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Subject: Union Strategic Doctrine: Naval Operations rss

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Pete Belli
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CWEx is currently in its third round of playtesting. Owners of the earlier “Second Edition” will be offered a free update kit in October. The game should be widely available around the holiday season.

Several playtesters have experienced difficulty as the Union player. Good! I wanted CWEx to provide a balanced play experience (which is not exactly the same thing as a balanced game) so I’m delighted to learn that the Federals are frustrated. Actually, I want both players to be frustrated, but this frustration must be sparked by the difficult decisions which need to be made.

For the Union player naval operations are a decisive element of the game. This analysis will provide suggestions for a Yankee player new to CWEx who isn’t exactly storming ashore like Admiral Farragut. If the Union player fails to exploit the advantage provided by the navy winning the game before the 1864 election becomes extremely difficult.

Since the Union player receives three Naval Expeditions plus the Amphibious Transport event card (this is a new rule in the Third Edition) each naval operation must be conducted with an eye on its deeper strategic implications.





New Orleans was the largest city in the Confederacy, a center for commerce and industry, and a crucial port. A savvy Union player will follow Lincoln’s example and send the 1862 expedition to the Crescent City. Don’t try to be clever and wait until 1863; the Union player needs to attack the Mississippi River from both directions.





If the Union player follows the historical narrative Charleston will be the target of the 1863 expedition. Charleston was one of the Confederacy’s biggest cities and had tremendous propaganda value as the birthplace of secession. However, the port can become a strategic cul-de-sac for the Union player because any advance on Augusta or the Piedmont region could run afoul of the supply rules.

While a landing at Charleston at some point in the game is absolutely mandatory, the Union player might decide to wait until 1864. This allows the Federals to use the second expedition in another region, and this helps to keep the Rebels off balance. By the way, leave Florida to the snakes, alligators, and mosquitoes… there is usually no good strategic reason to invade the Sunshine State.





The new Amphibious Transport event card can be used to move a Union army from Washington DC to any port controlled or contested by the Yankees. If the card appears early in the game the options available to the Federals are limited. If it appears later in the struggle it could be used to reinforce Charleston and drive the Rebels away from the port; an advance on an interior objective could follow. Never waste the Amphibious Transport event card on a routine transfer.





A landing at Mobile presents interesting challenges to both players. Grant had pushed for an expedition to this city in 1863 or 1864 but Lincoln and Halleck had other priorities. Mobile could offer a backdoor approach to Atlanta but the Union player must be able to establish a supply line for any force which advances from the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, a landing here will almost certainly compel the Rebels to dispatch an army to block any Yankee maneuvers. This consumes precious command points and thins out the Confederate defenders on another front.





Wilmington is another tempting target. The harried Confederate player will be forced to block an advance on Richmond or abandon Norfolk to shorten the Rebel front. An expedition to Wilmington has an additional advantage -- after the Union invaders have caused consternation in the Confederate high command by taking Fort Fisher the army unit can be shifted to Charleston for a final attack on that city late in the game.





A landing at Galveston offers multiple benefits. An expedition will raise the Union flag over Texas to block the France Invades Mexico event card. The army could quickly advance on Shreveport if the Yankees can supply the force from New Orleans or Vicksburg. The big danger here is a speedy Confederate response; a Rebel army can contest Galveston and leave the Union expedition trapped in the port with little hope of a successful breakout.


A skillful Union naval strategy will place expeditions in regions that require the Confederate to respond rapidly and decisively. This action will consume vital command points. Naval operations create a strategic diversion that could weaken the Rebel front in Virginia, Tennessee, or Georgia. However, it is important to remember who is diverting who. If a careless Union player squanders these opportunities by sending expeditions into sticky flypaper scenarios the Rebels will be able to block the Federals using a minimum amount of combat power.

Up next: Confederate Cavalry Doctrine
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Jonathan Harrison
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Glad to hear I'm not the only one having a hard time winning as the Union.

So far, four CSA wins: 18 (against my wife), 21 (first solo game, trying out Confederate strategies), 19 (beginning of my push to win as the Union), 16. My goal every night is to win as the Union based on what I learned the night before. And every night I look forward to my game more than the night before.

And you're right (not that you needed me to tell you that)—well-placed naval landings were a big part of last night's drop to CSA 16; that and an increasing reliance on the supply rules.
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