Political Meddling in
Remember the Maine
February 2013

At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, the Spanish Navy was woefully unprepared for what lay ahead of them. With the exception of their torpedo boats (which struck an almost irrational fear into American hearts), Spanish warships were either obsolete or in such bad repair that they should never have left port. This is the fleet the Spanish player commands in Great War at Sea: Remember the Maine.

One of those ships that should never have left port: officers of armored cruiser Cristobál Colón. Note the empty mount for a never-fitted 10-inch gun.

But while the U.S. Navy was in far better shape and went into action quickly and effectively, the U.S. Army was tiny and nowhere near ready to launch an overseas invasion. The National Guard and eager volunteers swelled the ranks of American ground forces quickly once war was declared, but political wrangling, lack of cooperation between the Army, National Guard and Navy, and overall poor planning kept U.S. ground forces landlocked until long after the outbreak of war.

It didn’t have to be that way. Just days after the commencement of hostilities, Brigadier General William Shafter received orders to assemble a force of six thousand troops at Tampa, Florida. Their objective was to sail to Cuba, march inland and link up with Cuban rebels. This “Reconnaissance in Force” would deliver American arms and supplies to the independentistas and join them in limited raids against Spanish positions. It would then withdraw and sail back to the U.S. with whatever intelligence it had gathered. Later developments (among them reports by gun runners that the Cuban rebels were much weaker than previously thought) expanded Shafter’s force mandate to 50,000 men, and changed his mission to the invasion and fortification of the port of Mariel as a beachhead for use in marching on Havana.

Spain’s best chance for naval victory: Admiral Cervera’s fleet in the Cape Verde Islands, April 1898.

Numerous factors conspired to prevent the Reconnaissance in Force from ever sailing, but it could have gone the other way. The naval blockade of Cuba could not intercept all Spanish supply shipments by itself, and the Army chafed under a constant stream of Navy demands for assistance on the island. President McKinley was under heavy political pressure to take strong early action, and the Spanish were counting on the courts of Europe to see prolonged U.S. Army inaction as a sign of weakness. Several weeks without an invasion of Cuba, or unanswered Spanish victories at sea, could bring Germany and other European powers into the war on the Spanish side — a nightmare scenario for the U.S. military and political establishments.

To simulate this uncertain situation, players may agree at game start to use the Political Meddling variant rules below. These rules are appropriate for Remember the Maine operational scenarios 1 through 4.

Variant Rule: Political Meddling

Every time Spanish forces sink a ship of any kind (warships, transports, and/or merchant ships sunk as a result of rolling on the Merchant Location Table, 10.2), the Spanish player immediately rolls two dice. Add +1 to the result for every three ships the Spanish have sunk so far in the scenario. Compare the modified result to the table below and implement the results. The same result may occur an unlimited number of times unless the table says otherwise.

Roll Effects
2 – 9 None
10 The U.S. orders its merchant ships into port. The Spanish player immediately gains 4 VPs, and the density of all U.S. sea routes is reduced by 1 (10.22). Once a sea route’s density reaches zero, the Spanish player may no longer search for merchant shipping there.
11 The U.S. Navy calls in a random warship from the Caribbean for coastal defense duties on the mainland. The U.S. player counts up his active fleets and rolls randomly to choose one, and then takes all ship counters in that fleet and places them in a container. The Spanish player draws one out without looking. That ship must break from its fleet (create an extra fleet counter and box if necessary) and sail directly for the coast of Florida at maximum speed. It must then remain in Florida coastal zones and/or Florida Keys zones only for the rest of the scenario. Any other ships which must leave for the coast on later rolls of “11” must link up with the coastal defense fleet when they arrive at the Florida coast.
12 The McKinley Administration panics and orders Shafter’s Reconnaissance in Force to sail for Cuba immediately with whatever escort is available. The U.S. player creates a new fleet (create an extra fleet counter and box if necessary), places all currently-unused light warship counters in a container, draws two out without looking and places them in the fleet box (each multiple-ship counter drawn has only one ship in it). He then rolls one die and adds eight to the result, and places that many transports in the fleet box as well. He then plots a transport mission for that fleet to Cuban coastal zone H6 or G8, entering the board at any zone from A1 to A5 three turns from the current turn. The Spanish player gets 5 VPs for every transport sunk, and the US player gets 3 VPs for every transport unloaded at zone H6 or G8.
13+ Germany sides with Spain. The Spanish player gains 20 VPs for the diplomatic victory. This result can happen only once — reroll if rolled subsequent times.

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