WASHINGTON, D.C., LATE APRIL--- This is an After Action Report for the 1861 full campaign with Kentucky versus VigaBrand. The first few turns are relatively uneventful. I'll be posting this some game months after the events.
The intent here is to share my first PBEM game. I had been playing the game for some years against the AI without success. This past winter I was finally able to defeat Athena. It wasn't just a normal defeat, it was a huge win.
That game set me on the path to seeking a PBEM game. Our house rules include limited raids, limited mobilizations. I'll get to those as they become an issue.
AACW was issued in 2007. It continues to intrigue me, though I see a new version is being discussed. There are many little things that happen and could happen.
There have been many good AARs over the years. I'll try to address aspects of the game that have been ignored by other AARs. I will try to tie together ideas I've read that work.
My hope is this will give you new light on this gem.
VigaBrand will be notified tonight that this first AAR report is online. Each was written at the time of the turn. I've reviewed them. We are currently entering the August turn of 1861. Even at this date there is sensitive information below. I've removed some of it. I'm confident that I'll survive any 'leaks'.
I invite VigaBrand to add his views to mine.
There was a technical glitch that caused us to restart the game. If you see an inconsistency, this is due to our first effort being trashed. For example, I did not use paper money in spring 1861, as discussed below.
RESULTS OF PREVIOUS TURN
A bit of a surprise: The South has not attacked Ft. Sumter yet. There are no land forces available to aid it at this point. Holding it would probably require a good division. But maybe I could throw a brigade at it in a few weeks, if it is still around. [Edit note: in the second game start the Ft was taken on the first turn]
The problem is that there is a significant shortage of units right now. That continues through summer. The few units I do have are poorly led, suffering significant command penalties. So, sacrificing a brigade at this point is not taken lightly. Just that one brigade could be all that stops a Southern attack on Washington.
In this first few turns two things were done. First, I [redacted by war censors. Even now, in August, these April moves are considered sensitive].
I dispatched the USS Cumberland and the Pocahontas to patrol over the horizon at Charleston, SC in the hope of catching Rebel shipping using 'closed' ports and not paying their port taxes. Information given to the Loyal forces in the area indicates there are units in the port that intend to ship contraband in the next few days.
The nation's rail and riverine networks were developed to or near their current max.
There are no units in the build pool at the moment. And, efforts to raise money on the markets will not be sufficient to purchase all the units I'd like. I'm holding off on those two choices for at least one more turn.
Generals were sent to Dallas, Tex., Arizona, California, Kansas, Colorado, Oregon, Cairo, Ill., Harper's Ferry, MD, Alexandria, Va., and Manassas, Va.
[More redacted information. Sorry]
As the time of Lincoln's inauguration neared, citizens conventions were held throughout the South to consider an act of cessation. However, no community fully supported the Union in the North, and the Confederacy in the South. In Lincoln's home state of Illinois local citizens took control of the Coles County Courthouse intending to create a government in support of the Confederacy. Northwest Virginia broke away from the rest of the state. Kansas was admitted to the Union to create a clear Republican majority in the Congress, yet battles there from disputes over the Kansas Nebraska Act continued.
Joe Johnston will be appearing next turn in the Strasburg Depot, although his forces will be very weak. A large army, composed in part of the Army of Northern Potomac, will appear in Richmond. This unit is a much more credible threat immediately. But I don't expect it to move much in the next month.
Another small force will begin to develop around Memphis.
The Pratt Street Riot is called the Pratt Street Massacre by persons sympathetic to the Southern cause. Maryland, a slave state whose northern border is the Mason- Dixon line, had only remained loyal to the Union due to the efforts of a slaveholding Unionist governor, Thomas Hicks, and a remarkable daughter of Maryland, Anna Ella Carroll.
FINANCING THE WAR
At the same time, I'll finally begin to be able to purchase some units. I'll order either Exceptional Taxes or 8 percent war bonds. Eventually I'll be using the proceeds to raise 445+ conscription points. I'll need more money next turn to fully exploit this mass of humanity.
I'll maintain the purchase of 10 rail points and five riverine points each turn, unless there is a crisis, for at least the next year. Unless I am over the max by more than ten percent. Then I'll give myself a break for a turn.
I'm purchasing replacements for a few units. My plan is to keep at least one replacement point in each unit type, except militias, for the next year. There will be a goal to maintain one replacement point for each 50 units on the map.
Militia receive event replacements and shouldn't need significant help.
There are no ocean going shipping available yet. There is some riverine units now. The Union riverine units are out numbered by the South in the first months. The slight edge by the South is always dangerous for the Northern player, but takes time to deal with. I'll be addressing this by adding a brig each turn to the Union navy.
It may be gamey to do this, however, I am going to use brigs to patrol the rivers. They pack a higher punch for the dollar and are much more versatile than the gunboats. They are able to sail on the ocean or the rivers and they are able to carry light loads. The downside is they must transit to the continental river system, which takes several turns. In any case, I can buy the limit, 34, I'll add at least a unit a turn with some assigned to the rivers and others to coastal defense.
As the need for the brigs on the oceans increases I'll need to replace them with gunboats. But this seems at least a year away at the moment.
There is a limit of 17 riverine transports available. These are not good buys for the Union, again the ocean going variety are cheaper and more modular. I want to develop ALL the ocean going transport for the North. I want to use it on the oceans. So, despite my interest in using the ocean units on the river system, I'll pass on that and build riverine transport for the rivers. I'll build two of these this turn, later aiming to build more ocean-going units.
Loyalties are one of those extras that seems to have no meaning for the North. I grant full civil liberties to the entire country, though I do order the detention of the Publisher of the Baltimore Sun following an incendiary article he allowed published.
Another feature of the game that the North has little need for is Industrialization. Unlike the South, supplies are not limited. Manpower and money are limits. No industrialization. Except to add capacity to the rail and riverine transport, I won't even look at this page again.
So, on game turn two, I've 240+ RxR points, 84+ Riverine points, I've ordered nine replacement points, about half each turn.
I've ordered two riverine transports and two brigs. There has been a call for volunteers paid for by 8 percent bonds and exceptional taxes.
The result is I'm $86K in the hole and have 577 in expected conscription points available next turn.
Paper money printing is the most expensive means of generating cash in the tool box. It increases prices by four percent, cost 2 morale points, and only gains $292K. In contrast, the exceptional tax causes $468K of collections and an increase in inflation of just one percent. The NM change is the same. By far, the most economic tool is the bonds. The 8 percent bonds cost 75 victory points and inflation of two percent. The victory points are almost a throw-away. In return the bonds return $390K.
My plan is to allow inflation to run a bit, but only to raise taxes as needed. All proceeds will be spent almost instantly.
So, returning to the $86K budget deficit. How should I resolve this? Using the paper money would allow me to begin an immediate buildup. I will need a much larger army to resist the South in this first year. The financial options do not reset till July 1.
The key things to get immediately are the longer term plans moving: Shipping, a naval defense and an adequate pool of reserves. I know I won't be able to do much with the army this year except defend. I'd like to take Manassas and defend Harper's Ferry. I may need to make a choice later about which is more valuable.
So, to address the deficit, for the moment, I'll order the exceptional tax, holding off on the bonds and the recruitment. We'll spend some money on the navy. I'll need to use my ability to raise troops by May 02. That will also be when I use the print money and the 8 percent bonds. I'll be able to repeat this entire effort nearly immediately, in late June as the recruitment options refresh then.
This plan is going to make me cash poor for the moment. I'll have plenty of troops, but no money. Based on just building a riverine force of maybe four additional riverine transports above the start, then a rail and riverine soft ability at its maximum, and maintaining that, and building the 34 brigs and it looks like 24 or so ocean-going transports, I'll be limping along for about a year or so with limited money, but an amazing amount of conscripts and infrastructure.
Some of these expenditures will be cut back as they meet their goals. For example, once rail is at maximum, there is no further need for rail points.
Still, to emphasize, even after I tap the printing press, cash is king.
A quick note on ocean-going transports. If they are posted to the shipping box the return breakeven is about 20 turns for cash. So, I want them out there generating money as soon as possible.
Actor John Wilkes Booth would embark on a national tour in 1860. Walt Whitman said of him “he would have flashes, passages, I thought of real genius.” It was a break-out year for the young thespian. In Montgomer, Ala. he had for the first time used his full name on stage handbills.
INFLATION IN THE GAME
Financing the war is among the key decisions for the Northern player. The use of the $3K option for raising troops, and the probable result of depending on printing money to finance training and equiping these troops lies at one end of the spectrum. On the other is relying on free and low-cost recruitment, no taxes and no bond sales.
I doubt any player would handcuff themselves to a policy of refusing any tax and any bond sales, of refusing to raise troops through offering bonuses.
But what about raising inflation and going for a huge army?
Inflation in the game raises prices. However inflation price increases are only applied once per game turn. They are not compound as in real life. So, if an item is priced at $10 and another at $100, a five percent increase in inflation will result in no increase in the $10 item, but the $100 item will increase to $105.
In modern language inflation is price increase over a period of time. However, in the game, inflation is over the 'benchmark' cost at the beginning of the game. And the inflation is levied immediately. 77NY, in a series of posts in 2009
noted that for the CSA, given certain assumptions, inflation was not worth paying attention to. “The CSA could generate enough cash to pay for 3,000+ regiments.” Growth of financial incentives through victory points “greatly outstrips inflation penalties over time.”
A simpler analysis of the inflation issue is presented here
by Ace in 2013.
There is a point at which, except for the effects on NM, further inflation can be balanced. One of the geeks with more time can determine this point, but I'm going to assume that somewhere between 55% and 60% inflation becomes stable, with increases being offset by decreases. That means that aiming for inflation of between 55-60 percent would allow some annual printing.
The issue is you need to balance all this with NM. The purchase of additional units needs to be balanced by better NM events. In other words, military victorys.
If Mississippi in her sovereign capacity decides to submit to the rule of an arrogant and sectional North, then I will sit me down as one upon whose brow the brand of degradation and infamy has been written, and bear my portion of the bitter trial. But if, on the other hand, Mississippi decides to resist the hands that would tarnish the bright star which represents her on the National Flag, then I will come at your bidding, whether by day or by night, and pluck that star from the galaxy and place it upon a banner of its own. I will plant it upon the crest of battle, and gathering around me the nucleus of Mississippi’s best and bravest, will welcome the invader to the harvest of death; and future generations will point to a small hillock upon our border, which will tell the reception with which the invader met upon our soil.
---Jefferson Davis speaking in Vicksburg, Miss., prior to the 1860 general election