2017 saw the exit of last year’s champ in the first round, the fourth different winner in as many years, a new attendance high of 26, and a rise in the number of British victories throughout the tournament as we continued to fight Mr. Madison’s War. This year’s field was very strong and while some games were won by wide margins there were no easy games.
We kicked things off with Designer Gilbert Collins running the demo, both to introduce the game to new players and as a refresher for those who might be a bit rusty. Of the ten people in attendance, six new players, including the eventual champion, showed up for the Mulligan Round.
Twenty-two players played in the Mulligan Round on Tuesday. Several past semifinalists and finalists fell, meaning they would have to come back for Round 1 to try and advance. Wins in this round were almost even with the British taking six contests to the American’s five.
Fourteen players met Wednesday morning for Round 1, some for their first game and others hoping to erase their Mulligan Round loss. It took three rounds to whittle the field down to four semifinalists. Seven games in Round 1, six in Round 2, and two games in Round 3. There were an odd number of players in Round 3, so the most recent past champion left in the field, Dave Stiffler, got the bye and three of the four players moved on to the semifinals.
Here are some of the highlights from the first three rounds:
- In a foreshadowing of things to come 2016 champion Rod Coffey lost to Chris Trimmer in the first round
- Eventual semifinalist Henry Jones won his second round game with 0 VP, in Mr. Madison’s War a draw is a British win, the only such victory recorded this year
- There was a significant increase in the number of games where the British player took or tried to take Sacket’s Harbor in the first or second half of 1812, resulting more often than not in British victories. This is certainly an area ripe for new strategies as players taking the American side try to find a strong counter to this tactic
- A random pair each round played on the 6’x4’ Big Board, which always draws a lot of attention during the tournament
- Several games saw the British almost completely abandon the western theater to focus on the Niagara, Sacket’s Harbor/Kingston, and Champlain fronts. While this seemed to work for the British, it also opened the west up for the Americans to gain easy VPs if they could spare the troops to take and hold them
- Several games saw the Americans take the bulk of their reinforcements in the west and then send them to the Niagara front. This met with mixed results but sending a force that large to the Niagara is something the British can’t ignore
- A question never before posed; can you build two depots in the same space? After GM and designer conferred it was ruled that is allowable, the only limiting factor being no side can build more than four depots during the game. So, a timely ruling that saved a large army from huge losses during winter attrition!
- One game saw NO American ships built on Lake Ontario due to the British player taking the primary and back-up American shipyards and holding them throughout the game
The four players winning through to the semifinals were Ron Fedin, Chris Trimmer, Henry Jones, and Dave Stiffler. Ron and Chris faced off over the Big Board with Henry and Dave in the other game.
On the Big Board in semifinal #1 both players wanted the British and after a die roll it was determined that Chris would play the British and Ron the Americans. Coincidently, this meant that both players would have played the same side in every game up to this point in the tournament. Chris opened up a sizeable lead early in the game and had a 15 VP lead at the end of 1813. Ron did his best to counterpunch but was only able to make a small dent in the British lead and Chris was on to the final with a 12 VP victory.
In semifinal #2, Henry Jones’ Americans squared off against Dave Stiffler’s British. This was a close game throughout, with the lead changing several times, especially in 1812 and late in the game. The British abandoned most of the western front, and the Americans managed to find enough tempos to take the majority of VP spaces from Ft. Malden east to Burlington. As the game entered the last half of 1814 the Americans had the lead. The British were able to capture Plattsburg and then proceeded to play five successive VP cards to squeak out a 1 VP win and move on to the finals. It turned out Henry had the Treaty of Ghent card and had the British continued to attack instead of playing cards for VPs he would have been able to burn enough cards to play it early and win the game.
In the final, also played on the Big Board, a die roll to determine sides put Chris Trimmer in control of the British, allowing him to play them in every round of the tournament, and Dave Stiffler the Americans.
In 1812, the Declaration of War phase lasted twelve cards, during which the British played a card to move Prevost and his force to Long Sault while the Americans played a card to move Dearborn with all but one of his troops to Sackets Harbor and then place a “speed bump” in Cape Vincent, the 4 strength C class NY Mil 4.
1812 turned out to be a very busy year, with lots of action. Each player gained 4 VPs through the play of two cards each for VPs. The British moved Proctor, first by boat, and then to Kingston, and also put troops in Ogdensburg to deny the Americans the two schooners due there in the second half of 1812, Prescott to protect the British supply lines, and Gananoque to also protect supply lines.
The Americans sent the C class NY Mil 2 unit from Lewiston across the Niagara to attack Ft. George. The British, sensing the Americans must have the Death of Brock Card, it was a -5 attack, retreated and gave Ft. George to the Americans. The British counterattacked without Brock and caused a step loss, driving the Militia back into Ft. Niagara. Next, the Americans sailed a Brig and the B class, 5 factor 6th Infantry, to Burlington and again Brock retreated instead of fighting. This unit was attacked and forced to conduct a water retreat back to Sacket’s Harbor. Tecumseh, his Indians, and one British unit attacked Sandwich at 1:2 odds and caused two step losses during the combat, reducing both American defenders and throwing them out of Sandwich while also reducing the Indian A unit, which cannot receive reinforcements for a permanent loss. On the last card of 1812 Brock attacked and captured Ft. Niagara.
1812 saw fortune smile at both ends of the spectrum. The British had four combat rolls of 10, 11, or 12, not only winning battles but causing lots of American casualties. The Americans had five 1 cards in the first half of 1812 and only one campaign card in the year. Despite the 12 VP British lead the game was nowhere near decided and the Americans had stabilized things and were looking forward to 1813.
As play started in 1813, the British play the Surprise at Fort Mackinac card, removing the defending American unit from the game and capturing the Fort. Only one VP card was played, by the British, in the entire year. The Americans had no VP cards but had no spare tempos, even if they did, as they were constantly in reaction mode. A total of seven 1 cards, 1 Minor Operation, and no Campaign cards this year ensured there would be no American offensives to throw the British off balance.
Near the end of the first half of the year, Drummond attacked Sacket’s Harbor. In a two round combat the Americans suffered three step losses, another 12 roll, and the British troops would not be denied. The Americans fell back to Sandy Creek and the British would control Sacket’s Harbor for the rest of the war. Brown, with the small force he had left, used the American fleet to liberate Cape Vincent, cutting supply for Drummond in Sacket’s Harbor. The British response saw them move their larger fleet onto Lake Ontario which meant Brown and his force could no longer water retreat. Brown, trying to avoid being trapped and captured, moved to Ogdensburg and forced the 1/R Scots back across the St. Lawrence to Prescott. This desperate move put Brown and his force out of supply but at least they were still intact.
At the end of 1813 the British took their entire fleet off the lake, picked up Drummond, De Wattville, and the 49th, and attacked Oswego, flipping the defender and forcing them back to Sodus. This was a great move, as the Americans had been building their fleet from their backup base in Oswego but now there would be no more American ships built for the rest of the war.
Entering the final year, 1814, there was desperation in the air as the Americans started the year in a 19 VP hole with the potential the British could be dealt the Treaty of Ghent card in the last half of the year. There was a definite need for the Americans to move onto the offensive. Thus, the Americans moved Scott and a large force to Plattsburg. It was clear to the British what the threat was, if the Americans got astride the British supply line and could hold it all British units to the west would be out of supply and halved in combat. If the Americans could keep British supply lines cut until game’s end, then any VPs in the out of supply areas would not count, which could tip the balance back to the Americans.
The British reacted quickly and dispatched Brock in an attempt to stop the Americans from crossing the St. Lawrence near the end of the first half of 1814. Brock attacked Scott with a -3 DRM in Four Corners but was repulsed. The end of the turn saw the British pick up four more VPs by playing two VP cards, ending the first half of 1814 with the British still up by 19 VPs.
The British did indeed get the Treaty of Ghent card to start the second half of 1814. Instead of taking the chance of playing on with perhaps the Americans getting across their supply lines they played the card immediately, the absolute correct choice, to end the war and win the game, thus crowning Chris Trimmer as the 2017 Mr. Madison’s War Champion! Chris played a great game from start to finish and took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves, going on the offensive when it was clear the Americans could not.
In keeping with tradition there were additional prizes for 1st through 6th places as follows:
- 1st Place Chris Trimmer: A large framed print of the Battle of New Orleans, donated by Gilbert Collins from his collection
- 2nd Place Dave Stiffler: Book – The Slave’s Gamble; Choosing Sides In The War Of 1812, by Gene Allen Smith
- 3rd Place Ron Fedin: Book - Mr. and Mrs. Madison’s War: America’s First Couple and the War of 1812, by Hugh Howard
- 4th Place Henry Jones: A MMW Mounted Map
- 5th Place Michael Mitchell: Book – Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans, by Winston Groom
- 6th Place William Kelley: Book – James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, by Lynne Cheney
This year saw a significant rise in the number of British victories, holding a 19 to 10 margin over the Americans and after 114 game plays at WBC the British have an overall 64 to 49 lead in wins. In the semifinals, the story is a little different, with each side having five wins. In the Final the Americans actually have a 3 to 2 advantage. It remains to be seen if the overall lead in British wins is indicative of an actual British advantage as the American can require somewhat more nuanced play and it will be interesting to see what new American strategies emerge next year.
Thanks again to everyone who dedicated some of their precious time at WBC to play Mr. Madison’s War, we look forward to seeing you in 2018!