This is my third game against John. I won one. He won one. All using base game, so yes, CSA can win in base game.
To bring you up to speed, my games against Tyler ended in a complete USA Roll by 1862. In my first game against John, he was over-confident and cavalier (in his own words) and McDowell became a 3-4-5 and was rolling in the Virginia in 1862. So with 4 straight and easy wins by 1863, it was my turn to get over-confident and cavalier. I built terribly and was a bit lazy in numerous areas. Alexandria was lost. Jackson repulsed McClellan out of the Shenandoah. I wasn't able to dislodge Van Dorn from Jefferson City. Raiders from Jefferson City proceeded to raze numerous level 1 cities in range. To add insult, Grant invaded Paducah and was promptly cutoff by the CSA fleet and retreated out of Paducah into Graves, KY (aptly named). My NM went down to 66 and that was pretty much end of game.
We've started a rubber match. This time I'm tracking builds and freebies to maximize builds. I've never done this before, but my build was so bad last game, I really see no choice. Plus, it's a real bear to try to assemble and varied builds and freebies and form them into cohesive divisions, especially for the USA in the beginning of the game. One of the things I truly hate doing, so this is making it a bit easier to manage.
We'll see of the CSA complies. My goal in the East is to hold the line from Harpers Ferry down to Alexandria. For me this is a critical objective. If the CSA is able to get that line (3 regions), the Potomac enables mutually supportive corp to easily defend that line and the CSA can start pulling divisions off the line for use elsewhere. If the USA can hold that line, then the CSA has a much larger swath of land to defend. From Falmouth, Manassas dwon to Winchester must be held. 5 regions vs. 3. A very big difference and the USA can play small ball and start moving corps into the open regions in order to force either CSA response or a pull back. This is the difference between holding the strategic initiative vs. losing the strategic initiative and pure defense.
In the West I've got to get Grant promoted. Didn't happen this last game at all. So Grant, with 3 division will secure Jefferson City. Kentucy will be a secondary objective. I'll commit Grant all the way down to Springfield if needed, both to secure that front and to promote Grant. Kentucky will wait if needed. I'm forming a cav division to deal with raiders. Once Grant is promoted to Army, that opens up the West. All commanders become massive studs and I can push pretty easily at will.
To obtain both objectives, I'll need 5 division under McDowell. in Alexandria 4 Divisions under McClellan in N. Virginia in Harpers Ferry. 3 divisions under Grant. All future builds will be 2 division on the East for 1 division in the West. If I'm able to hold the Alexandria -> Harpers Ferry Line, then all Eastern divisions will start doing a maneuver game in the East. I'll probe the lines and force reactions. This should loosen up CSA defenses and enable opportunities. If I lose the line and get pushed north of the Potomac, then I'll defend the northern side of the Potomac and start forming Corp for invasion along the CSA coast.
It's Late May 1861, if my build sheet is accurate, I have 7 division in the East from Freebies and builds. 2 division in the West. Next turn will be another division in the West, followed by 2 more in the East. With extra Money and War Supplies (which I have right now due to bonds), I've been building extra Brigs. I find Blockade Flotillas simply too expensive in the beginning of the game, especially before I can build iron works. Once riverclads and Ironclads get into the game, I'm going to build 7-8 Riverclads and 6-7 Ironclads at first opportunity. I build usually 2-3 Iron Works and that's about it. My thoughts behind Brigs is that they are cheap. If I can hold the Alexandria Line, that can mean a quick victory in the East. Brigs provide the brown water blockade and if I can't hold Alexandria, then I switch to holding the Potomac, invading along the coast, which increases blockade better than blockaders can and I can continue the brown water blockades to tighten the economic noose.