aariediger
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How to cut off and destroy an enemy force

Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:54 am

Recently in a PBEM game, a union division ran down and captured an un-garrisoned Nashville. I quickly sent a corps north of the Tennessee River, and attacked them from Gallatin. Somehow, they avoided the battle altogether and withdrew across the river into Gallatin, where the attack came from!

Here’s another example, against Athena. A confederate division had been moving east from Manassas, chased by Grant and close to 50,000 men. They had been pushed into Northumberland, the eastern tip of the peninsula just north of Tappahannock. The only adjacent region was Westmoreland, where Grant’s force sat. There was no other exit other than by boat, which I had blockaded. Grant attacked, defeated the rebels, and they simply retreated through him! Now the tables were turned, and Grant’s force was the one with nowhere to go, while the rebels sat on the only exit.

I understand that the minimum Military control for retreating has been lowered to 0%, so now about the only way to lose entire corps sized forces are starvation, failed amphibious landings, surrenders in siege situations, or an assault on units in a structure. So if your opponent leaves a large number of troops in position to get cut off, how should you go about making him pay for it?

I know that about the only force to be cut off and forced to surrender in the field was the AoNV in the Appomattox Campaign. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened elsewhere. Just look at what could have happened after Antietam and Gettysburg. There is a reason that McClellan, Joe Johnston, and Halleck were so cautious; so that wouldn’t happen to them. Now there are no consequences for doing stupid things and putting your army in a bad spot. Because there is no risk of being destroyed, there is no reason to move slowly and guard your flanks, and no reward for enveloping a force brashly or foolishly advanced.

Right now, I don’t think you should attack a force that you’ve surrounded, as it looks like they’ll just retreat through your force and escape! Should you instead remain on the defensive and wait for them to starve? I believe if they try to breakout and fail, an attacker must retreat to the space they came from, and therefore can’t retreat “through” you. Unless there is some way to use the corps structure and MTSG to prevent a retreat into the space where the attack came from, I can’t think of any other solution. Does anyone else know if there is one?

Gen. Monkey-Bear
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Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:35 am

I think the best solution as you mentioned is to wait a few turns for the enemy to starve, then attack. That way their force will lose supply and cohesion first. I know it is a rule that should be improved, but for now this seems to work for me.

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Captain_Orso
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Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:56 pm

I think the first thing you have to do is lose the idea that you can simply wipe-out a force. Historically this is a rare situation. Even Hood's battered army managed to get away and Lee was forced to surrender at Appomattox mainly because he had NO supplies and was trying to to get some while trying to escape vs 4x the forces of well-supplied Union corps; it just wasn't possible.

In your first example you are advancing from Gallatin and the enemy is advancing on Gallatin. You both are crossing the river in opposite directions at the same time. While crossing a river, especially a major river, as it is while landing an invasion, the chances of engaging the enemy with the crossing/invading force is greatly limited until the crossing/landing is completed.

In the second example, depending on cohesion, supply, speed, amount of cavalry, etc. an enemy force can avoid or limit combat. With only one region into which to retreat, if you've left that region empty your enemy is free to go there. If you have enough forced to both advance into Northumberland and leave a blocking force in Westumberland when the enemy retreats into Westumberland they must go to offensive posture because of their lack of MC in that region (unless they are in passive posture). Thus they will probably attack your blocking force in Westumberland. If they are forced to retreat again the choice of retreat between Northumberland and Stafford (to the west of Westumberland) will probably fall on Northumberland, if they still have any MC there. Thus if forced back into Northumberland they get hit again from the force attacking into Northumberland, especially if you order that force to intercept the enemy, they will likely follow the enemy where ever they go. Once you get this ping-pong going the enemy cohesion will drop quickly and they will likely be smashed up pretty badly. In this fashion you can wipe out an enemy force, but don't expect it to take just one turn.

Also note, that if the South has any riverine transport capacity and there is a supply source anywhere available for Northumberland, they will likely get supplies. Supply-pathing is extremely resilient.

Think strategically not tactically. You want to gain control over territory to limit your enemies movement and communications (supply) while maintaining your own.

Also remember that the regions are large. Even large forces under the right conditions can avoid each other if at least one is inclined to do so even if they are "passing" each other in each entering the other's region.

John Schilling
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Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:23 pm

I've mentioned before that this one is pretty much a game-breaker for me now; I've put AACW away until AACW2 comes out, and I won't be buying AACW2 unless early reviews confirm that the problem is gone.

But if you want to keep trying, here's what I find "works".

1. As you note, starvation. But this typically involves tying down a large force for several months; the trapped enemy typically has his choice of half a dozen or so potential escape routes; he only has to break through one, you have to guard them all. And he'll likely have a month's supply on hand even if wasn't travelling with supply wagons and isn't holed up around a depot or city.

2. If each surrounding region is occupied by a substantial blocking force in addition to the attack force, the trapped enemy may be unable to retreat. This again requires a massive commitment of troops, though I haven't systematically explored just how big the static blocking forces have to be. Also a coordination problem if you are planning the attack to occur on the same turn that the forces move into position.

You do raise an interesting point that MTSG might be used to enhance the performance of otherwise-inadequate blocking forces; I'm not sure how the game engine will handle that. Will the retreat be blocked, will the MTSG corps engage the retreating force in a second battle, or will MTSG not be triggered by a retreat?

3. Give the enemy a single safe retreat path that leads in a very inconvenient direction for him, e.g. into some muddy mountains isolated from anything important. Won't destroy him, but maybe having him out of the way for a month will let you do something equally rewarding.

4. Turn the bug into a feature, and exploit it for your own offensive advantage. Push the enemy out of your way instead of destroying him (which you can't do), then race to seize strategic towns and supply sources/depots. You'll likely capture enough supplies to hold out for a good while, and the enemy will have to pull a hefty force back from the front to deal with you. And when he eventually does succeed, you simply teleport to safety. Now you've got a large force in the enemy rear, and a weak spot at the front, so see if you can grab two key cities on the next iteration...

And you can combine these. Give the enemy a single safe retreat path onto, say, a peninsula. Then detach a small blocking force to besiege him until he starves, and advance the rest of your troops to whatever key city is left unguarded now that you've neutralized his main army in the area.


But all of this turns what is supposed to be a reasonably accurate simulation of the deadliest war in American history, into a strange, bloodless game of maneuver with the often perverse objective of carefully trying not to destroy the enemy lest he simply teleport to someplace more troublesome. I can imagine an intellectually stimulating game along those lines, but it suffers badly for being bundled with a simulation of the American Civil War.

John Schilling
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Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:55 pm

Captain_Orso wrote:Think strategically not tactically. You want to gain control over territory to limit your enemies movement and communications (supply) while maintaining your own.

Also remember that the regions are large. Even large forces under the right conditions can avoid each other if at least one is inclined to do so even if they are "passing" each other in each entering the other's region.


Think strategically? As I recall, the strategy that actually won the American Civil war was founded on U.S. Grant's recognition that "Objective: Destroy the Army of Northern Virginia" was more important than "Objective: Richmond", or any other geographic matter - except insofar as geographic constraints could be used to pin down Lee for his eventual destruction. Seems to have worked pretty well for Grant, and I'd like to see it possible to repeat or even improve on that performance in the game.

You are correct that it is possible for forces to "pass in the night", but that generally requires that both forces be trying to evade combat. More to the point, it does require that, whether by accident or design, combat actually be evaded. In AACW, we are seeing forces that are engaged in combat, are defeated in combat, "retreating" through the attacker and into the enemy's rear.

That, should not happen. There are many ways a battle can end, many ways a defeated enemy can avoid total destruction, but even a marginally competent commander of a victorious army can block the one where the enemy "retreats" into his rear. And if he was more than marginally competent, if he really does block off all the other paths of retreat, then yes, the enemy force really is destroyed.

You are correct that this sort of thing is rare in history. It is rare not because it does not work, but because it does work, very effectively. And with real military commanders being far more conservative than the average wargamer, they take great pains to never put their forces in a position where this could be done to them unless they have no choice. Or, occasionally, when the prize is very great and the enemy is reasonably believed to be unable to respond. It is rare, but it does happen.

The bit where a force which is actually defeated in battle, then teleports into the enemy rear, that is the thing that does not happen in reality. And it is a thing which, rather than being a rare oddity, now happens every single time in AACW when the defeated force is blocked from retreating to its own rear.

If you approach the game from the perspective that proper strategy is always to wage a war of maneuver and never to seek the actual destruction of an enemy army, you probably won't notice this, or be disturbed by it if you do. But that is not the only winning strategy in 19th-century warfare, and it is not the strategy that actually won the American Civil War. Good for you if you can make it work. Bad for the rest of us if your way is the only way, and I don't want to play that way any more.

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Philo32b
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Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:53 pm

aariediger wrote:I understand that the minimum Military control for retreating has been lowered to 0%, so now about the only way to lose entire corps sized forces are starvation, failed amphibious landings, surrenders in siege situations, or an assault on units in a structure. So if your opponent leaves a large number of troops in position to get cut off, how should you go about making him pay for it?


It appears that you can adjust the minimum control necessary to retreat into a region back up to 5% (or whatever value you would like). Navigate to the file for Ageod's American Civil War --> ACW --> Settings --> GameLogic.opt. Open GameLogic and search for "ctlAllowRetreat". Currently it is set for 0, change it to 5 (or whatever). Now if you have sealed off the retreat paths (their military control is less than 5%) they should be trapped there turn after turn while you destroy them.

On a related note, I would add more artillery and cavalry to the attacking force. Having a lot of artillery will kill more of their soldiers (as opposed to just making them retreat) and greatly reduce their cohesion, and having enough cavalry will kill them after combat is over in pursuit while they retreat. (I recently had a game where I inflicted 90 hits after combat from pursuit.) If you have to whack them for a couple of turns both of these may help rip them up.

aariediger
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Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:32 pm

I do use lots of cavalry and artillery. In the same PBEM game, Grant got past my front line and into my rear, capturing Corinth. He then ran into an Army HQ backed up by a full corps when he tried to take Memphis. Even though I was outnumbered about 35,000 to 26,000, I had more guns and shot them to pieces to the tune of 9,000 casualties. Forest's cavalry hit them up with another 37 hits upon retreat, or about another thousand or so. Now I'm trying to hold a line between Island number 10 and Ft. Donaldson, to keep him from fleeing north for supplies. I think pursuit could have some potential, but I believe the only way to get huge pursuit hits is to route the enemy and have a bunch of cavalry on hand. I had a half a division of cavalry under Forest.

I still think throwing a strong defensive ring around an isolated force Stalingrad style is the best way to go. Just let them starve to death. You don’t get any National Moral for doing that, but at least they don’t get away.

And as far as entire armies being cut off and destroyed, just look at the next major war that comes right after the civil war. The Eastern front in world war one provides two perfect examples, the Battle of Tannenberg, and the 2nd battle of Masurian Lakes. The events of these two campaigns resulted in the total destruction of two huge Russian armies, in excess of 300,000 men total. Together they knocked Russia out of the war. And there are examples of instances where this could have happened in the Civil War but didn’t. I mentioned two CSA examples in my original post, and here are two USA ones. If Grant doesn’t open the Cracker line, then Bragg could very well have bagged an entire army at Chattanooga. If Jackson hadn’t been shot down by his own men in the dark, he well could have taken United States Ford and destroyed Hooker’s army. These could have happened.

I think the minimum Military Control for retreats should be set to 1%. That way it is possible to destroy an entire corps sized force, but still very hard to do, as it was historically.

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Philo32b
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Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:56 am

Yes, 1% may be good. I might try it with my games and see if it has any bad consequences.

Philo32b wrote:Now if you have sealed off the retreat paths (their military control is less than 5%) they should be trapped there turn after turn while you destroy them.


I was being sloppy here--they will be perpetually trapped there only insofar as they won't retreat out of the area from combat, but of course they might sneak out with normal movement if combat takes too long to initiate at the start of the turn.

John Schilling
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Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:31 am

aariediger wrote:
And as far as entire armies being cut off and destroyed, just look at the next major war that comes right after the civil war. The Eastern front in world war one provides two perfect examples, the Battle of Tannenberg, and the 2nd battle of Masurian Lakes....

I think the minimum Military Control for retreats should be set to 1%. That way it is possible to destroy an entire corps sized force, but still very hard to do, as it was historically.



An example from a previous American war would be Burgoyne at Saratoga. A bold offensive thrust to do any gamer proud, failed because the "synchronized move" button really doesn't work when one army starts at Ticonderoga and the other in New York City. And, having advanced beyond his ability to secure his communications, Burgoyne's defeat did mean the total destruction of his army.

The very few ACW commanders to try anything similar (e.g. Sherman's March to the Sea), got away with it. But there was a good deal of luck involved in that, and for the most part the ACW's historic generals were careful not to try that sort of thing in the first place. If a player wishes to do so, the game mechanism has to be able to hand them the absolute defeat they are courting.


I'm not sure the difference between 1% and 5% makes much difference, or whether we should be looking for another mechanism altogether. But whatever the answer is, it needs to be wired into Athena II's logic as a strong inhibition against putting (or leaving) her armies in a position from which retreat can be easily interdicted, and there should be an informed consensus amongst PBEM players about how it will be handled in their games. As annoying as it is to face indestructible teleporting enemy armies, I am equally sympathetic to players upset that one of their own armies just died due to a poorly-documented rule or frustrated that Athena is handing them easy and unearned victories.

Personally, I don't think I ever had problems at 5%, but it shouldn't matter - we have time to figure out how to handle retreats properly for AACW2.

aariediger
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Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:12 am

If modding the retreat rules is as simple as Philo32b says, perhaps it could simply be an option that two PBEM players should choose before they start a game. Decide what % requirement you want (if any) and go from there. Actually, it's too bad you couldn't do that from the options screen, kind of like how we choose what attrition to use.

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Philo32b
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Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:47 pm

John Schilling wrote:I'm not sure the difference between 1% and 5% makes much difference, or whether we should be looking for another mechanism altogether. But whatever the answer is, it needs to be wired into Athena II's logic as a strong inhibition against putting (or leaving) her armies in a position from which retreat can be easily interdicted, and there should be an informed consensus amongst PBEM players about how it will be handled in their games.


There actually is a rule in place that gives the player some control over where the enemy retreats to. And since it is a rule that can be modded, we might be able to provide something like the additional mechanism that you are looking for.

First, here are all the retreat rules that can be modded which are all located at the same place as I mentioned in my previous post (the GameLogic.opt file):

[INDENT]ctlAllowRetreat = 0 // Minimum control to have in a region to allow a retreat into it
ctlRetreatAdjCity = 5 // Interest in retreating toward a region with a city (per level)
ctlRetreatAdjFort = 30 // Interest in retreating toward a region with a fort (per level)
ctlRetreatAdjDepot = 25 // Interest in retreating toward a region with a depot (per level)
ctlRetreatLandLink = 10 // Interest in retreating toward a region, value per land link
ctlRetreatPrevSubSpaceCoeffH = 250 // Coefficient applied to the interest if the region is the one where we are coming from
...

// Added September 22, 2012
cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU = 4 // retreat penalty (in interest pts) for each nmy SU in retreating region[/INDENT]

The rule about a "retreat penalty" for retreating into a region where enemy units are present (cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU) is the one that gives you some control on where the enemy army retreats. The penalty is against interest points in retreating into a certain region, so the more units you have stationed in a region the less likely the enemy will retreat there. But the default is pretty low compared to all the other factors (city/fort/depot, per level, in the region, for example). If we were to make cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU much higher, then you have a lot more control where the enemy retreats.

I don't think you would want to make cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU so high that it is the only consideration, though, because then you could make a 30,000 man army retreat to some godawful place simply because you have a single cavalry regiment posted at the one retreat route available to it. That's not realistic. But you might want to have it high enough that the presence of your units have a chance of pushing the enemy army to the godawful place by sending units to where you don't want the enemy to go. Then the enemy player will know that there is a threat to being reckless and they should not take it for granted that they will be safe if they do all the ahistorical things you describe, which seems to be the essence of the problem.

The "Coefficient applied to the interest if the region is the one where we are coming from" also looks like it has promise, to keep enemies from retreating where the attack is coming from. I'm not clear on how this rule interacts with the others, though. Perhaps someone could explain how the coefficient would work.

John Schilling
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Sun Feb 03, 2013 10:24 pm

Philo32b wrote:...
The rule about a "retreat penalty" for retreating into a region where enemy units are present (cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU) is the one that gives you some control on where the enemy army retreats. The penalty is against interest points in retreating into a certain region, so the more units you have stationed in a region the less likely the enemy will retreat there. But the default is pretty low compared to all the other factors (city/fort/depot, per level, in the region, for example). If we were to make cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU much higher, then you have a lot more control where the enemy retreats.

I don't think you would want to make cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU so high that it is the only consideration, though, because then you could make a 30,000 man army retreat to some godawful place simply because you have a single cavalry regiment posted at the one retreat route available to it. That's not realistic. But you might want to have it high enough that the presence of your units have a chance of pushing the enemy army to the godawful place by sending units to where you don't want the enemy to go. Then the enemy player will know that there is a threat to being reckless and they should not take it for granted that they will be safe if they do all the ahistorical things you describe, which seems to be the essence of the problem.

The "Coefficient applied to the interest if the region is the one where we are coming from" also looks like it has promise, to keep enemies from retreating where the attack is coming from. I'm not clear on how this rule interacts with the others, though. Perhaps someone could explain how the coefficient would work.



Hmm. I haven't seen many problems with how the game handles choice of retreats when there are multiple retreat paths open. It's mostly just the cases when there shouldn't be any retreat path at all and the game nonetheless insists that "teleport into the attacker's rear" is viable. It may not make any difference how far down we dial the "interest" in such a retreat; if the game engine sees that as the only possibility it will take in, when realistically it should not be retreating at all.

Also, I think that for purposes of assessing "cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU", the actual attacking units should be considered to be occupying the region(s) they entered the battlefield region from. If they aren't still in those regions at the instant of battle, they would certainly be occupying the local terrain the defeated enemy would need to cross to "retreat" in that direction, which should have approximately the same effect.

But there look to be quite a few levers we can fiddle with here. And looking forward to AACW2, I am now wondering if it might be best to combine them. Specifically, I am thinking about adding "surrender in the field" to be considered as a retreat path after every defeat, albeit one with a very low default interest. Certainly it did happen, independent of whether or not the nation as a whole was surrendering - Lee at Appomatox, Burgoyne at Saratoga, etc, and there doesn't seem to be a mechanism for it in the game right now.

So, low "interest" in surrendering, perhaps inversely proportional to cohesion and modified by leadership, supply status, and/or luck. And instead of a particular enemy control percentage being an absolute bar to retreat, just make it an interest modifier along with all the rest of the parameters we are considering. That way, the 30,000-man army that is temporarily dislodged from its position, will fight its way into weakly-held enemy territory rather than just giving up. At the other extreme, a force that is soundly defeated will surrender even if it could postpone the inevitable for a turn or two by retreating to the middle of nowhere (as opposed to e.g. inro a friendly city/depot). And the anomalies we are seeing where armies "retreat" into the attacker's rear could still happen, but only under exceptional circumstance - a defeated enemy that retains strong cohesion, well lead, facing an attacker that had only weakly controlled or occupied the region from which it attacked, could legitimately fight its way through the enemy lines to escape, but it should be very rare.

John Schilling
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Sun Feb 03, 2013 10:33 pm

Philo32b wrote:...
The rule about a "retreat penalty" for retreating into a region where enemy units are present (cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU) is the one that gives you some control on where the enemy army retreats. The penalty is against interest points in retreating into a certain region, so the more units you have stationed in a region the less likely the enemy will retreat there. But the default is pretty low compared to all the other factors (city/fort/depot, per level, in the region, for example). If we were to make cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU much higher, then you have a lot more control where the enemy retreats.

I don't think you would want to make cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU so high that it is the only consideration, though, because then you could make a 30,000 man army retreat to some godawful place simply because you have a single cavalry regiment posted at the one retreat route available to it. That's not realistic. But you might want to have it high enough that the presence of your units have a chance of pushing the enemy army to the godawful place by sending units to where you don't want the enemy to go. Then the enemy player will know that there is a threat to being reckless and they should not take it for granted that they will be safe if they do all the ahistorical things you describe, which seems to be the essence of the problem.

The "Coefficient applied to the interest if the region is the one where we are coming from" also looks like it has promise, to keep enemies from retreating where the attack is coming from. I'm not clear on how this rule interacts with the others, though. Perhaps someone could explain how the coefficient would work.



Hmm. I haven't seen many problems with how the game handles choice of retreats when there are multiple retreat paths open. It's mostly just the cases when there shouldn't be any retreat path at all and the game nonetheless insists that "teleport into the attacker's rear" is viable. It may not make any difference how far down we dial the "interest" in such a retreat; if the game engine sees that as the only possibility it will take in, when realistically it should not be retreating at all.

Also, I think that for purposes of assessing "cltRetPenaltyPerNmySU", the actual attacking units should be considered to be occupying the region(s) they entered the battlefield region from. If they aren't still in those regions at the instant of battle, they would certainly be occupying the local terrain the defeated enemy would need to cross to "retreat" in that direction, which should have approximately the same effect.

But there look to be quite a few levers we can fiddle with here. And looking forward to AACW2, I am now wondering if it might be best to combine them. Specifically, I am thinking about adding "surrender in the field" to be considered as a retreat path after every defeat, albeit one with a very low default interest. Certainly it did happen, independent of whether or not the nation as a whole was surrendering - Lee at Appomatox, Burgoyne at Saratoga, etc, and there doesn't seem to be a mechanism for it in the game right now.

So, low "interest" in surrendering, perhaps inversely proportional to cohesion and modified by leadership, supply status, and/or luck. And instead of a particular enemy control percentage being an absolute bar to retreat, just make it an interest modifier along with all the rest of the parameters we are considering. That way, the 30,000-man army that is temporarily dislodged from its position, will fight its way into weakly-held enemy territory rather than just giving up. At the other extreme, a force that is soundly defeated will surrender even if it could postpone the inevitable for a turn or two by retreating to the middle of nowhere (as opposed to e.g. inro a friendly city/depot). And the anomalies we are seeing where armies "retreat" into the attacker's rear could still happen, but only under exceptional circumstance - a defeated enemy that retains strong cohesion, well lead, facing an attacker that had only weakly controlled or occupied the region from which it attacked, could legitimately fight its way through the enemy lines to escape, but it should be very rare.

exar83
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Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:06 am

especially if you order that force to intercept the enemy,


how do you order your force to intercept?

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Captain_Orso
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Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:36 pm

exar83 wrote:how do you order your force to intercept?

You Drag-n-Drop*™ your moving stack on top of the target stack.

It also works to have one stack meet and join another friendly stack. But watch out for the path being created because the game engine works on the assumption that the target stack is not moving. If the target stack is moving your intercepting stack will follow the target stack to the target stack's destination, but depending on how both stacks are plotted to move it can create some strange movements. In general it works pretty well though.

I have also seen that small stacks can miss each other though. Imagine 4 regions, three regions across (A, B and C) with region D below region B so that they form a T. One stack is in A, a second is in C. You want both to meet up in B and move as one stack into D. In general this will work although the meet-up and integration will usually take a day or two extra. I have seen though that the stack moving from C misses the stack moving from A, over shoots region B landing in A still looking for its target stack. The target stack in the mean time has reached B and is moving down to D with the intercepting stack trying to catch up .

With intercepting an enemy stack your intercepting stack will dog after the target for as long as they have movement points and cohesion and can fight multiple battles with the target stack in several regions. This works especially well with 2 or more corp in adjacent regions attacking one target stack.

From my experience there is also some chance that the attacking stack(s) will lose detection with the target stack. In this case they will continue with any move plotted to beyond the location of the target stack. To do this once you have Drag-n-Dropped™ onto the target stack simply Drag-n-Dropped™ your attacking stack into the next region where you suspect that the target stack might move to. However if your attacking stack misses the target stack and the target stack move in a different direction as you suspected you might be sending your attacker in the opposite direction as the target actually moves.

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 5:17 am

aariediger wrote:And as far as entire armies being cut off and destroyed, just look at the next major war that comes right after the civil war. The Eastern front in world war one provides two perfect examples, the Battle of Tannenberg, and the 2nd battle of Masurian Lakes. The events of these two campaigns resulted in the total destruction of two huge Russian armies, in excess of 300,000 men total. Together they knocked Russia out of the war. And there are examples of instances where this could have happened in the Civil War but didn’t. I mentioned two CSA examples in my original post, and here are two USA ones. If Grant doesn’t open the Cracker line, then Bragg could very well have bagged an entire army at Chattanooga. If Jackson hadn’t been shot down by his own men in the dark, he well could have taken United States Ford and destroyed Hooker’s army. These could have happened.


You don't need to look that far forward to see very large armies being wiped out. In 1870 at the battle of Mars-la-tour the French army failed to stop the Germans from encircling them, and at Gravelotte they failed to break out. The army didn't surrender then and there, but was forced to retreat into Metz, and ultimately did surrender. And a few weeks later the army sent to relieve Metz was also surrounded and forced to surrender at Sedan. And that's only 5 years after the ACW, and each of MacMahon'a and Bazaine's armies was bigger than the Army of the Potomac . So It definitely was possible to wipe out a very big army in this era.

But I don't see the fact that I can't recreate Sedan as being a major issue in the game - it's more irksome than anything else. What is really annoying is that I can't even wipe out a brigade. Hopefully Philo's solution will let me recreate Ball's Bluff.

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:49 am

Thanks Orso. I have noticed you can drag and drop on an enemy but i've seen the problems you mention. I was hoping maybe there was some secret order I didn't know about that worked better. Thanks though.

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Jarkko
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Tue Feb 05, 2013 3:09 pm

Armies are easy to destroy in AACW when you have enough artillery *and* supplies present. Just do the repeated assaults (by feeding in more troops, like lone regiments if nothing else is available, day after day; some might call it an exploit, but to me it is a valid tactics if you intend to get one of the armies (yours or the opponents) destroyed) and the enemy army will be wiped out after they run out of men and/or ammo. Corps artillery (ie not the artillery in divisions) still does the killing in this game, but they need loads of ammo to keep on raining death during the repeated fights. In the PBEM game I just finished I succeeded to cause ~15k casualties to the fully dug-in fully commanded full-cohesion CSA troops during the initial battle of Manassass (the picture below has all but the last battle during which CSA lost a further 1200 troops).
Image

Let me repeat: This is achieved against a CSA army having basically every single advantage over the attackers (except number of men and artillery).

Later on caused a few more times similar massive scale losses to CSA by same modus operandi, except the results were more murdering for CSA as they didn't have the benefit of being in such good defensive position or benefitting from superior leaders anymore.

In fact, for USA especially (who can afford the repeated human waves) as long as you know what you are doing it is way too *EASY* to destroy full armies in AACW in one single turn. Hopefully that will be fixed in AACW2.
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Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:11 pm

I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that this is a valid tactic.

What is happening is you have a stable standoff situation. When you then send a small infantry unit into the region it goes into Offensive Posture and attacks the enemy forces.

[INDENT]My guess is the game looks at the forces on both sides and decides that the attack is valid, because if you did that without your friendly-army present your single regiment would simply turn-tail and run, although they will still likely get hit by enemy artillery and probably destroyed.[/INDENT]

Once that small unit is engaged the 'defending' army sees the results of battle on that small unit and goes on the offensive.

[INDENT]Even a stack in Defensive Posture can go to Offensive if its battle-opponent is routed or destroyed.[/INDENT]

Thus the enemy-army comes out of their protective emplacements and gets mauled by your artillery.

Take the next small unit and send them in to repeat.

In your example Jarkko I assume that McDowell's army entered Manassas on that turn since they are in Offensive Posture in all the battles, or the battle report shows Offensive Posture because the small unit that instigated the battle was switched to Offensive Posture when entering the region.

Why do I not think that this is a valid tactic? Because aside from the initial battle between McDowell's and Beauregard's armies the fighting was between Beauregard's army and a small insignificant unit. It makes no logical sense to me that Beauregard would order a general assault just because a single regiment tried to stick its nose into Beauregard's lines and subsequently got smacked, especially knowing that McDowell is standing there with twice as many troops as he has. But the game, as far as I can tell, is only looking at the initial contact with that small unit and disregarding the big-picture, or only registers that the battle (between this small unit and Beauregard's whole army) resulted in a route or destruction of that unit.

This nasty little tactic can force one side which only wants to defend into a senseless assault at the cost of a single regiment to the actual attacker. This seems very gamey to me.

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Jarkko
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Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:51 pm

Captain_Orso wrote:This seems very gamey to me.

Weeelll... and then we have the ultra-gamey raiding system, even more gamey loan and draft systems, etc. Besides, this "gamey" tactics is very easy to counter by players, while it is impossible to counter the raids, loans or drafts :(

Anyway, the point of my post was to mention it is completely untrue that you can't eliminate divisions, corps or armies in AACW; in fact I would say it is quite dishonest of the more experienced players to let newer players be in a belief total destruction of even full armies is something that doesn't regularily happen in the game. Low cohesion unsupplied enemies are very easy to destroy, because even well dug in enemies can be annihilated in one turn if the player is not prepared; the player can simply *not* be prepared for the opponents annihilation tactics if his stack is stranded alone behind enemy lines. If your stack gets cut off even for one turn, it takes a miracle (aka *very* bad command checks for the opponents stack-leaders) to save the lonely stack from destruction.
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Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:35 pm

As a mainly Union player the worst that's happened to me from raiding has been some disruption of strategic movement and then only because I was getting a bit sloppy.

With loans I guess you mean printing money. Unless I'm mistaken the federal government could just do that, print money, and flood the economy with it. It's not good for the economy and I don't do it often. But when I did it was because the difference in consequences between not being able to get out of a downward spiral of MN and income vs having inflation and paying a bit more for every unit for the rest of the game; for me it paid off.

Even when playing the South I try to be as conservative as possible with printing money compared some players who do it religiously until they have 30 to 50% inflation and the economy is kicking their butts.

Not being an economist I can't say what's gamey about it in the game other than maybe how easy it is.

Man-power and drafts could be reworked. The South should have an early war surplus in man-power. They turned away 3/4 of the volunteers at their first call because they couldn't use them yet.

But in the situation as you described with Beauregard and McDowell, I personally don't know what the CS player could really do to stop the situation, other than not be there with less artillery than the Union player can pull together.

In my few PBEM games we agreed not to use the tactic and when it once did happen by accident we turned back a turn to fix the situation.

But that's just my .016€ ;)

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:42 pm

So, more or less, my idea of cutting them off from supply does work, just not as I was expecting. By starving a force of ammunition, you can smash them to bits if they aren’t carrying tons of supply wagons. My questions would be:

1. What is the best way to do this?

2. Can a defending force draw supply out of a structure they’re in the same region as?

3. If not, this really doesn’t match up with the idea of isolating a force in hostile territory, as you could simply overrun armies that started the turn in full supply and in a good defensive location. That isn’t what I was going for at all.

I would like to have the ability to wipeout stacks left in a bad position, not the ability to wipeout stacks that are in good position but don’t have 32 supply wagons.

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Jarkko
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Wed Feb 06, 2013 6:40 am

Captain_Orso wrote:As a mainly Union player the worst that's happened to me from raiding has been some disruption of strategic movement and then only because I was getting a bit sloppy.

Sorry, that just doesn't float. A couple dozen militia brigades sent raiding to cut rail-lines is waaay too cheap, easy and effective in AACW. Without rails supplies doesn't flow, and your frontline troopers will be crushed with the human wave attacks. If you place huge numbers (to counter ~20 militia regiments sent raiding you need at least 100 regiments to hold your rail-linesystem integrated. I don't know what sort of opponents you have fought against, but against a competetive opponent you need to be bit more active than "not-sloppy" to prevent absolute disasters :)

With loans I guess you mean printing money. Unless I'm mistaken the federal government could just do that, print money, and flood the economy with it. It's not good for the economy and I don't do it often. But when I did it was because the difference in consequences between not being able to get out of a downward spiral of MN and income vs having inflation and paying a bit more for every unit for the rest of the game; for me it paid off.

Who cares what your inflation might be in 1865 if the war is over by the autumn 1862? There is no way to counter the humongous influx of money to the game early on, either you do it yourself too or you lose the game. It is very simple. Same with the huge influx of manpower early on, either you do it too or you lose the game. The economist in me might wonder how the heck the country would survive after the war, but the soldier in me asks who the heck cares about what happens after the war if we lose this in 18 months? Without the massive influx of money and manpower you can't have the huge garrisons behind the lines to counter the waves of raiders *and* sustain the human wave attacks at front.

AACW is won by Totale Krieg attitude and tactics learned from Korea and Vietnam Wars. You can roleplay it as a "gentlemans war", sure, but ACW wasn't a gentlemans war.

So, you can have home-rules not to use militia raiders, not to print money, not to draft, not to use human-wave attacks. But those where tools available for real in the time-period, and it is in my opinion quite stupid to outright ban them all as being "gamey". Historical options claimed to be gamey is slightly beyond my comprehension. However, in my opinion the *cost* and *ease* to use those tools are off the mark in AACW.
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Captain_Orso
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Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:20 am

Well, for one thing, it's true, I've never been overrun by militia units trying to disrupt my rail lines. Also, in the West I try to depend on the rivers for transporting supplies as much as possible, but I know that broken rail lines would be a PITA.

I've never faired well with the miserable early-war Union leadership and with the gamer's omniscience my strategies are based on not losing before the end of '62 and then using the good leadership to smash into the South.

Since the players have no real idea of what the enemy troop strengths are like before meeting them on the field, I do suppose that a CS strategy of 'borrow and build' to the max would leave me in the lurch. :(

Fins *sigh* ;)

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Jarkko
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Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:48 am

This definitively isn't the place or time to express my comments on things should be in AACW2, but I'll do that anyway (I am a crazy finn, after all ;) ).

The human wave
In AACW a single regiment arriving to the scene is enough to trigger a new combat. In history combats *did* trigger more than once in the span of the two week turns, but only when considerable reinforcements arrived. If in AACW2 would trigger a new combat during the turn only after the troops present have recieved big enough reinforcements (perhaps 25%, 33% or maybe 50% of the original troops manpower, or perhaps reinforcements who are at least strong enough as the opposing force would trigger combat?); "sustained" attacks would still be possible, but not on the level of AACW (if a side would be able to trigger more than two battles with this method, I think it would be a sign of absolute dominance already).

The drafts and money printing
Do not leave the player absolute control of things. Let the congress or senate or cabinet (or whatever) have a say; you know, people who are concerned how things will be after the war. Enable these (except call for volunteers) after crushing defeats or after NM drops low enough (ie the exact reverse of current system; now printing money and calling drafts drop NM, IMO it would be saner if you could use those options only after you have already fallen low enough and not recieve a NM hit after using these options).

Raiders
I think Pocus knows already how I think raiders should be handled. But here I go again, I'll partly quote myself from years back :)
In AACW it is pretty much impossible (or definitively *very* hard) to defend against raids (because of the two week turns, which I btw otherwise like for an ACW game, but for defending against raiders it is way too long -> the raiders could be on the other side of the map before you can react with the pursuiters). In the game War Between the States you give a cavalry commander the command to raid (or scout) a given area. After that it is pretty much up for the AI to handle where and how the raid goes. What is beautiful, if there is enemy cavalry patrolling in the neighbourhood, they will attempt to intercept and chase the raiders. No input from the player needed (except to give the strategic order for a cavalry to raid, and/or to be sure you have enough cavalry in the neighbourhood (preferably led by a good cavalry commander) to make the enemy raids fail.
Basically I would love to see in AACW2 you give a cavalry commander with cavalry the order to raid an area, which hopefully will destroy railroads, perhaps catch some supplies moving, and perhaps even cause some casualties to local recruits. Depending on how much hostile cavalry (and who their commander is) there is in the neighbourhood, the raiders would be intercepted/pursued by them. If the pursuiters are succesfull and the raiders fail, the raiders would then return back to from where they started, if the raidrs succeed railroads might be blown up, supplies captured and casulties caused, and the raid commander would get a chance to move the raiding force further (and the pursuiters get a new chance to intercept (and perhaps more cavalry from the neighbourhood will join the pursuiters)), and so on, until the raiders eventually fail and both raiders and pursuers return back to where they started from.
Essentially you as the player would give the raiders the first target, and if everything goes well for the raiders, they become practically a private force not directly under high command. It would feel like I would believe raids duriign ACW felt like; nobody never knows for sure where the raiders might hit, except perhaps the raid leader himself. Also, defending against raids is less of a micromanagement, you give cavalry to a good cavalry command, put him on patrol duty and hope he takes care of his job (ie stops and perhaps even destroys the raiders). And it would stop the use of lone militia regiments as raiders :)
This also would cut down on the unit density on the map. You wouldn't have to have a unit sitting in each city far behind the lines. The raiders might come and attempt to burn the place, but the local defenders are assumed to be there, even if there is no actual unit-counter on the map (and the pursuing cavalry will hopefully arrive to chase the raiders away).
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aariediger
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Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:09 am

Even though the final patch has been put out, I don’t think there’s anything in this game beyond fixing. It sounds like the minimum retreat rule can be modded to 1% to fix the retreats through the attacker.

Other things could be fixed too, if you get creative enough. I’m no programmer, but there’s things you could try. So, militia break all your rails? How about raising the amount of time it takes to brake rails? Or stop raiding all together by dropping the amount of supply they carry to one turns worth?

I would have to think more about how to make the bonds/taxes/money printing issues. I don’t know exactly how to model the effects of inflation from these, and also the hardships that would hit the general population. Perhaps we should up the inflation from printing up to 10% or so? As far as the effects on the population, I would suggest larger NM penalties to start. And perhaps a penalty to the call for volunteers? I know the South had spectacular inflation at the end, and I think they also they got most of their men through drafting too. Is it write a trigger that could do this?

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Thu Feb 07, 2013 5:35 am

Jarkko wrote:Sorry, that just doesn't float. A couple dozen militia brigades sent raiding to cut rail-lines is waaay too cheap, easy and effective in AACW. Without rails supplies doesn't flow, and your frontline troopers will be crushed with the human wave attacks. If you place huge numbers (to counter ~20 militia regiments sent raiding you need at least 100 regiments to hold your rail-linesystem integrated. I don't know what sort of opponents you have fought against, but against a competetive opponent you need to be bit more active than "not-sloppy" to prevent absolute disasters :)


I'm new at this game, so I'm hoping you can enlighten me on this. Why do you need 100 regiments to hold rail lines against 20 militia? In my naive view if you want to use 20 militia regiments to destroy rail you have two choices.
1) Four stacks of 5 regiments. These can obviously destroy rail in 4 provinces per turn. In this case I would think that one division plus a few brigades is all I need. My division ought to be able to beat up on one stack per turn. Not wipe it out, but destroy the cohesion to the point that they can't destroy rail any more. I then need a few brigades to rebuild the broken lines. I don't see how 4 rail breaks per turn (and actually 4 one turn, 3 next turn, 2 after that etc.) can interupt supply long enough for me to exhaust the supplies in my wagons.
2) 20 stacks of 1 regiment. You're still only going to get 4 sucessful rail breaks per turn as milita power is about 20 (and lower once they start taking cohesion hits). In this case I would think that a few powerful brigades can start wiping out the militia, and a few smaller brigades can fix the sucessful breaks. And given that the breaks will occur randomly it's hard to see how they can actually disrupt supplies in any sort of systematic way.

As I said I'm new at this. I'm trying to learn and would appreciate an explanation as to why I'm wrong.

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Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:38 am

Raids situation is now way better than in previous patches. You now have to have at least 3-4 cav regiments to be absolutely sure, you will succeed in cutting the rail. Such a large force is easier to catch, slower (if leaderless, the South is chronically short in leaders), and more expensive to field for the raider. The raid situation is currently good.
Your proposal (general theater raid and intercept orders is both good and realistic, but I suspect average turn play strategist wants to micromanage a lot, or he would otherwise play RTS). Printing money is way too powefull and has to be penalizes much more, both in NM and inflation. I wouldn't restrict the option to only low NM levels (it is the goverment, aka your, decision to do it or not, not the people decision, they will love you or hate you for it - drop in NM)

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Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:57 am

I just realized the discussion on this thread has strayed off a bit, so to return to the topic.
I have no problem for retreating to the zones with 0% MC. It is unrealistic that 50.000 troops would rather surrender than retreat to province just because local police in the province (aka MC) is from the opposite side. If you really want to trap a force, surround it with corps and division sized forces from every side, that is realistic. The issue that has to be resolved (maybe AACW2) is retreating through you. In realistic battle, it could have happen, but rarely. Here it is situation where it happens often.
The solution I use with current game rules, is to divide the stack, 2/3 to offense and 1/3 to prevent escape in the region I control. That is realistic to some extent (the encirclement has to be maintained). If those are 2 corps, they can even MSTG and all participate in both battles (the first one and the battle for the prevention of retreat).
Of course, in order for this to work, you have to be 2,5-3 times stronger, but that is exactly like in real battle, because the encircling force has to be larger (I am talking about 19th century warfare).

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Jarkko
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Thu Feb 07, 2013 9:36 am

orca wrote:I'm new at this game, so I'm hoping you can enlighten me on this. Why do you need 100 regiments to hold rail lines against 20 militia?

The militia swarm has 15 days free roam during which the militia swarm slips through the lines. As the turn opens up, the target of the swarm attack sees a horde of militia behind the lines; perhaps they aleardy took a harbour or un-garrisoned town here and there? The defender has no way to know where the swarm will hit next. Will they partly congromelate and assault red-red against single-rgiment garrisons? Will they all spread out taking un-garrisoned towns/harbours? Will they all congromelate and assault a bit stronger garrisoned depot-town? Will they give hoot about the towns/harbours and just all jump on rails and destroy as many key-junctions as they can in a kamikaze action?

As the defender against such a swarm raid you have to be ready to repel any sort of the raids. Ie garrison the un-garrisoned towns/harbours, place garrisons in key railroad junctions, bolster the defenses of depot-towns, make sure nothing is garrisoned just by a single militia regiment. You are free to count how many regiments you need to do all that; personally I have come to the conclusion a player needs about 100 regiments (including those already there as static garrisons) sitting behind lines to have a decent chance against the swarm raid.

The smart player does the swarm raid a turn or two before the main attack on the front begins (to stop supplies from flowing for the crucial turn when the human-wave assault attempts to annihilate an enemy stack; the doomed stack must be cut off from recieving ammo. As the target of the swarm raid you can then be pretty sure the attack is coming, are you going to send in your reinforcements to the front to prevent immediate annihilation of your frontlines, or are you going to send your troops on wild-goose chase for the raiders? What if the whole thing is just a bluff, and the main attack is actually going to happen in some other part of the front?

Like I said above, strategies learned from the Korean and Vietnam Wars :)
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