Advanced Optional Rules and House Rules
So, you still want to know a little more about the Optional Rules? You have come to the right place. Here we will cover them in greater detail and show you how they relate to one another and work together to create a better gaming experience. We will also cover what are considered “House Rules” and how they will affect you in the ACWGC. Once you are done reading you may elect to proceed to the Post-Graduate level course VMI 301: Critical Analysis of Optional Rules located at the War Library. Those seeking examples and expanded commentary of how these Rules affect gameplay should enjoy the lectures there.
Q: Why aren’t the Optional Rules called Advanced Rules?
A: The primary reason for having Optional Rules is twofold. First, Optional Rules are intended to provide some variety to game play. As such, they are intended to put a new twist on familiar situations and keep the game interesting. Second, Optional Rules are intended to provide an outlet for disagreements over how certain issues are to be approached. That is, rather than debate an issue to death, an Optional Rule is often provided so that differing viewpoints are supported in the game, even if they are not agreed to by 100% of the user population. Given this intention, Optional Rules should never be confused with Advanced Rules which are intended to provide more realism or detail but at a sacrifice of playability or simplicity. An Optional Rule could conceivably reduce realism or detail as long as it provided some interesting variety into the game or provided a useful simplification that improved playability under certain circumstances.
Let us start by, once again, displaying the Optional Rules on the board.
Optional Rules Dialog
The Optional Rules Dialog is used to view and select the Optional Rules for a new battle. Optional Rules can be set at the beginning of a battle, but not changed once the battle has started. The Optional Rules selected in the Optional Rules Dialog are saved and become the subsequent default for new battles.
I am going to discuss them as groups since most rules need to be paired with others to work properly. Also, this helps balance out how they affect the game since some rules favor the defender and some the attacker. Also, some rules, while optional, were added to fix very real problems and should not be optional.
First are the ones involved with "Turn" based play versus "Phased" play.
In "Phased" play you have part of the turn separated into distinct phases consisting of a Movement Phase, Defensive Fire Phase, Offensive Fire Phase and a Melee Phase. "Turn" based play was first introduced with the HPS games and consists of just a single player phase in which all movement, fire and melees are executed by the current player while the game’s A/I handles the other player's defensive fire as a type of opportunity fire. The very first optional rule, the poorly named "Manual Defensive Fire", is the one that selects this. If ‘Checked’ the game is played in Phases, if ‘Unchecked’ it is played Turn based.
When you play "Phased" with option 1 on there is one rule that works perfectly in conjunction with it - Rule 18 - Automated Defensive Fire. This will let the A/I handle the opponent's defensive fire. It only works in "Phased" play since in "Turn" this is how all Defensive Fire is handled regardless of the setting. The main reason for using it is that in PBEM it cuts out a whole set of emails halving the time it takes to play a game. In other words it is a necessary evil when playing by mail, so use it.
Commentary: “Turn” based play or “Phased” based play? Small digital tree forests have been used up debating this. With the addition of Optional Rule 18 the argument for “Phased” based play is stronger than ever. The advantage is that defenders fire at 100% effectiveness during the automated defensive fire phase conducted by the A/I. In “Turn” based play the A/I may fire more often as an enemy approaches (or may not as it depends on a roll of the dice) and may disrupt an enemy unit before it can advance right up against your lines. But the downside to this is that the firing is not always automatically triggered by the Opportunity Fire A/I system and that Opportunity Fire is done at only 50% effectiveness to make up for the potentially more frequent firing. Because the Club has been using “Turn” based playing for so long most Members are more comfortable with that style. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the rule to see if you prefer one style over the other.
In "Turn" based play the connected optional rules (12, 20, and 25) were added to fix a very serious problems with this style of play. I highly recommend you use all three, first, an explanation of the problem with "Turn" play. Because of the combined combat and movement in "Turn" play regiments became virtual tanks able to make breakthroughs, surround, overrun, and conduct highly coordinated attacks that, for all practical purposes, look like WWII blitzkrieg tactics rather than Civil War combat. This was all compounded by the very thing that was supposed to negate it - Opportunity Fire. It was hoped that to limit units moving in front of enemy lines without any restrictions that Opportunity Fire (meaning the A/I firing repeatedly at units as they move rather than during a separate Defensive Fire Phase) would create a strong incentive against such blitzkrieg tactics. The problem was the Opportunity Fire was halved in value to compensate for it being possible to fire more than once. This, coupled with a very dim witted A/I, often firing at ranges that mostly wasted ammo rather than injured the enemy, made Opportunity Fire far too weak to be much of a deterrent to blitz tactics.
We now turn back to the three optional rules added to address this issue. The first one, 12 - Optional Melee Resolution, tries to fix the blitzkrieg tendency by separating the Melee resolution out of the combined movement/combat phase making it a wholly separate phase. This means you can move and shoot to your heart's content but you have to end your movement/combat phase before going to the phase to resolve melees. No longer can you try to melee a couple of critical enemy units in the enemy line hoping they will retreat and open a hole for you to push a division through to surround the units on either side. Second, 20 - Full Melee Defensive Fire, was added to address the dissatisfaction some had with defensive fire being halved even in the face of an oncoming melee. With this rule an automated defensive fire against a melee would be done at 100% effectiveness. Lastly, 25 - Proportional Opportunity Fire, was added to correct another problem in Turn play. You could not fire small stacks or units because it might trigger massive retaliation by all nearby enemy units. This rule reduces the probability of this happening.
The next group of related rules, 2 and 3, which are the Optional Fire Results and Optional Melee Results rules, just take some of the randomness out of combat by using the average of two die rolls to come up with the casualties instead of one. This one is a personal choice. If you are one of those players that swears he rolls snake eyes every time when things are critical you might want this one on. My preference is using it because, really, why not remove some randomness from life?
The next group of rules (4, 6, and 14) I recommend using together because they give leaders a more critical role in the game. Rule 4, Quality Fire Modifier, gives a 10% bonus in firing effectiveness to units rated an A or B in quality while subtracting 10% from units with a rating of E or F. Coupling this same principle with rule 14, Quality Melee Modifier, increases the effectiveness of attacking units based on quality. How does this effect leaders then? Because one way to keep your units holding strong or moving forward is to keep them within command range of their officers. Having an officer in the same hex as an attacking unit or defending unit also increases their melee power or defense by 10%. The rule which makes this a risky idea (having officers in the front lines) is rule 6, Victory Points for Leader Casualties. Your opponent may benefit from your boldness by incapacitating one of your leaders for the battle and thus earn some extra Victory Points. It’s all about risk vs. reward here.
Fatigue and recovery rates are covered by rules 5 and 9. Rule 5, Higher Fatigue Recovery Rates, is the much more controversial one. I highly recommend it, and here is why. It forces players to plan and manage their unit fatigue. The player that does a better job of pulling regiments out of the line of battle before they hit high fatigue and providing for their resting will beat a player that just fights them until they can't fight any more. This rule generally only affects longer games, more than one day, because night recovery rates are high enough for units to completely recover from fatigue if they haven't been over fought during the day. Without the rule being checked there is very little chance of a medium fatigued unit recovering sufficiently to even justify pulling them out of line to rest so we tend to fight every man to his last breath rather than rest troops. Rule 9, Night Movement Fatigue, is a brutal one but a necessary one. This one was created to address the unhistorical problem of our troops making all night marches after fighting all day with no apparent affect. This option adds fatigue, usually 50 per turn, to discourage this. On top of this you add the Night Attack Penalty included by default in the game of 250 fatigue points (check the parameter data for exact numbers in your scenario) and there is every reason in the world to let your men sleep most of the night and not to engage in combat.
The next group isn't strictly related but I put them together but there is a certain synergy from using them together. These are rules 7, 8, 15, 16, 17, and 19 and have to do with the forming of lines and the surrounding of units. The reason I put them together is they all address two gamey but effective tactics used in these games. First, the alternating defensive line strategy, where huge stacks are placed in every other hex making an indestructible wall of defenders. And, second, the raiding unit who can't be corralled or destroyed wreaking havoc behind your lines. Using the rules together helps moderate some of the gamey tactics players have learned over the years. So I recommend the use of them together.
To start, rule 16 Weak Zone-of-Control, is the critical one that triggers the need for the others. Originally the battleground games had a strong ZOC built in by default. This means that a unit cannot from an enemy controlled hex (to their front or flank) into a neighboring hex also under the enemy ZOC. This quickly taught players the every-other-hex strategy of over-stacking units a hex apart to create a strong wall of defenders without a fear that the enemy would slip through the open fields on either flank of them. Hardly historical. Meanwhile, the stacks were so large that they were hardly assailable without heavy losses. Turning on rule 16 limits the usefulness of the alternating hex strategy. The rule allows units to move from an enemy controlled ZOC into another enemy controlled ZOC (albeit using every available Movement Point to do so). The alternating hex strategy then can only be used if the defender is willing to retreat each turn to keep adjacent units from slipping around them. Now the defender has a reason to make continuous lines that look a lot more like what you would see on a Civil War battlefield.
Now though you have created some new problems. One of the things the alternating defense line fixed was the tendency of continuous lines to rout in mass because of the adjacent rout check rules. To compensate for this you need rule 7, Rout Limiting, to allow the defender to form lines without risking having his whole army rout off the field due to one rout check starting a domino effect. Another related consequence of a weak ZOC is that while the defender can no longer strictly use the alternating hexes with heavy stacks strategy the attacker has no such limitations on how large their oncoming stacks are. As a result we created rule 8, Density Fire Modifier, to punish the attacker for over-stacking his attack forces. This rule, essentially, creates more casualties when hexes are so filled with men that a shot in their ranks could hardly miss. Rule 17, Partial Retreats, also comes in here to help compensate for the advantages gained by the attacker allowing units losing the melee to not get killed by over-stacking problems. Rule 19, the Flank Morale Modifier, helps reward the use of continuous lines by giving a morale boost to units with supports on their flank during a melee. And, lastly, you have the really nasty one, 15, Isolation Rules. Once you have a weak ZOC you need deterrent to keep the enemy from using small units to cause hell behind your lines by slipping through units sent to corral them. A hard ZOC made them easy to isolate and wipe out but now it takes a whole brigade to surround and kill one unit regardless of its size (even if it’s only 25 men). If left to run wild they can destroy your rear areas so you need a rule that allows them to be surrounded and removed quickly. That is what the isolation rule does. Units that get separated from their main forces are going to defend at quarter strength once isolated. Usually this will force your opponent not to sacrifice good units to try a raid behind your lines with singular units.
Artillery has always been an ugly stepchild in the gaming system handled by a lot of rules that were better made for infantry and cavalry than artillery. This led to three new options (22, 23 & 24) that tried to improve things with mixed results. I recommend them with some reservations:
Artillery Capture (22) – In the older versions of these games a captured artillery unit simply vanished into thin air once overran. Players thoroughly hated this completely historically inaccurate phenomenon. This rule was created to remedy that by allowing captured pieces to be re-crewed by the side occupying the hex and turned on their former owners. What could be better, right? The problem was it threw off the Victory Points gained for the capture. If you destroyed a gun by fire you got the full Victory Points for it immediately and never had to worry again. But if you captured it you had to garrison the guns hex forever if you wanted those Victory Points. You could spike the guns so the other side could not get them back but this costs you half their Victory Point value to do. If you wanted full Victory Points you had to sit a regiment on top of them and hold them until the end of the scenario. If you had enough ammo you could roll up a battery behind it and shoot it but this favored the side with the most ammo (Union). Also, because the Union usually has more units, they could more easily spare a regiment to guard a hex even long after the battle had moved to another part of the battlefield. For us Rebels it is usually preferable to just play with the rule unchecked and deal with the “vanishing” captured guns while enjoying the immediate and permanent boon of the Victory Points associated with their capture.
Artillery Retire by Prolonge (23) - was added because this was a tactic commonly used during the Civil War. It adds a nice flavor to the games but can only be used to move unlimbered guns from one clear hex to another directly behind it.
Artillery Ammo by Cannon (24) - this one I consider a must have rule. It fixes probably the worst flaw in the game system and for sure in the artillery handling. Originally a six-gun unit would expend one round of artillery ammo while another one-gun unit would expend the same one artillery round. In reality a large Federal battery would then be getting five free shells while our one gun being fired in reply accounted for the same expenditure of total ammo as theirs did. Brutally unfair. With the addition of this rule it changes the ammo expenditure to account for each gun in a battery being fired rather than counting the firing battery as one singular firing instance. This allows the player to use his one-gun sections as effective units rather than ammo wasters. No game should be played without this one on.
Now for a bunch of rules that just fixed flaws in the game system. I recommend all of these be used.
Mounted Cavalry Skirmishers (10) - was created so cavalry wouldn't run into enemy units blindly and not be able to disengage. It allows cavalry to act better in its role of scouts and delayers. It deploys a two hex cavalry screen directly in front of mounted cavalry as they move.
Higher Disrupted Movement (11) - was added to help the defender retreat. Older versions of the games heavily favored the attacker and it was almost impossible for even a relatively large force to make a fighting withdrawal since once a unit was disrupted it was reduced to just half its usual movement points. This rule was added to fix this by reducing the movement points of disrupted units by just one-quarter.
Alternate Fixed Unit Release (13) - was added to keep players from gaming against the fixed units by moving around them in such a way as to not release them even though they were always in plain sight. Consequently, players also could check the scenario and find where the fixed units were so they could avoid them until they were surrounded and easy to capture. The five hex “halo” rule makes this much harder by triggering a release if the enemy moves within that range.
Bridge Limit and Repairing (21) - is another enhancement of the game giving the player ability to repair destroyed bridges. It also limits the type of units that can cross until the bridge is fully repaired.
Mixed Organization Penalty (26) - this rule was created to enforce a -1 morale modifier to units in the same hex with units from different brigades. Players seeking to enforce unit integrity pushed for this for a long time. As a Rebel I hate this rule since we are usually trying to fill gaps with whatever units we can during battles. But the Yankees will insist upon it so we make concessions.
Extreme Fog of War (27) - When Extreme Fog of War is in effect, the visibility highlight only displays from friendly occupied hexes. Also, for enemy units in obscuring terrain (e.g., Forest), enemy force counts will only display as XXX instead of, for example, 3XX.
Now that we have covered the Advanced Optional Rules let us turn to the House Rules which are also a part of the ACWGC. The Official Club Rules state:
Rule 5.4 House Rules. Many officers prefer specific ‘house rules’ when they play. All house rules are optional and must be agreed to ahead of time by both players. The Club does not require that any optional rules (either house rules or those provided within the games) be used.
House Rules means those created before the start of a scenario and agreed upon by all the participants. Members vary greatly as to their willingness to play with, or without, House Rules. My experience is that most Members are happy to consider any reasonable House Rule suggested. For instance, some players loathe “death stacks,” which are loosely defined as rolling battalions of artillery in hexes sweeping forward. Some Members will request limiting artillery batteries to two per hex to avoid this. Another House Rule may be not allowing more than one or two regiments per hex. Yet another, and this is one I am actually very fond of, is a House Rule ending any game in which one side or the other has taken 35% casualties and awa-
rding the victory to the army still “intact.” My personal reasoning is that any Civil War army taking even 30% losses was almost unheard of and would likely have caused massive morale issues and defections from the field of battle. This House Rule can act as a major deterrent to the tendency of some players to play until every last man and gun are used up in a battle of attrition (which we Rebs usually lose). In the end though you need to discuss any House Rules at the start of the game with your opponent and be sure you both have an understanding of them.
Phased-Based Play vs. Turn-Based Play
Whenever you start a new game the first thing you must do is address what rules you are to play with. The very first rule the system asks you about is whether you will play with “Manual Defensive Fire” on or off. This is, by far, the most idiotically named rule possible. It’s the equivalent of them renaming “Speed Limit” signs something like, “Insurance Rate Increase”. Sure, I mean, they are related in a “third-cousin twice removed” sort of way but hardly would you guess one had to do with the other. Welcome to the dilemma of Manual Defensive Fire – which has to do with, what else, Phased-Based Play and Turn-Based Play.
Forget about why it is called Manual Defensive Fire for a moment and let us discuss what this option is actually letting us choose between – Phased-Based Play and Turn-Based Play.
Intro to Phased-Based Play
We will begin by looking at Phased-Based Play which requires that you check the Optional Rule Manual Defensive Fire. For this method of playing there are actually two alternate play styles. We will refer to them as 1A and 1B. Whether you are playing Phased-Based 1A or Phased-Based 1B depends on – and I am not making this up – whether or not you check Automated Defensive Fire along with the already checked Manual Defensive Fire. (No, not confusing at all!)
1A: Phased-Based Play (Checked Manual Defensive Fire Option and Unchecked Automated Defensive Fire)
Once upon a time all our games were played using Phased-Based Play (PBP). This was the common style until HPS altered that with their series of games and options. PBP separates each phase of the game into distinct parts to be played separately. Below you will see the order of phases as they would be using the PBP system. The Union player would have his Movement Phase and then email the turn to his opponent who would conduct their Confederate Defensive Fire. They would then return the gaming file to the Union player who would then do his Offensive Fire and then his Melee before ending his turn and emailing it back to his opponent. The process would then repeat itself with the Confederate player going next – and so on and so on until the end of the game.
This is ideal. In a perfect world all games might be played like this as it allows each player full autonomy over their defensive fire. But we don’t live in a perfect world and the fact that the number of email exchanges are doubled using this method makes it inconvenient to do. The vast majority of Members dismiss it out of hand as simply “too long” to consider doing.
Because it is so unrealistic to use the game designers did us a favor and added a new Optional Rule named – wait for it – Automated Defensive Fire. Because Manual Defensive Fire and Automated Defensive Fire are a perfect set of options to have on the same list, right? What’s even more ironic is that they work together!
So, you don’t want to double your emails and the time your game will take to complete – what can you do? You can check the Automated Defensive Fire Option. I know what you’re thinking, “You want me to check BOTH the Manual Defensive Fire option AND the Automated Defensive Fire option?!” Yes, yes, I do.
1B: Phased-Based Play (Checked Manual Defensive Fire Option and Checked Automated Defensive Fire)
By checking BOTH Manual Defensive Fire and Automated Defensive Fire you will actually achieve a fairly enjoyable style of gameplay.
With both options checked the game still conducts the phases as stipulated above in option 1A. Each phase will be separate from the others and each side will have a separate Defensive Fire Phase outside of their opponent’s Movement Phase (as will be covered in Turn-Based Play). The difference is that the Defensive Fire Phases will be conducted by the A/I. This reduces the number of emails being sent by half and creates a much quicker game than the 1A option.
The “downside” to this was that the A/I fired constantly and tore through your ammunition supply. To try and remedy this the designers added an “Adjust Auto Defensive Fire” option to the game. The words in red below come straight from the User’s Guide explaining this feature.
The Auto DF Dialog is used to control the frequency of Automatic Defensive Fire when that Optional Rule is in effect. The Auto DF Dialog can be used during a player turn to establish the Automatic Defensive Fire values for that side. Values may be established for infantry and artillery. There are two possible settings for infantry: Min and Max. At the Max setting, Automatic Defensive Fire will fire at any target within the maximum range of the infantry unit. At the Min setting, the ADF will only fire at units within the minimum range for infantry as established by parameter data. This minimum range is usually 2 hexes. There are three possible settings for artillery: Min, Med, and Max. At the Max setting, ADF will fire at any target within the maximum range of the artillery unit. At the Min setting, ADF will only fire at units within the minimum range for artillery as established by parameter data. This minimum range is usually 4 hexes. At the Med setting, ADF will fire at any unit within the minimum range but only randomly fire at units between the minimum and maximum range.
If Members in the Club do play with Manual Defensive Fire checked then the 1B option is, generally, the more popular of the two options.
Intro to Turn-Based Play
Phased-Based Play does seem kind of confusing with its Manual Defensive Fire and Automated Defensive Fire working together like some sort of unholy WWE tag-team. The more popular method of gaming in the Club continues to be Turn-Based Play. But not because it is easier to understand. If anything… it might be harder to understand! Its main advantage is that it completely automates the Defensive Fire phases by default and runs them simultaneously with the enemy’s turn. Like Phased-Based Play it also boasts two different styles of play based on a secondary optional rule – Optional Melee Resolution.
[Sidebar: The Automated Defensive Fire Option is completely irrelevant when playing with Manual Defensive Fire unchecked – and Optional Melee Resolution is also irrelevant when playing with Manual Defensive Fire checked. Both optional rules only work in relation to Manual Defensive Fire and nothing else.]
2A: Turn-Based Play (Unchecked Manual Defensive Fire Option and Unchecked Optional Melee Resolution)
Brother, if you like Offense, this is your baby! The game no longer uses separate phases for each action and instead mashes the Movement, Defensive Firing, Offensive Firing and Melee, all into a singular phase. Below you will see the only two phases that this set of options triggers.
The A/I controls all Defensive Firing using something called Opportunity Fire. This system of Opportunity Fire is one of the most hated, loathed, and mysterious actions in the entire game. All Opportunity Fire is conducted at just 50% effectiveness. This is to make up for the fact that a unit may fire numerous times defensively during a single turn. For more information on Opportunity Fire see MIL 303 – Opportunity Fire in the War Library.
The downside of this style of play is that it is purely offensive in nature as it allows a stack of units to move and then melee during the same phase. This fostered a “blitz” filled strategy of players charging and driving back enemy units and then moving more units through the gap created to melee again. Then moving more units through that gap and so on until they finally ran out of Movement Points. By the time the opposing player got the turn back his defensive line might be completely wiped out and captured. This seemed so unrealistic to the realities of 19th Century warfare that many members just lost patience with it completely.
Once, again, the designers came to the rescue and added the Optional Melee Resolution option to the game. The checking of this rule creates option 2B which is, still, the most popular form of gameplay in the Club.
2B: Turn-Based Play (Unchecked Manual Defensive Fire Option and Checked Optional Melee Resolution)
The checking of Optional Melee Resolution brings back a separate Melee Phase for each player after they finish their movement/firing phase. The cycle of phases is shown below as it is conducted in this mode of play.
By separating the movement/firing phase from the melee phase the “blitz” tactics of 2A were neutralized and a fairer battlefield was created for both sides. Opportunity Fire is still in place using this mode – along with all of its controversy and confusion – but this game mode is still the most popular.
All the styles of gameplay can be enjoyed and used in the right circumstances. There is no “right or wrong” way to enjoy the game. If you find a style you prefer, and can find a willing opponent, you can use it to your heart’s content.
The Seven Classical Maneuvers of War
There are Seven Classical Maneuvers of War:
1) Penetration of the Center
2) Envelopment of a Single Flank
3) Envelopment of both Flanks
4) Attack in Oblique Order
5) Feigned Retreat
6) Attack from a Defensive Position
7) The Indirect Approach
A commander often must employ more than one maneuver to achieve victory; he may try to penetrate the center but fail, feign a retreat and then envelop a single flank. Each has advantages and disadvantages while one may be more effective in some situations and less in others. These maneuvers were first listed by David Chandler in The Art of Warfare on Land.
Penetration of the Center
This maneuver involves concentrating superior force at the center of the opposing line in order to punch a hole and then to exploit the gap with a reserve force. This maneuver is usually attempted if flanks are protected by obstacles such as rivers. Advantages of this maneuver include the possibility of encircling parts of the opposing army, assaulting rear bases/supplies and the presence of alternative objectives to keep the opposing commander guessing. Disadvantages include the threat of being encircled by a calm commander who counters against weakened flanks and the prospect of a high casualty figure if the opposing commander makes good use of exterior lines to transfer forces to contain the attack.
If your mind does not immediately go to Pickett’s Charge or Franklin I am impressed. Full frontal attacks in the Civil War were rarely successful because of advances in weaponry. An attack launched frontally against a prepared enemy will be met with heavy losses if conducted poorly (or even if conducted perfectly). Any attack against a prepared enemy position should only be attempted with overwhelming numbers and close artillery support. Whenever possible a diversionary attack on a different part of the line is advisable to keep your opponent guessing and to, perhaps, syphon off reinforcements to another sector of the line. I also advise launching any major frontal attack at dawn while the cover of darkness still aids you. The less time your opponent has to muster his forces and ready his lines the easier the objective will be to attain.
The best chance a Confederate player has in succeeding in a frontal attack usually relies more on Federal ineptness than overpowering force. Federal infantry has, very often, a lower morale rating and thus is more likely to become Disrupted or Routed during combat. It is advisable to deliver as heavy a blow as you can against an enemy line in the hope that you can cause such panic and chaos that your opponent will have no choice but to yield ground. Speed is also important as the longer it takes to assault and disrupt the enemy lines the more time your opponent has to reinforce them and prepare a contingency plan.
Envelopment of a Single Flank
This maneuver involves pinning attacks on the opposing center, sometimes a flank as well, while using mobile forces to try and turn the other flank and roll up the line towards the center. This maneuver is one of the most frequently used. Advantages include the possibility of enveloping a portion of the opposing army and usually offers less risk of disaster than other maneuvers. However, disadvantages still include the risk of a counterstroke against one’s weakened center and other flank.
The vast majority of battlefield maneuvers in the club involve this classic military strategy. It is not surprising as mimicking the success of a Stonewall Jackson or Ulysses S. Grant seems to be the goal of nearly all the comm-
anders who enjoy our games. And there is a good reason for that – it is often successful! A good flank attack is easy to plan, exciting to launch, and usually can be done within the time constraints of the scenario regardless of its length. The pinning attacks are never to be underestimated or forgotten though as they can often be the difference between success and failure. Keeping your opponent distracted while moving to outflank them is crucial if you hope to take them by surprise or to strike a weakened flank. Also, remember, that a flanking attack doesn’t have to be grand in scale to succeed. Often a limited flanking maneuver (of any size from a regiment and up) can be enough to turn an enemy position despite being held by numerically superior forces. The psychological letdown of suddenly becoming outflanked and having their position turned is usually enough to force an enemy line back even before combat is initiated. Following up any withdrawal will help you to “keep the scare on,” as Nathan Bedford Forrest liked to say.
Ideally you should attempt to move out of the enemy’s line of sight for as long as possible while moving your men to the attack. Exposing the movement too early will allow the enemy to respond and shift forces to meet your new maneuver. Bringing enough artillery and supplies with you is another logistical necessity as an attack without proper support can only succeed for so long before supplies begin to run low and the attack starts to stall. Using your cavalry in support of the flank attack will also help to unhinge your opponent as the faster movement of cavalrymen will allow them to reach the rear areas more quickly. But do not rely, solely, on your cavalry as their combat ability against infantry is limited and the points lost, should they incur heavy losses, may make the entire attack too costly.
Envelopment of Both Flanks
This maneuver involves pinning attacks on the opposing center while attacking both flanks in order to encircle the entire opposing army. This maneuver is usually attempted – and should only be attempted – if one has a superior force or exceptional tactical skill. The obvious advantage of this maneuver is complete annihilation of the opposing force while the disadvantage is the danger of a counterstroke against strung out forces if the encirclement is not strong enough.
Launching an actual successful tactical maneuver as this is really the Royal Flush, Grand Slam, Hole-in-One, Slam Dunk of the Club. Seldom is it ever seriously attempted, that I have noticed, by Confederate players as their numbers just are not great enough
to make it a feasible option in many scenarios. To keep a Federal army pinned in place long enough to dispatch two flanking columns is asking a lot. The trouble is that one flanking column is difficult enough to conceal while two concealed columns would be almost impossible. Also, the Federals are not always as dumb as they seem and will often realize a thinned out enemy line and counterattack while your army is scattered trying to pull off the maneuver. With your flanks widely separated and the enemy holding all the interior lines you will be susceptible to destruction in detail if an aggressive opponent attacks before the maneuver is completed. It is a maneuver much better suited to the Yankee side of the club and one which they will occasionally try to pull against our forces.
But on a lesser scale it is very often used successfully, for example, to break up a smaller enemy position quickly. Pinning an enemy force in place while you outflank their position from both sides is an easy way to dislodge, for instance, a regiment or brigade, trying to block your way or defend an exposed position. But on any grand scale I have not seen it used very often with much success by our side. Add to that the fact that our numbers are usually far fewer than those of the enemy and it can be a recipe for disaster.
Attack in Oblique Order
This maneuver involves steadily massing strength against an opposing flank while using secondary forces to distract and lure away opposing reserves. This maneuver is a good choice if the opposing force is superior. The advantage of this maneuver is the ability to concentrate force at the enemy’s weakest point while denying one’s own weakest point to attack. The disadvantage of this maneuver is that the imbalance of force can be disastrous if the enemy is in fact able to strike said weakest point.
This is, I feel, a popular movement that many players in the club use during their battles. In many shorter scenarios this is a preferred tactic as it is easy to organize and execute in a limited number of turns. The st-
rategy will basically be to put pressure on your forces along the entire front and then apply overwhelming pressure to a single area. If you have already committed your reserves to bolster your lines all along the front you will be hard-pressed to stop the more powerful thrust on your flank when it lands. While lacking the surprise of a true flanking maneuver the tactic is still highly effective and it does have the added advantage of keeping your forces closer to your main line rather than separating them as a flanking maneuver might.
This was a also a popular tactic during the Civil War. Braxton Bragg’s plan for Chickamauga on day two included an attack en echelon to try to get Rosecrans to overcommit forces to one sector while weakening another. Through a series of poor communications and intrigue an entire part of the Union line was withdrawn just before Longstreet’s rolled forward. The resulting breakthrough led to one of the major Confederate victories in the war and, temporarily, save Bragg’s job. John Pope’s Federal Army of Virginia attempted this tactic as well at Second Manassas as they tried to place heavier pressure on Jackson’s flank while attacking all along the Confederate line in general. The unexpected counterattack by Longstreet nearly wrecked Pope’s army and should act as a warning to any Member to always keep an eye on their flank – no matter how quiet it may seem.
This maneuver involves staging a retreat in order to induce the enemy to abandon its position and plunge ahead in an attack before turning to surprise the enemy with an ambush. This maneuver is useful if the enemy holds an exceptional defensive position that it must relinquish in order to be defeated. The advantage of this maneuver is the psychological impact the enemy has when being fiercely assaulted while advancing or attacking. The serious disadvantage is that a staged retreat can easily become a real one if morale and discipline are not at a high standard. Your opponent will also be able to utilize interior lines while your flanks and largely separated.
This is a very difficult strategy to pull off but also one that whose possible rewards make it worth the attempt. This is a personal favorite of mine that I have used successfully in past games – and, honestly, disastrously in others. Union players are usually so aggressive when they sense a weakness that they can be easily drawn into such traps as this in many scenarios. Defending a line with a brigade while the rest of the division lays concealed is a good tactic to use in many cases. Once the enemy has become disrupted by their initial “success” you can launch a counterattack and drive them back with heavy losses if you're strong enough. But you must always take care that your feigned retreat does not become too exploited to where you can’t regain your footing or stop your men from routing. This is, by far, the biggest worry when doing this. Timing is crucial when executing this tactic.
The Battle of Cowpens in the American Revolution is the best example I can think of where this tactic worked to stunning success. The British and the Tories were overly confident of driving the American militia back and charged wildly forward once they began to break in the center. Rather than fleeing, the Americans, led by Gen. Daniel Morgan, the Americans suddenly held firm in their center when the regulars joined the battle. On both flanks Morgan’s men successfully drove back the British leading to a stunning rout and victory against the enemy forces.
Attack from a Defensive Position
This maneuver involves luring the enemy to vainly attack a strong, well-chosen defensive position before counterattacking against the exhausted force. Expectedly, this maneuver is used if such an impenetrable defensive position is available or if a direct offensive is not viable. The advantages of this maneuver include the economic use of resources in the defensive mode and that the switch from defense to offense can produce a decisive result. One disadvantage is that the maneuver may become too passive and either be attacked from an unexpected direction or an attack may never come. Another disadvantage is that submitting to encirclement, which is sometimes required, may lead to total annihilation of one’s force.
This is my own personal favorite strategy to use in the games. Because of the limited size of the Confederate forces in many engagements you can almost always expect an aggressive attack by the Union forces against your own. By choosing a strong defensive position to receive that attack you can inflict heavy enemy losses before turning your army to the offensive and driving back the repulsed and disorganized forces before you. My usual recommendation is that once you see the enemy with multiple routed units and numerous others in a disrupted state that it is time to attack them and drive them back. Keeping a fresh force near at hand, but out of sight, can really help you drive them even harder as you won’t be relying on men who just fought off an attack and may be disrupted themselves.
One important note is that if your line is too strong than your opponent will probably never attack you where you were hoping that he would. This is tricky. By intentionally weakening your line you risk being driven back but if you make it impenetrable than the enemy may realize the futility of the attack and attempt to flank your position. Ideally the outcome would be something like Grant’s at the Battle of Shiloh. The natural strength of the Pittsburg Landing position helped save the day for Grant as the Confederates continued to assault strong positions after their early success. By the second day of battle the Confederate force was worn down and was eventually driven from the field by a determined counterattack by Grant.
The Indirect Approach
This maneuver involves distracting the enemy with secondary forces while using the main force to strategically envelop the enemy in rear and flank. This maneuver seeks to force the enemy to react and give battle on unfavorable terms for fear of being cut off from supplies or communications. This maneuver is usually attempted if an aggressive mobile force is available or if enemy supply and commun- ication lines are vulnerable. Advantages of this maneuver include the total victory if the enemy loses a battle while cut off from his base and the prospect of alternative objectives once in the enemy’s rear and flank. The disadvantage of this maneuver is that either force may be destroyed in detail if the movement is discovered.
This is another popular strategy, in theory, as it conjures up the images of a long stealthy march, massed ranks waiting in the trees, and a shocking thunderous charge into the deep interior of the enemy lines. The reality is, usually but not always, that the maps and scenarios we play don’t very often allow us the time or space for such grand maneuvers. But there are instances where this is possible and it can be an effective strategy in frustrating the plans of your opponent. Falling on the enemy’s lines of reinforcement and supply will usually cause your opponent to change their plans quickly or risk having their army divided and defeated in detail. There are also Objective Hexes which can be captured and used to help secure a victory in some scenarios. But the dangers of dispatching a large portion of your army to make a long flanking march should be equally obvious. If your movement is discovered before they reach their destination you can expect your opponent to adjust at once. You also sacrifice any interior lines you may have and open yourself up to a counterattack with divided forces.
Nonetheless, using an Indirect Approach, even on a small scale of a thousand men, to get behind your opponent and cause some panic and havoc behind his lines may be infinitely beneficial. Your opponent, not knowing the size of the force in his rear, will usually overreact and send a larger force than needed to repulse your reconnaissance. This may lessen the odds on other portions of the field and open up other opportunities to maneuver or attack.
The topic of strategy is a tricky one. There are so many variables in our games that to try and give anyone a point-by-point “how to” guide would be useless. Instead we are going to concentrate on the maxims of strategy and try to explain why these are important for any commander wearing the gray. For future reference there are many more articles on strategy within the War Library at VMI. But let's start here.
Essentially, you should follow Stonewall Jackson’s philosophy whenever possible:
“Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.”
- Stonewall Jackson
To fight as a Confederate in the club you must accept being outnumbered in nearly all scenarios as a matter of course. The Federals will have better artillery, but you will enjoy superior infantry and cavalry. The Federals will have better weaponry and more supplies, but you will have better leaders. Both sides have their advantages and disadvantages and learning to deal with these is crucial in any scenario.
When moving to the attack try to use line of sight to your advantage. Conceal your intentions by keeping as many of your troops out of their line of sight for as long as possible. If you have enough men, try using decoy units to make your opponent think you will be attacking someplace else. When you attack try to disrupt and rout the enemy line by concentrating on just a few key units within the enemy line (usually the larger ones have a lower morale rating). Once a break in their line occurs try to exploit it before they can adjust or regain their footing. Or, as Nathan Bedford Forrest would say, “keep up the scare!”
DO NOT ATTACK JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO HISTORICALLY. If your opponent has a line stronger than McClellan at Malvern Hill then there is a good chance he is praying you will assault him. Some players will do so because the scenario description tells them to or because they don’t want to “disappoint” their opponent and have a boring game. I guess it comes down to making a foolhardy charge, with little chance of success, and making your opponent happy or being overly cautious and trying to play for the Draw. I usually play for the Draw because I have discovered that a bored opponent will often take crazy chances to “liven things up.” Usually this means a direct attack on your position where you can give to them what they had been planning on giving to you. Yankees like to think their numbers are so large that they can bully you in most situations so they are more apt to make foolhardy attacks. If my opponent is content to sit and accept a Draw as well I will either execute a flanking maneuver to try and bring about some resolution or just call it a Draw and end the game. Just don’t make foolish decision based on what you feel the enemy wants you to do or what historically happened (if it was disastrous then why repeat the error!?).
When setting up a defense, always take the high ground with as much cover as possible (i.e. trees, rocks, etc.). If there is time, build breastworks. Anything to help improve your defensive rating should be utilized. Also try to create overlapping fields of fire with artillery and/or infantry. If a solid line of the enemy is approaching, I will sacrifice a small regiment and attack before they do. This will disrupt their assault and cause them some confusion as well. Plus, while they are brushing away that small unit, my guns are pounding away at them. Keep a reserve at hand to fill gaps should they appear. Try to keep stacks of 500+ men, with or without artillery, as this will prevent the enemy from being able to melee with any reasonable expectation of victory. Remember they are probably using the 2:1 rule to gauge whether to melee. Concentrate your offensive fire on Disrupted units or low-quality units to try and rout as many of them as you can back from your line. Lastly, if their attack is broken try following it up with a counterattack to try and win a few quick melee contests and really discourage them from trying again.
The User’s Manual contains a brief but helpful section on strategy which is worth relating here in case you have not read it before:
Maintain an effective reserve.
You will need a good reserve late in the battle to either provide the "knock-out punch" against the enemy, or to save your own army from destruction. It is a good idea to keep either a Brigade from each Division, or a Division from each Corps, in reserve to have some forces you can deploy as needed.
I cannot recall the author but I have seen it written that the Confederates often lacked the final fresh division needed to win a Major Victory on many bloody fields (maybe it was Peter Cozzens who wrote that?). Examples could include the Battles of Shiloh and Stones River where major victories became defeats once the initial inertia of the attack had been stymied. As a Confederate commander you will often have this same problem of manpower shortages when going into battle. When a battle rages for an extended period there is sometimes nothing more you can do except commit every man to the line and hope to hold out. Ideally, you would always be able to keep a reserve in support to deal with emergencies or to use offensively. It’s just not always possible. Reality stinks.
I have noticed that the Yankees, over the years, are very negligent in their duty to keep a reserve on hand to deal with emergencies. They often commit all their forces to the offensive and rely on momentum and strength to keep the Confederate commander from gaining any initiative. If you often feel like opponents are keeping you constantly back on your heels than it might be time to throw a few attacks back at them to test their real strength. Union soldiers do not stand up to attacks, generally, as well as Confederate soldiers do and if you can regain the initiative you might find your opponent has fewer reserves and back-up plans than he ought to have had. Overconfidence in numbers can sometimes cause the downfall of an opponent in a battle.
Be prepared for routs.
As your forces participate in combat, their fatigue will increase and ammo problems will develop. Keep an eye on the condition of your forces as these problems can eventually cause some very extensive routing. Be prepared for this eventuality and have some fresh forces in reserve that you can commit.
Amen. I advise, if possible, keeping a regiment of each brigade in reserve behind the main line to act as a filler should your men rout at any point. Luckily, we Rebs don’t run like those Yanks!
Avoid frontal attacks against prepared positions.
The firepower of Civil War weapons was such that frontal attacks across open ground or against prepared positions most often failed. This tactic will only have a good chance of succeeding if you are attacking forces that have been worn down by previous fighting. If this is the case, then you may be able to cause a break in their line and the attack may succeed.
Pickett’s Charge. Malvern Hill. Fredericksburg. Kennesaw Mountain. Franklin.
Likewise, avoid frontal attacks against positions having good artillery.
Like the fellow said at Shiloh: "There ain’t no good way of charging artillery". Artillery is best attacked from the flank where you may be able to approach it without being fired upon and successfully melee against it. If you make a frontal attack against artillery, then you will find out just how effective canister charges fired from large bore cannons can be.
As an artilleryman told Longstreet before Fredericksburg, “A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.”
Use your cavalry for scouting and screening of your flanks, but avoid using them as "mounted infantry" unless they are equipped with fast firing weapons.
Cavalry units are generally too small and too precious to use them for real fighting against enemy units other than enemy cavalry. Only if you have cavalry such as the Union cavalry with fast firing weapons will you be able to hold your own.
Since we Rebels do not enjoy the luxury of Repeating rifles we often avoid combat with enemy infantry using our mounted soldiers. I do like to think the fast-firing guns of the Yankee cavalry make them overconfident in their ability and causes them to act rashly in trying to use them as Mounted Infantry against us. Whenever you see an enemy cavalry unit I advise pouring everything you can into them. Make the Yankees pay!
Use skirmishers in obstructed terrain to scout for the enemy and to protect yourself from enemy attacks.
Particularly when the terrain consists of forests and other obstructed terrain, you can use skirmishers to determine the location of the enemy before you actually encounter them. This will keep you from suffering a large number of casualties from enemy fire. Your skirmishers will also slow the enemy advance down and give you time to prepare for it.
Using skirmishers in forests is just about the only way to safely navigate them in many western theater battles.
Watch your flanks, especially when the Isolation Optional Rule is in effect.
The most effective way of defeating an enemy force is to surround them. Historically when this happened, such as at the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh, the surrounded forces would surrender rather than fight to the death. Even individual units need to have flank support as they may be cut off using enemy Zones-of-Control, and unable to save themselves. The good use of linear tactics will protect your forces and allow them to use their firepower to maximum effect.
I will also add these pieces of advice to those already listed here:
Keep your artillery safely within your lines because a lone battery is an easy target for any enemy worth his salt. A veteran opponent will gobble up any artillery left unsupported. The points to be gained by capturing artillery outweigh any potential risk in the effort for the attacker. Always keep your artillery supported unless safely tucked behind your lines.
Your leaders should always be within effective command range of their units. The morale bonus that this gives your units makes this an easy decision. When you are heavily engaged it is best to keep as many levels of the relevant command structure as possible near the action, though safely out of harms way.
Use every advantage of geography that you can. Learning how best to utilize hex terrain modifiers to your advantage is a key element in succeeding in the games. The combat modifiers they can give you are significant. Also learning when not to attack an enemy in a geographic bastion is equally important. Terrain matters in the game more than even strategy or luck sometimes.
Why be idle when you can dig? If your troops are rested and inactive there is a problem. Whenever you have idle troops use them to strengthen their position rather than do nothing. You may never need the breastworks you build but if you ever do you will be glad you took the time to prepare.
Your wagons are worth their weight in gold – protect them! Without Supply Wagons you, literally, can’t fire anymore. Enough said.
Commentary: You will lose. A lot. Get used to it now. I still hate losing but I try to take it in good form. All you can do is try to improve with each game and learn from your mistakes and your enemy’s actions. Numerous times I have seen my opponents use tactics I never thought of before and then used those same moves on them later in a different game. There are many different strategies that the members use and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to fight a battle. Don’t be afraid to try something new if you are on a losing streak and don’t be too discouraged. It’s only a game after all. Playing a friendly maneuver against a fellow Rebel and asking them to give you some advice is another way to help improve your gaming abilities.
One of the cheapest and most effective ways to instill damage upon your enemy is with the use of Artillery. Infantry and Cavalry units, defending or advancing, can be dealt deathly blows from a distance by Artillery without the ability to retaliate. This is a guide to help you put your Artillery to its most effective use. The Artillery branch of the games is one that the Confederates are always at a marked disadvantage with. Federal Artillery, really, is the backbone of their army in most situations. Because of this it is necessary to have a good understanding of the following Artillery points: movement, organization, capture rules, combat mechanics, and strategy.
Artillery units have a strength measured in number of guns. They can be either Limbered or Unlimbered. When Limbered, they can move but cannot fire. When Unlimbered, they can fire, but not move other than to change their facing.
Limbered formation is used by Artillery units and represents Artillery ready to be moved. While this is the formation you must use to move Artillery, it cannot fire in this formation.
Unlimbered formation is used by Artillery units and represents Artillery ready to fire. While in this formation, Artillery units cannot move, but may only change Facing.
With one exception, artillery cannot fire after moving in the same turn. This applies to both movement between hexes and turning in the same hex. However, under the optional Retire by Prolonge rule, an artillery unit can fire after retiring by prolonge.
Moving your Artillery can be a challenge once you are off the roads and pikes and into the fields and forests. Generally, Artillery in a forest is a bad idea as it will greatly restrict your ability to react to unexpected situations. Artillery can also not retreat through forests quickly enough to escape a reversal unless continuously supported by infantry within their hex. Moving your Artillery to higher ground in fields with clear fields of fire is the dream of every commander but not always possible. It is usually preferable to place artillery in open hexes or on roads because they can then limber and move in the same turn. This could mean the difference in living to fire again or destruction. If your line of battle where artillery placement is being considered is weak and subject to being overrun, then placing your artillery in positions from which it can quickly escape override more ideal placements taking advantage of line of sight and supporting fields of fire. However, if your line of battle is strong and is expected to withstand your enemy, or your position is one where retreat is out of the question, then placing them on the line with your infantry is more acceptable. More will be discussed on Artillery tactics at the end of this lesson.
Artillery in the games is separated into different classifications: the traditional Field Artillery pieces, Heavy Artillery, Horse Artillery, and Howitzers.
The most common type of Artillery pieces are those belonging to the Field Artillery. They are organized into batteries of, usually, 4 to 6 guns. Early in the war both sides attached these Batteries to individual brigades or divisions rather than grouping them together into Artillery Battalions under a Corps or Army leader. Most of the games dealing with the first half of the war have the Batteries organized in such a manner. As the war progressed both sides began to organize the Batteries under Corps or Army leaders who could mass their firepower easier on a single point. Games dealing with the second half of the war reflect this change.
Artillery is organized in the scenarios as either a whole Battery or they are placed in Sections of between 1 to 3 guns. The advantage to having full Batteries is that your fire is heavier and more effective. With Batteries divided into Sections you have the advantage of greater flexibility in the distribution of guns though at a cost of firepower. Another difference is that the loss of a full Battery will cost you heavily in Victory Points in the long run. But with Sections the loss of a couple of guns will not impact the point totals as dramatically as the loss of a full Battery will. Below is an example of a Battery organized in the two different ways. First, as a full Battery, and then, into Sections.
The Heavy Artillery usually forms the backbone of any fortified line. Scenarios built around forts or around major cities will usually contain any number of Heavy Artillery guns emplaced around them. These units are very strong and can greatly maul any attacking units foolish enough to assault them. They are designed to act offensively as well and can take out enemy Artillery and men from a longer distance than a usual Field Artillery piece can. The negative side to the Heavy Artillery is that they are stationary units throughout the battle. They will have the word “Emplaced” in their Unit Information Box (see below) and can neither move nor change facing. That makes these guns all but useless if ever outflanked in a battle. But their usual placement, on a fort’s main line or within a city’s redoubt, makes this an unlikely scenario unless your line is breeched.
The rules and guns used for the Horse Artillery are the same as for Field Artillery with one major exception. Horse Artillery Batteries have twice the number of movement points as a normal Battery does. This allows them to keep up with the Cavalrymen and makes them especially tricky and dangerous on the field of battle.
Certain weapons, such as mortars, mortars can fire at hexes that are not visible from their location. However, when they do this, the fire is subject to a random scatter from the target hex of up to 2 hexes in any direction. In addition, the specific target unit is determined randomly from the units in the resulting target hex, if any. This is kind of fun in that you can bombard a suspected enemy position in the woods or out of direct sight. The downside is that they are inaccurate often enough to where you feel like you are just wasting ammo at times. Pictured below, these guns are better left behind your lines and used against massed enemy positions where their scatter is more likely to hit something.
This optional rule was discussed in the Optional Rules guide but should be touched upon again here. It was designed, in theory, to allow for the capture of enemy guns and the ability to turn them on their former users. This was to add a greater sense of realism when capturing enemy Artillery during a battle. Instead of captured guns just “vanishing” off the map when overran in a Melee they would remain in place where they could be used by the side capturing the hex. They could also be subsequently lost again and regained by the enemy. Guns that are overrun in a Melee will have the word “Overrun” stamped across their Unit Information Box. The side capturing the guns also receives three additional artillery rounds per gun captured (i.e. capturing a 4-gun battery would increase your total Artillery ammunition by 16 and take away 16 from your opponent).
In theory it sounds like a good idea. It is much more realistic than guns simply vanishing off the map when overran, right? Now for the discussion about why most people, including me, dislike Artillery Capture.
Cannons that are Overrun are automatically downgraded to an “F” rating and there is no way to improve this rating for either side that subsequently controls the guns. Captured artillery is incapable of further movement from the hex they are captured in. They may change facing and fire but they cannot limber and move away. Any firing that they do is done with just a 50% effectiveness. They can also not move from an unlimbered position into a limbered position. They are a completely stationary unit.
It gets more complicated.
The game gives the side that captures the guns the Victory Points for them only so long as they occupy the hex. If they leave the hex, or are routed out of it, the guns are left behind (which are stationary, remember) and they do NOT keep the points for their capture. Further, captured cannons are only available for use when you occupy the hex with a friendly unit. This can include infantry units, cavalry units, your own Artillery units, and even a supply wagon. Only a lone leader sharing the hex with a captured enemy Battery is incapable of firing it and the guns are suddenly “Uncrewed”. If you return to the hex the guns will be in “Captured” status again and able to fire after another turn.
This means, in order to maintain your points for the capture, you are stuck having to leave a unit in that hex indefinitely (or must reoccupy it before the end of the game).
But, wait, there’s more! Should you recapture lost artillery pieces from the enemy you will find them suddenly Uncrewed! Which is surprising since when they were Overran originally they were magically manned – but, whatever.
These unmanned guns must be recrewed before returning to action in the battle. A non-disrupted unit must occupy the same hex with the artillery and have full movement points available to recrew a Battery. You would then highlight the infantry unit and the Uncrewed Artillery unit and go to the Command drop down menu in the game and then click on Recrew Battery. Twenty men per gun will then be deducted from the regiment you use to recrew the Battery. [That number will change based on the Parameter Data in the scenario.] It is best to use a lower quality unit rather than your crack troops to recrew an Artillery unit as the recrewed Battery will have a quality of “F” no matter what. The Artillery unit will also mirror the fatigue level of whatever force you use to recrew them. The only good news is that the guns are now free to move again and can rejoin the battle fully.
Still want more? Here you go!
If you capture an enemy Battery, and must leave the hex, you can Spike the guns first to prevent their use once more by the enemy. To Spike a Battery you must move an infantry, cavalry, artillery, or supply wagon unit into the same hex as the guns. Then highlight the unit to be spiked and select Spike Battery from the dropdown menu at the top. The friendly unit must have all of its movement points and not be disrupted in order to Spike the enemy guns. Spiking captured guns make them completely useless to either side for the remainder of the battle. You receive 15 points per gun Spiked so long as you still hold those Spiked guns at the end of the battle. The word “Spiked” will appear on the unit picture after they are Spiked.
Commentary: By now you probably understand why most people just play with Artillery Capture turned off. There is a lot to remember with Artillery Capture and it is easier to just play with “vanishing guns” instead.
Artillery in Combat
When determining the number of casualties an Artillery unit will inflict upon an infantry target you can use the same formula used for Fire Combat. Just like small arms each Artillery cannon type is given a standard range effectiveness at certain distances. By right clicking your Artillery unit you can check its armament in the Unit Information Box. To know the standard range effectiveness always check the Parameter Data. Below, in the grid, is the range effectiveness table for Napoleon Artillery pieces as an example.
But there’s a catch when it comes to determining effectiveness. It’s hard to explain so check the numbers below as I navigate this. The Parameter Data gives you, for each weapon type in the game, a range for the weapons and an effectiveness number at that range. For artillery that effectiveness number is, by default, representative of a two-gun section. A singular gun does not fire at 1400 effectiveness at range 1 – it fires at 700.
As an example, to estimate casualties using Artillery, let us say a two-gun section of Napoleons is firing at a range of 4 against an enemy unit with no other variables in play. The two Napoleons would create a Standard Fire Value of 500 (250 x 2). The Low End Combat Result would be 2.5 (= 5 x 500 / 1000) and the High End Combat Result would be 12.5 (= 25 x 500 / 1000). With no modifiers in place the computer would choose a value between 2 and 13 as a final combat result (because the computer rounds decimals up or down randomly).
Artillery units use all of the same hexside and terrain modifiers as the infantry and cavalry in battle. Any limbered unit, if fired upon by Artillery of Infantry, suffers a -40% modifier in fire combat.
Q: Is it better to fire all your Artillery units in a stack together or separately?
A: There is a short answer and a long explanation. The answer is that it is better to fire a stack of Artillery together rather than separately. The explanation of why requires much more space.
If the only purpose of offensive fire was to cause casualties than it would not matter if you fired separately or together. It is all Math. The game really doesn’t care what you do to create mathematical equations for it – it just wants numbers. Whether you fire a Battery singularly or with other guns it does not matter in the end because the Standard Fire Value would still equal the same. As an example let us use the above scenario with the Napoleons again. Your two-gun section firing at a range of 4 is reinforced by the rest of your battery up to a strength of six guns. If you were to fire all three sections together your Standard Fire Value would be 1500 and the expected enemy casualties between 7.5 and 37.5. If you fired them separately all the math would still come out the same.
So why is it better to fire in a stack than separately? You have to remember, as covered in the manual LDR 301: Disruption, Routing, and Rallying: Command and Leadership, that causing a Morale Check and Routing opponents is another factor in Fire Combat. If you combine your fire you cause more casualties in a single Combat and, subsequently, increase your odds of causing a Morale Check. The Morale Check formula is: loss / (loss + 25). In our example above let us say we fired the whole stack of guns together and the loss for the infantry unit was 24 men. Your Morale Check calculation would be 24 / (24+25) = 49%. If we fired the three two-gun sections separately (let us assume all results were the same) we would have ended up with this calculation three times: 8 / (8+25) = 24%. This is obviously a much lower probability than when we fired all the guns together.
Here is the big question that nobody knows the answer to – does the game combine all the losses against a unit during a turn to determine Morale Check or does it take the highest single percentage of Fire Combat results and use it? We don’t know. It is simply not in the game’s documentation anywhere. So, it is better to err on the side of caution and fire as a stack in order to achieve the highest possible probability of a Morale Check.
The other big advantage with firing units together is that you minimize the chances for defensive Opportunity Fire in Turn mode.
One of the most annoying results to happen against your Artillery (and one of the most enjoyable when it happens to an opponent) is when a Crew Kill happens. This occurs during Fire Combat against infantry and results in the Battery becoming Uncrewed due to casualties. The Battery will become, obviously, stationary and unable to fire while uncrewed. You will not gain any victory points if you kill an enemy crew – but at least you will not have those Artillery pieces firing at you for the foreseeable future! In order to gain points from a Crew Kill you need to capture the hex with the unmanned guns still in it. By doing this you will gain the points associated with an Artillery kill in your scenario. An Uncrewed battery may be recrewed by an infantry unit (Horse Artillery may only be recrewed by a cavalry unit) and regain their mobility. That artillery unit will become a Low-Quality unit and will mirror the fatigue level of the unit that recrewed them.
Q: How is a Crew Kill determined?
A: Here’s how it works – whenever you fire at an Artillery unit with your infantry the game does the math as a regular infantry vs. infantry combat equation. It does this to establish a Combat Result to use in the Crew Kill equation. The game’s manual states:
When an artillery unit is fired upon by small arms fire, there is a probability that the artillery unit will become Uncrewed. This probability is determined by the Crew Kill Parameter Data Value. For a given Crew Kill value of C and a nominal strength loss of L from small arms fire, then:
Probability of crew killed = L / C
Here is an example. If we take 500 average quality men with Rifles (effectiveness 4 at a range 1) and fire against an unlimbered battery in an adjacent hex it would create a Standard Fire Value of 2000 (500 x 4). The Low End Combat Result would be 10 (= 5 x 2000 / 1000) and the High End Combat Result would be 50 (= 25 x 2000 / 1000). With no combat modifiers in place the computer would choose a value between 10 and 50 as a final combat result. If we assume the median of 30 for this example, then we would get the following math:
30 / 120 [Gettysburg's Parameter Data for Crew Kill] = 25% chance of Crew Kill
The higher the Fire Value and Combat Result against a Battery the better chance you have of getting a Crew Kill.
When engaged with an opponent you are often faced with the choice of concentrating your Artillery fire on enemy infantry or enemy Artillery. The game calculates Fire Combat results for Artillery vs. Artillery in a different way than with infantry.
First, directly from the User’s Manual:
Artillery losses resulting from enemy artillery and infantry fire is calculated on the basis of 1 gun = 25 men. Combat losses less than 25 men result in a probability of a 1 gun loss proportional to the value. Thus a combat loss of 5 men applied to an artillery unit would result in a probability of 5/25 = 20% that a one-gun loss would occur.
As usual… confusing. For each Fire Combat by Artillery, against Artillery, there is a Fire Combat Result generated the same as between infantry. To use the same example as earlier in the lesson let us say a two-gun section of Napoleons is firing at a range of 4 against an enemy artillery unit with no other variables in play. The two Napoleons would create a Standard Fire Value of 500 (250 x 2). The Low End Combat Result would be 2.5 (= 5 x 500 / 1000) and the High End Combat Result would be 12.5 (= 25 x 500 / 1000). With no modifiers in place the computer would choose a value between 2 and 13 as a final combat result (because the computer rounds decimals up or down randomly). Let us assume it came out in the middle at 7. The probability for a gun loss would be 7/25 = 28%.
It seems easy, right? Except the results never match that. I have play-tested this a half-dozen different ways and the results don't equal what the math tells us. Either the math equation they gave us is wrong or they updated the formula in some way and did not tell us.
Regardless, the original question of whether or not to shoot at artillery or infantry is a classic dilemma for every commander. I suppose it depends on the situation but, generally, I fire at infantry unless the artillery unit I am firing at is either limbered, dominated by my guns from high ground, or presenting their flank or rear to my gunners. As a Confederate player you cannot afford prolonged artillery duels with the Yankees unless you are knocking out their guns on a regular basis and making them pay. Union ammunition advantages are usually large enough that they can fire away all day at your guns and men and not worry about exhausting their stores. We, on the other hand, are often forced to choose more carefully.
Artillery, just like any other branch, can become fatigued during battle. When this occurs they begin to lose their effectiveness and should be rested. A unit with Medium Fatigue (300 – 599) has a -20% modifier and a High Fatigue unit (600+) has a -40% modifier.
Artillery Retire By Prolonge
Under the “Artillery Retire By Prolonge” Optional Rule, it is possible to move unlimbered artillery one hex to the rear. The artillery unit must not be Disrupted, however it automatically becomes Disrupted as a result of the movement. The hex being moved from and the hex being moved into must both be Clear and the hex being moved into must not be a higher elevation than the hex being moved from. After movement by Prolonge, it is possible for the artillery unit to fire in the same turn.
High Quality Artillery?
The quality modifier that makes our Southern boys 10% better in battle does not translate to the Artillery branch. There are no modifiers for High or Low Quality units in the artillery. The quality rating is merely for Disruption and Routing purposes. Unlimbered Artillery is not subject to Routing unless at a Fatigue Level of Maximum (900).
The effectual placement of your Artillery can really change the course of a battle. Placing your Artillery where it can be the most advantageous will offer you good fields of fire and save you from having to move them when the time comes for action. It is always best to place your long-range artillery behind your lines on elevated positions where they can support surrounding units. Those cannon with a lesser range should be placed closer to, or in, the front lines as they will be unable to do much good 5 hexes behind your lines if their effective range is only 9 or 11. Check the Parameter Date for the effectiveness of your various gun types to maximize their capabilities.
At the start of a scenario look at your available artillery ammunition. In some scenarios you are given enough amm-
unition to last all day even when firing as fast as you can. In others you have to use it more sparingly. Plan accordingly and remember – you can’t take it with you, so fire them if you got them.
On the battlefield each Cannon is the equivalent of 50 men. Thus, if you have 8 Cannon in a hex it will equal 400 men. You can then place 600 infantrymen in that hex with the Artillery. Remember a hex can only hold up to 1,000 men. You should always check the Parameter Data at the start of a battle to be sure of the strength of each artillery piece as some scenarios count them as more or less than 50 men. Other scenarios have hex limits of fewer than 1,000 men so you must account for this also. But the “norm” is fifty men per gun and 1,000 per hex. Most scenarios also limit a hex’s Artillery capacity to a total of 16 guns.
Special Note: The above example of 600 infantrymen in a hex with 8 Cannons reaching the hex limit for total men is misleading. While the counter may say 1,000 men in the hex – if a Melee is launched against the hex they would register just 664 men. Each artillery piece can field just 8 men in the event of a Melee. If the infantry unit stacked with the guns were smaller, say 200 men, then the guns would be much more vulnerable to capture should the infantrymen be pushed back in a Melee. Keep this in mind whenever using artillery in the front lines.
STRATEGIES FOR PLACING ARTILLERY:
1) Clear fields of fire! Using the Visible Hexes toggle on the top toolbar can help you determine which hexes your artillery can spot and fire on. The ideal placement of artillery is normally immediately behind the line of battle on higher ground with the best line of sight for the area that you wish to control with your fire. Being behind the line protects the artillery from melee and infantry fire. When there is no high ground with a clear field of fire to take advantage of then you must place the battery in the front line. When doing so, always have infantry/cavalry units in the hex with it for protection from melee.
2) Never leave a battery alone in the front line! Biggest mistake I see people make.
3) You can concentrate many Cannon in a single hex (usually up to 16). This should only be done if you’re positive there are no enemy units within range. A single small enemy detachment may be able to capture all the concentrated guns. Artillery defends at roughly one-third their strength during melee making them almost always an easy capture.
4) If being used on a front line then placing 4 – 8 cannons in a hex with 400+ Infantrymen can make it a formidable challenge for an enemy to assault.
5) There are few things worse than having 4 batteries placed on a hill but unable to fire at the enemy due to their range being too short or their facing the wrong direction. Be sure you have the right guns at the right places before the enemy attacks.
6) Dominate roads with your guns when you can. No enemy enjoys seeing his men cut up as they march in column along a road. This will usually cause them to attack rashly to silence your guns or detour around the road.
7) Forest hexes on the edge of a field offer great protection for your guns during Fire Combat. But their placement here is, arguably, the most dangerous place for them to be. If your infantry support is routed away or if the line is outflanked your guns will almost certainly be captured as a result. Artillery simply takes too long to escape, if they can even attempt it, through a patch of Forest. A single hex of forest, with clear fields to the rear, is perfect as it offers cover while firing and a clear path rearward if needed.
8) Check your artillery ammo supply before you begin your first turn and every turn thereafter so that you have a good estimate as to whether or not your supply of ammo will last until the end of the battle. If low, you need to take measures to conserve ammo. If using Automated Defensive Fire, you may have to limber artillery so that it won’t fire during the defensive fire phase (or use the Adjust Auto Defensive Fire dialog under the A/I toolbar menu). You may need to place your line of battle behind a ridge so that the only units that are within your firing range are units that need to be fired upon and the proximity of the fire will cause the greatest number of casualties. You may have to leave your artillery in the rear until the critical point of the battle occurs, at which time you bring them forward to lend their support. Be creative with conserving artillery ammunition if it seems you will run out before the end of the battle.
Commentary: I have learned two tricks which really drive the Yankees nuts over the years:
The first is to place your artillery on a ridge above and behind your infantry. By doing this you can safely fire over their heads and into the enemy ranks as they advance on your position (see picture on bottom left). If you can find an area where you are able to place your infantry in a ravine while your artillery fires over their heads then so much the better (picture on bottom right). This will keep your infantry shielded from enemy fire, and observation, while your artillery enjoys a clear field of fire to their front and sides.
Another strategy I have come to rely upon is the classic “hidden battery.” Nothing quite as ingenious as it sounds. It is merely keeping a battery, or massed batteries, shielded from enemy view as long as possible until the enemy has committed to an attack. You can often influence where the enemy attacks by making a part of your line look overly weak by showing just a few scattered Artillery units without much strength. Once the enemy has used up time and numbers to commit the attack, just where you want it, you can bring up the guns and suddenly throw your opponent into a fit of curses as he has to either attack into the cannons muzzles or fall back from an attack only just launched.
Do either of these work 100% of the time? Definitely not! But they do work once you get the hang of them. You will discover more Artillery tricks the more experienced you become in playing these games. The best way to get accustomed to using Artillery is simply to play more games.
The American Civil War could not have ended as quickly or as definitively as it did without the power and skill of the U.S. Navy in choking off Southern ports and commerce. Unfortunately, for fans of Naval operations, no major amphibious battles occurred during the war. As a result we only see occasionally see Naval units in our games in a supportive role. If you are looking for specific battles where the Navy comes into action than you need to go west to the actions around Fort Donelson and Vicksburg to find those. But even in other scenarios, like those around Richmond and New Madrid, the Navy makes appearances as well.
Naval vessels are subject to the same Fire Combat rules as Artillery and, basically, act as floating batteries. Ironclads or wooden warships does not matter. All vessels have the same rules as field artillery. Their indirect fire capabilities make them a little more unique, they can also move and fire in the same turn, and they can fire in any direction rather than only the way they are facing. But they can still be fired on from flank and rear with the 40% modifier given to the attacker.
Nonetheless, the games manual gives us little information on how gunboats work in the game and even mentions a modifier used when engaging them – but gives us no example of how that modifier is calculated. The gunboats seem more like an afterthought of the designers and remain a minor and “gimmicky” part of the scenarios we play. But do not try to engage them with small arms or field artillery. If you must fire on them with your guns be sure you bring heavy caliber pieces and situate them on good high ground to reduce the enemy’s effectiveness against you.
An even rarer thing than gunboats are the use of “boats.” This takes place in just a single scenario at Brown’s Ferry at Chattanooga (it may be in others but I have never ran across it). In this scenario some Federal units are given boats to cross the river in. These units are identifiable by having a “B” next to their movement points in their Unit Information Box as pictured below. They may travel over any water hex (using column formation) in their boats. Basically, it makes them an all-terrain unit for the battle.
Fixed Units and Releases
Fixed Units are units placed on the battle map in a state of immobility. This is most often done to reflect the historical positions being held at the start of a battle by these units. Their release, or ability to fully join the battle, is determined in historical scenarios by what actual decisions were made by the commanders during the battle.
A few notes about Fixed Units:
1) Fixed Units may change facings, may change formation, build breastworks, be fired upon, and may fire. But they cannot leave their hex until they are either released or fired upon.
2) Fixed Units are automatically released if an enemy unit is within 5 hexes of their position and are in their line of sight.
2a) If the optional rule Alternate Fixed Unit Release is checked then the enemy needs to only be within 5 hexes to trigger their release – no line of sight is required.
The most famous example of units starting a battle fixed in our games is at the Battle of Shiloh. Here the Union Army of the Tennessee starts the battle completely fixed in place until they are gradually released throughout the morning. When your units are fixed like this you can view the “Release Dialogue” by clicking on the “Units” drop-down menu on the toolbar and selecting “Releases”.
In battles with Fog of War enabled (so all of them you will play versus a human) the release probabilities are hidden rather than shown as above. This is to keep you guessing as to the probability that they will release at the appointed time. Fog of War is fun and all but I suggest opening up the gaming scenario in another window and looking at the actual probabilities rather than assuming your men will release when they say they will. Most veteran players in the Club know release times and probabilities by memory for the more played games so don’t be taken at a disadvantage by not knowing. Any advantage you can gain, within the limits of Club Rules, is worth gaining.
Once units are Released you will be notified at the start of your turn in the “Command Report” pop-up. The units listed as Released are now free to move as usual.
I suggest that the turn before a unit is Released that you order them to change formation or facing to prepare for their Release the next turn. By doing this you can save movement points and time during the next turn and get your men moving right away. If your Fixed Unit has an estimated probability of releasing at a certain time, but does not, all you can do is wait. Lastly, and this may seem obvious, if you suddenly notice a Fixed unit is free without any Release notification – watch out! This means the enemy is within 5 hexes and has triggered a Release automatically.
Optional Rule Alternate Fixed Unit Release
If you play with this rule unchecked then your units will only Release when an enemy is within 5 hexes and is within your line of sight. If it is checked then you will Release anytime an enemy is within 5 hexes. For more information see VMI 301 Critical Analysis of Optional Rules. But, in general, it is a Club standard now to play with this rule checked.
Reinforcements and Entry/Exit Points
At the start of most scenarios you will not have all your men on the field of battle. This is especially true in “meeting engagement” scenarios where the armies gather forces gradually to simulate the coming together of available forces (meeting engagements are probably the most popular style of scenario in the Club). The most notable meeting engagement battle of the war, and the most played in the Club, is the Battle of Gettysburg. To view the scheduled reinforcements you can expect you can go to the “Units” drop-down menu on the toolbar and select “Scheduled”. This will bring up the Scheduled Dialog box listing your expected reinforcements.
The Scheduled Dialog will show you the time of arrival for all the listed units. It will also show you the location on the map they are arriving at and the Unit List Dialog. No, it will not show you the strength of the arriving units. Trust me, we all wish it did.
In battles with Fog of War enabled (all of them you will play versus a human) the scheduled arrival probabilities are hidden. This is to keep you guessing as to the probability that they will arrive at the appointed time. Fog of War is fun and all but I suggest opening up the gaming scenario in another window and looking at the actual probabilities rather than assuming your men will arrive on time. Most veteran players in the Club know the probabilities by memory for the more played games so don’t be taken at a disadvantage by not knowing. Any advantage you can gain, within the limits of Club Rules, is worth gaining.
Some scenarios will also use multiple arrival location probabilities. This is pictured below in the Scheduled Dialog.
To interpret this let us concentrate on the highlighted arrival of Rebel BG G.T. Beauregard. He is scheduled to arrive at 7:20 AM. He will arrive at one of three locations on the map: (83, 109), (109, 109), or (119, 109). He has a 25% chance to arrive at (109, 109) and a 25% chance to arrive at (119, 109) leaving a 50% chance to arrive at (83, 109). The actual arrival location will be determined randomly by the A/I given those probabilities.
The hexes where units arrive on the map are known as Entry Locations. These hexes are almost always on the edge of a map unless the scenario description says otherwise (i.e. maybe a steamboat is using a landing site like at the Battle of Shiloh). These hexes are protected by a 5 hex “halo” which automatically routs any enemy units within it. This bit of protection is done to ensure your units will not be ambushed immediately once they enter the map and will have a little breathing room.
Q: What happens if an enemy occupies my arrival hex?
A: You will be the happiest player in the Club! If an enemy occupies an arrival hex on the edge of the map, and you arrive in that same hex, then they simply vanish. Any units occupying the arrival hex will be removed from the map permanently. Any leaders in that hex will also be removed from the map. The “losses” will not be reflected in the Victory Dialog – the enemy numbers are just reduced like those units never even existed. Any leader who vanishes in such a situation is also non-replaceable! If a brigade commander is captured there will be no Colonel Anonymous taking his place with the brigade. They will be leaderless for the battle. The same holds true for any leader above that rank. If a divisional commander vanishes in such a manner than there will be no division commander taking over and the unit will suffer in morale checks greatly as a result.
Stay away from the entry points! Chances are, in most scenarios, you know where the enemy is arriving from. It is best to just let them enter the map and not be too gamey by trying to set traps and ambushes near the edges of the board.
In some scenarios an entry point may be captured to prevent enemy reinforcements. But these exceptions will be listed in the scenario notes. The most notable example is at the Battle of Shiloh where the capture of the landing hex will block the entry of additional units from steamboats.
Certain scenarios will contain objectives on the edge of the maps called “Exit Locations”. These hexes are marked by the presence of a battle flag for the side whose objective it is to exit the map, if possible, at that location. Such objectives are usually noted in the scenario description. The designers create these for one of two reasons; first, to try and ‘anchor’ one side or the other to a region of the board so as to maintain the historical positions of the armies, or, second, to signify an actual objective which the unit is trying to achieve by marching across and exiting the map. One example of the first reason may be the some of the Battle of Perryville scenarios which use the exit locations to keep both sides, relatively, along their historical regions of the field. An example of the second reason this is done may be found at the Battle of Fort Donelson where the Confederate forces are attempting to break out of the Union encirclement and escape to the south. Below is an example of an Exit Location and how it will look on the map to a Confederate player. The hex information box will also contain the notification that the hex is an Exit Location. You will notice the above hex information box displays 0Pts for the hex as no units have been able to use it to exit the map.
Should you be able to reach an Exit Location with your forces you can exit the map to collect points in the game. This is the only time during a Club game that you can voluntarily exit a map! To do so you would double-click on any units within the Exit Location hex and then select “Command” from the drop-down menu at the top and then “Remove from Map”. Your units will then disappear off the map and you will be awarded points for their exit.
Points for exiting the map are awarded based on the same scale as casualties are for that scenario. Using the Gettysburg Parameter Data value for losses it would mean that for each 25 infantrymen you removed from the map you would receive 10 points. For each 25 cavalrymen you would get 40 points. And for each cannon you would receive 60 points. As an example, let us say 750 infantrymen (300 points), 250 cavalrymen (400 points), and 4 cannons (240 points) were removed from the map at an Exit Location. You would then see 940Pts in the hex information box as seen below.
These points are permanently awarded and cannot be lost in any way. But the men who exited the map can also not return so be sure, before you exit the map, that you aren’t abandoning so much of your army that they will be crushed and defeated. There are NO POINTS awarded for removing leaders from the map. There are also no replacements for officers if you do remove them – so do not do this unless you want your men left behind to suffer more disruptions and routs due to the lack of leadership around them.
Be sure to guard any Exit Locations from the enemy as an entire scenario’s outcome could be altered by an open Exit Location being allowed the use of your enemy.
Skirmishers represent small detachments in advance of the main line of Infantry. Skirmishers may be Deployed or Recalled only in the Movement Phase. You use the Deploy/Recall Skirmishers function in the Command Menu to do this. The following rules apply:
Only Infantry in Line formation and Dismounted Cavalry may deploy Skirmishers.
Disrupted and Routed units may not deploy Skirmishers.
Units with less than 100 men may not deploy Skirmishers.
Units that are in an enemy Zone-of-Control may not deploy Skirmishers.
A unit may not recall Skirmishers after it has moved in that phase.
It costs 1 Movement Point to deploy or recall Skirmishers.
Once deployed, Skirmishers have the following effects:
One is added to the movement cost of any movement taken by a unit that has deployed Skirmishers.
An additional movement cost is added to movement into the Zone-of-Control of an enemy unit that has deployed Skirmishers. This additional cost is determined by Parameter Data.
A unit that has deployed Skirmishers has its effective strength reduced by 100 men when it fires and for the purpose of determining Breastwork construction.
Any unit which attacks or defends in Melee will automatically have its Skirmishers recalled.
Under Fog-of-War, whenever an enemy unit moves into the shaded hexes of a unit with Skirmishers as shown in the illustration, then that unit is displayed as an Unknown unit. This detection is prevented however if another enemy unit is present in the unit’s normal Zone-of-Control.
Mounted Cavalry Skirmishers
Under the Mounted Cavalry Skirmishers Optional Rule, all mounted cavalry have the ability to detect enemy units like infantry skirmishers can without having to explicitly deploy skirmishers and without having to pay the additional movement costs associated with skirmishers.
Skirmishers are an interesting addition to the HPS games. Some players are very skilled with their use and others never use them at all and do just as good in many cases. I think it depends on how comfortable you are with reading an opponent and knowing where he is located with or without Skirmishers. I think it also has to do with your selection of scenario. Skirmishers are more important in heavily wooded terrain than on fields with large open fields of fire and observation.
The most common way to use skirmishers is to deploy them to pinpoint a defensive line in Forest hexes. This can be highly effective if done right. Rather than moving blindly through impenetrable trees you can deploy Skirmishers who can give you a decent idea where the enemy line is located. A common tactic is to uncover an enemy line using skirmishers and then to “watch them” from a safe distance. If your opponent falls back you will know at once and you can pursue through the woods.
But, generally speaking, skirmishers do not appear as often enough in these games as history might suggest they would. The -100-man Fire Combat penalty and the -1 Movement Cost are the usual reasons why many players choose not to use them. Having Cavalry around also helps fulfill the role of skirmishers along roads to prevent ambushes. But the skilled use of skirmishers in scenarios can still aid a commander in recon and avoiding enemy ambushes in rough terrain.
Zone of Control
The three facing hexes in front of a unit are called its Zone-of-Control (see picture below). However, Leaders, Routed units, Limbered, Uncrewed, and Spiked Artillery do not have a Zone-of-Control. When a unit enters the Zone of-Control of an enemy unit, it cannot move anymore in that Movement Phase. Under normal rules, a unit cannot retreat through an enemy Zone-of-Control.
As a Member of the ACWGC you will, inevitably, hear the terms “Hard ZoC” and “Weak/Soft ZoC”. Once upon a time all the games we played featured a Hard ZoC. What does that mean?
A Hard ZoC does not allow an enemy to move from one ZoC hex into another ZoC hex – nor to retreat through one. Any unit that loses a Melee Combat, and whose paths of retreat are covered by enemy ZoC, is automatically captured. A Hard ZoC also does not allow enemy units to “slip between” large stacks defending a line.
A Weak ZoC allows an enemy unit to make a singular move from one enemy ZoC to another. It also allows units to retreat through an enemy ZoC rather than be captured. These changes forced players to cover more ground and to use smaller stacks in longer, thinner, lines than they used to with a Hard ZoC.
Commentary: Personally, I enjoy both modes equally as they offer a different set of challenges to the player. With a Weak ZoC you need to cover more hexes and extend your lines more than you need to under a Hard ZoC. With a Hard ZoC you will see larger stacks and need to watch your flanks more or risk being outflanked and caught in an enemy ZoC and unable to fall back. Both ways are fun to play with. But I must admit that a Weak ZoC is now the Club standard.
Zone of Control
All the words in red are taken directly from the User's Guide.
Fatigue refers to the detrimental effects combat has on the physical condition of the fighting units. Fatigue values range from 0 (none) to 900 (highest). Within this range, they are further divided into: Low Fatigue (0 to 299), Medium Fatigue (300 to 599), and High Fatigue (600 or higher).
Leaders do not suffer from Fatigue. Fatigue values represent the Combat Fatigue of the unit and are not intended to represent the simple physical fatigue of being winded. When units are fired upon, they may suffer a Fatigue loss as a result. Furthermore, units participating in Melee also suffer Fatigue losses as a result of combat. Units with a Fatigue level of 900 cannot have their Fatigue value increased further, but whenever a Fatigue loss is suffered by such a unit, they must take a Morale Check at the end of the Phase.
If a unit has Medium Fatigue, then
• 1 is subtracted from its Morale value during Morale Checks.
• 10% is subtracted from the melee strength when the unit participates in a Melee attack.
• 10% is subtracted from its fire value when the unit fires.
If a unit has High Fatigue, then
• 2 is subtracted from its Morale value during Morale Checks.
• 20% is subtracted from the melee strength when the unit participates in a Melee attack.
• 20% is subtracted from its fire value when the unit fires.
If a unit has Maximum Fatigue, then
• 40% is subtracted from the melee strength when the unit participates in a melee attack.
• 40% is subtracted from its fire value when the unit fires.
How is Fatigue Calculated?
Fatigue results are calculated as random values between the casualty value and 3 times the casualty value.
Melee fatigue losses are 50% more than normal and, in the case of the melee loser, fatigue losses are double.
A unit may be eligible to recover Fatigue at the beginning of a player’s Movement Phase provided it has not Moved, Fired, participated in Melee, or been Fired upon with any effect from the time of the player’s previous Movement Phase. For each such unit a random value from 0 to twice the applicable recovery rate, determined by Parameter Data associated with the current battle, is subtracted from the unit’s Fatigue value. See the Parameter Data Dialog in the Main Program Help File for the recovery rate values.
Q: Why does it take so long for units to recover from Fatigue?
A:In the game, Fatigue is used to represent combat fatigue, not the physical state of being winded. As such, the physical effects of combat fatigue are felt long term and do not wear off through simple rest. In many Civil War battles, the end of the battle was determined by fatigue and not by losses. In larger battles, commanders had to be careful to rotate their fighting units and not commit any one force too long to battle. Having higher Fatigue recovery rates would permit the unrealistic ability for commanders to rest units for short periods of time and then recommit them to battle, something that was not common historically.
Commentary: It should be clear that the need to rotate units in and out of combat is critical to keep their fatigue levels manageable. Using fatigued troops will lead to weaker Fire Combat and Melee assaults along with a higher probability to both Disrupt and Rout.
Basic Melee Information
Just what is a Melee anyways? A Melee, or pell-mell, is disorganized hand-to-hand combat in battles fought at abnormally close range with little central control once it starts. According to Wikipedia that is. Meleeing allows the controlling player to initiate attacks against enemy units in adjacent hexes and possibly occupy the defending hex.
How to Melee
Conducting a Melee consists of making a couple of decisions beforehand. You must first decide which enemy location you wish to Melee attack. You can specify that location by right-clicking in the enemy hex. You then must decide which of your own forces you wish to commit to the melee. They must be in adjacent hexes and facing the enemy hex. You select the units you wish to commit, and then use the “Add to Melee” command of the Melee Menu to add them to the attack. Once you have added all of your attacking units, you resolve the Melee using the “Resolve Melee” command of the Melee Menu, or the corresponding toolbar button. A second, perhaps easier method for initiating and resolving Melees is via the "drag and drop" method. Here you simply select the attacking units and, while holding down the left mouse button, move the mouse to the target hex and let go. Then you resolve the Melee normally using the menu command or toolbar button.
Certain restrictions apply to units that are committed to a Melee attack:
Disrupted, Fixed or Routed units cannot Melee attack.
Units must be Facing the hex they are attacking.
Infantry units and Dismounted Cavalry cannot Melee attack non-Isolated Mounted Cavalry.
Artillery and Supply Wagons cannot Melee attack.
A unit cannot Melee attack a hex they could not legally move into (it is not possible to Melee attack across an unbridged Creek hexside for example).
Units may only Melee attack once in each Melee Phase.
The total number and strength of the attacking units may not exceed the stacking limitations of the defending hex.
Cavalry which is Dismounting cannot Melee attack.
Cannot Melee non-isolated Mounted Cavalry with Infantry.
Melee results are determined using a mathematical equation (listed further below) to calculate a victor. The odds for success, or defeat, may be tilted by the addition of modifiers into the equation. The modifiers are listed below based on whether one is attacking or defending.
Melee Modifiers for Attackers
If no attacking units have fired in the Turn, or preceding Offensive Fire Phase, then 10% is added to the attacking strength.
If the attacking units have a Leader with them (any leader), then 10% is added to the attacking strength.
If all the attacking units, either Infantry or Cavalry, attack from a hexside which the defenders are not facing that 20% is added to the attacking strength.
The largest hexside modifier of all of the hexsides the attackers are attacking through is applied to the attacking strength. Likewise, if the attackers are attacking across a Breastwork hexside, then the Breastwork modifier, as determined by Parameter Data, is applied to the attacking strength.
If the attackers are attacking across a Creek hexside via a Bridge, then 30% is subtracted from the attacking strength.
If the attacking force consists entirely of Mounted Cavalry and Leaders attacking a Clear hex from all Clear hexes, then 25% is added to the attacking strength.
If the attacking force consists entirely of Mounted Cavalry and Leaders attacking a Clear hex from all Clear hexes, and the enemy is facing away from them, then 45% is added to the attacking strength.
Melee attacks against higher elevations have a modifier equal to the elevation change (in elevation increments) times the Elevation Modifier (see the Parameter Dialog for this value).
Dismounted cavalry use ¾ of their strength for melee.
A unit with Medium Fatigue (300 – 599) loses 10% from their melee strength when the unit participates in a Melee attack.
A unit with High Fatigue (600 or higher) loses 20% from their melee strength when the unit participates in a Melee attack.
A unit with Maximum Fatigue loses 40% from their melee strength when the unit participates in a Melee attack.
Tips for Attackers: Avoid firing offensively if you want to increase your chances of success. Bring a leader along for the melee but never any officer above a brigade level. Avoid attacking across hexsides modifiers or uphill as these will incur large modifier penalties. If you must attack over breastworks or uphill than bring enough men to the fight to reinforce the first attack if it does not succeed. One wave usually won’t get the job done.
Melee Modifiers for Both Sides
Some modifiers affect both sides during a melee.
Under the Quality Melee Modifiers Optional Rule, if the unit of lowest Quality on a given side has Quality of A or B, then that side receives a 10% bonus. If the unit of highest Quality on a given side has Quality of E or less, then that side receives a 10% penalty.
Melee Modifiers for Defenders
Each defending Artillery gun counts as one third Stacking Point (this depends on Parameter Data but would normally work out to 7 men per gun).
Routed and Isolated units have their defending strength divided by 4. However, units that are both Routed and Isolated have a defending strength of 0.
Units that have already defended in melee and have retreated into a hex that is then attacked in melee have their defending strength divided by half.
Supply Wagons and Uncrewed or Spiked Artillery defend against melee with a strength of 0.
If the defending units have a Leader with them (any leader), then 10% is added to the defending strength.
Dismounted Cavalry has an effective strength for Melee purposes that is ¾ of its normal strength to account for horse holders.
A unit in a Disrupted state suffers no penalty during a melee.
Tips for Defenders: The best way to increase your modifiers if Meleed against is to have a Leader in the hex or to utilize hexside modifiers as much as possible.
For much more information on Melee see MIL 301 – Melee Combat: A Comprehensive Study at the War Library.
Basic Fire Combat Results Explained
The most common form of confrontation in our Civil War games is the traditional Fire Combat that takes place between two opposing units. This is your classical image of 19th Century warfare with men standing shoulder to shoulder and leveling their rifles in unison to fire at an enemy. While it may seem that the result of Fire Combat is a random number generated by the computer that is far from the case. In reality there is a mathematical equation to every fire combat and a range of numbers from which a result is chosen.
infantry unit 1 hex away. The standard range effectiveness of a Rifle at range1 is 4. Thus, the standard fire value for the unit would be 1360 (=340 x 4). The low-end combat result would be 6.8 (= 5 * 1360 / 1000) and the high-end combat result would be 34 (= 25 * 1360 / 1000). The actual combat result would be randomly determined between these two extremes. Randomly based on the fractional part of the actual combat result, the combat result is truncated up or down. This if the actual combat result was calculated to be 23.4, then this would determine a combat loss of 23 men 60% of the time and a loss of 24 men 40% of the time.
It reads harder than it is. Let’s do a few examples.
A 500-man “C” regiment has not moved during the Movement Phase and now is firing Offensively into an adjacent unit. The odds would be, according to above: 500 men with Rifles (effectiveness 4 at range 1) would create a Standard Fire Value of 2000 (500 x 4). The Low End Combat Result would be 10 (= 5 x 2000 / 1000) and the High End Combat Result would be 50 (= 25 x 2000 / 1000). With no modifiers in place the computer would choose a value between 10 and 50 as a final combat result. With Optional Fire Results turned on (which it almost always is) the game will actually choose two numbers at random and then take the average as a result. Taking twenty C-rated units with 500 men each I fired them into twenty 500-man enemy units in adjacent hexes. There are no variables in place here. In the twenty Fire Combat tests there were 580 casualties inflicted in total. We divide that by 20 and we get an average of 29 casualties per target unit. This is just about what I expected as the median between 10 and 50 is 30. As usual the math comes out right.
Q: How do I know what the Effectiveness of a weapon is at a certain range?
A: The Parameter Data will display the effectiveness of all the weapons in the game at their different ranges. For example the effectiveness for Rifles is listed in the Parameter Data as:
As another example we will take the two units shown below and fire at an enemy three hexes away.
Starting with the 2nd South Carolina their range effectiveness at three hexes would be 2. We multiply that by their number of men and arrive at 500. We then take 500 and multiply it by 5 to get 2500. We then divided that by 1000 to get the Low End Combat Result of 2.5. We then take that 500 from before and multiply it by 25 to get 12,500 and divided that by 1000 to get a High End Combat Result of 12.5. We now know the 2nd South Carolina will inflict between 2 and 13 casualties on the enemy (remember fractions can round up or down). The 3rd South Carolina’s calculations would follow the same formula to arrive at a Low and High Combat Result of 3 and 19. Enemy casualties, when you combine the two firing units, can then be expected to be between 5 and 32. If we take the median then they should lose about 18.5 men.
I conducted the firing just to display the above Fire Report and nailed my estimated losses at the same time. You can see the Fire = 500 750 that we calculated before and the total enemy losses were right on the nose.
All of this is fairly simple. You should now be able to have a pretty good idea of how basic Fire Combat Results are calculated in the games. It is when you add modifiers to the equations that things begin to get really interesting. For more information on that proceed across the hall to MIL 212: Advanced Combat with Modifiers.
I hate to start any topic with Math, but it cannot be helped.
The following section is directly from the User’s Guide:
A common combat results calculation is used for both fire and melee results. The combat results calculation is based on four parameters: a Combat Value, a Modifier, a Low Combat Value and a High Combat Value. For fire combat, the Combat Value is the adjusted fire value of the firing units. The given modifiers are applied to the given combat value to arrive at the effective Combat Value. Fire casualties are calculated using the standard combat results based on the effective fire value of the firing unit with a Low Combat Value of 5 and a High Combat Value of 25. The Low Combat Value and High Combat Value are the extreme possible casualties resulting from a base-line combat value of 1000. The Effective Combat Value is used to scale these accordingly resulting in low and high possible casualties. Finally, a random value is selected between the low and high casualty values to arrive at the final combat result. Example: Suppose an Infantry Unit of 340 men equipped with Rifles fires at an enemy
Advanced Combat with Modifiers
Sirs, it is assumed any officer reading this already knows how a Fire Combat Result is determined. If you do not please revisit your notes from MIL 211: Basic Fire Combat Results. If you learned anything from that lecture, I hope it’s that the math the game gives you is always correct when it comes to Fire Combat. The modifiers listed here all do exactly what they say they do.
There is a great scene from the movie Gettysburg where the character of James Longstreet is sketching out the plan for Pickett’s Charge in the dirt of Seminary Ridge. The plan seems simple. Move ahead, oblique to the flank, and drive forward through the enemy line. In reality there would be numerous fences, structures, stone walls, and an elevation change to deal with – not to mention thousands of well-trained Yankees. In this game we call those – modifiers. And unless you want to end up like Pickett’s ill-fated charge did, you need to know all about these modifiers.
To take advantage of a Hexside Modifier you must be in position for one full turn within the hex. The modifier will then decrease the effectiveness of enemy Fire Combat by the modifier shown in the Parameter Data when that fire crosses the hexside which contains the modifier. In other words, a stone wall facing north won’t give you a modifier if the fire comes from the south. In the example below a unit is aligned behind a stone wall on the northern side of the hex. The red hexes represent the hexes which would fire at a disadvantage as a result and the blue ones which would fire “around” the stone wall from the flanks.
Hexside modifiers are your best friend on defense. Defensive hexside modifiers are stone walls, fences, creeks, streams, and embankments. Always check the Parameter Data in your specific scenario as the modifier percentages can often change from game to game. As an example – at Gettysburg there is no modifier for a position behind a stream or creek, while at Antietam there is. We will use Antietam’s Parameter Data for the purposes of this course. The Terrain Combat Modifiers are listed below with the Hexside-specific modifiers highlighted in the Parameter Data.
The only exception to this is the modifier for the “Cut” which actually increases the effectiveness of enemy Fire Combat by 50%. Cut’s are very rare and if you see them (usually around an unfinished railroad bank) you should avoid them at all costs.
A major advantage of hexside modifies to a defender is that they double as modifiers during both Fire Combat and Melee Combat. This means that the -40% modifier of a stone wall would apply to ranged Fire Combat as well as a Melee by the enemy over the hexside modifier.
Hexside modifiers are usually easily identifiable on the map. If you are unsure of the hexside modifier, or its precise location, you can always right-click on the Hex Information Box to see a diagram of the modifiers around the hex.
Hexside modifiers are the easiest of all the games defensive modifiers to take advantage of because of their abundance on the maps and their ready-made nature. Any good defensive line will utilize these as much as possible. Hexside modifiers may also be combined with other defensive modifiers to further enhance their usefulness. Try building a breastwork along a stone wall and you will see what I mean!
In our games there are eight different types of hexes. There are Forest, Rough, Orchard, Field, Marsh, Water, Clear, and Town hexes. Each comes with its own modifier for those occupying the hex when fired upon. The occupant does not need to establish residence in the hex for a full turn to enjoy the modifier of the hex during Fire Combat (as they do with hexside modifiers). Further, a terrain modifier may be combined with hexside modifiers to increase the overall modifier during Fire Combat (i.e. if a Forest hex had a hexside Fence – the defender would have a total -60% modifier). However, unlike hexside modifiers, the terrain hexes give no modifier bonuses during a Melee. Also, unlike hexside modifiers, a terrain hex gives you the modifier of the hex regardless of which side the enemy fire is coming from. The terrain modifiers are highlighted below:
Sometimes in life you just have to take things into your own hands and build your own modifiers – introducing breastworks and trenches. Other times the defenses are already set up in the form of abatis.
The most popular defensive structures built by players are breastworks. This is mostly because trenches are only allowed in certain scenarios dealing with the 1864 – 1865 period of the war. In all the scenarios we play breastworks may be built by infantry and cavalry units with only one noted exception: Shiloh. There are probably a few others, but I cannot name them off the top of my head – but this would be notated in the scenario notes of any such game. To build Breastworks, an infantry unit must be in Line formation, or a cavalry unit must be Dismounted. Use the "Make Entrenchments" option from the drop-down Command Menu on the top toolbar. The unit will be described in its info box as making "Breastworks". Like hexside modifiers the modifier of breastworks only apply to the side of the hex where they are constructed. When a unit is fired upon or Meleed against across that side, then a combat modifier applies as given by Parameter Data (i.e. -30% for Antietam).
Breastworks may be combined with both hexside modifiers and terrain modifiers to better defend a hex against Fire Combat.
Q: Can you combine enough modifiers to make a position nearly impossible to take?
A: You bet your Jefferson Davis signed portrait you can! Let us take a unit and place it in a Forest hex. On one hexside there is both a breastwork and a stone wall. The math for this combination makes inflicting any losses in Fire Combat impossible. The modifier is -110%. I ran the test ten times and inflicted ZERO losses on the target unit. Maybe I needed bigger guns? Okay, so I equipped a 1000-man regiment with 1000 10” Columbiad Artillery pieces to fire. Oh, yes, you can do that in the editor in case you didn’t know. And the result is shown below.
Despite an absolutely insane 28000 Fire Value the defenders still suffered no losses! Take advantage of defensive hexsides and terrain!!! I cannot stress that enough and this proves it. By combining enough modifiers your men can become invincible!
But, don’t forget, they can still Melee or flank you. That same impregnable position giving the defenders a -110% modifier would give a Melee attacker only a -40% modifier (40% for a Stone Wall) and you might be driven back or routed from your bastion. Conversely, don’t be that fool that attacks areas of such strength! If an enemy has a position like the one I tested against you have to know when to move on and just find an open flank if possible.
Q: How long do breastworks take to build?
A: It’s a mystery. The Parameter Data for Gettysburg says that breastworks have a “Building 20%” statistic. Beyond that there is nothing. What does it mean? Darned if I know for sure. But I have done some testing just to find out. It always seems like building breastworks takes forever when you have just a few men building them but are completed faster when you have more men building them. But if the “Building 20%” means each unit has a 20% chance of completion then, theoretically, it shouldn’t matter if the unit building them is 50 men or 500 men. They should all complete around the same time, right? Wrong.
I put 100 units on a map. Ten units each with a strength of 1000, 900, 800 etc. down to 100 men. All began building breastworks at the same time. The larger units finished within just a few turns while the smaller units took much longer. So, it can’t be a straight up 20% chance of completion per unit.
My conclusion is that the statistic means that for every 100 men engaged in building breastworks they have a 20% chance of completion. This would account for the speed of larger stacks and slowness of smaller ones. It would also account for the randomness of completion even with units of the same size. A 1000-man stack would have a 20% chance ten times to complete breastworks during a turn. In my test the larger units (700 – 1000) all completed their breastworks within 5 turns. This seems to make the most sense. Can I prove it? No. But unless anyone has a better explanation, I am going with mine.
Bottom line, if you want breastworks built in a hurry you better use more men.
Unlike breastworks, which are basically a hexside modifier, a trench is, essentially, a terrain modifier. While breastworks apply only to the side of the hex they were built upon a trench applies to the entire hex regardless of the direction of fire. This makes them extremely valuable in Fire Combat. But they also come with their own set of challenges to deal with. First, a scenario must have a non-zero Trench Construction Parameter Data value in order to construct them. Usually games taking place in 1864 or 1865 have this ability set up. Earlier games in the war do not. To construct Trenches, an infantry unit must be in Column formation, or a cavalry unit must be Mounted. This makes the construction of trenches a highly risky action if you are unsure of the enemy’s location. Use the Make Entrenchments option of the Command Menu to construct them. The unit will show up described as Entrenching. For each hundred, or fraction of a hundred, men in a given hex Entrenching, 1 is added to the Trench Value in that hex per turn. When the Trench Value in the given hex reaches the Trench Construction value, the hex will become a Trench hex. In other words, if you have 400 men entrenching and the Trench Value is 20 it will take you five turns to finish the trench.
Units that move into a trench hex, from a non-trench hex (unless using a road and in column), are automatically Disrupted! If you are planning on going over to the offensive after defending your line be sure that you avoid crossing trench hexes which will cause you disruption. Just like other terrain modifier hexes, trenches do not protect you during a melee. But they are combinable with other hexside modifiers and terrain modifiers to further increase a positions strength. If you recall the example from above where we constructed breastworks along a stone wall inside of a Forest hex… you can also add trenches there!
A hex may contain Abatis in some scenarios. Abatises are defined in Wikipedia as “a field fortification consisting of an obstacle formed (in the modern era) of the branches of trees laid in a row, with the sharpened tops directed outwards, towards the enemy. The trees are usually interlaced or tied with wire.” These obstacles are frequently found in scenarios involving set defensive works around cities and forts.
Just like a terrain hex modifier an abatis affects the entire hex as opposed to a singular side like a hexside modifier would. But they serve a very different purpose than either breastworks or trenches. Whereas those defensive structures are meant to protect the occupant of the hex this one is meant to harm them. To begin with a unit moving into a hex containing abatis automatically becomes Disrupted unless it is using Road Movement. Second, the unit pays a movement penalty and suffers a fire modifier (usually 20%) when fired upon depending on the value of the Parameter Data. Abatis cannot be destroyed or constructed by the player during the game. Abatis are great at breaking up enemy advances and in slowing down any attack.
The high ground! Military strategy since the dawn of time has been to take the high ground. Not only does it offer better visibility to see further but it also acts as a modifier against enemy Fire Combat and Melee Combat.
The target unit receives a defensive benefit when it is at a higher elevation than the firing unit. This benefit is normal for a single elevation change and is doubled for any elevation change of 2 increments or more. The actual value of this benefit can be found in the Parameter Data. As an example, using Antietam’s Parameter Data, this would be a -20% modifier if the targeted unit is at a higher elevation. That doubles to 40% for any elevation change of 2 increments or higher! Use the high ground!
Q: Is your offensive fire increased by being on the high ground?
A: Unfortunately, it is not. The enemy fire upon your lines will be reduced but your own shot and shells will still have their regular effect.
Firing Unit Modifiers
1) Units which fire Offensive Fire after movement in the current Turn do so at half effectiveness.
Of all the Offensive Fire Modifier rules in the game this is the most detrimental to any attacker. This adds a -50% modifier to your offensive fire output. When coupled with other types of modifiers it can be a real challenge to overcome.
2) Disrupted units fire at 50% effectiveness.
Any attacker will inevitably see the disruption of numerous units as they engage the enemy at close range. These units will be firing at 50% effectiveness as a result. And what happens if you move a unit first, and then fire while you are Disrupted? The penalties combine to reduce them to just 25% effectiveness.
3) Units that are constructing Breastworks or Trenches fire at 50% effectiveness.
It is wise to be sure that the battle won’t unexpectedly erupt around you before you begin to build defensive emplacements.
4) If the Firing Quality Modifier Optional Rule is in effect, a unit has 10% added to its fire value if it has a Quality of A or B, and 10% is subtracted from its fire value if it has a Quality of E or lower.
This rule is one of the more used rules in the Club for good reason. It treats veterans and greenhorns differently in battle and allows that there would variations in the fire combat from each type of unit.
5) Units with Medium Fatigue suffer a 10% reduction of their fire value, units with High Fatigue suffer a 20% reduction, units with Maximum Fatigue suffer a 40% reduction.
Once more this underlines the importance of keeping your men fresh and rotating out units with increased fatigue.
6) Dismounted Cavalry fires at ¾ effectiveness to account for the horse holders.
This is the only rule on this list that effects only Cavalry.
Target Fire Modifiers
1) Target units which have not moved during their turn get a defensive benefit from certain hexsides. The actual benefit is determined by Parameter Data.
You will not receive any benefit from a hexside modifier until you have spent a full turn in the hex. This is different than terrain modifiers which are applicable right away.
2) Target units may get a defensive benefit from the terrain of the hex they are in. The benefit is shown in the Terrain Info box of the Unit List.
Use terrain modifiers whenever possible but, remember, they do not help you against a melee, on in Fire Combat.
3) The target unit receives a defensive benefit when it is at a higher elevation than the firing unit. This benefit is normal for a single elevation change and is doubled for any elevation change of 2 increments or more. The actual value of this benefit can be found in the Parameter Data.
As mentioned earlier, the high ground will give you a bonus when fired upon.
4) A unit in Line formation that is fired upon by a firing unit that it is not facing is subject to an Enfilade fire modifier. The value of this modifier is in the Parameter Data.
Being fired upon from your flank or from the rear will cause increased losses. Another major thing, not mentioned above, is that being fired upon in enfilade will cause a subtraction of 2 points from any subsequent morale check you take. For more information on Morale Checks see LDR 301: Command and Leadership in the War Library.
5) The Enfilade fire modifier also applies to any fire against Infantry in Column or Limbered Artillery.
Firing at an Infantry Unit in Column or a Limbered Artillery Unit, from any direction at all, will give you a 40% modifier.
6) When the target unit is in Abatis, behind Breastworks, or in a Trench Hex, a modifier determined by Parameter Data is applied.
Already discussed but worth mentioning again.
7) Fire against a Mounted Cavalry unit may be modified by the Cavalry Fire Modifier Parameter Data value.
At Antietam, for instance, there is a 40% modifier when firing against Mounted Cavalry. Do not make the mistake of being caught Mounted in the middle of an infantrymen’s fight.
Density Fire Modifier Optional Rule
This Optional Rule is so important I decided to give it a separate section all by itself. If you read the Optional Rules section this may come as a refresher. The Optional Density Fire Modifier Rule is never explained anywhere in the User’s Guide but rather in the Campaign Editor’s Guide. It explains that a hex 2/3 filled to the maximum number of allowed men (667 if a hex holds a 1000) creates a modifier which is applied to the hex as a penalty for overstacking the area. But beyond that we have no clue what it means. Here is the lowdown.
For a hex with a strength of 700 men (whether in one regiment or multiple regiments it doesn’t matter) the game gives a 5% modifier to any unit firing into those men. Whether it is Offensive Fire hitting the 700 men or a Defensive Fire it does not matter. A 500-man Average Quality unit firing at range 1 will have a Standard Fire Value of 2000 against a hex filled with 1 – 666 men. But after that target hex fills up to 667+ men he begins to gain a modifier. If there were 750 men in the hex the modifier would rise accordingly to 12.5%. An 800-man hex would suffer a 20% modifier. A 900-man hex would have a 35% modifier while a fully packed 1,000-man hex would suffer a 50% modifier when fired upon.
Obviously, the game does this to try and disincentivize players from building larger stacks by increasing their casualties accordingly. From a historical standpoint it can also be, correctly, argued that the more densely packed men are the more likely casualties would become as a result. This Optional Rule is a greatly misunderstood and ignored rule, I think, by many Yankees. Because it is never explained in the rules I think it’s implications are not deemed important enough to know by those of the Union. But understanding them, for us Rebels, is another arrow in our quiver to defeat the Yankees with. Aim for the larger stacks when they present themselves and watch the enemy fall at a faster and heavier rate.
What else the Game Rules Overlook!
Is it possible the Game Rules failed to tell us everything?! Yes, it is. Let’s review a few common questions and then see if we can figure out the answers using a few tests.
Q: When I fire multiple units at once what happens?
A: On the surface this seems fairly obvious. Let’s take four 250-man Average Quality regiments with no other variables in place. The following equation will give us the answer we are looking for. The odds would be 250 men with Rifles (effectiveness 4 at a range 1) times 4 for the four units involved. This would create a Standard Fire Value of 4000 (250 x 4 x 4). The Low End Combat Result would be 20 (= 5 x 4000 / 1000) and the High End Combat Result would be 100 (= 25 x 4000 / 1000). With no modifiers in place the computer would choose a value between 20 and 100 as a final combat result. The median number here is 60 so let us run the test twenty times and see if 60 is the average result. The final average for casualties inflicted was 58.5 during the tests. The game simply takes the combined Fire Value for each regiment, adds them up, applies modifiers, and rolls the die for a result.
Q: What if one of the units firing is Disrupted? Does the -50% modifier apply to all the units?
A: Good question. When conducting a Melee if one unit is at a disadvantage (by being lower quality or crossing a hexside modifier) than all the units in the Melee share that modifier. But with a Fire Combat that is NOT the case. In a Fire Combat only that particular regiment’s effectiveness is diminished while the other units fire with their own set of modifiers. Let us do the Math to show you what I mean. We can run the test here by placing the same four 250-man regiments back on the map and making two of them Disrupted. The Math for this will then work out as such. The odds would be 250 men with Rifles (effectiveness 4 at a range 1) times 4 for the four units involved. This would create a Standard Fire Value of 4000 (250 x 4 x 4). Two units are Disrupted though so they will have their Fire Values cut in half. The four Fire Values would then be 1000 1000 500 500 add these up then for the combined Fire Value. The Low End Combat Result would be 15 (= 5 x 3000 / 1000) and the High End Combat Result would be 75 (= 25 x 3000 / 1000). The median number here is 45. After running the test twenty times the average casualties were 46.8 for the target regiments.
If you can think of any other questions about Fire Combat be sure to let us at VMI know and we will answer them as best we can. For more information on Artillery Combat and Cavalry Combat be sure to check the manuals on those branches.
Bridges and Fords
There are a number of scenarios in the HPS games which include larger Creeks, Rivers, or Lakes comprised of water hexes. These water hexes are impassible unless there is a Bridge or Ford spanning the hex to allow movement to the opposite shore.
A Bridge is different from a Ford in that a Ford is indestructible while a Bridge may be destroyed and rebuilt any number of times. Both are stationary features and cannot be added to a hex by any unit or engineering trickery.
The User’s Notes contain quite a bit of information on Bridges but left a few gaps which we will fill in now. But first let’s look at the notes:
1) Official Guide
• A bridge must have a strength of at least 1/2 the maximum to carry cavalry units or mounted leaders.
• A bridge must have a strength of at least 3/4 the maximum to carry artillery or supply wagons.
For example, if the maximum bridge strength is 200, then a bridge must have a strength value of 50 to carry infantry or dismounted leaders, 100 to carry cavalry or mounted leaders, and 150 to carry artillery or supply wagons.
The second change is that it is possible to repair bridges using infantry or cavalry. You use the Repair Bridge option of the Command Menu in the main program to toggle the state of units that you want to repair a bridge. There are several requirements for this:
• The unit doing the repair must be in column and must be facing the bridge.
• The unit cannot be Disrupted or Routed.
• The unit cannot have moved, fired, or melee in that turn.
At the beginning of each subsequent turn, a calculation is performed to determine how much repair is achieved. For each 100 men repairing, the Repair bridge parameter value is used to determine the gain in strength of the bridge. Once the bridge reaches the maximum strength, it cannot be repaired any further.
A Bridge that is not occupied can be fired upon by Artillery and meleed against by Infantry and Cavalry. The purpose of this is to provide a means for destroying bridges in the game. The combat results from melees are only applied to the Bridge and not the attacking forces. When the strength of the Bridge is reduced to 0, then the Bridge cannot be crossed. Under the optional Bridge Limit and Repair rule, the rule for crossing bridges is changed and the ability to repair bridges is supported. A full-hex bridge that is not occupied can be fired upon by Artillery and meleed against by Infantry and Cavalry. The purpose of this is to provide a means for destroying bridges in the game. The combat results from melees are only applied to the bridge and not the attacking forces. When the strength of the bridge is reduced to 0, then the bridge cannot be crossed. To melee against an unoccupied bridge do the following. Move your units next to the bridge and then click on the bridge hex. Go to the Melee menu and select "Begin Melee". Red arrows will appear in the bridge hex. Select your units and then select "Add to Melee" in the Melee Menu. Click the "Resolve Melee" button and the units will attack the bridge.
2) Other Questions Answered
Q: Can I see the Bridges/Fords when outside my Line of Sight?
A: Yes! Any bridges or fords on the map are always visible to you even if they are outside of your line of sight. You will not suddenly stumble upon an unknown crossing outside your line of sight.
Q: Can I see if a Bridge is destroyed outside my Line of Sight?
A: Yes. Bridges can only appear on the map in one of two ways. First, they may
be shown as a “whole” bridge in which the strength of the bridge is above zero.
Or, second, they may be shown as a destroyed bridge in which the strength
of the bridge is zero. Pictured are examples of both.
Q: If I can see a bridge is “whole” can the enemy move over it?
A: Not necessarily. Remember that the rule states that a bridge’s strength must be a certain strength number in order for units to use it. Just because a bridge is intact it does not necessarily mean that it can be used at that moment.
Q: Can I tell when an enemy is repairing a Bridge?
A: Yes. If a bridge’s strength is zero it will show up on the screen as destroyed. But if the bridge suddenly goes from destroyed to intact on the map then you know the enemy is there making repairs. Also, if you can see the enemy adjacent to the bridge, and they are repairing it, they will have the word “Repairing” in their Unit Information Box.
Q: So how do I know what the strength of the Bridge is?
A: You must be in the line of sight of the bridge in order to see what the strength of it is. The strength will appear in the information geography box. But you will always be able to see if a bridge is intact or destroyed regardless of your line of sight.
Q: How quickly can I repair a bridge?
A: This depends on a number of different things. Under the Parameter Data in the Help menu is the Bridge data for each scenario. The Parameter Data will also say how much the Bridge is repaired per 100 men. If that value is 2 and you have 800 men repairing the bridge then you will gain 16 strength points each turn. If the maximum strength for the bridge is 200 then you could probably get a bridge to 100% strength in just a short time (two hours). If it is a larger bridge with a maximum strength around 500 then it could take half a day to get repaired. The more men you have repairing a bridge the faster it will go. One trick is to repair it enough so infantry can cross. Then move over a few regiments and repair the bridge from both sides. Just don’t get caught by the enemy doing this! Remember, the bridge has to be repaired to different percentages in order to cross infantry, artillery, and cavalry! Just because you can get infantry across it doesn’t mean the job is done on the bridge.
Q: Why in the hell can’t I use this *bleeping* ford!?!?
A: Ever march to a ford and find it is only half above water? We all have. We all hate it. I don’t know if it is a design flaw or meant to replicate a flooded portion of a river but half-submerged fords are the devil’s work. As seen on the picture below they look almost identical to a regular ford except when you right-click on the Terrain Information Box you will see a Trail entering the hex without any exit for it as you normally would. There is no fix for this so just march to the next available ford.
A few extra tips… Exiting/leaving a Bridge, like entering it or crossing it, can only be done one unit per hex at a time. If a unit (friendly or not) blocks the bridge exit you cannot exit off the bridge. If a mounted leader will not cross the bridge then try dismounting him as the bridge may be too weak to support horses.
Normally movement into Water hexes is prohibited. However, depending on the scenario, Bridges may be present that allow Water hexes to be crossed. However, in order to move onto a Bridge, the unit must be in Column formation (Limbered for Artillery and Mounted for Cavalry) and no more than one non-Leader unit may attempt to enter or leave the Bridge hex at one time.
By default, a bridge must have a nonzero strength before it can be crossed by units and any bridge that has been damaged cannot be repaired. When the optional Bridge Limit and Repair rule is in effect, there are two changes that occur.
The first change is that there are minimum strength values that the bridge must have to support movement depending on the type of unit. These values are based on the Maximum Bridge strength value determined by Parameter data.
• A bridge must have a strength of at least 1/4 the maximum to carry infantry units or dismounted leaders.
Supply Wagons are the most important unit on any board of any game. Without them you cannot win a prolonged engagement. So, let’s learn how they work.
Small Arms Ammunition
Supply refers to the ammunition that units have available to fire during the battle. A unit may become Low On Ammo or Out Of Ammo during the battle reducing or eliminating their ability to fire their weapons. Supply Wagons are used to maintain supply levels for the forces on the map. Each unit of strength of a Supply Wagon represents enough ammunition to resupply 10 men. Units can become resupplied at the beginning of the player’s Movement Phase provided they are not Routed and they can trace a path no longer than 5 hexes long which does not go through enemy units or empty hexes in their Zone-Of-Control to a friendly Supply Wagon.
Let’s give an example of that statement before we press on. At Gettysburg, for example, a Confederate Supply Wagon has 400 Supply points. Each unit of strength is enough to resupply 10 men. Easy math is good math so a single wagon may resupply 4,000 men before exhausting its resources. A unit can only be resupplied if the wagon has enough points to resupply the entire unit.
Each time an Infantry unit fires, there is a certain probability that this will result in a reduction in the unit’s ammunition level. The probability chance that a unit will suffer a loss of ammo while firing is determined by Parameter Data. A unit that is Out Of Ammo cannot fire again until it is resupplied. A unit that is Low On Ammo can only fire Defensive Fire. Being Low or Out Of Ammo affects the Morale of the unit.
As stated, each time you fire an infantry or cavalry unit there is a chance your ammunition will be reduced to a lower level. At Gettysburg, for example, that probability is 4%. The morale of a unit is subject to a -1 modifier when morale tests are done for being Low or Out Of Ammo.
Q: I had a unit lose ammunition on the first turn of the game. That’s ridiculous!
A: Is it? Having a full complement of ammunition was never guaranteed in any battle. While most often, a unit had enough ammunition to ensure the ability to fight for some time, breakdowns in command and organization often resulted in ammunition problems. Adding an ammunition level to each unit in the game would simply increase the micromanagement necessary to play the game without adding any benefit and would in fact detract from the game by including information that could hardly be known by higher level commanders.
I have to agree with the Game’s Designers on this one. Numerous times during my readings on the war I have encountered units who were sent into battle, or had the battle find them, when they were completely without ammunition. One need only look at Miller’s Brigade of Prentiss’s Division at the Battle of Shiloh for more information on this. Although it infuriates me to no end when my men run low on ammo at the start at least I know my opponent is dealing with the same issues that I am.
Q: I don’t understand the Low Ammo rules. Why can units with Low Ammo fire Defensive Fire and not the Offensive Fire? Do they have bullets or don’t they?
A: The distinction here is based on the fact that units low on ammunition will start to save their shots and not use them unless absolutely necessary. Since Defensive Fire is the point at which defending units get to fire on their attacker, this would be a good example of when units would use their precious ammunition. Not allowing Offensive Fire is the point at which the lack of ammunition is applied and thereby motivates the player to not use these units for attack. The end result in the game is a good one causing a reduction in aggressive ability by units low on ammo but retaining the ability for units low on ammo to deliver a good blast when threatened.
Normally artillery ammunition is provided in a scenario based the number of batteries in the scenario for each side. In the Terrain Info box, the amount of artillery ammunition is displayed with the Union value first and the Confederate value second. As each artillery battery fires, this amount is reduced for that side by one. During opportunity fire, the value will decrease by one only half the time on average however. When artillery arrives as a reinforcement, then the value will increase representing the ammo that arrives with each battery. Supply Wagons have no affect on artillery ammunition and are only used to provide small arms ammunition to infantry and cavalry.
Under the Artillery Ammo by Cannon Optional Rule, artillery ammunition and usage is computed on a per-cannon basis instead of a per-battery basis. All other rules concerning artillery ammunition remain the same.
Thank God for that Optional Rule! As you can imagine having each battery (regardless of size) fire the same amount of ammo was ridiculous. The Optional Rule creates a more even playing level for the Confederates as opposed to before the rule.
If the Isolation Effects Optional Rule (see the Main Program Help File) is being used, then Artillery units can also become Low or Out Of Ammo when Isolated.
Hopefully you never have to worry about this, but, it can happen. When Low on Ammo you need to find a way to get the artillery out from their isolated status. At that point they will automatically become resupplied and able to fire offensively again. Otherwise a unit Low on Ammo can only fire defensively – just like infantry or cavalry units.
In a limited number of scenarios you may find a hex labeled as a “Supply Source”. These are usually located in major cities, forts, or, notably, at Pittsburg Landing on the Shiloh Battlefield. These hexes allow the default supply side (shown in the terrain information box of the hex) to use this hex as a “base.” This is done to keep occupants of cities, or forts, from becoming “Isolated” by an enemy maneuver to surround the objective and then easily bag the defenders. The supply source will prevent their isolation despite being surrounded without any possible Zone of Control exit hexes from their location.