grimjaw
Brigadier General
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Location: Arkansas

Forcepool/unit mod proposal/feedback

Fri May 22, 2020 11:18 pm

I am working on a smaller version of my mod that contains only unit defintion and forcepool changes. I need feedback, if you're so inclined.

Issue:

Existing unit definitions are unpopular for some because they are inflexible, are poor historical representations, and other reasons.

Goals:

1. Provide the user with units that allow more flexibility in division creation, without creating an unmanageable mess or a more cumbersome arrangement than the one that already exists.
2. As much as possible, maintain the original force pool for total elements.
3. Don't negatively affect the AI.

Details:

I will attempt to deliver a set of units that are more flexible to use than those that shipped with the original game. I will not change the base elements used to create the units. Costs, combat numbers, VP, police values, etc, will not change. Text descriptions used to describe the units will be updated in some cases, but hopefully only in a way that will make them less generic and add flavor for the player.

Instead of editing the original units, I will add additional versions with a tag that identifies them with the mod. The new units will draw on existing elements. This will allow me to use several of the original units, reducing the amount of work that has to be done.

The reasoning behind some of these changes follows, but if that doesn't interest you, you can skip to the details in the goals or the implementation process and details near the end. A copy of all of this information, especially the instructions, will eventually be included with the mod.

*****
JUSTIFICATION
*****

One of the common complaints of many players is that the brigade compositions are inflexible. I don't need to convince many of you that it could use some improvement.

The largest 9-element brigades can be useful, but only because of the limitations in the game design. If they are part of a division whose leader is KIA, they will still fight as the original combined unit. No unit in the vanilla game requires more than 4 command points (CP), so the 9-element Virginia brigades are like a division with an unkillable general. It's that unbreakable unit function that provides their biggest perk, and in my opinion their only one.

After that it isn't so good. One of those 9-element brigades that was part of an 18-element division is still FUBAR if it ends up leaderless in a stack with some stray infantry brigades and/or regiments. If a 9-element unit loses a single infantry element, and unless you happen to have an infantry element that fits the unit definition, you're tied up in a region replacing it while the other 8 elements mark time. The time to build these 9-element units is punishing considering that the qualifying build locations are on the front line of the war. Even if you somehow miraculously managed to steamroll your way through the DC defensive line and are entrenched all along the Maryland/Pennsylvania border in late 1864, when you recruit that huge Virginia unit for the push into Delaware it'll include a 6-pounder smoothbore. If that 9-elenent brigade was decimated in a battle and left with only the 6-pounder, it's still going to cost 4CP to run a single 6-pounder until the replacements kick in.

In the vanilla game, cavalry or artillery or both are part of many brigades. The unit definitions for these brigades doesn't change, so if you build a 4 inf + 1 cav + 1 art brigade in 1861, it's using the same 6-pounder smoothbore when you build it in 1865. They aren't all that way. Some brigades have 12-pounders, but I can't think of many that have rifled artillery. Granted, the CSA kept using 6-pdrs. The point is you don't have a choice.

Combined arms units are a compromise when it comes to abilities and movement. The sharpshooter battalions in combined units provide a bonus, but they are denied their ability to perform an ambush. Combined units only move as fast as their slowest member, which can be pathetic in some terrain/weather combinations. If only I could have shed that cavalry and artillery, my infantry could have marched to victory ...

CW2 doesn't simulate tactical combat, and as such game strategies often boil down to interrupting or controlling the supply of your opponent. The majority of standard units vary from 3-6 elements, but range from as few as 1 element to as high as 9 elements. The largest brigades present supply challenges. If you're headed into a supply crunch, you can't break these brigades down into smaller chunks and disperse them. Wherever that multi-element brigade goes, it's going to devour supply. That limits your options. Inconvenient. Inflexible. Annoying! It doesn't have to be this way.

*****
DETAILS
*****

1. Provide the user with units that allow more flexibility in division creation, without creating an unmanageable mess or a more cumbersome arrangement than the one that already exists.

It would have been easy enough to count every infantry and cavalry element in the game and present them to the user as individual regiments to recruit. That would provide maximum flexibility in division creation *only*. It would have added larger and more common CP penalties in the event of a division leader death. The stack and recruit panels would have been a mess. If there were no other improvements to the CW2 engine than an ability to create (or disassemble) a leaderless brigade unit, which could then be combined with a leader, or other brigades and a leader, it would be a huge improvement.

Instead of individual regiments, I decided to divvy up infantry, cavalry, and artillery elements. There will be no combined arms brigades in this mod, or exceedingly few of them. Infantry units will contain infantry only, are anywhere from 1-4 elements, and cost 1-3 CP. Cavalry or artillery units will contain only cavalry or artillery elements, respectively, are 1-2 elements and cost 1-2 CP. Cavalry might get some 3-element units.

With this arrangment, the largest unit facing supply challenges is a 4-element, 3CP infantry brigade. If the 4-element brigade is reduced to a single infantry element, it still costs 3CP and is the only unit definition requiring that many. Everything else is 1-2CP. The mod will present many more single element units. With more single element units there are more opportunities for combination, allowing you to fill gaps in units with missing elements rather than waiting on replacements.

With the new unit defintions, any time a combined arms unit is desired a division has to be created. Since more divisions are likely to be created, that represents more potential penalties for rank 1 leaders. To mitigate this, I could lower division costs but that would overpower army and corps stacks. Instead, I change CP provided to rank 1 and rank 2 leaders and change the modifier applied to stacks outside the chain-of-command.

Any standard brigadier should be able to command any standard brigade. That's what they're supposed to be trained for, right? That's another reason I will modify leader CP.

In the original game (henceforth called "vanilla"), commanders outside the chain-of-command (CoC) have their CP halved. Brigadiers who have 4CP inside CoC only have 2CP outside CoC. There are numerous cases where 3-element unit CP costs cause penalties for brigadiers outside CoC.

In the future mod, base CP for a rank 1 leader (brigadier general) is increased to 5CP. Base CP for a rank 2 leader (major general) is *decreased* to 7CP. Instead of a 50% modifier being applied to stacks outside CoC, it's 54%. I believe the modifier is applied to the stack, not the individual element CPs making up the stack. At least that's what my examination of the results has shown; I haven't seen the underlying code. The modifier makes the difference here. For this calculation, the game appears to round up values above .5, and discards fractional values .5 and lower. For example, 5.5000000 is 5, but 5.50000001 is 6. At least I think it is. I don't know what type of variable stores the number in this case, or how large a number it will hold. The end result is presented to the user as an integer. I've experimented with different values in the modifier field. Anything more than a two-digit number gives unexpected results, so I can't make the calculation more exact by using 0.536xxx. 54% approaches the original values without causing errors.

It is possible to tweak the CPs even more. In other AGE games the CP totals are much higher. The important thing here is the keeping close to the original ratios.

I have a spreadsheet that details all the various combinations of leaders and divisions, both instead and outside of command chains. I'll see if I can upload it. I'll give just a few examples here. Under vanilla, a single rank 1 general in a stack outside CoC had 2CP; in the mod the same leader provides 3CP. Vanilla: two rank 1s outside CoC, 4CP; mod, two rank 1s outside CoC = 5CP. Three ranks 1s, 6CP vanilla, 8CP in the mod. After that, the numbers are the same.

Rank 2/3 leaders provide the same CP outside CoC as before. Rank 2 base CPs were lowered by a point to balance out the change to rank 1 CPs.

End result, any standard rank 1 leader can command any standard brigade in the game, even outside CoC. A single rank 1 running a division in a stack outside CoC has the penalty lowered by 5%. A single rank 2 running a single division in a stack has no penalty. Lower quality rank 1s might get a penalty for the largest infantry brigades. There might be a few extra CPs (1-2) or slightly lower penalities (5-10%) for outside CoC stacks depending on the leaders used. Other characteristics of outside CoC stacks have not been changed, so they still won't MTSG, still have an 8CP cap, etc.

Corps stacks containing only one or two rank 2 leaders (and no other leaders at all) will be slightly nerfed with this setup. Otherwise there is no difference from vanilla.

2. As much as possible, maintain the original force pool for total elements.

The vanilla forcepool takes a little while to calculate for each scenario, but it's not difficult. Once that is determined, the number of each type of element is tallied, and the totals are used to determine how many new units are made available and when. If a 2-inf + 1-cav unit is placed on the board on 05/01/1863, I replace it with a 2-inf unit and a 1-cav unit. The largest original units would be replaced with combinations of the largest new units.

Again, not difficult but it is time-consuming.

3. Don't negatively affect the AI.

What will Athena make of all these new building blocks? It remains to be seen. This last part may be the one that dooms the mod. I am contemplating moving up the date that division creation is allowed, with a restriction on the maximum number of divisions until a later date. That would allow for some of the force concentration near the original 1st Bull Run date without causing a massive problem all over the map.

*****
IMPLEMENTATION
*****

The mod should be easier to install and not cause problems with existing installations. I hope to avoid editing the original values, instead adding new records to the existing element/unit definitions, and referencing new versions of the old scripts.

*****
FEEDBACK
*****

Now, I have already implemented the CP changes and have tested those. I am part of the way through the unit compositions. This is the initial feedback that I need. What are your thoughts on the following?

A. In vanilla, when light infantry is combined in unit definitions with standard infantry, it's probably supposed to represent skirmshers. It's poorly implemented. A better way to have represented skirmishers detached from an infantry regiment would have been by a mode, like the button to enable ambush function for sharpshooters. Push button, skirmishers detached from regiment: regiment now has some modifiers applied to it for combat for this turn.

I would personally like to get rid of most or all of the light infantry regiments and not include them in the new unit definitions, replacing them with infantry or sharpshooters or nothing.

B. Vanilla presents several unique brigades (Stonewall, Excelsior, etc) that exceed four elements. I would like to reconstitute them as standard infantry with perhaps lower CP costs and maybe an increased XP rate. They wouldn't start as elite. Instead their rate of level progression would be higher than other units. I'm open to ideas on this one.

C. Vanilla has a major exploit in the way that militia are defined. Most of you are aware of it. Let's say the forcepool for New York militia is capped at 12. You happen to have 12 individual NY militia regiments on the board. You can combine two militia regiments into a single two-regiment militia brigade, costing the same CP. If you do this, the game calculates that you only have 11 individual NY militia on the board, so you can build another NY militia regiment. If you combined all 12 regiments into six 2-element units, you'd get another 6 allowed under the forcepool. Those 6 can of course be combined again into three 2-element units, and so on. Separately, if your militia unit is upgraded to line infantry, that also frees up room in the forcepool. This allows militia to be spammed and abused in the worst way.

It's not part of the mod calculation, but I would like to do away with this exploit as part of the mod. It's very easy to change the unit definition for militia so they can't be combined, and instead change it so that some militia can be built already as a combined unit. I'd also prevent them from upgrading to line infantry.

I know this is probably an unpopular idea, but I thought I'd float it anyway. It's not a priority as part of this mod.

Let me know what you think.

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Durk
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Re: Forcepool/unit mod proposal/feedback

Sat May 23, 2020 12:55 am

You are ambitious and I do hope this works for you. For me, it takes the game into ahistorical grounds and becomes more of a techno game not a historical game. Unit variations in the game reflect some unique condition, not generic conditions. What you provide might allow someone who is a student of the OR or other detailed unit composition documents some access to more particular historical compositions. But I do not see the gain for gamers.
That is: if I play your mod, how does this enhance my understanding of the historical composition of units. This, as you say, not a tactical game. It would suffer from such detailed micromanagement.

My take, but then I do not like even needing to build divisions.

grimjaw
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Re: Forcepool/unit mod proposal/feedback

Sat May 23, 2020 3:48 am

"For me, it takes the game into ahistorical grounds and becomes more of a techno game not a historical game."

The vanilla game, full campaign, assumes certain events happen on time, every time, even if they make no sense in the campaign you are playing because you did things differently. In my opinion, a full campaign should be open-ended, or at least there should be an option. If I'm starting in April, I shouldn't even have to fight the 1st Bull Run or have my forces locked down in the position to do so.

But this mod won't address that, at least not directly. When the vanilla forces would normally appear in Virginia at the beginning of the game, locked with their generals, the same number of total elements will appear in the mod, but in different unit compositions. The 9-element VA brigade would be replaced with two 3-element brigades, one cav, one sharpshooter, and one 2-element artillery unit, all as part of a division under the appropriate general. And so on for the rest of forces appearing in the game, either placed on the board or made available to recruit. When the Lightning Brigade appears in later years in vanilla, a corresponding set of elements matching or approaching the unit composition will appear in the mod, however illogical that might be in the scheme of things.

"Unit variations in the game reflect some unique condition, not generic conditions."

I'm not sure what you mean by that. Can you explain?

"... how does this enhance my understanding of the historical composition of units."

Enhancing an understanding of history is not one of my goals; wasn't listed as such. The vanilla game doesn't present strict historical unit compositions, and often not even loose ones. Regiment names used to fill units are picked in order from lists, and those compositions often don't match anything from any order of battle I've ever read. Brigade names often changed with the commanding officer, which isn't done in CW2. Regiment names often don't match any historical regiment at all, and can be as generic as "6lb pound cannon" or some such. Generic *and* redundant.

Reconstituting the units will allow me to more accurately create a list of real life regiment names and assign them more appropriately. Example: in vanilla when you want to recruit a brigade from New England, it gets assigned names from a pool with regiments from all over New England but it has to be built in CT. Maybe you'll get a regiment from RI in that unit and maybe you won't.

In the mod, if you want to recruit a brigade from Massachusetts, you build it in Massachusetts and it gets assigned regiments with names from real life MA regiments. The same goes for any other state. The number of regiments assigned to MA in the mod will match the number of named MA regiments that could be assigned in vanilla, except now you have more control over when they are created and where (so long as it's MA). You have more of a choice of combining them with other MA regiments or the ability to perhaps more accurately match a historical brigade/division. With this mod, I am trying to match the original vanilla force pools, i.e. numbers of each type of element, because I don't want to unbalance things and I want the player to be able to match the numbers, sizes and compositions of divisions available previously. They'd just use somewhat different units to achieve those combinations.

We aren't talking radically different unit compositions, not really. There are many 3-element all infantry brigades in the vanilla game, as well as 1, 2 and 4. So there will be with the mod, except they may or may not use regular infantry instead of the make-believe light infantry. Cavalry in vanilla is built in 1- or 2-element units, and is in the mod. Artillery is built in 1-element units in vanilla and the mod. The difference is that with the mod, as the Union you aren't forced to build 6-pounder smoothbores as part of infantry brigades in 1864, when the Union wasn't fielding new units with them anymore.

"... it would suffer from such detailed micromanagement."

The additional management involved in unit building and division creation doesn't amount to much. To build an 18-element division with the mod, with 1 ldr + 1 cav + 2 art + 1 shp + 13 inf could take as few as seven units plus the leader: three 4-element inf, one inf regiment, one 2-element artillery unit, one 1-element cav, and one sharpshooter regiment. In vanilla it can be done with as few as four units, but that's only the case with a big VA brigade and one or more of the elite brigades. You're usually getting into five or more units and making compromises you shouldn't have to make.

It's a case of six of one, half a dozen of the other. With the mod, I don't have to remember which buildable unit had the cavalry or which one had the sharpshooter. Which state was it that had the infantry brigade that included 12-pounders, wait wait, I don't have to give a crap about that any more. None of the infantry brigades have anything but infantry, and they are only 1, 2, 3 or 4 elements. If I wanted to match a vanilla combined arms brigade with the mod, it's easy to do but it requires a division. The fact that it's called a "division" and not a "brigade" is not something I can address in a way that makes the majority happy. A standard brigadier in the mod running a division outside the CoC only incurs a 5% command penalty, which is very close to what he'd have under vanilla with many combined arms brigades anyway.

My goal isn't to create a buildable unit composition that matches exactly any historical brigade. I don't care about having a unit composition that matches one from the first major battle of the war, and no other. In my opinion, that's one of the problems with the full campaign. The participants of battles and their exact marching order from 1865 will still most likely appear in their assigned seats in 1865, even if you as the player don't do anything from 1861-1864 that would have allowed those participants to exist, much less meet.

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Blood and Thunder Brigade
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Re: Forcepool/unit mod proposal/feedback

Sat May 23, 2020 4:18 am

Can I mix regiments from various states to form a brigade? Say, 2 from Virginia and 2 from Georgia?

grimjaw
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Re: Forcepool/unit mod proposal/feedback

Sat May 23, 2020 4:56 am

Blood and Thunder Brigade wrote:Can I mix regiments from various states to form a brigade? Say, 2 from Virginia and 2 from Georgia?


Probably not in the way I think you mean. There is a way under the existing engine to define a sort of template and leave it partially filled. The vanilla militia units are an example of this. Base militia are created as a single element, but the unit definition allows for another militia element to be added by combination, *not* by replacement. You could define any number of units that way. However, it becomes a problem the larger the unit definition gets. If you set up a 5-element infantry definition that required 4CP, but only created it with a single element at build time, that gives flexibility but a 4CP cost for a 1-element infantry unit, until you combine it. Replacements don't work the same way in those cases. The CP cost is the same, there's no way to have it vary for the same unit depending on number of elements. Also note that those militia units, once combined, cannot be split up.

It's possible to do what you asked with the mod just like in vanilla; your "brigade" would actually be a division, in game terms. I'm not creating a way to make new units on the fly. There is no way under the existing engine to create new non-division units from other non-division units, the exception being single elements added to other units to fill gaps in predefined slots. I cannot change that. In the mod there would be 1- and 2-element buildable units from both states, which can be combined in a division like any other. I've made division creation more affordable for rank 1 leaders, allowing more "brigades" to be created for lower penalties.

If you had a VA unit with a gap due to combat losses, it could be filled with a Georgia regiment. That's no different from vanilla; the difference will be that under the mod there are single regiment GA regular infantry units available to build. In vanilla the only way to get many single regiment units is to train up militia regiments.

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Blood and Thunder Brigade
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Re: Forcepool/unit mod proposal/feedback

Thu Jun 04, 2020 6:24 pm

@grimjaw, When will this be ready, mate? :)

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