This is a much belated response. First – thanks Charles for the great game! It doesn't look as impressive watching from the South's perspective, but I was very impressed by the evacuation of Fredricksburg and getting the corps at Petersburg out of harm's way by retreating into the city while a relief force came.
A few general comments:
1) Fog-of-war: Charles mentioned it a bit, but I don't think it fully comes through. Neither of us had played this scenario before, so we really didn't know where the other person's forces were. Banks came out of nowhere (i.e. New Orleans) for an amphibious landing. I could see Forrest at the start of the game, but I couldn't tell if he had a regiment (i.e. a glorified nuisance), a brigade (an actual nuisance), a half division (justifies some significant garrisons) or a full sized division (a serious threat). Similarly, at no point did I get a good read on the Texas forces under Smith, nor what was left at Camden (about a division, although it reads as two).
2) Loyalty: Most of the areas that start the game under Union control have over 50% loyalty to the North. This seems ... unrealistic. More significantly from a game perspective, it dramatically reduces visibility (creating fog-of-war along the entire Mississippi, most of Tennessee, and even a bit into Northern Virginia). That makes raiding harder, even with late game cavalry that can capture cities with less than 50% loyalty.
3) Supply: I think both sides start the game with more supply units than either player would usually build. I think this means that it is relatively easy to move an army off a supply base, especially if you have a rail line to manually shuffle supply wagons (I did a bit of manual shuffling of supply with Sherman's army on the way to Atlanta, but I hadn't quite exhausted the initial supply I had brought with me). On the other hand, the large supply stocks have not built up in the large cities yet. Especially with Richmond blockaded, I think that significantly reduced the supplies (and ammo) available to defend Virginia.
4) I'm not sure anyone pays much attention to the complexity rankings of the scenarios, but this one seems more complex, especially at the start. I think we both spend about 3 hours on our first turn just reorganizing our forces. I think it's great advantage though is that it is a relatively short, full map scenario that allows both players to use parts of the game they often wouldn't. There are a few 'copy editing' errors in the scenario – for example, the Union starts with two copies of John Newton and still has the ability to declare the blockade. Looking at the Southern files after the game, there seems to be a supply unit embedded in a division in Camden (which is probably why the forces for one division are spread out and look like two).
Moving now into a few specific comments, mostly in response to comments from Charles:
Charles mentioned that the full pay might have been a mistake in his first recruitment drive. My no pay was also a mistake, as I was heavily limited in manpower in the early turns (not that the union recruitment really mattered much in this game).
It occurs to me that the only battle I fought in Northern Virginia where Longstreet's artillery division was benefiting from 4+ entrenchments was likely the last battle at Richmond. Longstreet wasn't part of the first two battle and I'm not sure he was defending in entrenchments in the later battles. And even if he had MTSG, his artillery wouldn't have been in the trenches. My sense is that when defending it is more advantageous to have artillery already in all of the trenches, even if it's in a mixed division, rather than have it miss the battle or even MTSG and defend without the trench benefits. I don't think there's any particular reason to avoid using small artillery divisions, so the Army of Northern Virginia would have been better off with 3 or 4 smaller artillery division (assuming of course there were the leaders).
I think two of the Confederacies mistakes in this one occurred when trying to concentrate forces. I think the Army of Northern Virginia took it's greatest losses the turn it tried to concentrate in Petersburg, right after the first attack. I think Stuart, Rhodes and then Longstreet all arrived separately and lost, which in Rhodes case I think cost two divisions. Something similar almost happened the turn Sherman took Atlanta – the relief division from Charleston or Savannah moved through Atlanta after Sherman captured it and was lucky not to engage his army. The problem with instead concentrating behind the front lines and then moving a larger force up is that it would arrive later, perhaps too late in both cases.
If I have MTSG, my solution for sending reinforcements is to concentrate my forces one region out, and then have the corps that would arrive latest in the turn move into the target region with the rest of the force MTSG. It's not perfect, but it should get the whole force present for battle. I think Longstreet could have pulled that off in Petersburg. Rhodes and Stuart would have joined Hill in Manchester (Henrico), and when Longstreet attacked Sheridan's forces outside Petersburg he could have had Hill (with Stuart and Rhodes) MTSG and Ewell sortie (if he was up to it). It would have been bloody and of course it may still not have been enough (there were a lot of boys in blue).
As for DrPostman's comment that I was timid in my first thrust toward Atlanta, I had two reasons for that. One was that the union forces had a lot of understrength brigades. I think Sherman's army gained about 20%+ strength from filling many of those slots. The other (and how I got lucky catching some partisans in training) is that one of my early goals was to open the Knoxville railroad so that I could concentrate my forces between Virginia and Georgia (in the end, I only sent the small, 1 or 2 PWR ~700 Army of the Ohio along it, but that still gave me +700 PWR while taking Hoke's PWR 700 division out of Northern Virginia). So long as I was pinning Johnston's force, I was content. I only pushed along that line because the opportunity presented itself – Logan only took one day to enter the first mountainous region because he was delayed on his previous move and it would put me between two corps.
Also, because I wasn't intending to move aggressively on Atlanta, I didn't feel a need to try to attack Cleburne's corps directly – it was still well entrenched and my forces were dispersed enveloping it, meaning I would be relying on MTSG for most of my forces in any battle. I was not in a great position to attack while I was holding that flanking manoeuvre. And for all that Sherman captured Atlanta, it wasn't until Johnston tried to hold Atlanta that we had a battle that cost the South NM.
I think it would have been hard to use most of the cavalry forces more effectively – the Union started with significant garrisons at most significant cities, especially in the occupied South, and I was mostly relying on rivers for my supply lines. And while I will readily admit that I was glad to see Forrest bottled up in Mobile, it meant I waited to assemble a larger force before marching on it. On the other hand Geirson's raid on Montgomery didn't cost me very much, so a few raids like that might have been effective.
One small comment on the sieges of Beaumont, TX and Staunton, VA. Charles commented that he failed to blow the depot in Staunton. I also failed to destroy the depot in Beaumont. The depot auto-garrison though can destroy it's own depot once it has been released from damage during the siege. I ordered my auto-garrison to destroy the depot one turn and then surrender the next – deny the South control of the depot, but using the surrender option also saved me the NM loss from the forced surrender.
I think it's interesting that we both gathered a bunch of our Western forces that started scattered across the map. Charles concentrated his in Southern Texas while my Army of the West is most of what eventually pushed on Mobile. I think it's also interesting though that neither of those forces did much – in my case, because my generals kept locking in place. I admit I was wondering what was happening in Texas – I assumed though that nothing was happening there because my forces were slightly larger but not sufficiently large that I felt comfortable attacking when I couldn't see the enemy's strength. I admit though that I was expecting when Shelby and Wattie first disappeared that they were heading for the gold mines, so I have a few units there waiting for them. Probably still not enough to win though.
Charles did a good job blocking me in Alabama. Mobile was always my target, so I never tried to take my main army across the Tombigbee River but his forces there ensured I needed an adequate rearguard to protect my 'supply line' (this was one of the areas I struggled the most to keep my forces well supplied) before I could advance on Mobile, a target I had hoped would fall early before it could entrench.
Overall, an impressive game. Going into this I don't think either of us had any idea of how long in the game the Confederacy could last. It was fun to play a game with more fog-of-war an uncertainty than the standard starting where most players have a fairly good idea of their enemy's resources. It's a hard game to play as the South – most of your mistakes will probably be costly, whereas the North can probably recover from most mistakes, even if it takes a turn or two (I had a few mistakes in which region I sent units and to which general while assembling my army to attack Mobile, and it took me awhile to figure out it was worth replacing Curtis with MacPherson). I certainly learned from this game, so thanks for playing!
Currently writing: The Coming Fury
- an excessively detailed AAR on Union strategy