In 2017, we played and really enjoyed Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775-1777 from Hollandspiele and were impressed with the way the game modeled the importance of supply and logistics during the first three years of the American Revolutionary War. Recently we finally had an opportunity to play the follow-up game in the series called, you guessed it, Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Southern Strategy which shifts the scene of the fighting to the Southern colonies of Virginia, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. This edition of the system has a very different feel and emphasis than its predecessor. In the Southern Theater, both combatants have much smaller armies with fewer resources. Maneuver is more central to each player this time around and there are new Siege and Naval Battle rules that provide new opportunities for attack. The big change though is the addition of Partisans who don’t directly fight against the opposition but provide support in the background with holding spaces to extend supply lines, running raids to disrupt enemy supply and supplementing the armies in the theater with new recruits.
In Action Point 1, we covered the Mapsheet looking at the differences between the various spaces including Cities, Forts and Points while also covering the various Sea Zones and Partisan Boxes and how they function in the game. In this Action Point, we will examine the different Units including Leaders, Soldiers, Navies and Partisans.
This game is a wargame that focuses on supply lines and how armies move and fight using that supply. As a wargame, it does have counters that represent various Units and Leaders that are placed and moved around the board showing control and coming into contact with enemy Units that result in battles. But, I want to point out that the counters are really just placeholders and are very simple and don’t necessarily have your typical information contained on them like combat factors, movement factors or even historical information about type of Unit or designation. Each player will have their own set of counters in their colors, with the Patriots being a powder blue with the Crown forces being red. Each of these counters represent a number of Units with the specific number of Units denoted by the number on the counter.
These numbered counters represent your soldiers and come in denominations of 1, 2, 3 or 4. At any time, players can make change with these soldiers to split them and move to different areas after activating that stack. A single soldier or stack of soldiers in the same space is referred to as an Army and has no stacking limit. Due to the nature of the fighting in the Southern Colonies, there are not a great supply of soldiers for either side. The South didn’t have the major population centers like the Northern Colonies did in cities such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia and was more rural and agrarian in nature. Therefore, the British didn’t focus at first on the South as they were chasing Washington and his small army around the north trying desperately to corner him and force a deciding engagement in the form the British were familiar with and really designed for. Because of this different character and makeup of the South, neither side has a glut of Units on the board at any given time. The Crown forces were engaged in their chase in the North and only released a few troops to act as custodians and enforcers in the South to try and raise the local population in support of their efforts as there was a misconception that the South was more loyal to the crown than they actually were. Because of this, the Crown starts with only 8 Units located with a Leader in Savannah and their lone Navy located in the Sea Zone near Charleston, South Carolina. The Patriots start with just 2 Units stacked in Charleston and really have very little hope of holding out or causing any real issues for the Crown forces.
The Patriots are hopelessly outmatched at the start of hostilities in the South, but they will gain their initial allotment of reinforcements at the end of the first Turn End Phase. This historically represents the change of command from Horatio “Granny” Gates to Nathanael Greene as the Patriot player will get 6 Units along with 2 Food Supply and 2 War Supply to place in any vacant or friendly occupied Area or Point in Virginia. This placement is very key as the Patriots want to set a fallback point from the British advance that is near enough to be able to strike out but also that is far enough away that the British will have to use their supply to get at the Patriot forces. Because of the way the supply generation rules work, I would recommend placing the starting Army in the City of Norfolk. This placement will allow the Patriot player to begin moving south while also moving to the north to control Cities such as Yorktown and Richmond to establish a nice base of operations from which to generate supply and move it to the advance Army moving on Berne and Wilmington, North Carolina.
Each player has a few Leader counters that represent their main Leader in the theater (tricorn hat with no text) and their subordinate Leader (tricorn hat with Subordinate written on the counter). The Crown main Leader is none other than Lord Charles Cornwallis, who famously had to surrender to the ragtag band of Patriots and allied French at a little place called Yorktown. The Patriots are led by Nathanael Greene as mentioned before who was known for his expert use of guerilla tactics and hit and run style war that was not matched to what the British were good at. These Leaders are not considered to be Units for purposes of the game and battles but do serve a very important purpose. They are required in order for a group of Units to be activated to initiate a Battle. These Leaders do not offer advantages or bonuses in battle but literally make it possible to attack. And this is one of the most important elements of the game, that of using your Leaders appropriately and having them assigned to where you need to fight in order to win the game.
Leaders can be captured during battle and the capture of a Patriot Leader will effect the British Political Will Track as it will move one space to the right as when the war goes well and reports back home are positive there is more willingness to continue the struggle. But, if the Patriots capture the main Crown Leader, the game will end in an automatic victory for the Patriots. Capture of the Crown subordinate Leader will not result in an automatic victory but will move the British Political Will Track one space to the left, which is one step closer to Patriot victory. While important to the process of binge able to attack, protecting your Leaders is vital to your chances of victory.
Militia & Loyalists
Each player also has a set of Militia (Patriot light blue) and Loyalist (Crown pink) counters that represent the partisan war that ensued in the South during the campaign. These forces represent the pro-British colonists who couldn’t imagine life without their tea and crumpets and the pro-freedom loving Patriot forces who never picked up a gun and marched with the regular army but nonetheless fought the occupation the best way they could. Each of the Irregular Units found in the game is identified with a specific colony and will be used to place in the Partisan Boxes to effect battles and operations in those colonies from turn to turn during the Impulse Phase to take certain actions that we will cover in a later post.
There is a special Partisan counter for the Patriots called The Swamp Fox. This counter represents the famous Irregular leader Francis Marion who rode the swamps of South Carolina to harass and defeat the British with non-conventional warfare. This counter grants some specific benefits to the Patriot player by basically ignoring the disparity of Irregular counters in the South Carolina Partisan Box and granting the ability to take militia actions at any time. The other advantage when he is present is that normally used Irregular counters will be taken out of the Irregular Cup and returned to the supply until they are placed back in the cup later. Not with Francis Marion as rather than being put into the supply used units are placed back into the Irregular Cup.
The really cool part about the Partisan Box is that it is a game within a game and allows for players to aid their forces on the mapsheet by foraging for food, but also by recruiting new Units into the regular Army and also taking the Skirmish or Hold Action that will help each side to deal with the troubles and limitations of supply. After all, this game is more about supply than it is about battle.
Each player has access to one Navy counter which can be used to control Sea Zones on the mapsheet and provide the Crown player with transport options for men and materiel to get from the south to the north quickly. These Navies cannot be on the mapsheet during Winter Turns, which represents 2 of the 5 Impulse Phases and once removed by being destroyed may not come back as they only appear in a Sea Zone on a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6. Their presence can make or break the game for both sides as without the Navy the British have to go cross country which can be very slow and arduous and the Patriots don’t have to worry about defending each and every port in the north as the British will only be able to attack via connected Locations.
In Action Point 3, we will examine the different types of Supplies and how they are generated, moved along continuous supply lines and how they are Expended to activate armies and do battle.