Tuesday, July 29, 2014

150 Years Ago: Two Weeks That Doomed the Confederacy


Late July – Early August 1864:  Atlanta, The Crater and Mobile Bay

Historical Event:   If July 1863 was the turning point that showed the South could not win the Civil War, late July-early August 1864 was the turning point that showed it was doomed.  Hood’s incredibly wasteful offensives around Atlanta, the carnage of the Crater at Petersburg – where Lee’s army was finally immobilized by chaining itself to Richmond- and, finally, Mobile Bay, where a triumphant Union Navy damned the torpedoes, stormed past massive forts, battled a monster ironclad and brought a great port city to its knees.

Game ConnectionRebel Raiders on the High Seas focuses on the naval aspect of the Civil War, but also represents the land campaign, albeit in a more abstract way.  Thus the battles around Atlanta and the siege of Richmond can be fought with cards and dice, and Mobile Bay can be played out in the game – complete with a card with Admiral David Glasgow Farragut’s famous phrase (which according to historian James McPherson he may or may not have actually said) and cards and counters representing the great sailor, his rival, Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan, and some of their mighty ships (Farragut’s flagship, USS Hartford; Buchanan’s own ironclad ram, CSS Tennessee;  the giant “unsinkable” screw sloop USS Brooklyn,  and the armored gunboat CSS Gaines but to name a few).

Many stories of those ships, and of Farragut, Buchanan, their encounter at Mobile Bay have appeared before in this blog over the last year, and more will appear again – especially on the date of the 150th anniversary of their epic contest of August 5, 1864.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17, 1864 – J.E. Johnston Sacked – Hood Takes Command

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raider’s History

-Dedicated to Civil War episodes, battles, people and ships that also appear in my game, GMT’s Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.

July 17, 1864 – J.E. Johnston Sacked – Hood Takes Command

Historical Event:   On this day in 1864 President Jefferson Davis removed General Joseph E. Johnston from command of the Army of Tennessee – and replaced him with John Bell Hood.  The revered Johnston, who although outnumbered by more than two to one had skillfully delayed William Tecumseh Sherman’s advance into Georgia, was revered by his troops.  His use of  Fabian tactics (similar to those used by the Roman general Fabius against the Carthaginian invader Hannibal) earned him the nickname “The Gray Cunctator” (Latin for Delayer).  Like the Roman general, however, Johnston was derided for being too cautious and even cowardly – and like Fabius was replaced – and replaced with a fire-eater who vowed to bring the enemy to battle.  Acting on the advice of his friend and chief adviser, General Braxton Bragg, Davis gave Johnston’s command to General John Bell Hood.  The 33-year-old Hood, youngest man on either side to take command of a full army, was brave. He had lost an arm at Gettysburg and a leg at Chickamauga, and had to be strapped to the saddle.  He was also reckless. Within 72 hours Hood made good on his promise to fight – inaugurating the first of four epic battles that would bleed his army white and lead to the evacuation of Atlanta – the very thing Johnston had hoped to prevent or at least delay as long as possible.

Game Connection:  Although primarily a game of naval strategy, there is a strong land war element to Rebel Raiders on the High SeasAtlanta is a critical objective of that land war.  It is one of the only two cities in the South that provide the Confederate player with the means to build batteries and ironclads (the other is Richmond).  Its loss costs the Confederates dearly in victory points not only when it falls (the total on two dice) but also every turn (adding a die to the Confederate supply attrition roll).  Atlanta is also one of the key cities whose fall can bring victory for the North,  and holding it helps the Union win the 1864 election – which (with USN Card 36 “If it takes all Summer…” can extend the game for a 13th and devastating turn.  Generals Sherman,  Hood and Johnston are also included in the game (cards USN 50, CSN 89 and CSN 91, respectively).  Bragg, who advised Davis to remove Johnston, is also represented – not by name, but by his picture on the appropriately named USN Card 7 – A Lack of Brains.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rebel Raiders "highly recommended" by Mataka.org

Rebel Raiders "highly recommended" For Civil War Fans by Mataka.org

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas is "highly recommended for devotees of the American Civil War and the Civil War Gamer," concludes the popular and respected game review site Mataka.org.  In a well-illustrated review published on July 14,  Mataka.org describes the components, game play and basic strategies of the game, and notes with satisfaction that at a time when "there are very few Civil War Naval Action Games" that "Rebel Raiders, and its sister game Iron and Oak, are two games that fill this void and can be easily recommended."

Mataka.org hails the design not only for its "low complexity" but also for being "an excellent game to play solitaire."

For the full text of the review, see:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas Soon Set Sail for WBC

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas To Set Sail for WBC August

From August 7th-9th Editor/Developer Fred Schachter and I will be showing off our strategic naval game of the Civil War, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas game, at the WBC (World Boardgaming Championships) in Lancaster, PA.  The convention is at the Lancaster Host Resort on Route 30.

Fred and I are scheduled to run teaching demos in the demo area on Thursday afternoon and evening, and there is a tournament - the first ever for Rebel Raiders at WBC. 

We also will be demonstrating our newest design - soon to be up on the GMT game company's P500 list - Hitler's Reich: A Card Conquest System Game.  It is a simple, fast, quick-playing game of the European Theater of Operations (including North Africa and the Middle East).  The game is unique in that it does not use any land playing pieces and is fought out through card play - with colored wooden pieces marking the progress of the opposing sides.  We can teach the game to new players - even players new to wargaming - in a few minutes.

For more on the convention, please check out: 

In the meantime, enjoy Rebel Raiders on the High Seas!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Happy 201st Birthday, Adm. David Dixon Porter

Happy 201st Birthday, Adm. David Dixon Porter

Admiral David Dixon Porter would be 201 today.   The storied Union naval officer and Civil War hero is represented by both a counter and a card in my strategic naval game of the Civil War – Rebel Raiders on the High Seas. Judicious use of USN Card No. 2 “David Dixon Porter & His Little Mortar Boats” can greatly ease the Union Navy’s attacks into Confederate river and ocean ports.

Porter is USN Card No. 2 because he was the second officer to attain the rank of rear admiral in the Union Navy.  David Glasgow Farragut was the first – and hence he is on USN Card No. 1 (“Damn the Torpedoes…Full Speed Ahead”) – a little inside joke of mine.  Porter was also the adopted brother of Farragut, and their sibling rivalry was infamous.  Farragut also appears on USN Card 33 – “The Grand Fleet,” a card which allows the Union to stack 10 warships instead of the usual maximum of 6.  Porter, alas, being the junior of the two admirals/brothers, is limited to the lesser number.

Porter, however, made many contributions to the war effort and is also remembered by USN Card 25 – “The Black Terror.”  Although not listed on the card, it was his idea to build the phony ironclad that so frightened the Rebels on the river.

Porter and his mortar boats were vital to the Union victory at New Orleans (where he served under his elder brother), and to the first naval attack on Vicksburg (where he again served at his brother’s side).  Porter was promoted to a command of his own, leading the Western Gunboat Flotilla – renamed the Mississippi River Squadron – during the Vicksburg campaign.  He was named “acting” rear admiral in recognition of his role in its capture. 

The importance of Vicksburg is noted in Rebel Raiders, as it is one of the critical victory cities the Union needs to take to win the game.

Porter also took part in the abortive Red River Campaign (which is represented in the game by CSN Card 76 – “Red River Fiasco”).  It is a Rebel card because it was such an ill-conceived plan that no Union player in his right mind would willingly attempt it.

Porter redeemed himself by saving his fleet from disaster on the Red River (thanks to an Army engineer who built a damn to float his ironclads over the rapids to safety) and again by leading the naval forces that pounded and helped capture Fort Fisher in January 1865. 

After the war, Porter went on to become superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.   In 1866 Farragut became the nation’s first full admiral, and Porter became its first vice admiral – and when Farragut died, Porter was promoted, becoming the nation’s second full admiral.   He died in 1891 at the age of 77.

Monday, June 2, 2014

150 Years Ago June 3: The Slaughter at Cold Harbor

150 Years Ago June 3: The Slaughter at Cold Harbor

The Battle of Cold Harbor began on May 31 when General Philip Sheridan's Union cavalry seized a keycrossroads between Bethesda Church and the Chickahominy River.  Confederate General Robert E. Lee responded with a series of counterattacks as Cold Harbor was astride his line of communications back to Richmond.  Both armies continued to hurl men at each other for days along a front that grew to seven miles as they kept attempting to turn each other's flanks.

On the morning of June 3 and impatient General U.S. Grant tried to bludgeon his way through the Rebel line with a massive human assault.  Three Corps (IInd, VIth, XVIIIth) were packed tight into a block and as the sun rose they moved forward - into a hell of Confederate fire.  In one 20-minute period over 7,000 Union soldiers fell; most of them new or green recruits from the heavy artillery regiments that Grant had ordered to leave their fortress positions around Washington and take up rifles.  The assault collapsed, many of the survivors taking cover behind the bodies of the fallen.

Grant, who rarely responded to charges that he was a" murdering officer" and for whom the "butcher's bill" was part of his war of attrition strategy, is on record as saying that he "always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made."   After the attack, Grant changed his strategy, first going to a war of trenches and then beginning his grand turning movement toward the James, a wide swing that would eventually bring the armies back face to face at Petersburg, whre they would remained locked in trench warfare until war's end.

Although primarily a game of naval strategy, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas also replicates the land war.  Many of the key figures in the land campaigns, including Grant (USN Card 8), Sheridan (USN Card 11) and Lee (CSN Card 60) are in the game, and many of the tactics, events and blunders of that war are similarly represented, among them a Cold Harbor card (CSN Card 105).

Monday, May 26, 2014

McPherson, MacGowan, McLaughlin & Memorial Day

 Happy Memorial Day to All!....My friend Rodger MacGowan - who did the cover for Rebel Raiders on the High Seas and many other games of mine not only followed my lead in honoring Civil War historian James McPherson - but also did me one better (as any artist of Rodger's caliber should) by putting up this tribute. For more from Rodger on Memorial Day, games and his magazine, please visit his C3i magazine ops site:  http://www.c3iopscenter.com/currentops/