For the People

Opening Theory
By Mark Herman
Introduction How To Create A Winning Advantage victory, but the most common ones are either a
I view generalship as the ability to manipulate the Southern automatic victory when they double
Chess was my first wargame. factors of force, space, and time to achieve military the Union Strategic Will in the middle game or
One of my personal interests is objectives. The American Civil War was a war of a Union automatic victory when they drive old
in studying how the rules of Chess maneuver (space and time) and the ability to Dixie down in the End game (Strategic Will
generate armies from scratch (force). In a FTP of zero). There are several other paths to
evolved from its likely Indian origins to the version
game, the player who prevails has manipulated these victory, the most notable being a Southern
of the game that has been played since the turn
factors better than their opponent. Of course fate survival victory on the last game turn, but the
of the twentieth century when en passant was
in the guise of dice and card distribution play a automatic SW victories are the most common.
internationally accepted into the core rules. A
complementary interest has been the evolution part, but I have seen the better FTP players over
of Chess theory with its named openings that the course of time consistently win with either Players manipulate SW through their ability
conjure images of the geometry of the position side, giving me some level of faith that it is skill, to weave together political events with military
(e.g., Accelerated Dragon variation of the Sicilian not luck, that determines the winner in an FTP success. The timing of success and failures
Defense), some key feature of the opening (e.g., contest. carries the fortune of war benefit-penalty,
benefit so
Maroczy Bind), or are named for its originator players who are more adept at how they
(e.g. Ruy Lopez). This article will transpose my sequence their political and military fortunes
Strategic Will (SW) is a reflection of gain a series of small numerical advantages that
interest in the evolution of Chess theory into
each sides political support for can, over the course of the ga game, determine
how to think about starting, or to use the Chess continuing the prosecution of the war.
term opening, a game of For the People victory or defeat. An example of this is often
Things that impact SW can be found in the middle game when the South finds
(hereafter FTP).
thought of as newspaper headline events that drive itself one SW point short of automatic victory
public opinion up or down. For those who have due to superior Union timing.
With the 2006 reprint of FTP the design has
completed its evolution. This version of the design not played FTP there are several paths to
has been the one played and used for the last half Given that Southern victory is usually
decade. In that half decade a dedicated group of accomplished during the middle game or on
players have created and explored a multiplicity of the last game turn many Confederate open open-
openings focused on gaining advantage into the ings focus on setting up an 1862 win or failing
middle and end game portions of the campaign that the highest SW total possible to weather
scenario. This article is my attempt to create a the big Union offensives that occur after Grant
construct on how to think about the broad and Sherman enter the picture. Conversely
spectrum of potential openings and how they Union opening objectives are set on the long
confer advantage. game when eventual Union strength superiority
enables military victory in 1864 by reducing
Southern SW to zero. A perfect historical out-
Definitions come would see the Confederate SW reduced
For my purposes the opening of a FTP game to zero on the last Union
U card on the last turn.
begins with the Spring 1861 turn (game turn 1)
to the conclusion of Fall 1861 game turn
(game turn 3). From that point going forward Players have discovered that the best metric for
is the middle game, which is book ended by the determining advantage is the relative count of
emergence of Lee in the Spring of 1862 and strength points on the map. Both sides generate
the finish of 1863 when Grant begins to a base level of strength each game turn (except
impact the military situation. The end game is the Fall of 1861 when the 3 month volunteers
heralded by the appearance of Sherman in the muster out). The Union base is 18 versus a
Spring of 1864. Confederate base of 13 strength points. The
Confederate base level strength can be reduced
One of the key elements of the design is my view due to Union control of Confederate States, the
that an outright Southern political victory was Union naval blockade, control of the
possible in 1862 before the industrial might of Mississippi, and closure of blockade zones
the North could be fully mobilized. This makes the through physical occupation. The Union base
middle game the critical portion of any FTP level of strength can be reduced through South-
campaign game. How a player comes out of the ern rail isolation of DC, foreign intervention,
opening sets up the early character of the middle and the occupation of Union State Capitals.
game and often determines its course prior to the Both sides can gain anand lose strength due to
arrival of Grant in the Spring of 1863. card events whereas the South can increase their
strength through the control of the border states
of Kentucky and Missouri. The other key skill is
how to minimize attrition that in the aggregate

and Frederick MD). the East is about securing the three ingress points zone. while times that a good hand is neutralized by what FTP. is to create spatial and house is represented by a counter and you do likewise (e.. Events that should not be used by medium battle. What the cards do is In most games Richmond will of attack into Southern Illinois.g. Keep this in mind when you thin out to both eliminate the South's upper objectives in an environment of uncertainty. the South needs to either side for mobility are reinforcements (e. but for the Union the loss of DC is a through St. and Missouri front. the opponent is holding and there are times The East is defined as the Virginia and West when two mediocre hands play into each other creating devastating combinations when played correctly. Louis. Confederacy threatening to close a Forward to Richmond card rd often shapes how a Mississippi. A Union player does not have there are a couple of cards that enable the South Low mobility is when a player can move forces to defend in these locations directly. but an with less than fifty percent of their hand sans san a forward and layered defense. The Union needs that place PC markers. should and will be upset if you have to move Missouri offers the Union its historical FTP uses my card driven game (CDG) design. the major mobility for both sides is naturally aturally limited from there to locations East or West. Union strategy in consideration is how to avoid losing a blockade what is possible in the later stages of the game. Strategy in FTP opportunities against Dover. which is often ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure operations queue whereas high mobility is the preferable to a point defense. the control (PC) events.. but can create to reverse the loss of a blockade zone. Quantrill's Raiders).. Cairo via Paducah is an avenue the cards will let you do. but When making this calculation one needs to be secured in the opening. which can be an axis for is why the South should be circumspect in using to the small hand sizes in the opening the Confederate advance toward Pittsburgh and from SW events for mobility. The the Union has over the South is its naval (e. naval attacks. The Union also possesses with the s as much a matter of player style as How To Think About Openings right naval cards some interesting riverine in a Combinatorial Environment strategic imperative.Opening Theory can confer battlefield equivalent losses. but in the opening it is rare for blockade zone. but this usually requires disaster. grants powerful spatial advantage to the side choice as the capture of Sabine City Texas that controls it.g. so the later the better. There are threat to the Union western states. It should be noted that whether his hand confers low or high mobility.For the People . on the Eastern and Western fronts. as in chess. both closes one of two West Gulf blockade tucky denies Confederate access to Indiana via runner ports and also threatens the The Map in the Opening Louisville and is a springboard from which an remaining two spaces of Texas. consider the potential threat posed by a Union One of the central asymmetric advantages Emergency Call for Volunteers) and card reduction build up at Fort Monroe when it occurs. Lincoln and Davis). For the Union control of Ken. Cards and Mobility Washington is often the event that triggers an Although there is great variety of card com. However. When this is not the case is when The FTP player community has determined that it two Capitals of Washington DC and the cards say otherwise. strength advantage for the middle game. The your capital's defenses. because an enemy army has burned it to the avenue of approach through New Madrid whereby a player needs to accomplish their ground. You accessed by naval vice riverine operations. automatic Confederate victory. The players represent the number of PC event cards (e. and potentially free Union is conceding a potential spatial changes in army leadership. the West. particularly the West and hand is played. this situation. The East is dominated by the Usually Missouri is of secondary importance maneuvers that occur between and around the to Kentucky. The goal of an tries (e. Every card thematic has at least one . The other key dimension of the East is SW loss and a one point Union SW gain.g. the East. There also determine how mobile your forces will be and the eventually fall.. to gain control over Florida or Texas. defending Tennessee. there are some constants that you should do not have to.g. while setting up the conditions to avoid or employ the Emancipation context I see them as one contiguous front. whose loss seriously s driven by SW. The deck contains a is the confluence of SW and relative force strength Richmond. exists a rarely used attack route for the South events that are available to be exploited. This much mobility is possible from the cards. point each game turn. Both sides need to consider how threats to range south of Missouri. The Union must The Southern coast is any location that is binations that can constitute any given hand in remember to defend Washington at all times. Lyon) that can allow a Union player to cheaply winning or losing a game of FTP. Due West Virginia. Choctaw Indians) with strong SW events South also needs to consider the value of the Valley capability. If the South is allowed to requiring serious assessment. a player can determine into the North (Pittsburgh PA. The fall of more effort in the opening than is prudent. For the very interesting combinatorial effects between want to drive SW is what makes each game South control of Kentucky poses a long term different. In the opening the South will find ability to move with half or more of your cards. Technically the area west of to play a 360 degree game against the ironclads deserve consideration whereas the the Mississippi is usually called the Trans. Virginia front. it hard to avoid losing any coastal forts if the For the Confederates. However. the Union does not the South must avoid losing a blockade zone as subtract out important events that should not usually possess sufficient strength or general die this is a 10 strength point loss per zone for the be used to move forces unless it is an roll modifiers (drms) to succeed in a resource space remainder of the game. However. For FTP.g.. which is a permanent loss of a strength Using this mechanism. For the Union key as applied toward space control in Virginia and as concentrate the majority of its strength events are blockade. so in this East Gulf. Therefore your gain control of Missouri or allow the South to FTP opening. best CDG players layers say that you have to do what For the South. Proclamation and Foreign Intervention when they Kentucky is a critical border state whose control Texas is usually the better early game end up in your hand. For the South events The West is characterized by the Kentucky and advantage to the South. Harper's Ferry VA. emergency. The first thing to focus on is how disaster. Mississippi defenses and threaten Memphis. Nathaniel that indicates at any given moment who is respective Presidents of their respective coun. There are three theaters of operation in the cards and the map position. but how players FTP was designed to create large numbers of impacts Southern western strategy. although Richmond must Union strategy has a strong naval element. but to do otherwise is to court the South losing coastal forts causes a one point focus on. attack on Nashville and Dover can be Where a player focuses his efforts launched. and the Southern coast. political a base from which to launch offensives. multiple forts.

exploited in 1862 when the South gains a neutralizes two Confederate reinforcement Farragut). with 4-to-6 strength points (SP) in a Dover skewer! fort at Manassas is very hard to dislodge. kind of attack that takes no prisoners and is using Porter or Foote to move Fremont and the favored by aggressive players at WBC.Opening Theory counter card in the deck. However sitting (Pope and Burnside) in the opening. Union possesses one or more political event High Mobility Openings cards that enable efficient placement of PC Every so often tyche (fate) smiles on the weary markers in Kentucky or Missouri. being Emergency Call for Volunteers) in conjunc- Summer 1861 reinforcements (game turn 2) to The South usually places a minimum of 2 SP in tion with a campaign card and one additional create a barrier guarding the avenues of this location to prevent a 3 SP Union riverine 30C. with potentially +1 more for Gunboats (remember the Amphibious Union opens up with an attack into the Val. A vicious opening combo the Watchtower).. On the offensive side there are some interesting card means he needs to use his initial force tage in fort building to start digging (All Along riverine situations that can be exploited. in particular the Army of the the use of the operations queue. Designer's Notebook . Harper's Ferry. In these types of openings the Union is that the Union guard the river crossings (They SP in Philadelphia and then reinforces this force not going to be particularly aggressive in the Shall Not Pass). This is an 'in your face' Frederick. So. parry the initiative generals with plus 3 battle ratings attack is it has the potential for seizing the enemy thrusts. This Defenses. If the Amphibious Assault modifier had infamous Forward to Richmond card in the The Watchtower opening used effectively at the been raised earlier the attack is even that more Union hand only makes a great situation better. opportunistically creating threats as they low mobility Western opening occurs if the become available.pre (30C) to move all but two of their generals manpower resources will be unable to mount a served for reaction movement. but 2 out of 3 times he is eliminated. Joe Johnson sometimes gets away with Rebels. This is important as it prevents the . which allows the Union to build three 2 SP in St. If Texas falls the Union can East or the West. If you can wrest Manassas from the This gives the Union an even or better chance force. the South with its usually limited amount of his limited mobility needs to be pre. Porter.g. A potential bright spot in a initiative if it provokes a Confederate reaction. and creates an opportunity for future offensives. combined with Union Siege opening is one of the few situations where the forts with one 20C. what I call Deep in the Heart of Texas. The Union is almost forced to very useful tool to gain an additional activation. The advantage and attack. but based on tour. you should never feel entirely secure as you balance strategy and risk. Ideally the Union will build a center of the Confederate defenses is the fort at is a big reinforcement card (3(3-5 SP the best layered defense that is augmented with its Dover Tennessee (Forts Henry and Donaldson). In my lexicon an opening can be character- ized by how mobile a player's forces can be and where the player wants to focus his initial strategy. Depending on the events. This can be a the aggregate are a critical Union resource that Potomac (AoP). An totally on the defensive lets the South dictate the case on the first turn that the Union cannot important element in low mobility openings is how the opening develops. An attack like this neutralizes the as an effective response to a hyper-aggressive Confederate fort modifier and adds +2 to the Confederate player. I call this variation the Union Openings McClellan. I have seen the All Along Guns. although your mileage may differ. but these comments are valid for the vast majority of situations. If Low Mobility Openings Manassas is supported by a ring of forts around Low mobility hands in general tend to force the DC. players. It is often significant threat against Washington. One of the most popular variants is low mobility openings. Naval operations in move any general. Union gamer and he gets an abundance of 30C The first order of business in low mobility openings is to take advantage of all of the 10C cards that when enhanced with a Campaign cards in your hand by using the Union cards to boot. One way this offensive can develop is the die roll for the Admiral. and attack from gaining a force ratio advantage. The caveat is all comments on openings have exceptions. Louis. A great Union event is Washington vicious attack combination is to attack Dover. to include Baltimore (also prevents Baltimore Union player into opportunistic attacks as some The Union needs 3 value operations cards Revolts). The Union needs to put forts and forces Arkansas. to threaten Texas. World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) potent. A To Richmond Opening. When this happens it is time for the On approach to Pittsburgh. All of the preamble was to get us to this place. ley to eliminate Joe Johnson with his 1 SP defense. Foote. One of the advantages of this openings is to keep from getting hurt. Val No strategy should exclusively focus on Assault modifier cannot be greater than +3). some of which I will cover later in this article. based on observation has eluded many Union concede the initiative to the Confederates in but at a cost in cards. apart with one blow. This yields a simple matrix (right) for each side. This is only a problem if the South is aggressive early. and seize the initiative by (Lee and Jackson). Each box carries a title for a specific opening that will be described below. This Union opening if left unchecked of its offensive activity directed through its naval into these locations to prevent the South from can permanently remove up to 20 Confeder-Confeder opportunities with cards such as Strategy board creating an early crossing point that can be ate SP (loss of two states over 10 turns) and or any of the Admiral Cards (e. The desired outcome of low mobility significant mobility advantage with 2 . whereby nament play this is likely to be an early Union In the West a low mobility set of hands requires the Union captures Sabine City Texas with the 1 issue. Paducah-Cairo and Bloom. the ington-Louisville are the critical river crossing look to develop tthe attack further north into Union in low mobility openings may find most spaces. this is a great forward defense location of knocking Dover and the Southern defenses his 2 defense rating.

you to keep a forward Northern Virginia cut off from his capital. The first priority in this situation threat is manageable. The Union needs to use the first The operations queue is often the path to naval control if a fort falls. manner if the Union unsuccessfully attacks a Missouri. Ironclads are very useful for denying Union offensive. The Texas. any other naval card in their opening hand. In addition an fort prior to the second Union assault. take a shot at opening up Arkansas and initiative generals and receives a 1-one initiative plus additional two initiative generals on turns 2 from trying to shut down a blockade zone in exposing the entire Southern position in the the opening. If the Army of AoP advances. Farragut is always a dangerous army and puts sufficient forces in Richmond reinforcement card to reinforce the AoP and event in the Union hand. Kentucky and develop an attack toward Nash Nash. Man River. the South initiative. probably fall next game turn. It usually takes three attacks. then finale is Butler moves behind Richmond to cut have Price move to Sabine City ahead of the watch your flanks in Manassas. but ever be conscious of covering your of SP. The sequence for this opening is Union show you how mobile he is before bug- assuming that you do.Opening Theory South from forming an early Army of Northern cards while initiating the Deep in the Heart of forces in Richmond both threatens to build an Virginia (AoNVa). so keeping the Union north of the their lower er initiative rated generals. This is followed up by a second cannot leave generals without a command. The Western Gulf opening will Williamsburg effectively corking Butler in the get lucky and even if it doesn't succeed cost the South 12 SP and 22 SW. A common Confeder. The South has Kentucky. but you need to accept player needs to be prepared. but too much of it in the flanks in these situations. but Union Opening Summary Thoughts will suffer two low mobility turns in the they possess greater overall mobility due to Mobility is the long pole in the Union tent and opening. In this measure especially if the Union takes Sabine in the opening if he can get his naval game in situation the Union should aspire to control City Texas. Often it is the Union reinforcement card or sufficient ufficient support with opening will rob the South of any offensive or naval advantage that enables it to seize the PC marker placement. In the West low mobility is less detrimental. while creating a LOC. such as the which uses Farragut versus Fort Gadson to around although on game turn 1 the high Confederates playing last with a Campaign capture Columbus Georgia and destroy the general to SP ratio limits this tactic as you card and cutting off the AoP. your options. Holding Richmond is the goal. What follows next is the This is followed by the capture of Sabine City defense until late in the turn. The biggest impediment to a Eastern openings achieve this by defending game turn 1 Kentucky offensive is the paucity As a basic rule for all Southern openings coastal forward. Beyond reinforcing the forts try and gear early. Next the Union plays its Texas opening. You can use 1 OC cards to shift divisions its potential consequences. However. However. and creates a deterrent against the Union 1 play. so the Southern losing a blockade zone. but you can blockade zone. so they the odds are the Union will more often than not Ohio and Mississippi rivers is a success. This is about as good a defense as the Confederate does not build a fort in Little you are going to achieve unless you can aug- Rock or shifts the initial SP to Fort Philip Low Mobility Openings As the South begins the game with 4-two ment the defenses with Torpedoes or an Iron- Jackson. and 3. In this Sigel events placing a 1 SP reinforcement in opportunities in the West. It should early riverine move from Little Rock to place a Akin to the On to Richmond opening is the be clear that the Union can be quite powerful garrison in Fort Philip-Jackson is a prudent On to Nashville opening in the West. cover the army's flanks with small forces at assault against Fort Morgan closing down the Holding the river defenses is the goal of Old Lynchburg and Williamsburg Virginia the East Gulf Blockade zone. do not panic in this the Southern player's attention even if you do Southern fort that is garrisoned in the opening situation by pulling back too soon. This will definitely get dangerous as an opening card play as the only it on turn 1. In each Another variant to this opening is if mobility Western Confederate forts at Dover Tennessee and case garrison the coastal fort and when possible and PC events are coupled with the Kansas or Columbus Kentucky can cripple Southern have a back up SP in the associated port.For the People . but it is especially that the Union will be hard pressed to threaten Butler at Fort Monroe. at the end of this rainbow. It is unlikely that the Confederates only a picket line of forces in the West. defensive resilience. Consequently. the back up SP in the Missouri should not be overlooked. plus an Peninsula bottle and preventing him from Richmond is cut off without an army and will additional 10 SP if Texas falls. division moves or if blocked by Southern PC the Union opening strategy must always focus markers Fremont enters Kentucky through on defending Washington. But it does happen. A low mobility some set backs or risk having this mission A dangerous Union opening occurs when the dominate your opening and severely limiting Union gets Farragut or Ship Island/Key West and opening in the East necessitates the Richmond Defiant opening. Taking out a blockade zone pays immense should focus on picking one fort-port dividends and the loss of either or both of the combination in each blockade zone. The bottom line is you need to pay Trans-Mississippi. This forward position of AoP is not without There is also the alternate East Gulfvariation. so be mindful of the turn to move forces into Kentuckyy with early salvation in these situations. At all times Confederate port can be sent forward on a 1 OC to replace in this variant keep an eye on Little Rock. ate response is to use a 10C riverine move to should be to reinforce the forts (Columbus send the SP in Mobile Alabama to reinforce the Kentucky and Dover Tennessee). As a first priority limited naval events that present themselves. the Southern player will initiated by the quick capture of Fort Philip/ ging out. This gives the Union the potential to shut down the so concentrating your Northern Virginia Westernn Gulf Blockade zone in the first two . If the garrison. A common Confederate response is to the Potomac makes an early Valley attack. looked. it is rare that the South is saddled with a low mobility hand in more than one turn in the sufficient attention to coastal defense to avoid opening. The chances that the Union is also need to start pulling Beauregard's force in Jackson before the South can reinforce the suffering from a low mobility hand can allow Manassas back toward Richmond or risk being location using the SP in Little Rock Arkansas. A good flank it off and attacks tacks followed by the AoP for the second Union assault to prevent the loss of the defense for Richmond is to leave 1 SP in kill. so there is gold getting behind Richmond to cut a rail line. if you resource space. However is Fort Sumter. so this opening is usually augmented by a defense is a necessity. Make the not have the mobility to back it up. The high mobility Louisville. are capable of massing them to block an early find themselves in the low mobility openings. In this situation a rapid conquest of fort killing the garrison. prevent the Union from gaining control of ville and Dover Tennessee. which is a common Confederate turn clad.

Johnson to move the Memphis. James strategy must satisfy. seven times WBC champion (2006). Note that a Arne turn 2 Foreign Intervention will cost the Union 20 SP over If this situation is accompanied by reinforce. The South or lost. Nashville. The skill is to accomplish The name of the game is to create threats and Pei. This will force the Union to defend a possible raid through Pittsburgh is often pos. the foreigners parity. potentially creating sible. I would like Summary Thoughts It is in the opening when resources of both to call this Pei's gambit where he eschews his cards rds and strength points are in short supply The likelihood is the South will possess and when significant advantage can be gained flanks and uses the Shenandoah valley to superior mobility in the opening. I have tried to broadly catalogue the swing west toward Pittsburgh or north needs to take advantage of this state of nature current state of opening theory resident in the through Harper's Ferry followed by a wide and ensure that they gain spatial advantage to continuing FTP tournament scene. a good thing will rob you of offensive chances. The way it works is the South places PC markers in Louisville and Falmouth blocking Union division moves. The major Southern limitation is its initial Once Kentucky has been taken the South inferiority in strength. The South in these should build a fort or use an ironclad to deny Conclusion situations has the resource of usually going last Union naval control at Paducah or Louisville The main goal of the opening is to create and a game turn 1 grab of West Virginia with Kentucky.Opening Theory High Mobility against a coastal fort to drive the SW level back conduct sufficient coastal defense to not lose a The more likely condition for the South to below 110 as a preventative measure. thinking is the province of the Master. The bane of this opening is a high mobility Union opening where an aggressive offensive can use the Northern strength advantage to pull the fangs of this Southern attack before it gets going. This type of aggressive southern These are the twin objectives that any viable an opening in the East that can be exploited. The South will usually be capable of taking Kentucky on the last card play of turn 1 unless the Union has put blocking forces in place. blockade zone in the opening. Early capture of Kentucky allows the South. It doesn't happen often. Hopefully this early fall of the Union capital is possible. your objectives in an environment of wait for the cards to make them real. and add to the FTP strategic tapestry. never show. the conditions for SW and strength advantage. Gaining one or new ideas to the veterans. It should swing to the east to cut DC off from the enable either immediate or future raids once act as a guide for new player players and offer some North. aggressive attack into the North. This more border states is key to Southern hopes for treatise will spur others to take up the pen maneuver reduces Union turn 2 reinforcements Foreign intervention. Designer's Notebook . S. If Washington is poorly garrisoned an Lee cometh (game turn 4). against the threat of a raid. I call this playing the Center Game. by 4 effectively achieving Confederate strength but if you do not position for it. The importance of this opening to the South is they finish out game turn 1 with a SW of 110 and the pos- sibility of Foreign Intervention on game turn 2. Always remember to ment cards and a campaign card sparks will fly. but too much of find themselves in is a high mobility opening. The South then uses his last card to use Polk and A. the course of the game. In the West the high general to SP ratio is advantaged by the high mobility hand. Woe to the Union when this scenario is played out against a low mobility Union opening where only the Along the Watch Tower opening offers refuge. James probably understands the Eastern uncertainty where mobility and timing theater better than anyone and he has often options can fall prey to how the enemies gone Down in the Valley to launch another Confederate Opening resources do or do not complement your own. and fort SP into Kentucky to take the state. as in chess. In this circumstance the Union first play of game turn 2 should be to launch a naval move . The Union is now reduced to either playing PC markers into Kentucky or swinging Fremont through Louisville. This situation is a classic defense-offense battle whereby the Confederate wants the Union to come forward so he can sweep around their flanks to either destroy the AoP or conduct a raid. to dominate the center of the board. the latter being a rare move unless the Union has a high mobility hand.