Category: 1812: The Invasion of Canada

Winning American Strategies for 1812: The Invasion of Canada

Overview

This year, Academy Games added another fine game to their line up with 1812: The Invasion of Canada.  Using simple rules, interesting combat mechanics and a card driven system, they have created an elegant and subtle strategy game that can be enjoyed by both Grognards and newcomers to our hobby. Many players, in their early experience with the game, quickly realize that it is extremely challenging to win as the American player.  This is historically accurate as the American war effort was ill-conceived, ineptly led, and hastily organized.  We will try here to give you some general American play and strategy tips to overcome the British advantages.
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British Advantages

The mechanics and design give the British player several advantages.  First and foremost, the British have three factions, while the Americans have only two. Since you’re able to move an Army as long as one unit of a faction is represented, the British player has tremendous flexibility and strategic mobility as the Brits are able to move three times per round compared with the Americans two. In fact, frequently the British will have consecutive moves allowing them to penetrate deeply into the hinterlands after their initial move breaks through the American frontline.

British Muster Areas are also geographically closer to the front line than the American Muster Areas. They are also more numerous (three printed on the map or four if you count the special Native American ability to recruit where they already have Native American unit present). This results in Fled British units returning to the fight more quickly than American units who must use precious movement cards to march to the front.

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Even more importantly, the British Army is qualitatively better than the American. This superiority derives from two factors.  The number of Hits, Command Decisions and Flee results on British dice compared to American dice and the fact that the British Army can roll a maximum of 8 dice in combat, (2 for British Regulars and 3 each for the Canadian Militia and Native Americans) compared to the Americans 5 dice, (2 for the American Regulars and 3 for the American Militia).  In this game, when a player rolls combat dice his own units may Flee (and are removed from the board to return later in subsequent rounds).  Since the Americans have more Flee results on their combat dice, they are more likely than the British player to harm themselves when rolling in combat.   Therefore every time the American player rolls, on average, he will inflict 1.5 losses on the British and likely lose an equal amount of his own units to Flee results.  On average the British will inflict three losses on the Americans with only one of their units Fleeing. This means, in a big battle, the American player can expect to remove four or five units from his army each battle turn.  Needless to say, American armies melt away rather easily.

The British Native American allies are especially dangerous as they have the special ability to execute a Command Decision into unoccupied enemy Homeland Areas. Therefore, American units must occupy all Homeland victory point objectives lest the Indians start spreading through the interior like a virus.

Finally, although both sides must defend 7 land crossings, Albany, a critical American Muster Area and several others victory point objectives are vulnerable to a British Army descending down the Hudson River by play of a Warship card. Therefore, the Americans have to defend all the usual crossings, plus the Hudson River. The British have no corresponding geographical problem.


Successful American Play

A winning American strategy must overcome all these British advantages while magnifying the American advantages of superior movement and more powerful Special Cards.  These suggestions, by necessity, cannot be very specific because of the variability of card play, turn sequence order and initial setup.  We can only provide broad principles and leave the operational planning to you.

Let’s first look at the basic tenets that must guide American strategy.

Patience Is a Virtue

The American player should not feel compelled to immediately invade Canada.  Your armies are at a qualitative disadvantage and the Homeland First Fire Rule can be devastating to occupying armies.

Instead, try to keep the victory point score close and prolong the game as long as possible.  There is a subtle shift in advantage as the game progresses since the British player will be using up his movement cards thereby becoming progressively less mobile.  Furthermore, a longer game gives the American player a chance to “perfect his hand” for the final push that should bring him victory (see below). Patience is a virtue when playing the American side.

Move Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee

The American player should always try to avoid big battles early in the game, particularly when not in their own Homeland areas.  Remember that the Americans are qualitatively disadvantaged compared to British armies that contain units from all three British factions.

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Therefore, the American player best utilizes his forces by striking in small packets against weakly defended areas.  He should not make any large invasion of Canada until near the end of the game. In the early turns, he should strike at isolated Canadian Victory Point objectives that are held by one or two Canadian units. This puts the Canadians on the defensive reacting to American moves.  They will need to waste precious Army moves, of which they have fewer than the Americans, to regain lost Homeland Victory Point areas.

Prescott and Kingston are usually weakly defended by the Canadians early in the game and, if captured by the Americans, cuts off the flow of British regulars from Eastern Canada to Western Canada. Capturing these areas with a small force of two regulars and two and three militia will not allow you to hold for long, but will prompt a British response. The Fishing Boat cards are also particularly useful for raiding Canadian Victory Point objectives. These little incursions keep the British player off-balance and force him to utilize movement for the protection of Homeland areas rather than invading the United States.

Protect Your Muster Areas

Protection of your muster areas is extremely important as loss of one of these areas will result in reduced Enlistments and limited options for placement of returning Fled units. American combat dice result in more Flee results than the British; therefore you will have forces returning to your Muster Areas frequently. The loss of Pittsburgh or Albany causes these returning units to be placed in a muster area that is usually far from the theater where these units are needed.

Additionally, the Americans get more Enlistments than the British but this advantage is negated if your Muster areas have been captured. Therefore, when setting up the 12 optional units, fill in the holes along your border so that the British cannot penetrate to your Muster areas should they move three turns consecutively (a greater than 60% chance on the first turn alone). Therefore it is imperative to place a unit in the border space between Plattsburgh and Ogdensburg and possibly populate other areas leading to Albany that are not initially friendly occupied. Remember that the British can move a mixed faction Army along the Hudson River to the space just east of Albany. Should they move consecutively they can then attack Albany before the Americans can even react. Therefore, it is a good idea to leave a strong force in Albany.
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Although Pittsburg is less vulnerable, the American player still has to be careful if the British make a water move to the space just west of Erie since they can then attack Pittsburgh with their next faction move. Loss of one of these critical reinforcement areas can allow British forces to go wild before friendly forces can be brought from the other theater.

Plan a Defense in Depth

The American player must be extremely sensitive to the ability of Native Americans to Command Decision into unoccupied enemy territory. This can be particularly galling when, during a battle, several British command decisions are rolled. The Native American can first move into the unoccupied enemy territory claiming control and be followed by other British factions that now execute their Command Decision into the newly claimed territory. In this way, a substantial British Army can be “retreated forward” deep into the American homeland. Moreover, the ability for the Native Americans to recruit another Native American unit in any area that they already occupy becomes particularly vexing as the Native Americans start to infest American Homeland territories like a virus. To guard against this, at least a militia unit should be left behind in any area you attack from and territories behind your front lines should likewise be occupied.
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This is particularly important around Buffalo, Fort Niagara and out west in Detroit since there are several Victory Point objectives vulnerable to Indian Command Decisions. The easiest time to fill in these gaps is with your optional unit deployment on the initial setup.

Move Units Forward From Muster Areas in an Efficient and Coordinated Fashion

The American player should avoid the urge to move newly Enlisted and returned Fled units immediately forward from their Muster areas. It is best to allow large armies to accumulate so that the units can be moved forward efficiently with one Army movement. The objective is to have these forces move to a central location where subsequent moves can allow them to splinter in different directions to recapture or attack critical victory point areas. This is particularly crucial towards the end of the game when you are going to use your Special Cards to implement an overwhelming counterattack. It is necessary that this be set up correctly.

Optimize Card Play to Achieve the Perfect Endgame Hand

The Americans must optimize their use of their Special Cards since these tend to be more powerful than the British. There are three cards that can yield a game-winning combination if played together on the last turn of the game:  the American War Hawks card, the William Harrison card and the Militia card, Kentucky Militia. Early on, if these cards are not yet in your hand, you should play as many cards as possible to drill through your deck until these particular cards appear. Then, judiciously move forward the larger armies accumulated at your Muster areas to central locations where they can attack multiple victory point objectives. The War Hawks card is extremely powerful as it allows you to move up to double the number of armies depicted on your movement card. If played with a movement card of four armies, it will allow you to move eight instead, potentially resulting in the capture of eight victory point spaces. This card can be devastating when your larger armies are properly positioned and it is played on the last move of the game.
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The William Harrison card will allow one force that makes a successful attack to attack again into an adjacent area thus possibly gaining another victory point objective. The Kentucky militia card is best played when several decisive battles are about to be fought in the same turn since its effects apply to all battles in the turn.

The American player must resist the urge to use these cards early in the game.  In general, the longer the game goes on the more the advantage shifts to the Americans since it he is more likely to collect these powerful cards. In fact one British strategy is to try to quickly burn through their decks in order to play all of their Truce cards and end the game before the American can obtain these powerful events.

Time the Play of Your Truce Cards to End the Game When it is Most to Your Advantage

The dénouement for all your careful play will come in the last turn of the game.  Therefore, the American player must hope to end the game at a time of his own choosing. This is not always easy as the British can burn through their deck to get their Truce cards out early. This may prevent you from accumulating the perfect endgame hand and could preempt your last turn counterattack.  However, the British must play three Truce cards while the American player can end the game with just two.

If possible, play both Truce cards when the turn order cube sequence favors your American Regular faction moving towards the end of the round. Unfortunately, you will have to have a little bit of luck and hope that the British cubes come up early in the round.  If the last turn of the game is controlled by the British, you will be forced to make your counterattack early and as devastating as possible in an effort to accumulate more victory points than the subsequent British faction moves can retake.

The American Winning Strategy

A typical winning strategy for the American player in 1812: The Invasion of Canada should proceed as follows.  On the initial setup, the American player should create a defense in depth by filling in important areas that initially contain no friendly units so as to block avenues of approach toward your Muster Areas. In placing these units, always remember that the British are likely to move at least two factions consecutively and, particularly on the first turn, three factions consecutively.

Once any gaps are filled, units should be placed to create mixed faction forces positioned to attack Canadian territory that is weakly held. Then move like a butterfly, sting like a bee and make little raids into Canada on weakly defended victory point objectives. The idea is to simply make the British expend movements to react without jeopardizing large American forces. Keeping the British off-balance hinders their ability to invade United States soil. The early game American objective is to keep the Victory Point score close and prolong the game until you obtain the Truce cards and the powerful Special Event cards in your hand.

As Fled units reappear and enlistments accrue, amass large armies in your Muster Areas keeping them centrally located so that they can move toward the front lines at critical moments.  Then move units from the muster areas in an efficient and coordinated fashion so as to utilize the minimum number of Army moves so they are in striking distance of lost Homeland Victory Point objectives and/or weakly held Canadian ones in preparation for the big counterattack on the final turn of the game.

The American player should burn through his cards as fast as possible trying to preserve his high Army movement cards while immediately playing the less powerful Special Events. The objective is to optimize card play to achieve the perfect endgame hand that includes War Hawks, William Harrison  and possibly Kentucky Militia. In the meantime, continue making little invasions of weakly held Canadian Victory Point territories in an effort to keep the British off-balance and reactive, forcing them to burn precious movement cards.

Once you have attained the perfect end game hand, use your Truce   cards to end the game if the remaining turn order cubes favor your factions moving toward the end of the final game round. This gives the British player less chance to react to your final counterattack. Use War Hawks and Truce cards to recapture United States territory and/or invade weakly held Canadian victory point objectives always with an eye to the final Victory Point tally. The William Harrison card may allow one final additional attack to garner that crucial winning victory point.


Summary

Overcoming the British advantages in this game is not easy and requires patience, proper card management and some luck during the turn order sequence. Nevertheless, as our experience has grown with the game, the Americans can indeed win! In point of fact, we were so confident that the British advantages were overwhelming, that the guys at TheBoardGamingLife challenged the Academy Games crew, Uwe Eickert and his son Gunter, to win a game playing the Americans at the World Board Gaming Championships in Lancaster Pennsylvania.
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A very tense and prolonged game ensued that was back and forth right up to the bitter end. Nevertheless, the Academy Games team triumphed utilizing some of the strategies in this article. We were duly humbled. However, we had so much fun, we decided to make this an annual challenge at WBC.

1812: The Invasion of Canada is an extremely tense, subtly deep, and elegantly designed game. One of the qualities of an excellent game is that, after just having played, you immediately start thinking of a different strategy that would allow you to do better the next time. This is exactly what happens each time we play. We anxiously await the next game in the series on the American Revolution: 1775 Rebellion.

Restoring the Balance – 1812: The Invasion of Canada

Variants to help restore the balance of play in 1812: The Invasion of Canada

By Harvey Mossman and Fred W. Manzo


In our opinion, Academy Games’ 1812: the Invasion of Canada is a popular game because of simple and elegant play mechanics and Eurostyle treatment of the campaigns along the United States – Canadian border during the War of 1812.

We’ve played it many times and, despite its numerous likable aspects, we’ve found that it is definitely imbalanced in favor of the British. In fact, with competent British play, we have never seen an American victory. Now this may have been the designer’s intent as the British did have several advantages over a poorly organized opponent fighting an unpopular war. However, as this game may serve as an introduction for non-wargamers to our hobby, it behooves us to restore its balance as both new and old players like games that give them some chance of winning.

I want to make it clear at the outset that we are not trying to disparage an enjoyable design. We’re only suggesting fixes to play imbalance as this game is going to serve as the flagship of an ongoing series.

Let’s start the discussion with a look at the British advantages.

Numeric Factional Advantage Yields Superior Strategic Movement

The British have three factions, while the Americans have only two. As you’re able to move an Army as long as one unit of a faction is present, the British players have a tremendous flexibility and strategic mobility advantage over the Americans as they may move three times per round against the American’s two. The only requirement being that the Brits keep their armies populated with all three of their factions and this isn’t a particularly difficult requirement.

The British player is also much more likely than the American to move two or even three times in a row. Over a two round span the chances are just shy of 60% that the Brits will have three consecutive moves (this may include moves from a previous round.) This is a tremendous advantage especially if you take into account that the player who makes the last move in this game has the ability to seize victory point objectives without worrying about a response from his opponent. In fact, this last turn victory point grab is how almost all of our games terminated in a British victory.

Home Defense Rule

The Home Defense Rule aggravates the problem of consecutive moves. In a typical example, the Americans invade a British homeland territory. They are then subjected to fire before they shoot back. Therefore they are likely to take heavier initial losses. Plus they usually must withstand consecutive counterattacks by the British player who again fires first due to the Homeland Defense Rule when his next faction moves and his next faction moves.

While it is quite common for the American player to invade Canada with a large army only to suffer initial substantial losses and then be counterattacked two or three times before he even has a chance to reinforce his position or retreat, the reverse isn’t always true. Although the British also suffer homeland defensive fire when they invade the United States, they are more likely to reinforce any captured territory before their army evaporates due to their propensity to move consecutively.

Muster Area Advantage

British Muster Areas are closer to the front line than the American Muster Areas and more numerous (three printed on the map or four if you count the special Native American ability to recruit anywhere a Native American unit is present). While some say this makes British Muster Areas more vulnerable, the discussion above clearly demonstrates the difficulty of the American successfully holding Canadian territory. The net effect is that British Fleeing units reappear right in critical defensive positions, while the American Fleeing units both disappear from the fight for two or three turns and absorb precious resources getting back to their front line.

Numerical Superiority

The British simply have more units than the Americans in their force pool. The British have 25 Regulars, 35 Canadian militia and 25 Native American units to call on. The Americans, on the other hand, have only 30 Regulars and 45 militia units, for a total of 85 British units to 75 American units.

Combat Qualitative Superiority

The British Army is qualitatively better than the American army. This advantage derives from two factors: the number of Hits, Command Decisions and Flee results on British dice compared to American dice and the fact that the British Army can roll a maximum of 8 dice in combat, (2 for British Regulars and 3 each for the Canadian Militia and Native Americans) compared to the American’s 5, (2 for the American Regulars and 3 for the American Militia). The breakdown of possible results based on the individual dice each faction throws is depicted below.

Possible Combat Die Roll Outcomes Based On Faction
British Regulars: Produce hits 3 out of 6 attempts, flee 0 times out of 6 and 3 out of 6 times generate Command Decisions
American Regulars: Produce hits 3 out of 6 attempts, flee 1 time out of 6 and 2 out of 6 times generate Command Decisions
Conclusion: The British regulars flee less and generate more Command Decisions than their American counterpart
American Militia: Produce 2 hits out of 6 attempts, flee 2 out of 6 times and 2 out of 6 times generate Command Decisions
Canadian Militia: Produce 2 hits out of 6 attempts, flee 2 out of 6 times and 2 out of 6 times generate Command Decisions
Conclusion: American and Canadian Militia are equivalent in combat
Native Americans: Produce 2 hits out of 6 attempts, flee 1 out of 6 times, 3 out of 6 times generate Command Decisions, plus in most cases they generate 3 extra die rolls per battle, give the British an extra movement phase and have a “floating” muster area
Conclusion: Native Americans are in many ways better than American Regulars!

As you can see from the table above, the British Army is qualitatively superior. They flee less often and have a better chance of producing Command Decisions, which makes them tactically more flexible as they have a greater chance of staying in an advantageous position or leaving in a losing situation.


Native American’s Special Command Decision Ability

But that’s not all! The Native Americans can “retreat forward.” That is when a “Command Decision” is rolled Native American troops have the opportunity to “retreat” into unoccupied American territory, even if it’s a victory point site. Additionally, the rules state that movement of the Command Decision units is sequential. Therefore, a Native American can move into an unoccupied American territory from a Command Decision result and then be followed by a British regular or Canadian militia Command Decision in the same round of combat! This means that the Americans must have a defense in depth or else suffer from a savvy British player’s “retreating” ever deeper into their territory. Think of what this can do to a game that is about to end because the last Truce card has been played. It is particularly devastating if the British are moving consecutively, as it is likely that by “retreating forward” they’ll be grabbing victory point spaces as they go.

The Americans simply cannot be expected to be everywhere.

Geographic Advantage

Both sides must defend 7 land crossings but the Americans are vulnerable along the Hudson River due to the potential for a large British Army to debouch within two spaces of Albany (a Muster Area) by play of a Warship card. Therefore, the Americans have to defend all the usual crossings, plus the Hudson River crossings. The British have no corresponding geographical problem.

Conclusions

So what’s not to like about the British position? They have a qualitatively superior Army in combat, are more flexible strategically and tactically, are more likely to move consecutively and, more importantly, are more likely to move last. In addition, they have more troops to call on and they are likely to hit more often when in battle. Plus, they have a geographic advantage as to the placement and number of their Muster Areas in comparison to the vulnerabilities of the American Muster Area along the Hudson. In essence, the British player can fight the American player to a Draw for most of the game and then use their advantages to surge into American victory point areas just before or after the play of the last Truce card. And remember, they can do this while not overly worrying about an American response.

Surely, the Americans must have a few tricks up their sleeves? Well, their movement cards do tend to allow more of their armies to move in a round but this does not begin to compensate for the British advantages. Some also will say that their Muster Areas are arguably more difficult to capture as they are deeper in their home territory. However, given the vulnerability of Albany by a British Hudson River invasion and the fact that the Americans must spend resources to bring forces forward negates this advantage in our opinion.

Now, we’re certain that if we played an infinite number of times the Americans would eventually win. But really, is that the measure of a balanced game? Also, do you really want to introduce new wargamers to our hobby with a game so imbalanced that one side has almost no chance of winning? Surely we’d have stopped playing Monopoly very early on if we knew there was no reasonable possibility of us ever winning even one game.

Proposed Rule Changes In Our Variant

1. Turn Order Mulligan

Once each round, the American player may throw back into the bag the faction order cube just selected. He only gets to do this once each round. If he throws a cube back and it is immediately selected again, the players must make the move with this faction. (He cannot use this rule to avoid moving first in the first round of the game.) This rule partially offsets the British consecutive movement advantage as the American player will have a limited ability to break up advantageous British moves and it does provide some interesting decision-making for the American player.

2. Native American Fear Of Fortifications

In our opinion the Native Americans are some of the best troops on the board given the fact that they are better than the American Regulars qualitatively and have the special Command Decision ability. This rule helps lessen that advantage. Simply put, when Native Americans are involved in combat in an American Homeland Victory Point Territory, they must treat all command decision results as Flee results. Also, they may never use their special command decision ability to occupy an unoccupied American Homeland Victory Point Territory. When performing normal movement, they may move into these territories normally.

3. Reluctant Militia

Canadian and American militia were often reluctant to serve outside their countries. Whenever any Militia faction attempts to move across their national boundary to enter an enemy Homeland Territory, they must roll one of their faction die for each militia unit. If the result is “Flee” the militia unit must stop in the last area entered and remain behind while the rest of the Army completes its movement into enemy territory. Militia units thus left behind may move no further in this activation but may in a subsequent faction move with the same “Reluctant Militia” restrictions. This rule applies even if the militias are crossing the national boundary via water movement. Note that this rule only affects movement across national boundaries. It does not affect militias who have already successfully entered the enemy’s country. They maneuver normally once across the border.

While some may think this rule primarily affects the American player who has more militia and is more dependent on them, in actuality it affects the British to a much greater extent as they tend to have fewer regular troops and it does place some limits on their last turn ability to surge across the border in massive numbers.

4. Reshuffling of Played Cards

In our opinion the American special cards are more powerful than the British ones. Therefore re-circulating them is advantageous to the American player. Under this rule, all cards that have been played are reshuffled into each faction’s deck at the beginning of each new round prior to that faction filling his hand. Truce cards and the British warship card are never reshuffled and can only be used once. Additionally, the British factions must randomly select one Special Card used in the current round to remove permanently from the game before reshuffling the rest of their cards and filling their hand. The net effect of this is to preserve the American factions’ flexibility, while slowly draining the British players of their special abilities. In our opinion, this will force the British to end the war quickly. Remember at this time there was unrest in the Caribbean and a war in Europe to fight against Napoleon. Even after his abdication, Europe remained unsettled and the British public was extremely war weary. Therefore, there was a great deal of pressure to prosecute this war to a conclusion.

5. Hudson River Invasion Early Warnings

The Americans would surely have had an early warning of a British invasion fleet making its way slowly down the Hudson. Therefore, immediately following any move by the British player that uses a water movement card on the Hudson River, the American player may make an immediate special move by one of his armies within three spaces of the Hudson. This Army must end its movement in an American Homeland territory adjacent to the Hudson River. This move does not require the play of a card and will occur as a special reaction in the British faction’s move. If this special American army move ends in a British occupied American homeland territory, combat proceeds as normal.

6. Revised Homeland Defense Rule

The player in his home territory no longer automatically fires first. The defender fires first with all of his factions but the Homeland advantaged player designates the faction that must take the first enemy casualty. After this first exchange, all fire is simultaneous but the player who is fighting in his homeland territory decides who resolves Command Decisions first for the rest of the combat.

While this rule does not fully negate the great advantage of battling in one’s Homeland Area, it somewhat mitigates it. Now a defender can inflict some casualties before the attacker fires on him while the Homeland advantage affects how combat results are implemented.

7. Reduced Native American Combat Effectiveness

In this game, the Native Americans are the second best troops right behind the British Regulars. This combined with their special Command Decision ability and their power to recruit in areas already occupied by other Native Americans make them disproportionately effective. Therefore we took the simple option of reducing their maximum number of combat dice to 2 instead of 3. Although Native Americans were an important contingent for the British, they were far less effective in stand up battles and certainly much less effective against fortified settlements. We believe this simple rule reflects their true combat effectiveness.


Summary

Taken as a whole, these rule changes are meant to improve an already innovative design. While we could not possibly playtest every ramification of these changes, we found they do serve as welcome help to beleaguered American players and they even add some interesting decision-making to the game. Please let us know what you think.

1812: The Invasion of Canada – Board Game Review

Review of Academy Games’ Recent Game of the 1812 Invasion of Canada


By Harvey Mossman


Overview

The comedian Kathleen Madigan quipped that Canada is like America’s attic- you forget that it is up there until you go and see all the cool things it has. In the first hundred years of our nation that was most certainly not the case. The American colonies and subsequently the United States tried to conquer Canada on two occasions, once during the War for Independence and a second time during the War of 1812. Academy Games’ flagship simulation in their Birth of America series depicts this latter invasion in a rather simple yet elegant fashion.

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1812: The Invasion of Canada is a five player game where each player represents one of the warring factions. There are two players on the American side: American Regulars (represented by blue cubes), and American Militia (white cubes). The British side has three players: British Regulars (red cubes), Canadian Militia (yellow cubes) and Native Americans (green cubes). When playing with fewer than five people, one or more players will have to control multiple factions since all the factions must be played.

1812: The Invasion of Canada - Units

Setup is extremely easy since the starting positions for the 1812 scenarios are illustrated right on the map by appropriate colored cubes for each area. Any undeployed units are available for Enlistments (reinforcements) during the game. The hard mounted map, stretching from Montréal in the East to Detroit in the West, covers the areas around Lake Ontario and Lake Erie where most of the fighting took place. American Homeland Areas are shaded blue and the British are shaded red. Most areas contain starred cities or forts which are victory point objectives that are tallied at games end to determine victory. The map is aesthetically appealing with nice artistic touches suggesting old parchment. Three scenarios are offered including an introductory scenario, the 1812 full campaign scenario and a campaign scenario for 1813 for those who choose to start later in the war.

1812: The Invasion of Canada - Map

This game is card driven. Each faction has a unique deck of 12 cards from which 3 cards are drawn to form their hand for each round. The turn order is determined by randomly choosing from a set of colored cubes in a provided black bag. On the first round of play the Americans Regulars are preselected to go first and then the rest of the turn order is random. When your colored cube is drawn you execute the turn order sequence below.

1812: The Invasion of Canada - Turn order blocks

1. Place Enlistments and Fled units in Muster areas – Each side has several muster areas on the map where these enlistments can be placed. The number of units mustered is constant and depicted in the muster areas. These units come from your undeployed pieces. Next, any units that have Fled (more on this later) from previous combats can reappear in one of or both muster areas.

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2. Play a Movement card and up to two Special cards – The active player must now play one Movement card from his hand and has the option to play up to two Special cards. Movement cards tell you the number of armies that can move and the distance each Army can be moved. An Army comes from one area and moves to a single objective area. It cannot drop off or pick up units along the way. If units are going to different objectives areas they are considered separate armies. In order for a faction to move an army from an area at least one of its faction cubes must be present in the Army. Therefore, one white cube can bring along any number of white American militia cubes and blue American regular cubes. This suggests that players should keep armies of mixed factions so that they can achieve the most efficient movement.

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Some movement cards are Water movement cards. Regular forces have Warships cards that allow any number of troops in one Army to move from a coastal area to any other coastal area on the same body of water. Fishing boats are used by militia factions to move a limited number of troops from two different coastal areas to one single objective area on the same body of water. Canoes allow only Native Americans to move from multiple areas to a single area on the same body of water. These three different types of water movement represent the only depiction of naval combat in the game and give slightly different capabilities to each faction. However, there are not many of them so they must be used wisely.

Each faction also has one movement card called Truce. When all of one sides Truce cards are played, the game will end at the end of that round. Therefore, players have a limited ability to influence when the game ends.

Each Faction has four unique Special cards in its deck which modify movement or combat. When the active player plays a movement card he has the option to also play up to two special cards from his hand. These special cards give each faction a somewhat unique character. For example, a forced march card allows armies to move extra spaces and the Captain Asquith’s Sharpshooters card allows American militia to designate his opponent’s combat losses during a battle. These cards add additional flavor to the game but there are only four for each faction so they must be well-timed to maximize their effect.

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3. Resolve Battles – now battles are resolved. Battles have a unique flavor according to the faction fighting. Each faction has specific battle dice that they roll in combat which yield three possible combat results. The target symbol indicates a hit causing one of your opponents units to be removed from the map and placed back in his units force pool. Your opponents will decide among themselves which units to remove if there’s more than one faction involved in combat. A Flee result is depicted by a picture of a man running and causes the friendly player to remove a unit to his Fleeing Units Holding Area on the map. Units that have Fled are returned during the enlistments phase of your next turn. If the die face is blank, the controlling player must make a Command Decision which gives him the option of retreating one cube to an adjacent friendly area.

American and British regulars roll a number of dice equal to the number of units participating in combat with a maximum of two dice per combat. All other factions roll similarly but their maximum limit is three dice for combat. Each set of faction dice is different, cleverly representing very different fighting capabilities. Militia units have 2 Hit symbols, 2 Command Decision symbols and 2 Flee symbols. British regular units have 3 Hit symbols and 3 Command Decisions and never Flee. American regulars have 3 Hit symbols, 2 Command Decision symbols and 1 Flee symbol making them slightly inferior to British regulars. Native Americans have 2 Hit symbols, 1 Flee symbol and 3 Command Decision symbols. Additionally, Native Americans have a unique ability when executing a Command Decision in that they can retreat into an unfriendly area as long as it is not enemy occupied. This special ability can be quite devastating if not considered in the American player’s strategic plan.

The side in whose homeland area the battle takes place has the initiative and rolls first independent of who is the attacker or defender. This makes it extremely challenging to invade your opponent’s territory.

4. Draw New Cards – this action player now draws cards to fill his hand up to the maximum of three cards. If at any time he has all Special cards he must show them to all players, shuffle them back into his deck and draw three new cards. A player must have at least one moving card in his hand.


Typical Game Turn

Let’s now look at a typical turn. At the beginning of the round all the colored cubes for each faction are placed in the black bag. The red cube representing the British regular faction is randomly selected thereby initiating his turn. The British player musters three red cubes from his force pool in Montréal. He has no units that have fled from previous combats otherwise they would also have been placed in Montréal. His hand consists of a movement card that allows 2 armies to move two areas, his Truce card which allows him to move 3 armies two areas and one Special Card, Fife and Drum which allows his armies to move one additional area this turn. Since it is still early in the game the British player is reluctant to play his Truce card as this could inadvertently end the game in the current round if the Canadian militia and Native American Truce cards are played. He therefore decides to play his Movement card. Additionally, he decides to play Fife and Drum which will extend his Army’s movement to three areas this turn. If he had another Special card in his hand he could also have played it since you are allowed to play up to two Special cards each turn.

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The British player decides that he wants to recapture the British homeland objective area of Prescott which has been occupied by an American force of 4 American regulars and 5 American militia. The British attack by moving 2 of the 3 newly mustered British regulars in Montréal along with 2 Canadian militia. He is allowed to move the 2 Canadian militia because they are accompanying his British regulars. The special effect of the Fife and Drum card gives him the additional movement capability to reach Prescott from Montréal. He now moves another Army from Smith’s Creek three areas to Prescott, once again taking advantage of Fife and Drum, to reach Prescott bringing another British regular, 2 Canadian militia and 2 Native Americans.

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It is now time to resolve the battle. Despite the fact that the Americans are defending, this is a British homeland area therefore the British Army rolls first. The three British regulars are limited to their maximum two dice roll and score one Hit and one Command Decision. The Canadian militia faction has enough units to ensure they may also roll their maximum of three dice and score two Hits and one Command Decision. The Native Americans can roll a maximum of three dice but only have two units in the area so their die roll maximum is reduced to two. They roll a Hit and a Flee. Collectively, the British factions have scored four hits so the Americans must decide how to distribute their losses. The American Regular faction player and the American Militia faction player discuss their options and decide to remove 2 American militia and 2 regulars to give them their maximum die rolls for each faction. All of the British factions decide to ignore their command decisions and stay in the fight. They could have opted to retreat units to an adjacent friendly area but with this excellent first round of combat they see victory in sight and wish to stay. One of the Native Americans must Flee and the unit is placed on the Fled units holding area.

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It is now the American’s turn to fire. The American regulars have two units left allowing them to roll their maximum of two dice and score a Hit and a Command Decision. The American militia rolls three dice and scores one Hit and two Flee results. The British Army decides to remove 2 Canadian militia since Native Americans are less likely to flee and British regulars fire better than the Canadian militia. Two American militia are placed in the Flee holding area on the map and one American regular realizes the futility of remaining in combat and executes his Command Decision to retreat out of the battle into friendly Ogdensburg.

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It is now the second round of combat and the British side rolls again with the remaining three British regulars, 2 Canadian militia and 1 Native American. The die rolls are as follows. British regulars score a Hit and a Command Decision. They choose to ignore the command decision and stay in the fight. The Canadian militias roll a Hit and a Flee which removes one of their units to the Flee holding area. The Native American rolls a Command Decision which they also choose to ignore. The Americans remove the last American militia and their remaining American Regular. The battle is over.

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As you can see there is a lot of decision-making trying to optimize the use of movement cards, special cards and deciding the best timing to play your Truce cards. A lot of thought must be given to the distribution of various factions among your many armies so that you can move each Army during each faction’s turn. How best to take losses in combat and whether to execute Command Decisions also is thought-provoking. The uniqueness of the separate factions’ cards and combat dice subtly characterizes the differences between each faction’s forces. All of these features certainly make the game fun to play. As the game can be played in about an hour and can be taught in 10 minutes, this may serve as an excellent game to introduce the uninitiated to our hobby.


Summary

Wargaming grognards will find this game to be overly simplistic. This is more of a Eurostyle game than a hard-core wargame. Much of the historical aspects of the campaigns have been abstracted. The naval battles for control of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are boiled down to use of the Water Movement cards. There is no naval arms race on the Great Lakes. Also, there are no supply limitations other than the limitation of retreating via a command decision into only friendly areas (however the Native Americans are not restricted in this manner).

I’ve played this game many times and while there is much to recommend it, I do so with some caveats. Invading enemy territories is exceptionally challenging because of the homeland territory first fire advantage. This makes it extremely difficult to occupy a defended enemy area as you will be subject to significant losses going in. Because of the random turn order, you may not be able to reinforce and the enemy counterattack is devastating since they once again fire first. We often found that invading armies were usually repulsed handily because of this rule. The British side also has several advantages that are difficult to overcome. The British regulars and Native Americans have better combat dice than the American regular and American militia respectively. Furthermore, if the British player has all three factions present in his Army he has the potential to fire eight combat dice against a maximum of five combat dice for the Americans. This can be quite devastating. It is not particularly difficult to maintain armies of mixed factions. Finally, the British have the capability of moving three times during the turn if they keep a mix of factions in each Army. On the other hand, the Americans can only move twice. This gives the British a tremendous mobility advantage and greatly handicaps the American player. Although there is a slight advantage in movement afforded by the American Movement cards, we have found this does not adequately compensate the Americans.

The reappearance of Fled units is also problematic since they reappear in your muster areas. They come back automatically and en masse therefore they tend to show up in theaters where they’re most needed. It is as if they have magically teleported from a combat on one side of the map all across the northern frontier to the other side. The muster areas for the Americans are farther from the Canadian border which makes it a more difficult for these units to be moved forward into combat. The Canadian muster areas are much closer to where they will be needed so when Fled units return, they are almost immediately available for the next friendly faction’s combat.

The homeland first fire rule, greater British mobility and placement of British muster areas near the front lines often results in the game devolving into a stalemate along the Canadian border. The Americans are unable to hold any British territories and must wait for an opportune sequence of turns to launch any invasions. When one side has played all of their Truce cards, there is the “End of Time” philosophy where players make a last-ditch grab of an enemy objective to win the game knowing that there can be no response from the other players. Here again, the British have the advantage since they will more frequently move last in a given round because they have three factions compared to the American. Gameplay tends to be characterized by both players temporarily holding enemy territories only to be repulsed in the next move. This results in a victory point stalemate until four of the five Truce cards have been played. At that moment, the faction moving last simply pays his Truce card and seizes one enemy territory knowing that there can be no further response. As one of our players commented, “It is like watching basketball where only the last minute of the game truly counts”.

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In summary, this is a well-conceived and beautifully executed introductory game that is more Euro game than hard-core wargame. Nevertheless it does provide an hour or more of entertainment and makes a wonderful tool to introduce non-wargamers to our hobby. It is certainly not a strict historical simulation of the Northern campaigns during the war of 1812. The cards and variability of the combat die rolls make replayability excellent if one can find a way to overcome the inherent end of the game victory point grab to which many games succumb. In short, you will either love this game as a simple quick entertainment or hate this game because it lacks much historical insight. However, I think it has achieved the designer’s objectives to devise a quick playing game on the 1812 invasion of Canada and therefore deserves some accolades. I can only cautiously recommend this game because of the weaknesses I have noted above. If your inclination is more towards Eurostyle games then I think this game is for you.


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