Saturday, August 31, 2013

Build Batteries or Invest in Ironclads? A Key CSA Conundrum In Rebel Raiders on the High Seas

Each turn in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas both players are faced with making choices as to how to spend their builds.  The South has two arsenals, Richmond and Atlanta, each of which gives the Confederate player either a Battery to place on the map immediately or an Ironclad – which is placed on the turn record track to come in during the next Rebel build phase.   Several players have been debating the merits of Batteries vs. Ironclads. 

Before reading what Pat Kairns and John Bolash have to say, readers not yet familiar with the game should know the following:

Characteristics of a Battery

-a Battery is immobile.  Once placed it may never be moved.
-a Battery adds 1 die in land combat to the Confederate defense.
-a Battery is destroyed in land combat should the Union win the battle.
-a Battery rolls two dice in combat against ships
-a Battery is only destroyed in combat against ships if one of the ships targeting it rolls at least one “6” on a six-sided die.
-a Battery can be taken out by play of the Union mortar boats card (USN Card 2)

Characteristics of an Ironclad:

-an Ironclad may move along the rivers; although a Union Ironclad may be towed at sea from port to port, a Confederate Ironclad may not go to sea.  It may attack the Blockade Station off its port, but except for one special Ironclad (CSS Albemarle, CSN Card 75), no Rebel Ironclad may enter a Coastal or High Seas Zone.
-as long as an Ironclad, or any Confederate warship, is in a port, the Union may not complete an Amphibious or River attack on the port – the Union Navy can attack Batteries and other warships as part of its Assault, but it cannot complete the final round of that Assault – the round to take control of the Port.
-an Ironclad rolls one die in ship combat
-an Ironclad is only destroyed in ship combat if one of the ships targeting it rolls at least one “6” on a six-sided die.

There are cards that help and hurt Batteries and Ironclads.

The Rebels can trade in 20 Victory Points accumulated from their Blockade Runners etc. to purchase an Ironclad or Battery.  The Rebels can never place more than one Battery in a space in a turn, nor can they place more than one Ironclad  (other than through the play of a card).

That said, here are two views by gamers:

First,  Pat Kairns:

Rebels “Have the toughest turn-by-turn choices for their Build Points”
As I said in my summary of the early game back when I started this, I think the Rebels in particular have the toughest turn-by-turn choices for their Build Points, especially when it comes to choosing between a Battery and an Ironclad. This has given me an idea to ONLY build Batteries in a game until I run out of them & see how well the Union LAND assaults do against 2 or 3 batteries stationed in key cities. Worth a shot and then I'll probably turn around and build a preponderance of Ironclads. Many, many options in this game; I just want to try the extremes.  

A well placed sudden Counter Attack by the CSA can really deflate the Union player's morale.... believe me, it's happened to me and I've devastated a few over confident Yankees.

Now, John Bolash:

“I almost never ‘waste’ my free batteries to build Ironclads”

As the Confederate player I almost never "waste" my free batteries to build Ironclads. Instead I can generally rely on the ironclads I get from cards (Manassas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Albemarle etc.). After about mid-1862 I build/buy and use counterattacks very often which typically frustrates and slows the Union. When the opportunity arises I'll attack to clear weakly held blockade stations typically with gunboat(s), but sometimes even with a Raider: in other words an active defense. What ironclads I receive from cards are mostly used to hold Mississippi River ports. I build three-battery stacks in Richmond, Atlanta, and at in least one Mississippi River port (preferably two of them), and two batteries in Mobile, two in Savannah, and at least one battery in each of the remaining ocean ports, and as I can one battery in each of the adjacent approach spaces to Richmond & Atlanta, including Chattanooga. 

Finally, The Designer:

Never underestimate the power of an Ironclad

While a Battery is arguably a better buy for the buck, never underestimate the power of an Ironclad. A single Rebel Ironclad on the Mississippi signals the start of an arms race; one the Union cannot afford to ignore.  Gunboats alone are very vulnerable, and can rarely defeat Batteries on their own – especially if there is an Ironclad fighting alongside or lurking behind the Batteries  (the Rebels can keep their warships protected and fight only with Batteries, or vice versa, or put everything on the line at once).

If the Rebels start adding to the Ironclad fleet on the River, the Union will have to more than match them or give up all hope of fighting down the Mississippi by river – they will instead have to slog by land, as Ironclads do not defend against an attack from the land route.  This, however, means the Union will need two Assaults (and it only gets two free ones a turn, and can buy at most two more):  one by River to use ships to knock out some of the Batteries, after which its fleet will either retreat from or be sunk by Rebel ironclads, which costs ships and Victory Points, and then a second Assault immediately following against the port from the land side – assuming the Union ships knocked out one or more of the defending batteries.  If the port falls, the Ironclads can retreat down river to the next port.

In an ocean port, an Ironclad on defense is less versatile – but still makes an Amphibious Assault against the port much more difficult – unless the Union tows in some Ironclads of its own.

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