I won. I can’t believe I did it, but somehow I won.
No, I did not win the Civil War as the South; in fact the South lost the war quite badly.* But the requirements for the North to win the game are brutally stringent to compensate for their overwhelming superiority in numbers, naval capabilities, and near infinite supply and rail capacity.
The final point different at the end of turn 19 was 71; the Union needs 75 more Victory points than the South by the end of the game to get a marginal Union Victory.** And yes, in the end, all of those points around the margins DID make a huge difference.
Jackson’s late war raids into Tennessee didn’t net any permanent point changes, but kept the bums Grant left in charge from taking any of the Deep South cities that would’ve been freebies. He did keep my dad from being able to double-score Alabama by taking back Decatur before Rosecrans took Montgomery, which was a huge deal. Before the end, he was wiped out, as was AS Johnston, both taken as POWs and with the latter the disgrace of losing not one but two whole armies to the Union foe.
The final battles in the east were a bloody mess. Grant, with a smaller force, attempted to lure Lee away from Richmond, all while wreaking havoc on my already scant supplies, but Lee had to stand against Sherman, who was leading the Army of the Potomac. Luckily, late war, I had managed to keep the odds against Sherman just narrow enough and was fielding great generals to my max modifier limit so that every attack resulted in a Union defeat. ***
The wildest part is that I can say Earl Van Dorn (historically an inept fool who botched things in my home state pretty badly until he was murdered by a jealous husband) actually won the game for me. In the last two turns, I managed to eke out a few extra points, with Hindman marching out from the fortress I’d built in Blytheville, AR to take Paducah, KY and AP Hill taking the Florida militia from Pensacola to liberate Meridian, MS. But the 2 Victory Points worth of cities Van Dorn took in Kentucky late-mid game and his last turn (nearly last move of the game, in fact) move to retake Norfolk and its 3 Victory Points were absolutely the difference between winning and losing.
So, what could my dad have done different to win? There are so many things that one wants to do in a turn of this game which one may not end up getting the opportunity to do for any number of reasons. Well, one thing I’m beginning to think after having played this game 3 times in my life now, is that battles between the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia tend to be strategically among the least productive moves either side can take: the North should be making marine invasions of the Deep South and the South should be trying to avoid pointless losses, as they get no reinforcements for the second half of the game. Had Curtis, who had given me so much trouble early-mid game, kept on marching south into the undefended swamps of Florida, there were more than enough victory points to win free for the taking. I could have never gotten anyone down there to stop even 1 or 2 SP of union troops. Also, if Rosecrans had sent any of his generals with independent commands to steal up some open cities. While Armies have their purpose, I think that one of the keys to winning is using one and two star generals to take small forces off in different directions to either lure the larger forces away or simply snatch up unguarded cities. Even if these small forces get crushed by a large one, they divert command points and attention away from more vital strategic goals.
Final score in the Far West? 2 points for burning down all of New Mexico for me, 4 points for burning down 8 forts in Texas and Oklahoma for my Dad. And hey, my stupid Mexican banditos finally did something and managed not to raise alarum, allowing them to burn down one of the 4 forts in New Mexico.
I was a bit worried about my current win streak, but my dad took things in stride, largely because it was such a hard fought victory and, I think, because Civil War has so much less to do with chance than many tactical games tend to. He got to win the war, I got to win the game, so it worked out nicely. Another amazing things about this game is how there is no “death spiral”. In games like Bar Lev, there comes a point where it’s clear that things will turn into an out-of-hand massacre, but Civil War, things are down to the wire: the Union cannot stop their full court press and the South cannot take even the smallest victory for granted. North? You have a navy and twice the manpower, so why aren’t you in Atlanta RIGHT NOW? GO GO! South? You have two great Army generals and a handful of magnificent bastards at the Brigadier and Major General Ranks, so try to keep at least two Confederate States from being burned completely to the ground. Remember how you kept getting less reinforcement than the Union for the first half of the game? Enjoy getting no reinforcements for the second!
What are we going to play next? I’m not sure. We might play Bismark, but as a boardless naval wargame, if we can’t conveniently play it in a space that doesn’t require hunching over two tables spread across a pair of double beds, we might need to try something else. Maybe even Dragons of Glory? I do know that my dad wants to play some more Ogre to cleanse the palate. My dad will be out of town for a few weeks to have an honorary 33rd Degree conferred on him, so I’ll have some time to study some rules and come up with ideas for our next game.
*The only way the South “wins the war” is if they can keep the point spread to less than 50 by the end of the turn 17; if this occurs, Lincoln has lost his election bid to McClellan’s peace ticket. Any victory for the South on turn 19 is strictly in game terms.
**: As mentioned before, the way that victory points are scored are handled in such a way that the South doesn’t get very many, while the Union racks up a lot (because they’re going to be doing most of the conquering).
***: Remember what I said about low-random probability? If my dad had bothered to check the combat charts, he would’ve seen that it would have been impossible for me to deliver worse than D3 casualties against him so long as I could keep 10 SP and remain a “large force” unless he managed to get a few column shifts via terrain. With weak odds, your best bet is to amass commanders with bonuses, who will ensure that your results are good despite your rolls. My dad never got many leaders with modifiers with his armies, so even on his best rolls, he was getting around 6 or 7, while on my worst rolls, I was getting 7-8. With Lee’s 3 rerolls per encounter, it generally meant getting between 9-12, (1d6+6 with 3 chances to reroll!)