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We wargamers love maps.

But when we hear “naval game,” many of us imagine this:

Boring, right?

A naval game’s rules might conjure various effects of wind or weather over the play area, but the map can sometimes be little more than a gridded blue surface.

When I designed A Glorious Chance, one of my goals was to give this solitaire War of 1812 operational naval game a distinct sense of place – not the open ocean, but an inland lake. Not just any lake, but Lake Ontario in the summer of 1813.

Yes, you’ll still see a lot of blue on AGC’s map. But the lake isn’t a generic playing surface; in this game it’s a major character in the story. I want to show you some of the ways this lake shaped this historical campaign, and how I represent that in the game.

The dimensions of the Lake Ontario (311 km x 81 km at its widest point) meant that a naval sailing squadron was never far from land. Both navies built their ships with shallow drafts – not only to help them get over shallows, shoals and sandbars along the coasts, but also because ships’ holds needed to be deep enough to store only a few days of ammo and rations. No need to carry months of drinking water on a freshwater lake.

Shallow-draft warships brought some disadvantages, too. Lacking stores, a single ship couldn’t remain deployed and sit on station for weeks or months at a time -- for example, to maintain a continuous blockade of an enemy port.

In A Glorious Chance, the blockade rules are one way I represent this brief operating time. In the U.S. Solo Campaign you must assign a minimum of eight ships on patrol in the Kingston zone each turn if you want to maintain a blockade of the British homeport.

It wouldn’t really have required that many ships to watch such a small area, but this rule represents your need to cycle different ships through the blockade station during the two-week game turn. While some ships patrol, others would need to be en route to relieve them, and still others would have returned to port to rest and resupply.

Weather, wind and waves have to feature prominently in any realistic age-of-sail game. Let’s look at the particulars for Lake Ontario and see how they factor into A Glorious Chance:

I chose June through September as the time frame for A Glorious Chance not only because I wanted to keep the game to a playable length, but also to reflect the very short season when the lake’s weather conditions permitted sailing navies to operate.

It’s worth noting that the only warships that sank on Lake Ontario in the War of 1812 (the USS Hamilton and USS Scourge) did so because of a violent storm, not enemy fire.

Even when the British and American squadrons did enter battle, the weather often intervened to change the course of events. In late May 1813, a promising British amphibious landing at Sacket’s Harbor had to be cut short because a sudden storm brewed up and the ships couldn’t risk being blown onto a lee shore. On Sept. 11, 1813 off the Genesee River, a sudden calm allowed a force of small U.S. schooners to use oars and sweep up and attack a much larger, slower British force as it struggled to make headway.

With fair winds, a ship in 1813 might make the 500+km round-trip from Kingston to York across the length of Lake Ontario in three or four days. But a ship fighting unfavorable winds and heavy seas would often need four or five days just to travel, say, 280km one-way from Sacket’s Harbor to Fort Niagara.

This is one reason why, in AGC, you have to make an Interception Check dieroll to see whether you’re able to send additional ships to reinforce a battle under way on the lake. Having the potential reinforcements nearby -- within the same zone as the battle – improves your chances of the reinforcements arriving in time. But there’s always some chance the effort fails. Your other forces might know they’re needed, and perhaps can even see or hear the distant fighting – but if the wind or weather is against them at that particular time, they aren’t going to get there. That, plus the primitive state of communications in this remote theatre, are the reasons Interceptions can be so challenging.

The Event Card deck also represents lake conditions in a number of ways that affect gameplay.

Cards with the Fair Wind or Adverse Wind event can add positive or negative dieroll modifiers of their own to a side’s Interception Checks.


The Haze event may allow a beaten enemy to escape pursuing ships.


The Rainy Squalls event poses a special problem for American converted laker schooners, as they were unstable and sailed poorly in rough winds and water.


A Commanding Breeze event gives the British an advantage in battle because they can close into their favored carronade range more quickly and spend less time sailing into the teeth of American long guns.


Many great naval thinkers have said the primary purpose of a navy is to win a decisive battle enabling control of the sea. But control of the sea for what purpose? We’re not fish, after all. So whatever a navy does is ultimately meant to make better things happen on land. A Glorious Chance could be said to illustrate the “continental school” of naval theory, one of whose leaders (French Vice Adm. Raoul Castex, 1878-1968) argued that “sea power is mainly interesting according to the extent it contributes to victory on land; it does not secure victory by its own except in exceptional cases.”

Some naval wargames might omit the war ashore, or might make it a peripheral concern. But in A Glorious Chance, land and its military considerations assume equal importance with war on the water. Your need to fight a naval campaign and simultaneously support friendly land operations will torment you and present you with frequent dilemmas.

But, since AGC is a naval game, the land portion is more abstracted. You don’t get into decisions that would properly be the concern of your generals. You and the AI each get three generic “Troops” markers. These get placed randomly on your Convoy Supply Track at the start of the game.


If and when you manage to advance your track to a space containing a Troops marker, you can place it aboard a naval force to conduct a bigger, better type of amphibious mission with more potential victory points. Land battles are resolved with a simple dieroll, but the more ships you assigned to support that land mission, the better your dieroll modifiers.

This mechanism also ties your ability to do ambitious land operations to your supply situation. True, your Convoy Supply Track will normally progress one space per turn, even if you do nothing. But lots of things in the game can slow down its progress, freeze it, or speed it up. Even if your track is progressing, you’re in trouble if the enemy’s is progressing faster.

So -- in addition to all the other demands on your squadron -- you now have to worry about escorting supply convoys. Enemy convoys also become fair game for your hunting patrols. How much do you play offense and how much do you play defense? There’s a chance element, too, as some Event Cards can hit you with a construction or convoy delay that pushes your under-construction ships or Troops markers farther down the track.

The supply mechanism points us back to the influence of geography on this game. Here, the British clearly hold the crummy hand: Most of the Canadian side of Lake Ontario in 1813 was a near-wilderness with few roads. West of Kingston, anything the British wanted to accomplish militarily had to travel by water. Water was the preferred means of transport for the U.S., too, but they also had usable inland roads along the southern coast of the lake.

Above, supply convoy routes on Lake Ontario. The dotted red line shows where British supply convoys left the open waters of the lake to take a protected, inland route to and from Kingston Harbour. As a result, only the zones with the solid red line are places where the U.S. players can go convoy-hunting. The solid blue line shows the much shorter American route, which hugged the shoreline from Oswego to Sacket’s Harbor. It’s harder for the British to hunt U.S. convoys – not only because they run in only one zone, but because there’s likely to be more U.S. warship activity in their homeport zone.

In A Glorious Chance, British supply convoys can appear in three of the six Lake Zones, while the U.S. convoys run only within the Sacket’s zone.

Given that the British get only five (later six) warships unless they capture some more, there’s simply not enough navy to escort that entire route effectively and still seek a decisive battle on the lake. That means the AI (or you, if you play the British) usually has to accept a higher risk of convoy attrition and do more gambling about where to send the fighting squadron each turn.

By the way, don’t worry that you’ll have to do logistical bookkeeping or actually push convoy counters back and forth across the lake. Convoys are assumed to be sailing and reaching their destinations all the time, and they never appear on the map unless the enemy spots one. Then a generic convoy marker gets placed on the map...

...while you resolve whether it gets fought over, escapes unharmed, is captured, destroyed, scattered, etc.

I hope this discussion whets your appetite to get A Glorious Chance on the table. Like you, I can’t wait to see what kind of great artwork and components Legion Wargames will make for this game. (Anything you’ve seen thus far is just my homebrewed playtest art.)

Go to www.legionwargames.com and place a no-cost preorder now. They don’t take your credit card number, and they don’t ask you to pay until the game hits its 250-preorder requirement and is ready to print. The good news is, we’re more than halfway to the magic 250. Help us get the rest of the way, and this game will be yours that much sooner!
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Mike Szarka
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When it is your turn to send a VASSAL move, the wait is excruciating. When it's my turn, well, I've been busy.
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OK, sold. What a really compelling description of some key mechanics that show how much history is in the game, without sounding over-chromed or too complex.

Ah well, I just realized I already have pre=ordered. But it sounds great.
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mcszarka wrote:
OK, sold. What a really compelling description of some key mechanics that show how much history is in the game, without sounding over-chromed or too complex.

Ah well, I just realized I already have pre=ordered. But it sounds great.


Thanks, Mike!
(If only we could clone you...)
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I've been peripherally aware of the awesome work you're doing on this title and was sending some good thoughts in its direction -- but I wasn't going to buy it because I thought, "Who among my gaming group will ever want to play a game about naval combat on Lake Ontario?"

Only now did I realize that you have already addressed that issue! I already have all the players I need! blush

Pre-ordered and happy to support!
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Steve Pultorak
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Thanks for all the inside comments on your design, Gina.
It all makes plenty of sense and can't wait to get more info on the game's development.

I visited Sackets Harbor last week and it was absolutely fantastic!
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Steve Pultorak wrote:
Thanks for all the inside comments on your design, Gina.
It all makes plenty of sense and can't wait to get more info on the game's development.

I visited Sackets Harbor last week and it was absolutely fantastic!


What other info on the game's development would you or other folks like to know more about?

The only thing I can't offer is information beyond my control, like what final artwork or components will look like, publication or ship dates, etc.
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Stephen Harper
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Thanks for the write-up, Gina. Very nice. I ordered this game when released for pre-order, and am looking forward to its publication. Best regards.
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Broadsword56 wrote:
Steve Pultorak wrote:
Thanks for all the inside comments on your design, Gina.
It all makes plenty of sense and can't wait to get more info on the game's development.

I visited Sackets Harbor last week and it was absolutely fantastic!


What other info on the game's development would you or other folks like to know more about?

The only thing I can't offer is information beyond my control, like what final artwork or components will look like, publication or ship dates, etc.


You may well have written about this elsewhere, but I'd love to hear more about why you chose to model this particular conflict and anything else you'd like to share about delving into the history, personalities, etc.

I tend to gravitate towards games that model conflicts I know very little about, so I'm always interested in what draws other people towards what could be considered the fringes of our hobby. Nothing against the people who want to simulate Stalingrad or Gettysburg or whatever for the hundredth time, but I love it when a game shines a light on a subject I know next to nothing about.
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Hubert Switalski
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Pre-ordered long time ago! Im glad that the development is moving on nicely. Are you looking for play testers?

H

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the pete wrote:

You may well have written about this elsewhere, but I'd love to hear more about why you chose to model this particular conflict and anything else you'd like to share about delving into the history, personalities, etc.


Sure, Pete. (I think I may have have posted some snippets elsewhere about the "why" of A Glorious Chance, but since you asked, I'll try to tell the story here. It's a long and roundabout journey, but one that may seem familiar to many of you...)

The first inspiration for this design was the very first wargame I ever played:



I was 10 or 11 in the late 1960s, and I played the heck out of it on long winter afternoons. At the time, I didn't know what a wargame was and enjoyed Broadside as just another boardgame, like Parcheesi or Clue. But I loved the look of the cool little ship miniatures on the board, with removable masts each time they took a combat hit...



I have a vivid memory or putting my head down to get my eyes at "sea" level to see the spectacle of all the ships in battle, imagining the booms of guns and flashes amid the smoke...



Then one day, when I was bored and didn't have anyone to play Broadside with, my eye fell on the color glossy booklet in the game box...



The promise of "actual tactics" for players drew me in, as I hoped to get an edge on my next opponent. There I learned about why "crossing the T" was so important in age of sail combat as well as the boardgame. I learned the basic differences between ship types (sloops, brigs, and ships of the line in the game, each with a different mast configuration).

I started to realize that this game was "about" something that really happened. Playing the game made me more curious to know the history; learning more of the history increased my enjoyment of the game, and sometimes made me a better player.

Broadside may have been a kiddie game, but it contained the essential spark of the wargaming hobby (for me, anyway). It started the journey of a lifetime (and a deep thanks to Milton Bradley and American Heritage for making something fun and accessible for a child, yet respectful of history and encouraging learning, rather than 'talking down' to the audience).

Flash forward to 2014. I spotted Marco Arnaudo's rave video review of Sails of Glory and felt a little frisson of excitement/nostalgia about the little painted ships and the Napoleonic naval era.



I had always been an Avalon Hill/SPI board wargame player. Miniatures looked cool, but yeesh -- all the painting, the rigging, the collecting and the expense! I realize that's precisely the fun for some people. But it put me off entirely. It's always been the tactics and strategies and actual gameplay that interest me in wargaming. So the possibility of acquiring an instant prepainted fleet and a complete game for them in one box really sold me.

Around that same time, I found myself on a long car trip to Western NY with an elderly relative. I was doing all the driving, and while I was enjoying the trip, I craved a little escape and "me time" before we headed home. With Sails of Glory still fresh in my mind, I checked the web to see whether there were any museums or historic sites worth visiting about the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie.

Sure enough, there was: A short sidetrip could take me to the Erie Maritime Museum in Erie, PA. I was speeding across the PA border as soon as I read they'd even built a floating replica of the brig USS Niagara, and you could sail on it! Whoa! No Way!



Alas, the Niagara was away on a cruise the day I visited. But the museum was well worth the visit. Some highlights:

1. A full-sized, fully rigged ships's mast and yards standing in the middle of the museum. They do live demonstrations of how sails were raised and furled, and you can see in detail how all the stuff worked.


2. A full-sized replica of one side of the USS Lawrence (a brig and sister ship to the Niagara). The museum had, a few years prior, placed the ship's side on a National Guard firing range and let soldiers blast it with period guns and shot for the same period of time as happened in the actual battle.

Here's a video of that impressive firing session:


(I'd always read in age-of-sail books about "splinters" killing men on the gun decks, but once you see what the real thing looks like, you realize these jagged, head-sized hunks of flying wood were what really did the killing back then.)

3. The museum shop, where I picked up some good books on the Lake Erie battle for further exploration.

Pretty soon, I was itching to do some wargaming with Great Lakes War of 1812 ships. But Sails of Glory doesn't have those types of ships in it, and its rules aren't really designed for actions with "unrated" corvettes, brigs, topsail schooners, etc.

But I'd signed up to take an intro class on 3D printing. And something clicked when I realized I could just design and print my own ships from the historical shipyard plans...


(I say "just," but honestly this set me on another long learning curve.)

Nevertheless, a few months later I had successfully printed my first two 1:1000 scale minis of the the USS Niagara and the HMS Detroit, and a Shapeways storefront, Swash & Buckle Naval Miniatures (https://www.shapeways.com/shops/swashbuckle), to sell the mini kits.

Funny thing, though -- the more I learned about the Battle of Lake Erie, the more I realized that it was a sideshow to the far more critical naval campaign on Lake Ontario. Lake Erie gets all the glory and historians' ink because (a.) it's the one full-scale battle that actually happened on the Great Lakes, (b.) it was decisive, and (c.) it was a stunning U.S. come-from-behind victory and a genuinely heroic story about Perry's courage and leadership.

I was amazed to learn that the Lake Ontario theater had far more ships, bigger ships (even huge ships of the line by 1814), and several years of action instead on one day's battle.

Why had I -- like most people, probably -- been unaware of this? For one thing, a single decisive naval battle never happened there. It turns out SO much was at stake on Lake Ontario that neither the British nor the Americans were ever willing to risk "losing the war in an afternoon," as was later said about the Jutland situation in World War I.

It wasn't until I read Robert Malcomson's Lords of the Lake book that I understood the more complex reasons why the big battle never happened. The opposing commodores, Yeo and Chauncey, battled several times and really were seeking a decisive result. But something always seemed to happen that cut it short -- a critical hit that made one side withdraw, a sudden gale brewing up, a missed signal, a wind shift -- just the way the historical "dice" happened to roll. So the two squadrons maneuvered and skirmished all over the lake for years, while furiously building new ships in an arms race to get a firm advantage.

Does anyone smell a wargame in all of this? I sure did. The "might-have- beens" of history -- the things that could easily have happened but didn't -- make great topics for wargames. The shipbuilding race adds another exciting element. One summer in particular -- 1813 -- made the perfect time frame for a game because that was the one period where both sides had a rough parity in firepower and actively sought a decisive lake battle.

I went from the "wouldn't it be nice to see a game on this" stage to actively designing one myself when two things happened:

1. Dave Schueler shared with me his rules for a multiplayer tournament miniatures game he conducted in 2012 on the 1813 Lake Ontario summer campaign (http://seanavalgazing.blogspot.com/2012/12/dang-2012-lords-o...)
His Lords of the Lake rules did some brilliant things to make the topic gameable: Two-week turn scale, six lake zones, area movement, and a system of basic mission assignments (Patrol, Escort, Land, and Training -- although I dropped the training mission in my game). He had the historical order of battle right there, so that plus Malcomson's appendices gave me all the stats needed for a wargame. But I knew I wanted to design a solitaire boardgame, which would need a different approach and some special rules and mechanisms of its own. I also wanted it to be card-assisted.

2. I got to know and admire John H. Butterfield's solitaire designs, particularly RAF. I had an "aha" moment when I looked at the Target Cards that game uses to generate AI German raids in the Battle of Britain. I saw that a similar mechanism could just as easily generate AI naval forces and encounters with them in my Great Lakes game.

I found the idea of an operational campaign game on a Great Lake appealing, because so much naval wargaming tends to do Trafalgar or the Glorious First of June again and again. I loved VG's Sixth Fleet and the Fleet series back in the 1980s, and I'd always wondered why there were so few age-of-sail games at that scale (1805 Sea of Glory is one of those few).

The "cast of characters" on Lake Ontario in 1813 includes not only the dashing knight Yeo and the able administrator Chauncey, but a colorful and diverse assortment of warships. AGC offers the opportunity to get away from Trafalgar-like settings and oppose two asymmetrically armed squadrons with different tactical doctrines. The ships offer a fascinating variety of types, from brigs and corvettes to converted merchant schooners.

Another advantage to Great Lakes battles is their modest size. Wargamers may say they love to re-fight the great age-of-sail battles, but in practical terms very few wargames make it feasible (in time, number of ships, table space, or player workload) to manage Nelsonian-size battles at tactical level.

I designed A Glorious Chance specifically with miniatures players and tactical naval boardgamers in mind. I hope they will use it as a "scenario generator" or an operational layer to stage battles with their favorite tactical system, be it GMT's boardgame Serpents of the Seas or minis rulesets like Away Boarders or Heart of Oak.

But AGC includes its own, more abstracted combat subsystem using a battle board, too. So you can resolve battles more quickly, with just a few dierolls, if you prefer.




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hubo72 wrote:
Pre-ordered long time ago! Im glad that the development is moving on nicely. Are you looking for play testers?

H



Hi Hubert,
Yes, playtesters still needed. PM me with your e-mail address and I'll set you up. You must be able to use VASSAL, since the game at this stage exists only in that format.

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Robert Malcomson's Lords of the Lake ... Great Book for sure. Read it over and over again and again.

The Onieda was based at Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario.
The ship (brig) at Erie, PA (Lake Erie) is 'The Niagara'

Erie is another great museum and you can actually take a cruise on the Niagara during the summer.

http://www.flagshipniagara.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/US...

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There are no old ships at Sackets Harbor but the Museums, Battlefield and street names/flags do send a "chill"



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Wonderful Book

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The Oneida was based at Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario.
The ship (brig) at Erie, PA (Lake Erie) is 'The Niagara'
[/q]

Of course -- sorry! Post corrected. (I knew it was the Niagara but I must have been in the habit of writing "Oneida" because that's the U.S. brig in my game.)
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Steve Pultorak wrote:
There are no old ships at Sackets Harbor but the Museums, Battlefield and street names/flags do send a "chill"


Yes, it's a shame there aren't more War of 1812 ships (or sailing replicas) to see up there.

The Canadians have talked on and off over the years about raising the wrecks of the American converted laker schooners USS Hamilton and USS Scourge, which are the ones than sank in now-Canadian waters in the 1813 storm. Divers found the wrecks some years ago, the location was named a historic site (http://www.hamilton-scourge.hamilton.ca/) and it turns out the frigid waters have preserved the ships beautifully over the centuries:





It would be a fantastic if they ever found the funds to do that and put those ships in a lakeside museum.

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Steve Pultorak
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Awesome pics
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Mike Szarka
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There's an old gunboat that was raised in Prescott.

If you get the chance to visit Penetanguishene you would really like it. It's a lovely place, and the naval base is very nicely preserved.
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Steve Pultorak
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Darn...
I just drove up (down) the St. Lawrence on the U.S. side last week.
Prescott is just across from Ogdensburg, right ???
 
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Steve Pultorak wrote:
Darn...
I just drove up (down) the St. Lawrence on the U.S. side last week.
Prescott is just across from Ogdensburg, right ???


Yesiree. Close enough that in the depth of winter of 1813 a raiding party walked across the ice and wreaked havoc in Ogdensberg. However, being nice Canadians we afterwards said we were sorry and continued to trade there for the remainder of the war.
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Christopher Leary
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Big thumbs-up for the game, Malcolmson's book, the Erie Maritime/US Niagara museum in Erie, and Sackett's Harbor.

-The Game: I've finally been able to start test-driving the solo game over the past month, and am pretty darn impressed... operational games are really my sweet spot, War of 1812 is my favorite period of study, and I've been an Age of Sail fan since playing Wooden Ships & Iron Men as a youngster in the 1980s.

I am the target audience, granted, but anyone interested in any of these three topics should give this one a go... and the designer's support/interest on here and consim has been top-notch.

-Malcolmson's book "Lords of the Lake" is absolutely THE definitive one-volume treatment on the Lake Ontario naval war. He also gets into the land ops around the lake in good detail... it is one of my favorite books on any aspect of the conflict (and I've read most at this point).

-The Erie Maritime Museum is a hidden gem... I convinced my wife to stop through just a few months back on a trip back to Buffalo, and was lucky enough to arrive on a day when the US Niagara was docked and open for tours. It's tough to keep my toddler's attention focused on anything, but he was all over the ship... a number of very nice displays in the museum itself, but getting to walk around the reconstruction of the Niagara is a wonder.

-Sacketts Harbor is a great little town, and well off the beaten path for tourists. I convinced my wife to spend a day of our honeymoon several Octobers ago walking around the town, visiting the cemetery (and Zeb Pike's monument), eating and drinking at the brewing company... a fun place to visit, and it's not very hard to "see" what it probably looked like in the early 19th century.
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Thanks so much, Chris!

Since we've been talking historical tourism, has anyone ever taken the history route from Sacket's Harbor to Kingston? At 35 or so miles each way and running along the coastal flats, it would appear ideal for a day's bike ride, one night's overnight stay, and then a ride back in the other direction. Is the border crossing a hassle? How does one handle all the many water crossings over the various creeks and the St. Lawrence -- is every crossing a bridge, or does one have to take any ferries?

How does Kingston hold up on ts end of the historical worth-a-visit scale?
I realize it's a big city today compared with Sacket's Harbor. But I think I've heard that its old market square has some nice pubs and such. And there's a Canadian military academy still there that has a museum, I believe.

My dream trip, though, would be to see the War of 1812 sights by water on a sailboat. I wish there were a clearinghouse and matching service like Uber for sailboats, where you could post a "seeking a ride" notice and then boat owners with space would let you catch a hop for a fee. What better way to nose in around the various harbors and islands on the lake, and to better imagine what those naval crews would have seen. (I'm afraid I'd be a little disappointed, though, since today it's smack in the middle of the very busy St. Lawrence Seaway and it looks like the islands have windfarms, industry, etc., on them.)
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Mike Szarka
Canada
Waterloo
Ontario
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When it is your turn to send a VASSAL move, the wait is excruciating. When it's my turn, well, I've been busy.
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Kingston is an amazing city just in its own right and Fort Henry is extremely well-preserved. It does also have the Royal Military College, one of our very few officer training academies and a full-fledged university. It also has Queen's University, one of our oldest schools, which includes our first parliament building (as Kingston was the capital of Canada at one point), and was the home of our first Prime Minister who is buried there. It's got history, that's for sure.
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