The Shot Heard Round Charleston Harbor…Fort Sumter Design Notes and AAR (Part 3)

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We now continue with Round 2 of Mark’s AAR of Fort Sumter. If you missed the first two articles in this series, click on the following links to read them first: Part 1    Part 2.

Round 2: Lame Duck Buchanan

Round2 Unionist hand and objectives. They choose Washington as the Objective.

Because the score is still tied, the Unionist will still go first. We now see for the first time a 3 card whose event is available to both sides (Seizing Federal Armories). The Unionist decides to choose the Objective card Washington, where they already have one token.

Round 2 Secessionist hand. They choose Texas as their Objective.

Interestingly, both Presidents (Lincoln and Davis) enter the stage during the same round. The Secessionist player chooses Texas as their Objective space for the same reasons as the Unionist; they already have control of that space.

Unionists event, 3T to Ft Sumter. Note tokens come from token pool when available before track.

The Fort Sumter garrison commander event (Major Anderson) places three tokens in Fort Sumter. Historically, it was Anderson’s moving the garrison to Fort Sumter that finally got the vacillating Buchanan to decide to hold the Fort and not evacuate, as recommended by the cabinet. This is simulated by this large political capital investment. The narrative I want you to experience is the rising and falling control of the various elements and dimensions of the crisis.

Now without this historical back-story, I can easily imagine someone saying the game’s theme is pasted on and all I’m doing is placing wood on a map. Technically that is correct, but the means I’m using to immerse you in the story is the deployment of political capital, as driven by the card narrative. As I said earlier, theme requires knowledge, hence the popularity of the Cold War theme; because many of us lived through it, we all have experiences to draw from. If you are interested in further reading to better understand the crisis, I recommend “Days of Defiance,” by Maury Klein.

Note that the Union token pool started the round with 4 tokens. The three tokens placed in Fort Sumter had to come from the token pool before any more could come from the crisis track.

Jefferson Davis goes to Washington w/ 3T. 2T from pool and 1T from track.

The Jefferson Davis event allows for 3 tokens to be placed in any combination of Political or Secession spaces. In this case, the Secessionist places them all in the most important space on the map, Washington. Jefferson Davis was the Senator from Mississippi, and during this round historically he would make a memorable resignation speech that spoke to the still-undecided Border States, whose Senators were in attendance.

Uncle Abe says, not in my house, 3T to Washington. 4 tokens is max for a side in a space.

By intent, you can lock up a space with 4 tokens. It is usually bad strategy to let a side control Washington, which should make some sort of sense in a political game. That said, as you can see, the Unionist player had a choice with the Lincoln event. The powerful event (it IS Lincoln, after all) lets you place 3 tokens in any combination of locations OR you can remove 2 tokens from one space. These are the kinds of events that can break a 4 token face-off. In this case, it was better to take control of Washington with a 4 to 3 edge versus removing two tokens to have a standoff.

Secessionist event, Beauregard builds batteries in Ft Sumter. 2T event.

What you are not yet aware of is that control of Fort Sumter is worth a VP at the end of the game. The Secessionist player makes a long-term play to begin contesting the Fort. The historical moment represented is that Beauregard oversaw the installation of batteries overlooking and aimed at the fort. As an interesting factoid, Beauregard’s artillery instructor at West Point is the guy he is pointing the guns at, emphasizing the “brother versus brother” aspect of this crisis.

Unionists only take 1T instead of 3 to avoid breaching final Crisis zone first. 1 T to Political Northern Statehouses.

To set the scene, I am sitting on a porch in my mental zone making a move, taking a picture and then tweeting it out. This usually requires some manipulation of the picture to change its orientation, I’m 62, and I have never done any of this before. In the middle of this, my wife drives up with groceries and needs stuff done for a family BBQ we are having in a few hours. Over the remainder of the game, I have to continuously break lock to do other stuff. My point is, I exceeded my ability to multitask and I made some mistakes, which I will point out as they occur. In our fun city game group, we call this an asterisk game. I did not correct this as I can use this oversight to emphasize crisis track zones.

What should have happened is when I removed the number 7 token from the crisis track with the Lincoln event they breached the escalation zone. This would have caused the three bonus tokens to go to the Unionist token pool. As it turned out I missed this when the move was interrupted midstride, so what happened is important to understand, but easy to avoid in calmer circumstances over twenty minutes.

The Final Crisis zone simulates one side taking the situation to a dangerous level. Although you gain initiative (4 tokens), you also lose a VP for the backlash this causes. If you assume that the Unionist token pool was empty, then the play of the 3 value card for its full value would breach the final crisis. In this case, what I did was decide not to fall behind in score and just take the one token that was placed in the Northern Statehouses, as it potentially gives the Unionist control of the Political dimension. This was illegal, as the Unionist token pool should have had 3 tokens in it instead of zero.

If played correctly, the Unionist would have had 3 tokens in their token pool and could have decided to just place one token as occurred. Then the question occurs, “why would I do that?” The answer is that the token pool is a potential source of a VP at the end of the game, and there are events like the one played that allow you to first remove tokens from the map and then deploy tokens from your token pool into play. My point is: having some tokens in your token pool confers tactical flexibility.

One other detail, some cards state that you can (not must) take “up to X tokens” as a general statement. What this means is you can take zero or 1 token up to X tokens per the instruction. The main point is zero is included as a choice.

Because this was the third and last card of the round, the Unionist sets aside Public Opinion for the final crisis.

Powerful event (Russell of the Times) removed one token from Newspapers space then it in Washington, to block out control of Political spaces. Save a 2nd Armaments card for finale.

It was at this time that I realized my escalation zone mistake for both sides. Back when Beauregard placed the two tokens into Fort Sumter, the three bonus tokens should have been placed in the Secessionist bonus pool. I therefore was able to fix this before making the card play. This Secessionist event allows you to first remove up to four tokens from any Public Opinion spaces on the map, then you can place up to four tokens from the now potentially-bolstered token pool back onto the map into Political and Secession spaces. In this case, the Secessionists have one token each in State Assemblies and Newspapers. They choose to remove just one of them – from Newspapers – and place one back on the map in the Washington space. This blocks the control of the Political dimension for both sides.

After pivotal space move Armaments(u), secession(s), 1VP ea. Secessionist wins objective, Union doesn’t score 4-3. End Rd 2.

There were no useful pivotal space moves to be made, so the Unionists score 1 VP for the Armaments dimension and the Secessionists 1 VP for the Secession spaces. But now the Unionists fall behind, as neither side scores the Washington objective, but the Secessionists win the Texas VP. The Texas objective event then occurs, and Secessionists choose to utilize the “Remove one Token anywhere” option on the card. He removes one Unionist token from Washington.

Note that I have now fixed the token pools, so all is back on track as we head into round 3 in our next article installment.

This ends round 2, with the Secessionists in the lead by one point. I hope you’re enjoying this look inside Fort Sumter! – Mark


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