have at least one

unit on the board they win. If the last Texan unit is destroyed

before the end of the 18th turn, victory is then determined by

the number of Mexican steps that were destroyed up to that time.

This number is first modified by subtracting the number of turns

before the 18th one that the final Texan unit was killed and is

then further modified by subtracting a variable number based on

the Mexican Casualty Recovery Table in the rules. The final

number of steps destroyed is the one used to determine victory.

If the number is 30 or less the Mexican player wins, if the

number is 31 or more then the Texan player wins. There is a

Sudden Death Victory Condition in the game. If the Texans have

killed 61 steps of Mexican units before the end of the game,

Mexican morale is considered to be broken and the Texans win






   DARK VICTORY takes about two to three hours to play. This is

due to the large number of units and the excessive dice rolling

to figure out each shot or event, but this is common in any

tactical level game.


   As the game starts the Mexican player maneuvers his columns so

that all or most of his units are six hexes away from the Alamo

walls, just out of the LOS of the Texan units due to darkness.

This will take 3-4 turns. Then there will be a mad rush to the

walls with the lead units taking to brunt of the Texan reaction

fire. The follow up units behind them will move to within the

maximum range of their muskets and start laying down a covering

fire against the Texans on the walls. It usually takes about 3-4

turns for the Mexicans to climb up and clear the walls which they

assault. By this time it is beginning to get light outside and

Texan units further away from the fighting can join in the

firing. After clearing the assaulted walls the Mexicans will

divide their forces into two groups. One group moves along the

tops of the walls clearing away any Texan units up there while

the other group goes down into the plaza to go after the Texans

in the rooms. The Texan units close to Mexicans will use their

Reaction Phase to employ "shoot and scoot" tactics to delay the

Mexican advance while Texan infantry units in unengaged portions

of the compound will scurry off of the walls to get inside the

inner rooms to prepare for their last stands.


   Once the outside walls are cleared the Mexicans then have to

break into the inner rooms and eliminate the Texan units inside

and it is here that the game begins to become a close tense

situation. Although the Mexicans will use captured cannons to

shoot down the doors, once the Mexican artillery crews are dead,

they will have get in the old fashion way. While the rooms in the

outer walls are relatively easy to clear, especially with the

Mexican firebomb rule, the rooms inside the Chapel are a

mini-maze and it is here where the Texans have the best chance of

having a unit hold out until the end. I have seen many games go

to the last turn as the Mexicans try to kill those last Texan

units in the Chapel.


   In all the games I have played of DARK VICTORY, I have seen

the Texans win only one automatic victory and one sudden death

victory. In all other cases the games ended with all Texan units

being killed before the end of the game with the Texans winning

about two thirds of those. The real linchpin in victory

determination is the Mexican Casualty Recovery Table. If the

Mexicans can keep their casualties under 50 steps, they have a

fair chance of having their permanent casualties reduced to 30

steps or below. I have never seen the Mexicans keep their

casualties to below 30 in normal play, thus eliminating the need

for the table. Given two equal players the Texan side has the

definite edge giving their reaction phase and being on the

defensive, thus the more experienced player should take the

Mexican side, in order to keep the game fair.





   DARK VICTORY is the most definitive game about the Alamo to

date. Yet I only can give it a grade of B+. The missing Turn

Record and Mexican Casualty Tracks and lack of errata correcting

small errors in the game have marred an otherwise excellent

product. This is sad as COMMAND Magazine was usually diligent

about publishing errata for its games, yet it refused to do so

for this game even after this author submitted errata for it to

them. (For those interested, the errata has been posted on

Grognard.) With the inclusion of the errata this game would

certainly rate a grade A- rating. If optional rules for rifle

fire (also posted on Grognard) were also included then this

product would get an A+. For historical gamers with a definite

interest in the Alamo, this game is a worthwhile addition to

their source materials on the subject.