The situation in the South continues down its dire course to oblivion. On Turn 17, Lincoln’s re-election is almost a shoe-in. That’ll give me at most two turns to try to scrounge enough minor victories to off-set the fact that the entire South is on fire.
How bad is it? So bad that it’s actually become difficult to figure out what parts of the South are in supply and which are not. There’s actually a rule for that: supply is any area in which at least 9 victory points worth of cities are connected by rail. As such, the entirety of the South is out of Supply except for a small pocket around Virginia and North Carolina.
After the Yankees had finished picking apart the undefended heartlands of Mississippi, they set their sights on Alabama. Johnston & Jackson and a few thousand men were about all that stood between the Union onslaught into Alabama and Georgia, and Johnston ended up having to surrender his sword to Lyon upon the destruction of the Army of Tennessee in Chattanooga. Unfortunately, Albert Sidney Johnston in this game is dishonorable cur, who showed up next turn to take over the Army of Mississippi from Jackson (I made the fatal mistake of forgetting that he was one of my only leaders in the leader pool when I drew a leader to place with Jackson; AS J outranks Jackson, and therefore assumes army command. Unfortunately, Johnston costs 1 more to move, ruining any chance that I could ever afford to move the Army of Mississippi back into supply). To rectify this late-war snafu by the besieged Davis, Jackson left the paperwork and title of “Army” with Johnston and a skeleton force, marched into Chattanooga, cutting off a Lyon who had been marching up the valley toward Virginia, and now threatens to liberate Nashville. Meanwhile, to escape the wrath of jealous husbands in Arkansas, Earl Van Dorn continues to wreak havoc in Kentucky. Though he’s out of supply and easily crushed if anyone actually opposed him, no one has the time or resources to stop him and his band of raiders from nabbing a few marginal victory points here and there.
I’ve managed to create enough trouble in Virginia by sending outriders to keep the Army of Northern Virginia in supply and have retaken Richmond, but there’s so little of the Confederacy that’s left in fighting condition, I don’t think I can hang on for three more turns, much less close the necessary gap in victory points.
One of the things I think I appreciate most about Civil War is how little of the strategic elements are left to luck. Luck really comes into play in a few places:
- Initial Command Points – While these are randomly determined, the spread tends to be narrow and balanced. Higher rolls (which tend to offer fewer command points) are balanced by the initiative bonus of having the first action.
- Turn Initiative & Reroll on Command Table – Though the initiative spread is random, getting more actions in a phase can sometimes be a good thing, other times be a bad thing. Winning initiative presents some advantage early in a turn, but can hamper in a longer turn. Though the South may often hope for short turns, getting bonus points by an initiative tie can sometimes be a blessing. In almost no case, unless it’s a perfect storm moment, can you really say that any result swings things heavily in one direction or another for a player.
- Commerce Raiders – Ships sunk by commerce raiders are determined at random, but these points are so much on the margin that rolls really average out over the length of the game. Sinking (or attempting to sink) a confederate commerce raider costs a lot of mobility for the Union for what might be a difference of 1 or 2 victory points over the course of the game.
- Injuns – The most random chance involved in the game is in the Far West theater. Roll to try to flip an Indian Tribe’s allegiance. Roll to see if Forts are alerted. High Roll wins in a fight against Texas Rangers. Roll to see a Fort is Massacred. If a Fort is Massacred, roll on the Massacre table to see what kind of Massacre took place. Lots of silly fun and rolling dice for what will typically amount to 2 or 3 points for either side over the course of the game. The Random element here does very little to impact the overall course of the game.
- Combat – You’d think this is a biggie, but it’s really not. While the combat table itself is spread over results of 1 through 12, there is actually very little variance between the results, especially when large forces are involved. It often becomes a battle to see who is left with the better of D2(demoralized, lose 2 SP) or D3. As such, combat becomes more about getting the right number of troops in the right location to take advantage of geography than rolling high consistently. Results are fairly predictable. More important is who has maneuvered into a position where they can deliver a demoralization one pulse, shake demoralization, and then have enough command points to move again in the following pulse to take advantage of any geographic development (tactical or strategic) that has opened up as a result of an opponent’s retreat.
- Leader Death – The probability of Leader Death is relatively low and determined by rank, but having to roll for every leader in a stack after combat means there’s a definite probability that someone really good is going to get hit by a stray bullet at some point. Losing a good commander is one of the few places where this game can screw you by fate.
But really, what all of this is to say is that I have no one to blame for my loss but myself. Not chance, but choice. But that’s one of the things I love about this game. While there is an element of random chance to add some excitement, so much of Civil War is directly related to strategy. One good or poor choice will have far more repercussions for turns to come than even a string of poor dice dice-rolling.
This week will probably conclude our game. I’m almost certain my dad is going to win, but he’s been amazed at how hard I’ve fought.