BACW Design Q&A

Fun Interactive Military History

Battles of the American Civil War Series
Design Questions & Answers

Q: How's the ACW system play solitaire?

A: Pea Ridge, from Across the Wide Missouri is the most difficult to play solitaire,
because the battle turned (in real life, tm) on keeping the Union General in the dark
as to where the battle was going to happen. So I use dummy counters which could
be brigades, recon patrols or stragglers and rumors to move the units around precontact. Otherwise, I couldn't see how to make it a contest without strait-jacket rules, which I hate.

The other battles, even Pea Ridge if you're willing to pretend you don't know what
the other guy's plan is, solitaire very well. No Artificial Intelligence rules, but the
command system, that introduces hiccups into movement and friction into combat,
keeps the games from being the clash of Perfect Plans. There's a reasonable bit of
replay value in each one.

Q: Have you given any thought to putting out smaller games instead of offering
up games with multiple games? This way the individual cost per game would be
less and you might entice more sales by offering smaller, cheaper - cost wise
but not quality wise, games?

There are a number of cost advantages to bundles. Let's take Across the Wide
Missouri
. There are three of what SPI used to call "Quad" size games (17x22 or
11x17 boards) in the box. One box, one box cover design instead of 3; one set of
rules at 24 pages instead of three at 12-16 pages (12 must be duplicated if I do
individual games).

A longer article and bibliography instead of three two page sketches with shorter
bibliographic notes means the bundles can explore the campaign in which the
battles are set. Also, and I think this is very valuable, we can develop a theme
around which the different bundles are built. Grant's Early Battles lets you
PARTICIPATE as Grant takes on more and more responsibility, and you can see
his major subordinates make their appearances.

Economy of design: I managed to get three countermixes onto two die cut sheets in
the bundles. If that weren't the case I'd have to have three die cut sheets (partly
because markers can be shared between games, so I don't need as many). I can
also put in two CRT's and two TEC's, one for each player, instead of 1 each per
smaller game. You get better components, and save on packaging cost.

A single "folio" sized game, maybe with one larger than normal component will be doing well
to come in at at $29.We'll release some singles to test whether you all want your games
bundled around a theme or a la carte. I think the value is there either way, but three games
would be $87 instead of $56. You'd pay a premium to pick and choose, but LPD Games
would not benefit from that premium. My printer and the USPS would love us, though.

Q: Will all your games be at brigade scale and will the hex size be a constant
400 yards? In terms of leaders, your games will have Divisional, Corps, and
Army leaders or will there be brigade leaders as well? Are all leaders
represented or only those deemed significant?

All the Civil War games have a constant ground scale of 400 yards to the hex. What
maneuvers inside those spaces depends on where the battle is, and when. In the
early war, Regiments were the maneuver unit, because they were big (600 men or
so was common) and armies were smaller. It was difficult to put together a
smashing attack that involved a whole Division on a narrow front. And if one came
together, somebody had to screen the flanks, which are hugely vulnerable in Civil
War tactics. Many of my little battles (Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove,
Fort Donelson
) have the Officers commanding Brigades. At Shiloh they command
Divisions and the pieces are brigades. That's because the woods compressed
things so that commanders didn't have to cover a wide flank or worry about being
surrounded. Shiloh is a pounding match like Borodino. Gettysburg shows the
mature system where decent Corps and Division commanders are in place and
Brigadiers know to commit their men in a solid impact, so Brigades are the pieces.

Belmont, and Honey Springs, use battalion or half regiment maneuver units. It isn't
an accident that these guys are military heirs to the Indian Fighting Army, which
spent years on the frontier maneuvering pick-up battalions made of company
groups. Holding with half a regiment while the other part swung 'round is the base
of American Regular Army tactics from Mad Anthony Wayne to San Juan Hill.

Q: CRT Did you experiment with a step-reduction system or did that throw off
the play balance and/or the time it took to complete a game?

Step reduction doesn't fit the scale well. In an hour of combat, a brigade is likely to
have been lightly engaged, or shot to pieces, depending on how the brigadier
committed his men. Some 19th Century Tactical systems use step reduction well,
but I would rather use the back of the counter to model Disorder because I think it is
the more important effect on the whole battle. Emphasizing Disorder, I can
effortlessly create natural lulls in the battle, when Generals have to take time out to
put their units back together before they go on.

Also, in the big picture, the "Formations" (Brigades, Divisions or Corps that are led
by a named officer in BACW) are the real maneuver units. The pieces ARE step
reduction counters.

Q: An available officer could: 1) command an arty survey, 2) move all units, and
3) attack with each/all units that are in Good Order, all in one turn?

A: If you can Place an officer to do all those things at once, he certainly may. And I
don't want to be your opponent. I think you'll find, though that, since officers have to
be Placed before you find out if they're Available, Things Will Go Wrong a
historically satisfying amount of the time.

Q: I feel uncomfortable with the teleporting/vanishing officers. I prefer rules
systems in which they have movement allowances and remain on the map.

The difficulty that teleporting officers is intended to cure is: a lone horse, with a
competent rider, can easily travel at 6 mph (26 hexes/Turn) for most of the day.
What I decided to depict, therefore, is the part of the battle the officer is trying to
influence, because that is what takes up most of his hour. I don't think
requiring officers to "maneuver" is a realistic depiction of their battlefield duties.
When an officer is "not available", it is because some issue that doesn't directly
show up on map is taking up his attention and time (ammo resupply, lost units, new
intelligence, orders from above, etc.). The times in the battle that the officer is
visible, and vulnerable are when he is directing combat, which in the Civil War is done
from the front, and when the enemy is attacking his position directly.

Q: The game's combat rules punish strong units by eliminating them first. Was
the Iron Brigade really all that fragile?

The Iron Brigade wasn't all that fragile man for man, but Battle of Gettysburg makes
it about 1 1/2 times as strong as its numbers would dictate (it is the most powerful
Federal piece). Far fewer absolute casualties are needed to ruin it. Those guys
were good, but they died like anyone else.
Green units usually had more men, but they leaked troops to the rear, and sometimes a blow
that a veteran unit would take in stride could cause a fresh, green command to panic.
You'll find this happens in the BACW series. I'm not exactly "punishing strong units";
I'm modeling the fact that a good unit or a big unit often got shot to pieces in a battle
because it was the one that did the work. Gamers will do everything to save strong units,
but in the BACW series, you can only do that by not using them. I don't need an "Imperial Guard"
special rule; Napoleon isn't going to WANT to use them as spearheads.
There is only one piece in all eight games that gives me much trouble. Pat Cleburne's brigade
in Shiloh was both big and good and if I had the least excuse I would have made it two pieces.
But Pat had the annoying habit of using his brigade as a coordinated whole, so one big piece it stays.
In game terms he must not have rolled an EX result until late in the battle.

Q: As the rules now stand, units do not block long-range artillery line of sight. Is
this intentional and if so, why?

We have a static model of a fluid situation here. These are 400 yard hexes, units are moving and turns are an hour each. Chances are there's a useful Line of Fire past a hex at some time during the hour (missions average 10 minutes - 20 rounds each). Either before or after the troops got there, along either flank of the units or even overhead. If the LoF really is blocked by friendly units, it is taken care of by a "No Effect" combat result (no fire), or perhaps explains why the attacker rolled an EX (too much fire).

Q: When artillery fire alone they are progressively less effective as their target hex becomes progressively more crowded (aside from counter-battery). What is the rationale?

There is a much longer discussion (with numbers) in Special Operations 1. The short form: artillery are probably causing more casualties to the larger formation, but a much smaller percentage of the whole. The visible effect on the game adds up to immediate Disorder and the occasional unit Loss. Artillery effect is largely the morale effect of being under unreturned fire, irrespective of target size.

Civil War artillery destruction is limited by crew exhaustion, training and technology. Iron and brass gun tubes deformed or burst if fired too fast; shells had too little black powder filling to burst uniformly into many pieces. The BACW engine tries hard to keep artillery effects within historical parameters. ACW artillery inflicted about the same number of casualties per 1000 artillerists (say, 60 guns) as were inflicted by 1000 infantrymen. The guns were useful because they could inflict those casualties at up to a mile or so or temporarily concentrate fire into a small area.

In BACW, artillery isn't good at destructive bombardment. Artillery is better than other available units for supporting an attack or covering a retreat. Artillery does disorder and keep exposed troops from getting an officer ER bonus in combat. Even a small amount of artillery can disrupt an attack

Q: The game's combat rules punish strong units by eliminating them first. Was
the Iron Brigade really all that fragile?

The Iron Brigade wasn't fragile man for man, but Battle of Gettysburg makes
it about 1 1/2 times as strong as its numbers would dictate (it is the most powerful
Federal piece). Far fewer absolute casualties are needed to ruin it. Those guys
were good, but they died like anyone else. Green units usually had more men, but leaked troops to the rear. Sometimes a blow that a veteran unit would take in stride would cause a fresh, green command to panic and disintegrate.

I'm not exactly "punishing strong units"; I'm modeling the fact that a good unit or a big unit often got shot to pieces in a battle because it was the one that did the work. Gamers will do everything to save strong units, but in the BACW series, you can only do that by not using them. I don't need an "Imperial Guard" special rule; Napoleon isn't going to WANT to use them as spearheads. There is only one piece in all eight games that gives me much trouble. Pat Cleburne's brigade in Shiloh was both big and good and if I had the least excuse I would have made it two pieces. But Pat had the annoying habit of using his brigade as a coordinated whole, so one big piece it stays. (He must not have rolled an EX result until late in the battle.)

Battle of Honey Springs Questions
Q: Wondering about Watie. Do I use him and if so does the Union get some sort
of bonus since Cooper had sent him away on a cavalry feint shortly before the
battle?

A: Start Watie is included with the Five Nations brigade for play balance or just to see what
happens. The most Pro-South you can get is to add both alt-history options (Watie plus good gunpowder). The North doesn't get much because they simply had a better trained Army, and no nearby reinforcements.

Q: There's a Confederate cavalry unit that doesn't have a yellow box. Is that an oversight?

A: No, the 20th Texas in Honey Springs is a Dismounted Cavalry unit. It is really infantry, and to avoid confusion should have the infantry type symbol. But for historical reasons I put up with it. Several Texas and Arkansas cavalry regiments were unhorsed because not enough people volunteered for the infantry. However, the men were grossly insulted. They insisted on keeping their cavalry names and guidons. By 1864 they were back on horseback so everyone was happy.

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