Friday, May 31, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 2)
Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we last left our plucky warriors, the South had taken Louisville and strengthened Wilmington, and had a fleet of Blockade Runners ready to race in to deliver their cargo…

Turn 2- August 1861

Although one Blockade Runner is caught, the rest scurry through to unload 16 VPs of cargo – truly an auspicious beginning to the Southern “happy time.”  (If the South can’t make the VP in these early turns, they never will). Confederate Batteries are placed in New Berne and Key West, an aptly named “key” port as it allows Blockade Runners from all directions a refuge – and is a short hop for in-and-out runs to the many nearby foreign ports. Four Blockade Runners and a Raider are built.

The North decides that despite the poor odds the Union will try to take Louisville:  even with the South rolling three dice (two for being Southern, one for the battery) vs. his one die, the first attack is a close run thing, but the Union loses by 1 and gives the South a VP.  Second attack, however, is a rout:  a difference of 5 on the dice – and a corresponding gain of 5 VP for the South.

Brandon takes this as corroborative evidence of his being correct in the initial assumption that attacking this early was not a good idea.   He spreads out some gunboats, sliding down the coast to set up the inshore blockade, with Screw Sloops in the outer blockade.  A thin line, but a lengthening lasso nevertheless, as there is now only one port on the entire Atlantic coast that does not have at least one Yankee ship in its Blockade Station.. 

Brandon plays Card 31 – John Dahlgren for free Screw Sloops and Yankee Guns – and builds 2 Ironclads and a gunboat.

To be continued…..

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay
Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

My old friend Brandon knows more about naval warfare and naval games than just about anybody I know, and as he had invited me to NYC where lives to hear a lecture at the Soldiers and Sailors Club that night, we decided to make a full day of it by gaming Rebel Raiders.  Although the Playbook offers many optional rules for advanced and enhanced play that “spice up the game considerably with added variability,” as Brandon put it, we decided to stick with just the basic game as this is where all new gamers should start.

 Turn 1 – April 1861

As the Confederates I open with Card 96 – “The Most Daring Blockade Runner” Francis Nathaniel Bonneau.  This gives me a free Blockade Runner in Havana, loaded with a 2 VP cargo and immune to interception this turn.  I also play Card 94 -  To the Dark Shores, putting bonus VP cargo on three foreign ports ..AND then I also play Card 83 - Trent Affair – a prerequisite for play of cards that can be quite detrimental to the Union (Royal Navy and Maximillian) should I draw them.

Playing my entire starting hand at once is lot a shot across the bow to Brandon, letting him know this game is not going to start slow.

My first move is to take the Raider that begins in New Orleans (historically Raphael Semmes and his CSS Sumter) out into the Gulf – and she is immediately caught and sank!  (A bad opening omen for the South). I send out my six Blockade Runners to load cargo, and hover offshore in international waters rather than use up all of their movement points just to leave them vulnerable to Union searches in the Blockade Stations or Coastal Areas.   Bonneau, of course, does come home to deliver his cargo.

The Confederacy places batteries at Louisville (taking Kentucky) and Wilmington, to guard a Blockade Runner I built there.  Two other Blockade Runners are built in other fortified Atlantic ports, and another Blockade Runner and a Raider are built in Europe..

The Union moves to reinforce the blockade but eschews land combat, preferring not to risk losing VPs in attacks where the Union rolls only 1 die and the South 2 – and where the South wins ties.   As Brandon put it:  “I’m a numbers kind of guy, and the odds aren’t even 50-50.”

He plays Card 30 - Gustavus Fox to get some free gunboats for this and subsequent turns.

To be continued…..

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

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

Silly Ships of the Civil War: The “Double-Ender” Gunboat Design Pays Off

May 29, 1863

            Historical Event:  The “double-ender” gunboat USS Cimarron captured the Confederate blockade runner Evening Star as she tried to slip through the close-in blockade of Wassaw Sound, Georgia.   The “double-ender” sidewheel design incorporated a rudder at each end so the ship could go in either direction without having to turn around.  They were designed specifically for service in narrow inland waterways.
            The USS Cimarron was constructed in New Jersey and outfitted at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1862.  The 860-ton vessel could only make 10 knots, but carried a powerful arsenal of eight guns:  six 24-pound howitzers, one 9-inch smoothbore and one 100-pound rifle.  She participated in several engagements and caught three blockade runners during her service, the first of which was the ill-fated “Evening Star” she took as a prize on May 29, 1863.

            Game Connection:   The Confederate player relies on his Blockade Runners to bring in cargo that translates into badly-needed Victory Points.  These points are vital to Southern production, as they can be traded in for the additional ships, batteries, cards and counterattacks needed to match the growing industrial behemoth of the North.   Gunboats play a key role in making it more difficult for these ships to deliver the goods, as gunboats can stack up in the Blockade Stations, thus increasing the odds of intercepting the Rebel vessels as they try to enter and then leave Rebel ports.

USS Cimarron, courtesy U.S. Naval Historical Center.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

 "Inside the Box" of Rebel Raiders by The Gaming Gang - and some "Wow" Praise

Jeff McAleer of The Gaming Gang has an 11-minute "inside the box" preview of Rebel Raiders.  His preview is very upbeat, and he says especially nice things about the Playbook  - "I love the GMT Playbook!" says Jeff, because it includes "historical info,"  "how to play the game," and "rules for advanced play."   All of that, says Jeff, "really helps turn a light bulb on in my head."

Two AARs of the game were posted on Consimworld this weekend.

"We'll definitely play again"

Allen Hill in his report called it "A fun game, not least for providing detail to the naval campaign while abstracting the land struggle.  The Union player has to be prepared to watch blockade runners and raiders roll successfully time after time, with nothing to do for it, but then the tide turns as the Union economy and land forces grow in strength and effectiveness. We'll definitely play again!"

"All I can say was....WOW!"...."What a great strategic game!"

Pat Kairns wrote in his comments: "It's rare that a game 'grabs me' as quickly as RR."...and "This IMHO is a MUST play game!"  "What a great strategic game" and "had a blast!"

Sunday, May 26, 2013

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

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

A Bad Day on the Mississippi....Union attacks repulsed; Ironclad USS Cincinnati sunk

May 27, 1863

            Historical Event:   Bad day on the Mississippi.   Bank’s ground assault on Port Hudson repulsed with heavy losses.  Porter’s fleet duels with Vicksburg batteries – USS Cincinnati sunk.
            May 27, 1863 was a bad day for the Union on the Mississippi River.  General Nathaniel Banks’s ill-conceived plan to rush the Rebel lines at Port Hudson resulted in the decimation of his army.  After losing nearly 1,850 dead and wounded, Banks called off the attack and resumed his siege.
            At Vicksburg, David Dixon Porter led a powerful force of ironclads to bombard Fort Hill, the city’s chief bastion on the water.  The at first inconclusive pounding turned to tragedy, as Rebel gunners sunk the USS Cincinnati  (pictured below, courtesy of  U.S. Naval Historical Center; the “action” shot is from the new stamp issued last week by the U.S. Postal Service).

            Game Connection:  Vicksburg is one of the key ports on the Mississippi the Union must take to win Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.  Due to the scale of the map Port Hudson itself is not shown, but is represented by the fort space at Baton Rouge, which incorporates both important locales between Vicksburg and New Orleans.
            Porter (USN Card No. 2) is represented as a leader and a card in the game, and counters represent his ironclads and other warships, as well as the Rebel ships and batteries, like that upon Fort Hill, with which they contended for mastery of the great river. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Game in New York City --- After Action Report to Follow

Yesterday I went to New York City and played Rebel Raiders with my friend Brandon, who knows more about all things naval than any other person (save one) I know. (That other one is Christopher Vorder Bruegge, another old friend who also served as historical consultant for the game).

It was a lot of fun to finally play with my own game in its published form.   I will be posting turn-by-turn after action reports of the game over the next week, in between "This Day in Rebel Raiders History" and other entries.  I figure it is better to present it in small bites, rather than put it all on the table at once.   Suffice it to say that we start out nice and slow, but the game gathers speed quickly, and Turn 7 (April 1863) was the real thriller -- where we dumped half of our hands in one battle.....

More the meantime, a good Memorial Day Weekend to all....

Thursday, May 23, 2013

PBS Airing Rebel, About a Confederate Female Soldier Turned Spy -
-and there are spies for both sides in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas

One of the perks of being a journalist is previewing television shows for PBS, and today on I posted one for Rebel, which airs tomorrow (Friday, May 24) at 10 p.m. on most PBS stations.

Told through dramatic re-enactments Rebel is the true story of Loretta Velazquez, "an Hispanic woman in a white man's war" as she described herself in her memoir, A Woman in Battle, first published in 1876 (and still in print).    Donning her late husband's uniform she enlisted as a lieutenant in the 7th Louisiana and fought at both Bull Run and Shiloh.  She later became a spy for the Confederacy - and eventually may have been turned into a double-agent by the Union.

Two well-known female spies of the war appear on cards in Rebel Raiders:  actress Pauline Cushman (USN Card 39: "All the World's a Stage) and Rose O'Neal Greenhow (CSN Card 82: "A Rose by any other name...")

For more on Rebel, follow the link below to my article:  (the illustration below is of actress Romi Dias, who plays Loretta Velazquez in Rebel; photo courtesy of PBS Voces).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Silly Ships of the Civil War

As one follower of my blog remarked upon seeing the picture of the USS Choctaw (see the posting for yesterday, May 20)  "it's hard to imagine that was an actual warship!"

Well, it was -- and Civil War ships are indeed a bizarre  and ungainly lot, as there are ironclads, cottonclads, timberclads, putt-putt steamboats, mortar-boats, fire-rafts, paddlewheelers, armed merchantmen, screw sloops, steam frigates, traditional sailing ships, ships that combined two or  three types of propulsion, gunboats, rams, raiders, submarines, dummy warships (like the "Black Terror") ocean-going tugs - and even an ocean-going ironclad raider -- the CSS Stonewall.....

Most of those bizarre ships appear in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, as even a cursory look at the countermix or cards will show.   

One of the things i loved most about designing this game was researching and reading about the ships...and the men who served aboard them...

For a scholarly yet entertaining look at these ships and how they fought, I suggest James McPherson's War on the Waters, which came out last year.  You can hear him (and Craig Symonds, another great Civil War naval historian) talk about it on this link:  I was present at their session at the New York Historical Society last October -- and I am on camera at the 39 minute mark asking a question about Rebel Admiral Buchanan and Commander Montgomery, both of whom appear in the game.

Monday, May 20, 2013

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

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

May 20, 1863

            Historical Event: Siege of Vicksburg.    
            After Pemberton’s retreat from Champion’s Hill (see the May 16 blog entry), Grant pressed forward, overrunning hasty Confederate works on the Big Black River on the 17th.  Federal engineers bridged the river and three Union corps crossed on the 18th.   Grant’s attempt to carry the fortified city of Vicksburg by coup de main on the 19th was a costly failure, resulting in nearly 1,000 casualties.  On May 20 the Union dug in, beginning the formal siege. 
            To complete the siege by water, Porter sent two ironclads (Choctaw and DeKalb) and four gunboats to attack the Rebel shipyard at Yazoo City.  The garrison set fire to the yards and to the three warships under construction rather than surrender them to the Union.

            Game Connection:
            Vicksburg is one of the three keys to the Mississippi, Federal control of which is one of the requirements for a Union victory.  Grant is in the game as a card (USN #8), and Porter appears both as a naval leader marker and as a card (USN#2).  Ironclads and gunboats are vital to both sides when battling for supremacy on the Mississippi.

Below is a photograph of USS Choctaw taken off Vicksburg in 1863 (Department of the Navy, Navy Historical Center)


Saturday, May 18, 2013

What Gamers are Saying About Rebel Raiders

Many of the gamers who have received and begun playing Rebel Raiders on the High Seas have been sharing their first impressions on Facebook, Boardgamegeek, Consimworld and other social media.   Here are just a few of them:

Run, don't walk, and pick up this great game. Would love to see a deluxe version with mounted map and BLOCKS - the Eurogamers will love it. 
-Jeff Newell, Seattle, WA

Good times and a good laugh. It's really that kind of game. You find yourself working hard for the win, but at the same time there's just such a high fun factor at
play that makes such occurrences something you can laugh about. Really liking
the cards. There's a nice "zinger" aspect to them, too. Just when you think
you have the perfect attack lined up, Bobby Lee and Stonewall show up. Good
-Peter Gade, Seattle WA

This game needs a VASAAL MOD asap! Pretty please?
-Joel Toppen, Gallup, New Mexico

...and again from Joel:
THIS is the Civil War game I've been wanting someone to design.  Wow!  I'm really impressed!  Best new game I've played this year.  And the bar is set high.  This is gonna be on the table for a while!"

If Marco (Marco Arnaudo of Boardgamegeek) likes it, you've done well. Fascinating topic, too. Geek seems to be down today, but I clicked on the examples of play on the GMT site to see if it was my cup of tea and it was confirmed.
-Darin Leviloff, Foster City, CA

It looks like a real winner!
-Kevin McPartland, Jessup, MD

It tells a great story about the Civil War …It's also the perfect way to sum up how the game plays. RR is not deterministic but it also doesn't stray into deeply alternate history. It's fun and yet a good teaching tool. You really will walk away understanding a dimension of the ACW that is usually missed
- Brandon Musler, NY, NY

Thursday, May 16, 2013

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

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

May 16, 1863

            Historical Event:  Champion’s Hill.  Two Union corps under generals McPherson and McClernand repeatedly attack Confederate forces on Champion’s Hill.  Although the combat is indecisive, Confederate general Pemberton decides to retreat – but instead of marching to link up with J.E. Johnston as ordered, he decides to fall back upon Vicksburg.  It is a fatal decision, as not only with the South lose the city in two months, Pemberton’s 20,000-man army will fall with it.

            Game Connection:  Vicksburg is one of the three key cities, along with New Orleans and Memphis, which the Union needs to take to control the Mississippi.  Taking those cites not only costs the Confederate player much needed supplies (represented in victory points lost through die rolls each turn)  but is also one of the key conditions of victory for the Union.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

GMT Sale -- Get Rebel Raiders for Half Price!

GMT is having a big sale - for a limited time order one or two games and get them at half off the list price...This offer applies to Rebel Raiders and Iron & Oak as well as their other games...this means you can game the Civil War on the strategic level with Rebel Raiders, and fight out most of the naval actions tactically with Iron & Oak  (as the rules in Rebel Raiders' playbook describes) -- all for the price of just one game!

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Hi guys!

We're having a ONE WEEK sale!!!! Here are the details:

GMT Games Twitter Celebration Sale!!

For those of you with Twitter accounts, you may have noticed that our account on Twitter (and Instagram) is now live. We invite you to Follow us to keep up with the GMT news on a daily basis. Here's the link:

We're happy to have expanded our social media outreach this week, and a bunch of you guys have helped us with background details and information and also with spreading the word, so we're going to have a "Twitter Celebration Sale" for EVERYONE to mark the occasion and to thank you all for your help with spreading the word and helping out with our social media expansion.

Details: Between now and next Wednesday (May 22nd), you can make ONE ORDER with either ONE or TWO IN-STOCK GMT GAMES, and get those games for 50% OFF the retail (or sale - the games on our Specials page DO qualify) price.

Note: this only applies to IN-STOCK games, and only games from GMT, not from the third-party companies (Consimpress, UGG, etc) that we rep on our website.

Coupon Code: When you place your order on our website ( or with our office ladies (800-523-6111 or 559-583-1236 or via online chat from our website), use the following Coupon Code at Checkout to get your discount:


Normal Shipping Costs apply.

I hope you guys can use this opportunity to pick up a game or two that you've been wanting at a terrific price! Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

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

May 14, 1863
            Historical Event:   Rebel raiders expelled from England!

Succumbing to growing popular pressure to curtail ties with the South in the wake of Lincoln’s issuing of The Emancipation Proclamation, construction of Confederate raiders in English ports is halted by order of Her Majesty’s Government.  The chief Confederate agent for those in England, Commander James D. Bullock, CSN, is told his ships will not be confiscated, as the Union has asked, but will be allowed to sail for France, where construction may continue, subject to the whim of Emperor Napoleon III.

            Game Connection:  No game of the Civil War would be complete without a nod to The Emancipation Proclamation.  The Union player can enact it starting in 1863 upon capture of a Confederate city or port.  Among the many benefits the Union obtains from this act is the enhanced abilities noted on USN Card 55 (Diplomatic Pressure).   As noted on the card, the Union selects one of the two European port boxes and places a marker there, not only closing it to the South for the duration of the game, but also allowing him to roll a die for each Rebel ship in that port which will result in either it being seized or forced out to sea.