AGEOD’s ACW: Features 0-19

by Brett Schulte on December 16, 2006 · 0 comments

I’ve been wanting to put together some blog entries highlighting AGEOD’s new American Civil War game (AACW for short) for quite some time, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I recently came across a post over at comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical touting AGEOD’s earlier release “Birth of America”, covering the French & Indian War and the American Revolution. To make a long story short, I ended up deciding to purchase the game, but more importantly, I found a good way to let my readers get to know the upcoming Civil War game over a period of time. It seems that AGEOD’s lead developer “Pocus” is posting a new “feature” of AACW on the AGEOD Forums every few days until release early in 2007. Considering “Pocus” is already up to Feature #19, it’s safe to say I’ve missed a few posts!

This first post is going to be a bit of serious “catching up” through the first 19 posts, and then I hope to post links to and the content of each new “Feature” post that “Pocus” does over the next few months.

Feature #0: Soldiers

Troops are depicted down to the individual regiment and battery level with the basic manipulable unit being the brigade. These can be arranged into various needed organizations such as divisions, corps and armies, handled by a realistic yet easy to understand Command Chain rule. Naval units come in the form of warship squadrons and flotillas. You can also manage supply lines and wagons, water transport, forts and depots. Wide diversity of troop types is implemented, including: light infantry; sharpshooters, engineers, railroad and medics units, balloons, coastal and siege artillery; Rangers (Texan or not!) and irregulars; marines; militias; monitors and ironclads, ships of the line; frigates and transport flotillas, timberclads and cottonclads, etc. There are more than 250 different models of units in all. All are rated for various aspects such as offensive and defensive strength, morale, experience, cohesion, troop quality, geographical origin and movement type. Foreign units include the British, French, Indians and Mexicans.

Feature #1: Relegating Generals

One of the cool features of AACW is that you can remove any general from command, or name any general you want to any position… with a cost! You don’t really think that removing McClellan from the Army of Potomac could be done without some grinding of teeth! Players will have to take into account the political cost of removing an important general from a position he is eligible to hold. In contrast, if you name a general to command an army without seniority, thus bypassing more senior generals, be prepared to face some disgruntled officers!

Feature #2: More than 200 unit types

Because a game on the ACW is not just painting soldiers blue and grey, we have established a solid data base of units types to serve you! With more than two hundreds units types, you will have the pleasure to enlist Ohio regulars, partisans of the Shenandoah, Texas Rangers or cavalrymen from the deep south. Most of the units belong to a state and can get some bonuses if they fight at home. Also, each state can only provide a limited number of units at any given time (Force Pool is the term grognards would use) so don’t expect to levy a score of regiments in Florida (140.000 inhabitants in 1860, half being slaves) because it would be convenient to raise them here…

Feature #3: Levying units is no magical event!

One of the unique features of AACW is how units are recruited. In many games where you enlist units, they magically pop-up a few turns later on a map. Not so in AACW. For example, as soon as you start building an ironclad, it is deployed on the map with a bare hull, no engine or guns! Craftsmen and engineers will gradually complete the construction. However, prior to full completion you may still order her to set sail in an emergency situation (perhaps the enemy is fast approaching). Another example is the draft of regular regiments. They appear as soon as the next turn on the map, albeit untrained and cohesionless. If the enemy stumble upon them, don’t expect the poor boys to put up much of a fight! Rest assured though, militias and partisans may be mustered at a brisk pace. Each unit has a role in the war.

Feature #4: Raiding Enemy Towns

In AACW you can raid enemy towns, or if you prefer, keep the stockpile for yourself. This is accomplished easily with an order given to your units. Combine this with the fact that many units, such as cavalry and partisans, may withdraw from a fight with a good chance of success, you can make your enemy suffer by forcing him to defend his supply lines with a significant portion of his forces.

Feature #5: Return of the British?

And the French too (along with some Mexicans for added spice). AACW allows you play the big “what if” scenario: what if Great Britain and France had intervened on the Confederate side? This won’t be easy, in fact it will be rare and quite difficult, though definitely possible. And believe us, the face of the war changes drastically.

Feature #6: Scope of the game

The Game map is divided into more than 1500 regions, each being hand-drawn in normal and winter mode, for a whopping 120 millions pixels surface (handled dynamically by a caching technique), with a great diversity of terrain and climate as well as development/infrastructure items and levels. It includes the ability to use most of the major navigable rivers, which played a crucial role during the Civil War. The map covers all of the USA, from the Eastern seaboard to Indian Territory.

Scenarios: there are mainly two camps fighting each other (with possible foreign help) in the game’s yearly or monthly campaign scenarios or the multi-years campaigns, as follows:
• 1861 – First Manassas
• 1862 – Shiloh
• 1863 – Gettysburg
• 1864 – The Wilderness
• 1861 – Eastern Campaign
• 1862 – Western Campaign
• 1863 – Eastern Campaign
• 1863 – Western Campaign
• 1864 – Eastern Campaign
• 1861 – The Early Battles (2 theaters campaign)
• 1862 – The War expands (2 theaters campaign)
• 1863 – Year of Decision (2 theaters campaign)
• 1864 – The Union Onslaught (2 theaters campaign)
• 1865 – The Last Shots (2 theaters campaign)
• 1861-1865 – Eastern Campaign
• 1861-1865 – Western Campaign
• 1861-1865 – Full multi-theater Grand Campaign

Game turns correspond to one fortnight (15 days) of historical time. Scenarios vary from a few months to almost 5 years with players primarily controlling the military action of their nation.
This includes such activities as drafting forces, building forts and depots, sieges and blockades, raiding enemy cities, supply lines and rail network, building ironclads, raiding commerce, escaping blockade, and battles, both on land and at sea.

Troops are depicted down to the individual regiment and battery level with the basic manipulable unit being the brigade. These can be arranged into various needed organizations such as divisions, corps and armies, handled by a realistic yet easy to understand Command Chain rule. Naval units come in the form of warship squadrons and flotillas. You can also manage supply lines and wagons, water transport, forts and depots. Wide diversity of troop types is implemented, including: light infantry; sharpshooters, engineers, railroad and medics units, balloons, coastal and siege artillery; Rangers (Texan or not!) and irregulars; marines; militias; monitors and ironclads, ships of the line; frigates and transport flotillas, timberclads and cottonclads, etc. There are more than 250 different models of units in all. All are rated for various aspects such as offensive and defensive strength, morale, experience, cohesion, troop quality, geographical origin and movement type. Foreign units include the British, French, Indians and Mexicans.

A large array of historical leaders (over 300) is included, most feature unique abilities based on their historical performance. Over 50 different abilities are included, some examples of which are: Charismatic, Hated Occupier, Stealthy, Expert Seaman.

Population-based (i.e. political) aspects of the conflict (especially during the Grand Campaign) are taken into account, impacting militia and guerrilla levies, Foreign intervention, shifting loyalties, information gathering, reconnaissance, etc.

Feature #7: From armies down to regiments

AACW features the concept of Chain of Command (more details later, as this is one of the major feature of the game). It simply means that the units in the American Civil War were organized more and more efficiently, within a hierarchy. With just an handful of rules, you will be able to manipulate armies, corps and divisions, each providing advantages. You can still detach units to act independently, but this will be less optimal.

Armies HQ are formed around a general. The better he is, the more powerful the bonuses given to attached corps will be.

Corps are attached to specific armies (Army of Northern Virginia, army of the Ohio, etc.). Each one is commanded by a corp commander, and receives bonuses from the parent Army.

Divisions and brigades are the fighting bricks of the corps.

Regiments, artillery batteries and cavalry squadrons are the smallest element of AACW. They are integrated into divisions and brigades, and can’t be detached from them. You can still manipulate them indirectly by forming or splitting divisions into brigades.

Feature #8: The various kinds of movements

AACW features fully integrated rail and riverine transports which allows troops to smoothly combine the various movements types in the same turn. Improve your network by laying new rails and buying new locomotives. Lay waste to the enemy network by destroying rails. Use Riverine movement to surprise your opponent and block waterways or estuaries with forts, ironclads, gunboats and emplaced batteries.
Locomotives and riverine boats are handled by the Transport Pool, at the national level. You can expand this pool to allow more troops to be moved, or at the very least you will want to maintain it, as rolling stocks and locomotives suffer from wear and tear regularly.

But that’s not all, as you also have both ocean going ships, and shallow draft river or coastal ships. The Union will have most of these units, unless the Confederate player spend a significant part of his income into a naval strategy …

Feature #9: Supply Lines

The game portrays supply lines, which are used to transport food/water and ammo to your troops (2 supply types). This network benefits greatly from new depots built in strategic locations, but Supply Wagons will also be of great help to support your armies in hostile lands or if you want to stockpile for a major operation. As the North has a thriving economy it can produce great quantities of supplies. Use your riverine and rail pool to its best advantage by being near waterways or in a region with a railroad track. Beware though to protect your depots, as your enemy can take them and burn or capture the stockpile.

One of the coolest features of this system, is that supply transportation is automated thanks to a sophisticated algorithm, taking into account travel time, enemy presence and rail/river network. But if you are not totally satisfied by the supply stocks distribution, you still have the possibility of rearranging your supply wagons, which you manually control. We tried to provide you with the best of both worlds (a precise system, but without micro-management) and we hope this solution will please you.

Interesting detail: the number of barrels and crates displayed on your wagons act as an indicator of the current stock they have.

Stay tuned for screenshots!

Feature #10: Exhausted winner?

Each unit in the game has a Cohesion Level attached to it. Often you will experience that the opposing armies of a fierce fight (multi-days battles for example) will rout far before being destroyed, as mighty leviathians wounded but still alive. Wait a month or two, so that the morale of your units is restored and the replacements conscripts fill the ranks, and you are again ready to engage the enemy. Try to follow the opponent, and you will often find that you are in as nearly a bad shape as him! Welcome to the first major industrial war of mankind!

Feature #11: Promoting Generals

In AACW you can’t promote everybody as you wish. First the leader must have shown some capability in his current rank (unless he is one of the most seniors officers, they are always eligible to a new rank!), so don’t expect a loser or simply an unknown officer to be the next commander in chief. Also you will find that in some cases the newly promoted commander is not as good in the new rank as he was in his previous one (John Bell Hood for an historical example). Our database has a profile for each general and each rank he can attains, and often the abilities of the officer will vary from one rank to another.

Feature #12: Structures

Screenshots are soon coming, but in the meantime let’s talk about ‘flavor’ and ‘aesthetic’

The various structures of a region are regrouped in a single sprite in AACW, which has the notable property of showing exactly what is there in the region! This is mostly done for flavor, but it can also be useful to gather quickly some infos, like the presence of a depot, a big stockpile of ammunitions or a high level fortification. (rest assured, you have tooltips and special filters to get more infos on a specific detail).

Pre-war forts have their own sprite, and will only show if there is a stockpile or if an anchorage is there (this is the case most of the time). Teepees show indians village.

Cities are regrouped in something we name ‘cityscape’. Here you can see chimneys, showing that the city is producing war supply (heavy materials mostly used for ships and guns), or tents showing that there is a regular ‘income’ in conscripts from the city (this is seldomly the case, as in AACW you get conscripts by issuing call to volunteers and such, but more later ).

The first board show you some possibles variations of a cityscape (populations level don’t change during the war though). It dates a bit and some things have been refined. You can see the final and current version in the second board (comments are in french, but they are not needed to understand what is at hand I think).

Feature #13: Screenshots

First serie, enjoy!

Some notes on the map:

Many places and sprites are still to be replaced precisely, as some borders. There is also some typos on map and the duplicate town names will be removed (many clean-up as you see). Please do take in consideration that, you are seeing a work in progress and in no way the final version.

NOTE: Go to the AGEOD forums to see the screenshots for this one. I’ll have images in future blog entries.

Feature #14: National Morale, winning or losing

National Morale represents the will to fight of the nation. It is perhaps the most important parameter of your faction. Not only it conditions if you win or lose, but before this occurs it will alters significantly many of the game aspects for you!

Each scenario has a set of objectives: Richmond, Washington but also Vicksburg for example. When you conquer these objectives, your morale will raise, and the enemy’s one will fall.

National Morale directly affects the cohesion of your units which impacts on how fast they move and how well they fight.

How your economy output assets and currencies.

How many conscripts will answer the call or how interesting are some Special Faction Options are tied to the Morale Level. Don’t expect to get many volunteers if your morale starts to fall.

Last but not least, if your morale fall below a level, or if it goes above a level, you can instantly lose or win the scenario (or the campaign)! These levels can vary in the course of a scenario/Campaign what’s more, eg before the 1864 Election, the Union is particularly vulnerable to a morale loss.

Feature #15: Songs and Sounds

Compared to our first game, Birth of America, you will experience quite an upgrade in the sound department too.

First the soundtrack. No less than 19 different instrumental songs. All made by musicians of the 2nd South Carolina Band, professional artists well versed in the American Civil War on many aspects.

As you’ll be planning your moves, you’ll be hearing the ACW classics, recorded specially for AGEOD: When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Dixie’s Land, Bonnie Blue Flag, Battlecry of Freedom, Battle Hymn of the Republic, etc. etc.

But that’s not all. The game sounds are now made by Michael Huang (he is the man behind the sounds of Dominions I, II, III games, published by Shrapnelgames, and they are rather good). There is now 70 sounds in AACW, from infantry marching to mortar shelling fortifications, cavalry charges, sharpshooters skirmishing, shells landing in the sea, steamers on river, locomotives, etc.

With such an environment, we hope the gaming experience will be even more immersive.

Feature #16: Assets and currencies

Your nation produces various assets in order to sustain the war. The main ones are: Money, Conscripts and War Supplies.

Money is used to buy many things and pay for various options. Every unit or replacement has a cost in money, as most of the special options that the game offers (conscription or economic development for example), or even pressure to foreign countries (even if the main cost is in victory points and National Morale, when your pressure backfires! – more on this later). Money is produced in a few places, like your national capital, in financial places, or in California (gold mines), but you will mainly get money by using the Financial Options available to your nation.

Conscripts are the men drafted to fight for your Nation and are needed mainly for Infantry and Cavalry units, although other unit types need some too (the word is used generically because it also includes volunteers which are not technically conscripts). As with money, conscripts are not received on a regular basis (this is where we differ from all others games we believe), except in a few places like your capital, as a kind of ‘bonus’ production. Conscripts are in fact received by using one of the Drafting Options available to your nation.

Last but not least, War Supplies. War Supplies represent the heavy materials used during war. They will be mostly used for heavy ships and artillery but are also of use for infantry in lesser quantities to represent rifles and light equipment. Their production is more typical as you get them from your major cities and the output can be expanded if you invest a bit in the economy. Another possible source are the blockade runners for the South.

But let’s not forget two others precious assets: supplies and ammunition. They are produced in each region and are distributed through your supply lines to your depots or your troops.

Feature #17: Calling volunteers and Conscriptions

One cool feature of AACW is that most of your conscript points (meaning any men sent into service including volunteers) are not generated from a given income by your cities.

As most of you know, men enlisting in American Civil War regiments fluctuated wildly. Volunteers responded to the calls, massively at first (On to Richmond!) and when the true horror of the war (simulated by a fall of your National Morale) became apparent, the Union and Confederate governements had to switch to more drastic measures such as paying a bounty to people and even introducing conscription.

This is simulated (but abstracted a bit as you act at the national level, not state by state) by the Drafting Options page of the Ledger. You have several sets of choices.

First, the volunteers. You can get conscripts for free by issuing a call to arms, every 6 months. You can only expect to have a significant number of men if your morale is very high. The good thing is that it costs you nothing.

An alternate solution is that you can give a bounty to incentivise men to join the ranks. You have here 3 levels of bounty possible, costing more and more money but bringing more conscripts into your army. These solutions don’t appeal much to people but are still bearable for most of them so you will suffer a light penalty in National Morale.

Finally, conscription. Full or partial. Here you will get a massive number of men (depending on historical census), and don’t have to pay anything in money. But in introducing conscription you are basically saying to the population that the war is not exactly going as you expected. Therefore you will have to pay a cost in National Morale!

Feature #18: Riverine operations

AACW has features which allow the player to correctly simulate one of the major aspects of the Civil War: riverine operations.

First, land units can use Riverine Transport Points drawn from a global pool to move along uncontested rivers. These points represent mostly unarmed small steam boats and can be bought with money and war supplies (a generic term meaning manufactured heavy materials ).

The players also have individual Riverine Transport units at their disposal. These are even more versatile since you can use them for amphibious operations, with protection from gunboats or river ironclads if needed. Beware of forts and artilleries positions along river though, as they can sink these units rather easily. Some commanders have the unique traits of reducing this damage or even preventing it completely if they are really lucky.

But that’s not all! Because military operations won’t last long if supply doesn’t flow correctly, here too the riverine boats play a major role. The supply lines are able to run down rivers if you have enough points in your riverine pool, and your transport counter can even be converted at an anchorage into a supply depot! Another nice option is to keep them as ships and they will distribute what supplies they have aboard to nearby troops .

Feature #19: Partisans

Partisan activities, such as what the Union suffered from bushwackers in the Shenandoah Valley or from guerillas in Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee also play a part in AACW.

Partisans can appear in states where they were historically active if the enemy controls most of the territory but with too few troops. Spontaneous appearances of partisans, made up of small bands of men, will then occur in the wildest regions of the area. In game terms the units are small and not very fit to engage in open fights but have an excellent hiding capacity, can launch ambushes and move very fast, all without the need of a leader.

As partisans, they get heavily penalized if they leave their respective home states. You can use them to retake an enemy town, or most interestingly, to burn a depot or stockpile. You can keep them in hilly terrain or wilderness regions so that they remain hidden and then have them jump on unexpected supply wagons (transported by rail or moving by normal mean), thus crippling logistics assets at an opportune moment!

As the opponent of partisan attacks, you will have to patrol the area, engage the enemy (but regulars are penalized in wild terrain!) or at least guard important locations. Since partisans are very mobile, they can often escape a fight even if in the same region as an enemy, so be sure to bring fast units such as cavalry or rangers (if you have some to spare). They will do marvels in counter-insurgency operations!


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