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Subject: Setting up the Resource & Leader Cups rss

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David Kennedy
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When setting up the game, no Leader or Resource chits are placed the Turn Track. Instead, all Leader chits and all Resource chits go into their appropriate Resource cup.

I'm assuming you are playing with the Expansion Kit and have a Land and Naval Resource cup.

I have played this way for a couple of months now. I have found the results to be highly satisfactory. Essentially, the range of possible outcomes related to Leader and Resource appearance is much wider. In terms of scenario generation, the results are much richer. The narrative opportunities are more varied and less scripted. Those ironclads may or may not show up early on. The arrival of your submarines is also up in the air. You could score European Munitions from the get go. Or worse, they could never appear! From the standpoint of scenario generation, the results are very satisfying in creating new challenges for the Confederates.

With Leaders, the player could start with Lee (hoo-rah!) or never see him (uh-oh). Indeed, with the appearance of leaders less scripted and scheduled, the South can't count on snagging Lee early in the game. In the existing rule set, it is relatively easy to troll the initial Leader cup to secure Lee. No more sure things under this variant. Just wait until you get a whole crop of dud commanders to start the game. Conversely, you could get your dream team. Each circumstance presents its own challenges and opportunities. Moreover, given the dynamics of leader shuffles and casualties, your circumstance is unlikely to be permanent. You have to respond accordingly.

Some dear friends and colleagues have expressed horror at the prospect of a game without the venerable Lee. As Civil War devotees, they really count on him and seem to lose spirit when he isn't present. ("Rally, I say! Rally for the South!") My observation is this variant creates a more challenging and dynamic game experience because the player can't count on certain things happening or certain leader appearing. Furthermore, and most importantly, this variant doesn't seem to have any apparent results on game outcome. I ain't winning or losing more. But, I sure am having more fun. Give it a try and let us know how it goes.

Corrected typo - 02/23/2014.
 
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Wes Erni
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I am sorry that I haven't had much time to devote to Lost Cause recently -- this an unedited e-mail sent to David and Hans over 2 months ago (one of dozens). It does extensively discuss my views on David's Leader "mash-up":

It may be hard to believe, but fundamentally David and me are in full agreement in basic objectives -- eliminate "gamebreaks" while retaining the existing COMPROMISE of playability, realism, and deep game choices. I emphasize compromise, because all wargames have to "settle" to some extent, and State of Siege solitaire games have their own unique parameters to "fit in" to. It is amazing The Lost Cause succeeds at all, given the immense ambition packed into the SoS system. Hans has done a great job in creating a hell of a game, while still touching most of the bases historically -- The Leader system is one of those "compromises".

Robert E. Lee was given very high rank (ranked only behind AS Johnston in active leaders) the second he turned down command of the Union army and followed Virginia into succession. He acted as de facto National Military Advisor from the beginning, while also holding down two field commands that brought absolutely NO glory. He certainly didn't "prove" himself on the battlefield, his value to Jefferson Davis (YOU in the game) needed no proof -- Davis sadly sent him away from his trusted Advisor position, for the simple reason nobody else was going to save Richmond (and the whole war) but him. I really like the fact Hans put the NMA into the game, but the fact the game forces you to "search" for Lee at all, seems like more of a game compromise to distract the player from doing too many wonderful things on the board and/or on the "tracks" early. Not having Lee appear early is more like not having Guderian appear and invading Poland with Stosstrupen, rather than panzers. The fact that almost every Civil War game focuses on leaders is because they mattered more in that war than almost any other (and to compensate for the "blandness" of the land units -- at least compared to WW2). The fact that making the obvious leader changes in the TLC is SO hard -- is a nice reflection of the politics involved and compensates for the player's perfect knowledge of how good everyone was. Almost everyone thought Braxton Bragg would make a good army commander -- at first. The fact that he was one of the worst "leaders of men" to ever don a uniform took seemingly forever (to at least Davis) to become apparent. When Davis finally sent Longstreet and his corps to bail out out Bragg before Chickamauga, he asked Lee to go West to command the Army of Tennessee as well. Lee refused (his Virginia myopia among other reasons), and the Confederacy lost the war. Given how close the South came to finally winning a "beat Lincoln" kind of victory, with Bragg bungling the battle worse than his usual -- it is hard not seeing Lee getting results that would at least put the war "in doubt". In fact, if Lee had a "twin brother" it is hard seeing the Union win at all (assuming the Union lacked such miraculous cloning). Lee's value went far beyond his tactical and strategic prowess (indeed, wargamer's sitting comfortably in their chairs 150 years later, can point to his numerous errors), it is almost incomprehensible the degree of his soldier's devotion -- they suffered horribly and died in droves more for him, than the Confederacy itself. In contrast, it was only the devotion to the Confederacy that prevented Bragg's own troops from killing him, much less dying for him.

Other game compromises include European Recognition -- "King Cotton" had ZERO chance of working, I can see Recognition as a remote possibility, but the Confederacy was never going to see Intervention (unless the Union screwed up the diplomacy BADLY). I like the ER track despite these facts, because Jefferson Davis thought these were legitimate possibilities, and it makes for a fascinating game dimension (it must be toned down however). Actually, the Confederacy could have solved most of their diplomatic and military problems by taking the advice of General Patrick Cleburne -- freeing all the slaves (and their families) that would take up arms for the Confederacy. If every Southern officer was like Cleburne (actually the South would win anyway -- he was a brilliant leader), the South would be practically invincible -- but this had as much chance as Hitler being nice to the Russian people he was invading, war-winning strategies with that would never happen.

I very much want the Southern Economy being a part of the game -- but this mainly means I want the player to be devastated long term, if he loses Richmond. The Tredegar Works alone, produced half of the artillery pieces the South made. The railroad network (and thus the ability to supply armies in the field) would last less then a year if Richmond went down. It is sad for the Confederacy, that of the 5 great industrial cities in slave states (Richmond, St. Louis, Louisville, Wheeling, Baltimore), Richmond was the only one to produce anything for the Southern cause. The "Resources" in the game are "clever" devices to showcase some some nice Civil War history, but are massive abstraction of the complexities of running a national economy (even one as sorely stressed as the Confederacy). All I really want is for the player decisions to match up with the actual decisions Jeff Davis was faced with -- and never to rejoice in the loss of important territory. The War Effort track is another great game device that adds intriguing dimensions, but badly overstates the Confederacy's ability to "break" the Blockade. The Confederate Navy could legitimately contest the rivers and harbors -- but could only slightly improve the chances of the blockade runner's. The range of 5/6 to 1/6 chance for War Effort is historically unsupportable well into the war -- but it does not overwhelm the game due to the fact "success" usually requires "Actions" to emplace, so it is just not that important.

I admit I do want Robert E. Lee front and center in every Civil War game I play. But I certainly do not WANT to ignore Theaters and the Economy, nor have predictable card events. In my my playtests (4 games of my "package"), Lee rolled for his life 4 times (wounded twice) and although I lost Richmond twice (both in 1865) -- I certainly did not "sacrifice" the capitol, every game I "planned" to hold it till the last card. The fact that the game "tripped me up" as much as it did was a great credit to the basic game structure, with just a few "tweaks" added on. It is ironic how ecstatic I was with a narrow win, two draws and a narrow loss -- any other State of Siege game I would be horrified at such a poor performance, but here with no tricks up my sleeve (well, at least no "gamey" tricks), I am delighted with such results.

I also wish to retain the basic essence of the design intent -- the main way to Southern victory is military success. Like the fall of Rome, there are dozens of "reasons" for the fall of the South. When you boil it all down to the hard truth, both Rome and the Confederacy died because their armies failed -- simple as that. The South did provide their troops with enough supplies to keep going (although Valley Forge and Guadalcanal strike me as the only time American troops were more poorly supplied), their mystifyingly (given the bulk of Southern soldiery was truly fighting the "rich man's war") sky-high morale sustained them further-- their armies just failed. In the grand scheme of things, politics only mattered if military success ousted Lincoln from office -- and we will never know what truly that would take. The Southern leaders had no heart to fight a sustained guerrilla war -- so it makes for a very clean wargame. Hans has provided us with a whole package of nice chrome to embellish things, but as much as I like these touches -- I don't think the "Chrome" should have a life of its own.

Of course, my historical knowledge of the war is biasing me in one direction, as much as David's lack of interest in this period is pushing him in another direction. I am greedy -- I want maximum playability and realism, with just a little bit more game decision-making as Jefferson Davis would have (in the broad strokes the game provides). David has more emphasis on RE-playability than strict realism, which is certainly a valid game option -- no reason this can't be offered to the player's as a optional rule. Actually, my one published game with VPG (Swing States) takes David's view entirely -- I turned a political game into a "wargame", with reams of re-playability and game options that is a rather loose simulation. I don't give a hoot about the subject matter, and created a fun and interesting game, while letting Alan and Ben fight over the nonsense (politics). In the Civil War, I do want my Lee however. If the The Lost Cause even approaches realism, The Confederacy without Lee should have as much chance of winning, as the Germans would have taking on the world without a panzer arm.
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David Kennedy
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I appreciate the feedback, Wes. I'd be most interested in your thoughts once you try it out.
 
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