One of my favorite things for many years were the games of the Avalon Hill company.
From Civilization (the game where you need to give up a day’s sleep to play, but it’s worth it) to Age of Renaissance, to 1830 (a Railroad game), Source of the Nile and dozens of others I exercised my mind in playing these board games for years. Even after the coming of the PC my weekly gaming group often played AH games and still on occasion sneaks one in.
The appeal of these games was always two fold for me, the recreation of history in games like Third Reich to Wooden Ships and Iron Men and the challenge of pitting strategy against an opponent.
The most challenging player I ever faced was and remains one of my oldest friends, a man named David Sowerbutts.
Dave is hands down the most skillful player I know. He is not only sharp of mind but has the uncanny ability in a multi player setting to convince a player to take a course of action that will always improve their prospect allowing them to finish 2nd place is a 5 or 6 player field while at the same time securing first place for him.
There was one particular game we played many years ago however that has stuck in my mind for decades.
The game was 1776 a re-creation of the American revolution. the 16″ x 44″ game board covered from Georgia to Canada Tactical cards that added individual battle tactics to a grand strategic game. Seasonal and supply effects and the problems of raising and maintaining both tory and patriot militias.
We were playing the campaign game. I was the British and he was playing the Americans and from the look of things everything was going great. His Rebel militias were being routed in the Carolinas. My Canadian armies swept down toward Albany. I was able to drive the rebels out of Philadelphia and New York and neither the French nor the Continental Navy were able to stand up to me.
However while in my head I was reversing the mistakes of General Howe, Cornwallis , Clinton and Burgoyne and showing LaFayette & DeGrasse just who owned America Dave was , as always, thinking practically.
We had both read the rules but instead of roleplaying he was remembering that in the campaign game, the British Victory Conditions REQUIRED that they hold Boston at the end. It didn’t matter if I held very strategic town from Savannah to Ticonderoga nor if you couldn’t find a continental regular anywhere else on the map, as long as Boston was in rebel hands the game was his.
So knowing those conditions he played accordingly. Whenever the Continental army received reinforcement He quietly funnelled a small portion to Boston while sending the rest of his troops to be beaten.
He feinted north, parried South and thrust in the middle colonies and offered up one undersized, unsupplied army after another for destruction to my great delight all the time not paying much mind to the permanent supply depot, fort and spare artillery that over the course of the first 48 turns were being placed on the fortified hills of Dorchester heights.
It wasn’t until late in the game that I realized that while I was having a great time reconquering the rest of the 13 Colonies lot Dave was ready to win the game. I forced marched every man I could spare north toward Boston but by then it was too late. His supply depot meant he could use smaller screening forces outside the city to delay me and his fortifications proved too strong to take in the time allotted. I was out of time and options, and the game was lost.
That’s the lesson that the various GOP candidates need to get through their heads in election 2016.
While the primary purpose of a war game is fun (and to be far for the first 48 turn of the game above I had a great time) the primary purpose of a primary campaign is to actually be elected.
And contrary to media reports the GOP primary is not won by the number of stories a candidate gets this summer or the number of dollars in a superpac or even the reaction of the newspapers. The nominee is decided by getting the required number of delegates either by the end of the primary season or at the end of the convention.
While every GOP candidate needs to be visible in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada a smart GOP candidate will be doing several other things as well:
1. Making sure they are on every possible ballot from California to Michigan including any delegate rich states near the end of the primary season so that no matter who is leading by the time that particular primary comes up, they are an alternative to that person.
2. Visiting states in the middle and end of the primary pack. These states are usually ignored till it’s too late and a visit now before the other candidates give them attention will be remembered.
3. Playing as nice as possible with their 16 opponents so that their supporters have no reason to reject you if their candidate leaves the race.
4. If the MSM conventional wisdom says “your campaign is done unless you do X or win in Y” ignore them.
Over the last two decades it’s been a rare thing when the eventual winner of the primary season was not clear by Super Tuesday, given the number of candidates, their ideological, and the amount of Superpac money in the war chests of several of them (not to mention Donald Trump’s personal fortune, we must assume the old rules are out the window.
If you don’t believe me ask yourself this question. If anyone told you a year ago that the Iowa / Ames Straw poll would be cancelled because the GOP field would skip it for an event put on by a blog, what would you have said?
A Candidate who has a long-term plan, ignoring conventional wisdom and concentrating on something other than playing for the “big splash” will still be in the running in the end. The candidate who doesn’t won’t have a shot at the 30% of the electorate who will have seen their favorite candidate eliminated by that time.
It’s that simple.