Pete Belli
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

In early November 1861 a United States Navy vessel intercepted a British merchant ship and forcibly removed two Rebel commissioners who were on their way to Europe to seek international support for the Confederacy. The incident became known as "The Trent Affair" and the foreign policy crisis which followed almost caused Great Britain to sever diplomatic relations with the United States.

While there was little chance of actual military conflict between the British and the Yankees there was the serious possibility of increased British support for the Confederates (and by extension, increased French support for Dixie) and a potential for European intervention that could have led to an armistice.

Patient diplomacy by President Lincoln and similar efforts made by Prince Albert shortly before his death averted the rupture. The two Confederate commissioners were released and tensions were reduced. Jefferson Davis had played a waiting game during the crisis and missed an opportunity to take advantage of this blunder.




Civil War Express is a strategic level game of the American Civil War. It is designed to be completed in less than one hour but players will find many of the crucial elements of the conflict contained in the rules. Civil War Express is a Do-It-Yourself game that uses some components from Settlers of Catan and an ordinary deck of playing cards. The game also includes an 11" x 17" paper sketch map which can be used as a playing surface. Some of the illustrations in this Session Report feature that map.

Instead of forcing busy Geeks to struggle through a lengthy article covering an entire game this brief Session Report will provide a description of events during the fall of 1861.

SPOILER ALERT

Spoiler (click to reveal)
If you are an unreconstructed Rebel or are devoted to Lost Cause mythology please do not read the following article. It might be too painful. If you ever intend to play CWEx as the Union player please print this article immediately and keep it with your copy of the game!


One of the most important random events in CWEx is the European Diplomacy (A♥) card. The appearance of this card early in the game can offer the Confederate player an opportunity to use the support of the European powers to affect the outcome of the war. In fact, the appearance of the card at the start of the Fall 1861 turn (about the time Captain Wilkes of the USS San Jacinto was taking the reckless action that sparked the crisis) can leave the Union player facing a political, military, and diplomatic defeat.


 


This image shows the strategic situation in 1861. The Confederate player has 30 victory points and needs to reach a score of 35 to force an armistice.




If an unlucky Union player draws the European Diplomacy event card (A♥) on the first turn the Confederate player immediately gains the initiative and receives two command points. These bonus points must be used immediately. This is one of 22 cards used in the game so this draw will probably happen in less than 5% of CWEx games.

Instead of watching events unfold like President Davis this Rebel player sends an army into Kentucky and threatens Cincinnati. This maneuver gains the Confederates two victory points. Since the Confederate player already has more than enough victory points to gain the diplomatic advantage (21 points or more) the Union player’s public opinion drops by one level. This gives the Confederate player one more victory point for a total of 33 points.




The Union player would now have four command points to expend. One option would be an attack by the large Union force in Washington DC against the Rebel armies which are "contesting" that hex. Lincoln repeatedly urged the cautious McClellan to advance against the Confederates but Little Mac resisted the prodding and launched no major campaign in the region. During the diplomatic crisis brought about by this event card any offensive move by McClellan could end in disaster for the Union player.

Since the Confederate player is certain to use his or her advantage in cavalry forces during any battle fought in 1861 an attack by the superior force McClellan has decent odds but also faces the chance of a military blunder result. If the Federals suffered the effects of a military blunder during this period of the conflict another victory point would be scored by the rebels. The Union player just can’t take that risk while expending two precious command points for a battle on the outskirts of the capital. This is one scenario where McClellan’s methodical style actually benefits the United States.




Any failure to attack the Rebels in Washington DC will lower Union public opinion by one level -- but that will not have an immediate effect on victory points since the Yankee’s civilian morale has already dropped below the Confederate level. A better strategy for the Union player might be an advance in the western theater. By expending two command points for each maneuver the Yankees can push into the Memphis hex and the Nashville hex. This onslaught deprives the Rebels of one victory point for each city and knocks the Confederate total down to 31 points.




The Union player has averted disaster... unless the Confederate player draws another event card which gives the Rebels a strategic advantage. If the Aggressive General (K♥) or Blockade Runner (Q♥) or Political Crisis (J♥) card appears the Yankees are in big trouble. The unfortunate Union player also faces a dangerous situation if any of the four random event cards providing five command points appears.

The first action a clever Confederate might take is a repeat of the historical 1861 campaign in Missouri by Sterling Price. An advance into the St. Louis hex costs two command points and would give the Rebels two more victory points. This maneuver brings the total back up to 33 points.




Now the Confederate player has a tough decision to make. If he or she wants to boldly take big risks for potentially big rewards the army defending New Orleans against the expected Union naval expedition can expend one command point to use railroad movement and join the army already holding the Memphis hex. The Union player will definitely have an expedition available during the following spring season so leaving the New Orleans hex unguarded requires a certain amount of intestinal fortitude.




A battle at Memphis would cost the Confederate player two command points. If the Rebels have an Aggressive General event card (K♥) available and use a cavalry raid in the struggle chances of success are probably about even. A defeat here would force the Union player to withdraw to the Ohio River hex. This withdrawal will raise the Rebel score to 34 points since Memphis is under Confederate control. This engagement could help to decide the fate of the Union!




The year 1861 comes to an end with the Confederate States of America on the verge of independence. There should be two cards left in the deck that would give the Confederate player an initiative bonus at the start of the Spring 1862 turn. If either of those cards appears (and there will be 20 event cards left in the deck) the Rebels could expend the two command points for an advance into Kentucky (a potential move shown by the green arrows) and reach the Ohio River. This gives the Confederates 35 victory points and results in an armistice.

Even the cautious strategy of McClellan and the political legerdemain of Lincoln will not be able to overcome an unlucky pattern of event cards... or a disastrous roll of the leadership dice at the battle of Memphis.

This is one of the reasons I designed my strategic level Civil War block game To Save The Union with a start in the spring of 1862; the events of 1861 can be almost too volatile!
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Christopher
Belgium
De Panne
Bachten de Kupe
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an interesting series of events, but as you pointed out here and there in your article, the chances that this can occur are really small.

But I'll keep the unfolding of events and how they can work to an early Confederate victory in mind for the day something similar happens on my table
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for the comments... and the help with playtesting!

It is interesting to remember that most of these events (European diplomatic crisis, a Confederate advance into Kentucky, the Rebel campaign in Missouri, McClellan's limited activity, etc.) did happen in 1861 but Jefferson Davis failed to press his advantage.

The Confederacy had a defensive posture -- even the aggressive moves into Kentucky did not threaten Lousiville or Cincinnati, mainly because the Rebel forces were small and had primitive logistical support. Another reason: both Lincoln and Davis sought to minimize the political damage from the "invasion" of Kentucky.

Davis flubbed his European foreign policy with the King Cotton decision.

The Quest for Annihilation is a superb Civil War military history written by wargame designer Chris Perello...



...and his map to accompany the chapter on the period from September 1861 to January 1862 looks like the first turn of CWEx.

A sequence of event cards favoring the Confederacy might represent a more effective exploitation of these opportunities by Davis.


.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Christopher
Belgium
De Panne
Bachten de Kupe
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
pete belli wrote:

The Quest for Annihilation is a superb Civil War military history written by wargame designer Chris Perello...



...and his map to accompany the chapter on the period from September 1861 to January 1862 looks like the first turn of CWEx.


.


thanks for the hint!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.