Mary Russell

As promised in last week's blog-thing, this time around I'm going to dig in a bit to explain the fifteen event cards in The Toledo War. As you might recall, other than the two Mandatory Events, each card is associated with a side (Ohio or Michigan) and an aspect of the conflict (Authority, Belligerence, or Claim). When playing your own card, it can be either for the event or as influence for the specified A-B-C card; when playing your opponent's card, it gives you Influence that can be applied to any A-B-C (usually just 1 Influence).

Authority Cards

1. Andrew Jackson (Ohio)

It was during the home stretch of Jackson's second term as President that tensions between Ohio and Michigan began to escalate. He wanted to avoid the thing turning into a real war, but also wanted to avoid being seen as taking a side. He urged the two governors to work together, and expected Michigan's Stevens T. Mason to back down. Mason had been appointed (first as Territorial Secretary) by Jackson at the age of nineteen, and the "boy governor" considered Jackson a mentor. Which made his defiance and intransigence all the more galling, leading Jackson to sack him. (Two months later, Michigan illegally declared itself a state for the first time - yes, there would be a second - and immediately elected Mason back to the office.)

Jackson's event is something of a nuclear option - it wipes out all Influence on both sides of an A-B-C, deescalating whatever tensions have been building in that area.

2. The Ohio Bloc (Ohio)

No matter what evidence Michigan might have had, or how many friends it might have found in Jackson's cabinet (more on that in a hop and a skip), Ohio had one thing that made their ultimate victory inevitable: twenty-one electoral votes. Jackson knew if he alienated Ohio that his Democratic Party (less than a decade old) might lose these crucial swing votes for many elections to come. It was assumed in neighboring Indiana - with nine electoral votes - that if Michigan emerged victorious, they would be next; Indiana had also swiped some territory when Michigan wasn't looking (hence my state's weird zig-zag southern border). Somewhat amusingly given all the hand-wringing, these thirty votes went to the Whig Party in 1836, which ran an Ohioan candidate, William H. Harrison.

This is one of a couple of scoring events in the game, but is the one that is the least conditional - Ohio simply needs to get it into their hand to be able to play and score it.

3. Statehood Blocked (Ohio)

Ohio's large population gave it a lot of influence in Congress, which they used to block any attempts to pass legislation authorizing Michigan to hold a constitutional convention and join the Union. It was clear that they would continue their obstruction until Michigan relented and yielded up the Toledo Strip. Michigan illegally held a convention in 1835 anyway, figuring it could present it as a fait accompli in much the same way as Tennessee had in 1796 - easier to ask forgiveness than to wait for permission. But Ohio would not budge, and it wasn't until 1837 that Congress would admit Michigan to the Union. (Michigan's State Seal defiantly sticks to the 1835 date.)

This event is a strong one for Ohio - it wipes out all of Michigan's Influence in Authority. Because no matter what influence one might have, if obstructionists in Congress never vote on things, things never get done.

4. Lewis Cass (Michigan)

Jackson's Secretary of War was Michigan's first territorial governor, and in that position did a lot of the heavy-lifting toward building it up into something that could apply for statehood. Cass had sympathies for Michigan but was a political realist who knew which side his bread was buttered on. In correspondence with Stevens Mason, he urged him to modulate his tone. There is a story that the weapons used by Michigan's militia at the Battle of Phillips Corners were secretly provided by Cass in his capacity as Secretary of War - but there's no real evidence for that and Cass was almost certainly too smart for that. As you might expect, there are lots of places named for Lewis Cass in Michigan, including Detroit's once-infamous Cass Corridor.

Cass's hands were tied by his divided loyalties, and so his event is a bit more restricted: if you are able to discard one card from your side of each A-B-C, you can play the card for a higher value. Because it takes some finessing and subtlety, this card will usually be used for its base value in Authority, but when you can pull it off, it can cause a dramatic shift.

5. Benjamin Butler (Michigan)

Not the Civil War general, though interestingly both men also shared the middle name "Franklin". This was Jackson's Attorney General. Jackson asked him to make a report on the border dispute between Ohio and Michigan; once the report came back ruling in Ohio's favor, Jackson would have cover to throw his weight behind Ohio while keeping his hands clean. But Butler didn't rule in Ohio's favor, instead finding decisively and conclusively that Michigan was in the right. This gave Michigan more ammunition for their chest-thumping, and likely gave Jackson more headaches.

This event works a little like Statehood Blocked - it throws out all Ohio's influence in the Claim dimension.

Belligerence Cards

6. The Boy Governor (Michigan)

John Mason was appointed Michigan's Territorial Secretary in 1830, and was hopelessly out of his element, destined to be eaten alive by political intrigues. He was saved by his eighteen-year-old son Stevens, who exhibited an uncanny acumen, attracting the attention of both Cass and Jackson. Dad was sent to Mexico on a diplomatic mission, and to everyone's surprise, Jackson appointed Stevens as acting Secretary. Brilliant and energetic, Stevens was also a sophisticated dandy who was never quite at home with the rough-and-tumble people of Michigan Territory. Also called "the young hotspur", Stevens T. Mason aggressively pursued statehood for Michigan as well as its claim to the Toledo Strip. As we covered earlier, he was sacked by Jackson, but soon elected as governor as a result of Michigan's first illegal convention.

Mason's aggressive posturing ran up considerable debts, bringing Michigan to the brink of bankruptcy. As we'll see later, this is ultimately what led to Michigan backing down, holding a second illegal constitutional convention so as to qualify for four hundred thousand dollars in federal surplus money. Mason then went on the attack selling bonds to fund ambitious infrastructure projects. Unfortunately this was all happening during the Panic of 1837, and these attempts only plunged the new state deeper into debt. Mason was blamed for the financial disaster, and his old political enemies brought him up on corruption charges. He declined to run for reelection, and in 1841 moved to New York to practice law. He died of pneumonia at the age of thirty-one.

A fascinating guy, and one who had boundless energy until he burned out. Appropriately, the event card for this political firebrand fishes two cards out of the discard pile and plays them as Influence in separate A-B-Cs. It's a big swing and it's not subtle, but neither was Stevens Mason, who could be prone to melodrama and hysterics in his correspondence.

7. Pains and Penalties Act (Michigan)

Michigan's Pains and Penalties Act made it illegal for anyone in the Toledo Strip to recognize or exercise authority on the behalf of the State of Ohio, and authorized the arrest of any Ohioan officials by Michigan deputies. This included the Governor of Ohio, and several plans were made to apprehend him. This was obviously not the kind of thing Jackson had in mind when he told the two sides to de-escalate.

When played for the event, Pains and Penalties Act flips the Belligerence card from red (Ohio) to blue (Michigan). This doesn't necessarily give them control at the end of the turn, but the event does essentially result in a net swing of four Influence toward Michigan. If Belligerence is already on its blue side, Michigan will score a point instead.

8. Two Stickney (Ohio)

Benjamin Franklin Stickney was a hugely influential and well-connected man who played a role in founding Toledo. He was appointed Justice of the Peace for the Toledo Strip by Michigan, but when tensions escalated he and his family threw in their lot with Ohio. Stickney, as well as his sons One and Two, were arrested and detained multiple times as a result of the Pains and Penalties Act. During one such arrest, Two Stickney stabbed a Michigan sheriff, narrowly missing his lung; the sheriff survived. This was the only bloodshed during the entirety of the Toledo War.

Two Stickney's card is a high valued card when played as Influence, but if played for the event, it shifts Michigander Influence from Claim to Belligerence - his social/political position undermining the legitimacy of Michigan's claim while the violence fans the flames of rhetoric.

9. Robert Lucas (Ohio)

Stevens Mason had incredible energy and raw talent, but Ohio's Governor, Robert Lucas, was a seasoned politician who deeply understood and deftly utilized the tools of his craft. Lucas had no problem matching the young hotspur's fiery rhetoric while outmaneuvering him politically at every step. Two years after the Toledo War was won, Lucas would be appointed territorial governor of Iowa, where he would start (and arguably win) another border dispute, the Honey War with Missouri.

Mason's event is sort of a sledgehammer - big, obvious, and showy. Lucas's is more subtle and tactical: it lets the Ohio player use the event for any Ohio card that Michigan has played as Influence. In both cases, the Governor cards let you utilize cards that otherwise would be out of play.

Claim Cards

10. John Quincy Adams (Michigan)

Former President who went on to serve in the House of Representatives - which, how crazy is that? - Adams was a bitter enemy of Jackson. It's probably not coincidental that he argued fervently for Michigan's case, going as far as to say that "Never in the course of my life have I known a controversy of which all the right was so clearly on one side and all the power so overwhelmingly on the other." I think that's grossly overstating the case, especially in antebellum America, but you do you, J.Q.

Adams's event allows you to discard any one opposing Influence card. This is more limited in scope than some of the other "discard" events, but like the man said - all the power was overwhelmingly on the other side, so it's not like he's going to drastically move the needle. The card's Influence value is on the high side - which makes sense because the Claim aspect of the conflict is about legal and moral authority rather than political power.

11. Talcott Survey (Michigan)

This survey was conducted by Andrew Talcott with the assistance of Robert E. Lee, and was intended to settle the dispute in Ohio's favor. But like Benjamin Butler's report for Jackson, the survey instead drew the line in Michigan's favor, providing even stronger evidence to Michigan's legal claim to the area.

Naturally, this event helps solidify Michigan's Influence in Claim; specifically, it shifts Influence from either Authority or Belligerence.

12. Harris Survey (Ohio)

The Toledo Strip was clearly set aside for Michigan in the Northwest Ordinance. After seizing the territory, Ohio needed a justification, and so commissioned the Harris Survey. Michigan naturally cried foul, and the later Talcott Survey which we discussed above was intended to shut them up, which as we saw is not how things played out. So, the Harris Survey was pretty dodgy from the start, and wasn't going to win the thing on its own.

Similarly, the event for the card isn't going to swing things Ohio's way in any kind of dramatic fashion. If Ohio already controls Claim when they play it - and Claim is the A-B-C where Ohio is weakest and most vulnerable, just as Authority is for Michigan - then they score a point. That's nothing to sneeze at, just hard to pull off.

13. Illegal Elections (Ohio)

Both sides saw ground presence as being vital to making a claim for legitimacy in the Toledo Strip. Two days after Michigan held elections, Ohio did the same - and so townships would have duplicate officials for each office, one from each state. Both states had courthouses in the strip, with Ohioan courts meeting after midnight so as to avoid being arrested by Michigan deputies.

This illicit aspect and the avoidance of conflict is reflected in the event, which lets you shift Influence from either Claim or Belligerence into Authority.

Mandatory Events

 14. Phillips Corners

The Battle of Phillips Corners is the only set-piece battle of the Toledo War, but it’s unlikely to be simulated on a hex grid near you. The entire thing consisted of thirty Michigan militiamen attacking an Ohioan survey team escorted by sharpshooters. Both sides took potshots at each other for a few minutes but nobody hit anything and the Ohioans ran away, the end. As ridiculous as the whole thing was, it represented a significant increase in tension and was viewed with alarm in Washington.

This first Mandatory Event awards a point to whoever has the most Influence in Belligerence and is going to show up at some point in the first two rounds. This sometimes means that the first half of the game sees the two sides fighting over that aspect, a tendency that is helped along by the fact that it's an easier target than the aspect in which your opponent has a natural advantage (Authority being strong for Ohio and Claim for Michigan).

15. Frostbitten Convention

In the summer of 1836, Congress awarded the Toledo Strip to Ohio and offered Michigan the Upper Peninsula, with statehood contingent on Michigan accepting the deal. Michigan held a convention in September and rejected the deal. But as I mentioned before, Michigan's financials were not in great shape, and that same year the federal government found itself with a surplus. A bill was passed through Congress which would divvy up the surplus monies to all the states - states, not territories. In order to get their share of the money - four hundred thousand dollars - Michigan would need to become a state before the year was out.

In December, without the approval of the territory's legislature or voters, delegates met in Ann Arbor during a record cold snap and quickly voted to accept the deal. The Whig Party declared this "Frostbitten Convention" to be super-duper illegal and illegitimate, and the general populace agreed. Congress for its part said the whole thing was highly irregular, but they voted to accept the results anyway and finally end this whole mess.

This event card enters the deck at the conclusion of the second round, and when played it will end the game - either in the third round or the fourth. If one of the players has fewer points than the other, they'll get one point in compensation - which might be enough, with the final A-B-C scoring, to pull off an upset. I don't usually go in for "if you're behind, here have some points" in my designs, but it seemed appropriate here given that the final settlement could be seen as a stalemate: Michigan didn't get what it wanted, but it got something even better. Ohio, on the other hand, got what it wanted, and for some reason what it wanted was Toledo.


  • just like a damn wolverine trying to take good Ohio soil !!!

    donald novar

  • Boom tish!


  • Hard to say, Peter – I’ve yet to meet anyone who will admit to being from Toledo.

    Tom Russell

  • A fascinating read. The last line reads as if it should be a joke. We antipodeans aren’t in on it of course. What do the folk of Toledo think of all this?


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