Guest Post, J. Comer – Cora Ives Semmes’ The Princess of the Moon: A Confederate Fairy Tale

The genre of sword-and-planet, best known from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom novels, is a frequent topic at Cirsova.  This kind of literature, of course, had its inspirations earlier.  One such was the ‘Edisonade’, such as Garrit P. Serviss’ Edison’s Conquest of Mars. These proto-SF tales featured interplanetary war, wild new technologies, and weird critters.  They served to introduce the ideas of adventures with new technology, and established the SF tropes of Earthlike life on other worlds and the inventor as hero.

Another forebear of sword-and-planet was lost-world and otherworld fantasy.  Several writers of this genre, including Rider Haggard, E. Nesbit and Charles Kingsley, wrote for younger readers.  Another was Cora Semmes Ives.*  Her 1869 The Princess of The Moon: A Confederate Fairy StoryThe Princess of The Moon: A Confederate Fairy Story is a proto-sword-and-planet fantasy.  

The pro-Confederate tone of this novel gave me pause.  Unlike Augusta Evans’ Macaria, it was not written during the War.  However, the author’s biases are clear.  Some readers would dislike the story for this reason.  However, I believe that this tale is worth study and will discuss the reason.  

Ives begins by stating that she made the story up to amuse children at Mecca Plantation.  A Southern soldier named Randolph wanders after the end of the War. He sees the Moon and wishes to flee there.  A fairy appears from the moon and gives him a flying horse in return for his devotion.  Randolph flies, sees the wrecked Confederacy from the air, and then heads to the Moon- a pacifistic utopia lacking war and slavery.  The fairy is the mother of the monarch (‘moon-arch’?).  Her granddaughter is the ‘Princess’.  The hero woos her in disguise, is captured, but wins the grandmother’s approval after a hallucination which resembles Muhammad’s Night Journey.

Thereafter the Yankees appear in balloons bearing carpetbags  (somewhat unsubtly). They bear with them a former slave of Randolph’s who is glad to see ‘old massa’.  The Yankees steal the Moon-folk’s silver spoons, but Randolph pleads for mercy, and the thieves are spared.  

What is it possible to say, a hundred and fifty years later, about a story as eccentric as this?  The plot is a stock fairy-tale with a winged horse, swordsmen, and a princess.  The hero is hardly a distinct character.  But there parallels to a later work.  A hero transported by a wish to another world?  A swordsman who flies around on his adventures and wins the love of a beautiful princess?  A Virginian Confederate officer?  The Princess of the Moon is echoed, decades later, by A Princess of Mars! I am unaware of any direct connection, but further investigation may be fruitful.  In closing, read this novel if you want to.  Recommended for connoisseurs of planets, swords, and oddities.

*:Daughter of Captain Raphael Semmes of the Alabama and wife of Joseph
C. Ives, Western explorer and Confederate officer.

Bull Run, pt. 3 (Wrap up)

In the end, Bull Run may have looked closer than it actually was. By the time the Union got moving and threatened my position in Manassas, I had far too much strength already bearing down on Centreville.

To make matters worse for the Union, the artillery regiments arrived with very little support, so that Hampton’s Legion and a few of Kirby Smith’s boys were able to ride out and harass the van while several regiments of confederate artillery made the odds astronomical. The benefits to this were two-fold: one Union infantry regiment routed was small potatoes, but having two regiments on the main road between the Union army and Manassas would buy at least a half hour before the Union could coordinate an attack on my camp. Worst case, Hampton routes, Kirby rallies his regiment back in Manassas while he sends fresh troops to stand in the way of the Union advance. The best case ended up happening and my troops on the road simply retreated back to the camp.

Further north, I had five brigades bearing down on Centreville. Jones ended up going fully around to the north from the east, forcing my dad to create a thin line to hold him off. Ewell kept pressure on the flanks with help from Holmes, while Jackson and Longstreet pressed upon on the Union camp with 8 regiments between them from the south. With Jones cutting off any retreat, the Union troops in camp were completely surrounded and surrendered around 4 in the afternoon of July 21, 1861. Presumably the bulk of the Union army spent the rest of the evening retreating round-robin by way of Sudley Springs in hopes of keeping Beauregard from threatening Washington.

Next week, we’ll be starting Air Assault on Crete. Now THAT looks like it will be one hell of a complicated game.

Bull Run Pt. 2

The first part of our playthrough of Avalon Hill’s Bull Run can be found here.

My dad & my first play through of Bull Run is turning into a big flanking battle: we’re each delivering a strong punch from our right as our lefts collapse.  The question is who will deliver the knockout blow first?

We’ve made it into early afternoon and don’t anticipate the battle reaching evening.  Bee and Bartow’s brigades were surrounded and routed from hillock just northeast of New Market, but they managed to slow the Union advance just enough to allow a number of highly beneficial pieces to fall in place for the Rebs.  EK Smith arrived by train in time to ensure that my camp in Manassas won’t be a gimme.  Stuart along with some of Smith’s rear-guard regiments have been able to pick off the union men who got too far ahead of their column.  Meanwhile, Longstreet and “Rolling Thunder”(as he will be known hereafter in this alternate universe) Jackson have been making a coordinated push through the woods towards Centerville as Beauregard has ridden out with Ewell to attack the Union HQ from the East.

Early game, Command Path rules did not seem like a huge deal, especially when regiments were being automatically activated by proximity to enemy units.  Mid game, this turned into a real game changer.  With Confederate troops suddenly eliminated from Henry Hill to Flat Run, the Union commanders suddenly found themselves at a loss for what to do.  McDowell had ridden out back across the river down Warrenton Pike to shepherd a desperately needed relief brigade towards Centerville that had four brigades bearing down on it, leaving the bulk of the Union Army without orders.  McDowell literally spent two hours riding back and forth while three and a half divisions of Union troops sat with virtually nothing between them and Manassas!

My own issues with Command Path seem rather minor in comparison.  With both Jo Johnston and Pete Beauregard respectively leading the charge and flank through the woods south of Centerville, my batteries overlooking Blackburn’s and McLean’s Fords, as well as the infantry guarding the Union Mills Ford, have been left without orders.


“First Bull Run July 21 am” by Hal Jespersen, CC by 3.0 via Commons

Bull run map

Troop movements from morning until early afternoon.  Crosses where Confederate Brigades have been routed.  (original image from BGG).

My dad thinks I’ve won.  I think he may still have a chance to dislodge Smith if plays a hurry-up offence.  I’ve gone for an all or nothing gambit, as there’s no way I can hold that little church (red starred hex, lower portion of 2nd map board from left) for another 10 or so turns.  I’m hoping I have enough numbers I can overcome even the relief forces reaching Centerville, but a series of bad rolls could stall me out.  We’re already talking about setting up Malta next time we get together, so this game will hinge on the next few turns around Centerville I’m guessing.

One last note, It turns out that there’s very little “rallying” going on.  It could just be the way we’ve been playing, but by noon, all of my commanders were too busy driving towards the enemy or too busy being dead/captured/fleeing for their lives to spend a turn rallying a regiment.  The great mid-day stall-out of the Union advance gave my dad a chance to pull a few guys from the Rally-box, but the overwhelming majority of guys who go there are probably gone for good.

Civil War pt8 – The South Wins! (Sort of)

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!)

Civil War pt 7

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Civil War Pt 6: The South is Burning


What I wouldn’t do for her help now!

My positive turns of fortune were quickly reversed by the might of the Yankee Military Industrial Complex.

Though Lee finally was able to take command of the Army of Northern Virginia in Maryland and leave Hood in charge of the Carolina forces, Union Ironclads made it impossible for to ferry supplies to the army. The raiders in Pennsylvania didn’t succeed in luring away more than a few troops away from the Army of the Potomac. Lee was forced to make his move and hope that McDowell was too inept to keep him from skirting the river south and take Washington. Alas, my dad succeeded on his reaction roll and McDowell managed to cut me off. Bloody skirmishing ensued that ultimately led to Lee being driven back into Virginia. In the back and forth, nearly all of Virginia has been lost.

Things are just as bad, if not worse in the west. Though normally an incompetent bum, with no one but militiamen to stop him, Rosecrans has been cutting a swath through the deep south with the Army of the Cumberland. Some fighting back and forth around Memphis finally sealed the fate of the far west and deprived the rest of the Confederacy of scant imports and delicious tex-mex cooking. I just can’t match the flexibility of the Union marine forces and the Union’s now virtually limitless supply capacity. Whereas I’d had Grant on the ropes just before, with every Yankee available hopping on a train and joining up with the Tennessee to reinforce him, he was quickly able to rebound and make things dire for both AS Johnston and Jackson. So, while Jackson was busy trying to deal with the marines who kept trying to take Memphis, Grant was able to put the hurt pretty bad on Johnston who, unlike Grant, didn’t have a bunch of recruits to make up for his losses. Now Jackson is cut off and out of supply in the middle of Mississippi and will have to get all the way to Georgia before he can reconnect with his supply line, and Johnston’s beaten a retreat all the way from Decatur to Chattanooga with not much left of the Army of Tennessee but the baggage trains and the paperwork. Unless I win initiative of the first pulse of next turn, Johnston will be forced to surrender.

Very little is happening for me in the TransMississippi, and now that they’re completely cut off from the rest of the Confederacy, probably even less will. The only upside is that my Dad will be so busy taking Alabama and securing Virginia, he might not have time to finish off my token force in North Little Rock. And man, for all of the dozens of command points spent in the Far West over the course of the 13 turns we’ve finished, we each have only 1 victory point a piece to show for it. I’ll probably never get a second one, because of how lousy the Mexican Banditos are. Most wild Indians still have a shot of burning down a fort even if it’s been alerted; banditos will ALWAYS either go home or get killed if they try to attack an alert fort. I’d’ve been better off sending my Apaches or Comanches across hundreds of miles of desert into New Mexico than send Mexican Banditos, even if they were closer.

There are a few things I wish now that I’d done differently.

I wish I’d sent even a marginally competent 3 star general to Arkansas so I could have done SOMETHING there after the first turn or two. Ironically, crushing Lyon’s force in Springfield turned into a strategic mistake, because it gave my dad the chance to put one of the top tier Union generals* into a theater where he’d see a lot more action.

I should not have pushed into the North with the Army of Northern Virginia. For the most part, we’d kept detente, and I’d finally dealt with the worst of the coastal raiders. I’ve lost too many leaders, either to wounds or death in fairly meaningless battles. Since I was never able to take Washington, I never got any permanent victory points for cities I took north of Dixie. I would’ve been better off trying to keep my ports open.

Even though it would’ve tied up my 2nd best general and an entire army, I should’ve left Jackson with his monstrous force in the Swamp Fortress outside of New Orleans. It would’ve kept the Mississippi River open and I wouldn’t have that blundering bum from Delaware steamrolling across the deep south from Vicksburg to Atlanta. It would’ve meant that I couldn’t press the assault against Grant as I’d done, but it proved to be a major strategic mistake.

Which leads into my next mistake: I should not have pressed against Grant. I came so close to annihilating the Army of the Tennessee I could taste it. I had Grant at such a huge disadvantage for awhile, it seemed like I could actually squash him. Unfortunately, doing so meant chasing him north toward Paducah and leaving Nashville open. And dagnabbit, what did I JUST say about Lyon? Having two decent sized armies operating in west Tennessee seemed like a good idea until one of them had to head back to Nashville and let Grant get between them.

Even though I did a great job of holding Tennessee much longer than the actual confederacy, I sacrificed too much energy in trying to create diversions in Kentucky. There’s just no way for the south to both keep Tennessee safe from the Cairo staging area and do anything in Kentucky while staying in supply.

I wish I’d built more commerce raiders. Nearly all of my points are going to come from the CSS Alabama, who’s sunk upwards of 30 ships. It’s just that the Confederacy has so few resources they can devote to naval strength. Just about the only thing that confederate vessels are good for is keeping the rivers open for a couple of hex-sides, and there are times I really wished I’d managed to do so, those discretionary points just always made sense to be used for something else.

We’ll probably be wrapped up in two more sessions at most, unless I’m forced to surrender in the next few turns. Since both the Army of Mississippi and the Army of Tennessee are on the verge of being annihilated, it’s looking very possible.  And yeah, Board Game Geek’s 20+ hour playtime estimate is probably not all that far off.

“Aww, man, I don’t know what I’m gonna do…”
“You can free all the slaves and surrender.”
*:The game’s creators are certainly Nathaniel Lyon fanboys; that Stonewall Jackson may have been promoted to 3 star general, had he lived, seems like a more reasonable ‘what-if’ than the 3 star Lyon (who is mechanically the equal of Thomas, Mead, Grant and Sherman), especially since it’s highly unlikely that a Union player would leave a 2-2-2 general in TransMississippi theater.

Civil War pt5

I’ve just had too damn much content this week to talk about the Civil War game I’m in the middle of. Won’t be a problem next week, as my Dad & I didn’t have a chance to play, but I will have some extra time to consider my strategies.

Not much is happening in the far west; the Texas and New Mexico militias have gone home and can never come back (SPs can only be placed on victory point cities, of which there are none that far west), but we’ve both got 1 Injun point each, with two Texas forts burned down and two New Mexico forts burned down. If we get any more really long turns, my Mexican banditos might ineffectually ride around central New Mexico firing guns in the air and letting everyone know they’re coming, but my most productive strategy in that theatre will be to call up some Texas Rangers and make sure as many Injun tribes are on my side as I can.

The TransMississippi isn’t quite to Kirby Smithdom yet, but it’s looking like a real possibility if things aren’t shorn up quick in Mississippi. I’m suffering in this theatre from a lack of generalship; there’s no one with enough stars to form the Army of the West, so my main hope is that I keep my dad busy enough in Tennessee and Maryland that Arkansas won’t seem worth it.

Things are interesting in the West: AS Johnston had been holding his own fairly well against Grant and Lyon along the Cumberland, but I desperately needed army-level flexibility and leadership to keep things that way. So Stone-wall Jackson took the paperwork and the command staff of the Army of Mississippi up to Memphis by rail and left a fairly sizable force behind in the Swamp Fortress outside of New Orleans. Unfortunately, the Army of the Cumberland managed to amass enough forces by sea in New Orleans and gather enough ironclads to shell the place to pieces. Now maybe a thousand starving guys in the swamp are all that stand between the Union Marine invasion force and Vicksburg. My only consolation is that I’ve been able to do the rope-a-dope on the Army of the Tennessee; my dad made the mistake of splitting the army, leaving a fairly strong force behind with Lyon north of the Cumberland, so he could try to earn some promotions for his top leaders with probing attacks. His problem was that I’d dug in so deep around Nashville and had such great leaders that any attack was bound to end up in my favor. By pouring everything I had into pursuing and pummeling Grant, I was able to drive him halfway back to Cairo and nearly crush the Army of the Tennessee. I’d worn it down to a 6, which forced my dad to mobilize damn near every Yankee west of the Shenandoah to try to bolster the force back up. Once Stonewall Jackson can take control of the garrisons left along the river near Nashville to keep central Tennessee safe, Johnston won’t have to worry about his supply line, either. Everything’ll be hunky dory until Johnston finds himself between the Army of the Tennessee near Cairo and the Army of the Cumberland coming up through Memphis.

I finally decided it was time to force some distractions in the East, having put down the worst of the raiders in North Carolina. I’m still in trouble because the Union has free range of the coasts, but if I can bog my dad down around the Potomac, his command points will be too tied up in dealing with Jo Johnston and his outriders to continue an invasion of the Carolinas by sea. Johnston’s ventured around the Potomac into Pennsylvania and sent off a small command to take Harrisburg as bait. If McDowell tries to do anything about regiments that were sent to take Harrisburg, even though those forces will be completely overrun, he’ll leave a path wide open for Johnston to march straight from Chambersburg into Washington DC. As long as I can force McDowell to run around chasing brigadier generals around Pennsylvania, I’ll be in good shape.

We’ve been at this for about for just shy of a month now, and are at the half-way point for the game.  I’m really hoping that my Dad will win one, since, not counting the few games of Ogre we played, our latest streak has been 3-0 for me, but the opportunity to march into DC with the Army of Northern Virginia is just too much to pass up.

Anyway, tonight I play Dungeon Crawl Classics for the first time! My friend who is running his wild and woolly urban dungeon crawl has opted to use a different system so he doesn’t have to offer an apologia to new players re:LotFP’s art.

Short Reviews will resume next week.

Civil War pt 4

One of the interesting things about Civil War is that turns can go by either really quickly or drag on for ages. For instance, last week, it took over two hours to get through turn three. Last night, over a little over two hours, my dad and I knocked out three turns.

The game has some built in balancing mechanics in regards to turn length. The game isn’t a straight up contest for who has the most victory points but a measure of the spread between the Union’s VPs and the Confederacy’s VPs. Part of the reason behind this is that the Confederacy isn’t really going to doing much rampaging conquest unless something goes dreadfully wrong for the Union player; they’re trying to hold onto what they start with, eking out a few extra points on the margins, while the North is trying to rack up enough points to end the war. Therefore, the Confederacy benefits from relatively short turns during which the Union can make as few actions as possible and waste what Command Points they have left. To compensate for the edge the Union has with longer turns, the Confederacy gets points for each re-roll on the command table (which results in additional command points for each side and more chances for the Union to take advantage of having greater numbers, more rail capacity, and a Navy).  In the long-run, you’re probably better off with short Union turns than the 1-3 extra point you get from extra command table rolls.

I’m continuing to have issues dealing with the naval incursions. Robert E. Lee has been forced to waste his time chasing Curtis’ raiders about in North Caroline, and Stonewall Jackson has built a fortress in the middle of the swamp just outside of New Orleans where the Army of the Mississippi is dug in deep to prevent further nautical incursions. With the Union forming the Army of the Cumberland in New Orleans, we’ve reached a bizarre stalemate tying up several talented generals, ships and thousands of men. I have no idea what I’m going to do in Arkansas, with no 3 Star to form and lead the Army of the West (I could always send Lee!). The only bright spots are Virginia and Tennessee. The Generals Johnston are dug in deep, Jo keeping McDowell inactive on his side of the Potomac and Albert Sydney keeping Grant & Lyon on the Kentucky side of the Cumberland. Despite making the west his primary theater all three turns, my Dad never got around to doing anything useful with Army of the Tennessee. Oh, and the Texas and New Mexico militias shot at each other in the middle of the wastelands and both deserted, closing, for now, the battle for the far west.

As a Cuban American, I am not offended by this at all, so all of you non-Cubans can shut up about it* + Civil War Pt 3

I absolve you, you deep fried queen of the south.  May the set of knives with your name on the blades in my kitchen remain forever sharp.

Paula Deen

Hell, she fired the person who posted this and pulled it immediately. For the people who were all “if it wasn’t racist, why’d she delete it?”, she deleted because of people like this guy and everyone else who is all “Saved for evidence of racism!”

Besides, isn’t this just white-face?  You see, Desi Arnaz and many Cubans, myself included, are basically just white guys who tan really well.  Now that White-Hispanics are a thing, liberal white people have made it so that we’re not even allowed to be “People of Color” anymore.  Probably because a lot of Cubans have an anti-communist bent for understandable reasons.

This did get me thinking about food, though.  There’s a decent overlap between southern down home cooking and Cuban cuisine.  My mom, who grew up in the north, remembers how people thought she and her family were weird and crazy with their red beans, rice, fried porkchops & vinegar and whatnot; down in the south, though, no one bats an eye at red beans & rice.  Fried anything is good.  Food transcends race and could be bringing everyone together if people stopped saying that eating other cultures’ food is racist.  Down here in the south, we’ll eat anything.

Speaking of the South, if the South rises again, it certainly won’t be the next few turns of Civil War.  After all of the chaotic scurrying in the Trans-Mississippi in the first two turns, my endeavors there amounted to little more than a temporary distraction.  I overallocated my command resources there while I didn’t have the manpower or generals to take advantage of it.  Meanwhile, though Johnston and Jeb Stuart were able to split Kentucky down the middle, them union boys were able to get into Nashville by boat from Cairo.  Fort Donelson & Fort Henry were both burned to the ground, and an out-of-supply Army of the Tennessee had to fight their way back over rivers toward the capital, surrendering Kentucky to the damn Yankees.  That’s not the worst of it, though. That bastard Foot sailed down the coast of Virginie and into North Carolina and seized several ports.  The Army of Northern Virginia’s far too busy keeping McDowell in check and on his side of the Mason Dixie to pull back and do anything about it, and even if they could, it would leave the road to Richmond wide open.  I don’t know that I’ll ever get enough guys to do anything about them, because the Rebs have garbage railroads.  I’ll need at least a two star general to march off and do something about those ports.  At least my Texas rangers ran off those damn Injuns!

I’m not worried about losing or doing poorly, though.  My dad needs to break his losing streak.  The best part is, I can honestly say I’m not going easy on him.  Taking both the Tennessee heartland and the Carolina coastline was a master stroke.  The idea of Stonewall Jackson burning down supply depots all over Kansas and Missouri may have been neat and exciting, but it was ultimately derping around when I should’ve been focusing on keeping the rivers open.

*: If you’re Cuban and are actually upset by this, fine, whatever, but white tumblrites and twitter hipsters getting offended on our behalf can sod off.

That Devil Forrest

In the most recent spat of erasure of southern heritage, the mayor of Memphis has made the rather ghoulish proposition to dig up the body of Nathan Bedford Forrest and, I don’t know, toss him in the delta or something?

We’re always told that Forrest was the scum of the earth because he was the founder or head of Ku Klux Klan depending on who you ask.  His involvement with the group was brief and when he saw where things were headed he resigned and called for its dismantling.

What I did not know about Forrest, however, was that he was not only forward thinking on race, he was an open advocate of civil rights and equality between the races.

Ladies and Gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. ( Immense applause and laughter.) I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man to depress none. (Applause.) I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don’t propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand. (Prolonged applause.) – N.B.F. in an address to the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association (a Memphis-based Civil Rights Group)

Yeah, that’s the guy they want to dig up.  Oh well…


Nathan Bedford Forrest: ex-Klansman, Civil Rights Advocate, Lover of Women, 2*2 Cavalry General

As we’re upon the anniversary of Gettysburg, here’s something to think about:

At the 50th anniversary of one of the biggest battles of the Civil War, the PEOPLE WHO HAD ACTUALLY BEEN SHOOTING AT EACH OTHER were able to come together as friends and brothers, shake hands, tell stories, and eat thousands of pies and gallons of ice cream together under BOTH the Union and Confederate battleflags!  If the people who were shot at by people who’d held high the Southern Cross were able to meet with their ex-rebel brothers and eat apple cobbler and fried chicken, who are we to whine and complain?

In unrelated news, I think Cannons may be out of Battlefields & Broadswords.  The Chainmail rules for them suck and I don’t anticipate many groups using them in their Basic games.  Cannons aside, I’m just about done with the core mechanics.  After that will come incorporation of the Fantasy Rules and distilling rules for the S3M.  I have a few ways to go about it, but I think i’m going to try to treat units as characters with their own character sheets, with each mook representing the equivalent of 1 HP.  Where it gets tricky is how I’ll incorporate leveled leader characters; hopefully the rules on Heroic Leaders will give me some ideas.  At first I was worried about how to handle ranks, but I think it will work out like the two headed bifurcated snake boss fight.