Pete Belli
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"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
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Describing my Civil War prototype To Save The Union as a game that revolves around public opinion and other political elements is a slight understatement. The public opinion and political crisis rules provide the framework upon which the entire victory point structure is based.

Only the Confederate player scores victory points. The Rebels can score points for keeping strategic areas out of Federal control and for destroying Union formations. Unless one nation collapses suddenly both sides try to develop a strategy that grinds away at the enemy's political will. Each player attempts to inflict military defeats on the enemy when the opponent’s political structure is in crisis. The crucial time periods when national morale is most volatile are primarily determined by event cards.

The results are tabulated after the fall 1864 turn. If the Confederates can drive Union public opinion down to a level that prevents the reelection of Abraham Lincoln the South is victorious. Any other outcome is considered to be a Union victory.

The Rebels need 18 victory points to win. A typical game that ends in a Union triumph finishes with the Confederates scoring 16 or 17 points. Very close scores are common.

A problem began to develop during the fall 1864 turn.

If the Confederate player (who moves first) ended his or her last action phase with 17 points the Union player could sit smugly in a chair and do nothing while still winning the game.

If the Confederate player was hovering at 18 or 19 points the Union player might frantically scour the board searching for just the right attack while feverishly calculating combat strengths hoping for a quick win. While there is certainly ample historical justification for these actions (Lincoln was desperate for a Union victory as the election approached) the resulting analysis paralysis could slow the game to a McClellan style crawl.

If the Confederate player had a nice cushion and was looking at 20 or more victory points the Federals might not be motivated to make that last attack in the Shenandoah Valley (or Atlanta... or Charleston... or Shreveport) that drives away the rebels and secures Lincoln's election. The Union player would essentially miss out on his or her last action phase.

Knowing the exact victory point score as the game raced to a conclusion had the potential to reduce a player’s enjoyment. This situation is deplorable and must not be allowed to continue!

 



To Save The Union includes six "Public Opinion" markers. Along with several other unfortunate events these markers are used to record the impact on civilian morale when a Union force is defeated during a political crisis. After the Yankees get hit with four of these markers the next blow to Union public opinion results in the loss of a Federal unit due to a lack of support for the war effort.

Four of the markers have no illustration on the reverse side.

The reverse side of one marker represents the Northern Copperheads, a group of Democrats who opposed Lincoln's conduct of the war.

The reverse side of another marker represents the National Union Party, a bit of political legerdemain that Lincoln pulled out of his stovepipe hat when he changed the name of the Republican Party to encourage Democrats to support his election.

Neither player is allowed to examine these markers until the end of the game. A blank marker has no effect. The Northern Copperheads marker will add one victory point to the Confederate total. The National Union Party marker will subtract one victory point from the Confederate total.

This rule should help keep both players guessing until the fall 1864 turn comes to an end. While some wargamers may balk at the seemingly random nature of this rule, it does recreate the uncertainty which both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis faced as the voters cast their ballots.

Comments and suggestions are welcome!
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László K.
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Are (or will) the rules for To Save The Union ready for public release (for example, as a PDF)? I sincerely hope so, since I have enjoyed reading your commentaries about this game. This particular entry strikes a chord, since I agree that public opinion is an often overlooked part of war in games.
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Pete Belli
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Thank you for the positive comments.

Quote:
Are (or will) the rules for To Save The Union ready for public release


The rules are not available right now. Sorry.

I will probably do something about that after To Save The Union is playtested at BGG.CON in November.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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By making the war a long grind, do you disagree with the idea that it could have been short (Rebels enter DC after Bull Run, McClellan takes Richmond in summer 1862)?
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Pete Gelman
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I like the drift of the political rules...

pete belli wrote:
The results are tabulated after the fall 1864 turn. If the Confederates can drive Union public opinion down to a level that prevents the reelection of Abraham Lincoln the South is victorious.


My following point is a bit trivial, but in case it helps:

If Lincoln loses the election, the Union player could arguably receive one more turn to stop auto Confederate victory, to show Lincoln's desperate but determined lame-duck actions as Commander in Chief.

Last night I just happened to read Lincoln's statement to Grant that if he lost the election he would cooperate with the winner to try to secure victory before he stepped down as president.

Cheers,
Pete
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Pete Belli
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Quote:
By making the war a long grind, do you disagree with the idea that it could have been short (Rebels enter DC after Bull Run, McClellan takes Richmond in summer 1862)?


Excellent question!

There are three possible "sudden death" situations during the game so the conflict could end long before the 1864 election.

#1) The game starts in March of 1862; the march on Washington DC after the victory at Bull Run is not an option. It is possible for a clever Confederate to capture Washington if the Yankees are careless...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/406457

...and this event ends the game immediately with a Confederate victory.

#2) The Confederates begin the game with 30 victory points based on the number of strategic areas they control. If the Confederates can reach 36 victory points (by retaking parts of Kentucky or Missouri, invading the North, inflicting heavy losses on the Union army, etc.) the European powers will intervene and force an armistice. This event results in a Confederate victory.

#3) If the Union player drives the Confederate victory point total down to 12 at any time during the game by capturing or "contesting" strategic areas the national morale of the Confederacy collapses and the Federals win the game. This can happen even if the Yankees briefly seize enough areas to get the point total down with quick penetrations of Southern territory that, in game terms, the Confederate player would probably be able to turn back if the struggle continued for another turn or two.
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Pete Belli
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Quote:
My following point is a bit trivial, but in case it helps:

If Lincoln loses the election, the Union player could arguably receive one more turn to stop auto Confederate victory, to show Lincoln's desperate but determined lame-duck actions as Commander in Chief.


This is a valid question and is backed up by Lincoln's own actions before the election when he wrote his famous memorandum. In this document Lincoln declared his intention to save the Union by the end of his term in March of 1865.

I will leave the debate about Lincoln's possible effectiveness as a lame-duck president facing a weary Union with McClellan ready to take control of the government for another forum. This subject has been discussed extensively here on BGG:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/397951

In game terms the best chance for an armistice that would lead to a Confederate victory follows the election of McClellan in 1864.

I skipped the lame-duck actions of Lincoln in the winter of 1864 and the spring of 1865 for the same reasons I skipped the final agony of the Confederacy during that period... I wanted the game to end quickly and cleanly without dragging the contest out to a point where a player is struggling to retain control of one or two pitiful areas to win.

Thanks again for the contribution!
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László K.
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pete belli wrote:
I will probably do something about that after To Save The Union is playtested at BGG.CON in November.

I look forward to it.
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