Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) AAR Diary, Part Seventeen

Last time, the Union pushed south into Kentucky, the first time since the beginning of the war that the Union has had a presence south of the border.

This week, we’re going to be taking a look at the overall strategy we’ll want to use for the coming year, but we may still see some action before campaigning dies down.

ED. Note: If you missed the start of this AAR, don’t worry! You can catch up from the beginning here.

SEP 27, 1861

Last week’s victory over the Confederates in Kentucky has been a huge win, we’re now much safer here than before. The rebel army is down to roughly 6500 men, less than either of the Union armies that fought them, and they’re likely to lose more before they can fully get away.

After the armies break off contact, I’ll just need to re-solidify my lines in the west. In the east, as you may recall, the armies are now in defensive mode. 

The enemy armies in West Virginia are now, in effect, surrounded on 3 sides. Unfortunately for me, navigating these mountains is a logistical nightmare. There aren’t many great bases of supply, and it’s very easy to become cut off. This, however, is also true for the rebels. That being the case, we’re currently locked in a stalemate; the Confederates, too battered to attack, are nursing their wounds. The Union armies are in better shape, but are at a manpower disadvantage.

This is now the case everywhere, after the battle in Covington. The rebels have been beaten back, but the Union can’t follow up on victories. It’s likely that we’ll have a quiet winter coming up as both sides attempt to replenish.

This doesn’t exactly make for riveting commentary, so I’ll skim along until something notable happens. Currently, we’re waiting on a new policy to pass that will grant us more manpower, which is our top need. The question is whether the rebels will bother us before the policy comes into play.

SEP 28, 1861

I had forgotten about these guys: the Confederates were sending an army to recapture Louisville from my smaller local force. The Army of Indiana quickly redeployed from Covington to Louisville to relieve our forces, using river transports to reach the town before the rebels could arrive via train. Our logistical ability seems superior to the rebels’, which is good to know.

Sure enough, the rebels show up with a few small armies around nightfall. They’re outnumbered by the Union armies, it’s not clear what their plan is, but if they stick around long enough, it would be a good idea for the Army of Indiana to hit them while they’re at a disadvantage.

SEP 30, 1861

A siege of Louisville was prepared overnight. In the morning, I decided to press the enemy and launch an assault.

SEP 29, 1861

7:33 PM

Perhaps due to overeager commanders, the battle started the prior night.

We have a good defensive position, but I’m adopting an aggressive strategy here. My goal is to find and engage the enemy armies before they have a chance to properly form up. This will be less likely to succeed in the morning, so we have to strike now.

SEP 30, 1861

7:00 AM

We were unfortunately unable to find the enemy last night, but then, they couldn’t find us either.

We’re going to send skirmishers out today since we have stronger positions at these crossings. If the skirmishers find the enemy en route, we’ll advance out to them. If the enemy is close and we won’t have time to advance, we’ll hold at the bridges.

7:39 AM

Burton’s Brigade from the first division sent skirmishers out to the town, and they ran into the enemy first.

The men, renowned for being excellent skirmishers, rushed into the buildings at the bridge. With no enemy artillery in sight, the approaching enemy column will have to cross under fire.

If this company of skirmishers can hold out for a few minutes, I’m sending 2 divisions forward to reinforce the bridge.

7:57 AM

The confederate cavalry rushed across the bridge and quickly put my skirmishers to flight. They held for several minutes, but the weight of thousands of Confederate horsemen forced them to flee.

The town is now squarely in Confederate hands, but I now have 3 divisions on the way. Ideally, I’d like to keep them bottled up in this town to ensure my flanks are protected.

8:34 AM

The last 40 minutes have seen an intense firefight break out between Union skirmishers and Confederate cavalry on the outskirts of the town. The rebels don’t seem eager to commit more troops to the fight, but Union brigades are close now, ready to squeeze the town.

8:52 AM

Just as the rebels began to push my skirmishers back, the Union reinforcements arrived.

We caught several Confederate units out of position and have trapped them on our side of the river. If they want to cross back to their side, they’ll need to march through a hail of fire. My right is pushing through the town, directly for the bridges, so soon the enemies will be completely cut off.

9:15 AM

We took the bridge but were just as quickly repulsed. The rebels on our side of the bridge are all on the run, and the far side seems to be ready to leave. This might be the end of the battle, though the rebels may try another push soon. 

After another round of pushes at the bridge, the rebels finally ran.

Not a stunning victory by any means, but a victory nonetheless.

While that victory is all well and good, there is something alarming I noticed back east in Virginia.

It may look like there’s only one enemy army in Winchester, but there are actually two. There are a total of about forty thousand men sitting in the town, certainly enough to threaten the security of my lines here. Between the Army of New York and the Army of Frederick, we have a nearly equivalent force, but we’re spread thin. If the rebels attack quickly, we might not have time to support the attacked flank. Will need to keep a close eye on this front for the future.

OCT 2, 1861

October is, so far, uneventful. The only thing of note is that a small rebel army from West Virginia boarded ships and darted into Ohio.

We chased them down, and they’re now running for the border. They raided a single town, but couldn’t do more than that. We’ll need to set up a better defensive line to ensure these attacks don’t become regular.

Or.

Perhaps we could see if we can take West Virginia, and close this avenue of attack?

But before we can plan a new operation, the rebels are launching another attack to try to force us out of Louisville.

I hadn’t intended to open up a new front here, as I only wanted to distract them from Cincinnati originally, but Louisville is an important city for the Confederacy. If we can hold it, it will be a big blow to the South’s economy, not to mention a great stage for an invasion into the south when spring comes.

Though… we are outnumbered two to one…

OCT 3, 1861

7:00 AM

The battle today is a meeting engagement, though the Union will be taking the objective first.

We started out in a fairly decent position. I’m sending my cavalry across the bridge to scout for the enemy, and am rushing my division with rifles to the town; my goal is to secure the bridge, which will hopefully turn any Confederate attack into a high casualty affair.

7:35 AM

We spotted the enemy approaching the town from the southwest. 

They’re still a ways out, thankfully, which means we have time to set up in town.

8:35 AM

As more Union brigades near the town, the Confederate columns are now fully coming into view. There are two columns, one coming from the south, one from the west.

My artillery has begun firing on the southern column in an attempt to take out the enemy batteries before they can set up.

In town, the newly arrived troops are setting up breastworks to act as additional lines of defense if necessary.

We’re turning the town into quite the hard point, let’s see if it can withstand the initial rebel attacks.

9:03 AM

Around 8:50, an enemy brigade approached the town, but was forced back after a few minutes of taking heavy casualties.

The town is serving as a very strong position, both with the buildings providing excellent cover and the fact that the brigades on the Union side of the river are able to fire on the attackers. Any attack that isn’t supported by artillery will be costly, and the rebel artillery that I can see is currently tied up in traffic.

We also deployed a unit of skirmishers to flank around the river, and hopefully neutralize their battery entirely.

9:12 AM

The situation in town is becoming a bit more dire as the second Confederate attack looks to be much stronger than the first.

I’m hoping we can hold a bit longer, but am prepared to pull back Corcoran’s brigade to the east side of the river.

9:43 AM

The second attack failed spectacularly, with almost a thousand casualties on the rebel’s side.

Unfortunately, the third wave is coming towards us now. We’ve taken remarkably few casualties to the point where I think it may be safer for us to say on the west side of the river, as retreating would make us vulnerable. I’m bringing more brigades to the river to fire across at any attackers, this will hopefully overcome the mass of bodies coming our way.

10:10 AM

Corcoran was overwhelmed and outflanked across the bridge, so I had to pull him back. As I predicted, his brigade suffered worse losses running from the enemy than from fighting, but they’re still in pretty good shape.

10:30 AM

The rebels attempted to press the attack across the bridge but were quickly shut down by our entrenched brigades.

They may retreat for the day to plan another attack in the future. This town (half of the town, really) cost them over 2000 casualties, and they aren’t able to hold onto it.

——

Sure enough, they broke and ran soon after.

This battle has highlighted the importance of eliminating enemy artillery batteries. Without those, the rebels had to feed men into a woodchipper to even attempt removing us from the town.

With that pleasant mental image, I’ll close here this week. Tag along with us next week as we try to keep things quiet for the winter.

-Jack

Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) AAR Diary, Part Sixteen

Last time, the Union moved to solidify the lines after finally getting the rebels out of Maryland. This week, we’re going to be focusing on Ohio, as the overstretched Union armies there move to evict the Confederate armies that had been plaguing the state for the last few weeks.

ED. Note: If you missed the start of this AAR, don’t worry! You can catch up from the beginning here.

SEP 15, 1861

Ah yes, this is what was happening. I’d taken a bit of a break to play large amounts of Victoria 3 for my review, which I believe should be posted by the time this one goes up. Check it out! Same time period, very different approach to war.

Anyway, a battle to free Ohio!

Oh, never mind.

Meanwhile, back near Cincinnati, my plan to secure the border has finally begun, with the Army of Indiana coming down to face the Confederates in Kentucky. If I manage to defeat them here, they will have a much tougher time breaking north.

But before I get into a protracted battle, I’ll want to bring in reinforcements. The Army of Indiana is, unfortunately, largely armed with outdated muskets, and they only have a few guns to their name. The rebels have about an equivalent fighting force on the Kentucky side of the river; for now, the two sides can begin entrenching. I’ll bring the Army of the Tennessee across the river into Louisville to threaten the supply lines. If that doesn’t make the rebels run, I’ll sweep the Army of the Tennessee into the rebels from behind. Due to the manpower shortage I mentioned in last week’s diary, I want to avoid any battles I don’t need to fight.

As a means of tightening up the lines, I’ve also begun building forts along some of the most likely Confederate lines of attack. It’ll put a dent in my budget, but they will be an excellent deterrent to any enterprising southern generals looking to cause trouble up north.

SEP 23, 1861

It’s been a quiet week, the only movement that happened was the Defenders of the West and the Army of the Tennessee moving into Kentucky. The battle over Covington, the city across the river from Cincinnati, still is sitting at a stalemate.

Even though we’re cutting their supply lines, they don’t seem keen to leave yet. If it goes on for a few more days, I may need to send the Army of the Tennessee north to support the Army of Indiana.

SEP 25, 1861

The rebels haven’t moved, so we’re going to them.

In the Atlantic, there were a few small attacks on one of my blockading fleets, which we managed to swat away without much of an issue. The rebels don’t have any ironclads out there yet, so we’re still in clear control of the sea.

SEP 27, 1861

In a month that was surprisingly quiet (apart from the Battle of Leonardtown), we’re finishing up with a battle with major strategic importance. Taking Covington will not only shield Cincinnati from further attacks, but we can use Covington as our first permanent base in a rebel state, a permanent drain on the rebel ability and willingness to fight. It’s not huge, but it’s a good step. But first, we’ll have to fight this battle.

SEP 15 (apparently?), 1861

3:13 PM

Here’s our starting position.

We are going to have to be on the attack today. The enemy is likely going to set up on that hill and just wait for us to come get them, so I’m going to advance into the town but wait for the rest of my army to arrive before pressing further. The reinforcements are expected to show up in about an hour, so we may see fighting before the day is out, but nothing’s certain yet.

3:33 PM

Hey, that was fast!

I’ll have the two armies set up on the plains in front of the hill. Depending on the enemy’s posture, we may push tonight, or see if we can set up a good flanking maneuver for the morning. I would prefer this battle to be light on the casualties, so I’m going to be conservative with my movements.

4:42 PM

I sent out my cavalry and some skirmishers to seize the supply routes onto the field both north and south of the objective. If the battle goes into tomorrow morning, the enemy won’t have been resupplied overnight, assuming they don’t take these back from me.

Meanwhile, traffic is backing up the Army of the Tennessee, making this look more like a two-day battle.

7:33 PM 

I’m just now coming back to the battle, had to call it a night and turn to two weeks of playing Victoria 3 for our review on it. I’ll say this: Grand Tactician handles war far better than Victoria 3 does. Cheers GT Team!

Anyway, here’s what the battlefield looks like now.

Sharp-eyed readers will note my cavalry off to the left, I had sent them to seize a supply route to the south, they’re now watching the rebels from the hills. Or they would be, but we still haven’t seen the enemy at all. Are they just bunched up on the hill? Tomorrow’s battle may be more of a siege if that’s the case.

8:00 PM

Just before the battle closed, we moved up a tad and caught a glimpse of the enemy.

Glad to know they’re still there. We’ll see how things look in the morning.

Day 2

7:00 AM

I opted for an aggressive opening and well, so did they.

They came down off of the hill and are looking to destroy my right. I’m bringing my left up behind them. Fortunately, my right is entrenched, so hopefully they’ll be able to hold.

7:04 AM

Well, that was… bizarre. They’re already pulling back up the hill. Perhaps just as I can’t see where they’re deploying their troops, they couldn’t see mine either?

In any case, they’re beginning to cluster in that middle copse of trees. My left is already moving to get behind them, with luck we could surround them.

7:25 AM

Not really sure what’s going on here.

The enemy seems disorganized, and I’m still swinging behind them on the left. Outside of the extremely quick skirmish at the start of the day’s fighting, the only casualties have been from the guns. Quite odd how this battle’s shaking out so far.

7:39 AM

We’ve finally made contact, and are continuing to push the rebels back further into the trees.

It may be risky, but I’m going to bring my right and my reserves up to trap them from the other side. If we can destroy this army, or at least make it combat ineffective in the near future, that’ll be an important victory.

7:49 AM

We’ve now officially taken the hill, and are absolutely pummeling their lines. Many of their brigades have taken hundreds of casualties already. 

If they don’t break before 8:30, I’ll be surprised.

They broke before 8:00, actually.

The fact that the enemy army wasn’t captured en masse is a shame, look at this!

Quite literally surrounded. Oh well, look at the final results, what do I have to complain about?

I’ll end on a positive note with what was not only an important strategic victory, it was a crushing tactical victory. The rebels won’t trouble us here again, not for some time.

Join me next time as we prepare to settle down for the winter. I have big, big plans for the spring…

-Jack

Victoria 3 Review

It’s a Wednesday when I write this. I work from my couch, laptop in lap. I’m writing an email, and I look up at my TV, where I am mirroring my PC monitor. On it, Victoria 3, latest of Paradox’s series on Victorian-era industrialism, imperialism, and revolution. Though so far, the most enjoyment I’ve gotten out of it has been looking up at the paused screen in-between work, and just watching the clouds roll across the Great Plains of the American Midwest. I’ve also sat, watching the waves crash against the rocky coasts of New England, and looking over the dry, dry deserts of North Africa. As a functional and modular wallpaper maker, a still image to look at while I mentally process work tasks, Victoria 3 is unsurpassed. As a grand strategy title? The answer is a little more complicated.

Victoria 3 gives the player a significant level of control over their country, boiled down into a few different areas. These areas (my definition, not Paradox’s) are economy, politics, and the dual area of diplomacy and warfare. I’m going to cover each of them here, but frankly I’ll likely end up talking more about some of those areas in follow-up articles.

ECON 101

Anyway: the internal economy. As the omnipotent leader/spirit of the nation, you can direct the industry of your state by constructing buildings. Buildings represent industry in a very direct manner; when you plop down a steel mill, for example, the mill will hire workers to fill its needs, buy iron and coal, and turn them into steel, which then gets added to the national stockpile of steel. Straightforward, right? No, not at all.

In order to get the mill to produce the steel, it needs qualified workers, which may include learned engineers, money to hire these workers and pay for the raw materials necessary, not to mention needing the raw materials to be available. Victoria 3 tracks the amount of many types of “good” across the world, and if your steel mill doesn’t have access to iron because you don’t have enough mines or foreign competition bought it all up, you’re not getting any steel.

Overall, there are 49 types of good, and you’ll need to track them all. Some are used only by the military or your heavy duty industrial factories, and others are staple goods like grain, needed by every pop to survive.

“But Jack,” you say. “What the hell’s a pop?” I’m getting to that, it’s a complicated game with a lot of moving parts.

A “Pop” represents a worker and their associated family. There’s a pop for every type of person in the world, whether they’re an English Protestant Aristocrat or a Mexican Animist Laborer or a Fluvial Bantu Jewish Capitalist. These are further broken up into where they live, and even moreso into their political alignments. It’s a great system, and adds a ton of character to your state and the world as a whole, as you can literally see who is living where, and if their needs are being met.

Pop needs! Another thing to keep track of. You’ll want to make sure that you have enough grain and clothes to keep your people fed and clothed, obviously. But what about when they start to get a little richer? Well, then they’ll start wanting to buy fancier things. Coffee. Sugar. Opium. Luxury Furniture. You’ll want to make sure they have access to these things in your market, or else they won’t be able to buy them, and will get pissed off, becoming a “Radical,” essentially a group of disgruntled folks who are more likely to join political movements and generally make things harder for you. Their foil, “Loyalists,” come into being mostly from helping your people meet their needs, or get richer, either by making the goods cost less or making them get paid more.

In short: you’re asked to make sure you have a market full of accessible goods so your people can buy them, either for personal use, or for their jobs. But if you don’t have the goods needed, you can always trade for them. Many goods can be produced anywhere, but some like opium or oil, can only be found in specific places, so states looking to meet their needs will need to trade for them (or go full imperialism).

Now, a note about the UI for all of this: you will get lost in the menus. I don’t exaggerate when I say that they are absolutely labyrinthine.  Looking for a particular piece of information, wondering about how many of my peasants in a particular state were radicals, I walked into the menus and tumbled my way out the other end 5 minutes later, having found it in what feels like an accident. Many pieces of information are difficult to find. Certain broad concepts are easy to spot, but in a game about economics, not knowing how to find which of your iron mines are underperforming specifically because of a lack of engines and steel can make the game a headache. That information is there. But finding it is incredibly difficult.

Specifically, there’s a particularly baffling choice with the fact that you can’t click into a pop view of ALL peasants or ALL Yankees… there’s no sortable feature either. Let me get back to the work thing. In my day job, I run around in databases all day, finding information for people. I know what a good, searchable database looks like, and brother, Victoria 3 is not it.

Because at the end of the day, Victoria 3’s economy and political game is you going through sheets, comparing costs mentally and tracking all sorts of information; I wouldn’t be surprised if the game’s a hit with people that find QuickBooks engaging. But you almost wish you were them, these people that know how to use spreadsheets, because sometimes that’s how it feels trying to interpret some of the information you’re getting. And sure., the game warns you that not all of the pieces of information you’ll want are available, but I feel that more should be, or at least that information should be focused elsewhere. I mentioned the labyrinthine menus. It feels like there’s a lot of information you get that isn’t really relevant, or is presented in a way that doesn’t make sense.

Does the core concept of the game work? Yes, the game nails the chain of cause and effect, with buildings producing resources and having those resources determine the nature of everything else in the game. But does it work as well as it could? I’m not so sure. In any case, it’ll be a great teaching tool for production chains to kids, and it is a joy to use when you understand how it works. 

One last note before I move on from the economy: as I mentioned earlier, the game is beautiful. A big part of this is that the map does react to buildings you place down in the state, either tacking on some more government buildings or factories to urban centers, or seeing houses spring up around logging camps, eventually turning into full towns. You can see oil fields form, or mines pop up, or see trains and ships traveling on the routes you built for them. It all looks quite excellent, and I want to give a big kudos to Paradox for how aesthetically pleasing the game is.

IDIOCRACY

The political game in Victoria 3 is somewhat related to the political model of Victoria 2, in that the pops in your country can rally behind various political movements or parties. Who a certain pop decides to back depends on their job mostly (laborers tend to side with the “Rural Folk” interest groups, machinists the “Trade Union” groups, and so on), but also the overall popularity of a party’s stances. If you are., say running a command economy government that has a high standard of living, pops will tend to support the political groups that made that possible, in the case likely the Trade Unions or Intelligentsia. The popularity of these groups will obviously affect elections, and of course in states that have weighted voting systems, the richer pops and their associated interest groups tend to have a lot of say over what actions the government should or shouldn’t take. 

The interest groups represent the various political platforms in the country, and in order to enact new laws, you have to “bring in” an interest party that supports a particular law into the government. For example, if you want to pass the Professional Army law, you’ll likely need to bring the Armed Forces interest group into the government, as that is one of their preferred laws. However, bringing too many interest groups into the government will reduce the overall legitimacy of the government, reducing the speed of new laws being enacted.

Politics can also be a balancing act. As you pass certain laws, the endorsing interest groups will surely be happy, but most laws also have opponents, and if you enact a law that some interest groups don’t like, they can become angry, causing their pops to radicalize. If left discontent for long enough, interest groups can form a political movement to enact (or revert to) a law they favor. These movements can dwindle over time if you keep people happy, but if not, they will lead to revolution. Revolutions, when they occur, function the same way as Diplomatic Plays do, which I talk further about in the next section. Essentially, parts of your state with high amounts of radicals supporting the movement will secede, and after allies pick sides to support, a war will break out, winner takes over the government.

The political game is definitely interesting, but it plays out in kind of a quirky manner. As the US, I managed to get slavery banned and have all segregationist policies overturned within the first few years of my playthrough, managing to do so without angering the Southern Landowner interest group too much by making legal concessions elsewhere. Not sure if I just got lucky, but it seemed odd that I was able to get away with that.

Meanwhile, I noticed that many revolutions in other states broke out, but it seemed to mostly be over strange reforms, such as removing freedom of speech or enforcing a professional army. I find it quite strange that a country would launch a civil war against itself just because some interest groups want to institute these changes, and I would only infrequently see revolutions that mirrored historical revolutions, such as pushes to liberalize the economy/ the government, or revolutions looking to bring the communists into power. The logic behind what leads to certain groups radicalizing enough that they revolt makes sense in the game-logic, but not much sense in the real world.

WAR AND PEACE (AND WAR)

This section is gonna be a doozy. I’ll give it to you straight: it’s not great. The main feature of diplomacy in Victoria 3 is the Diplomatic Play system. Diplomatic Plays see demands placed on a state by another, something to the effect of “give me this territory/ transfer this subject to me/ change your government to be like mine/ ban slavery” etc. A Diplomatic Play starts with just one of these demands, but both parties can add further demands and convince allies to join them over the course of 100 days. The idea is that it’s a game of brinkmanship, where the cost of acquiescing to the initial demand is cheaper than going to war and having all of the demands potentially forced upon you if you lose. However, if the timer runs out, congratulations! You’ve got a war on your hands.

It’s an interesting system, but one that’s pretty restrictive. Any sort of coercive activity you want to force upon another country is done through this mechanic. There’s no claim generation, no spying, no attempting to internally ignite revolutions in a neighbor, no trying to influence them to your politics. It’s just a threat of brute force. You either trade with a neighbor, or you beat them with a stick. This would be fine if it was just for great powers clubbing small, unrecognized local powers, but this is how they even interact with each other. It’s somewhat analogous to the leadup to World War One, but only if you squint at it. Not to mention the fact that when wars start, no new parties can jump in, so you can’t have America joining World War 1 a few years in.

You also, bizarrely, can’t influence your subjects. I ended up playing as a socialist US in my main playthrough, and while I had a few already existing puppets such as Liberia, I couldn’t force them to abandon slavery, or adopt a government more in line with my own government. The interactions you can have with your subjects feels incredibly limited, the most involved I found myself was defending them from rebels who actually had more in common with my government than the current government in power… but there wasn’t an option to allow the rebels to take over. Despite the fact that I’d have enjoyed a more friendly government in my subject, I was still forced to beat them to assert my dominance.

The art of warfare is, itself, another area that missed the mark. It, like Diplomatic Plays, comes close to being decent, but it, again, lacks depth and nuance. Wars are no longer decided by stacks of men running around a bunch of provinces to try to outmaneuver each other. Instead, armies are assigned to “fronts,” essentially an area of the border you share with your foe. Depending on the orders you give your generals, they’ll either try to advance or defend. If they do try to advance, a bar fills up, the rate of which is determined by factors such as army size, technology, and the generals involved. When battle is joined, both sides slug it out, with the deciding factors largely being who has the better number of offense or defense points. Morale plays a role as well, but in my experience, the country with the more advanced tech has a higher number of points, and they normally win, unless the battle is very lopsided in numbers. The generals themselves don’t have much input. They have personal stats that give the armies buffs or debuffs, and a random modifier is placed on the army when battle is joined, simulating the uncertain circumstances of war.

And… that’s basically it. If the attackers win, they gain a few provinces, the front shifts, and the cycle starts over. It’s not a very complicated area of the game, and I really feel like they could have done more here. Generals don’t even have stats outside of some personality traits, and armies don’t have any measurement of drill or even experience, so it does just come down to tech, numbers, and the general’s personality traits. I find this dull. The battles, due to the fact that there aren‘t any changing factors after it’s joined (new arrivals to the front can’t join an active battle), can drag on for ages, literal in-game months, as one last battalion clings on for weeks because they’re receiving replacements just barely fast enough to stay in the fight. I’ve seen battles with 20 units against a single unit stretched out for weeks. It’s absurd, and it’s boring, and it needs work. There’s no real strategy to be done here other than making sure you have enough resources at home to supply your army with equipment and updated tech. As much as we all made fun of the “walk around them” strategy from Hearts of Iron 4, even that cheesy tactic took some personal input. There’s nothing for the player to do here.

The naval aspect is, at least, a bit more enjoyable. Your naval fleets can be directed to either raid enemy convoys, protect your own, patrol your coast, or aid in a naval invasion of enemy territory, which sees your fleet shuttling your army to hostile lands. There’s not a ton to see here, but finding the best places to send your raiders to disrupt their economy and potentially cause radicals to take hold feels more proactive than what you do with the army.

SOME KIND OF REVOLUTION

Before I can wrap this up, I have to also note one other thing: performance issues. Good lord, the performance issues. Experiences may vary, but playing off of my SSD, I ran into frequent slow-downs later into my campaign, and as my economy and population grew to massive proportions, the game would frequently struggle to keep up with itself. And the crashes. The crashes! On a typical play session, I would expect the game to crash 2-3 times, the number growing larger the further I got into my campaign. By the end of it, I was just begging for the end of 1935 to come to end the game so I didn’t have to chance any more crashes.

Frankly, I’ve been playing this game a ton over the last few weeks. I have a lot of complaints about the confusing menus, about the political system that either seems too extreme or not extreme enough, about the messy warfighting aspect of the game, and most annoyingly, those pesky performance issues. But at the point that I’m writing this, I have over 70 hours clocked on Steam playing the game. Is it frequently frustrating? Yes. Is it still fun to play? Oh, without a doubt. 

I think that’s what bothers me the most about Victoria 3, is that it feels like a game that’s finished, but it’s expansion ready. It’s got parts of it that need to be fixed, need to be tweaked, and they haven’t been. Those things will likely wait for a paid expansion, to make the economy’s menus easier to understand, to make the politics more sensible, to make the warfighting work. I feel that these things should all have gotten some more love before coming to us, the folks that are going to be buying and playing the game. 

I’ll close by saying this: Paradox is known for releasing grand strategy games in less than ideal states. Over time, the whole last batch of Paradox GS games (starting with Crusader Kings 2) all fell victim to the curse of nasty launches. This curse was, in my opinion, mostly broken at the launch of Crusader Kings 3, where the game felt balanced and functional, and the only real complaints we had was that a bit more depth was needed.  All of these games, over the course of their lifespans, received many updates to fix bugs, change mechanics, and of course, release DLC to revamp certain areas entirely. While Victoria 3 is launching in better condition than say, Europa Universalis 4, it’s not in a fantastic state, but there is definitely a good game here. The remaining question is how soon these issues will be fixed, and if we’ll need to pay for the remodeling of the game.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

-Jack

Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) AAR Diary, Part Fifteen

Last time, the whole dang diary was a record of the monumental Battle of Leonardtown. Over seventy-thousand men fought on the shore of the Chesapeake, and over the course of the fight, over seventeen-thousand men became casualties.

This week, we’ll have to assess the overall war and how we’re doing. The crisis months of July and August are over, and at the moment, the rebels don’t seem to be putting together any new massive attack.

ED. Note: If you missed the start of this AAR, don’t worry! You can catch up from the beginning here.

SEP 2, 1861

First, however, a gripe! 

The fleeing rebel armies managed to board ships and sail right past my blockading squadron. I understand things are difficult to code in, but I feel like the squadron should have blocked the Confederate retreat. Also, I don’t think it’s even possible to dissolve enemy armies. Not saying that should have been the case here, but they should have been punished harshly for losing a battle when backed into a corner like that.

Oh well, can’t do anything about it now. Other than complain, anyway.

Anyway, reviewing time!

Starting in the east…

The Confederates are quickly fleeing Maryland across the Potomac. They’ve been severely damaged by the battle, but they still pose a very real threat, though likely not an immediate one. Off to the west, you can see the standoff at the northern end of West Virginia. Frankly, I’m nervous about the possibility of Confederate armies chugging right up there and blowing into the vital steel mills of Pittsburgh. Right now, that might be the most vital theater of the war.

Moving on west…

The Army of the Tennessee is packing up to move east and chase down the Army of Alabama. The last report was from a few days ago, as you can see in that image, so they might be gone now. Regardless, we’ll need to take that supply depot and make sure Ohio is secure.

And off to the western frontier…

The battles we saw in Indiana and Illinois a few AAR diaries ago actually only happened about a day or so ago in-game, so the rebels haven’t actually made much headway in their retreats yet. Luckily, I still hold St. Louis, though the only unit guarding it is the river squadron sitting in the Mississippi. If the Confederates walk into town from the west, there’s not much I can do about it.

Now, everyone’s favorite time: chart time!

So, good news first: numbers-wise, we’re winning. We have a leg up on the Confederates in terms of overall national morale (if it drops to 25, that side surrenders and the war’s over), army morale, and casualties in combat. Bad news is that the rebels are still very much in this fight, they have a significantly larger army that I haven’t been able to match yet due to recruiting issues. On the political side, I have a policy underway that will increase contract lengths for units to 24 months and also increase the overall amount of volunteers available, but that’s still 100 days out. The fighting has been bad enough that I’m coming close to running out of men to reinforce units with, so as much as I’d like to be aggressive now that the lines are stabilizing, we might have to sit tight for the winter.

SEP 3, 1861

Was that rebel army always right there?

I don’t remember either of those armies being there. I guess the Army of the Tennessee is staying put for now.

SEP 4, 1861

A brief bit of good news from the coast of the Carolinas, another Confederate fleet broke apart immediately upon running into one of my fleets. The sea remains Union territory.

SEP 9, 1861

Blissfully, September has been largely quiet so far. Out west, we’re maneuvering a few armies into what will likely be the third battle over Cincinnati. 

We’re also in a naval battle off the coast of the Carolinas again, the rebels managed to put together a decent fleet, but we’re winning at the moment.

And lastly but perhaps most importantly, our long-awaited shipment of Springfield Rifle-Muskets have finally been completed! We’ll now be able to equip many of our units with much better weapons, and can put in a larger order to equip the whole army. I’d like to prepare for the coming spring, as we’ll be able to raise new armies by then, and getting several large armies equipped with rifles will be a huge boon.

SEP 10, 1861

On the morning of September 10th, several things happened all at once.

First, I finally found the rebels hiding in the hills of West Virginia, they are currently recuperating west of Grafton. These armies took severe beatings over the last few months, but between the three sitting there, their total manpower comes to around 30000.

Next, I saw the rebels post up in Winchester, Virginia, just across the border from Maryland. These are the same men that were just forcibly evicted from Maryland a few days ago. We’re digging trenches to prepare for an assault, but we’re not sure what their play is yet.

Lastly, a battle has broken out west of Cincinnati, the Army of Indiana has dug breastworks and are preparing for a protracted siege against the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

But what the rebels don’t know is that the Union Army of the Tennessee (these names are a little confusing, maybe I should switch to a numerical system) is on the way from Cincinnati to join the fight, and they are equipped with the brand new Springfield rifles. When they arrive, I’ll launch an assault, and we’ll hopefully manage to finally lock down the border, at least for a while.

Later in the day, the naval engagement finally ends with us capturing a rebel ship and destroying the rest of the fleet.

Simultaneously, the Army of the Tennessee arrived at the battlefield west of Cincinnati, and we are commencing the attack.

SEP 10, 1861

1:17 AM

The battle begins early, today. Here’s where our men stand.

We hold very good ground, and just have to wait for them to come to us, most probably directly into our prepared defenses just outside of the town.

1:40 AM

Our skirmishers found them quickly, they’re heading right down the road at us.

2:15 AM

After a few minutes of delaying the enemy with the skirmishers, I pulled them back. The enemy began to move away from the crossings, and I don’t want to give them a reason to try to flank all the way around the river.

2:48 AM

The rebels have continued their crossing, with a few brigades lining up in front of our trenches. Our artillery is shelling them, but neither of my armies have very many guns, so the shelling isn’t as devastating as I would prefer.

3:26 AM

The rebel attack began, the enemy brigades marching directly into our guns and fields of fire.

They’re taking heavy casualties, but are still coming at us.

3:39 AM

For a few minutes, thousands of men shot at each other in the dark of the pre-dawn hours. It wasn’t long, but it was some of the most brutal fighting of the war so far, with the rebels sustaining hundreds of casualties in such a short window of time. None of their units made it to the trenchline, and most have broken and ran.

It’s eerily reminiscent of the early days of World War 1.

The enemy didn’t last much longer.

We chased their artillery away and seized their guns, earning an important victory with relatively few casualties.

SEP 12, 1861

Since the victory at Lawrenceburg, the Army of the Tennessee has chased the rebels west. They’re now cut off from the path back south. We’re going to attack again, before they have a chance to regroup back somewhere safe, it’s just a matter of catching them now.

SEP 14, 1861

The rebels unfortunately managed to slip by my armies, but they took some casualties in the process. While we didn’t manage to bring them to a decisive battle, they are at least back on their side of the river.

SEP 15, 1861

Well, I suppose they didn’t all get away.

I’ll wrap this up for this week, join us next week as we throw the rebels out of Ohio, hopefully for the winter.

-Jack

Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) AAR Diary, Part Fourteen

Last time, the Union managed to oust the rebels that had broken north in Indiana and Illinois.

This week, we’re finally evicting the Confederate armies from Maryland. Actually, this time.

ED. Note: If you missed the start of this AAR, don’t worry! You can catch up from the beginning here.

SEP 2, 1861

While the battles out west still rage, the Battle of Leonardtown in Maryland is about to commence; this will likely be the biggest battle in the war so far. The Union here has several thousand less soldiers than the Confederates do, but the Union also has over 70 more guns than the Confederates do. I expect to quite literally blow them away.

AUG 31, 1861

6:32 PM

Here’s what things look like the first evening of the battle.

The enemy holds the high ground south of the town. It’s good, defensible ground, and there are a lot of them, somewhere, up in those hills. The large forests are going to cut down on the effectiveness of my guns, as they will have worse sightlines. Hopefully, I can set them up on a  road and have them shell something further down the road. I suppose we’ll see.

As for my overall strategy, I’m going for a three-pronged attack, with the center division supported by the artillery division. My hope is that with my cavalry being sent out as scouts, we’ll be able to locate the enemy and can then concentrate our energy onto their flank, or if not the flank, at least a corner in their defensive line.

7:03 PM

What the.

An enemy divisional commander just wandered down the road, directly into my left column. I don’t think I can target them, unfortunately, but at the very least their division won’t be going anywhere anytime soon (if you didn’t know, this game models commanders writing orders and sending them off to their units. The farther the commander, the longer the order takes to arrive.).

7:46 PM

Only a few minutes before the battle will wind down for the day, and the enemy surprises me.

They started marching down the road towards my center. I think they may have been trying to take ground before I arrived, and to fortify it overnight, but now we have a bit of a standoff.

8:15 PM

The battle is going later tonight than I realized. Off to the left, one of my cavalry regiments broke and ran after stumbling into a very large contingent of rebels. In the center however, the force that was coming down the road has turned around and is trying to beat a hasty retreat. Some skirmishers from my closest brigades are pursuing closely, and are inflicting harsher casualties than I expected, about 50 in only the last few minutes. More importantly, damaging the enemy’s morale early will make it easier to rout them in the morning.

8:38 PM

I just pulled my skirmishers back, after hounding the rebel brigade that retreated slowly back up the road, they inflicted 450 casualties on them in the last 40 minutes or so. The enemy clearly isn’t ready to fight yet, but unfortunately, neither am I. 

My center divisions are stuck in traffic in these thick woods, and only a few of my brigades are “on line.” The most I can do right now is try to seize the edge of the creek and the fence around that farm up the road before night falls. Holding the farm in the morning means that I could have a nice open area to set up my guns, which I’m counting on to win us the battle.

SEP 1, 1861

7:00 AM

Day 2

It just occurred to me that the battle technically began in August, not in September. I suppose it backdated the battle to when the skirmishing began. In any case, here’s what the battle lines look like for the Union on the first day of September.

I have a very heavy concentration of troops in the center, with somewhere around 90 guns focused up the road. On the left, I have Montgomery’s 3rd Division, and on the right, Hunter’s 1st Division. I plan to have the two execute a pincer movement on the farm in the center. The 1st Division in particular has a few brigades with the very rare rifled-muskets, so I will likely rely on them to be the hammer to the anvil of my batteries.

7:18 AM

The rebels pulled back overnight, something I’m seeing for the first time now. They only learned how to do that in the recent 1.9 update, and I’m happy to be fighting a smarter opponent, though my strategy of crushing them in the middle of my army is now moot.

It was such a good defensive line too…

7:53 AM

A small battle has erupted on my extreme left. The rebels saw my advancing division and are doing their best to stomp on it before we’re properly set up.

So far, however, the Union brigade under Wilcox has accounted well for itself, routing a Confederate cavalry regiment, and they’re now falling back to a more defensible position in the woods.

8:17 AM

Things are heating up on the left, both my left division and a rebel division are duking it out over the stream crossing.

This whole battle seems to have escalated completely by accident; there’s a bit of advancing and falling back from both sides as we try to reform our lines. Fortunately, the trees are providing cover for my men, so we have the upper hand so far.

Meanwhile, my artillery division is slowly working its way through the wheatfields of Cox’s farm. Once in position, they’ll be able to pin the rebel center. That’s the hope, anyway.

8:54 AM

After a fight that lasted for most of the hour, the rebels have started to pull back from the fight in the woods. They took significant casualties and are wavering, but are still certainly combat effective.

I’m going to press the advantage by moving the artillery further up. If we can use the woods as a base of fire, it’ll be difficult for the rebels to respond.

9:04 AM

The orderly retreat turned into a rout for several of the enemy brigades.

9:21 AM

The scrap on the left has been wrapped up, only one rebel brigade left intact.

Meanwhile in the center, the rebels have launched what I assume must be a probing attack on my brigades at the fenceline. I brought some of my guns up, which are doing heavy damage to their brigade; an easy target, out there in the open.

9:47 AM

After the Confederate right collapsed, we saw that brief skirmish in the center, but now things are heating up on the other side of the battlefield.

The 1st Division is working its way across the creek, and the rebels are being very slow to respond so far. If they don’t quickly sort out their lines, they may fall apart shortly.

10:14 AM

The Confederate left is crumbling as well, they’ve lost a brigade already, though the others haven’t been engaged yet. They’re still struggling to form up to respond, whereas the 1st Division just needs to keep marching forward.

10:27 AM

The rebels launched a sudden attack on the center, I believe in an attempt to relieve their left.

10:54 AM

The rebels have become more concentrated as their flanks have broken down, which is making the center more dangerous.

11:32 AM

The battle has turned into a brawl, the center is an absolute mess now.

We’re winning, but this is turning into a battle of attrition, and those are always ugly.

Shortly after, the rebels ordered a retreat, I can only assume the troops on both sides breathed a sigh of relief. The battle was costly for both sides.

My batteries continued to pound the rebels as their remaining brigades held the line.

Whew! After that slugfest, I’m going to wrap it up here for this week. Join us next time as we figure out how we can capitalize on the gains we made from the Battle of Leonardtown…

-Jack

Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) AAR Diary, Part Thirteen

Last time, the Union dealt the confederacy a crushing blow along the Ohio River, the first step towards stabilizing the borders after a hectic July and August saw the rebels swarm north.

ED. Note: If you missed the start of this AAR, don’t worry! You can catch up from the beginning here.

AUG 27, 1861

First, however, a brief diversion to the economic side of things.

What you’re looking at above is a graph showing the overall budget surplus of the union and Confederacy. Currently, we’re both in debt. I had been spending a ton of money on the various subsidy fields, which are used to fund projects and buildings, but recently cut back everywhere but the military. I had, as you can see, gone into considerable debt, but the economic strength of the Union should pull me out. The Confederacy, on the other hand, doesn’t have the large economic base the Union does. Given the effort they put into early-war massive armies, I’m skeptical about their ability to continue funding their armies a year from now. 

In short: the name of the game is now, I believe, attrition, as the Union armies can’t currently match the rebels in size, but I believe we can outlast their ability to fund an army.

On a related note, here’s the overall Summary page:

Note the large gulfs between the Union and the Confederacy in terms of men fielded and casualties. We’re currently winning tactical engagements, but like I said last time, the rebels have the manpower to make strategic gains, simply by being where I don’t have any men.

Speaking of which, there are supposedly four rebel armies somewhere in West Virginia. The Army of Frederick and the Army of Northeastern Virginia are still on the way to take a look-see.

The long suffering Army of Pennsylvania is also being re-routed to Wheeling, just shortly after beating back the rebels at the Battle of the Ohio River.

Back east, the Army of New York is preparing to attack the rebels entrenched against the Chesapeake yet again. This time, we have a secret weapon: reorganized artillery.

With a recent military innovation, our artillery units can now be formed into battalions, increasing the amount of guns per unit. In three days, the army will have fifty-five more guns, and we’ll use those guns to blow the rebels into the Bay.

AUG 30, 1861

Out west, the Army of Indiana, having sat out the Battle of the Ohio River, has chased down one of the roaming Confederate armies that made it north in the chaos of the last two months.

With luck, we’ll crush them completely with our larger numbers.

—-

They ran immediately, a wise move.

6 captured this time? War’ll be over by Christmas!

Meanwhile, near Wheeling…

We located one of the smaller rebel armies in the area, starving and unthreatening. There are still three other armies in the area unaccounted for though. Where are they?

As the men scout for the other rebels, the Army of new York has begun another push to rid Maryland of the Confederate Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of the Shenandoah.

The Army of New York now has over 100 guns, far more than either of the Confederate armies. With this much firepower, I expect to turn them into crab food.

AUG 31, 1861

The Army of New York made contact and began skirmishing with the rebels. Though I want them out of Maryland quickly, a few days of bombardment should soften them up for a full assault.

SEP 2, 1861

We finally entered September, and the month is opened with a battle not in West Virginia or on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay; instead, we find our men attacked out west, in Illinois.

SEP 2, 1861

7:34 AM

Here’s our starting situation.

A very strong defensive position with a lot of open ground ahead and not much room to flank us. I plan to just let them walk into my guns and trenchworks.

9:17 AM

After over an hour of twiddling our thumbs, a rebel cavalry regiment appeared down the road. Our guns began shelling them, but at this range they don’t have much effect. I expect them to wait for reinforcements before attacking.

9:40 AM

More cavalry regiments arrived. Their plan is likely to try to flank and overwhelm me. Well, we’ll see about that.

I sent out skirmishers to harass their units and make them think twice about engaging. The cavalry regiments are only about 500 men strong apiece, and altogether don’t have the mass to force through my lines.

9:51 AM

Dear lord, they have a lot of cavalry.

As long as we keep our lines tight, we should be able to fend them off.

10:01 AM

The rebels have begun launching a forward assault with their center cavalry regiments… on foot. They gain a bonus to shooting when on foot, but lose their melee advantage and the speed of being on horseback.

Most cavalry units, especially at this point in the war, tend to not have very decent firearms either. If they attack from the front like this, we shouldn’t have a problem batting them aside.

10:08 AM

The advance by the cavalry was a ruse. They used the pinned defenders as an opening to attack one of my batteries, and then rushed more cavalry in to engage my left in melee.

Things are suddenly looking much more tenuous than a moment ago.

10:08 AM

The charge on the left was broken, but more Confederate cavalry wait on the flank. On the right, a Confederate infantry brigade has gotten in close with my much smaller brigade.

10:20 AM

The left routed after the flanking cavalry pushed in, but the center threw out the cavalry that had penetrated. The right is still holding strong, their rifles and cover giving them a distinct advantage over the Confederates in the open.

10:26 AM

The two remaining Union brigades are now practically fighting back to back, holding off pushes from the left and right simultaneously.

10:38 AM

Through intense firefights, the Confederates have slowly begun to give ground. Col. Lyon’s weakened brigade, now below 500 men, laid down in the trenches and fired blindly over the parapet, the mass of fire enough to drive the rebels backward.

10:51 AM

Lyon’s men turned around and again repelled another cavalry brigade.

On the left, BG. Abercrombie threw back the several cavalry regiments that had been flanking us. The failure of this assault broke the Confederate morale entirely.

It was a hard-fought battle, but we managed to get through it. I wish I could give officers medals, Lyon deserves one for holding the right.

Near to the east, another battle begins to break out, as the Army of Indiana chases down the other rebel army that made it so far north.

SEP 2, 1861

6:20 PM

Here’s our starting position.

We have some ground to cover, but I doubt there will be any action tonight. We majorly outnumber the rebels, so hopefully this shouldn’t be too difficult. I’m planning to send the army to at least the Howell River tonight, maybe further if they’re quick.

7:07 PM

We found the enemy defending the river, entrenched on the far side.

My men got here much faster than I expected; I’m now deploying my left to harass the small northern ford, the rest of the army will begin pressuring the bridge when they arrive.

The rest of the evening was spent getting the men moved up to the river, no contact other than shelling of either side.

DAY 2

SEP 3, 1861

7:00 AM

Here’s our starting position on Day 2.

We dug trenches on our side of the river overnight. Our heavy 12-Pound Howitzers are pummeling the rebels at the bridge…

While the left ford is completely open. We’re going to push across here, threaten the enemy’s flank, and then push across the bridge when they turn to react to this.

7:25 AM

The flanking maneuver is going well so far, the largest enemy contingents are turning to my left, which is opening up the bridge to a forward assault.

7:43 AM

The Confederate right is crumbling, thanks to the only rifle-equipped unit in my army leading the charge. They picked off the enemy from long range, and the rebels started running before even really getting into contact.

7:55 AM

A heroic charge across the bridge led by Col. Corcoran routed the remaining Confederate defenders, leading to them fleeing the field entirely.

I will close things here for this diary, as we’ve finally gotten the west settled down somewhat. Join us next week as we finally take the fight to those rebels clinging to Maryland…

-Jack

Home of Wargames Live Game Reveals!

The next Home of Wargames Live Event is just around the corner. On October 13th, next Thursday, Matrix will have a special 2 hours live stream about their hardcore wargames!

As some of you are aware, Matrix-Slitherine has decide to split their games with more casual strategy fare appearing under the Slitherine Banner, and more hardcore traditional wargames listed under Matrix.

Upcoming War in the East 2 DLC will get some air time.

It’s great to see Slitherine-Matrix give some love to the hardcore wargames with a full 2 hour event. I’m personally looking forward to seeing more from Flashpoint Campaigns: Southern Storm and Modern Naval Warfare, and especially NEW DLC FOR COMBAT MISSION!!! but the whole list looks fascinating. Check it out below!

Home of Wargamers – 100% Wargames will be on Thursday October 13th, from 17:00 to 19:00 UK time on the Slitherine Twitch channel – https://www.twitch.tv/slitherinetv

Games Matrix will show (new details, new DLC, new titles).

Modern Naval Warfare
Flashpoint Campaigns Southern Storm
Command Modern Operations
Valor & Victory
Strategic Command 
Rule the Waves 3
War in the East 2 – DLC Steel Inferno
Combat Mission – New Unannounced DLC (ww2)
Nuclear War Simulator
Shadow Empires

Definitely pop in and give the stream a watch. We’ll be doing what we can to cover these games in more detail as information becomes available!

-Joe

Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) AAR Diary, Part Twelve

Last time, the Union did a lot of shuffling around, managing to kick the rebels out of the northern part of West Virginia, but lost Cincinnati in the process. This time, we’re looking to take the city back from the Confederacy.

ED. Note: If you missed the start of this AAR, don’t worry! You can catch up from the beginning here.

AUG 24, 1861

Scott’s increasingly busy and worn-out army is being tapped yet again to go to a hotspot, this time down to Cincinnati. The army is roughly half the strength of what it was a few months ago, constant combat has taken its toll on them, as has the recently expired 3 month contracts. Still, the men remain steadfast.

Onward to Ohio.

AUG 25, 1861

En route to Cincinnati, the Army of Pennsylvania ran into an unpleasant surprise.

One of the rebel armies that had been waiting across the bridge from Cincinnati for the past few months found its chance to penetrate into Ohio. Fortunately, they weren’t able to start occupying Columbus before Scott’s army appeared.

AUG 25, 1861

4:10 PM

Here’s our starting situation.

The enemy holds the objective but I have far better numbers. I’m sending my army out at staggered time intervals to not clog the road too much, while my cavalry will swing wide to see if they can’t find the enemy’s flank.

6:35 PM

As my men approached the “Hoedown River”, I saw no sign of the enemy, so I ordered the 2nd Division to continue forward. Then, I caught a glimpse.

For whatever reason, they decided to guard the right bridge. I can’t imagine they have enough men to effectively guard both.

We’re only discovering this now because the cavalry were, unfortunately, stuck in traffic mid-way through the line.

Now, I’m still advancing toward the left bridge, while my following divisions will monitor the right.

7:00 PM

It seems that, for some reason, the approach to the objective is completely unguarded.

I’m not going to look a gift objective in the mouth. The 2nd Division will be proceeding straight there.

7:15 PM

Completely undefended, period. Real brain genius moves by commanding Confederate Brig. Gen. Rains. I hope i fight the Army of Alabama more often. I hope this guy’s my opponent in every battle.

Meanwhile, at the back of the Union advance…

“It’s a shortcut,” they said. “Walk through the marsh,” they said.

Someone’s getting fired over there.

7:49 PM

We secured the objective, which is timely, as I believe night now begins at 8 PM in-game.

I appreciate the AI in this game very much, because just as often as it makes blunders like this, it shows tactical forethought, which is impressive from a rock we tricked into thinking.

Even so… this is pretty bad.

AUG 26, 1861

6:00 AM

I was wrong, the battle the day before lasted until 9, though nothing other than distant and ineffectual shelling occurred. Here’s the situation for Day 2.

I’ve learned my lesson about being too aggressive with fortifications. Today, I set up good sightlines for my guns and have everyone snuggled up in the trench, excepting my cavalry, who are in the woods to make sure I don’t get flanked.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the rebels immediately retreat.

6:30 AM

Somewhat surprisingly, they didn’t. They’re trying to attack my right, which is to be expected, it’s the weakest part of my line. Unfortunately for them, my men have a shorter walk, and redeployed.

6:56 AM

My brigades have managed to get themselves setup before the rebels could form up on their end.

Not sure what their gameplan is here, other than “get shot a bunch,” because that’s what will happen if they try to attack.

7:10 AM

So you have chosen death.

7:42 AM

We witnessed a miniature Pickett’s Charge. The ground is literally littered with bodies of Confederate soldiers.

They’re beginning to pull back now, with nothing to show for their charge except minor casualties on the Union side. A game this slow and with this scale really makes you appreciate the weight of the lives that get lost in attacks like this throughout history, through poorly planned assaults in the Civil War, to the many cases in World War 1, to examples with conventional forces getting slaughtered in modern combat as well.

I’m not going to assign morality to a video game, in any case, but war is definitely hell. Imagine fighting a war so people can continue to own slaves, though.

But I digress.

AUG 26, 1861

While Columbus is having its rebel problem dealt with, a more troubling problem reared its head.

In West Virginia, four separate rebel armies are beginning to march north. Two of them are leftovers from early war emergency armies, and have a scant few hardened troops left. The other two are unfortunately still very dangerous, both with around 20000 men apiece. The closest armies are again the Army of Frederick and the Army of Northeastern Virginia, who have no choice but to intervene.

While they march, let’s review the frontline.

The east is characterized by the siege of the Confederate armies on the southern edge of Maryland, who are still being reinforced, albeit slowly. To the west of this region is the dangerous No Man’s Land of West Virginia, where armies have been sparring for the last couple months.

The tri-state area of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky sees repeated incursions by the rebels along the Ohio border, currently we’ve lost control of the situation and rebels are pouring across the border and dispersing in all directions.

In Indiana and Illinois, there are uncertain lines as the rebels took advantage of the overlong front to maneuver around Union forces. No decisive action has taken place here so far.

Further west, we’ve had to abandon St. Louis again as a casualty of the overextended lines. The Union doesn’t currently have the manpower to hold the area. The next necessary federal policy will be to address the dwindling manpower issue. There aren’t enough volunteers left to fill new units, let alone reinforce existing units.

AUG 27, 1861

Overnight, the Army of Pennsylvania rode trains to Cincinnati, and jumped out directly into combat. We’ve finally locked down the rebels here, a decisive victory could assert control over the border again and re-solidify lines.

AUG 27, 1861

8:33 AM

Here’s our starting situation.

Fortunately, holding the city of Cincinnati seems to have given us the objective already. I’ve built a long trenchline that would need some work to outflank, and I also have reinforcements coming soon. So far, I’m feeling optimistic about this.

8:58 AM

I came across the rebels much sooner than I expected, they were fast today.

My cavalry spotted them along the Hoedown River (YEEHAW), heading for the road that will lead them directly to my defenses. I have no complaints yet.

9:43 AM

The rebels are lurking closer to my lines, but my reinforcements have appeared to bolster my defenses. I was a bit thin on my right, and the influx of troops will hopefully deter any rash charges.

10:23 AM

It looks like they’re attempting to form up for an attack on my right. I’ll admit, I was expecting them to wait, given that they’re still expecting reinforcements, but there they are, standing in range of my guns in the open.

11:02 AM

Another day, another foolish rebel advance.

11:31 AM

They retreated so quickly I’m not sure they intended to attack in the first place.

I’m sending some cavalry after the guns in the open, but otherwise I’m largely staying still.

…except for the trademark Jack aggressive defensive line that my extreme left is now working on. I can’t help it.

12:14 PM

Another unsupported Confederate advance.

And they ran, of course. I would, if I was them.

We also managed to neutralize their guns.

1:05 PM

Still not waiting for reinforcements, the Confederates are putting together a stronger attack this time, looks to be a division or two.

Unfortunately, the commander of the 1st Division of the Army of Tennessee took a cannonball directly. It’s uncommon that artillery will kill an officer, but I suppose it was a lucky shot.

1:29 PM

After exchanging volleys for some time, the main attack on the angle fell apart with low casualties on the Union’s side. 

However, the attack appears to be shifting to the right.

Still no word of Confederate reinforcements. Given how this attack is going, they might decide to leave before the other army arrives.

1:53 PM

The attack on the right failed; the defending division is now being sent out to clean up stray rebel batteries.

All things considered, this battle has been pretty passive so far, the trenchworks having done most of the Union’s job for them.

3:18 PM

It looks like the Confederates are shifting to my left after the first few attacks petered out.

4:00 PM

I was mistaken about the enemy attack, while most of them are going left, they’re hitting my entire front now.

So far, we’re only seeing the most forward enemy units, but they have several divisions getting formed up, ready to sweep down on us.

4:30 PM

I think I understand the enemy’s plot now, they’re trying to get around the edges of my trenchline. The enemy brigades are keeping their distance, but are marching parallel to me. Currently, I’m trying to move troops further along the edges to make sure we can’t be outflanked, but I can only hold so much line.

5:09 PM

At the extreme left of the line, where the trench meets the swamp, an enemy division finally decided to turn and is moving at the Union men, who only arrived in the last few minutes.

Shortly after, the commander of the Army of the Tennessee, a Brig. Gen. Morell, was wounded by artillery fire. So far, the rebel gunners have knocked two of my commanders out of action today.

5:33 PM

The attack on the left was met with stiff resistance by locally outnumbered Union defenders, but rather than backing off as they’ve done before, the Confederates are committing several more brigades.

The right is also now seeing movement toward the trenches. The enemy had been formed up for some time, but are only now mounting an attack.

Perhaps they’re aiming to keep me pinned and unable to support either flank if the attack falters? I still have some free brigades left in the center, but I don’t want to leave myself vulnerable.

6:04 PM

Right around 6:00, the attacks on both the right and left broke.

While this is certainly a tactical victory, the enemy has plenty of reserves, and can mount more attacks if they choose. Several of their brigades were fed into the meat-grinder of my defenses, but a fair amount are still combat effective.

There are a few hours of daylight left. I’m not sure what they’ll do next, whether they’ll retreat or mount more attacks, and if they do, if they’ll wait for morning. If I was them, I’d hit me tonight before I could reinforce my trenchline.

6:14 PM

Just as the right is pushing back the last attackers…

…the left faces a mass assault by what looks like the rest of their forces.

6:25 PM

One of the brigades in the Army of Pennsylvania’s 3rd Division, under Col. W.S. Hancock, rushed the enemy brigade that approached the trench. The 3rd Brigade, led by Col. McCall, captured an entire enemy brigade, stunning me when I thought they were all going to get killed.

The sudden loss of the rebel brigade broke the attack on the left, and soon, the enemy was marching away from the field entirely.

The amount of casualties we managed to inflict while taking so few in return will have a major impact on Confederate operations around Ohio for the near future, nearly 20% of their army became casualties in this battle.

I will stop this diary for here, next week will feature efforts to stabilize the border along the western front, and maybe we’ll finally kick those rebels out of Maryland…

I’m coming for you, you jerks.

-Jack

Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) AAR Diary, Part Eleven

Last time, the Union army suffered its first defeat at the hands of stubborn Confederate defenders stuck against the Chesapeake Bay. With nowhere to run, they routed the inexperienced Union Army of New York.

AUG 5, 1861

Fortunately, though we took one in the face last time with the failed assault on the Confederates, the Army of the New York managed to largely retreat in good order, and they’re now re-entrenching, shaken, but now somewhat hardened, between Annapolis and Washington.

I’ll give them time to recuperate before trying another attack.

AUG 6, 1861

The Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi over to St. Louis to relieve the beleaguered Defenders (formerly Department) of the West, who are now going to take a break from fighting to go assert control over rail and supply lines to the west.

AUG 7, 1861

That Hampton Division is at it again.

This time, they’re threatening Pittsburgh, but are first taking Wheeling. I’m sending both the Army of Northeastern Virginia and the Army of Frederick to shoo them away, hopefully. Both are undermanned now that the initial contracts are up, their units are largely under half strength, some under a third.

AUG 9, 1861

The notable Defenders of the West have made themselves quite useful over the last few days, re-capturing towns in southern Indiana and Illinois that the Confederates had grabbed. Now that their job is completed, I spotted an opportunity.

Louisville sure looks wide open to me. If I threaten the town, maybe the rebels will back down off of Cincinnati, god knows the Army of Indiana could use the breather.

AUG 12, 1861

The gambit paid off, the Defenders of the West were able to pull out in the nick of time as a thirty thousand man army steamed down the river to obliterate them. 

I can’t exploit the opening in Cincinnati as the Army of Indiana is, frankly, too weak to mount an attack, but we’ve at least ensured that the rebels won’t attack for some time longer.

AUG 13, 1861

August 13th starts off with a bang.

Simultaneously, a battle rages in the Mississppi as the refitted and repaired Lake Michigan Squadron attacks the Confederate Mississippi Squadron, and the Army of the Tennessee looks to repel an attack by the Confederates, once again seeking to retake the key city of St. Louis.

AUG 13, 1861

6:27 AM

Here’s the starting situation.

We have a strong defensive position, the left locked down with a division holding fences and a trench protecting the flanks, and the right has a full line of trenches.

The downside is that this army hasn’t yet received artillery pieces, they’re still on the way. Worse, we only have muskets as well. Even worse than that, this army is only now facing battle for the first time. Still, we significantly outnumber the enemy, which hopefully counts for something.

6:28 AM

Oh, never mind.

Five captured soldiers? Not bad, I suppose.

Now that we have a second, let’s review the summary of the war so far.

We’re still in a favorable position, I’d say, though not as much as I’d like, and worse than before. We’re only four months into the war, and we’ve suffered significant losses in manpower and in finance. The Confederates have it worse than us, but that could change.

They are also, notably, fielding fifty thousand more men than I am, which is an alarming number, to say the least. Sure, they’re probably having more trouble arming them with anything decent than I am, but manpower counts for a lot. Besides, I’m more concerned with the strategic implications of fifty thousand men I can’t match running around unopposed. Though of course, I’m already struggling to keep *my* armies supplied, I imagine it’s again, far worse for them.

AUG 14, 1861

After a day of battle on the river, the Union fleet utterly vanquished the Confederate fleet.

The Mississippi is now indisputably in the hands of the Union. It was a small battle, but very crucial towards the overall war effort.

AUG 14, 1861

The rebels swung back towards St. Louis, again outnumbered. Will they stick to their assault this time?

—–

Another five men captured.

That’s all. If they come at us a few hundred more times, we’ll have their whole army in prisoner camps.

AUG 16, 1861

The damnable Hampton Division stayed still in Wheeling, so they’re now sandwiched between Scott’s Army of Pennsylvania and the two armies from the east, McDowell’s Army of Northeastern Virginia and Patterson’s Army of Frederick. Both of the latter are under-strength, but are hardened and well-equipped.

AUG 18, 1861

The Confederate Army of Tennessee, having chased the Defenders of the West out of Louisville, followed them into the undefended state of Indiana. 

The Army of Indiana, stationed in St. Louis, is being sent to go chase them down, being relieved by the Defenders of the West, who have been reinforced with a half-strength infantry brigade, which on its own doubles the size of the army.

Later in the day, the slices of bread on the sandwich of the Hampton Division have finally come together (sorry for that metaphor).

The opposing armies first engaged in an entrenched skirmish, but I’m ordering an assault. I want those rebels kicked back down south, I don’t want to risk having three armies’ attention focused here for longer than the time it’ll take to rout the enemy.

AUG 18, 1861

8:51 AM

Here’s the starting situation for the battle.

Neither side holds the objective, but based on the Confederate supply routes, they will almost certainly have to come down the road towards Willow Garden. The larger of my armies, the Army of Pennsylvania, is entrenched there, with Sherman’s division borrowed from McDowell to bolster the right flank. The rest of McDowell’s Army of Northeastern Virginia will take the mountain, while Patterson’s Army of Frederick will swing around the mountain and seize the objective, then entrench once they arrive.

9:28 AM

As I sent my cavalry division forward to scout, I caught a glimpse of Confederate cavalry trying to beat me to the objective.

I’m lucky that I saw them. I’m sending one of McDowell’s divisions that had been held in reserve to go stand guard over the creek.

9:43 AM

Good lord, they’re all walking over the creek there?

I should have expected this, the AI loves taking off-road shortcuts. Fortunately, I have the hill, so maybe my guns can swing around in time to hit them while they’re jumbled up.

10:07 AM

It looks like they used a ford off to the side to swing some more cavalry around. My army that was racing to the objective is now largely on its own, with only one brigade in place so far.

I’m ordering my left to come down the road as fast as it can, as it looks like we’ve been wholly outflanked.

A lone brigade in the Army of Frederick, commanded by Col. Wright, took massive casualties after a close-up volley from Confederate shotguns.

Fortunately, their divisional commander, Col. Thomas, is nearby, and kept them in line, but this is already a mess.

10:27 AM

It looks like we both caught each other before we were ready, the units coming down the road from the left ran into Confederates who were trying to march towards the objective.

It’s fierce fighting over here, and my guns haven’t been able to reach the crest of the hill yet to start going to work on the rebels.

10:39 AM

Wright’s brigade took off after a devastating cavalry charge, but reinforcing brigades have begun to arrive and are scaring the cavalry off after both sides taking significant casualties.

11:08 AM

Our luck is changing. As reinforcements appeared on the right, enemy brigades appeared from both directions, but only one group attacked, the other veered off to support the main army on the road.

On the left, my main force was pushed back after the initial scuffle, but our line has reformed and we’re pushing back towards the core of their army.

We still hold the hill as well, and our guns are pulverizing the largely helpless Confederates, who are too distracted by the battle on either side to climb the steep slope to attack my guns.

We accidentally stumbled into having most of the army bottled up on the road between the lake and the hill.

We’re still working on bringing up our reserve divisions, but we are hammering them hard.

11:30 AM

The rebels are in a terrible position. Left without much choice, some of their brigades have begun trying to climb the hill to silence my guns.

It’s magnificent, but it’s not war.

The Confederates are throwing everything they have at my main force to stop it collapsing on them entirely.

What had started out so messily has turned into an utter catastrophe for the Confederate army, their units losing hundreds of men on desperate rushes to hold back the Union tide. Victory is close for the Union, the only question is how costly it will be for the Confederates?

The rebels ran soon after, losing a significant amount of their army on the retreat to Union cavalry.

This was an important strategic victory, as it has removed the threat of any invasions through West Virginia for the near future, as well as put a large dent in the Hampton Division, which has proven to be a thorn in my side for the last 2 months at least.

AUG 21, 1861

The damned Confederate Army of Tennessee snuck up on the Army of Indiana, forcing it out of Cincinnati. I have reinforcements on the way, but we may lose the key city and port for a short time, which will still deal a significant blow to our efficiency.

What followed was a few days of the two Union armies around Cincinnati, the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of Indiana, dancing around the larger Confederate forces.

Both are still angling for a position where they can join to attack the Confederates.

Elsewhere, however…

AUG 24, 1861

The month looks to close as violently as July opened. Fortunately for Scott, his army handily outnumbers the two revel armies, though every army here is somewhat seasoned now, and will be ready for a fight.

AUG 24, 1861

7:30 AM

Here’s our starting situation.

We have a nice long trench along a mountain overlooking the objective with my cavalry way out in front to act as skirmishers. The rebels are going to have to come to me this time, and I don’t intend to make myself easy to get to.

9:33 AM

The first sign of the enemy is a single artillery battery coming out of the woods like some kind of swamp thing.

I assume the rest of the army isn’t far behind, but it’s a bit odd for artillery to either be at the front of a column or to be on its own. I’m keeping my distance for now, but watching closely.

9:47 AM

Hmm… still just them?

Time to hit those guns.

10:08 AM

After a brief back and forth, the cavalry routed the guns easily.

Off to the left, one of the other cavalry regiments spotted what I believe is their main force.

They’re just slowly trundling along for now, and I’m content to leave them to it, though I’ll be keeping a close eye to ensure they take the path I want them to take.

11:38 AM

The end of the rebel column left another battery exposed. Don’t mind if I do.

Back at the objective, an enemy cavalry regiment has begun to approach the creek.

I’m sending out a brigade to meet them at the creek, but I plan to l;argely sit back and let my guns do the work here,

12:16 PM

The rebel line appeared ahead of the objective, and they quickly formed up and began to approach the creek.

12:30 PM

The rebel attack petered out after the single push; as usual, attacking defenders in the era of rifled muskets has proven to be a bad idea.

1:10 PM

Around this time the Confederates broke.

We haven’t received official word of the retreat yet, but it’s clearly happening.

——

And eventually…

I’ll wrap up this diary here, join us next time as we follow the maneuvers around Cincinnati…

-Jack

War in the East 2 DLC Incoming!

I’ve just gotten word from Slitherine/Matrix that the first DLC for War in the East 2 has been announced! I’m very excited for this. War in the East 2 was my game of the year last year and has consistently struck me with its elegance. I often grow tired of really heavy wargames, but War in the East can keep me going for hours and hours. More content is only going to be awesome, in my opinion. Here’s the full reveal right from the source:

Matrix Games and 2by3 announce the first DLC for War in the East 2

Steel Inferno will release on November

Set in the East front of World War 2, Gary Grigsby’s War in the East 2 was last year’s best-selling and most praised wargame. The simulation improved every aspect of its predecessor, effectively rebooting the series and giving it new life. Since its release, Gary Grigsby and his team have been working hard to improve gameplay with various upgrades. Simultaneously, 2by3 Games started work on the game’s first DLC, Steel Inferno.  This expansion puts the spotlight on several major offensives that influenced the course of the war in the East. It is also expanding the gigantic map further by opening new areas throughout eight new Scenarios and two new Campaigns.

Steel Inferno covers Operations in Yugoslavia in 1944 for the first time and adds several German scenarios, such as the attack into the Caucasus. The addition of hypothetical scenarios and two new full map campaigns offer countless extra gameplay hours in historically detailed settings and what-if alternatives.

Steel Inferno DLC in details

Steel Inferno opens up new areas of the War in the East 2 map: wth 8 new Scenarios and 2 new Campaigns, it will significantly expand your War in the East 2 experience.

For the first time in the War in the East 2 series, operations in all of Yugoslavia in 1944 are covered. Finnish forces also make an appearance in the area just north of Leningrad. Several scenarios cover the German attack into the Caucasus, including a hypothetical scenario that provides the Germans with an additional army for the campaign. “Drama on the Danube” scenario places the German player in the difficult position of trying to deal with the surrender of Romania and Bulgaria, and the difficulties of the German forces in Greece trying to escape north through partisan-controlled territory.

Also included are two new full map campaigns which begin with the German Operation Citadel in July 1943 and about a month before the Soviet Operation Bagration in May 1944.

Campaign and scenario list

1943 Campaign – 3 Jul 43 – 6 Jul 45 — A full Campaign starting out with the German Operation
Citadel, the largest tank battle in history. It allows players to explore the best way for the Germans to recover from the earlier Stalingrad debacle, and the best way for the Soviets to beat the Allies to Berlin.

1944 Campaign – 11 May 44 – 4 Jul 45 — A full Campaign that begins with the Soviets readying for the start of their massive Summer 1944 offensives.  Within four months, these offensives led to the destruction of Army Group Center, and the capitulation of Romania and Finland. Within a year, Berlin had fallen. Can you do better?

Operation Kutuzov – 12 Jul 43 – 3 Oct 44 — Following the repulse of the German attack on Kursk, Operation Kutuzov was launched to retake Orel and push on towards Smolensk.

Road to Karelia – 22 Jun 41 – 11 Oct 41 — The first WitE2 scenario to include a section of the Finnish front. It covers the first 4 month German push to capture Leningrad, and the Finnish effort to push the Soviets out of Finnish Karelian territory, recently ceded during the Winter War.

Army Group A – Part I – Race for the Caucasus – 25 Jul 42 – 20 Nov 42 — Covers the German attempt to capture the oil fields of the Caucasus in  Summer 1942. This oil could change the course of the war.

Case Blue Phase II 42-43 – 25 Jul 42 – 5 Mar 43 — Covers the critical phase of the German attack to seize Stalingrad, along with the rush south into the Caucasus. Assuming the Soviet player can hold on, it also covers the Soviet build up and counteroffensive that through the Germans back.

Case Blue Phase II 43-43 – Alternate – 25 Jul 42 – 5 Mar 43 — What if German High Command hadn’t dismantled their 11th Army after the capture of Sevastopol, but instead had kept it together to help take Stalingrad and the Caucasus. In this scenario you can find out the answer.

Army Group A – Part II – Kuban Bridgehead – 1 Feb 43 – 10 October 43 – After the loss at Stalingrad, the German 17th Army was ordered to hold on to the Kuban Bridgehead. They did for over 8 months. Can you?

AG C – Kutuzov to Bagration 43-44 – 12 Jul 43 – 2 Apr 44 — This Soviet offensive began as Operation Citadel ended, and recaptured Orel and Smolensk in less than 3 months. Can the Soviets drive further into Belorussia and destroy Army Group Center a year early?

Western Ukraine 43-44 – 3 Nov 43 – 25 Apr 44 — The Soviet push into Western Ukraine which led to their recapture of Odessa, and the Battle of the Kemenets-Podolsky pocket. A punishing offensive, but could the Soviets have done even better?

Drama on the Danube 44 – 20 Aug 44 – 5 May 45   — A complete look at the unusual and varied fighting across the Balkans in 1944-45. Starting with the conversion of Romania and Bulgaria into Soviet allies, the scenario also covers the desperate attempt of the German forces in Greece to escape north. Covers the transition of the Yugoslavian partisan war into being part of the front line, the Soviet advance through Hungary, the last major German offensive of the war near Budapest, and the fall of Vienna.”

Colour me very, very excited for this. I enjoyed working through the grand campaign, but smaller more manageable historical campaigns are a great way to get some gameplay in without having to commit to something so large. Suffice to say I’ll be breaking out my rulebook and refreshing my notes!

-Joe