The Shot Heard Round Charleston Harbor…Fort Sumter Design Notes and AAR (Part 4)

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We now continue with Round 3 of Mark’s AAR of Fort Sumter. If you missed the first three articles in this series, click on the following links to read them first: Part 1    Part 2  Part 3.

Round 3: Lincoln-Davis

Rd 3 Unionist hand and objectives. Chooses Federal Arsenal.

You will note that this is the second time that the Federal Arsenal objective has come up. In all cases, the objective not chosen each time is returned to the objective deck. Only the ones chosen are discarded. Given the board position, it seems that Federal Arsenals is the better choice.

Board Position as we head into Round 3.

Another aspect of this game is we now have some information. We know that the Unionists have used Fort Pickens and Washington in rounds 1 and 2 respectively. The Secessionists had Newspapers and Texas for their two objectives. These four spaces cannot be either side’s objective this round. The Unionist is holding Federal Arsenals and Abolitionists. This leaves the remaining six spaces as potential Secessionist objectives, so be cognizant of the information available to you, especially at the beginning of Round 3.

Rd 3 Secessionist hand and objectives. Chooses Montgomery. Note objectives not chosen go back into deck; those used are discarded.

Based on these choices, the Secessionists are going to have to choose a political space and they choose their capital (Montgomery). I guess it’s time to inaugurate Jefferson Davis.

Unionists play Both side event (red #), remove up to 4 (also 0) then up to 4 from pool. Public opinion blitz.

The Fugitive Slave Law event is emblematic of a class of combined events that are important for reestablishing board position. The Unionist token pool has four tokens. The event allows you to remove up to 4 from the indicated spaces, and then deploy four tokens from your token pool onto the map. Some events have deployment restrictions, but in this case any combination of spaces is allowed. This gives the Unionist an opportunity to create a stronger board position in the Public Opinion spaces.

Now what you should be asking yourself is “Why isn’t the Secessionist player going first, as they have more VPs?” The answer is this is when I had to start the BBQ, and in the few moments between cooking dinner, I raced to finish this tweet and lost situation awareness. This is an important rule, because if you fall behind, you will get to make the last card play. In this situation it did not make a difference, but your sessions will hopefully be less hectic.

Secessionist event removes two Unionists tokens from Fort Sumter.

The Secessionists use the remove tokens portion of the Louisiana event to temporarily gain control of Fort Sumter. About this time historically, Anderson and the Federal garrison is running out of food, giving the South the upper hand.

Unionists gamble, breach final Crisis zone, 1T each to Washington, Sumter, Federal Arsenals. Plus 4T to pool; – 1VP. Score now 4-2.

Due to the last card play, the Unionist has 2 tokens in their token pool, but more for instructional purposes than strategy, I take all three tokens (two tokens from pool and one from the crisis track) and deploy them broadly to gain leverage for the last card play of the game.

Taking the third token from the track breaches the final crisis zone first. Because the Unionist is the first to do, this they gain 4 tokens and lose 1 VP. This is sometimes a way to come from behind, but as you will see, it doesn’t always work.

Secessionist event, 2T to Sumter. Breach zone: + 2T, but no VP penalty.

The Secessionist now has no reason not to breach the final crisis zone. They do so to place two tokens into Fort Sumter. You will note that the second person into the final crisis zone only gains two tokens not four, but takes no VP penalty.

One rare case is this: if at the end of any round both sides have breached the final crisis zone, you do not conduct any further rounds, but rather precede to the final crisis. It does not happen often, but you can trigger the final crisis on rare occasions at the end of round 2.

As you can see, the situation at Fort Sumter is getting more tense as an emergent property of the game. The Secessionists now have 4 tokens in Fort Sumter, so unless the Unionist has an event that will remove one or two of them, the Unionists cannot score the Armaments VP this round.

This is an important aspect of game strategy. Each round there are only three cards, and someone has to go last. Often, you can create situations where you neutralize the advantage of going last by moves such as this one in the Fort Sumter space. This is another way that the game emphasizes strategy over luck.

Last card: Unionists add 1T to Sumter and 1T to Fed Arsenals. Public Opinion is their third and final Crisis card choice.

This two token play bolsters the Armaments dimension for the Union. The Union control of Federal Arsenals will be, well, pivotal.

The Unionist’s last final crisis card is Public Opinion.

Last Secessionist card: add 1T to Ft Pickens. Strategic choice to add 3rd Armaments card to Final Crisis.

As it turns out, the mistake of not having the Secessionists going first did not make a difference, as the control of Fort Pickens does not change the fact that no one will control Armaments this round.

The last of three final crisis cards is set aside (Armaments).

End Round 3. Secessionist 1VP for Secession, Unionists 1 VP for Public Opinion, both win objective and events. Score 7-5. Finale.

At this point, the BBQ was lit and I had a very short time to finish this out. This resulted in only one photo for a lot of action and a legal but suboptimal Unionist move that did not change the outcome, but I want to point it out.

So here is what happened to get to this board position. During pivotal action, the Unionists moved one of the Newspapers tokens to the State Assemblies, giving them control of the Public Opinion dimension. This allowed them to move one Unionist token from Federal Arsenals to Fort Pickens to give them control of that space.

With control of a pivotal space, you can move or remove up to two tokens (either side). I should have removed one of the Secessionist tokens, but I missed doing so. Because the Secessionist will win by two VP, it did not change the outcome. That said, Fort Sumter is a game of skill, not luck, so you will usually lose games if you fail to use all of your capabilities. Hopefully pointing out this inferior play makes my point.

Once again, the Secessionists score the Secession dimension and each side wins its objective space. Because the Secessionists have the higher score, they choose to use their event to remove two Unionist tokens from Washington. The Unionists then remove 3 Secessionist tokens from Fort Sumter with their objective event.

It is now time to change modes and enter the final crisis mechanic. Before I go into that in any detail, I want to note that it is my intent that each game in the series will have a final crisis mechanic, but that each game will have a unique one aligned to its historical circumstance. So, what comes next will be unique to Fort Sumter.

Final Crisis card 1: The card colors don’t match. Each player can move up to 2 tokens to the color of the card they played. Unionists no move, Secessionist 2T from Wash to Sumter.

The rules for the Final crisis are very simple. Each player can arrange their three card deck in any order. It is important to note that the only information on the card that is used is its final crisis color. The cards value or event has no effect in the final crisis.

Then the players will flip over their cards one at a time. If the Crisis dimension does NOT match (different colors), then each player, starting with the player with the higher score, can move two tokens from any map space and/or their token pool into any combination of their final crisis card’s color.

If the Crisis dimension does match, then each player removes one token from one of those colored spaces OR they can take two tokens from any map space. All removed tokens go to your token pool. That’s it. What you will find is if your strategy is better than your opponents, you can see the score shift by one or sometimes two VPs.

Now the big question is “why is one card pick is better than another?” What is happening is you are trying to flow political capital to a crisis dimension in the endgame. Your goal is to deny your opponent VPs for Crisis dimensions they control at the end of the 3rd Round while protecting your space control. There are no pivotal space actions or objective cards in the final crisis.

In this case, the Secessionist player has all Armaments cards in his Final Crixis mix, so order does not matter. Whereas the Union has two Public Opinion cards and one Armaments card. Overall, the Secessionist strategy for the Final Crisis is focused on ensuring that they will have a say in who wins the Armaments dimension. The Unionists have hedged their bets and have Public Opinion options when that card comes up.

At the conclusion of the final crisis, besides scoring the crisis dimensions one last time, the Fort Sumter space is worth a VP. In addition, the side that has the largest political reserve (token pool) will also gain a VP.

With all of that as preamble, the rest goes quickly. The Unionist chose to put the Unionist Armaments card last so they open with both Public Opinion cards. The Secessionist Armaments card is not a match for the Unionist Public Opinion. The Secessionists move two tokens from Washington to Fort Sumter (imagine one of several historical Peace initiatives failing in Congress to resolve the crisis), while the Unionists decide to hold pat.

2nd Final Crisis card: no match. Unionists no move, Secessionist 1T State Assembly to Sumter.

Again there is no match. The Secessionist takes the token from State Assemblies, where it is not going to change the score, and sends it to Sumter. Again, the Unionist sees no threat and foregoes moving.

Last card match. Remove one token from color or two from any map space. High score first, Secessionist -1T Pickens, Union -2T to pool.

Now both sides have a match. In this case, think bombardment of Fort Sumter. The Secessionists have to remove their token first and decide to take 1 from Fort Pickens. I did this to illustrate a move as the Unionist go second and remove two tokens to increase their token pool to 6 to score the VP.

Play test note: Here is an update since I posted this. One of the advantages of a very short game is it is getting an enormous amount of playtesting. The new rule is you only score this VP if you have a 3 or greater token advantage versus the older just having more.

Each score 2VP, final 9-7. Secessionist win due to Ft Sumter VP. If Union gained it then it’s tied 8-8 with Union win.

The Unionist scores a VP for their token pool and the Public Opinion dimension. The Secessionists score 1 VP for Fort Sumter and 1 VP for the Secession dimension in the game. Final score is 9-7.

Now I would like to do a bit of ‘what if’. Let’s say that the Union had also banked three Armaments final crisis cards. This means that each round would have been a match. At the end of Round 3 after the objective events were implemented, the Unionists controlled the Armaments dimension. This means that the Secessionists would have lost the game.

Why? If you look at the End of Round 3 Photo (several photos above), the score is 7-5, with the Unionists board position showing them in control of Public Opinion and Armaments. The Secessionists control Secession and neither side controls the Political. If the two sides match on Armaments each round, then this more or less is the final position. Then the Secessionists gain 1VP, raising their score to 8 VPs and the Union scores 3 VPs for Fort Sumter, Armaments, and Public Opinion. Let’s say for argument’s sake, neither side scores the token pool VP (old rule was no score if same number of tokens). Now the score is tied at 8 each. So what happens?

There are three tiebreakers; the first one is who controls Fort Sumter. In this case the Unionist wins. If neither side controls Fort Sumter, the 2nd tirbreaker is who controls the most spaces. If you look again at that End of Turn 3 photo, each side would control 5 spaces, with Fort Sumter and Northern Statehouses under neither side’s control. Still tied. The last tiebreaker is the Unionist wins as compensation for going first. I have seen this final tiebreaker win only a few times, but that’s how you sort out the winner in very close games.

A first for me. I posted an entire game in real time to twitter. Without photos and such, a game takes 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Here’s the final position and score. I will note that this article is at least five times longer in text than the rules. The game is in very active playtesting, including several families with young children in the mix. I am getting feedback from a wider spectrum of individuals than is usual for one of my designs, and the feedback is that this game is very easy to grasp and play. This is probably the case because Fort Sumter has the Carole Herman ‘normal person’ seal of approval. It also has my ‘addicted to playing’ seal of approval. I hope to have it in your hands by early next year.

I hope you enjoyed my Fort Sumter tweet storm and the story behind it. By the way, the hamburgers were delicious. I hope everyone had a happy and healthy 4th of July.


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One thought on “The Shot Heard Round Charleston Harbor…Fort Sumter Design Notes and AAR (Part 4)

  1. Thanks for the AAR! I’m eagerly awaiting this game to be published next year. The game appears to have numerous strategic options for both players. I hope this can become the go-to travel game for family trips. Good luck on the future games in the series. I wonder if the start of the American Revolutionary War could also be a possible choice in the series.