END GAME FOR 1814
In most of the games, for the latter half of 1814, the British are able to take the offensive and the American player usually has to be content with holding on to what he has captured. Incredibly, Larry was able to make significant gains, especially on the Niagara front. In one remarkable play, he moved Scott and a small but effective army from Ft. Erie, brushed away Drummond's small force blocking Harrison, march onto York, and then take Ft. George. This was an incredible 9 point swing in about two turns.
If I had any illusions about trying to recapture the Niagara frontier, Scotts campaign dispelled those. In order to force Scotts army out of the Niagara it would take a major effort indeed with no immediate British forces in the vicinity. The total Victory Point score was now in the vicinity of +30 or so. The makings of a major British disaster.
To explain this disaster, I should mention that I broke two important guide lines in playing the British. For 'new players' I always stress two important rules that the British must always obey. One, is that they keep secure the St. Lawrence river line at all costs, and the other is to keep leader Prevost in close proximity to Quebec. Or at least keep him within 'one march' from the city. In this game I broke both of those rules and was punished accordingly.
At one point in the game Larry had moved a small but effective force under General Brown (one of his best generals) to St. Regis on the Canadian side of the border. This spot is just opposite Cornwall, and I only had the single Upper Canada Militia unit defending the place. Larry tried twice to take Cornwall and by a card combination of “Heavy Rains” and some luck I was able to thwart his designs there. But I should have taken warning, and in a later attempt, Larry took the city cutting off every major British unit to the west, including the garrisons along the St. Lawrence and Kingston itself.
Not only was this a British disaster, it was also pointing to possible decisive victory for the Americans in 1814, and no possibility of a British recovery. From past experience, most of the time when the St. Lawrence river is cut, British relief comes from the 'east' where hordes of British units arrive in 1814. Unfortunately for me, leader Prevost was completely out of position to lead this new army out of Quebec. He was on the east side of Lake Champlain occupying Burlington and Highgate for a measly 3 points. I would gladly have given up the 3 points to have him in a better position.
To move Prevost back to Quebec would have taken at least two strategy cards, about 22% of my movement resources. In addition, this would have lost so much momentum that I rejected the proposal. This meant that the only relief could come from the 'west' which was totally cut off. Fortunately I had my best leader 'Brock', and so gathering every single unit he could muster, Brock marched east to confront Brown. Both sides in this battle had 'A' class units and although Brock's army was large, it was still cut in half because it began the turn out of supply.
Fortunately, Brock won the battle causing a DR-1 on Brown who retreated back to St. Regis where he had taken the precaution of garrisoning his retreat. The St. Lawrence line was now open but there was no British army on the Niagara at all. If Larry got super aggressive once more, the whole game would unravel. Larry played the “Relief of Ft. Mackinac” for the event, hoping to undermine the British once and for all on Lake Huron. But in a misunderstanding of the way the card worked could not perform the move because Perry's fleet was on the lake, not in a lakeside town as it has to be. Larry instead performed a small positional move and this thankfully gave me the opportunity to once more try to gain the initiative.
At this point we both knew the British could not possibly win the game, I could only effect the level of victory and try to save face. If Larry made one small mistake it was on Lake Ontario. He had the largest American fleet possible. None of his 1812 schooners had been lost so he had a built in numerical advantage that the British cannot overcome. This is an intentional design decision on my part. As the British you should always try to whittle down those numerous American schooners when you can, for in the end if you don't numbers will tell. In a previous move, Larry had split his fleet when he did an amphibious move utilizing two of his vessels which he kept in port with his infantry. This wasn't risky at the time but Larry never re-united the vessels with the main fleet and this small 'crack in the US navy' armour could give the British the 'in' they needed.
Fortunately the British got the card which allowed them to create the Ship of the Line “St. Lawrence” and ultimately Yeo sailed onto the lake to do battle with Chauncey. The battle was by no means guaranteed for each of us had 'A' class units, 'frigates' and leadership. Larry had blocked this same move before with a 'Contrary Winds' card but fortunately for the British that was the only one he had. As it transpired the British rolled a minor victory forcing the frigate 'Superior' to flip to its damaged side and the rest of the fleet to retire to Sackets Harbour. This was an important victory since it would mean a 4 point swing and the re-establishment of the possibility of amphibious invasions by the British to relieve pressure on their strained land resources.
It should be noted that if Larry had the “Treaty of Ghent” card, he could have ended the game no matter how many cards he had in his hand and still won. Fortunately I had the card, but it would have been better if it had never shown up since that card was now a liability rather than an asset. By this point in the game we had very few cards left. Larry had two less than me since he had used a few 'reaction' cards to thwart some of my counter offensives. The VP marker was now at '27' in favour of the Americans and if I wanted to 'save face' I was desperate to get the marker down below '20', which represents Decisive Victory.
I had very few choices. Larry had done his job in 1814 by keeping me so busy that I couldn't launch any major offensives anywhere. I looked again at the Sackets Harbour option which in the end would be a 1:1 attack. I had attempted that before and even with the +1 result I had rolled the '9' result which negated the attack since it was a fort. I wasn't looking forward to the game being decided by one die roll.
The west was hopeless so I looked to the east to retrieve British fortunes. There was 2 points available by merely sailing onto Lake Champlain but that wasn't enough. Then I saw the glitzy move that would retrieve British honour. Remember, the British had Treaty of Ghent so this would be my last effective card of the game.
I opted for an amphibious move out of St. Jean with the frigate “Confiance” and the two sloops. They carried the 103rd regiment to Plattsburg which it captured automatically since Larry had left it open. (He had previously gathered up the forces their under Brown for another attack on St. Jean). The two schooners then sailed onto the lake to seize control. This now made a significant alteration in the points in a single turn. 4 points for Plattsburg, 2 points for Lake Champlain and the denial of 2 points for the Americans by the non-capture of Isle aux Noix for at total of an 8 point swing.
In the end the VP marker swung down to 18, a respectable victory for the Americans but enough for the British to 'save face'. This was an interesting game for me. I made plenty of 'rookie' errors in playing the British and Larry played a carefully crafted American strategy. He made errors too which cost him his decisive victory. The final VP score for the Americans is quite impressive and it has made me think about some minor modification for the numerous American schooners. This wasn't the deciding factor in this particular game but has made me look at future possible outcomes.
The US player had 30 in geographic board points and 10 in victory events for a total of 40. The British had 14 points in geographical points and 7 in event cards. A difference of 19, just 1 point short of Decisive Victory. My congratulations to Larry for a game very well played and a future reminder to me to keep that St. Lawrence river supply route open.
Well I reckon that must be slightly upsetting if someone beats you at your own game..
On the other hand it may give you a completely different look on certain aspects, and maybe make you decide on change that make it an even better game.