Michael Eckenfels, 14 October 2021
On #TBT, we bring you the occasional classic article – an older review or analysis piece we wanted to rescue
The premise of Shattered Union is based on a number of factors, involving an unpopular Presidential candidate gaining the White House and increased domestic terrorist attacks. This leads to several unpopular Supreme Court decisions and martial law in some parts of the country. In 2012, the incumbent President regains the White House through a sham election, further putting the populace close to revolt.
At the 57th Inauguration celebration in January of 2013, a nuclear device goes off in Washington, D.C., killing the President, Vice-President, most of Congress, and the majority of the government. With no clear line of succession in place, California’s governor (not Ah-nold) declares they are seceding from the Union and take several surrounding states with them (Arizona and Nevada) to form the California Commonwealth.
Shortly thereafter (and probably kicking themselves for not thinking of it first), Texas secedes from the Union along with parts of New Mexico and Oklahoma. Soon, secession runs rampant across the country and six factions are vying to control the continental United States. The European Union gets involved as well, sending a “peace-keeping force” into what’s left of D.C., northern Virginia, Maryland, southeastern Pennsylvania, and Delaware, known collectively as Eastern Shenandoah.
click images to enlarge
With the lines drawn, the Republic of Texas begins its (hopefully) mercurial climb to glory and greatness, and gun racks in pickups across the land are loaded and ready for action. I can’t imagine the Lone Star flying over a newly united 48 states, but anything’s possible. With that in mind, I led Texas to war.
The New England Alliance immediately attacks the European Union enclave, making a quick opening bid to occupy the ruins of D.C. and the nominal amount of prestige that may bring. They fail, though, and the Europeans remain in place. Instead of counterattacking the New Englanders, the European Union instead decides to expand its pacifistic role and invade The Confederacy’s Carolinas territory to its south, incorporating it into their protective sphere.
Soon it’s Texas’s turn. I go after the Mississippi Delta States of The Confederacy, immediately to my east, in order to occupy the important Bourbon Street and the tons of beads that go with it (not to mention the uses for the beads, heh-heh). My troops sweep in from the north and quickly capture Baton Rouge, Biloxi, Mobile, and eventually New Orleans (Nawlins). The Confederacy soldiers don’t put up much of a fight, probably the result of getting whacked by the Europeans. Also their redneck machinegun-toting compact cars aren’t much use in the face of Texan Abrams tanks (they shore do blow up real purty, though – yeehaw!). The Mississippi Delta States are incorporated into my Republic.
The California Republic tries to take advantage of my attention out east and attacks me in the New Mexico territory. With judicious use of forward defenses, I break their attack and destroy more than half of their invading troops. The most important defensive piece this early in the game are the veritable antiaircraft platforms, such as the Vulcan or Chaparral – keep them out of harm’s way. In this manner I was able to destroy three of the Commonwealth’s Apache units and break their attack for good. The New Mexico Territory stays Texan – for now.
The Confederacy continues to decline as the New England Alliance attacks them in The Cumberlands, previously known as parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, taking it quickly. This leaves only the Greater Florida province as part of The Confederacy. Once again, the South falls to the North.
I need to teach California a lesson. Since New England and the European Union seem more intent in tearing each other and The Confederacy to shreds for now, and with the Great Plains Federation trying to defeat Pacifica, I go after the immediate threat and invade the Arizona Territory. My jump-off is immediately southeast of Phoenix; the last time I did this the AI heavily defended the city and stopped my attack cold. There’s another deployment area due north, but I decide instead to concentrate on the area near Phoenix.
So it of course stands to reason that California isn’t even defending Phoenix, so it falls easily. However, a California MERL rocket artillery launcher, along with what passes for partisans in California, trap and destroy one of my Humvee units. A wave of enemy Humvees is soon swirling around my invasion forces, but attacking Abrams tanks and my lone FCS Hood – a veritable super-fortress of a tank – is suicide, and they all meet their maker. I invaded with 25 units – most of my army – and lost the one Humvee, while California had 10 units committed to the battle. Eight of them never went home again. California was already on the ropes.
New England and the Europeans temporarily stop bashing each other to each make an unsuccessful attempt to take Greater Florida. The Confederacy is holding on barely, but it’s obvious they’re not going to be uniting these fragmented United States.
Pacifica had snuck into the California Commonwealth, taking both Northern and Southern California, with the Commonwealth still only holding on to The Great Basin province (formerly Utah and parts of surrounding states). Both Pacifica and the Great Plains Federation are starting to get a little too large for their own good. Because of this, I decide to take the Great Plains down a notch and invade their Great Plains province.
BLOODY BATTLE FOR KANSAS CITY
Within this province are six objective cities. I need to capture 150 points’ worth in order to carry the province into the Texan fold. The six cities are Kansas City (worth 50 points), Topeka (25), St. Joseph (25), Omaha (50), Burlington (25), and St. Louis (50). What followed was not the most spectacular of my battles. Kansas City was very heavily defended with the Great Plains Federation hiding seven units in it; A hidden antiaircraft unit (hidden as in not spotted by me yet) blasted one of my Stealth Bombers out of the air when I tried to soften up this collection of targets. That hurt – Stealth Bombers are not cheap. My Texans pay a lot of blood to rip the defenders out of the city, causing widespread destruction there, but eventually manage to convince the defenders to leave or die where they stand.
A side attack on St. Louis – worth a big 50 points – is successful as the Federation has no troops defending it. The Arc is mine! Soon Federation soldiers are retreating to the north and they end up resigning the game. The price tag this time was seven destroyed units for me out of an invading force of 24; the Federation lost five units out of ten.
The Europeans once again try to take Greater Florida, but fail. New England then comes along and immediately conquers it; their faction spreads from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico now. However, if I were them, I’d be more worried about the Europeans, a thorn in my side, than my Republic of Texas. Of course, I’m not them.
Slowly over the weeks I’ve been buying a few of the FCS Hood tanks and Abrams tanks in order to make a hard-hitting ground force. The Abrams are much faster than the Hoods, but the Hoods have unbelievable firepower, and a couple were instrumental in rooting out Federation troops from central Kansas City. They also have a respectable defense and antiaircraft armament, making the Hood an excellent all-around weapon. When surrounded with Abrams and a few LAVs or Bradleys for screening or recon, I found a very good combination that didn’t seem stoppable – at least not yet.
California and Pacifica kept going at it, which left me the option of invading the Southern California territory. I took it, as Pacifica was getting too strong (their unit strength meter was very close to mine). The Southern California map was simpler than The Great Plains provincial map, but was no less daunting. I’d need 150 points in conquest, with San Diego worth 100, Los Angeles 50, and distant Bakersfield 50.
Our deployment zone was in and around Palm Springs, just east of Los Angeles. Also a deployment zone went up north of there, to the far east of the now-defunct Edwards Air Force Base. My southern assault was large, since I expected Los Angeles to be a modern-day Stalingrad. The approach to this sprawling city was made westwards down I-10, between two mountain ranges, leaving me vulnerable. Fortunately the Pacifica troops didn’t take advantage of this and I was able to enter Riverside on the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles on the second day. A Pacifica Avenger showed up out of nowhere from the south, hitting one of my LAVs. I’d have to divert troops from Los Angeles towards San Diego, which I wasn’t hoping on having to do until Los Angeles was secure, but they forced my hand. With the northern attack group, they had already ground past Edwards without opposition, and recon elements crossed the Owens River on Route 58 as the second day came to a close; they were less than a day from Bakersfield.
On the third day, my recon elements in the north entered Bakersfield, but were soon greeted by a ton of yahoos armed with machineguns bolted to their environmentally-friendly vehicles. My LAV destroyed one and the remainder ran south to reinforce Los Angeles, which was more than half occupied by my troops. I found Pacifica’s airfield in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, but couldn’t destroy it as I kept getting harassed by their armor from San Diego. Soon I was able to fight through all of that and plant the Lone Star over both San Diego and Los Angeles. Southern California was Texan. Of the 19 units Pacifica brought to the engagement, they lost 14. Of my 23 invaders, I lost six. Pacifica’s military strength had been broken in and around Los Angeles and wouldn’t recover. I balanced repairs with purchasing a few new units, carefully husbanding my money as much as possible and buying only what I really needed – a new JSF fighter, one of which was shot down by that damnable Pacifica Avenger I mentioned earlier.
Pacifica kept picking on California, but couldn’t make a conquest happen. This confirmed their weakened state, because if they couldn’t deal with a significantly weakened California Republic, I’d certainly be able to deal with Pacifica. But that came later. Northern California fell to me easily as all the Californians had were a few light units – mostly Humvees and Partisans, which were no match for my armor and stealth bombers. The flag of the California Commonwealth fell for the last time and was replaced by the Lone Stars of Texas.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN WOES
Fighting in the western provinces of the former United States brought a significant number of challenges for an attacker. For one, many of the invasion paths were very narrow, usually along a single road route. A determined defense could easily stall out an attack, so speed is of the essence in such cases, in order to break through such situations into wider valleys farther on. Copious use of air power to smash any determined resistance was a godsend as well. The views from the Rockies were magnificent, especially to Texan troops born-and-raised on land barely 80 feet above sea level, but the view from a stealth bomber dropping a load on a stubborn enemy Abrams unit was even more so.
Slowly, I concentrated Churchill-style on Pacifica, taking Southeastern Arcadia, gutting eight of 15 Pacifica units while losing only three of my 25. I was learning that retreating units before they get destroyed is a good move since buying a brand new unit is much more expensive than repairing even a heavily-damaged one.
Eventually I took out Pacifica in Northern California and moved through the Central Cascades, my Abrams and FCS Hoods leading the way and the Lone Star snapping in the northwest breeze as Portland and other important cities fell.
Soon Texas was at the gates of Seattle. My final push into this last Pacifica province, the Northern Cascades (which was the northern part of the previously known Washington State) began with an ambush and the destruction of one of my Apache units. It didn’t matter much, as my FCS Hood tank units crushed their light supporting armor and rolled unstoppably into the southern suburbs of Seattle. With Texan Abrams tanks shelling downtown, a white flag went up on the Pacifica side and they acquiesced to becoming a member of the Republic of Texas.
FALL OF ALASKA
Despite now having uncontested control of the entire Pacific Coast, the fall of Seattle brought disturbing news. The international news network, ZNN, based in the States and making a killing through their coverage of the war thus far, reported that Russian units had crossed the Bering Strait and occupied Alaska, citing that Alaska was “never truly American.” Considering what America bought the territory for many years before, plus the ongoing carnage within the lower 48, it’s not surprising that they’ve done so.
The New England Alliance attacked my Mississippi Delta States territory. I responded by heavily defending Baton Rouge and Biloxi while having light units cover Mobile, and with a powerful reserve in New Orleans. That was my intent, anyway; the heavier stuff ended up in Baton Rouge and along the Mississippi River up to west of New Orleans. The main New England attack fell on Biloxi, but didn’t do much damage. Once I had eliminated the New England air defenses, my Thunderbolt units tore their armor to pieces, and a follow-up counterattack shattered their main force. They retreated having lost more than half of their invasion force with me only losing one unit.
At this point, the sweeping armored might of the Republic of Texas was basically unstoppable. Actually, the armored might of any faction that has another on the ropes will be unstoppable. As a faction’s territories begin to dwindle, so to does their infrastructure and their ability to repair damaged units. Once a faction is down to one or two territories, an attacker couldn’t expect much of a fight out of them.
My income had skyrocketed, mostly because I wasn’t buying new units anymore; most of my heavy fighting was done when Seattle fell and the Great Plains Federation didn’t put up much of a resistance to my steamrolling them from Idaho to Chicago. I watched the Republic’s bank accounts soar and I was able to easily afford to repair any damage done in any campaign, or to buy one or two units to max out my forces as necessary.
My methodical gobbling of the Great Plains Federation was the cornerstone to my current strategy. I didn’t want to attack The Cumberlands or the Florida Territory; both were owned by the New England Alliance and both bordered on the European Union’s Carolinas province. I didn’t see a point in extending my borders to cover all three hostile factions; leaving it at two was good enough. Besides, as long as the European Union enclave was nestled within that of the New England Alliance, the only choice the Europeans would have is to attack New England provinces. If they were successful at it, then New England would have little choice but to re-attack a province taken by them. In this manner, I hoped they’d just beat each other to death while I smashed the Great Plains Federation.
The Federation’s demise came quickly. Soon, my leading recon units broke into the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, the de facto governmental headquarters of the Great Plains. A pall of smoke hovered over downtown as the various bureaucracies burned sensitive documents before they headed out of town for Michigan and northern Indiana, the only remaining areas under Great Plains control. A counterattack rumbled east out of Chicago, but my armored spearheads, led by the venerable FCS Hood units, smashed them quickly. A LAV unit broke through the cordon and was soon wetting its wheels in Lake Erie’s waters within the shadow of a gutted Soldier Field. The last Great Plains unit, some heavy infantry, ran like hell for Gary, Indiana, and parts east, and soon the Great Plains Federation quit the region entirely.
The following week the New England Alliance, frustrated with repeated failures in trying to capture Eastern Shenandoah (not to mention my Mississippi Delta States), went after the last province of the Great Plains Federation – the Great Lakes Territory. My Texan recon units in Gary reported the presence of New England recon several dozen miles east, screening the push north into the glove of Michigan by their armored forces. They had beaten me to it. The Great Plains Federation was no more.
The Republic’s intel network found out through ZNN coverage and other leaks that Russian General Vladekov, in undisputable control of the Russian military, was behind the nuclear detonation in Washington, DC several months earlier. While Alaska was a world away, the news that the Russian military would mastermind the destruction of our previous nation’s capitol and, in so doing, spark the chaos all around us, rankled our nerves. It also raised the hairs on the back of our necks: would we expect a Russian invasion of the lower 48 soon? All I could do is wait, as I’d have to concentrate now on taking the New England Alliance apart brick by brick.
MOVING TOWARDS THE ENDGAME
Out of 24 provinces in the former lower United States, the Republic of Texas occupied 16 of them, with the New England Alliance occupying six and the European Union a dismal two. Despite this disparity of numbers, neither of the two remaining factions was weak militarily; their strengths were almost equal to my own, for some strange reason. I had hoped their constant warring over Eastern Shenandoah and the bones of Washington, D.C., would weaken them more, but apparently they hadn’t been fighting with a lot of troops in their see-saw fighting.
The weakening New England Alliance didn’t put up much of a fight over the coming couple of weeks. When Texan troops invaded Greater Florida, New England pulled out without a fight. The following week, a Texan invasion of The Great Lakes province resulted in yet another New England resigning of the battle before it even began. Was this a taste of things to come? Was New England no more?
The European Union tried to take New England out of The Cumberlands, but failed. Likewise, New England tried once again (and failed once again) to take Eastern Shenandoah from the Europeans. I went ahead and took The Cumberlands from New England, who this time decided to stay and fight my Texan troops, which was a mistake. My 23 units versus their 8 meant they lost The Cumberlands quickly.
The Europeans attacked New England in the New York province, taking it. New England counterattacked, taking it back. Ignoring me was a mistake, as it allowed me to continue to build my strength. Ignoring a large/successful faction is a Bad Idea – making a faction spend money and making them lose money is the only sure path to victory. Now they’d both realize their errors.
BATTLE FOR THE CAROLINAS
I invaded The Carolinas territory, and along came my first battle with European Union forces. I had three main axes of attack. My westernmost wing jumped off from Augusta (formerly of Georgia) to the northeast towards Columbia. My units were on the outskirts of this important objective by the end of the first day; no resistance was found.
My middle wing jumped off from the western shore of Lake Marion, heading northeast along I-95 towards Florence. Like their comrades in the west, there was no opposition. I began to sweat – it was pretty obvious they were husbanding their forces for a massive counterattack.
My easternmost wing launched from in and around Charleston and headed northeast along the coast towards Myrtle Beach. At the end of Day 1, my lead Abrams had crossed the Great Pee Dee River, and like everywhere else, found no opposition.
Day 2 was much like Day 1: in the east, my troops entered Myrtle Beach; in the west, they swept through an empty Charleston and headed north on I-77 towards Charlotte; and in the middle, we headed north up I-95 and crossed the Great Pee Dee River near Florence. Still no Europeans showed their heads.
At the beginning of Day 3, I had 70 of 200 needed objective points, so pressed forward. My eastern wing, still having met no opposition, headed up Route 9 and went west on I-74 near Whiteville. The middle wing continued to churn up I-95, planning on heading west on I-74 towards Route 1 and east eventually to Raleigh-Durham, two important objective cities. (ed note: “Raleigh-Durham” is the name of an airport. And it’s in Morrisville. “Raleigh” and “Durham” are two different places)
In the west we finally spotted European forces. My Apache, inching forward, spotted several European soldiers in and around Charlotte: one Marder, one Pandor, and a Heavy Infantry. I moved the Apache up closer and sure enough spotted another Marder, a Gepard, and a Leopard 2. I had a healthy amount of air support handy, but didn’t dare use it because of the formidable Gepard sitting in the middle of all that, so I moved the Apache forward to engage it. I sent in a Stealth Bomber and destroyed the Gepard, and with a second air strike crippled a Marder.
The European Union troops poured south through Charlotte, surrounding one of my LAV recon units in the southern suburbs, but didn’t destroy it (they did try). My FCS Hood tanks, slow and ponderous but very powerful, finally made the scene and made short work of the Leopard 2’s that kept popping up to put holes in my Abrams. Along with air strikes I finally broke their attack, although they pushed near Rock Hill with several light armored units and almost outflanked me; judicious use of artillery cut them to pieces, though, and the remaining Europeans retreated to the north. Despite taking damage, I didn’t lose one unit to them. I did have a plethora of damaged units, though, which were easily fixed. My income was nearly two million at this point, so I could afford it.
The Europeans, mad that I took their Carolinas province, tried to counterattack me there but failed miserably. New England, true to their one-track-mindedness in this game, tried again for Eastern Shenandoah and once again failed to take it. Now, it was my turn.
RETURN TO THE CAPITOL
I put together a large 25-unit invasion force to take on Eastern Shenandoah. This attack had special value, because for one I spent a few years in northern Virginia as a lad and the area was familiar to me. Also, I wanted to see for my own eyes what the nuclear strike on Washington had done.
The Texan invasion force gathered around Richmond, the only jumping off point possible. Soon a long armored column was headed north for D.C., but my paranoia made me turn an Abrams and an artillery piece back to Fredericksburg to cover that city. By the end of Day 1, lead elements of Texan armor were in Fredericksburg with no Europeans in sight. The sky grew overcast and the ground turned dead as the tanks churned northwards, stirring up dust that very well could have been the bones of millions of dead citizens, vaporized in the conflagration.
On Day 2, my paranoia was rewarded as European Union Commandos came down out of the western Virginia foothills, trying to take Richmond without a fight. Texan airstrikes made short work of them before the Abrams in the city could move and get a shot off. To the north, some of my units entered the blasted ruins of Alexandria, Virginia, and could see the stunted Washington Memorial across the bloated Potomac River, which had flooded part of the city; the sawed-off tower was a centerpiece in a new lake of flotsam and poison. Without bridges, my units would have to cross the hard way, making for slow movement. Soon most of my armor was backing up into the less-damaged suburbs south of Alexandria.
My Apache served the scout role well once again, spotting European troops in Baltimore, just to the north. While my ponderous FCS Hoods and Abrams were trying to cross, one of my LAVs and a Bradley stood north of the ruins of D.C., quickly surrounded by a horde of light armor. A short, sharp battle ensued, but they couldn’t break the unstoppable tide of Texan armor. More dead were added to the smoldering foundations of D.C. as the attack was smashed and Texan tanks poured north into Baltimore. Soon the Europeans retreated from the province back to their only remaining territory, the Ohio Valley. Washington, D.C. was no longer in the hands of the “fur-nurs.”
The Europeans made a suicidal attempt to take back D.C. With several armor units in Baltimore, five European units came from the west towards D.C. My FCS Hoods cracked them like hammers smashing eggs, and it was over in less than two days.
As my unstoppable Texan army pushed north through New England, reports came through ZNN that Vladekov’s actions were not supported by the Russian Federation, even though he had a virtual stranglehold on that nation’s military might. The looming war with Russia overshadowed my inevitable conquest of the New England Alliance, uniting the lower 48 under the Lone Star of Texas.
A new rising tide of national purpose fueled a grandiose plan: retake Alaska. The Territory of Hawaii agreed to rejoin the Union, leaving Alaska the only remaining U.S. territory not back in the fold. And with them under the control of the Russians, we’d be in for the fight of our lives. For the attack on Alaska, I used every single one of my 42 available units, ensuring all were in a good state of repair before moving forward.
The Alaska map is a bit of a challenge, considering that the Russians are not pushovers and the terrain sucks eggs. It’s not at all conducive to an armored assault, but my airpower would certainly help any jams I got into. We were attacking from far northwest of Anchorage, Alaska, with that city as the main objective.
Almost immediately we were hit by an antiquated T-55 and T-90, as well as specialist infantry soldiers that made short work of one of my nearly-indestructible FCS Hoods. I had not lost one Hood throughout the campaigns across America, and this worried me greatly. Nevertheless, thanks to some good application of ground support and maneuvering, we broke this first cordon.
I found a gaggle of Hind helicopters far to the east thanks to some recon made by my Commando unit, and sent an armored column in that direction to deal with the threat. I ran into a couple of Russian defensive bunkers, which were soon shattered, but Russian Bear airstrikes crushed several of my tanks. I had to light a fire under the Texans to get them to Anchorage, and fast.
Fighting through the snowy, narrow passes of Alaska, I found a similar environment here such as that found in the Rockies. Good use of an Apache as a recon unit helped me line up my units in a proper way to deal with further counterattacks. A Russian Guards Infantry unit tried to sneak over a mountain in the central part of the map, but I had four armored units strung out across the mountain to spot any such move to get in my rear. Result: dead Russian Infantry.
I found a concentration of Russian AA units and T-90 tanks to the north of Anchorage, apparently attempting to screen the city from my advancing northern wing. Instead, I diverted an Abrams and FCS Hood from my attack heading towards Anchorage and destroyed the AA units, allowing my bombers to come in and blow the heck out of the T-90’s. Anchorage was the only remaining nut to crack.
While my armor advanced on Anchorage, I made certain I had a Vulcan near the forefront, and sure enough the Russian Bear bombers didn’t bother it. However, once my armor hit Cook Inlet near Anchorage, a desperate Kamikaze-style attack came, and the well-placed Vulcan shot down three Bears in a row. I lost a LAV to a sudden appearance of a T-90, but my oncoming Hoods and Abrams wasted it, and Anchorage was occupied. The Russian threat was removed and the States were once again united.
This game was played over a period of two days. I was greeted with a result that seemed to lend itself to my not wantonly destroying property and landmarks. I also used no Special Powers, trying to see if I could get through the game without them (I did, barely). Once I had a few conquests under my belt, I was able to concentrate on taking out one faction at a time, fighting off other attacks by using roughly half of my available troops in an attack and leaving the other half to defend any attacks on me. This system worked great, although it was a close-run thing at times.
My benevolent end cutscene made me wonder what would happen if I had chosen the wanton route and blew stuff up for no reason…I’ll have to try that next time.
Thank you for visiting The Armchair Dragoons and spending some time with the Regiment of Strategy Gaming.
You can find the regiment’s social media on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and occasionally at a convention near you.
We also have our Patreon, where supporter can help us keep The Armchair Dragoons on the web, and on the podcast.
We welcome your feedback either in our discussion forum, or in the comment area below.