At the WBC (World Boardgaming Championships) convention in
last week, I got into an interesting discussion about the role of Kentucky,
most notably Louisville, in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas (as well
as in other Civil War games and in history).
It began with this comment from my friend Evan:
“Why would any Rebel player in their right mind NOT invade
on turn one?” Kentucky
In Rebel Raiders as in many Civil War games the South goes first. That means it can get into
and take Louisville before the
North, presenting the Union with a fait d’accompli. In Rebel
Raiders the South takes it by simply placing in Louisville
one of the two batteries they can build in a turn. The South then rolls two dice, and loses the
difference in Victory Points.
Evan put forth the notion that this is a no-brainer move. It is an “in-your-face” challenge to the Union to take this initially neutral city, and it blocks the Ohio – which means any Union warships built in Cincinnati cannot join the Union fleet on the Mississippi unless and until Louisville is taken. In addition, he pointed out, it protects
“What Rebel player in his right mind doesn’t take
on turn one?” He reiterated.
I answered: “me.” Louisville
While Evan is not WRONG, I see
not as a speed bump but as a trap play.
Union never has to take Louisville
back from the South – not to win, not even to attack Nashville
– which can be assaulted by hitting Forts Henry and Donelson out of Cairo. So that means the battery may never fire a
shot, and that he Victory Points lost will never be recovered.
Second, if the South does not take
the North might just be tempted to grab it – and that uses up one of their
attacks (although in 1861 their attack odds are poor, they can still get lucky
in a fight in an undefended port or fort space). It also means the North has to roll two dice,
and give the South the difference in the roll as Victory Points. The maximum difference is only FIVE
– but that is enough to build a Blockade Runner or Gunboat for the South. It is as much as five Blockade Runners can
bring home in a turn from going to any ports other than the two big European
Third, the battery that is used to take
for the South is better used anywhere else:
at Nashville or Forts Henry
and Donelson, for example, or at Island No. 10 or Memphis
– and that is just in that same theater of operations. In addition, compensating for the Victory
Points expended to take Louisville,
as noted above, means extra work for the Blockade Runners – or, if the
difference between the dice is the full Five, it means it cost the South a ship
it could have built – either a gunboat for defense or a Runner to make points.
The Yankee Case:
an easy victory and a jumping off point. Louisville
There are, of course, those who see
in a different light. A Union Louisville
does open up Cincinnati as an extra
shipyard to build up the Mississippi Squadron more quickly. It does threaten Nashville from the land side
– which means the South has to worry about Tennessee being invaded from another
direction, and if Nashville falls the North can immediately strike either
Memphis or Chattanooga before the South can react (assuming the North took
Nashville on its first attack of the two it gets each turn, or that the Union
purchased or has cards that give it additional attacks).
Bottom Line: Both Sides are Right
As in many games (and many wars) both sides make a good argument for why
Louisville is or
is not important. Next time you play Rebel Raiders, which way will you jump?
(Photo below shows a Union Louisville - top center, yellow square with round blue marker with white star - and a Union controlled Island No. 10, with a fleet at Cairo.)