U.S. Navy Plan Crimson:
Getting a Lock on Victory
By Milan Becvar
August 2015

Great War at Sea has covered naval wars and situations around the world, both those that occurred and those that might have but did not. Among the great flash points that remained unlit were the Great Lakes between the United States and the Dominion of Canada. Had there been a prolonged period of tension between the United States and the British Empire both superpowers would have moved to defend and exploit the vast freshwater lakes that formed a mutual border between the industrial heartland of the United States and its conquest of Canada.

U.S. Navy Plan Crimson adds the complete lake fleets of the United States and the Dominion of Canada to the Great War at Sea game system. Both the fleets built by these nations, extensive air assets and the military canals improved and built to allow strategic movement and redeployment to exploit the unique geography of the Great Lakes are included.  The challenges created by the canals form many of the interesting situations in U.S. Navy War Plan Crimson.


Canals are expensive infrastructure, but can be great force multipliers.


A novel feature of U.S. Navy Plan Crimson are the various canals that the United States and Empire (in this case the Dominion of Canada) players are able to use in order to move ships and fleets between Lakes that do not have navigable connections. The Great Lakes stretch between United States and the Dominion of Canada in the interior of north-eastern North America and are over 94,000 square miles/245,000 square kilometers in area. The total shoreline on the Lakes for both countries is almost 11,000 miles/18,000 kilometers, which compares to 45 percent of the distance around the world at the equator. Using canals to extend the range of shipping and commerce was essential and proceeded at the rate of technology and inhabitation. From the late 1700s, canals have been used to allow ships to move through the restricted routes opening up the huge inland fresh water lakes to commercial and potentially military traffic.

Three Lake Basins

The Five Great Lakes.


The five Great Lakes are divided by elevation into three separate basins. Furthest west, Lake Superior is the largest and deepest of the individual lakes and forms the first separate basin. Lake Superior flows into Lake Huron through a 21-foot drop at St. Marys and into the second and largest basin formed by Lakes Huron, Michigan and Erie.

The three lakes of the middle basin are connected to each other by open but restricted waterways and together form the largest open freshwater areas for naval action. Lake Michigan is unique as it is entirely enclosed by U.S. territory and with a narrow outlet into Lake Huron forms a U.S. “boating lake” which is nevertheless vulnerable to penetration by Canadian forces. Lake Huron although having a U.S. coastline is the Canadian Dominion's counterpart to Lake Michigan and also is the outlet for the remarkable and unique inland waterway connection with distant Lake Ontario, along the Trent Severn Canal System. Last of all, Lake Erie can be reached from Lake Huron though the open Detroit River and Lake St. Clair connection. The U.S. land invasion makes the connection from Lake Huron to Lake Erie usable only for United States ships but at a risk from Canadian defenses that gradually diminish in later game turns as the invasion continues.

The lowest of the Great Lake basins is Lake Ontario. The elevation difference between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie is about 325 feet and was one of the most challenging canal projects considering the distance, but the lower two lakes were a thriving economic area. Not surprisingly the first canal was completed by 1829 at Welland within Canadian territory and control and was frequently improved to allow larger ships and faster transit times. As previously mentioned, the Canadian Dominion also enjoyed a direct connection by an interior route from Lake Ontario with an outlet directly at the main Empire naval base at Midland. This was accomplished by exploiting the natural lakes and rivers between Lake Huron and Lake Ontario to reduce the 240 mile/390 kilometer distance to only 20 miles/32 kilometers of artificial waterway. The ability to shift forces between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron for the Canadians and the difficulty that the U.S. has in clearing a safe route between Lake Erie and Lake Huron forms an interesting strategic triangle.

New Construction

An American battleship makes a canal transit.


In U.S. Navy Plan Crimson, the arms race on the Great Lakes not only results in the construction of naval vessels but appropriate upgrades to the canal systems by the United States and the Canadians with British Empire financial assistance. In a competitive military situation ensuring that forces were able to move to meet different threats was essential for maximum use of resources. These improvements and expansions include the completion of the Freedom Canal, a new canal to provide U.S. access into Lake Ontario, bypassing the Canadian Welland system. Players also get to explore the hypothetical US Liberty Canal between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan that allows direct access between the two lakes.

There are six separate canals in U.S. Navy Plan Crimson and one restricted movement route representing the Detroit River — Lake St. Clair passage that uses canal rules but can be used by U.S. ships only. Reflecting the geography of the Great Lakes and the effects of the U.S. invasion, transiting certain canals carries the risk of damage from long-range artillery fire. Rules provide for delays caused by damage to canal locks, ships running aground in artillery range and attacks by miniature submarines.

Order Great War at Sea: U.S. Navy Plan Crimson right here.