This year only eight players chose to fight the War of 1812. We had at least ten people tell us they had conflicts with their favorite games, mostly on Monday, and thus they could not play in the Madison’s War tournament. After WBC I’ll be polling players from this and past years to see if a different set of days during the week would work better (which will of course be moot if we don’t get voted back in as a trial event in 2024). On the bright side, this year the GM didn’t need to make a trip to the ER until after the tournament was over!
The Mulligan Round Sunday evening had seven players, resulting in one American and two British victories. Dave Stiffler got the Bye. Both British victories were by twenty or more VPs, with the lone American victory being a closer, 10 VP, win. Winners were Brian Scilzo, Michael Mitchell, and Larry Sisson.
Monday morning saw only three players show up for Round 1. Jim Dauphinais and Chris Mlynarczyk, both of whom had lost in the Mulligan Round were back to take a second shot at advancing. Chris Trimmer received a bye. This was a close game with Jim’s Americans defeating Chris’ British by a 5 VP margin.
When the time came for Round Two, only four players returned (Rounds One and Two suffering from the aforementioned loss of players to other tournaments). Based on player comments from those who played, and others who stopped by to give their regrets due to playing elsewhere, it was almost a 100% guarantee these four hearty souls were all that remained in the tournament. After consulting first with the AGM, and then the remaining players, it was decided to eliminate Rounds Three and Four, and move directly to the Semifinal. The pairings in the Semi Finals had past champion Chris Trimmer squaring off against Brian Scilzo and Dave Stiffler, also a past champion, pitted against Chris Mlynarczyk.
In the first Semifinal both Dave and Chris had matching bids of five for the British, but Chris raised his bid to six in the last round of bidding to take the British, giving the Americans a six VP margin to start the game. As 1812 ended the Americans had managed to play the “Death of Brock” card and the score was tied at 14-14. In the first half of 1813 the Americans got to use the “Death of Tecumseh” card, killing another very good British leader! Also, in the first half of 1813 Chris’ British foiled an American campaign. Dave had declared his intention to activate naval leaders to go out and fight on both Lakes Erie and Ontario, only for Chris to play two Contrary Winds cards and keep the American fleet at the docks! In the second half of 1813 the Americans re-took Sackets Harbor and the year ended with a slight American lead, 15-13. In 1814 the Americans had much better luck in combats than did the British, including the British fleet on Lake Champlain striking in the second half of the year. Chris held the Treaty of Ghent, and due to his play of a battle card, TOG was the last card played. When the smoke cleared along the battlefront the Americans held a 31-13 advantage. While the score may seem lopsided, a few different combat results in the second half of 1814 and the British would have had a real chance to win.
In the second Semifinal Chris and Brian both bid 6 VPs in the first round, and Chris won the bid in the second round, moving to 7 VPs to play the British. In early 1813 Brian’s Americans were in the Lake Ontario Control Box and remained there after Chris built an A class ship (and Brian had no A class ships on the lake). Seeing this, Chris sortied out for naval combat. His class advantage and a combat card gave him a +3 on the attack, and a die roll of 4 resulted in a net 7, and the American fleet struck its colors, effectively giving the British control of Lake Ontario for the rest of the game. The game overall seemed to be relatively close, but at the beginning of the second half of 1814 Chris held the Treaty of Ghent and played it as his first card. After subtracting 8 VPs for the cards still held in his hand, the British won with a 1 VP margin.
Based on results in the Semifinal, Brian Scilzo would finish in Third place and Chris Mlynarczyk in Fourth.
That would pair up Dave Stiffler and Chris Trimmer in the Final. As the Final started Dave thought Chris would start bidding for the British at 5 VPs and bid accordingly, but Chris bid 7 VPs and thus would play the British.
In the first half of 1812 Dave pulled the Declaration of War on his third card, and on the last card of the season Chris was able to take Sackets Harbor. At the end of the first half of 1812 Dave had decided to hold a card. In the second half of 1812 Chris, suspecting that Dave held the “Death of Brock” card, moved Brock all the way back to Chrysler’s Farm to ensure his safety! Dave of course told Chris that he was simply holding a winter card, and it was a shame for Brock not to get into the action – a thin veil that Chris had seen through as card play would indeed reveal that Dave had the “Brock” card. As the action intensified in the second half of the year Dave forgot to ensure his forces were properly quartered for winter, resulting in three 5 SP C class units being flipped in Sandwich; the loss of those factors and their ability to attack would be felt as the game went on. During the Winter turn Chris played the “Epic March of the 104th” to put that unit into Kingston. At the end of 1812, the score was 14-13 in favor of the Americans.
The highlight of the first half of 1813 was the Americans moving up the Champlain front to capture St. Jean, the last British lakefront town on Lake Champlain, destroying the British fleet. Despite that, the British continued to make steady gains on other fronts, including the play of several cards for VPs (always a good strategy in this game, as you can’t lose those VPs), and at the end of 1813 the score was 27-17 in favor of the British.
In 1814 the Americans were on the offensive pretty much non-stop, but they were stymied by stout British defense (played out in game terms by very bad American dice rolling). Dave made at least three attempts on Ft Malden before it fell and another three versus Ft. Erie. In the second half of 1814 Chris played the “Kentucky Militia” card, removing two Kentucky militia out west, one from Detroit and one from Frenchtown. When Ft. Malden fell Proctor was able to water retreat to Ft. Erie, and after playing that card was able to send a unit (twice!) to Frenchtown to cut the supply of American troops out west. That, and the large number of “1” cards in the American hand sealed their fate as both Dave and Chris agreed there was no path to victory and both players shook hands to end the game with a British 13 VP victory. When Chris revealed his held cards, he was holding at least four “2 VP” cards, so even if Dave had gained ground Chris would still have been scoring VPs. Congratulations to our 2023 champion Chris Trimmer, for another well played Final!
After nine years and 172 games of tournament play the consensus is that the British are definitely favored. Since bidding was instituted in 2018 bids have risen from one or two VPs to seven this year. From my seat I think a bid of “10” for the British is wise; we’ll see if bidding for sides continues to move in that direction.
There were War of 1812 related book prizes again for the top six players. I want to thank everyone who allotted time in their busy schedule to play Mr. Madison’s War. I hope to see all of you again next year and bring a friend with you!