Bleeding Kansas is a 2-player game that deals with the violence and politics of pre-statehood Kansas from 1854-1861. The game focuses on the tensions between pro-slave and abolitionist parties and their attempts to win over emigrants to Kansas to their cause and thereby influence the outcome of elections to move the state toward their leaning on the issue. The game has four elections that players will fight over trying to have the most influence in Kansas counties to score victory points.
In Action Point 1 we looked at the makeup of the deck and also examined two of the more violent actions available to players in Burn and Skirmish. In this Action Point, we will take a look at the Movement and Influence actions that players will need to use to build up a presence in Kansas counties ahead of elections.
Movement is the most basic of all of the actions in the game and is used for several strategic purposes such as moving your cubes into counties where there are white Migrant cubes that you would like to Influence to your side of the conflict or setting up a later Skirmish action between your newly arrived cubes and those of your opponent. It might seem simple, but don’t overlook the importance of the action, especially when you play your Faction Star card to take a double Movement action called a Rally Move.
First let’s take a look at the basics of the action. When you play a Movement symbol (boots), you can move any or all of your faction cubes in one Missouri or Kansas County to one or more adjacent counties. You don’t have to move all of the cubes and you also don’t have to move them all to the same space. This gives you flexibility in how you begin to spread your influence. Remember though that there is a strict 5 cube per faction limit for any county. If you happen to end up with more than 5 in a space, you will have to remove the excess to your off map supply.
In the photo above, you will notice that the Abolitionist player has built up a good accumulation of cubes in Jefferson County with a total of 4. They are not doing him much good in that county at this point in the game so they have set their sites on moving into adjacent counties to begin fighting for control prior to an upcoming election. The proper card with a Movement symbol is played called German Immigrants (remember the card name and history of the card has no bearing on the action and is simply there for historic flavor) and the cubes are then moved to their target destinations.
One cube is moved south to Douglas County to have more faction points in that county than the Pro-Slavery player (in this case they will have 3 faction points compared to only 2 for their opponent), while two cubes are moved to Leavenworth in order to set up for a later Influence attempt at the two white Migrant cubes there and 1 cube is moved north to Atchison County to gain control there with 2 faction points to just 1 for the Pro-Slavery player. If an election would be held on the next card play, the Abolitionist player would have picked up control of two counties.
When playing two Movement symbols on a Faction Star card on the active players turn, you can take two actions, either one of each of the symbols or two of the same symbol. Or you can take the powerful special action of a Rally Move which can be a very powerful play at the right time. You see the Movement action normally is limited by the fact that you have to move all or some of the cubes from the same location. They can end up in different locations but they come from the same space. This isn’t the case with a Rally Move. When a Rally Move is chosen the player will designate a target county and they can then move up to 5 cubes (remember the 5 faction cube per county limit) from surrounding counties into that target county. This is some serious power when played at the right time, either for control for scoring purposes during an election or to overwhelm an opponent in a future Skirmish.
In the picture above, you will see that the Pro-Slavery player has played their Faction Star card with a Movement symbol and has chosen to execute a Rally Move. They identify Douglas County as the target of their Rally Move and then are able to move up to 5 faction cubes there from surrounding counties.
They move 1 cube south from Jefferson County, 1 cube south from Leavenworth County, 2 cubes west from Johnson County and 1 cube north from Franklin County. This gives them 5 faction cubes in Douglas County which is the limit. This Rally Move has given them a superior number of Faction Points in Douglas County to use against the Abolitionist player either with a future Skirmish action, where they would receive a +6 to their die roll, or just with control of the county for scoring purposes in an election. They have weakened their positions in the surrounding counties though so this type of large move needs to be used well or they might just lose more than they gain.
When playing an Influence action players are trying to sway the Migrant cubes in the counties to their way of thinking. The Influence action happens to be the only way to gain new faction cubes and should be an integral part of any player’s strategy.
In order to perform an Influence action, there is no requirement that a player has to have one of their faction cubes in the county where they are performing the action but they must at least have faction points. These faction points can come from towns or their capital. There is no requirement to have cubes but each cube will add +1 modifier to the die roll for the action, in addition to a +1 bonus for a town and a +2 bonus for a capital, and in order to convert a cube you will need a modified result of 5+ on a d6. The presence of any opposition cubes does not affect the die roll.
In the picture below, the Abolitionist player plays the required Influence action symbol (a clenched fist) and tries to convert one of the white cubes located in Leavenworth County. They have no faction points coming from a town or capital here but will receive a +1 die roll modifier from the 1 blue faction cube present.
The die is rolled and the result is only a 3, and when modified by +1 for the presence of the blue cube, results in a final value of 4. This is short of the required 5+ for the conversion so the Influence action fails and no cube is converted in Leavenworth County.
As with the Movement action example above, when you play a Faction Star card on your turn you have the option of taking two of the same symbol actions or adding those two together to take a special action. In the case of Influence, the action is nice but I am not sure that it is a game changer. If you play a Faction Star card of your faction for an Influence you can simply forego the normal two actions and place a faction cube of your faction into any Missouri County. No rolls. No chance of failure. No need to have faction points present. You just get to put one cube in a Missouri County of your choosing. So why would you do this? Well, two reasons that I can see. One, you have plans to try to Influence a white Migrant cube in a Missouri County so that you can move the one you add and the new influenced cube into a key Kansas County later with a Movement action card you have in your hand. This plan could be late in the turn when an election is approaching and you have a chance to switch a Kansas County to your favor or you simply want to tie up your opponent so they lose control of that county. Two, you don’t have any way to influence cubes on the board, meaning you have no cubes on the board at all, because you have lost most of your cubes to Skirmish actions. If this is the case, you are in serious trouble and will most likely lose the game on the next election. Influence is the most important action in the game and this is reflected by the fact that there are 20 cards in the 53 card deck or 37.7% that have an Influence symbol. This is one action that you should always take when you get a card with its symbol.
In Action Point 3, we will take a look at the final three actions available to players including Politics, Migration and Cooperation.
If you are interested in learning more about the design, you can read our interview with designer John Poniske published in July 2019: https://theplayersaid.com/2019/07/08/interview-with-john-poniske-designer-of-bleeding-kansas-from-decision-games/