Where to start? I got the defensive battle I wanted at Charlottesville, but the end result was a problem.
In the battle, we destroyed 29 enemy elements, or the majority of a Union corps, inflicting about 14,000 more casualties than we took. However, the army would not stand their ground.
Unfortunately, Jackson and Longstreet choose to retreat west into the mountains, where there is no supply, instead of east. As Daxil points out, one Union corps remains at Charlottesville, gaining military control of that region.
Lee's corps after marching to the guns goes back to the Albemarle (Chancellorsville) region, but in passive posture, not defensive. This puts him at the mercy of any Union force that moves into the same region during the turn, which in fact happens. This means Lee is forced to retreat out of the Albemarle region.
Now for reasons totally unknown to myself, Lee retreats back to Charlottesville, which by this time is already in enemy hands. Based on what I know about retreats, I would have expected Lee to retreat to a region with a city, or at least a region with 100% military control. As far as I know, Lee SHOULD have retreated back to Fredericksburg, but instead retreats to an enemy region.
On the whole, this is an inexplicable disaster. The entire ANV is not where it is supposed to be, and the Union corps all have the inside track to Richmond. All my corps are what I call "off their balance", which means that they are in passive stance, in the wrong place, with less power than the surrounding enemy stacks, and thus in a position to get pushed around at will by enemy forces for the next couple turns. This is a very difficult situation to recover from.
The random retreat directions that the game enforces has here taken events out of my hands. In a campaign where keeping your army between an important objective and the enemy army is of paramount importance, uncontrolled retreats often lead to early disaster. It would be as if after the battle of Gettysburg, Lee retreated not southwest back towards Virginia, but back north where he came from, to Carlisle Pennsylvania, and then to make matters worse, stayed there for 10 days. Such a situation would likely have led to the destruction of the Confederate army, and these kinds of extreme results are often the result in the game.
When playing Birth of America this was a big issue as well. Too often the Continental army would fight a battle, and generally being the inferior force would be forced to retreat. No problem there, but often the game would choose a retreat region that would lead to the bottling up or surrounding of the American army. When trying to fight, say, Washington's battle of New York in 1776, instead of retreating west across the Hudson, you might find that the army has retreated onto Long Island, from which place there is no place to go and no escape.
Frankly, these uncontrolled retreats are not the game system's strongest feature, but are in fact a weakness. Expert 2-player play like this match against Manstein rapidly exposes weakness like these. In Manstein's turn as the CSA, he perhaps wisely chose to withdraw to Richmond early rather than risk any possibility of an adverse retreat result. However, I don't think my attempt to do a bit more fighting in the field in front of Richmond should be so disproportionally risky. In fact, in the full 4 year campaign, the ability to do this kind of back and forth fighting becomes mandatory for the CSA if they are to hold Richmond for more than a year, but again, because of the unpredictable retreats and the uneven forces available, Confederate survival can be ahistorically difficult, particularly against a skilled and aggressive USA player.
Ideally there really needs to be some means for players to designate where armies retreat to. This is particularly true for the ACW, where armies were extremely hard to corner or turn because they were so large, and almost all major battles ended with the defeated side making an orderly withdrawl in the direction of their choice.
Compounding the issue is the basic fact that forces made to retreat automatically go into passive stance for the rest of the turn, and are powerless before any enemy for the rest of the turn. In this particular example, we fight the battle on day 5 at Charlottesville, after which Lee goes passive, and he is then immobile and helpless for the next 9 days. That imposes an additional handicap for the game player vs the historical commander.
Going back to the battle for a moment there is another unexpected result. Contrary to my expectations, destruction of the enemy regiments is worth zero victory points, because I 'lost' the battle and retreated. The manual states on page 10 in the Victory Points section simply that destroyed units count for points, but after consulting with the developers, I have learned that this actually only applies to battles that are 'won', where your side ends up in control of the ground.
Since the Confederacy will in all situations have a manpower disadvantage vis a vis the Union, and thus may have a hard time taking ground against superior forces, I feel this treatment of VPs puts the Confederacy at a distinct disadvantage. This is a game feature that I have been unaware of until now, and I suspect that most other players have been equally unclear on this point.
The other major result of the battle was a shift in National Morale. By destroying the enemy forces, I gained 11 NM. This is the kind of political reward I would expect for doing great damage to the enemy, but alas this dynamic is also unclear to me. The dialogue box says I lost the battle and lost 11 NM, while my actual NM total increased turn over turn from 74 to 88. I'm trying to discover if this is a bug, or what the treatment of NM for battles won and lost will be under the next patch 1.14. Let me say for now there is some discussion on this issue.
Going back to the AAR, there is little for me to do now but to try and rush Longstreet or Lee back as fast as possible to occupy the Richmond entrenchments where they may be able to stand their ground. This will be diffucult however because they are not positioned along a fully controlled rail line, and are weaker than the Union corps. If they meet Union forces in one of the regions along the way, my smaller corps are likely to be simply pushed out of the way.