At first glance this appears an exciting subject for a simulation, doing daring deeds and risking impossible odds to damage the Union war machine. In reality the deeds are of the cardboard variety and limited in scope, damaging rail lines and bridges being the usual fare. Random events may throw up depots to attack and leaders to kidnap but being random, they may not.
The aim of the game is to achieve notoriety equal to the game turn number and maintain a total of 9 until turn 8. Notoriety can never drop below 1, so barring an unfortunate case of death, Mosby cannot lose on turn 1. Mosby's attacks on Union positions will increase notoriety, usually in fractions (performance points) of 10ths of a notoriety point. Every turn consists of Mosby rushing up to a juicy target, destroying it and usually stirring up Union forces. Early in the game he may get away without alerting any USA troops, as notoriety increases so does USA strength and the ability of units to notice Mosby, consequently he is less likely to get away with it. If no-one notices the action, its off to try somewhere else but the previous attacks will have made other Union units more likely to notice Mosby passing by.
Mosby can gain notoriety for defeating USA units but they tend to be at least as strong as Mosby, combat is a risky way to earn notoriety. If a battle is not won Mosby is forced to disband, ending the current turn and any further gain of notoriety, if notoriety has not reached the turn end limit this means game over. If Mosby is not certain of immediately destroying all active USA units (possible if only 1 unit is active and it is close to Mosby) a better tactic is to run away. Initiative is rolled for, the winner moves 1st. Mosby always has at least a 50% chance of gaining initiative andbeing able to run away from a Union unit even in the same hex. Active USA units move according to a die roll and tend to run after Mosby at the same speed or slightly faster. If the USA units catch Mosby they will attack but several units can be chasing after Mosby so he may face these units as a combined force with little chance of winning. Active USA combat units that remain inside Union lines have a chance of activating further troops increasing the forces chasing Mosby. If Mosby runs outside Union lines, the pursuing USA troops will also leave, reducing the number of USA units able to activate further pursuing forces.
All USA active units have a 1in 6 chance of de-activating instead of moving. While running away Mosby must hope that all pursuers will de-activate, stopping the chase or he must head for a quiet part of Union lines and try some more destruction. Kidnapping is the only action that yields a whole notoriety point but only 2 generals will ever be available for capture. To maintain the minimum increase of 1 notoriety per game turn it will usually be necessary to perform at least 2 attacks per turn regardless of pursuers. Even if a general is kidnapped with no fuss, it makes sense to try something else and put a few extra performance points in the bank. Losing battles causes performance to drop, so excess points are handy.
Each game turn begins with include increasing Union strength if Mosby's notoriety has increased, rolling for Mosby's strength (based on notoriety) and drawing random event and action cards. The effect of the cards and the roll for Mosby's strength are the deciding features of how the turn will play, more so than the actions of the Mosby counter during movement and attacks during the turn. If the cards are bad and notoriety not well in hand there is little incentive to plug on.
Cards are used to change the events of each turn, depending on the cards drawn, they can make Mosby's life easier or more difficult. Action cards give Mosby some advantages but most have to be discarded at the end of the turn or after use. Some are very powerful, the cannon gives Mosby an advantage in combat, pathfinder helps him sneak past Union units, both these cards can be kept unless Mosby is wounded. After action cards are drawn D6 random event cards are chosen. These can help both sides but on average the bad ones are more harmful than the good ones are beneficial. The worst random events will cause Union units to appear in Mosby's set up area, ravage spaces (preventing their use by Mosby in later turns) and possibly attack Mosby. A low roll and few random events is preferable. Cards may increase the number of targets available for attack, options that would not be open if those cards were not drawn. Action cards may significantly increase Mosby's combat ability, inviting the player to stick around and fight, gaining a good yield of performance for a victory, wher' as without these cards flight would be top priority. Most action cards are 1 use and if they are not used during the turn must be discarded. Gaining a bonus from an action card invites its use as soon as possible rather than sitting on it but losing the card because Mosby is forced to disband.
The great influence of the cards (a chance element) on the game pushes Mosby's Raiders into the category of a card game with a map display rather than a decision game with a card random element. The game is simple but limited by the lack of variety of things to do. The role play element is too thin, if Mosby takes 2 wounds he is dead but can recover 1 wound per turn. Mosby's troops can be reduced by combat but because every lost combat will cause the turn to end the only effect of losing different numbers of troopers in battles is the heavier notoriety penalty inflicted. Mosby's raiders is clearly the weakest of the solitaire games covered in this column. It is high on luck but low on stimulation, a real cardboard pusher destined to stay on the shelf.
Mosby's Raiders is indeed the weakest solitaire game you will come across. It has that extra magical ingredient missing.