Friday, October 11, 2013

Running the Blockade – in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas

A gamer who ordered and “eagerly awaits the arrival” of Rebel Raiders on the High Seas asked if and how the game system handles the vagaries of running the blockade,  and the abilities of Blockade Runner captains to find “the ideal moment of tide, moon and wind to make the dash to open sea” and to navigate the “danger of a dark shoreline” on the way back in.

Blockade Runners have an advantage over the Union patrols, in that in the die roll to evade interception they gain a +2 and win ties.  That means if they roll a 4 or higher, they are safe, and if they roll less, the North still has to beat them by 3  (i.e. if a Blockade Runner rolls a 1, the Union ship needs a 4 or better to catch her).  In addition, there are some Blockade Runners that are even more difficult to intercept, as are represented by certain cards.  Here are a few examples:

The Don (CSN Card 66) was a particularly fast twin-screw vessel.  Capable of 14 knots and drawing only six feet, The Don was hard to run down and could slip into coastal inlets to hide. 

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

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 (ironic how the name and the ship match) the ship made eight successful runs, giving her owners their investment seven times over. 

CSS  Robert E. Lee (CSN Card 69)  began her career as a blockade runner in  the fall of 1862.  For nearly a year the schooner-rigged, iron-hulled, oscillating-engine, double-stack paddle-steamer ran in and out of North Carolina’s inlets and harbors to bring in war materials and other desperately needed supplies.

The Union, however, had gunboats and sloops that were expert at catching these ships, and many of them are in the game.  The Union can also stack ships in the Blockade Stations off the ports, and can either roll one die for each ship or roll a single, modified die for the stack – the bigger the stack, the better the chance on that die.   The Union can also set up an outer blockade in the Coastal Zones; the sloops there can do not get the modifier for a stack, but each ship does roll.

Eventually, in the game as in the war, the Blockade Runners DO get caught.  There are 17 Blockade Runner counters in the game.  In the last three games I played, we kept track, and the Union intercepted 30 to 35 of them; which means that every Blockade Runner the South started with and built was caught not just once but TWICE….

Many of the Blockade Runners (all but one of the above, for example) were captured and pressed into service on the blockade stations.

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