Confederate States Navy:
A Publisher Preview
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
I like adding books to our lineup for many reasons. As publisher, they have the sort of margin to plant a smile on your face – something that’s hard to do in the wargame business. One of the top reasons to favor them as a game designer is the ability to turn a game on one topic into a game on another, related topic – a game that would never see print on its own.
So it is with Great War at Sea: Confederate States Navy. Our U.S. Navy Plan Gold boxed game – an alternative history look at potential conflict between the United States and France – becomes an alternative history game of the Second War Between the States.
While the topic branches pretty far off the probability tree, it’s a popular one that had been requested many times by fans. We released a download edition in late 2010. The new book version is radically changed: almost three times as many scenarios, for starters. Designer Jim Stear has made them into a much more coherent set, that now help tell the story of the Confederacy’s survival into a new century and its relations with its European sponsors, old colonial powers, Latin American nations and most of all the vengeful United States.
I handed Jim one of the more thankless assignments in the professional gaming world: take someone else’s idea (in this case, mine) and build a creative world around it that still fits that someone else’s vision. And oh yeah, that someone else is also the publisher. One of the keys to the revival of Avalanche Press has been the creative input of developers like Jim – while it fed my ego to serve as Resident Creative Genius around here, my genius was getting pretty well burned out. Their infusion of energy and fresh ideas has actually made it fun to work on games again.
For Confederate States Navy, the scenarios number a dozen battle scenarios and eighteen operational scenarios. The Confederates take on the Union in most of them, and mostly on the map from U.S. Navy Plan Gold. But they also seek out Yankee commerce in the Mediterranean, intervene in Brazilian internal politics and in conflict between their Brazilian allies and the Argentines, and fight alongside the Grand Fleet in the North Sea.
All of the pieces included with the book represent Confederate ships and aircraft. The background color of the pieces has changed from the white of the download edition to butternut, and most of the ship drawings have been overhauled. The white pieces looked very sharp, but we were concerned that the laser process might leave scorch marks on them and switched to a butternut scheme to better cover any flaws. The laser process has been radically improved so the change ultimately wasn’t necessary, but by the time we knew that the new layout was already in place.
There are also some significant differences in the ships portrayed, with the British Invincible class battle cruisers replaced by the smaller Hampton Roads design and the South Carolina class has been altered to a smaller variant of the British Orion class. There are also new additions like the Kentucky class super-dreadnoughts and the Semmes class fast armored cruisers. To make room for these new ships, the destroyers have been moved from the full-length pieces of the download, similar to those in our Destroyers set, to the standard type found in every other Great War at Sea game.
And of course, the book contains a substantial background that was lacking in the download edition. Jim Stear could have danced around the Confederacy’s reason for being; I certainly did when I designed the download version. Maybe it's just the shame of watching the Latino workers at the restaurant across the street from our office cringe every time a police officer walks through the door, wondering if he's come for lunch, or if he's come for them. For whatever reason, I didn't tackle the issue the first time around, and I'm glad Jim did in this edition.
The South broke the Union over the institution of slavery: not to protect state’s rights, not to suppress Yankee arrogance, and not to preserve its unique culture. No amount of “Heritage Not Hate” t-shirts and bumper stickers can change the essential fact of the American Civil War: it was waged over slavery, and the South was in the absolute, unquestionable wrong.
Yet in 1860, war was about the only means by which slavery could be overthrown, at least in the lifetimes of any of the participants. The South had sufficient numbers in Congress to assure that no legislative act would ever endanger the Peculiar Institution, and the Supreme Court had clearly shown itself a friend to the Slave Power. Even Abraham Lincoln, the object of Southern derision, was no fiery abolitionist.
And so in the tradition of Southern self-destructiveness, the Confederate States fought a war with the Union that they did not have to fight, and they lost. Emancipation came for some slaves in 1863, for all in 1865, and would be codified in post-war Constitutional amendments. And while only a blind fool would claim that racial equality exists in the United States 150 years later, slavery is dead and it’s not coming back. One could argue that secession was one of the best things to ever happen to African-Americans; it certainly brought slavery to an end faster than anything else that was likely to happen at the time..
The South of Confederate States Navy has maintained the institution of slavery, though the worst aspects have been eased somewhat under the pressures of industrialization (not out of any humanitarian impulses). This has made the Confederacy an international pariah in many ways, but as in other times and places, nations and individuals turn a blind eye to moral concerns when financial gain can be had. The South provides foodstuffs, sugar, cotton, cattle, coffee and oil to a resource-starved Britain, and so maintains its most important alliance.
British influence is evident in the Confederate fleet, consisting of British-influenced designs for all of its heavy ships. Some of them are very similar to vessels in service with the Royal Navy, but most are designs considered but not constructed in Britain, like the big Kentucky class super-dreadnoughts or the powerful Semmes class armored cruisers.
Taken together, the package does exactly as intended: it takes one game (U.S. Navy Plan Gold) and turns it into a completely different game, a fun one of improbable history. We’re glad to put it on your gaming table and hope you enjoy it.
It's cool and it's availanle NOW, so order Confederate States Navy right away!
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.