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Ultimate General - Civil War


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Hehe, I actually played Gettysburg as the Confederates and won on the first day. Dear God, wasnt that a fight to clear Seminary hill.

 

 

One thing in favor of skirmishers/cavalry (the latter appear to, game mechanically, operate the same as the former when dismounted... no idea if historical or not) is that while they, at least in the early part of the war as simulated in the game, can't really do a lot of damage they seem to have a remarkable ability to shape the battlefield.

 

I've been repeatedly playing around with the second battle in the Union campaign where your forces start out outnumbered. You have a few skirmisher units and one carbine cav unit and I've had amazing success using them to slow down major Confederate approaches. In that battle there's a two-pronged push from the north from the Confederates. The western push is along a road and I've been placing skirmishers right along it with the cav further back in the forest. When regular inf push against the skirmishers they naturally displace and then I have the cav, dismounted, push in on the flank. A combined force of 400 men has been easily able to slow down a force 3-5x their size along that approach. Buys me time to move in my reinforcements.

 

I don't know the historical applicability of this approach but game-wise maybe I need to stop looking through the WoT-lense where everything is measured in damage. In some of the battles I've messed around with simply slowing down an enemy column before it gets to the battle can be huge.

 

You are right about Skirmishers and Cavalry. But bear in min,d you can achieve pretty much the same effect with detached skirmishers from your infantry brigades. Particularly if they are elite and have Enfields or better.

 

Ive read historically they didnt favour detachments much. But it did happen, and like in the Napoleonic war they proved useful. Not idea how much it was done in the Franco Prussian war, it would be interesting to find out.

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Restarted to min/max my guy after all. Maxed out politics and after the first two battles I'm halfway up that line. Will probably max it out and hit Organization (so I can actually field all those men, an issue I'm running into already) and finally Training (even keeping my vet 1st div at min strength replenished is bloody expensive).

 

After I run some errands will be hitting my first major battle with 1st Bull Run. Should be interesting as I have zero knowledge of these battles or how they really played out.

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1st Bull run is hilarious fun as the Confederates. If you time it just right, you can use the reinforcing Division to roll up the Union left (your right) and cause him thousands of casualties. Get that right, it makes the next few battles considerably easier, as well as adding to your equipment stockpile.

 

 

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1st Bull Run was a blast. Purposefully not reading up on how these play out. Took a long time to take the first two objectives in part because I took my crack division of vets and marched them along the edge of the map so the objective at the start on top of the hill was hit from three sides. That crack division was also along the avenue of retreat for the Confederates so slaughtered a lot of them as they fled (speaking of inflated casualty figures per further up I killed 10k Confederates in this battle whereas in the real one according to wiki it was like 1/5 that). Unfortunately that maneuver ate a lot of time so as the clock was winding down to take Henry Hill I basically charged with every infantry unit that was close thinking that was the end of the battle. Nope! A new timer pops up and now I'm facing Confederate reinforcements and half my army is out of position. :lol:

 

I ended up winning but lost a lot of men because of that charge. Honestly only won as well because the AI was obsessed with my scout cavalry running around the north of the map at the start. That led it to move a lot of men away from first objective on the hill. If it were a human player or on the hardest difficulty I would have likely easily lost that fight.

 

Still, this is a solid game so far. Right now it's easily in the 90/100 range with no glaring bugs or annoyances that I've noticed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

First minor annoyance with the game. Playing my second major battle, Shiloh, and it split up the flanks into seperate maps and battles for the first two phases. For the third phase it combined the two... resulting in the western flank of my second phase sandwiched between CS forces which would have never had happened if they just played both phases out on one big map (there's no way the CS forces could have got where they were if both phases played out at the same time)..

 

Oh well, so far it's still a solid game that's fairly brutal. In the last minor battle before Shiloh I was fighting with just my Army and lost 20% of my men. Ouch...

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Yeah, that sometimes catches you out. For the most part I think that idea of fighting one wing, the other wing, then all together broadly works. But there are exceptions clearly.

 

Im not playing it at the moment. My mistake was playing as the confederates, and by 1864 you are kinda on a hiding to nothing really. The early years are damn good fun though.

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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I've drastically cut down my gaming hours (I'm reading a lot more instead) but on my first day off of the week I let myself play like I used to. The plan was to get through the two minor battles and Shiloh but didn't quite finish it. This is by far the best gaming experience I've had since Skyrim. It's so tempting every day to log in and keep playing.

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Ran into minor annoyance #2 yesterday. I cheated and logged in a day early to finish Shiloh. Went back to a save just before my last issue above and made a minor adjustment to that one flank so that when the two maps combined that unit wouldn't have been annihilated from a situation that never would have occurred if everything was played on one big map. So I play out the combined fight and the game is telling me I need to fall back to Pittsburgh Landing... except I'm able to hold out where I am. I hold the original defensive position and simply obliterate the CS forces as they approach. Multiple artillery of mine have 1k+ kill counts. (I'm guessing the 2 minor battles you play that alter enemy characteristics have quite the impact. I was able to drive off 1-2 star enemy infantry formations with just 0-1 star friendly ones of my own supported by artillery.)

 

So the annoyance was the battle comes to an end, I figure I've won (haven't looked up what actually happens in the real battle yet) and then it transitions to... day 2? All my forces are now shoved way back into the Landing. Huh? I then go look up what really happened. So I'm supposed to win but not this easily apparently. I figured if you pulled off the unhistorical like I did in day 1 it simply would have ended the battle early. Guess not.

 

No biggie. Going to use the reinforcements I got to finish the fight since my own units are hurting (20% casualties so far). I still haven't maxed out Politics but at this stage (not sure how much of the campaign is left) I'm torn between working up towards veteran or weapon discounts. I was able to finally equip one of my vet units with good rifles for this fight but frankly it didn't seem that amazing. My veteran units don't seem all that powerful as well. Have had numerous times where they've been pushed out of a position I thought they should have been able to hold while a fresh unit does the opposite. Proper positioning seems far more important than what weapon a unit has or what their experience is.

Edited by Skywalkre
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You really dont see any major improvements in units till you get something like Springfield Rifles, or Harpers Ferry. Enfields are a major kick in the butt though.

 

I agree about proper positioning though, that doesnt make so much difference in what damage a unit gives, other than it makes a difference how long they are remaining in position to hand it out. In a good position its not unusual for a brigade to hand out 2 or 3 to 1 casualties on that which they take, particularly at high skill levels. But try doing it on featureless terrain....

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That one unit that I was able to give rifles to had the Springfield M1855s. It's hard to tell if it was the rifles that were lackluster or their positioning was unfortunate. They were on the far edge of one of my flanks and had contact early on but for most of the fight didn't do anything (I don't know if the AI adjusts where it wants to push or has a preset spot it focuses on... and I had no idea where they may go). Their kill count was decent by the end of day 1 but they also ended up farming a lot of kills off a lone CS inf unit that was out there before time ran out. Meanwhile, a fresh unit with the basic muskets that was at the center of the main late CS push performed just as well. They had the ultimate positioning going for them, though (top of a hill in full forest coverage).

 

One area where equipment has been very noticeable is artillery. The basic 6pdr Field sucks. All the smoothbores seem worthless (one of the supporting Union artillery had the 12pdr Napoleon and despite good positioning didn't do much either). The rifled ones, specifically the 10pdr Ordnance, are amazing*. About half my artillery has that and across the board got twice the kills or more compared to my 6pdr equipped units. I'd have swapped all my units over to the 10pdr but there simply aren't enough in the pipeline to support that**. That may also be why CS artillery doesn't seem that bad. I've only ever captured smoothbores off them (IF you were to put enough points into Recon you can tell during a fight what the enemy is equipped with but it seems a waste of points to get that high).

 

 

*Looking closer at kills listed on my units at the start of day 2 the disparity in my artillery from my original division drives home the point. One is a 9-gun 6pdr-equipped brigade that finished day 1 with just 700 kills. The other is a 6-gun 10pdr-equipped brigade that finished with over twice the kills. Both were effectively in the same spot all day and saw a lot of contact early on in the fight.

 

**A cool addition to the Reputation mechanic would be having the option to spend those points to increase the rate at which certain equipment, like the 10pdr in my case, are produced. It'd be a way to model the troops up front saying "screw those other guns, THIS IS THE ONE WE WANT!" and the subsequent response by the industrial base to support that.

Edited by Skywalkre
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I think the M1855's are crap. The next one up is better, M1859 I think? That and the Harpers are murderous.

 

12 pounder Napolean is pretty good, mainly at short to middle range. Their HE Frag is devastating in the right hands. The trick is to limit the guns to 12 to a battery. Anymore and if anything they are less effective. I could write a lot more about that, but there is a really first rate community guide on artillery that I cant better.

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1105446690

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Thanks for the link. I'm mostly trying to figure this out as I go but perused that article. Turns out what I'm sensing is accurate.

 

What I've been most curious about is how the strategic campaign works. I just finished Shiloh and ended up with this:

 

xYLIqD0.jpg

 

Since I know very little about the Civil War the text in the follow-up camp made it sound like maybe the war could be over soon? I was kicking myself because I was planning my points spent around a long-term strategy. So I did some googling on how the campaign works and from what little I've found it sounds like the campaign is simply all historical battles in order with the smaller skirmishes thrown in in-between. (Reinforces how... weak the campaign is since it doesn't account for massive, overwhelming victories like the one above.) Guess my strat will still work fine.

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My strat may have backfired on me. Up to Gaine's Mill and while my potential Army strength is 3 Corps (I haven't built the third yet) it's only letting me use 2 and I'm under the brigade allotment for one of them. I've maxed out Politics and had just started putting points in Training. Fully equipping out every man in the 2 Corps I have with veterans and even buying as many rifles as I can I'm still sitting on $400k I can't spend for the battle. Per the briefing before the battle I'll clearly have the tech/gear advantage while the CS forces will clearly have better quality troops.

 

Will be interesting to see how this goes (will start playing it tomorrow).

Edited by Skywalkre
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Played my next two major battles and I see how they keep the narrative the same in the campaign as in real life. In both I wasn't the main focus of whatever campaign was going on. I was the delaying force covering the retreat of the main army (which had failed). Simple approach and no real complaints.

 

Finally starting to run into issues in camp between battles. I have enough men, have upgraded weapons in about half my units (and all my arty)... I'm just running out of money. Between every battle now I basically get awfully close to 0 whereas for a while I was several hundred thousand in the positive. It's only 1862, too, and I'm maxed out in Politics (which boosts my rewards after battle). The future should be interesting...

 

All in all I'd still rate this game in the 90/100 range. Along the lines of what was said before having a real campaign option would be amazing but the development costs of something like that is probably far beyond the studio right now. Maybe in a few years?

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This may be better suited to the Military History forum, but the gaming ties are fairly big...

 

A big problem with games in general (be it Ultimate General or WoT) is the limitation and influence that maps impart on gameplay. Basically, in both, the extreme limitation of maneuver options heavily implacts how players play. In WoT, for example, bad players will often hug the side or rear of a map because it's 'safe'. Their situational awareness only has to be focused into very small areas (whereas on some maps the good players are the ones who are willing and capable of going into middle positions where in theory they need to be aware of every direction to survive). In games like Ultimate General you are often given maps so small your army stretches from one edge to the other. Again, your focus is so narrow there's a noticeable impact on decision making.

 

So what was interesting was I just finished a major battle in Ultimate General, Malvern Hill, where the last phase of the fight the map expanded into this huge zone where my army front was maybe a quarter the length of the map? The square footage my army took up probably wasn't even 5% of the map. In short, it was both amazing and terrifying because I felt so alone and isolated and for what felt like the first time in a gaming experience like this I was made painfully aware there's a lot more ground out there.

 

The instructions for the battle stated there was a chance I could be attacked from a far off approach nowhere near my line. As such I had to divert troops to observe major roads and crossings. No attack ever came from those directions and I don't know if it's because the AI chose not to or there was never really a possibility of that happening (there were some spotted enemy units but never enough in number to be a threat).

 

When I look up these battles on wiki after playing them, and the same applies to the battles I studied of the Napoleonic Wars (my first PC wargaming experience was Talonsoft's Waterloo), was that the fronts in these fights were basically connected and you never really had any sizeable force separate from this line.

 

So the question is... why is that the case? Were there ever these far off maneuvers in a battle in this era away from the main line? If not... why? My first theory is due to the limitations of C&C and human nature. Sending a unit far off to make such a maneuver means you won't be able to effectively communicate with them. That bit of human nature, the one where the players in WoT often take inferior positions to feel 'safe', likely also plays a part in real warfare. I imagine there's some psychological benefit to being tied in with every other unit in a visually and physical way.

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Played my next two major battles and I see how they keep the narrative the same in the campaign as in real life. In both I wasn't the main focus of whatever campaign was going on. I was the delaying force covering the retreat of the main army (which had failed). Simple approach and no real complaints.

 

Finally starting to run into issues in camp between battles. I have enough men, have upgraded weapons in about half my units (and all my arty)... I'm just running out of money. Between every battle now I basically get awfully close to 0 whereas for a while I was several hundred thousand in the positive. It's only 1862, too, and I'm maxed out in Politics (which boosts my rewards after battle). The future should be interesting...

 

All in all I'd still rate this game in the 90/100 range. Along the lines of what was said before having a real campaign option would be amazing but the development costs of something like that is probably far beyond the studio right now. Maybe in a few years?

 

You have made some good posts, and I dont have the time to address them right now. But it strikes me, you are probably making too many of your units veterans. I usually keep maybe 2 or 3 brigades at elite (more if and as when I have the resources for it) but keep the rest as cheap cannon fodder. Use them up first, and then flank with the elites, or use them in desperate death or glory operations. You can very easily make so many elite units, you use up all your money, and you have a massive stack of manpower you cant afford to use.

 

It really is fun isnt it? I really must spend some more time on it, ive been spending a lot of time on the DCS harrier at the moment, but I certainly will come back to it. The main limitation for me is the lack of multiplayer. To get that you have to buy Gettysburg, but it would be nice to have it as part of a full multiplayer campaign.

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A big problem with games in general (be it Ultimate General or WoT) is the limitation and influence that maps impart on gameplay.

 

Yes, the "safe flank" problem.

We tried to address this in Steel Beasts by duplicating the map in every direction, and the ability of mission designers to place units outside of map boundaries. That way you have, at least in principle, the means as a mission designer to put the player into a bigger context and to create threats on all flanks that may not actively attack him, but at least will take shots of opportunity if the player decides to always skirt the map edges.

Likewise, we added penalty zones that can be adjusted for the type of penalty ranging from very mild to severe, and how quickly they will be applied for venturing out of the designated battle area.

 

The fundamental problem is of course that terrain is either generated procedurally, or from geoinformation systems. The latter requires access to digital terrain databases and the tools to convert the data into your proprietary format that is tailored to deliver optimal performance. Typically these maps look less impressive (but can be huge). Or you have hand-made maps that come with a potentially very high level of detail, but since they are generated by human designers you have a direct relation between map size and the costs to generate such a map (which is quadratic, unfortunately).

So, in game design you tend to keep the map as small as can be justified, but what some game developers fail to appreciate is that the map size has a direct implication on your game design and the way how people will play it. Where the awareness exists (no doubt, wargame designers are very well aware of the issue) the question then is one of trade-offs. Do you want complete freedom of maneuver? Then you need to scale back the size of the force that the player is supposed to control, until it can realistically cover only a ninth of the mapped area. But most players like it big, so as you scale up the size of the formation/tactical level you want to hand over to the player (while keeping the maps as large as you can afford), you inevitably shrink the freedom of maneuver once that your force occupies more than the center square.

 

At the end of the day this is as much a question of what type of game you want to design vs what type of game you can afford to develop. Commercial considerations drive design decisions at least as much as artistic vision.

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I can remember reading articles in the war gaming press about the problems posed by map edges and their distortion of game play. Grant tried numerous times to get his armies pull off wide ranging maneuvers but it rarely worked, C&C limitations, weather, lack of maps, overly or not sufficiently aggressive commanders, and unanticipated moves by the southern armies all played a part in foiling his plans at one time or another.

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I think the C and C problem was the real issue there. If one remembers, even Napoleon had this problem controlling far flung armies. I seem to recall at Waterloo he had an Army corp entirely unemployed that might just have swung the battle. But it refused to march to the sound of the guns.

 

The Confederates at Gettysburg had their cavalry entirely off on its own operation unders Stuart, and remained uncommitted to battle on the first day. A point when it might just have swung the balance of the battle.

 

I dont think any Army really had this problem resolved till the advent of W/T. And there are comparatively few wargames (i can think of a series back in the 1980s) that manage the patient waiting for someone to respond to your commands via messenger, or even ignoring them entirely. If a wargame modelled that, it would probably be dismissed as a bug. :)

 

As far as Ultimate General, when replaying battles, they do seem to do different things, so I wouldnt dismiss those flanks as being irrelevant. Best to screen with skirmishers and mass where necessary.

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So I play the Union at the Battle of Shiloh. I win an absolutely heroic defensive battle, then go onto the offensive and retake all the victory points. Then with 20 minutes to go, the Confederate retake one of them, far too late for me to retake it. So I lose the entire battle. :D

 

This is a great game, but sometimes the design flaws drive you completely nuts.

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I'm going to skip the little intros before major battles now. For 2nd Bull Run it wanted me to spread out my smallish army fairly considerably for no apparent reason (historical, I guess, but made no sense given the size of the force I had) and that ended up costing me badly. From now on I'm just going to load in, look where the objective is, study the map, and go.

 

As for the flaws, yeah, they're there. I'm trying to keep it in context (smallish studio and the game was fairly cheap even when initially released) and viewing it that way it's an amazing value for the money. Compare that to another studio rolling in dough <cough>WG</cough> which can't get basic gameplay elements right in their product going on several years... :glare: Viewed that way UG:CW is a refreshing reminder of what you used to be able to expect from games and game studios.

Edited by Skywalkre
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A big problem with games in general (be it Ultimate General or WoT) is the limitation and influence that maps impart on gameplay.

 

Yes, the "safe flank" problem.

We tried to address this in Steel Beasts by duplicating the map in every direction, and the ability of mission designers to place units outside of map boundaries. That way you have, at least in principle, the means as a mission designer to put the player into a bigger context and to create threats on all flanks that may not actively attack him, but at least will take shots of opportunity if the player decides to always skirt the map edges.

Likewise, we added penalty zones that can be adjusted for the type of penalty ranging from very mild to severe, and how quickly they will be applied for venturing out of the designated battle area.

 

The fundamental problem is of course that terrain is either generated procedurally, or from geoinformation systems. The latter requires access to digital terrain databases and the tools to convert the data into your proprietary format that is tailored to deliver optimal performance. Typically these maps look less impressive (but can be huge). Or you have hand-made maps that come with a potentially very high level of detail, but since they are generated by human designers you have a direct relation between map size and the costs to generate such a map (which is quadratic, unfortunately).

So, in game design you tend to keep the map as small as can be justified, but what some game developers fail to appreciate is that the map size has a direct implication on your game design and the way how people will play it. Where the awareness exists (no doubt, wargame designers are very well aware of the issue) the question then is one of trade-offs. Do you want complete freedom of maneuver? Then you need to scale back the size of the force that the player is supposed to control, until it can realistically cover only a ninth of the mapped area. But most players like it big, so as you scale up the size of the formation/tactical level you want to hand over to the player (while keeping the maps as large as you can afford), you inevitably shrink the freedom of maneuver once that your force occupies more than the center square.

 

At the end of the day this is as much a question of what type of game you want to design vs what type of game you can afford to develop. Commercial considerations drive design decisions at least as much as artistic vision.

 

Forgot to say thanks for this response from the dev side.

 

The bit about the time it takes to do these maps sounds familiar. I think OE, back when they were still working on AW, made some comments about the vast amount of time it took to make maps (and when they ended up being poorly made all the extra work needed to fix them).

 

I'm curious how far away we are from really decent procedurally generated maps in some games. Combat Mission had some amazing random maps which were randomly generated and that's going on 20 years old. They wouldn't be good enough for modern games but I'm surprised at the lack of progress along those routes in the time since. Guessing many devs simply aren't looking at that option and investing the resources to further develop it?

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I mean my own personal perspective of map making (I did one for Steel Beasts, and have made a job out of doing it for trainsims for nigh on 6 years) there are digital mapping systems that can generate maps. But in many cases they end up a generic look, which somehow lack reality from what ive seen of them. They probably require a human input to make fixes and add heighted reality to them. Also, in many cases I think computer generated terrain probably puts in more detail than is always strictly necessary.

 

From trainsim, initially I was spending lots of time putting LOTS of detail in, when about 2 kilometres from the track you would never see it. And I was replicating terrain that was in real life completely empty, but in trainsim looked 'dead'. It was often a case of putting in heightened reality to create a parallax view whilst you move through the terrain, in some cases false, but as long as it looks genuine nobody really complains. I mean, if you were putting in war elephants then I guess people would notice, but...

 

You can see what I mean from this, this is one that I did.

 

Re Civil War, Ive noticed that playing the Union is different from the confederates. With the confederates you have to husband your resources, so it make sense with the limited manpower to have smaller numbers of units but max them out to elite, and make them as large as possible. With the Union, it makes more sense to have as many units as possible, even if they are 1000 men, and max the corps out. That gives you more breadth in manoeuvre, allowing you seemingly to exploit the limits of the Confederate line. Ive used this and so far had some success at Shiloh, Malvern Hill and Antietam with it.

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