This is a straightforward guide to the mechanics of playing Frank Hunter's American Civil War game.
In this game, you take the place of the president and his army commanders. You can order your forces to move over the map; but, as in real life, they have free will. Sometimes they will move as ordered; sometimes they will remain where they are; sometimes they will get it into their heads to do something completely different.
The actions described below can be performed in any order. Not all possible actions are described, only the main ones that you really need to know about.
Every first turn of the month
Every last turn of the month
Check your supplies
Select National, Supply/Cotton Transfers to see whether any region is short of supplies. On the first turn of each month, supplies are generated, and also expended on recruitment and weapons production. On other turns, supplies are compulsorily expended only on supporting military units in the field (each region supports units located in that region). If you want to, you can count up how many supplies are needed for this purpose by adding up the figures for each unit in Overviews, Army Overview. See also All about supplies.
Bear in mind that you may need to stockpile supplies in the summer to last you through the winter. This is particularly true for the Union, which has no cotton shipments to boost winter supplies.
Check leaders status
Select National, Leaders Status to see what leaders you have with political support for promotion. Then decide whether you want to promote any of them.
Leaders who take in part in battles sometimes increase their initiative or combat ratings; but leaders who are promoted often suffer reductions in their initiative or combat ratings. Bear this in mind. If you promote an average leader, he may become a poor one.
If you promote a corps leader to army leader, he remains in charge of his corps (unavailable to lead an army) until you replace him in that command with another corps leader, which you can do without penalty because he's now overqualified for his position. Once he's been removed from his old corps, you can then create a new army (Build Forces, New Army) and assign him to lead it.
If you promote a divisional leader to a corps leader, his division automatically becomes a corps and so you don't need to move him anywhere.
But there is a problem. When you promote a corps leader to army leader, it often happens that you have no inactive corps leaders (or no good ones) to take over his old corps. What to do?
Well, you could take any inactive divisional leader and promote him to corps leader. This works, but it's not usually a very good solution. You might lose some political points because he probably had no political support for promotion. Furthermore, he might not be a good corps leader.
Here's a more complicated solution:
- Promote the corps leader to army leader (National, Leaders Status, Promote).
- Choose a good, active divisional leader who has support for promotion. Use National, Leaders Status, Temp Remove to remove him from his division. There's no penalty for doing this.
- Once he's been Temp Removed, click his division and replace him with any inactive divisional leader.
- Once he's been replaced, promote him. Thus we avoid promoting his old division to a corps.
- Click the corps and replace the new army leader with the new corps leader.
- Create a new army and assign the new army leader to it.
Remember that, if you promote a divisional leader who's in command of a division, you'll automatically turn his division into a corps, and so he won't be available for other duties. The only way to avoid this is to ensure that the leader is not in command of any unit at the time of his promotion.
Give army orders
Right-click the hex on the map in which the army is located. Then click the name of the army to bring up the army orders box. Here you can set:
- The army base, where the army HQ is located. All units in the army take supplies from here, by default.
- The army objective. All units in the army will try to march towards it. They are more likely to do so if ordered to Advance.
- The combat stance: Withdraw, Defend, Advance, or Training.
Use Withdraw if you want units to avoid combat and retreat towards the army base,
Advance if you want them to advance towards the army objective,
and Defend if you want them to sit still.
If you select Training, some random brigades in the army may improve their quality rating
(Untrained, Trained, Veteran, Crack).
This is more likely if the army leader has a high Inspiration rating.
In other respects, Training is equivalent to Withdraw.
Withdraw seems to be equivalent to Defend for units already at the army base.
Units need an Advance order to capture a city.
Warning: once units are given an Advance order, they have a tendency to attack any target within range, regardless of movement orders. If you want a unit to move away from its supply base without attacking, using Defend and Forced March sometimes works.
- The march mode: Cautious, Normal, or Forced. This just affects speed of march. Forced march will make the troops arrive more tired, and they're more likely to lose stragglers.
- Supply priority: Subsistence, Standard, or High. Choose Subsistence if the army is in no danger of fighting this turn and hasn't been ordered to move. Choose High to give it the best possible chance in combat and fewest stragglers when moving. Otherwise choose Standard. Remember that higher levels of supply will cost you.
- Supply type: Encamped or Depot. Choose Encamped if the army is sitting still on its base or within one hex of it, otherwise Depot. Depot requires more supplies.
Give corps and division orders
I'll often refer to corps and divisions as “units”, because they're handled in exactly the same way. Units attached to an army generally don't need to be ordered separately, though they can be. To give orders to an unattached unit, right-click the hex in which the unit is located, and click on its name, then select Orders to bring up the orders box. Alternatively, you can click Overviews, Army Overview, and select from the list of all your units.
Here you can give some of the same orders that you can give to an army (see above). You can't select Training, which can be done only within an army; but there are several other things you can specify:
- Transfer brigades to or from the garrison of the city in which the unit is located. A unit can contain any number of brigades, but each leader is competent to handle only a limited number in battle (the number after “Command :”). The only way of moving brigades from one unit to another is by transferring them to a city garrison and then transferring them out again.
- Change the unit's supply city. Generally this should be the nearest city under your control.
- Change the unit's leader. Doing this generally incurs a political penalty unless the leader has too high a rank for the unit (e.g. an army commander in charge of a corps).
- Select a rail destination for the unit. This is active only if there is spare rail capacity (see National, Supply/Cotton Transfers). If so, and if the railway line is entirely controlled by your side, then the unit will always move as ordered.
- Change the army membership of the unit. It may be attached to any of your existing armies, or it may be Independent. Note that army commanders have a limit to the number of units they can handle. Bear in mind also that all units of an army will tend to move towards the army objective, so it's probably not sensible to attach units to an army unless they're all defending or attacking the same city.
- The View Brigades button brings up another window with a detailed list of the unit's brigades, showing the name, type, quality, strength (number of men), any reinforcements available, and type of weapon. If reinforcements are available, you can click the box to top up that brigade to full strength. You can also click the Weapon button to issue the brigade with different weapons, if enough spare weapons are available.
- There's an additional supply type not available in army orders: Foraging. There's no point in selecting this yourself; it's automatically selected when a unit is out of range of its source of supply, living off the land. In this case, supply priority is automatically Subsistence. The unit will perform poorly and lose a lot of stragglers in this mode, though the cavalry cope with it better than the infantry.
You may notice that there's no option in the box to give an objective to the unit. Movement orders to units are given (unusually for this game) with the mouse. First click the unit. If it's not alone in its hex, you'll then have to select its leader's name from the list and choose the Set Objective radio button, then Exit. You should now see the leader's name in the status line at the bottom of the main window.
Click the unit and, without releasing the mouse button, drag the pointer slowly and carefully along the route you want the unit to follow. It may help to display the hex grid (Settings, Hex Grid, or the Hex Grid button at the bottom of the window). A little arrow should appear in each hex of the route. If not, something's gone wrong: try again.
There seems no way to display a unit's existing movement orders. If you forget whether you've ordered a unit or not, order it again to make sure.
Top up depleted brigades
On the first turn of each month, each state provides some reinforcements. These can be used to make new brigades, or to top up existing brigades. Topping up existing brigades can be done at any time through the View Brigades button in the unit orders box.
For example, imagine that Texas recruits 2000 infantrymen per month. In the first month, no new Texan brigade will be available, because 2000 isn't enough for a brigade. However, you could use the 2000 at any time to top up one or more existing Texan brigades.
Next month, you get another 2000 Texan recruits. If you didn't use any of the first month's recruits for topping up, you now have 4000 recruits, enough for a new Texan brigade.
Select Build Forces, New Fleet and look at the Naval Manpower to see whether you have enough men to build new ships. If so, see if you have shipbuilding capacity in any port to build a ship — then build it! If not, you can increase capacity at a port by spending supplies (select National, City Production, go to the city, and increase port capacity as required).
Note that the New Fleet dialog box is particularly unfriendly. You have to click "Ocean going" or "River going" before the rest of the box comes to life. Then you can choose what kind of ship you want to build and where you want to build it.
Whenever you build one or more ships in a city, you have to exit from the dialog box and then start it up again before you can build ships in another city. This is very tedious but you just have to put up with it.
Transports take 8 turns to build (almost 3 months), wooden warships 12 turns (4 months), ironclads 24 turns (8 months).
Give fleet orders
Right-click any port that contains a fleet, and click the name of the fleet to bring up the fleet orders box. Alternatively, you can click Overviews, Navy Overview, and select from the list of all your fleets.
The box tells you the type and numbers of ships in the fleet. You can merge the fleet with another fleet in the same port, or split it up into two different fleets. You can stock the ships in the fleet with supplies and/or cotton, and you can give the fleet a mission. Some missions enable you to change the home port and the objective of the fleet. Changing the home port means that the ship will be found at the new home port at the end of its mission.
It's possible to have ironclads and wooden warships in the same fleet. In the Union navy, it's also possible to have wooden warships and transports in the same fleet; but for some reason this doesn't seem to be possible in the Confederate navy (where it would be more useful).
In the Confederate navy, most ships will normally be transports; you will load them with cotton and send them to St George or Nassau, where they will exchange the cotton for supplies, return to their home port, and unload the precious supplies. There's no need to load any supplies into the ships at the start of the mission; they're automatically loaded with as many supplies as they need.
In the Union navy, most ships will be warships, though you can use transports for seaborne invasions. You can use your warships to patrol or attack an enemy port. In either case you'll need to load them with enough supplies to last them through the mission. When they run out of supplies, they come home.
You can patrol St George or Nassau if you like, which will give you the best chance of catching Confederate transports; but the British and French tend to object to this, so you risk finding yourself at war with them.
Every first turn of the month
Check for new brigades
Select Build Forces, New Brigades to see whether any new brigades are available. If so, you can build them as garrisons in any of the cities of their own home region. Thereafter, you can leave them as garrison troops, or add them to existing divisions or corps in the same city, or use them to create new divisions or corps (Build Forces, New Corps/Division).
Garrison troops are immobile. If you want to move them to another city, you have to put them in a division or corps.
Joe Schweickert noticed that you never get more than one new brigade per month from any particular state, even if you have enough recruits from that state for more than one brigade (this is more likely to happen in northern states). The excess recruits simply become available as lots of reinforcements to replace casualties in existing brigades.
Every last turn of the month
Set recruitment levels
Select National, Manpower Settings and set the amount spent on volunteer bounties, which means how much you spend for each man recruited. The higher you set it, the more men you recruit, but the more you spend — and the lower your production of supplies that pay for the recruitment, because the men you recruit are being taken away from industrial production.
The dialog box indicates the number of men you recruited last month, but doesn't attempt to forecast how many you'll recruit next month. In the Confederacy in 1861, the number of recruits obtained seems to be roughly the bounty figure multiplied by 7,000; in the Union, the factor is about 10,500. How many you can afford to recruit depends on a variety of factors, in particular on how many expensive weapons you want to build.
In the real war, the Confederacy recruited at an average rate of about 21,500 a month, equivalent to a bounty level of 3; the Union recruited at an average rate of about 60,000 a month, equivalent to a bounty level between 5 and 6. However, recruitment wasn't smoothly constant from month to month but varied considerably, and of course you can vary it too.
Also in this box, you can divide recruitment between infantry, cavalry, artillery, and naval. If in doubt, leave it as it is. But both sides should probably increase naval recruitment for the first month, as the Confederacy will need plenty of transports and the Union plenty of warships as early as possible. Naval recruitment determines how many ships you can build: each type of ship requires a certain number of men, and you must have the men before you can start building the ship.
Don't set artillery recruitment too high, because (a) artillery pieces are very expensive, and (b) artillery tends to suffer lower casualties than infantry or cavalry, so it needs fewer recruits to keep up to strength.
Set weapons production
Select National, General Force Status to see how many of each weapon you're currently producing per month, and how many you have sitting unused in stock.
Select National, City Production to change the number or type of weapons produced in any of your cities. The Union player should also select National, State Statistics to change weapons production in off-map states.
You should aim to split production between the regions to match the proportion of supplies generated by each region. I'm not sure what is the best policy on splitting production between cities and states within a region. The factors involved are undocumented as far as I know.
Initial production is mainly of low-grade weapons. Naturally you will want to change this, but your budget is finite. I suggest that you increase production of Springfields as a first priority, as they're the cheapest enhancement available.
When you equip existing troops in the field with Springfields, they give back the muskets they were using, so your number of available muskets increases.
You should be aware of a strange feature of the game: new infantry or cavalry brigades will get free muskets or shotguns if (and only if) there are not enough such weapons in stock for them. This doesn't apply to artillery: you must pay for every artillery piece you use. Nor does it apply to recruits added to existing brigades.
At least at the start of the game, it's probably unwise for either side to produce any Parrotts or Whitworths: they're very expensive, probably not worth the money, and there are other things you need more. You may want to produce a small quantity of Spencers for the cavalry, but they're also expensive.
In general you should try to keep your cavalry out of battles, because they fight less well than infantry but they cost more. They should be used for scouting, and for seizing undefended railway lines and cities. They can operate out of supply (foraging) better than infantry. If they never fight battles, they don't need Spencers; on the other hand, they will probably get into unintended battles occasionally.
Whenever you increase weapons production, there's an investment cost. When you decrease production, you get a little of this back, but only a little. So changing your mind costs money, even if you change your mind within the same turn.