ACWGC Forums

Historical Gameplay
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Author:  C. Hecht [ Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Historical Gameplay

Good day,
I would like to continuing a discussion that started here: viewtopic.php?p=104650#p104650
regarding a more historical gameplay involving the game mechanics & optional rules.

The games done by me till now were all done in turn gameplay and over time a feeling grew that a very well knew from the Napoleonic series, the feeling that the only hope of success lays in the offensive and to keep up the momentum of the advance as the defense is simply not able to hold because of the game mechanics in turn gameplay, also keeping up the offensive would be necessary because if you were not able to drive the enemy away offensively you surely were also not likely to hold them off when you would switched to a defensive stance.

The main point here seems to be the fact that defensive fire is conducted by the AI at 50% strength, while that makes also just 50% casualties it has a much bigger impact on Moral Checks, see this picture:
So here you see that while above 25 casualties you would have a chance bigger than 50% but below 25 casualties the chances would drop sharper and sharper.
And now imagine you would make lets say 30 casualties but with the 50% defensive fire from turnplay you would do only 15, that means the probability of a Moral Check occurring would have been 54,55% with 30 but only 37,50% with 15 casualties.

I have done some milk maid calculations and ended up with the conclusion that the defensive fire in turnplay might even lead to overall more casualties if triggered 50% of the time:
1. It could under good conditions be triggered multiple times and make more casualties in a turn than a single 100% volley could have done.
2. With the lower probabilities of Moral Checks occurring the fire fights could be more extensive and so result in even more casualties.

So my attempt for now to shift to a more historical gameplay will be that I will drop turn gameplay and switch to "Manual Defensive Fire" optional rule that switches the game to phased gameplay, but I will also use the "Automated Defensive Fire" optional rule for now to keep the workload and pace equal to turn gameplay.
All this in the hope that the defenders will have a bigger chance to hold their ground and force the attacker to commit much more troops to shift the force ratio of attacker: defender on at least the classical 3:1 or an even high ratio that seems to have been often the case in the Civil War.

Another OR I'm thinking about is the "Higher Fatigue Recovery Rates" OR, if the defender has now a better chance to hold off the attacker the attacker might have to rely much more on melee than fire fight but currently the fatigue gained by melee is so high(even higher as described in the manual) that it makes melee only useful if the victory for the attacker is assured be him in bringing a massive overweight in men into the melee so that he simply can't loose.
But this overweight is also not easily achieved and so I consider a higher fatigue recovery as necessary to allow melee attempts even under not so favorable conditions in the hope of achieving some impact on the defenders and enabling the attacker to use is units again after a proper rest.
The normal fatigue recovery rates don't seem to achieve this as a unit that even when having almost no fatigue can jump into the medium fatigue range when loosing a melee and that this fatigue will likely not be reduced enough to enable them to participate in combat again.

Author:  KWhitehead [ Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

My opinion is Phased play does a superior job of simulating Civil War combat. It makes defense slightly better than offense while Turn has the opposite effect.

Your discussion of Turn base fire is close to correct but it looked like you overlooked a key difference between the two. Turn defensive fire usually occurs at much longer ranges than Phased defensive fire when an attack occurs. For example, a large stack of attackers moving to attack a particular defended hex. It starts six hexes away and moves adjacent. In Turn play there is a chance of the defender firing as it moves. But that fire up until the unit moves adjacent is reduced not only by the 50% but by distance. If the defender fails to pass whatever check the AI makes when the last hex is entered the defender did little or no damage and took a very real chance of ammo depleting. Unfortunately I do not know the odds that a defender will fire at any of those hexes moved through but I do know it does not take threat into account. Movement expenditure is the only trigger. I do know that in Phased play there is 100% chance the defender will fire at those adjacent hexes at 100% strength with the weapons 1 hex multiplier.

Before the Embedded Melee rule you could game this to the point that it was rare that your attacking force even got shot at once at any range below 3 hexes. Unfortunately, for multiplayer games you have to play without the Embedded Melee although most people I think now use a Player rule to enforce it.

How equal the final results of the two modes depends on the situation. If the Turn player is foolish enough to move a unit through and open field where a line of enemy defenders have LOS to it, that unit will receive more casualties than the same move in Phased play. If the defender has only a couple of units able to fire the Turn player can send one unit across to take fire and move adjacent to block the defender from further fire. Then send in stack after stack to make the real attack. The optimum being to move 1000 man stack adjacent receiving only one defensive fire against it at 50% strength and with a very low chance of occurring (I think less than 30% but it is probably morale dependent). If the attacker plans a shooting match he can now shoot first. If he plans to melee it depends on the embedded melee option.

One of the other oddities of the Turn fire method is that if the attacker wants to avoid being fired on for some reason all he has to do is not move. Apparently if your men stand very still for 20 minutes the enemy won't see them. This can come in handy if the defender has a good protection like being in the woods and you don't. Buys you time to bring up more troops and/or melee.

Author:  C. Hecht [ Thu Jul 31, 2014 3:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

As you seem to have a much superior knowledge here, can you give some details of Civil War tactics, how were assaults conducted and how was the defense setup?
Often I hear that the at least initial assault tactics simply mirrored that of thew Napoleonic times:
-close in
-fire a volley
-attack with bayonet
If so the attacker seems to have usually relied on going into close combat instead of trying to achieve something with his infantry firepower.
If that is true the higher fatigue recovery rates OR is also mandatory as the amount of fatigue gained by melee, especially what the looser gains, is so high that melee can only be done once a day without ruining the unit for the rest of the battle.

Author:  KWhitehead [ Fri Aug 01, 2014 9:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

It is surprisingly difficult to find detail analysis of small unit tactics in the Civil War. I rely mostly on books like "The Bloody Crucible of Courage", "The Rifled Musket in Civil War Combat" and "Battle Tactics of the Civil War". But even these don't connect all the dots. I suspect a lot more is written in research papers but never gets published since it lacks general interest.

But here is my take on how a typical planned attack goes:

The forces involved, usually organized around a brigade with its placement relative to other brigades in the division, moved into position using Column of Company formation. How close they could approach before having to leave column depended on whether they could find enough covered terrain. A Column could be torn apart quickly with artillery firing solid so it needed cover. Rifles were little threat to it.

Somewhere around 300 to 500 yards from the enemy the Brigade would have to deploy into its attack formation which was usually with its regiments in two rank lines. To add depth to the formation they deploy the regiments of the brigade in two lines usually separated by 100 or more yards so fire at the front line of regiments wouldn't hit the second line. Sometimes at the division level this would be changed to the brigade being all in line but a second brigade placed behind it to form the follow up line. This process took quite a bit of time. In theory it can be done in minutes. Under battlefield conditions with terrain problems it could take hours. Needless to say the defender was seldom surprised and not ready.

Now dropping down to the regiment level they hopefully started their advance in line when everyone else did. This seems like something that ought to be easy but in a battlefield with rolling terrain, trees, and lots of smoke it isn't always easy to know what the adjacent regiment is doing. A regiment of three to four hundred men required a frontage of at least 100 yards. That is a line reaching across the length of a football field. The commander, usually a colonel might not even be able to see both ends of his line. Command control relied on every man having his shoulder up against the next man in line. That contact was crucial in both maintain the formation and morale. The men needed to know that there was someone next to them. The regiment itself needed know that its sister regiments were covering their flanks. The forces pulling this togetherness apart were then need to keep different formations from disrupting each other. So there was a small separation between each company in the regiment and a larger separation between each regiment. Once the attack started moving the brigade was completely at the mercy of its regiment commanders to keep their commands in position relative to each other.

Undoing this was terrain. A brigade with three regiment in front stretched out for over 400 yards and was looking at moving almost the same distance without losing its formation. But over such a distance in rural Virginia there is a good chance that each regiment will run into things that will slow it relative to the others. Fences, streams, fields, groves, etc. all conspired to start breaking up first the brigade line then the regiments themselves.

The regiment probably started off at quick time unless they had gotten pretty close to keep the troops from tiring out to quickly. When they go to with 300 yards or so they would probably switch to double quick time to close more quickly with the enemy and minimize the amount of fire they would be under. This all sounds easy enough but the CW soldier wasn't prone to keeping ridged formations with everyone using the regulation 28 and 32 inch pace. It takes the U.S. Infantry Tactics manual quite a few pages to describe the duties of the various leaders involved in making that line move as a line.

If the enemy isn't green they will be just watching all this with their guns ready. If there is any artillery available it will start trying to break up the advance. Somewhere between 100 and 200 yards is when things hit the fan. Closer if you have veterans who know the fire will be wasted at 200 yards.

The critical point will occur at close to 100 yards. This will be when the first full accurate defensive volley will hit and it will stagger the defender. This probably more correctly in the game would be at two hexes. This is the first morale challenge to the attacker. The gut reaction to receiving such fire is to stop and fire back. If the attacker does at that point odds are the attack has failed. It will quickly degrade into a few exchanges of fire followed by the attacker going to ground or falling back to the first terrain cover they can fine. It isn't a route or a disrupt. It is mostly a loss of will to cross the remaining 100 yards.

If regimental discipline is maintained and the regiment continue on then it will probably switch to charging, that is a run. The enemy line will probably put one more well placed volley into the attacker but the attacker is now in a more difficult position. They are to close to stop and engage in a fire fight. At under 50 yards rifles just didn't miss. The defender probably has some cover. The attacker probably has none because he has to stand up to charge. If there is terrain to hid in this can undo the charge. Coming to a fence can be a disaster for the attacker because enough men may stop and start firing to doom the attack.

If the attacker doesn't fall into the trap of returning fire, the morale burden switches to the defender. Within the 50 yard range one side or the other individually then in groups decides whether they have won or loss. The one that decides they loss head for the rear. There were virtually no bayonet wounds in the Civil War until trench warfare took over. If the defender lost his nerve first they vacated the line and usually fell back quickly, ran like hell was after them, but only to the next protective terrain. That is because after taking the position the attacker was to disorganized and winded to mount any kind of organize pursuit.

It took time for the attacker to get all the regiments up to the position that was taken. For every regiment that made it there was probably at least one that didn't. So the brigade had to wait for these to be gathered up and put back in line to continue the attack. Meanwhile the defender has had time to reform and call on reinforcements.

At this point is where the primary reason the Civil War fights were seldom decisive. In Napoleonic battles after the line was broken the cavalry passed through to give the coup de grace. The Civil War armies only had light cavalry and dragoons.

So they repeated the above until both sides were exhausted.

Author:  C. Hecht [ Sun Aug 03, 2014 6:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

Many thanks for the insight.

To the point of "Disrupt", I think the notes make clear that a unit that is "disrupted" is simply unable(or unwilling) to conduct a melee, so while the term isn't really fitting the fallout we see in the game seems to fit good, a good volley of defensive fire may stop the attacker from conducting a melee.
Here the passage:
" For melees, Disruption is meant to include effects such as being pinned under fire and a general state of confusion resulting from combat. Historically these conditions most often resulted in the withdrawal of the attacking units or the taking of cover by the attacking units. In either case, a charge into the enemy position was not possible."

And while the "Rout" is a bit drastic in the game, it may well simulate that the defender is falling back fast to a new better position that he can hold, we can't move routed units closer to the enemy but at least unlike other games we can move them at least a bit and so take a better position.
This may very well also happen intentionally if the defender losses the melee and is pushed back but only disrupted and so would conduct a very well ordered withdrawal.

Altogether the engine seems to make a good job in simulating the Civil War, and that seems hard as the range of curios things that happened in all these battles can be very wide, my opponent just made me curious with the "Battle of the Hemp Bales" and these hemp bales make a real good story.

Author:  KWhitehead [ Mon Aug 04, 2014 8:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

Game designers have to reduce complex situations into simplistic labels. So you have disruptions and routes. Other games might expand or substitute terms like disorder and pin. They are changing something that is a continuous state into a discrete state for the sake of playability. Most times the overall effect of the simplification reproduces the more complex state.

Unfortunately for games this is a hold over from board games where the Units had to have discrete states because it had to be represented by chits with "D", "R" and "P" on them. The computer changed that but not enough at the time the Talonsoft games were written. The HPS version inherited much of the same limitations but did open up some of them like losses and artillery ammo.

Units really had a range going from parade ground ordered to complete chaos. Almost all units were somewhere on a continuous line connecting these two states. Whether they could at any moment in time overcome the lack of order to execute a command depended on many factors in addition to their current state of disorder. Computers are now more than capable of simulating this continuous state but the game programming hasn't caught up with this. Mostly because the potential customers for such a game are to few to create the competition that would produce such a game.

Author:  RobertWebb [ Mon Aug 04, 2014 11:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

C. Hecht wrote:
As you seem to have a much superior knowledge here, can you give some details of Civil War tactics, how were assaults conducted and how was the defense setup?
Often I hear that the at least initial assault tactics simply mirrored that of thew Napoleonic times:
-close in
-fire a volley
-attack with bayonet
If so the attacker seems to have usually relied on going into close combat instead of trying to achieve something with his infantry firepower.
If that is true the higher fatigue recovery rates OR is also mandatory as the amount of fatigue gained by melee, especially what the looser gains, is so high that melee can only be done once a day without ruining the unit for the rest of the battle.

There is a book written by Confederate Lt. General William J. Hardee that was used by both armies as their drill and tactics manual. Hardee was born in Georgia in 1815 and graduated 26th in his class from West Point in 1838. He served with gallantry in the war with Mexico, receiving two brevet promotions for his service. In 1853, at the request of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Hardee, then a Major, with the brevet rank of Lt. Colonel, began work on a new, updated manual, specifically designed to utilize the advantages of the improved rifles available. In 1855, Hardee's Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics became the standard instructional manual for the U.S. Army.

Hardee's original manual assumed that troops would be armed with the model 1841 "Mississippi" rifle, a two band weapon that had achieved popularity during the war with Mexico. He revised his work for the new, standard issue, "three band" rifle- musket, which became the most widely issued style shoulder arm of the American Civil War. This revision was published in Mobile in 1861, and again in an edition for North Carolina Troops, in 1862. This version is now usually referred to as the "1862 Hardee's", or the "Confederate Hardee's"

Author:  C. Hecht [ Mon Aug 04, 2014 11:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

Well as the whole engine is a "simplification" from front to end(moral values, weapon values, movement points, hex fields, turns, the whole I-go-You-go gameplay, etc.) so it isn't a surprise that the same is done with the "current state" of the units.
Would I like to see more detail? Oh for sure, but is the current engine "bad", simple maybe but not bad.
As said its all a bit "roughly" represented but with one eye closed you may see a lot resemblance in what in it when comparing historical situations.

You may not be able to point to and online source for such manuals?

Author:  RobertWebb [ Tue Aug 05, 2014 5:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay


You may not be able to point to and online source for such manuals?[/quote]

You can get all version of this book at

Author:  S_Trauth [ Tue Aug 05, 2014 5:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

Hi Christian,

Try one from the list here: ... 15-1873%22

Author:  C. Hecht [ Tue Aug 05, 2014 6:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

Great, thanks.

Author:  KWhitehead [ Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

Hardie and the one I have, "The 1863 U.S. Infantry Tactics", cover how to maneuver the troops but not when. The books make a good reference point for what a regiment could do if fully trained but it gives almost no information of when to apply these maneuvers. Most histories of battles give considerable detail on the fighting but little about how they got to the fight. Details about how the troops approached the battlefield are usually missing. Questions like:
How far did they advance in road column?
When did they change to column of companies or divisions?
When did these column deploy into line formation?
Did the division go in in a single line or multiple?
Did the brigades go in in a single line or multiple?
Did they use mixed formations (columns behind the lines)?

In short how did the leaders during the Civil War apply the manual tactics to real battle situations?
There is amazingly little information on the subject. Only the most well known attacks like Pickett's charge have any published detail about how the men crossed the field.

Author:  John Ferry [ Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

Interesting reading in a few different books about the Twelfth Corps marching on to the field at Antietam. It had just gotten an influx of raw regiments, and Mansfield in his first (and last) corps commander role did not want to leave anything to chance. He kept them in column long after he should have gotten them in line.

John Ferry
LTC 2/20th Corps

Author:  C. Hecht [ Fri Aug 08, 2014 11:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

Out of the Napoleonic times I read that commanders preferred to move a battalion in column whenever possible because a line could easily disorder.
I guess it wasn't that serious in the Civil War era or else we would see that chance of disorder also in HPS/JTS Civil War series like it is in the Napoleonic series.

Now that I compare these eras already, what about skirmishers?
In the Napoleonic series they some "overdone" but here it seems they are not "underdone".
Maybe General Whitehead can again enlighten us with a comprehensive post about them.

From what I read I currently can't understand why the skirmishers in the game are not counted for defensive and offensive fire like they are counted for melee, sure they were not firing a volley like the line but instead tried to hit the important persons like officers and NCOs to hinder the function of the enemy unit, so the casualties they inflicted might not have been as high but the the chance to have an impact on the performance of the whole unit might have been even higher.
Currently skirmishers are just a recon function in woods or other unclear terrain and maybe just maybe slow the enemy down, overall that doesn't seem to mirror their historical function and use.

Author:  KWhitehead [ Sat Aug 09, 2014 8:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Historical Gameplay

In Napoleonic tactics the column formation was used extensively to get the troops into position as close as possible to the enemy. Here, artillery was the main factor in how long they could stay in column before deploying to line. As one writer said on Napoleon's main attack at Waterloo. The artillery bombardment was made to suppress the British artillery so the troops could advance in column. The rifle did make this tactic less effective. At 300 yards it was hard to hit a line that stood only six feet high. But a target extending back some 50 yards was a lot easier.

Skirmishers were heavily used in the Civil War and probably fired most of the small arms ammo used in the battle. The problem in games is they are really hard to simulate. On defense they might extend out over 300 yards in front of the line. Sometimes they were companies deployed from each regiment. Other times entire regiments were deployed as skirmish lines. There were rather complex procedures used to both deploy and maintain the skirmish lines. Cavalry based skirmisher even extended out further. Buford's vedette lines extended along Marsh Creek and Knoxlyn Ridge from Fairfield Road out to Mummasburg Road then back across Gettysburg to the north then turned south to Hanover Road. They were in sufficient strength to cause Heth's lead brigade to deploy to line.

But in game term these would have to be represented by thousands of counters. So they just aren't there. HPS gives a token representation with the deploy skirmishers but it only implement a small part of what the skirmishers did. Mostly games try to represent them as invisible forces that cause troops to move more slowly. The Napoleonic games tried to use actual counters for them but I think it did more damage to the games than improvements. Some of the simulations made them so powerful that based on those simulations you would wonder why any army would deploy formed units.

The basic problem besides quantity in representing skirmishers is command control. They were primarily used in static situation because until the invention of the radio there was no way to control them. If a regiment deployed skirmishers any further out than directly in front of the unit it had no way to quickly recall them if the regiment was needed elsewhere.

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