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 Post subject: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 9:00 pm 
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Actually a running Critique since I will post on the good and bad as I go through the tutorial and basic game.

There have been a couple of threads on this game asking for more information since they have released two new modules for the game, one on Pipe Creek and one on Antietam, and they are expanding their potential reach to new players. The Antietam module, which is $19.95 I think, is a major new addition expanding the game to a whole new battle. The game also has a major new update, 1.5, which fixes many bugs in the game.

With all these changes I think it deserves revisiting so I will make a stab at it and invite anyone else who wishes to add their observations on the game to do so. There is a lot to the game so it will take some time to work through it so I am going to take it on in small chunks.

First some general observations:

First the game can't be matched for realistic graphics. Others have come out with 3D games but theirs are usually sytlized versions with unit's representing larger formations (e.g. Sid Meier's Gettysburg) or no real unit type at all like the Civil War module for the Total War series. SoW's regiments are full regiment simulations with men and formations reproducing realistic units.

Second the game does not support email play only internet play with one player acting as a host for the game. This is probably is biggest negative point. It is very difficult to set up a home computer to act as a host unless you have a computer you can dedicate to the job. The Total War people solved this problem by providing a server for people to register on to have a quick game. With Total War this works because the battles in it are very short.

The reason it is so difficult to host a game is that no one, including the SoW publishers, know how to automate the procedure or even explain how to do it. What makes it complicated is most home computers now have multiple firewalls and routers that mask the critical information needed in order for other players to join a game and also make setting up the host very complex.

Since I consider this the major stumbing block to playing the game in the club I invite anyone who has managed to set up a hosted game to tell us how. Be sure to give all the information and steps need to make it work. This usually includes how your home computer is networked, what firewalls were running and what router you used. Even version levels are critical. Setting up a host involves both identifying your computer by its IP address to the rest of the world along with the Port the game is using and configuring your firewalls to link that Port to the software. It is simple to do if you have a computer directly connected to a telephone modem with no firewall. Few use this configuration and each new device and firewall adds complexity to the puzzle.

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General Kennon Whitehead
Chatham Grays
AoT II/1/3 (CSA)


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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 6:02 pm 
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Tutorial 1 - Initial

Move a leader

The first part of the tutorial goes thourgh moving your leader around using the mouse and keyboard. Everything here is releatively straight forward.

Move a Regiment

Next came the regiment. The good thing is they gave a wide range of commands and formation to use on the regiment. A regiment can be in road Column, Column of Divisions, Line, Double One, Line with Reserve and Skirmish formation. This is a pretty rich set of formations that should allow you to customize your tactical formations for whatever task is at hand. Commands for moving them include the usual go to mark or way points, wheel left or right, move by flank left or right, move oblique, walk or doubl quick, and lie down or rise up. I don't remember the lie down from previous try so if it is a new addition it is a good one. In my reading I am coming across this tactic more and more often.

Now for some bad news. I thought when I first saw it it was a bug but it is still there so they must mean for it to be. Whenever you give a formation, line or any alternatives, if the destination is any distance (looks about any where over the width of the formation) the regiment goes into road column and marches there then returns to its original formation. I hope there is some way to override this behavior since it is idiotic. As I go through the tutorial I will be looking to see if this behavior occurs at all levels of command and I will look in their forums to see if there is any way to override this behavior. I consider it a game killer.

More bad news. I saved the Tutorial since I am working through it in small chunks. When I attempted to load a Saved game the game hung and failed. This is a rather basic operation. You would think such an action as one of the easiest things to implement program wise. Have to wait and see if it continues to be a problem and whether it has some OS issues.

Not a good start for so little progress.

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General Kennon Whitehead
Chatham Grays
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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:18 pm 
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Thanks for taking the time to let us know your impressions on this game. It looks like it has a lot of promise if they keep refining it.

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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:24 pm 
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In trying to get answers to brought up by the first steps in the Tutorial I did find out some useful things.

1. Their update to 1.5 seldom works unless you have an already working copy and deactivate it before running the update. You will know you are screwed if the game comes up in Demo mode even though you entered the key. You have uninstall eveything then manually remove the registry keys for SoW. Then reinstall the initial game, verify it activates then deactivate it. Then you can install the update.

2. The observed tendancy of a regiment to go into road column every time it moves is intentional but supposedly it will not do it if under fire. I have not verified this claim and will have to get much further in the tutorials to see.

One other good news item. Their multiplayer system now uses a Lobby that all players can log into to set up a game. I don't know yet whether it simplifies the process or not.

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General Kennon Whitehead
Chatham Grays
AoT II/1/3 (CSA)


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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 4:26 pm 
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Hi folks.

I'm a former John Tiller game junkie who moved on to harder stuff. :)

In my opinion Mr. Whitehead isn't giving a fair picture of just how wonderful these Scourge games are. I've been playing these games for years since the first Take Command Bull Run game came out. The Gettysburg, Antietam and Pipe Creek titles are all top notch for a variety of reasons. They are not perfect of course, but no game is. Rather than be put off by critics, or swayed by a supporter such as myself, I encourage anyone who is interested in civil war games to download the free demo and give it a whirl. You be the judge.

(And watch for a new title, Chancellorsville, which will soon be marching down the pike.)

Regards, Conjotter (former long-time active member of ACWGC and NWC)


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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:01 pm 
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I am trying to give a very exact critique of the game. I will do my best to verify that everything I report is accurate. In the case of the column marching behavior I posted it on their forums in order to verify that it did occur and when. It isn't a game killer just something that is ahistoric. HPS games aren't exactly the example of the ultimate in Civil War simulation. Nor is SoW. All game designs involve trade offs. But I think I am being fair. If the game does it, it does it. Whether this is important to a particular player is up to them.

And their is a free demo that allows you to play the same tutorial games I am. I encourage everyone to down load it and add their comments to this thread.

The game has considerable potential especially for quick multiplayer games. Multiplayer also helps solve problems like the column/line since the individual players have time to micro manage their units.

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Chatham Grays
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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:13 pm 
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Now returning to the line/column/line thing. I got a very good reply from their board user, RedBugler, who is one of their NDS Designers. To quote:

Quote:
Very astute observances here with good points made, although you are in error with one point, column movement is indeed faster than lines.

I was a tester during the making of our first release, Gettysburg. Shortly after that release I rose to the status of designer, primarily for my modding endeavors. At this point in time I was able to convince the necessity of line hold formations which were incorporated into the Drills.csv (formations). However, these hold line formations are not recognized by the AI, as it was designed before my input. The only way hold lines work at present are with mods, and they are quite effective. Unfortunately, they will only hold while the officer is TC'd, once TC comes off, the default lines will kick in upon the AI officer's commands.

You have made valid points of the necessity of holding line formations when approaching enemy engagement, or while under artillery fire. However, there are no easy solutions here. If in the event we are able to incorporate Line Hold commands for the AI, at what point are they superior to column movements? Column movements reduce the time under fire, but take longer to set up for engagement with infantry, whereas line movements take less damage from artillery, but expose the troops longer, although they are indeed sounder when infantry engagement is reached.

Still, these are good points to be considered as we build our next engine, due sometime in 2013. In the meantime, please tolerate a little micromanaging for better battlefield control, with the help of mods, built specifically for many of the very valid points you have made. :)

Thank You Sir


To add some information from other posts I received. Apparently mods can modify the parameters used by the AI in determining when units will switch to Column so there are ways to make the units behave like they should but I don't know how difficult it is or whether it only applies to certain scenarios until I reach the point I can attempt to use these mods. Right now my comments apply only to the base game.

I also did a little testing. Formation change is different in SoW and costs that aren't the same as one would expect. Also ahistoric but combined with other elements changes the expected out come. In the case of their Line going to Column and then back to line when it reaches its destination it happens much more rapidly than it would in the CW. I time a march across an open field. Leting the game use it's default behavior of changing to column and back the regiment crossed the field in 3.31 minutes. Micro managing so it marched across the field in line required 4.10 minutes. The reason for the speed is the center of the unit moves at column march speed and deployment from line and to line costs nothing. The line moves at a slower speed than a column. In game turns it may not matter even under fire which way you cross the casualties may end of the same. It just doesn't look right.

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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:38 pm 
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Tutorial 1 - The Brigade

Moving up the command chain the Tutorial introduces two more brigades giving Cutler three regiments to command. This also adds some new formations and variations of the regiment's formations. Commands given by Cutler are:

Column - now causes all three regiments to go into road column but adjacent to each other.
Line - as expected forms the brigade into a three regiment line each adjacent.
Skirmish - now changes. Only one regiment deploys in skirmish formation almost a 100 yards in front of the other two regiments which form in line adjacent to each other.
Double Line - causes two regiments to form in line adjacent and the third regiment to form behind the left regiment. Is supect that if their were four they would have formed as two mirror lines.
Line with Reserve - I am not sure of this one. It looked just like the line. Maybe later I will find out more about it.
Column of Division - the regiments form in column of division with the three regiments adjacent to each other.
Column of Regiments - this is new. The brigade forms with a one regiment line frontage and each additional regiment in line behind it.
Road Column - this causes the regiments to form as columns but this time one behind the other ready to move down a road in true route formation.

When the brigade is in line formation giving it a move command more than about half a regiment width in front of it causes the line to column to line type move like it did for individual regiments.

Some formation require quite a bit of marching around by the regiments to get into position. You should be aware of how these units change so that you don't accidently send a brigade into formation convultions just when the enemy attacks. Also be aware of where the regiments might move relative to the officer. An order to go to Column of Regiments causes the three lines to form in front of the officer extending their position considerably.

There may be other ways to do this but I have been issuing move orders by first selecting the leader, then double clicking on where they are to move too, and then clicking the formation to use. Setting an objective or location for the leader does not cause his brigade to automatically go there two. They receive their order to move when you click the formation button. At that time the game will put way points out for each regiment. Check these to see if they are really where you intended them to be. Sometime the leader has the wrong facing and the regiments will be positioned relative to that facing.

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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 5:50 pm 
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Tutorial 1 - Brigade Movement

This part is more practice letting you get a feel for what commands from Cutler will do.

Here we see the full use of the Road Column as it was intended. The procedure is:
1. Select Cutler and double click on the place you want his brigade to go.
2. Select Road Column as the formation.
3. Select Use Road button to force the brigade to move to the nearest road leading to the destination.

This will cause the regiments to form up each in Column one behind the other and head for the nearest road. They will then move down the road toward the destination given.

I also noticed that if you have been giving individual regiments a lot of orders so they are out of the default brigade positioning you have to be careful when issuing brigade orders. I had moved the regiment around a bit individually and decided to send them to the objective to trigger the next part of the tutorial. I gave Cutler the destination and ordered the brigade to use column formation. Since it wasn't Road Column order they moved to destination points that would put each in column adjacent to each other.

Two regiments ended up on the wrong side of the final position from where they were suppose to be. The result looked like a proverbial chinesse fire drill as they tried to find a path to their correct position. They eventually did but not without going in circles a few times.

Thing learned is never assume that the brigade will get where you want it without some micro management. So don't click and forget.

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Chatham Grays
AoT II/1/3 (CSA)


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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 6:21 pm 
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Tutorial 2 - Brigade Combat

Finally some fighting. In this tutorial you start with two regiments and are eventually reinforced by three more. The orders come by courier and are at times confusing as to what you are suppose to do. First you must defend the area from two enemy regiments. Then you receive some orders to hold the bridge area. Quickly they are replaced by orders to move to the left of Hall's battery which after much looking around you discover is West of you near the Peach Orchard. Before you can do this a whole bunch of Rebs come out of the west moving in front of you and eventually decide to stomp you into the ground. Then you receive your real orders to hold an objective in the open area near the bridge and road. That last one is the only one you really have to do. I highly recommend you replay this one until you get it right and learn how to use the Pause and Map.

The first part of the tutorial is relatively easy. You have two regiment and the tutorial instructions give you pretty good instructions on where to place them and later how to correct your placement. The interesting thing here is the distance combat occurs at. Rifles are rated at 160 yards and that is about the range they will start a fire fight at. To get closer is difficult since under fire the regiments want to stop and shoot. While I know rifles could shoot further than this I agree with the designers that the infantry didn't use them at longer ranges. The typical Civil War fight fight was at about 100 yards. You really wouldn't want the AI shooting to soon since this game does keep track of each regiments ammo.

During this part you start getting your other regiments and you have the extra force to do what will really break the enemy line, flank them. One regiment sent across the bridge and placed on their flank quickly sends them running. This is probably the primary purpose of this part of the tutorial. To show you how effective flanking is.

The next part is confussion. First you get conflicting orders then there seems to be Rebels everywhere. When you get the order to extend the union line to the left of Hall's battery facing south, you will be totally confused. Where is Hall? You press the "M" key to get the Map. No Hall. So I paused the game and went searching with the camera along the Emmittsburg Road. Sure enough I found Hall's battery over near the Peach Orchard on the road from my bridge. So I think I must go there. Wrong. You start heading that way and you find what looks like a division of Rebels moving between you and Hall. What you find you really need to do is move your regiments toward a stone wall to get a defense bonus and prepare to fight off attacks all along your line.

At this point don't even try to handle things with brigade commands. You have to micro manage those regiments or you will be overrun. Luckily they won't hit you all at once so put one part of your brigade on defense and use the other to drive them back. Since the stone wall was on my right I put three brigades along it. The other two I used to drive the Rebels from my left and clear those woods so they could then move to help the others.

Regiments have fatigue and morale. You have to learn to manage them or your regiments will route and you will lose control of them. Having a reserve regiment to replace one before it breaks is good. In this tutorial you will eventually receive the order to hold the objective which is behind the stone wall and that is just about all you can do. You are somewhat subject to random events because you are part of a larger force controlled by the AI and they can lose the battle for you. But hopefully they will come up behind the enemy before they overwhelm your brigade and dirve them off.

There are many more combat commands than fire but this scenario isn't a good demo of them. You are on defense most of the time so you are looking at how to get bonuses from terrain, height, commanders and supporting units. These are indicated by little icons on the selected unit deltail display. Like most 3D games getting terrain bonuses can be difficult because you can't be sure of exactly where to place your regiment. Stone walls are particularly difficult because you have to be the right distance from them and facing the right way. I am not sure I ever got the bonus.

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General Kennon Whitehead
Chatham Grays
AoT II/1/3 (CSA)


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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 1:29 pm 
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Tutorial 3 - Artillery - Initial

I got Cpt. Grandy and his Norfolk Virginia Blues.
A battery of 4 3-inch Rifled guns.

The two interesting things from looking at the details on the guns is that they come with ammo. Not just a total number of times they can shoot but distributed between types (48 solid, 12 shells, 48 Shrapnel and 12 Canister). This means you have to be aware of how fast you are using up ammo required for certain ranges. The controls provided allow you to select the ammo to use and the target to fire at. The other is the range, 2000 yards. Which is a lot for this game. I am not certain you can actually see anything at 2000 yards. We will see how this goes when I hit combat. Right now I am just moving them around to see how they work.

The controls include the ones you expect like Limber, Unlimber, and Line. It also includes some ones we seldom get in other games like Column of Sections, Withdrawal by Recoil, Ammo to use, Target by class like Infantry, Artillery or let AI choose. Some others are Double Quick, Wheel and Retreat.

The main thing here is you need to test some of these to see how they work and how fast they work. The animations have some problems especially the coupling between horses, limbers, and guns. This mostly creates a problem for being able to tell if they are changing formation like you ordered and where they are in the change. Other things to be aware of is where the guns will end up after the formation change. For example telling the guns to unlimber when in line will cause the unlimbered guns to end up about a hundred feet in front of your leader. It doesn't work like you expect in that the gun doesn't remain where the combined limbered guns is but instead advances in front the the position. The animation is rather strange too. First the horses disconnect. Then it limber with no horses along with the gun advance a little ways. Then they separate and the crew appears to man handle the gun forward another 50-80 feet.

The reverse, limbering, looked like nothing was happening for about 30 seconds then the gun was suddenly limbered. This can cause you to think you failed to give the order.

Column of Sections is also a rather strange formation. You would expect four guns to end of in a sort of square with two guns forward and two back. The actual formation taken looks more like a diamond with one gun forward, two in the middle adjacent, and one back. Have to wait and see what these do when moving around and changing facing.

Like many leader orders wheeling doesn't cause anything to happen until you follow it with a formation command. So if your four guns are facing the wrong direction and you want them to shift to a new facing as a group you first give the wheel orders to the leader so that he faces where you want the guns to face. Then pressing the Line order will cause the guns to be moved by hand to this new facing. Its important to remember they will do this by manually moving the guns which takes some time. If you just wanted the to fire different direction from their existing position wheeling isn't necessary. I will have to play with this further to see what happens when firing.

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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 11:38 am 
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Tutorial 3 - Artillery Combat

Actually Grandy's battery is a mix of rifled and napoleon. The game sent me over to support some infantry and shoot at some enemy regiments.

Not altogether happy with the games interface for controlling the guns. Selecting Grandy allows you to give battery level orders but some didn't appear to have an effect. Some of this is the lack of a way to tell what the battery is doing. If you select an individual gun and select "set target" button you can click on an enemy flag and make it the guns target. After that when you select the gun you will see a very small icon next to the gun's target regiment. However if the AI controls the gun you have no indication of who it is shooting at other than looking down the barrel. If you give target orders through Grandy you also can't tell. For that matter there wasn't a lot of indication that the game even used the order.

There was also a small window that openned up in the upper left of the screen. It showed information on who was firing at who but didn't include any of my guns in the display. I will have to find out more about this window and what it is doing later.

I suspect due to all the things that can happen and how quickly they happen that most of the time you will only place the batteries and leave them to the AI to control. But I did feel like the AI over controlled the guns. It was constantly moving them around to different facings. Eventually decided to limber them and fall back about a hundred feet when an enemy regiment marched pass them directly in their front but facing so it was on edge for a perfect flank shot. Wasn't a shining example of AI for either side. The artillery for not firing. The enemy regiment for not assaulting the artillery first.

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Chatham Grays
AoT II/1/3 (CSA)


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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:17 pm 
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Tutorial 4 - Cavalry - Formations

The cavalry is rendered beautifully in the game. 3D at its best. They have given them a wide range of formations both mounted and dismounted. And, as in most games dismounted reduces their strength by 25% for horse holders.

What is unusual in the game is they give the cavalry a number of special assignment commands. These commands whether given to a regiment or a brigade always result in the regiments being detached. They include:

Scouting - the regiment will move close to but remain out of range of the enemy.
Guard - the regiment will guard the targeted friendly unit.
Screen - the regiment will attempt to find and delay the enemy. Assumes skirmish formation.
Raid - the regiment will attempt to find and attack weak units.

There are also some automatic behaviours that I couldn't test but the player will have to find some way to control. Cavalry tends to charge the enemy whenever they get within 100 yards. Sounds like a good way to get cavalry killed. They also tend to pursue if the unit charged retreats. Which means you better step in and micro manage the situation by issuing retreat orders.

Dismounted they have a different set of behaviors. The tend to retreat whenever the enemy gets within 75 yards. They also avoid melees lacking the right weapons for it dismounted.

Another interesting formation was also introduced. Permanently dismounted cavalry. I am not sure they are used in limited scenarios where cavalry is being forced to stay dismounted or they represent regiments that were no longer mounted because of lack of horses. They do use a different formation. When in line they are in single rank line rather the two rank.

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Chatham Grays
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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:08 am 
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General Whitehead,

Your critique is very well written. Reading it has led me to download the demo and give it a try myself.

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 Post subject: Re: Scourge of War: Gettysburg - A Critique
PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:32 pm 
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Tutorial Cavalry - Combat

Took Fitz's brigade out for a little fittin. Main thing I learned from it is Fog of War makes it very difficult for you to tell whether you are winning or losing. Your only indication you are being successful is counting the bodies on the ground around the defender. But it doesn't tell you much about how tired they are. Fatigue is usually the first thing that causes your men to fall back.

I also noticed the cavalry's AI tends to dismount them any time they stop and are still under rifle fire. Probably the best thing but can't make getting a mounted cavalry charge set up a little more difficult. It may not matter since I did notice one ahistoric thing in cavalry handling. The dispmounted and mounted almost instantly. Unlike artillery there is no time spent changing formation.

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