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Wraith
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A Devoted Fan's Concerns for AACW2

Thu May 30, 2013 8:00 pm

Pour mon ami AGEod:

I post today as a concerned dedicated player. Both my friend and I who have been playing many PBeM games over the course of the last year have looked forward to an update of the game we enjoy (to a certain extent) so much. While it's the best there is in the genre, there is always room for improvement, and I would like to comment on what I have seen--and what I haven't seen--concerning AACW2. I am concerned that this newest release is going to just be a majority graphical update, and not emphasize gameplay.

1. The Graphical Update
I see the new map... I see Massi's posts concerning his development of boats, images, et cetera. I am happy to see this game move forward into the true 21st Century. What I have not seen is how you all intend to relieve the other issues the old graphics had: stacks covering important information concerning towns or roads, entrenching levels, sieges, blockades, whatever.

2. Unit Construction
We've gone over this before--and this is one of those few certain "features" of which I am concerned. We've talked briefly about a brigade/division builder, which was shot down quickly by Pocus. However, I seem to also glean that the system is going to be one of the scrolling versions from another AGEod game. One that has several issues all of it's own: a system that resets every time one makes a selection, cancelling orders (before submitting them) not being reflected in the balance, and other issues. I would always want to come down on the side of that old adage: Keep It Simple, Stupid; but this seems like a regression rather than progress. Perhaps, instead of new code, you simply wanted to recycle code from other, newer, titles. This I can understand. But if the result is an even more infuriating system than the one I have to work around now, then why should I even be bothered to spend money on it? I'll go play VicII:AHD instead... which is not what I want to do!

3. Gameplay
One of the biggest issues that my friend and I have when playing is that there is no way to "schedule" orders. By this, I mean that I cannot tell a pair of corps, marching from different provinces into other provinces to arrive at certain times. For instance, I have two corps: III Corps and V Corps in Stafford and Faquier, respectively. I want them to march to Arlington, but while one will arrive in 5 days, it would take the other 7 days. I can't tell V Corps to wait a day or two to start movement so that they both arrive on the field at roughly the same time?

Second is sieges. I have had two full armies of the Union bottled up in New Orleans and Fort Pike for much of the war. Apparently, they have not had any degradation of manpower or strength at all in the last twenty turns. Furthermore, I'm very nearly running out of supplies constantly, and having to rotate out five or so supply wagons every turn in order to stay in supply. Here's a screenshot:

Image

IX Corps is in Ft Pike, Union Forces there: 1495 power under Buell. X Corps (1496 power) and SouthCom (28 power), are outside New Orleans. RIVERON 2 (818 power) is outside of New Orleans, and you can see what's inside New Orleans. This has pretty much been static the entire time. How should this be resolved? Because these massive armies should be decimated from disease. I can't see how the Union is still being supplied, because neither Mississippi City nor Shieldsboro is showing as Union controlled for the purpose of transferring supply.

Third--led into by the above--is a needed improvement to show how and where supply travels, and why.

4. Ease of Modding
One of my favorite things that my friend and I do is to mod ourselves into the game at some point. We also sometimes try and modify the game to suit our own situations and peculiarities. This game's code is one of the hardest to do so; it's hard to adjust a game which we think could just be tweaked a few times vice having to impose house rules which may or may not work within the constraints of our vision of how the game should proceed.


Overall, I am concerned that we haven't seen much in the way of commentary from the Devs. Paradox is a model for me: very good about talking about the underlying mechanics that make the game run, and how their thought processes influenced why the game was designed to be just so. So far, I feel that the players have been expecting so much, because there has been nothing to say otherwise... and been told to wait until August for game release.

Your ever respectful friend,
Wraith

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Captain_Orso
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Thu May 30, 2013 9:47 pm

Just with regards to the siege of New Orleans; from what little I can see they are more than likely in full supply, so there is little reason for them to suffer greatly under the siege.

Fort Pike is pulling Naval Supply through its open harbor exit-point into Koney Island coastal region. If the Union has at least 25MC in the Iberville LA and Fort Pike regions, then New Orleans can pull supplies overland directly from Fort Pike. I'm not sure if there is a restriction on the amount depending on MC in the regions, but it won't be completely blocked.

But even if the Fort Pike region is 100% under CS MC, but the Union still has at least 25% in the Iberville region, New Orleans will pull supplies from Fort Pike through Lake Pontchartrain, because the Fort Pike harbor exit-point into Lake Pontchartrain is not blocked.

The simplest solution is to set units with artillery which are entrenched at level 3 or above to bombard into Lake Pontchartrain. Then even if the Union has 25% or more MC in Iberville, they will not be able to pull supplies through Lake Pontchartrain and will be thus cut off completely.

I assume that this is the situation.

ltm6942
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Thu May 30, 2013 11:19 pm

I want all the features from the 1993 Blue and gray with all the new stuff....

I can live with out getting to fight the battles,,, But it makes me sad.....

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Thu May 30, 2013 11:47 pm

I agree with you on a lot of points, but I do want to point out a few things.

1. You can delay Corps movement so two Corps can arrive at the same time in a given region. Use the "Synchronize" move order with the two black arrows. Of course this only works for armies and Corps, so one improvement could be to Synchronize movement between non-Corps or non-Army forces.

2. In the above screenshot, the harbor to Ft. Pike is not blockaded. So it makes sense that the Union forces in Ft. Pike receive supply every turn. Additionally, if they have enough Military Control it should be possible for the Union Supplies to travel from Ft. Pike to New Orleans and supply the besieged force in New Orleans. I believe that if you blockade Ft. Pike harbor and if your military control is high in both Ft. Pike and New Orleans regions, then your opponent will run out of supply eventually. But first you need to blockade Ft. Pike harbor.

By the way, I haven't really been following the latest news of AACW 2. Did the developers ever say what their plans are for unit recruitment, or is this pure speculation? Personally I like the State-by-state recruitment of the game, but I know that many people supported AGEOD's newer style (like ROP or PON, where recruitment is region by region).

Edit: Sorry Captain Orso, I just saw that you made the same supply point. And I just realized that you were asking about Corps traveling from different regions, so disregard my other point about Synchronize move. I guess that pretty much makes my post pointless now :)

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Fri May 31, 2013 2:10 am

One point about Ft. Pike and naval supply. You need to blockade both harbors of Ft. Pike (as naval supply doesn't trace a supply route, all harbors can get supply, even when it doesn't make sense). I learned this the hard was as the CSA in a PBEM awhile ago. So it is almost impossible to blockade it, and thus blockade New Orleans properly.
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Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne
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Fri May 31, 2013 2:23 am

Gen. Monkey-Bear wrote:I agree with you on a lot of points, but I do want to point out a few things.

1. You can delay Corps movement so two Corps can arrive at the same time in a given region. Use the "Synchronize" move order with the two black arrows. Of course this only works for armies and Corps, so one improvement could be to Synchronize movement between non-Corps or non-Army forces.



This only works with an army in the region and all corps must also be in the same region. He's talking about moving 2 different corps from 2 different regions. There is no way to coordinate that currently.

As for unit recruitment, they're going to use the AJE/RUS method. I'm not looking forward to it...

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Fri May 31, 2013 4:54 am

Add my vote to the hope they do devise a method for the scroll bar list to not reset as we drag and drop a unit.
Some times I want to build 2 or 3 of a unit (supply wagons for an example) and it is more like work that pleasure to keep scrolling to the end to get to my horse and cart ...

Gen. Monkey-Bear
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Fri May 31, 2013 5:41 am

As for unit recruitment, they're going to use the AJE/RUS method. I'm not looking forward to it...


That's too bad, honestly. I like the current method as a good simulator for the reality of control belonging largely to the individual states and their governors, and they didn't always listen to Jeff Davis.

I guess the benefit is that it eliminates the problem of units recruited too close to the front being destroyed while under construction.

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Narwhal
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Fri May 31, 2013 3:22 pm

Not an AACW player, so how did the recruitment of units work in that game ?

The recent AGEOD games (RUS, AJE, ROP) have a mix of both systems : you can use EP to have units, or buy them - but not everywhere.

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Fri May 31, 2013 3:33 pm

The drag&drop reset will definitively be fixed for ACW2. Synchronizing body of troops not coming from the same region has never been done, partly because it was not deemed very realistic.
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Fri May 31, 2013 3:47 pm

Massi's artwork looks fantastic. I have great confidence in the Phil's and anyone else on their team to release a greatly improved, greatly playable game. Do not fret!
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Wraith
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Fri May 31, 2013 3:47 pm

Captain_Orso wrote:Just with regards to the siege of New Orleans; from what little I can see they are more than likely in full supply, so there is little reason for them to suffer greatly under the siege.

Fort Pike is pulling Naval Supply through its open harbor exit-point into Koney Island coastal region. If the Union has at least 25MC in the Iberville LA and Fort Pike regions, then New Orleans can pull supplies overland directly from Fort Pike. I'm not sure if there is a restriction on the amount depending on MC in the regions, but it won't be completely blocked.

But even if the Fort Pike region is 100% under CS MC, but the Union still has at least 25% in the Iberville region, New Orleans will pull supplies from Fort Pike through Lake Pontchartrain, because the Fort Pike harbor exit-point into Lake Pontchartrain is not blocked.

The simplest solution is to set units with artillery which are entrenched at level 3 or above to bombard into Lake Pontchartrain. Then even if the Union has 25% or more MC in Iberville, they will not be able to pull supplies through Lake Pontchartrain and will be thus cut off completely.

I assume that this is the situation.


Well, I went back and checked it, but I have 96% MC in Ft Pike and 95% in Iberville. For several turns in a row, I had Koney Island blocked with a US/UK task force. Regardless, I somehow never did any damage to the troops inside.

This is the basis of one of my complaints: that the mechanics aren't visible enough to the player to allow them to understand what they're doing wrong in order to make the proper plans.

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Wraith
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Fri May 31, 2013 3:54 pm

Pocus wrote:The drag&drop reset will definitively be fixed for ACW2. Synchronizing body of troops not coming from the same region has never been done, partly because it was not deemed very realistic.


Perfect... this is what I was waiting for...

If it wasn't very realistic, then there is no way in the system to allow for a historical (-ish) First Manassas, Chickamagua, or any other battle where units arrived from a distance.

There's also nothing to allow for the Seven Days' Battles, or a pursuit of enemy forces.

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Fri May 31, 2013 4:25 pm

If it is a corps of the same army and is in the next region it will still come to the battle. If forces are arriving at different times you could also play with the battle delays set to a higher value. I am pretty sure when one group attacks the rest will join in.

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Wraith
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Fri May 31, 2013 4:49 pm

That's not exactly where I was going with it. I was trying to say that there is no way to coordinate forces in the AOs; if you say, 'but oh, what about the communications difficulties? or weather or whatever?' I'd say that those are already reflected in the game! So why can't there be the coordination of giving them an objective date to be in the same location?

Going back to the supply bits: I think people were missing my overall point... it's not necessarily NOLA in particular, it was just the biggest sore that I've seen about the supply system. I couldn't trace their supply with enough certainty to interdict it however many turns ago that I could have. It really should be clearer. Not to mention that the logistical "tail" those forces would have needed to supply in those areas... both myself and Jerzul (my opponent) lived in New Orleans. It's a swamp, and while the river's pretty big, it's not that big. There's no way that they would have been able to run up the Mississippi under that many guns and not been shot to pieces.

Choctaw: we are already playing with the most restrictive battle delays.

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Fri May 31, 2013 8:50 pm

I don't know if I'm in the minority or not, but I wouldn't mind at all if they phased out the supply element of the game altogether. Sure, it's a nice feature for those trying to recreate historical and realistic limitations on their campaigns, but I just see it as unnecessary busy work. Building up units and planning a campaign shouldn't require a player to spend weeks and weeks slapping supply wagons together and stringing together depots all over the map. At that point the game turns into way too much micromanagement and turns a player from grand strategist into simple logistics officer.

At the very least I hope a supply gameplay option is available to limit the requirements... similar to the naval cohesion option currently available in the first game. A player just ends up spending way too much time worrying about supply limits when the game should be 'fun' and about building armies and engaging in military operations.

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Fri May 31, 2013 9:59 pm

Ah ! Never ! Organising and cutting supplies make 90% of the feel of AGEOD games.

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Fri May 31, 2013 10:56 pm

Yep attention to logistics is what makes these games great.

The current AACW is already an amazing game, AACW2 would just need a few tweaks IMO, and not a major facelift.

Things I'd consider prioritizing would be:

1) Unit recruitment. As things stand now, there is little disincentive from recruiting ALL your troops from convenient border states. AACW2 should consider doing away with national money and manpower pools, and giving each state it's own separate money and manpower pools from which to recruit their own units exclusively. And replacements as well.

2) Command structure. Players are quite naturally creating as large a division as possible, and continually reorganzing them to be as large as possible even after casualties are suffered, so as to allocate command points most efficiently. IRL however, generals generally didn't worry about such things, and divisions tended to be much smaller. Maybe consider making the CP cost of a division proportional to it's size? That way players arn't compelled to be constantly maxxing and reorganizing them.
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Command Points, Major Supply Depots, and Zone of Control Interceptions

Sat Jun 01, 2013 4:33 pm

Supply detailing is an absolute must.

One other issue I have thought needed to refine ACW is a far more rigorous command "inertia effects" for stacks of units that are "in the field" as opposed to in a city, port, fortress or depot. As it is now there is too much of a WW I style of occupy areas and entrench, when in fact most campaigns up until 1864 involved both sides sallying forth from their depot bases to campaign against the enemy. Witness Lee's moves north and what his army did after Antietam and Gettysburg: he took his army south into quarters in a major supply depot and refitted his entire command. He could do this and not be too concerned about what the Union was doing because he knew for a certainty the other side would be doing the same. This recovery period should be 6-8 weeks after a major battle. As it stands now your army is ready to march off again after 2-4 weeks and this is not realistic in many instances.

The ebb and flow of Army or stack activity as it stands is derived from activation penalties and delays in moving which is fine as far as it goes; however, I would like to see an Army command build up something like "Campaign Points" (CPs) by resting in a depot region X number of turns.

Any Army engaging in movement or combat with 0 CPs suffers significant reductions in combat strength, movement rate and MTSG capabilities. With CPs generated the command can launch an extended campaign without having to rejeuvenate in a depot. Say, 2 "Campaign Points" per turn saved resting in camp, and 2 expended out of camp per turn when moving into enemy controlled territory or engaging in any sort of combat. And so historically Lee sets out on his Gettysburg campaign beginning of June '63 with 8 CPs and over the course of 3 turns expends 6 CPs. After the failure of the offensive on the 3rd turn Lee is obliged to fall back on his depot in the Shenandoah south of Harper's Ferry, expending the last 2 of his available CPs. Meade's pursuing force is also out of CPs to push things further so both sides settle into their camps to regenerate.

CP recovery and expenditure tied into Army command capabilities.

Major and minor depots. A major depot (made by expending another 4 supply elements in an existing region with a depot) would give you full depot effects for recovering cohesion, supply and replacements for the area it is in and all adjacent areas occupied by friendly units. Thus Lee could hold the Rappahannock line, as could Grant later on east of Petersburg by having a major supply depot built in City Point on the James.

MTSG within a major supply radius (3 regions wide) automatic for subordinate Corps. Interception (see below) possible one region beyond this.

Finally, the last item high on my list would be some kind of reaction zone of control for Armies in depots, but also for regions adjacent to a major supply depot region. Clicking an interception button for any Army or Corps command in these areas will allow it to attempt to intercept any enemy force moving past its position; i.e. no more marching around Richmond for US Corps while a befuddled Lee simply sits and observes--Lee can and will intercept every time given his command rating--an army under McClellan less likely.

(I'll also post this over on the main AACW2 thread)

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Wraith
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Sat Jun 01, 2013 4:43 pm

jimwinsor wrote:Yep attention to logistics is what makes these games great.

The current AACW is already an amazing game, AACW2 would just need a few tweaks IMO, and not a major facelift.


Indeed, I find the logistics portion a key element to any wargame. But ensuring that the logistics is clear and easy to understand is so much more important--in fact, if it was clearer and more straightforward, I doubt Mr. Boomer would have such a bad taste in his mouth concerning it.

Besides, as GENA Bradley said: 'Amateurs study tactics. Professionals study logistics."

jimwinsor wrote:1) Unit recruitment. As things stand now, there is little disincentive from recruiting ALL your troops from convenient border states. AACW2 should consider doing away with national money and manpower pools, and giving each state it's own separate money and manpower pools from which to recruit their own units exclusively. And replacements as well.


And, for me, the main reason why I do not recruit them from anywhere else is that for most of the state's brigades are these silly (2-INF, 1-CAV) set-ups. As there isn't much in the way of benefit to having more than one or two in a division, I do my utmost to not recruit them. Which is why I was so strenuously arguing for a revised version of the current recruitment system, where units were recruited in each state by regiments (either infantry, cavalry, artillery, and special forces). Then, pre-divisions, you could stack a leader with a bunch of regiments to form brigades as needed on the field using the same system as how you can form brigades with two militia regiments! That way, the system is familiar, easier to understand and budget for, and probably easier on Athena anyways.

jimwinsor wrote:2) Command structure. Players are quite naturally creating as large a division as possible, and continually reorganzing them to be as large as possible even after casualties are suffered, so as to allocate command points most efficiently. IRL however, generals generally didn't worry about such things, and divisions tended to be much smaller. Maybe consider making the CP cost of a division proportional to it's size? That way players arn't compelled to be constantly maxxing and reorganizing them.


I think this would play into my previous point in this post, but in a suggestion to make the command structure more spread out. My suggestion would have been to make provinces smaller, make a limit to how many divisions each could support and then step back the corps and army headquarters... this would have the benefit of making it easier to have "realistic" situations such as the defeat in detail of the Union Army of the Shenandoah by Jackson in 61/62, where units were caught dispersed.

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Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne
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Sun Jun 02, 2013 12:00 am

The only thing that absolutely needs to be fixed is WW1 style combat. Especially before 1863. I'm not sure of the best way to do it. Fortunately, that's not my job. Other than that, I'm looking for a more ambiguous method to forming divisions/corps/armies. In other words, less formulaic/only one right way to do it.

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Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:26 am

Major and minor depots. A major depot (made by expending another 4 supply elements in an existing region with a depot) would give you full depot effects for recovering cohesion, supply and replacements for the area it is in and all adjacent areas occupied by friendly units. Thus Lee could hold the Rappahannock line, as could Grant later on east of Petersburg by having a major supply depot built in City Point on the James.


I like this idea of major and minor depots! Perhaps this will solve more problems than expected . . .

But on the subject of unit recruitment by state, there are already state force pools that restrict building. As it is, I think all that's necessary is a reduction in the border states' force pools, which should then replenish over time, ensuring continuous recruitment but only little by little.

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Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:51 am

Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne wrote:The only thing that absolutely needs to be fixed is WW1 style combat. Especially before 1863. I'm not sure of the best way to do it. Fortunately, that's not my job. Other than that, I'm looking for a more ambiguous method to forming divisions/corps/armies. In other words, less formulaic/only one right way to do it.


It can be tweaked rather effectively, even within current game engine. Just make '61, '62 units with less difference in their def and off fire, and prohibit level 3 and higher entrenchments until 63 (only lvl 2 possible). The units would naturally upgrade as the game progresses.

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Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:49 am

Ace wrote:It can be tweaked rather effectively, even within current game engine. Just make '61, '62 units with less difference in their def and off fire, and prohibit level 3 and higher entrenchments until 63 (only lvl 2 possible). The units would naturally upgrade as the game progresses.


Well, what about engaging shipping? If batteries can not entrench above level 2 you can not stop shipping or supply from moving on rivers. Building forts is expensive and especially the south can not afford to do it.

To a great extent the not being aggressive enough is the product of most commands being inactive most of the time.

Players may prefer to defend which is choice but inactive commanders contribute to that by a large margin. If you can not attack then what choice do you have but to defend?

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Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:36 pm

There's a moddable setting in GameLogic.opt called bmbMinEntrenchLevel - this value can be set to something lower than 4 to allow blocking of shipping and bombardment. That's what I did with an old mod of AACW that I made. I agree that entrenchments need to be lower until late in the war. Maybe there could be some rare exceptions, such as an event to simulate the heavy DC fortifications (at a cost, of course) but otherwise lvl 2 entrenchments are probably as high as they should go pre-1864, IMO.

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Mon Jun 03, 2013 5:17 pm

Gen. Monkey-Bear wrote:I like this idea of major and minor depots! Perhaps this will solve more problems than expected . . .


Exactly what I was hoping for--tweak the depot detailing and a number of issues could be addressed at the same time.

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Tue Jun 11, 2013 4:51 pm

jimwinsor wrote:Yep attention to logistics is what makes these games great.

The current AACW is already an amazing game, AACW2 would just need a few tweaks IMO, and not a major facelift.

Things I'd consider prioritizing would be:

1) Unit recruitment. As things stand now, there is little disincentive from recruiting ALL your troops from convenient border states. AACW2 should consider doing away with national money and manpower pools, and giving each state it's own separate money and manpower pools from which to recruit their own units exclusively. And replacements as well.

2) Command structure. Players are quite naturally creating as large a division as possible, and continually reorganzing them to be as large as possible even after casualties are suffered, so as to allocate command points most efficiently. IRL however, generals generally didn't worry about such things, and divisions tended to be much smaller. Maybe consider making the CP cost of a division proportional to it's size? That way players arn't compelled to be constantly maxxing and reorganizing them.


Some great ideas here guys, particularly Jim and Stauffenberg.

I think the best way to help with this game is to illustrate what is going on graphically with supply, ie an improvement to the overlay showing supply to show all supply lines including by river and sea (as in Unity of Command) would really help as would some visual indication that entrenched artillery or a fort is preventing naval supply to the other side. I think its the "under the hood" nature of supply and combat that makes it hard for new players in particular to assess why a particular outcome happened.

It is a great game though and I'm really confident Pocus and co will give us an even greater game! If the supply and battle results are more transparent then it will be an all time classic.

On to Richmond!
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Sat Jun 15, 2013 5:02 pm

Chuske wrote:Some great ideas here guys, particularly Jim and Stauffenberg.

I think the best way to help with this game is to illustrate what is going on graphically with supply, ie an improvement to the overlay showing supply to show all supply lines including by river and sea (as in Unity of Command) would really help as would some visual indication that entrenched artillery or a fort is preventing naval supply to the other side. I think its the "under the hood" nature of supply and combat that makes it hard for new players in particular to assess why a particular outcome happened.



Absolutely agree. I would only add that it is not just newcomers who remain mystified as to exactly what is going on with respect to supply, combat, and retreat dynamics in particular--it remains a riddle wrapped in a mystery tied up in a conundrum for players like myself with years playing AACW. :confused:
(and yes I know these items are detailed in various thoughtful posts by other grognards far more knowledgeable than I concerning all the "under the hood" computations going on).

Combat in particular I would love to see unpacked with some sort of Combat Reader that renders the number-crunching into a plausible prose description of what happened. Right now it's like trying to put together cold clues at the scene of a crime you did not witness. :sherlock:

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Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:35 pm

oouch! 1024 mb graphic card 'minimum'? Please say it's not so :( . I know I need to upgrade but I was not expecting that high of a 'minimum' requirement.
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Sun Jun 30, 2013 7:23 pm

Ol' Choctaw wrote:Well, what about engaging shipping? If batteries can not entrench above level 2 you can not stop shipping or supply from moving on rivers. Building forts is expensive and especially the south can not afford to do it.

To a great extent the not being aggressive enough is the product of most commands being inactive most of the time.

Players may prefer to defend which is choice but inactive commanders contribute to that by a large margin. If you can not attack then what choice do you have but to defend?


If one cannot attack, then one must either manoevre or defend. Just because you have terrible commanders cannot mean you cannot use them as a dump reserve controlling important sectors of the map as a convenient reserve. Don't mean to troll, but I find there is far more use for inactive commanders than just sitting up at the front. Just get them to the spot you would like to not lose and make sure to swing a proper force by if your confederate opponent tries to sweep your rear.

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