Hi! I’m Max DuBoff. I may not have as much wargaming experience as Lucas, considering that I got into wargaming about a year and a half ago, but I hope to take advantage of some tricks I learned on Wargameroom where I play extensively. I’ve been playing competitive chess for years, and I’m very interested in Eurogames (though not nearly as much as wargames). I most enjoy CDGs with the occasional block game thrown in. Besides For the People, some of my favorites are Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, Here I Stand, Twilight Struggle, Commands and Colors: Ancients, Paths of Glory, and Julius Caesar. I have also attended WBC every year for the last five years.
As the Union in this For the People game, I have a few main objectives and strategies. As most experienced players will attest, the game for the Union can be divided into two phases: before and after the arrival of General Grant, the North’s first 3-3, 1-tactical rating general. Thus, I’ll begin with a few objectives before Grant’s arrival:
1. Border States—Although this one sounds simple enough, Kentucky can be a tough nut to crack. I’m a proponent of taking West Virginia early; while it’s obviously nice to have Kentucky, West Virginia gives a nice corridor through which to threaten the CSA heartland. I still might go for Kentucky early, depending on my cards, but the AoC on the edge of Virginia will certainly give Lee pause (see below). As far as Kentucky goes, while I would ideally like to set up shop in Louisville, I recognize that Albert Sidney Johnston’s forces from Tennessee might get there first. In that case, I will seal the North-South border at Bloomington, Indiana. With a fortress there or in Louisville, the CSA will need to devote Lee and maybe another general too to the West to seriously threaten an invasion. Even if I am in Bloomington, though, I will try to make occasional forays south through Cincinnati or the Far West. Speaking of the Far West, I would like to take Missouri at some point. Since I find that the Union often has more spare ops, I expect to be able to place seven PCs and convert the state after the first few turns. I might move from St. Louis to take a few spaces in the end-of-turn conversion phase too.
2. Blockade Runner Ports—As I’m sure all For the People players know, taking blockade runner ports is a fantastic way for the Union to starve the CSA in terms of Strategic Will and reinforcements. In the first turn, I would like to take Ft. Philip/Jackson or Sabine City if possible. After that, the East Gulf is a nice zone to target, and so is the North Atlantic. Closing a blockade zone early would be great because it would cost the CSA a reinforcement and two SW (and possibly a change of fortune loss too) every turn for the rest of the game. If things are going well in the East, I might even go for closing a second by Turn 7.
3. Three Armies—I prefer to keep three armies around in the early going, starting on Turn 2 or 3:
- Army of the Potomac (AoP): This army, commanded my General George McClellan, can be pretty tough to beat, especially when playing with the optional rule incentivizing putting McClellan in command (I would put him in command anyway). The CSA doesn’t get a general with an attack rating as high as McClellan’s defense rating until Turn 4, when Lee arrives, but at that point the first Union cavalry general also arrives. The main point of the AoP is to protect DC (see below). With a fort behind him, McClellan may not be in a good position to attack, but he’s quite an able defender.
- Army of the Cumberland (AoC): This army, commanded by General John Pope, is mainly meant as a general threat to help protect DC. Pope has very little combat strength, but he has the advantage of being one of the only two 2-tactical rating Union generals until Turn 5. At the beginning of Turn 2, I plan to bring sufficient troops to Pittsburgh and give Pope command there, moving through West Virginia to the edge of Virginia proper. Pope can threaten to cut off CSA supply lines if Lee gets too far into the North.
- Army of the Tennessee (AoT): This army commanded by General Ambrose Burnside, protects the gateway to the north, Bloomington, Indiana. If possible, he will move further south into Kentucky. Burnside, like Pope, is also weak in combat, but he is also a 2-tactical rating general. He is great at converting spaces in Kentucky. Unlike Pope, Burnside has a defensive rating of 1, giving him a small threat of intercepting, which can be a pretty big threat in this game.
4. Protect DC—Considering that losing the capital costs the Union 30 SW, it is not something to be taken lightly. Naturally, the AoP will stay close to the capital to preserve it. In a perfect world, McClellan’s AoP will be able to set up shop in Frederick, Maryland (since the CSA cannot move directly from Manassas to DC). With a fort in Frederick, Lee will have a tough time getting to the North. McClellan will shift to a more defensive, damage-limiting mode should Lee get up to Frederick.
I’ve learned a thing or three since my first attempt at doing this AAR. Being able to sit and watch part of the final game between James Pei and Mike Mitchell at WBC 2013 was certainly enlightening. James played the Confederates and won yet again.
I plan to follow an Eastern focused strategy. Having played in the neighborhood of 40 games as the South, I’ve never had much success with western invasions of the Union. The main avenues of advance into the North are very linear which gives the Union player an easy time of sandbagging an invading army with one fort after another. In the east, once an initial breakthrough is attained, a Confederate force has more options as to direction. Trying to defend everything is much more difficult. Two eastern armies is the most likely means to achieve success. The Union has an easy time forming two in the east, which must be matched if the South has any hope of a successful offensive. One versus two would leave my single army easily outflanked or cut off.
In a practice game against Max I was able to occupy and convert D.C, holding it for about four turns until the end of the game! On the final turn I was lined up to achieve four raids in the East. Unfortunately, Grant displaced my capital for the third time and drove my SW to zero, winning the game for Max before I could gain 20 SW for my raids. If I can replicate my prior success while not giving up my capital, I will have a real shot at victory.
I will try as always to convert the border states, with Kentucky as my highest priority. Kentucky provides the best defensive bastion in the west, protecting Tennessee and the Mississippi river from invasion. One thing I’ve learned in many games is that taking these states is heavily dependent on cards drawn. I’ve had games where I easily converted both Kentucky and Missouri, as well as games where I didn’t manage either. If other threats demand the use of my cards the border states will have to be ceded to the enemy.
Defending the Mississippi is a very high priority. Fort St. Phillip Jackson not only guards the mouth of the river, it is also key in keeping the Western Gulf blockade zone open. Sabine City, TX requires the construction of a fort (and expenditure of a card) in order to be as defensible. I will send an SP to Fort St. Phillip Jackson ASAP, though it will be a moot point if Max amphibiously assaults it as his first action. In the first iteration of this AAR I wasn’t even aware that the fort could be reinforced with a riverine move all the way from Little Rock!
Let the carnage commence!