Friday, June 28, 2013

The Ships of Rebel Raiders   -  The Banshee

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas is a strategic game of the Civil War which focuses on the role of the navies on the rivers, along the coasts and on the oceans.  While most ships are represented by generic counters for Ironclads, Blockade Runners, Gunboats, Screw Sloops and, of course Raiders, there are cards and corresponding counters for many individual vessels.  This series presents those cards and offers a glimpse into the history of these storied ships.

The Blockade Runners – The Banshee

The Banshee (CSN Card 68) was one of the first ships built specifically to run the Union blockade.  She was also one of the first commercial vessels to build of steel.

 Under Joseph W. Steele the ship made eight successful runs, giving her owners their investment seven times over.  After a transatlantic maiden voyage in April 1863, most of her runs were from Bermuda or the Bahamas into Wilmington, where she was caught later that year on her ninth and final run by the USS Grand Gulf.  Taken to New York as a prize, she was purchased, armed and rechristened by the U.S. Navy as the gunboat USS Banshee, under which name she joined the blockade in Chesapeake Bay.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Ships of Rebel Raiders   -  The CSS Advance

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas is a strategic game of the Civil War which focuses on the role of the navies on the rivers, along the coasts and on the oceans.  While most ships are represented by generic counters for Ironclads, Blockade Runners, Gunboats, Screw Sloops and, of course Raiders, there are cards and corresponding counters for many individual vessels.  This series presents those cards and offers a glimpse into the history of these storied ships.

The Blockade Runners – The CSS Advance

Most blockade runners made a profit by their second voyage; the CSS Advance (CSN Card 67) made 20 such successful runs, making her one of if not the most profitable of all of those ships that ran the Union blockade.   A side-wheel steamer built in Scotland as the Lord Clyde in 1862, she was purchased by the state of North Carolina and renamed in honor of its governor, Zebulan Vance.   She eluded capture on over 40 occasions before her luck ran out on September 10, 1864 off Wilmington, where she was caught by the gunboat USS Santiago de Cuba.  The Union impressed the ship into service, refitting and rechristening her as the gunboat USS Frolic.  She finished out the war, ironically, enforcing the blockade.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Ships of Rebel Raiders   -  The Don

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas is a strategic game of the Civil War which focuses on the role of the navies on the rivers, along the coasts and on the oceans.  While most ships are represented by generic counters for Ironclads, Blockade Runners, Gunboats, Screw Sloops and, of course Raiders, there are cards and corresponding counters for many individual vessels.  This series presents those cards and offers a glimpse into the history of these storied ships.

The Blockade Runners -  The Don

With few arsenals or factories of its own, the Confederacy relied upon European manufacturers for much of its war material as well as other vital supplies.  As European vessels would not cross the Union naval blockade to deliver those goods into Southern ports, the South relied upon a fleet of swift merchantmen to “run” the blockade.  

The Don (CSN Card 66) was a particularly fast twin-screw, two-stacker Blockade Runner.   Capable of 14 knots and drawing only six feet, The Don was hard to run down and could slip into coastal inlets to hide.  The vessel cost $115,000 to build, but made back that and more for her owners, who included the State of North Carolina and Francis Muir of Pudding Lane in London and on her first trip from England via Nassau in 1863.  Her 32-year-old captain, Fred Cory, made a second similarly successful voyage, but on his third trip his ship was caught off Beauport, on March 4, 1864, by the wooden screw gunboat USS Pequot.

On that final voyage the ship was packed not with weapons and munitions, but with uniforms, blankets and shoes, a cargo valued at over $200,000 – or twice what it cost to build The Don.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History  - Custer and Rebel Raiders

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

Custer and Rebel Raiders 

Today, June 25, is the 137th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  While neither Custer's Last Stand in 1876 nor the flamboyant boy general himself are represented exactly in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, the link to the Civil War is undeniable.   Custer was Gen. Phil Sheridan's favorite, his "go to" for bold action, and in that sense when any Union gamer plays US Card 11 - Sheridan ...they are in effect playing Custer.

Sheridan (standing, left) and Custer (seated, right)

Sheridan on horseback (the illustration used for Rebel Raiders Card 11)

Custer, wearing the stars of a brevet major general of volunteers on a uniform of his own design - complete with the distinctive red scarf tie that, as much as his perfumed yellow hair, would be his trademark.

Custer, of course, made his name 150 years ago next week, leading the Michigan Brigade in a series of desperate charges that brought to a halt J.E.B Stuart's attack on the rear of the Union lines at Gettysburg.  That battle is represented in Rebel Raiders by CSN Card 77 - Lee Moves North....

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rebel Raiders Rocks –
What Gamers Are Saying About Rebel Raiders on the High Seas – June 24, 2013

Good reports, congratulations and recommendations continue to flow in for Rebel Raiders on the High Seas;  here are some of the latest:

Rebel Raiders Rocks!
“Kudos Fred and Mark on this gem. Really captures the feel of the naval war, with lots of flavor and definitely a player’s game.”
-Darin Leviloff, Foster City CA (and designer of Soviet Dawn, Israeli Independence and Ottoman Sunset)

That Game Really Rocks!
“Charles and I just played about 2/3 of a game of Rebel Raiders (it’s set up on my table until we can finish it). That game really rocks! I’ll write more later, I just wanted to let you know I really enjoy it....I really enjoyed the game, can't wait to finish it. 
Chris Buhl, Pittsfield, MA

A Very Entertaining Game..Oodles of choices to make...
“A very entertaining game.  Oodles of choices to make and opportunities for variation.  I’ve started a second.”
-John Bolash, Consimworld

A Nail Biter Down to the Wire and We Had a Great Time With It
“Got to play our first full game of RR last Wednesday and had a great time with it.”
“A nail biter down to the wire and we had a great time with it.”
-Chuck Parrot, Winnabow, NC

This is a Game I Would Recommend to Anyone
“This is a game I would recommend to anyone. It is fairly simple to learn and understand, but it does not suffer from insufficient strategy and AP. You are constantly second guessing yourself and wondering what you could have done differently with each play.  Really well done game and one I think will hit the table a few more times.”
- Erich Vereen, Leland NC

And Cheers for the AAR too….

….and on the just-completed After Action Report of the game between the designer and naval historian Brandon Musler:

-“I must say this was one of the most exciting AARs I’ve ever read. It reinforces my desire to play RR to death.”
-Pat Kairns, Montreal, Canada

-“I think it says a lot (in a good way) that the designer wants to play his game after all the toil to produce it. I hear sometimes/often that is not the case”

-Steve Duke, Georgetown, Texas

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Musing on Victory – and the “immersive experience” of playing Rebel Raiders or

“ I Think Mahan Himself Would Have Heartily Approved”

By Brandon Musler

On the Design:  a “CFG” (Card Flavored Game) vs a CDG (Card Driven Game)

Overall, I was amazed by how immersive an experience playing Rebel Raiders could be. Normally, I do not favor CDG  (Cared Driven Game) designs, and I really like this new thing called a CFG  (Card Flavored Game) because it had its priorities in order: play mechanics informed and spiced up by cards.  I also liked that there were endless decisions to make, and you could recover from mistakes.

 I thought the whole brown water navy aspect to things was brilliantly conceived and designed -- it fascinated me how the designer encapsulated the entire western theater by blending a point to point subsystem with a CDG dynamic.  He really, really distilled a crucial dynamic of the land campaigns in the a game primarily focusing on the naval war.  I think Mahan himself would have heartily approved...but more importantly I feel I gained some crucial insights into a subject that I've never really been able to get my arms around before, despite reading Shelby Foote et al! And of course there was learning about the whole mercantile war via the raiders and runners.   

Union Play

First time players really ought to take the Union side because although the choices seem a bit overwhelming in the first half of the war, the enormous power of the Union industrial base makes it relatively easy to recover from a myriad of mistakes and power to victory in 1863 and 1864...or once Grant is on the board.  In other words, in the basic game we played (or without any of the many optional rules) it is a lot harder for the CSA player to keep morale up and get it right...

In the first year of the war when the Feds are down a die,  (and maybe the second when the odds are even,) it's probably a good idea to use Union attacks to take undefended port cities via amphibious assault. (The designer hinted at this repeatedly during our play, I believe, but I didn't hear it at the time.)  The risk is relatively low and late in the game it will leave the door open to pursue the maximum territory approach to victory.
Late in the game the designer reminded me that  the
Union need not take Richmond to win, provided it has 16 other cities (including Atlanta and the three on the Mississippi, which I did have).  At that point, however,  I had only half of turn 11 and turn 12 ahead of me, and would have had to shoot a 100% from the foul line (6 for 6, I think it was) so I chose the "On To Richmond!" path four years late...and then I got really, really lucky with Jackson getting killed etc...
 Final Thought:  Great Fun to Play

It was great fun to play, and refreshingly enlightening...pretty much everything I could expect out of historical board game. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 12 –December 1864)

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we left off, the South was burning.  Two Rebel attempts to retake Vicksburg failed. New Bern, Atlanta, Montgomery  and New Orleans fell to the Union, completing the Northern conquest of "The Father of Waters." It is, hopefully, the final turn, and if the South, in the negative victory point range, can manage to hold on to Richmond it can still squeeze out a win.

The Albemarle Sallies Forth!

Just to show the South can still fight at sea, Mark plays the CSS Albemarle (Card 75).  The only Southern Ironclad that can go beyond Blockade Stations and into Coastal Waters, it stands a chance of breaking a hole in the Blockade.  Brandon tries to stop her coming out of Charleston with Engine Breakdown (Card 47) but the plucky iron devil keeps coming, sinks the Union Gunboat on the Blockade Station and engages the single Screw Sloop offshore – which sinks her.   Perhaps Albemarle, too, was built by Acme – Charleston Branch.  (That same Sloop catches the Blockade Runner that was trying to get into Charleston).

Once More On To Vicksburg

The Rebel Counterattack is launched once again at Vicksburg.  Should this counter-attack fail, Baton Rouge, Corinth and Meridan will “wither on the vine” as they have no cities to supply them…and with them will go the Ironclad CSS Virginia, which retreated from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.

Third time, it seems, IS a charm – and the South regains Vicksburg!  Virginia promptly works up steam and goes in to help defend the regained city – which in the Build Phase gets the one Battery the South can still build (losing Atlanta reduces Battery builds from two to one; loss of Richmond would cost the other).

The South is still in negative VPs  but is not dead yet.

One More Push

The North is in a pickle.  It has two ways to win:

-1.  Take 16 of the 20 Rebel cities, which MUST include all three key Mississippi cities (Vicksburg, Memphis, New Orleans), PLUS EITHER Richmond OR Atlanta, and have the South at negative VP.  OR

-2. Take the three key Mississippi cities (Vicksburg, Memphis, New Orleans), PLUS Richmond AND Atlanta – and if the South is at negative VP at that moment the game ends immediately.

Ten cities are in Yankee control, so to get the first it would need Six Assaults – Brandon shows that he has the Sea to Shining Sea (Card 24) that would give him two assaults in ADDITION to the Four he bought – however, the two extras are only good for attacking Ocean Ports in bonus Amphibious Attacks.     It is a great card, but he would need to win ALL SIX battles (one of them Vicksburg) to meet the first victory condition.

Brandon does not bother; he announces he will go for Vicksburg and Richmond – although getting there means he has to take a space adjacent to the Southern Capital.  That means he must win THREE out of FOUR Combats.    Fortunately, however, Brandon has Loose the Fateful Lightning (Card 34), which gives him a FIFTH Assault where he needs it.

Five Battles  - and Bobby Lee

With his powerful Ironclad fleet on the river, Vicksburg, even with Virginia and a Battery, is no match.  It falls in one Assault.

Brandon takes his second attack on Fredericksburg – and runs into BOTH  Bobby Lee (Card 60) and Stonewall Jackson (Card 104).  The dice and re-rolls are too much for the North, and Brandon is repulsed….unfortunately for the South, however, Jackson is killed!

Assault number three is Fredericksburg again – this time, the Union takes it.

Assault number four is Richmond – and Lee holds!

The Union, however, has that fifth and final assault left thanks to Loose the Fateful Lightning….  the Union dice total is higher by ONE than the South…Can Lee pull off one last miracle re-roll to change the outcome.

Sadly, for the South, the answer is no….

On the very last die roll of the very last turn, the South Falls – victory to Brandon and the Union, which holds 12 cities – including the five all-important ones of New Orleans, Vicksburg, Memphis, Atlanta and, finally, Richmond.

 ....The Union is restored....

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 11 –August 1864, Part II)

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

The South is being rendered to shreds by the North.  With their stunning and hard-fought naval victory at New Orleans, the Union has complete control of the Mississippi.  Atlanta is next....but first, one more strike at the Coast, as Brandon continues his efforts to sweep the seas of Rebel Raiders and Blockade Runners...

New Bern – and Coeur de Lion

Using the Coeur de Lion (Card 44) to tow a bunch of Ironclads, Brandon hits New Bern on the Atlantic Coast.  The “blizzard of fire” as one bystander watching over Brandon’s shoulder remarks, sweeps the city clean of all traces of the Secession.

For good measure, Brandon hunts down Raiders, sinking one in the chilly waters of the North Atlantic.

The Burning of Atlanta

The Navy done, now it is time for the Army.  Grant takes Atlanta with ease.  The Union plays War is Cruelty (Card 6) to attack out of Atlanta into Montgomery; even with having one fewer die (as the card notes), the city is an easy capture, as there is no Battery and the South has no card to help. The special VP penalty Atlanta's loss entails does not faze the staggering Confederacy from a Victory Points' perspective - as they can not be driven down below negative 5 VP.   

Brandon bought four Assaults and used three (War is Cruelty gave a bonus breakthrough attack).  Seeing Mark’s Counterattack sitting there on the turn record, Brandon takes that fourth and final Assault into Augusta.   This is not a city but a fort space, but by taking it (and Montgomery) he has built a cordon around Atlanta – Mark will not be able to Counterattack that jewel of the South, with its now permanently razed arsenal, as he will have no place from which to launch his assault.

Brandon plays Gideon Welles (Card 29) to draw the top three cards from his deck; he keeps one, discards two, reshuffles and then draws four cards (it is 1864). He buys two more Assaults, and yet another card to build his hand to its maximum size of six (Cards may be purchased at a cost of 2 builds per).
To be Continued….

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 11 –August 1864) -- Yeee...haaaaw! & the Navy at New Orleans

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we left off, Memphis and Vicksburg had fallen – and New Orleans, though battered, repulsed a Union Assault.  The fabled Raider CSS Alabama, a picture of which appears on the cover of the game, however, was caught and sunk by USS Mississippi…

Yeeee…haaaaaw!  Fix Bayonets, Boys!

Mark bought a Counterattack for a reason, and plays it to try and take Vicksburg back.  Grant, whose Card 8 is still in play, however, has other ideas – and once again his re-roll ability snatches victory from the jaws of defeat.

Undeterred, like the Southern boys in Faulkner’s Alas, Babylon, for whom it is always 1 p.m. on that July afternoon, with that long, low slope stretching before them up to the copse of trees and Marse Robert waving them on, Mark tries again – playing Uprising! Rouse the State Militia (Card 103) launch a second counterattack at Vicksburg…but it fares no better.   The South loses Victory Points in both fights.

The Raider fleet, however, fares better.  Although one is sunk, they gain 9 VP for the South, and one plucky Blockade Runner actually manages to sneak in with 2 VP Cargo, bringing the South up from negative 5 to plus 6 VP…even after losing VPs for the Supply roll the South is in the positives, thus gets all three cards (it gets only two if in the zero or negative VP area).  Due to loss of cities, however, builds are down to four –which is enough for a Raider and another Counterattack.

The Battle of New Orleans – Ironclads vs. Screw Sloops

Brandon opens the ball for the bottom half of turn 11 with an attack on New Orleans.  Five Screw Sloops and a Gunboat go against the single Battery – but it is a trap!   Mark plays THREE Cards:  Infernal Machines (56), Manassas (71) and Virginia (75).   Up pop two mighty Ironclads!  Brandon responds with Black Terror (Card 25) which will at least draw away some fire as the Batteries fire at a dummy target.

The Infernal Machines give the South one die vs. each incoming ship – on a 5 or 6 that ship retreats and does not take part in the fight.   Mark misses each ship.

“This is what you get for making your slaves work on them Infernal Machines” says Chris, an onlooker who is sitting beside us and openly rooting for Brandon to win.  Or, as another kibitzer adds, “Confederate Infernal Machines suck swamp water!”

The Manassas is a ram; it can target one Union ship and if it wins a die contest send it to the bottom.  Manassas, it seems, was made by the same people who make the Infernal Machines – the Acme Corporation, Atlanta division.   It fares no better in shooting, although Virginia with its added pip on the die does sink a Screw Sloop. 

It is not enough.  The Battery is destroyed and Manassas sunk; Virginia is hit and uses its special ability to limp away to Baton RougeNew Orleans falls, and with it, the Mississippi; the South’s only consolation is that the additional loss of VPs do not hurt much, as the South bottoms out at negative 5 VP.

To be continued....

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Vive l'Empereur - and "Happy" Waterloo Day 7 p.m. tonight the Old Guard goes up the hill....


Rebel Raiders Replay Turn 10 (Part 2) April 1864 - DuPont, Conqueror of the Mississippi

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we left off, the mighty CSS Alabama, upon whom the Confederacy (and Mark) had pinned their last hopes for doing ANYTHING at sea, was caught and sunk on her maiden voyage by the largest warship in the U.S. Navy - USS Mississippi.  Now it is the Union turn, and Brandon is turning his sights to another Mississippi - the river and the Rebel fortresses that dominate it at Memphis and Vicksburg...

It is 1864, and the Union has four dice now in combat.  Brandon knows the clock is ticking, and comes on strong.

He comes back at Memphis again but this time plays DuPont (Card 54) to gain a big advantage (Rebel Batteries only fire one, not two, dice in the first round of combat).  With 5 Ironclads and a Gunboat he faces a Rebel force of 2 Ironclads, 1 Gunboat and 3 Batteries.  Two Batteries are destroyed in the first round, along with an Ironclad and the Gunboat, at no loss to the North.  Mark retreats his remaining Ironclad, sending it down river to Vicksburg.   Brandon completes the destruction of the defenses of Memphis, which falls easily and at great cost in VP to the South.

The Union keeps going with its second Assault of the turn.  The Union has so many ships on the river it almost does not have space for them…so down to Vicksburg they come.   The single Rebel Ironclad that survived Memphis and the one Battery there are no match for five Yankee Ironclads – actually, six, as Brandon plays the Tyler (USN Card 18) turning his sixth ship, a Gunboat, into a virtual Ironclad for the brief battle.

Vicksburg falls.   The South is once again in the negatives in VP.

Unvexed to the Sea?

With Memphis and Vicksburg gone, the North needs only New Orleans to complete its conquest of the Mississippi.  Six Screw Sloops come up river from Forts Jackson and St. Philip.  One is lost to the Battery before the Union warships smother it in shot and shell.  Incredibly, however, despite the advantage in dice and Union Tactics – New Orleans holds!

Brandon then turns to hunting Raiders, fails to find any, and spends his builds to buy four Assaults and an Screw Sloops.  He draws four cards, as it is 1864 (the Union gets that fourth draw in 1863 turns).Two Ironclads and a free Gunboat are placed in the Navy Yards.

Monday, June 17, 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,  

June 17, 1863 - Maiden voyage – and death ride – of the mighty CSS Atlanta.

            Historical Event:  The ladies of Savannah sold their family silver and jewels to pay for the transformation of the blockade runner Fingal into the mighty ironclad CSS Atlanta, (see picture below, courtesy Navy Historical Society) and they stood waving on the shore as she came down the Savannah River on her way to break the Yankee blockade.  The ironclad ram, fitted with a torpedo spar and four big guns looked imposing – but her engines, sadly, were not up to the task of navigating Wassaw Sound.  As she struggled to free herself from a sandbar, the Union monitors USS Weehawken and Nahant pounced.  The former’s 11-inch Dahlgren’s pounded the helpless Rebel warship, whose crew, though brave, proved no match for the Yankee Guns.

            Game Connection:  Confederate ironclads were notoriously underpowered, and that is reflected by USN Card 47 (Engine Breakdown).  Admiral Dahlgren, as commandant of the Navy Yard (which appears on the top right of center on the map) helped develop and produce powerful weapons which bore his name – as noted in USN Card 31 (John Dahlgren) and USN Card 3 (Yankee Guns).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 10 –April 1864) -The Alabama and "Damn You, John Wayne"

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When last we saw our valiant gamers at war, the North had swept the seas of Blockade Runners and had every Raider covered and surrounded.  Forts Jackson and St. Philip, the gateway to New Orleans, was burst open, but despite a massive force of Ironclads the Union could not blast away the Batteries at Memphis and assaults there and at Atlanta were both repulsed – narrowly, in ties, but repulsed still.

The South Holds and Now Alabama is in Play!

Although the old Blockade Runner fleet is no more, there are four new ones to try to bring home the desperately needed Cargo, along with five Raiders – four at sea and the Alabama ready to join them.

CSS Alabama is represented by a counter and a card (63).  Raiders get a plus 3 to the Speed Die Roll – making them hard enough to catch as it is – but Alabama gets one better!   There may be four Union Screw Sloops waiting off the Spanish port where Alabama has been readied for her maiden voyage, but Confederate confidence is high.

“Raphael Semmes is a Pirate We Say…”

Alabama was captained by the legendary Raphael Semmes, who had commanded the very first Raider (and only one to be armed in the South).  The Raider that begins the game in New Orleans at set up, is that vessel, the Sumter.   Unlike the real war, Sumter was caught on turn 1 (see turn one replay).  This time, however, Semmes has a better ship.

….unfortunately, Mark rolls a “1” when Alabama comes out to sea.  This is modified to a “5” – and while three of the four Union Screw Sloops roll less than that, one gets a “6” – and worse, it is no less a warship than USS Mississippi (Card 23), which, as the card correctly denotes, is the “Largest Ship in the U.S. Navy.”

Naval combat ensues.  Raiders get a single die, Screw Sloops two – although with Yankee Guns (Card 3) giving a re-roll of one die, this effectively gives the USS Mississippi a three-to-one dice advantage.  Worse, the most Alabama can score with her one shot is one hit – and Mississippi can ignore one hit in a battle.   Semmes’ only hope is that the Union ship misses and Alabama can then retreat and slip off into the night…

So how did the battle go?   Here is the song Brandon made up on the spot:
“Raphael Semmes is a pirate we say!
And we can prove it with his dead bo-day!”

More Bad News for the Confederate Navy

Their hearts broken by the demise of their hero and his fateful ship, the remaining four Raiders manage to scare up a mere two VP.  The four Blockade Runners fare worse: two get through with one VP each, and two others are captured.

Damn You, John Wayne.

In April 1863 Grant directed a Union colonel to take a brigade of cavalry behind Rebel lines to tear up railroads and burn supplies.  Grierson’s Raid was quite successful and one of the books written about it became the inspiration for the John Wayne 1959 movie, The Horse Soldiers.   Card 42 bears the same name.   Brandon plays it successfully at the start of the Confederate Turn 10 Build Phase, and as a result the South will build one fewer Battery this turn….

That single Battery goes – where else, but New Orleans.  Mark builds one Raider and buys a Counterattack, suspecting he will need it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 9 –December 1863) Part 2: The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we last left off, the North had driven Southeast from Nashville, taking first Chattanooga, then Kennesaw Mountain, placing the Union adjacent to the beating heart of the Confederacy - Atlanta.  Brandon had also swept the seas of ALL Blockade Runners - catching all 8 during the Rebel turn.  Mark has built a few more, and has put in play the mighty Raider ALABAMA! (whose picture appears on the cover of Rebel Raiders on the High Seas).   Now, the Union strikes...Brandon is confident that...

This will be THE Night They Drove Ole Dixie DOWN!

Atlanta, the biggest naval battle of the game so far…and off a Raider-hunting we go!

Half-singing the title and key line from Joan Baez’s classic folk tune as noted above, Brandon gleefully pulls off many of the Screw Sloops from the outer ring of the blockade to go hunting Raiders – and puts no fewer than FOUR off Spain, where Alabama will begin her maiden voyage.

The South now has Five Raiders, including Alabama, and while Brandon fails to find any of the four at sea, each is now covered by at least one Screw Sloop and most also have a Screw Sloop in one or more sea zones around them – this makes raiding much more chancy of a profession….as every time a Raider moves into or raids, it triggers a speed roll by any Screw Sloops present.

Forts Jackson and St. Philip

Despite sending so many big warships out into the Atlantic, Brandon still has enough in the Gulf that he can muster SIX to attack Forts Jackson and St. Philip.   The South plays Mosquito Fleet (Card 81) and doubles the size of the Rebel flotilla there (to TWO gunboats), and with the Battery makes a desperate and heroic – if sadly, doomed – stand.   The Gunboats are sunk, the Battery is destroyed, but they take down two Union Screw Sloops with them.

Atlanta and Memphis

The blue-water Navy actions done with, Brandon turns the Army on to Atlanta.  The South rolls a modified 8 on the dice (a “6” plus three ones – and triples add 2 to the high die total).  The Union Tactics play also yields an 8 – and Brandon decides NOT to risk a re-roll with Grant (as it would be both pointless and would only give the South victory points from the difference in dice).  Since the Confederacy wins ties, the first Union assault on Atlanta is repulsed!

Mark is visibly relieved, and picks up the dice assuming Brandon will come at Atlanta again with another assault – but he doesn’t!  Switching focus, he has Thatcher gather up SIX Ironclads and sends them into Memphis!

The Biggest Naval Battle of the Game -  Memphis!

Six Union Ironclads oppose three Rebel Ironclads with a Gunboat and three Batteries.   Brandon admits this is a “battle of attrition,” and pins his hopes on Yankee Guns (Card 3) and its re-rolls for one round of naval combat as selected by the Union to clear the way, if not for an Assault, then for a second wave of ships to come down the river.

Mark has several options here.
-(1) Hide the Fleet behind the Batteries.
If he does this, the Rebel warships will not fire but neither will they be fired upon.   The North can NOT make an assault along the River if ANY Rebel ships are present.  This would bring about a nearly even fight (six Ironclads, with one die each, vs. three Batteries, with two dice each, both sides needing “6s” on dice to hit), although with Yankee Guns the North would get one re-roll per ship it effectively twice as many shots.    

While the Batteries might lose they would weaken the Union fleet, which would still have to take on the Rebel Navy if an Assault is to be carried through on the city.

-(2)  Hide the Batteries behind the Fleet.
If he does this, the three Rebel Ironclads and single gunboat are surely facing doom, being outgunned in dice by three to one (six Ironclads, one die each per ship, one die each per re-roll) but it could knock one or two Yankee ships out, and leave the Yankee ironclads to face the Batteries without their re-rolls (each ship can only use ONE re-roll per battle with Yankee Guns). 

Unfortunately, should the Rebel ships go down, the North can still launch its Assault – although Brandon would surely go in for at least one or two rounds to try to take out the Batteries and thus improve his odds of hitting the city.

-(3)  All on the Line.
This third option puts every Rebel piece into the line.  It maximizes Rebel firepower and gives the Yankees more targets than they can hit, although as they can still pick and choose.   It gives the North the option to go all in for batteries or put everything against ships.  This is Mark’s choice.

The Big Battle Commences:  man-o-war a man-o-war

Brandon decides to go man-o-war a man-o-war (and Battery).   He puts one Ironclad against each Battery and Ironclad.

In Round One, with Six initial dice and five re-rolls, Brandon manages to sink only 1 Rebel Ironclad.  The South, with Ten dice (two per each of the three Batteries, one per each of the four ships), returns the favor and sinks 1 Union Ironclad.

Round Two sees the Union miss entirely, and lose an Ironclad.  

Brandon retreats his four remaining Ironclads…thus ending this, his second Assault of the turn.  He still has two more Assault cannon, however, and this time he comes in by land.

With three Batteries still intact, that is three dice to add to the normal two for Confederate defenders.  The Union has only three dice (it is still 1863)….the result is a tie; the Union is repulsed.

 “Live by the dice, die by the dice” murmurs Brandon, who spends his builds to replace the two Ironclads and one of the Sloops he lost, and to buy a third Assault for next turn.

To be Continued….

Friday, June 14, 2013

Triple-Posting:  Flag Day, This Day in History and Replay Turn 9

Happy Flag Day! 
 This Day 150 Years Ago in Rebel Raiders' History: Lee and Longstreet Cross the Potomac

Historical Event:  On June 14, 1863, Lee and Longstreet crossed the Potomac into Maryland, a fateful step that in just over two weeks would bring them to the fields of Gettysburg.

Game Connection:    General Robert E. Lee appears on two cards:  Bobby Lee (Card 60) and Lee Moves North (77); Longstreet has his own card (Card 79).   Bobby Lee allows the South to re-roll dice in combat, while Longstreet adds a die.  In 1861-63 The Lee Moves North card prevents the Union from making attacks near Richmond for the turn (reflecting their need to respond at Antietam and Gettysburg); in 1864 it merely costs the Union an attack pawn (which accounts for Grant sending a corps to Washington to confront Jubal Early).

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 9 –December 1863)

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we last left off, the North had driven Southeast from Nashville, taking first Chattanooga and then Kennesaw Mountain, putting the Union adjacent to Atlanta.

The Few Just Keep Getting Fewer – Until There Are None

Eight Blockade Runners go down this turn!  Eight!  That lamentably for the South is EVERY Blockade Runner they had on the map!

Here is how they were lost:
-USS Unadilla (Card 17) catches one coming out of Mobile.  One Blockade Runner gets past the gunboats on the Blockade Station outside Pensacola only to be caught in the Gulf by USS Housatonic (Card 27).  The USS Powhattan (Card 21) picks off another, one loaded with 2 VP cargo, outside Charleston.  Runners are also caught going in or coming out of Tallahassee, Key West, Wilmington, and New Bern.  An eighth is also caught, but by this time Mark is not even bothering to write down where – it is just too sad.

The two Raiders at sea, as if things were not bad enough, manage to snag but a single VP among them.

Brandon is beside himself with glee, and two friends who stopped by to watch the game for a bit, tell him he can no longer complain about not rolling high enough on his dice.

The Southern VP total is so depleted that if not for the play of Lively Little Trade (Card 57) it would be down to zero. 

The South builds Batteries in Atlanta and Vicksburg, places the Ironclad built last turn in Memphis, buys a Raider and Four Blockade Runners and, just to show the South WILL rise again plays Card 63 – CSS Alabama!

(The famous Raider is depicted in full color on the cover of the game, and was along with CSS Shenandoah (depicted on Card 64) one of the most successful of all of the Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.

To be continued....

Thursday, June 13, 2013

 Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 8 –August 1863; Part II - The Union Turn)

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we left off, Mark was lamenting that Brandon was sinking Blockade Runners as fast as the South could build them, yet thanks to Cotton is King (Card 87) the remaining Blockade Runners managed to deliver a dozen victory points, to which the Raiders contributed another four.  Mark placed batteries in Chattanooga and Atlanta, expecting Brandon to build on his success at Nashville and strike at the heart of the Confederacy.

Grant Heads South(east)

Piqued that the South managed to get as much Cargo through as it did, Brandon sends his Gulf Squadron roaring into Galveston – wanting the Blockade Runner sitting there as much as he wants the city itself; he gets both and knocks the South down twice in Victory Points  (VPs) (from the victorious assault and the bonus die roll for taking the city).

That little bit of administrative tidying up done with, he plays All the World’s A Stage (Card 39) which allows him to draw two cards at random from the Rebel hand; one of which he must return but discard the other – in this case, the powerful Rebel Yell (Card 98) which would have given Mark three bonus cards.

Chattanooga beckons, and using the Siege Train (Card 48) to add a fourth die and Union tactics (giving up two of those dice to gain a plus 2 advantage to his highest die) Brandon  attacks!  What would have been a tie (and thus a Union repulse) is saved by Grant (Card 8) who by virtue of his re-roll snatches victory from the jaws of defeat – and the city falls.  Again, the South loses precious VPs both from the battle and from the loss of the city.  

The South takes some (very) small Southern Comfort as the Union fails the die roll that would have allowed Brandon to keep the Siege Train card, and back into the deck it goes.

 Hardly pausing to shrug off this minor disappointment, Brandon presses on to attack the undefended space at Kennesaw Mountain, which easily falls – and this costs the South a pair of VPs due to the difference in battle dice.  This space is important, as it is adjacent to Atlanta – the jewel and iron foundry of the South.  Its loss would be dearly felt by the Confederacy, for so many reasons.

Brandon places the two Ironclads he built last turn in the Union river ports, along with the free gunboat the North gets there each turn, and places the two Screw Sloops he also built last turn, along with a free gunboat, in the Navy Yards.  He buys TWO extra Attack Pawns – meaning he will be able to conduct FOUR Assaults next turn.

To be Continued….

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 8 –August 1863)

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we last left off, the South was reeling from the loss of Nashville – whose capture took no less than three assaults (two by river and one by land) in one turn to secure.  The capture of the city allowed the North to declare the Emancipation Proclamation, thus further hampering Southern efforts to bring in badly needed cargo from abroad...

Blockade Runners – We Few, We Happy Few…

While there are still at least a few (oh, how very few) Blockade Runners out there, Mark plays Cotton is King (Card 87) which increases the value of each Cargo counter brought home this turn by 1 extra VP.  Although three (fully loaded, of course) Blockade Runners go down, five get through – and thanks to King Cotton they unload 12 VP.   Raiders manage to scramble about for 4 more VP.

Of course one problem with being one of the “few” is that the band of brothers keeps getting fewer….

After losing 5 VP on the Supply roll (an attrition roll to reflect on the cost of maintaining the war effort) the South has 35 VP left – and Mark cashes in 20 of them to start another Ironclad.  Batteries go down in Chattanooga and Atlanta, to attempt to build up a line of defense against the now unleashed Grant, who may strike out of Nashville toward the Confederate heartland. Four Blockade Runners, bringing the total in play to eight, and a Raider are built.

The Rebel deck is reshuffled as per Cotton is King.

Tomorrow, the Union half of the turn....To be continued....

Tuesday, June 11, 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.

June 11, 1863  -  Grant Brings Up the Big Guns

            Historical Event:  As the siege of Vicksburg tightens, Grant brings up two monstrous 10-inch Columbiads and places them in firing positions a mere 100 yards from the Rebel front lines.  The huge guns begin pounding the city daily, forcing its civilian population to dig underground shelters.

            Game Connection:  Union Card 48 – Siege Train – gives the Union an additional die in assaults by land.  This bonus can be decisive, especially when faced with heavily defended cities such as Vicksburg, one of the keys to victory in the Civil War, just as it is in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 7 –Mid-game Pause and Assessment)

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we last left off, the South was reeling from the loss of Nashville – whose capture took no less than three assaults (two by river and one by land) in one turn to secure. 

The fall of Nashville means more than just battering open the gates to the largely unprotected heartland of the Confederacy.  It also allows the Union player to declare the Emancipation Proclamation.  Here is a brief note as to what that means, and an assessment of the game’s overall situation as the players cross the midpoint.

Emancipation Proclamation

The capture of a city in 1863 allows the Union to declare the Emancipation Proclamation – which Brandon does.  This removes the Trent and Royal Navy cards now in play – and forever removing the threat that the North will again have to send three Screw Sloops that had been placed on the later earlier in the game.  Maximillian is also removed from the deck, and both sides reshuffle all discards.  In addition, two of the six 2VP cargo markers are removed from play, which, combined with the nearly complete destruction of the Blockade Running fleet, and the tight inner and outer blockade, all but put an end to the Confederate blockade running option.

All hope for VP to keep the South in the war now rests with the Raiders, who are being hunted mercilessly by killer packs of Screw Sloops… pack of which finds but misses one Raider, while another pair of stacks sinks two more Raiders.

The Union builds two Ironclads and buys a third attack for next turn….

OVER THE HUMP – Mid-game Situation

Rebel Raiders normally has 12 turns, although a 13th is possible through card play and die rolling.  Seven of those turns are now over, putting the game over the hump and past the midpoint.

In terms of cities, as August 1863 (Turn 8) dawns,  the South is not doing badly at all.  It has lost Island No. 10 and Fort Henry, and Louisville. It is not the loss of this shield but the capture of Nashville that truly hurts – for this opens up the Confederate heartland, which Mark has ignored in favor of building a strong outer ring.  It also allows the Union a shot at Memphis from the land side.  This means that even if the Union fleets do not manage to sink the Rebel ships (two ironclads, two gunboats) the Union Army can take its chances against the Batteries.

On the coast, only St. Augustine has fallen, but the blockade is solid.  Every Blockade Station on the Atlantic and most on the Gulf has one or more ships on patrol, and there are one or two Screw Sloops offshore in each zone as well.  There are very few Blockade Runners left, and with Emancipation Proclamation reducing the number of 2 VP cargo available, things look very bleak for the smuggling trade.   The Raiding fleet has been decimated, and the Union has strong forces sweeping the seas.

While the South has a long way to go before falling,  the tide has turned…..

To be continued…. (Illustration below is a (fuzzy) bird's eye view of the situation)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Wow!" and other nice things gamers are saying about Rebel Raiders on the High Seas

-We pause in our continuing coverage of the replay of a game between the designer and a naval historian to note and acknowledge some kind words posted about the game:

- Jean Leviathan of Lublin, Poland

"Oh, now you've gone and made me want to buy this.  My wife will not like you."
-Barry Kendall, Lebanon PA

"It's an easy system to teach and learn.  As others have said, 15-20 minutes and we're good to go! If anyone likes tension in a game they will love Rebel Raiders."
-Pat Kearns, BGG

and also from Pat:

 "Happy to read that a module" (for Vassal) "is in the 'works.' I (and others) will patiently await its arrival as I go about teaching the game to a few more eager friends"

-Thank you all, and I hope you all continue to enjoy playing Rebel Raiders on the High Seas!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 7, Continued)

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we were last here, the North had just retreated from its abortive naval attack on Nashville…a battle in which three Rebel and two Union cards were played.  Brandon, however, pulled back the remnants of one fleet only to come on again with a fresh force…

Turn 7  (Part II)  The Second Battle of Nashville:  – Gunboats vs. Batteries

Brandon may have retreated from his first attack, but he is not done with Nashville.    He has a SECOND fleet on the river - with one Ironclad and five Gunboats….and in they come to fight the two remaining Rebel batteries.

The battle opens with a mighty cannonade of rolling dice and….
Every shot by every ship and battery in round one MISSES!

Round Two:  One Union Gunboat is sunk.  Yankees miss.
Round Three:  Three Gunboats go down.   No Batteries are hit.

The much-reduced Union fleet retires.

A lesser man (say, a Halleck or a McClellan) would call it a day – especially after losing two battles and two-thirds of the fleet in that second battle, but Brandon is made of sterner stuff.  Even if he can not weaken the city sufficiently by water, he will try by land….

Third Nashville  -  On Comes Grant and his Big Guns

The Union always gets two attacks a turn but Brandon, however, as is good practice for the Union from 1863 on has bought a third attack (the North can buy enough to make four attacks per turn).  He comes at Nashville by land, with Siege Train (Card 48) and Grant (Card 8).  He uses Union Tactics (which is a rule, not a card, giving up one of his dice to gain a +1 to the highest die he rolls).   Mark rolls higher…but Brandon throws down “Willing to Fight”  (Card 5) which allows the North to re-roll..and comes back in again – and Nashville FALLS!

It took five of the six cards in Brandon’s hand to take Nashville … but he got Siege Train back into his hand (a property of the card if victorious and with a decent die roll) and now Grant is out in the open, face up.

Having kicked open the door to the Confederate heartland (which is entirely undefended) presents the Union with many possibilities, and also allows for the declaration of the Emancipation Proclamation....the consequences of which, along with the mid-game strategic situation, will be discussed in the next posting....

To be continued….

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay  (Turn 7)

Designer Mark McLaughlin as CSA; Naval Historian Brandon Musler as USA

When we left off, the South was suffering from an increasingly effective Union blockade, and girding itself for the terrible swift sword the North is preparing to wield at the dawn of the new and fateful year - 1863

Turn 7 – April 1863   “The Yankees Are Coming!”  - The First Battle of Nashville

The Confederate submarine David  (Card 65) tried to open a path on one Blockade Station, but failed. Three more Blockade Runners are caught.  The Raiding fleet, now being hunted and shadowed, manage to snag only 3 VP – and what Blockade Runners made it home brought in a mere 2 VP.     The South is now done to single digit VPs, which means no more heady bonus buys of batteries and ironclads!

Fortunately, the Tredegar Iron Works (Card 95) is once again drawn after having been reshuffled into the deck, and that again means a third battery – so Norfolk, Wilmington and Mobile get strengthened, and 4 Blockade Runners and a Raider are built.

“The Yankees Are Coming! The Yankees Are Coming!”

With the number of dice thrown in land combat now finally to the Union’s advantage (it increases in 1863 and again in 1864) and his wall of ships on blockade firmly in place, Brandon begins the great push – and last turn he paid build points to allow him to make a third attack.   The first target is Nashville:

Battle of Nashville – Ironclads vs. Batteries; Five Card Stud or "You Shall Not Pass!"

Brandon now has FOUR Ironclads on the river, and with a pair of gunboats they sail into Nashville – which has three batteries.

Proclaiming loudly "You shall not pass!" Mark empties half of his hand to defend the city – playing Infernal Machines (56), The Mosquito Fleet (81) (which adds a Gunboat on a die roll) and the Hulks, Rafts and Chains  (110) CardsBrandon makes one of his Ironclads The Carondelet (Card 15) and plays Queen of the West (38) to turn a gunboat into a ram.   This makes FIVE cards being played out of the 12 held by the two players.

 The Infernal Machines force one Ironclad and one Gunboat to retreat.  The Queen of the West misses ramming the Rebel Gunboat.   In the exchange of fire the Union loses an Ironclad and a Gunboat, the South loses its sole Gunboat and one of the three batteries.

Brandon decides that his two surviving Ironclads are not enough to take on the remaining two batteries --- as the Union would have but one die each vs. two die per Battery.  He retreats, but only so he can unleash a second, fresh force…as we will see next time in Turn 7 (Part II) – The Second Battle of Nashville.

To be continued…