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Subject: Stretching Bounds of Credulity rss

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Seth Gunar
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Maybe I am missing something here, but consider the following scenario.

A CSA Army with 6 SPs is attacked by a USA Army with 15 SPs.
It is a "large" battle.

With all the modifiers in place, each side rolls a modified 10 in the battle.

The CSA Army loses 5 SPs and wins the battle. The USA Army loses 6 SPs and loses the battle.

Ahem.

Now, I can see that there is some effort made in the rules to contain the amount of losses that can be done by a small force (limited to 2x the amount of SPs of the force). However, it seems absurd to these eyes that a Civil War Army could inflict losses upon an enemy Army in an amount equal to its own strength.

Now, I've read the design notes, etc., and they say that the amount of losses in a Civil War Battle were mostly tied to the size of the battle.

Be that as it may, I have looked through the losses in particular battles and you will NEVER find one Army inflicting an amount of losses that is even close to its own strength. The highest ratio I could find is about 40% (The Battle of Franklin - losses inflicted by the USA against the CSA Army of Tennessee) and that was in a battle in which the larger army pretty much made a banzai charge into the teeth of the enemy defenses.

The bloodiest battles typically had one side inflicting losses no greater than 1/3 of its own strength.

Something is amiss.
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Jeff Thompson
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And why would a non-historical result in a "game" be bad?

I'm betting that the chances for both to roll a modified 10 are pretty weak. If not, then why was the Union army attacking with a single +0 General against a fortified CSA Corps with a +3 general when a interception was possible?

If we assume the die rolls represent the "quality" of the combantants, then I'd say the Union performed absolutely horrible, possibly the worst case while the CSA were nearly perfect in the execution of their maneuvers. (Unless of course the Union made the ill advised attack described above.)

Did this ever happen in the "real" war? If not, then combat losses in this case have no historical point of view. And because of this, the "game" simply takes care of itself by coming up with a result signifying what "might" have happened. In this case a total catastrophe for the Union.

Yes, I'm an FtP fanboy.

The game is full of abstractions.
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Seth Gunar
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Tompy wrote:
And why would a non-historical result in a "game" be bad?

Yes, I'm an FtP fanboy.

The game is full of abstractions.


Thanks for responding with candor Jeff.

I'm not sure what you are saying with regard to the single fortified corps. The hypo I offered included a CSA Army - albeit one of Corps strength. Whichever label you use, I am sure you know that the sizes of assorted units varied widely. The Army of Tennessee at Franklin was about the same size as the III Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg.

The hypo I offered is also not improbable. The modifiers for a battle die roll do not come with any subtractions (perhaps they should) based on unit size or force ratios. The only limitation - as I said - is that a force can inflict losses no greater than twice its own strength. A CSA Army could have Lee, Jackson, and Stuart and get a +8 on its die roll, meaning it only needs a roll of 2 to get to a modified 10.

I suppose one could argue that these are not "real" losses and that they represent a combination of actual manpower losses along with loss of combat effectiveness. I think that Herman says this somewhere in the design notes if memory serves.

If so, we are not really talking about the right scale for such an abstraction. It would take a combat formation no more than a week to regain its combat effectiveness (relative to its size). Since a card play in FtP represents at least 2 weeks of time, the loss of the additional SPs (due to the abstraction of loss of combat effectiveness) for potentially months is a bit too much.

Don't get me wrong. I think FtP is a great game. I've played it a bunch now and I plan on playing it a lot more. The net effect of the high losses is to force even a big force to take a "breather" rather than punching its way all the way to Mobile, Alabama in one turn. This is where the abstraction achieves some accuracy. I just think that you could achieve the same effect with a different dynamic.

For example, in many Civil War games, especially in the Great Campaigns Series (I am waiting for Battle Above the Clouds with great anticipation) there are mechanics for showing a loss of combat effectiveness without a loss in manpower - such as fatigue levels, demoralization, and disorganization.

On the other hand, if you start getting into such detail you have to sacrifice something else.

I like about 90% of the game. This little oddity is part of the other 10% - along with the rule that the Union loses its RPs in Illinois and/or Ohio if no rail connection can be made off the north edge of the map (as if the populace of Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana would make no effort to "liberate" its territory if it were so invaded). Why not just have a Northern box in which to place Union RPs that cannot be entered by the CSA, like the Eastern boxes in Russia in PoG? It just seems a bit strange that 1 well placed CSA SP can shut down the entire Union war effort in Illinois.
 
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Jeff Thompson
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Ooops, one mistake, I read corps when you wrote army.

But the idea remains the same. If you go into a battle where the other guy has a large differential in the drm, you should be prepared for catastrophe.

The other thing you describe seems to be a reason to direct the action around DC and the east. It's a fiddly thing for sure. But wouldn't a nearly cut off DC and "well placed garrisons of Confederate troops" be demoralizing to the Union? Possibly keeping them from effective recruitment?

These games have a lot of leeway in them. There are a ton of things the players can do. However, a large number of "options" are just plain bad. The rules do not prohibit these actions which, if implemented by their historical counterparts, would possibly give these non-historical results. (And I guess then they'd be historical.)

I've never played an FtP game that even comes close to resembling the historical ACW. However I always enjoy playing it.

And I get what you're saying. Because they are such good games, you want everything to make sense. But there always seems to be those things that aren't quite right. I'm only playing "Devil's Reality Advocate".
 
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Seth Gunar
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[q="Tompy"]

I've never played an FtP game that even comes close to resembling the historical ACW. However I always enjoy playing it.

q]

Pretty much sums it up.

I've read a bunch about the strategies employed by the good FtP players and they nearly all involve maneuvers that would have never been attempted in "reality." Riku supposedly ignores the eastern theater as the CSA and makes a run at the railheads in IL and OH to cut off Union Replacements for several turns.

Sounds like a brilliant move in FtP. In the Civil War, ...?
 
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Mark Herman
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GameWhore wrote:
Maybe I am missing something here, but consider the following scenario.

A CSA Army with 6 SPs is attacked by a USA Army with 15 SPs.
It is a "large" battle.

With all the modifiers in place, each side rolls a modified 10 in the battle.

The CSA Army loses 5 SPs and wins the battle. The USA Army loses 6 SPs and loses the battle.

Ahem.

Now, I can see that there is some effort made in the rules to contain the amount of losses that can be done by a small force (limited to 2x the amount of SPs of the force). However, it seems absurd to these eyes that a Civil War Army could inflict losses upon an enemy Army in an amount equal to its own strength.

Now, I've read the design notes, etc., and they say that the amount of losses in a Civil War Battle were mostly tied to the size of the battle.

Be that as it may, I have looked through the losses in particular battles and you will NEVER find one Army inflicting an amount of losses that is even close to its own strength. The highest ratio I could find is about 40% (The Battle of Franklin - losses inflicted by the USA against the CSA Army of Tennessee) and that was in a battle in which the larger army pretty much made a banzai charge into the teeth of the enemy defenses.

The bloodiest battles typically had one side inflicting losses no greater than 1/3 of its own strength.

Something is amiss.


First off thanks for taking an interest in FTP. I have posted this over on CSW, but the CRT is based on a great deal of analysis of Ops Research papers published in the 60s during the centennial and validated in supporting PhD dissertations. So, I totally stand behind its efficacy in this design. As I stated on page 30 of the rules in the design note, we agree, but that is not what is being calculated. Not sure how one can fault me for stating what you proclaim to be true, since we agree.

On the other hand there is almost always an historical parallel in the real war to discussion like this. For example Spotsylvania Courthouse is a pretty close match to your situation with two armies, 2-1 odds attack, results in a 6-5 Defender victory.

Grant had ~100k men, Lee had ~52k and the losses were USA 18k v CSA 12k which in FTP translates into about a 6-4 result and a CSA victory. So there it is, the impossible situation more or less occurred.

All the best,

Mark
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Dan Raspler
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Tompy wrote:
I've never played an FtP game that even comes close to resembling the historical ACW.


Yeah, see, I personally consider that to be a flaw... that historical tactics and approaches aren't rewarded as often as screwy shenanigans that weren't available to the actual combatants.

I guess the most a-historical element of FtP is the war in the west -- "Festung Tennessee", which usually holds out until 1864.

I still love the game, but I only play it rarely as a result. That way I can adequately forget the gamey tricks I may have learned from FtP fanatics.
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Seth Gunar
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[/q]

First off thanks for taking an interest in FTP. I have posted this over on CSW, but the CRT is based on a great deal of analysis of Ops Research papers published in the 60s during the centennial and validated in supporting PhD dissertations. So, I totally stand behind its efficacy in this design. As I stated on page 30 of the rules in the design note, we agree, but that is not what is being calculated. Not sure how one can fault me for stating what you proclaim to be true, since we agree.

On the other hand there is almost always an historical parallel in the real war to discussion like this. For example Spotsylvania Courthouse is a pretty close match to your situation with two armies, 2-1 odds attack, results in a 6-5 Defender victory.

Grant had ~100k men, Lee had ~52k and the losses were USA 18k v CSA 12k which in FTP translates into about a 6-4 result and a CSA victory. So there it is, the impossible situation more or less occurred.

All the best,

Mark[/q]

Actually Mark, given the historical example you have cited, I think you are missing the point. The odds ratio in the Battle of Spotsylvania was 2 to 1. The odds ratio in my hypothetical is over 3 to 1. Furthermore, the losses inflicted by Lee's army at Spotsylvania (18,000) is about one-third of the size of Lee's force. In the hypothetical I have presented, the losses inflicted by the CSA army is equal to 100% of the CSA Army strength.

Or to put it another way, the only way that Spotsylvania could be an exact parallel to the hypothetical I have offered to you would be if the Union Army was 150,000 men strong and Lee's Army inflicted losses of over 50,000 men on them.

Or to put it yet another way, if you want my hypothetical FtP situation to match the results of Spotsylvania, the USA Army would have to be 20 SP strong and inflict 2 SP losses while the CSA Army is 10 SP strong and inflicts 3 SP of losses.

Just doing the math. Love the game anyway.

Yours,

Seth
 
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Domenico Licheri
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I stand for the (great) game as is. Rules should not be judged on the occasional paradox but on the overall result these achieve.

The AoP was prone to become nearly cataleptic as soon as contact with the AoNV was made, even where the AoP had been able to both start the battle with consistent numeric advantage and also manoeuvre into favourable position (as McDowell and Hooker were able to do).

In June 1863 the AoNV was considered to be invincible by friend and foe alike. This is also the case in FtP (provided it is defending), and not many ACW games manage to accurately reproduce this important fact.

The strength points certainly do not reflect just numerical strength but overall efficiency and ability to harm.
After many of its defeats the AoP literally melted away in its ability to harm or even simply withstand proximity with the enemy, and cowed back into the fortifications at Washington, despite still having the numerical upper hand.

So, it is perhaps appropriate that in the example conditions, and also assuming it manages to roll a 10+, still the AoP is nearly guaranteed to lose an offensive battle, and is forced to retreat at the end of the engagement.
The FtP SW mechanics then force it to lose 5 to 8 SW, while the CSA would gain 3 to 5 SW.
In these conditions the SW consequences would be exactly appropriate: just imagine being in the boots of Lincoln at the news of another defeat after the best possible preparations, or the relief that the CSA populace would enjoy at another glourious victory with such forces ratio.

And, even better, FtP sets the stage for the AoP to come back for more as the defeat would have left the AoP with a 9 to 1 numerical advantage, and all the incentives to attack again, while the CSA would be very hard pressed to reinforce...
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Seth Gunar
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Glad you enjoy the game Domenico. I do too.

I am also glad that - in principle - you agree with me. The hypothetical I posed along with the results called for in FtP are indeed a "paradox."

I think your point about the AoP wanting to come back for more with a 9-1 advantage also further shows how my hypo is vastly different from the historical result at Spotsylvania. Historically, after Spotsylvania, the Army of Northern Virginia still had 40,000 men and continued to shadow Grant down to the North Anna River. Grant did not gain a 9-1 advantage as a result of the battle. Yet, in FtP, that is precisely what happens - which is ahistorical (to put it mildly).

I also think that you overstate the case when it comes to the typical performance of the AoP. The phenomenon you are describing is no reflection on the quality of the soldiers in the AoP. Rather, it is a reflection of the quality of the leadership of the AoP (which IS done well by FtP). Whenever those two Armies faced off, both sides took heavy losses and the soldiers of both sides fought bravely. Even a lopsided defeat like Fredericksburg with its futile assaults on Marye's Heights showed that the Union soldiers were the equal of their opponents. The idea that the confederate soldier was a better fighter than the union soldier is a myth.

From Mclellan to Hooker, the leaders of the AoP were psychologically dominated by Lee. If the Union had different leaders in the east in 1862, the picture would have been very different. What made Grant so extraordinary and different from previous commanders was his willingness to continue the campaign after a bloody battle (The Wilderness) that would have put an end to a campaign by Mclellan, Burnside, or Hooker. Grant understood that warfare had changed and that the outcome of a campaign would not be decided by one battle or even several battles.
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Jeff Thompson
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I never said that I didn't take historical directions with the game. It's just that it is so variable, that each game takes on a course of its own. If a game has a high percentage chance to go just like history, then I'd rather read a book.

It's the wild variability and all the what-ifs that make this game great.

And just because it is historical doesn't mean it was the best decision.

Mark sets up the game historically. He gives you a myriad of options, one of which is historical. Then he says, "go" and we watch the fur fly.

So don't get me wrong. I agree if a game can't recreate history then it is flawed. But it can create history. It just probably won't because it's a GAME and not a BOOK.

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Randy C
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I am from the future.

In the future, we have perfected time travel. I have traveled back to 1861 and refought the civil war many times. It has never followed the same course as it did originally, what you all know as history.

My conclusion is that the civil war as it orginally happened is flawed as history. You cannot use actual history alone to judge a game that tries to recreate what could or might have happened.

That would be like playing one game of For the People, and then judge all other civil war games on whether they recreate accurately what happened in the one game of For the People.

I am not sure any of us is capable of making a game that accurately covers what could have happened. I am sure glad that Mark Herman tried though.

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Mark Herman
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GameWhore wrote:


First off thanks for taking an interest in FTP. I have posted this over on CSW, but the CRT is based on a great deal of analysis of Ops Research papers published in the 60s during the centennial and validated in supporting PhD dissertations. So, I totally stand behind its efficacy in this design. As I stated on page 30 of the rules in the design note, we agree, but that is not what is being calculated. Not sure how one can fault me for stating what you proclaim to be true, since we agree.

On the other hand there is almost always an historical parallel in the real war to discussion like this. For example Spotsylvania Courthouse is a pretty close match to your situation with two armies, 2-1 odds attack, results in a 6-5 Defender victory.

Grant had ~100k men, Lee had ~52k and the losses were USA 18k v CSA 12k which in FTP translates into about a 6-4 result and a CSA victory. So there it is, the impossible situation more or less occurred.

All the best,

Mark[/q]

Actually Mark, given the historical example you have cited, I think you are missing the point. The odds ratio in the Battle of Spotsylvania was 2 to 1. The odds ratio in my hypothetical is over 3 to 1. Furthermore, the losses inflicted by Lee's army at Spotsylvania (18,000) is about one-third of the size of Lee's force. In the hypothetical I have presented, the losses inflicted by the CSA army is equal to 100% of the CSA Army strength.

Or to put it another way, the only way that Spotsylvania could be an exact parallel to the hypothetical I have offered to you would be if the Union Army was 150,000 men strong and Lee's Army inflicted losses of over 50,000 men on them.

Or to put it yet another way, if you want my hypothetical FtP situation to match the results of Spotsylvania, the USA Army would have to be 20 SP strong and inflict 2 SP losses while the CSA Army is 10 SP strong and inflicts 3 SP of losses.

Just doing the math. Love the game anyway.

Yours,

Seth[/q]

I do not think you understood what I wrote, so I will try to remake my point. If your point is you are right and I am wrong, then this is not going to be much of a conversation and I will just withdraw gracefully to let you continue.

My understanding of your initial point was that a 15 strength point army attacks a 6 strength point army, which for me is not 3-1, but in FTP is 2-1. Going back to my Spotsylvania Courthouse example the results are a 6-4 ratio of sp losses. Your point was that no army could generate losses equal to its own strength and I agree. However, as I explained in my design notes, so this is part of the equation, 6 sps of losses equals 36,000 men becoming combat ineffective. The actual losses would be about half of this with the remainder being regiments too depleted to be combat effective. Half of 36,000 is 18,000 and the amount of casualties inflicted by the CSA at Spotsylvania Courthouse.

My final point is every result on the CRT has a direct analog to at least one if not more Civil War battles. To your point that no army could generate casualties equal to its own numbers I agree, but an army could and did inflict combat effects beyond just casualties, which FTP takes into account. Again, I wrote all of this down in my design notes so I made this pretty plain long ago.

Anyway, that's my view, everyone is allowed their own, I just thought putting my facts on the table would help the discussion. If that is not the purpose of this discussion, I will leave you to it.

Mark
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Seth Gunar
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Calxx55 wrote:

My conclusion is that the civil war as it orginally happened is flawed as history. You cannot use actual history alone to judge a game that tries to recreate what could or might have happened.


You rely upon a misrepresentation of my criticism, but your remark is amusing in any event.

Saying a game is not supposed to just be a reenactment of history is not a profound insight. I never claimed it should be. It is an interactive fiction that is supposed to put players in the role of either Lincoln or Davis and permit them to play "what if."

Yet, even a work of fiction requires an essential ingredient - which is "suspension of disbelief." Put another way, even while playing "what if", the players have to believe that their decisions and the results of their decisions bear some plausible relationship to what could have happened.

A useful counterfactual thought experiment must remain in the realm of plausability. But if you ask "what if the Army of Northern Virginia was armed with AK-47s" (thank you Harry Turtledove) - which is what they would have needed to achieve the results called for on the FtP CRT - then you are abandoning any attempt to represent a plausible counterfactual historical scenario.

I think Herman is right in that the amount of losses was tied to the size of a battle. However, your losses were more a function of the size of the opposing force (and whether you were on the attack or defense) than it was of the total combined forces in the battle.
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Seth Gunar
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The actual losses would be about half of this with the remainder being regiments too depleted to be combat effective.

If that is what the chart is supposed to reflect, then it makes a whole lot more sense and minimizes my sense of historical dissonance.

My next question would be what kind of estimation was made of the amount of time it would take for a unit to recover its combat effectiveness after a battle?

It seems that the default for that estimation is "until the end of the turn" when presumably a portion of the reinforcements arriving on the board represent that recovery.

In which case, you have something of a "Successors" type dynamic where it pays to always wait until late in a turn to engage in any battles thus minimizing the amount of time you have to operate at reduced strength (unless, of course, you think you can afford that loss more than your opponent).

I don't have much of a problem with that. I love "Successors."


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Kenneth Kloby
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Hi Seth,

Responding to the original post...

It could be the losses represent more than just wounded and dead, maybe the losses represent overall effectiveness degradation. Prisoners too.

Not trying to be wise guy but you might want to research the Battle of Auerstadt, Germany/Prussia 1806. Marshall Davout's Corp of approx 20k men defeated a Prussian army (under Blucher?) of roughly 3x that number of men. The word 'defeat' is putting it mildly, more like a massacre. And I don't believe any surprise was involved.

Good Luck, Ken.
 
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Stu Hendrickson
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Forts are screwy too!
Why is a cavalry commander worth anything when attacking a fort?? Forts should have special combat mechanic- too easy to take a fort when the defender has no cav commander. Why would they need one?
+2 DRM is not sufficient to give full effect. Maybe rule like 'use only 1 leader per side max' would help. You can take a fort easily when attacking at 1:2 odds, IF you have a cav commander. Am waiting for justification for that.
Game has some great concepts, but too much wierdness like this. And why is combat modifier at 3:1 a +2, but there is no odds at which it is +1 ?? Given designer notes that size of force and odds do not matter, shouldn't 3:1 be only a +1 ??
Stu

ps, I think I have 1st edition not sure. maybe this al has been changed?
pps, finding one or two battles in history where bizarre stuff happens is not enuf to justify a system where it happens 20% (or something like that) of the time in a game!!
 
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Seth Gunar
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Hey Ken,

maybe the losses represent overall effectiveness degradation.

I think Mark's response pretty much cleared that one up. It does represent effectiveness degradation. If that is the case, ok, but the scale is a bit our of whack for that. Presumably part of your reinforcements represent a return to effectiveness of those losses. We're talking about a turn that lasts 3 months. It did not take that long for a formation to recover its cohesion.

Not trying to be wise guy but you might want to research the Battle of Auerstadt,

I'm actually quite familiar with Auerstadt and many other Napoleonic battles. Davout (27,000 strong) defeated a force about twice his strength (counting only those forces actually engaged). Blucher was not yet in command of the Prussian Army. In fact, the lack of leadership was one of the Prussians' problems. In any event, Blucher commanded the Prussian cavalry and he led many charges against Gudin's Division (the first of Davout's divisions to arrive on the field). The charges were not supported by infantry and artillery and the French squares beat them back.

It was certainly a tactical masterpiece. If you can get your hands on it, grab the La Bataille series game (Clash of Arms) on the battle. HPS Simulations also has a computer game on it at a 100 yds/hex scale. If you want to play by e-mail after getting it, it'd be my pleasure. You can play Auerstadt or the entire twin battle of Jena-Auerstadt.

Most of the losses suffered by the Prussians occurred in the cavalry pursuit after the battle. Such a pursuit is one of the main things that distinguishes Napoleonic warfare from Civil War battles. The use of the rifled musket all but eliminated the viability of cavalry and artillery (at least the pre-smokeless powder variety) as offensive weapons. Cavalry could be shot down before getting close enough to engage in shock/melee combat. Because of this, infantry never needed to form square and could not be made as vulnerable to artillery fire.

Altogether, the rifled musket made Civil War battles extremely brutal, but also indecisive. It was rare for a winner to be able to exploit success the way they did in Napoleonic warfare. In fact, many books have been written about the contrast and how the effort to fight Napoleonic style battles was one of Lee's biggest mistakes. One of the better ones is Weigley's "The American Way of War."

Anyway, I love Games involving Napoleonic tactics. Give me a holler if you want to play one of the computer one by e-mail. If you live close to Northern NJ or plan to go to WBC, maybe we can get in one of the boardgames by Clash of Arms. I believe they will be re-publishing La Bataille de Moskowa (Borodino). Gotta get my hands on that one.

Check out the Clash of Arms web site.
 
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R. Alex Raines
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I think you are going a little overboard, Seth. A game turn is 3 months. I think a replacement sp worth of troops could be recovered then more or less as the reinforcement table has them.
 
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