A Glorious Chance: The Naval Struggle for Lake Ontario, 1813 is in preorders at Legion Wargames. Here's something to help you decide whether you want to preorder, or to entertain you while you're waiting to get it on the table.
This is a naval game, but…
No matter which side you play, you’ve got to pay immediate attention to the land war on the Niagara Front. The Niagara Peninsula was the main focus of land operations for both sides in the summer of 1813. The battles raged and the front swung back and forth.
In the game, this land action is represented by the Niagara Front marker, which can move east or west on its own track in that part of the map.
The Niagara Front marker starts in its middle box. The British have the potential to move the front 4 spaces on the first turn and claim an Army Victory.
An Army Victory gains a side an immediate 36 VPs. And, once the marker flips to its Army Victory side, the situation on the peninsula is settled and the marker freezes in place for the rest of the campaign.
If you’re playing as British: Don’t miss this opportunity to put the Americans in a deep hole quickly. Be sure to assign some (or all) of your 5 starting ships to a Land mission in the Niagara Zone on Turn 1, and place a “Troops Available” marker with it. The more ships you assign there, the better dieroll modifier you could get when it comes time to resolve the Land Battle. The troops marker increases the number of spaces you get to move the Front, but only if you score a British Success or British Major Success in the Land Battle.
If you’re playing as American: You clearly have to do something in the Niagara Zone on Turn 1, but what? The most conservative play is to assign 2 or more ships to a Patrol mission in the Niagara Zone. That gives you a chance to detect this likely British landing force, shadow or harass it, and possibly to intercept the British with the rest of your squadron to drive them off or destroy them before they can support an amphibious landing.
Also, if you still have any undamaged U.S. ships surviving in the Niagara Zone at the end of the turn, you’ll deny the British a Lake Control marker. The British need that control marker to flip the Front to an Army Victory. So, even if the British manage to move the Front the needed 4 spaces to Fort George on Turn 1, you might deny them the victory and buy yourself time to try some Land missions of your own.
The most aggressive U.S. play on Turn 1 is to go after Niagara with a large Land mission of your own, or a large Patrol mission, or both.
But dangers lurk for the player who gets too tempted by the Niagara prize. The Niagara Zone is at the far western end of the lake from the British and American homeports (Kingston and Sacket’s harbors) . If you don’t want the enemy to snatch your anchored ships from your harbor at night, or land in force and burn your ships under construction, you’ll also need to keep some ships in your homeport’s zone for Patrol and Intercept missions.
And don’t forget to protect your convoys by assigning some ships to Escort missions. Neglect that, and your shipyard may never get the supplies it needs to launch your new ships.
Once you consider all those conflicting priorities, you’ll find you never have quite enough ships to do everything you want. Pick a priority, back it with the needed resources, and accept some calculated risks elsewhere on the board.
The Americans have plenty of ships at the start of the game (14 total). But they’re building some important ships (the sloop of war USS Pike and the schooner USS Sylph) , so they risk much more if they play at the far end of the lake and let Sacket’s Harbor be attacked.
The British have only one modest brig (the HMS Melville) on the stocks in Kingston. But when you play the British side, the lake suddenly looks enormous because you’ve got a starting squadron of only 5 ships. The smart play is to operate your British squadron as Commodore Yeo did – as a single unified force. Take the opportunity to be aggressive in the first half of the campaign, then play more defensively once the USS Pike is afloat. With luck, some good early turns for the British could keep the Pike and Sylph from ever being launched.