One thing I've been finding that I sometimes forget to do since its not obviously required to play each turn is to take time to peruse and analyze available intelligence that the game and its reports provide. There is a wealth of information that can sometimes help making tactical decisions easier for a player that I gloss over in my haste to view the combat reports and get to the juicy stuff. I just forget to take the time to use them. And this game is "soooo" about savoring the nuances and taking the time to both understand, analyze and enjoy the clues provided. Yum!
Injun had asked me to do so over on his thread about estimating strengths. So I wanted to create a thread that can take a deeper look at intelligence and how one might use it. Feel free to add your own uses or add to/correct my misunderstandings. Ready?
Here I go.......(fumblin around).
Intellitip #1: Be aware of your opponents command structure.
Command structure is very important because it provides or denies the passing down of command bonuses from Army to Corps and Corps to Division which not only help in the upcoming fights themselves but also helps determine all important artillery frontages in clear and woods terrain. My thanks to Major Tom for his exhaustive research in this frontage field.
General Joe Johnston, in my PBEM example, was called upon by General Lee in late 1863 to effectively deal with a Yankee multi division incurison into sacred South Carolina's Charleston. Charleston had already fallen and Johnston was certain he could take it back for General Lee.
Borrowing Forrest's corps from Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, Albert Johnson's Army of the Deep South and various militia contingents in Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana, Johnston successfully put together an ad hoc force that is successfully forcing the Yankee back into the harbor. To do this it is effective to first gauge up the enemy force and its dispositions.
Anticipating a rapidly expanding beachhead, General Holmes has come up from Savannah to defend the Combahee River crossings. Facing him is an undetermined Union force lead by Federal General Clarke. Let's take a deeper look.
General Clarke's command seems to be headed Holmes way towards Savannah. Crittendon, a corps commander, is to his north in Branchville, SC. Howard, the Invasion commander is in Charleston. So exactly what is Clarke?
Well, he's NOT a corps. He’s only a brigadier and as lead commander is the senior leader present. The circled in red "Command" would have been stating "Corps" if he had been one. There are no other commanders listed below him, so he’s THE MAN. He has another general with him, Hanson, so appearances are that he’s an independent division with an extra chief of staff for no command point losses. Cool.
And no marching to the sound of the guns reinforcements for Clarke. Good.
Extra Yankees can screw things up.
And no additional supervision from a corps commander resulting in General Clarke's keeping his own stats. He will fight simply with his own stats, which for most of the Union brigadiers is a poor 3-1-1. I keep an intelligence spreadsheet on generals as the game unfolds which can help me assess in later turns my opposing generals. Sometimes all I have to work with is my memory of who an icon picture is. I get Butler and Burnside confused. What fun I’m havin!
We don't know what Clarke's strength is. But we do know that Clarke has a division structure. How? The other red circle shows Ross Brigade as a lead divisional component in parenthesis.
This is where Solo in the other thread said he likes to load a division first with his elite infantry to scare off potential attackers since the first loaded unit is shown as the lead divisional component and advertised. Cool using intelligence against an opponent.
When parenthesis show a sub unit, it is under command. And usually, if its not a cavalry unit, it is 95% of the time, a division. A lkeader with just his rank has no command. So now we’re pretty sure Clarke is leading a division with no Corps supervision. Great. That’s comforting to know the size and structure of the opposing force. (note for Injun: divison =~about 6,500 men)
We know a division can have a usual max of 18 elements without signal or balloon auxillaries. None of those are present. We see nothing else but a supply wagon train. Worst case for CSA: this is a division, on the march, non-rail, in a marsh, with supply. It may be tired since its marching in the marsh, but we have no strength numbers to confirm that.
Now divisions usually are configured with 2-8 artillery elements. I use 5 in my estimate usually. Additional artillery is usually listed when its outside a division. But, best case in the marsh, is that only four can fire (see Major Tom's discourse on frontages and terrain for that conclusion).
So Clarke is a simple division marching in the marsh with a maximum of 18 elements.
In a marsh, a maximum of 10 infantry elements and 4 support elements can both defend and attack.
That means if Holmes can catch Clarke in a fight they both will have the same size force. But wait….our intelligence and our knowledge combine to tell us more………
1. In a fight, units cycle in and out of the fight every hour. A supply wagon counts as a support (artillery) unit. Hence one of Clarke’s available artillery elements to fight will probably be a supply wagon which would reduce his available artillery support from four to three elements.
2. Holmes has an all sharpshooter force, thus giving him a good chance for first fire. Some commanders (certainly not Holmes) develop initiative advantages over the war that GIVE them tactical initiative (initiative listed on their general data card at over 10 when becoming experienced). The CSA is rife with them by this timeframe, late 1863. Now if I can keep a (larger than Clarke) proposed attack of Clarke going for several hours (all out attack ought to do it), and I have the initiative, I’ll have first offensive fire, possibly longer ranger fire and Clarke (because of his elements has limited reserves to cycle in. I can have plenty more. Tactical superiority. That means his units in a prolonged battle may potentially die while mine will take just casualties and probably much less than him if I structure my attack group well with plenty of longer ranged artillery. A 2-1 advantage in divsions and artillery should be enough. A 3-1 advantage would be a killer. Hey marsh ain’t so scary after all when you know the intelligence.
3. I know that when Forrest hits from the north (you can see his path orders, but not him, moving into Charleston), he should sweep his opposition from his path and the USA will be scurrying for the ports soon and an exit to the boats. Looking ahead to future turns maybe the ports should be my target. Isolated Yankees inland without supply are eash pickens. Aside: unsupplied Yankees don’t receive succor from Southern Belles do they, Aphrodite Mae ? This is getting juicier all the time for old Marsh Robert, huh?
4. If Holmes can load up on longer range artillery (20lbers, 10lbers or Columbiads, if present) I can start with first fire, at a longer range and maybe get two unanswered volleys in before receiving return fire. A round of two. Who needs a good dice roll. Cool. And Clarke could get stuck in the mud getting out. Clarke could get stuck having to fight.
Oh I’m glad my name’s not Clarke today.
So there you have the possiblities and opportunites tactical intelligence can deliver to us. When I don’t have all the answers I assume the worst ones…..e.g. in this case, that Clarke is rested and at full strength. Had intelligence provided a Clarke strength below 400 I would know that Clarke is damaged or fatigued, either of which is my favor. But I don’t know that right now so I assume full strength and rested.
And later, the rest of the story. Interested in the outcome, anyone?