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Subject: USA General-in-chief variant rss

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Wade Reckman

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Ok, so I've been playing around with the idea of creating a General-in-Chief role for the Union side. I haven't playtested this at all, so it's a little rough. This would be used in conjunction with the 4* general Halleck option, and would require the addition of a 4* McClellan counter with a 4(1)(1) rating available on turn 1.

Basically, the rule will work as follows:

A 4* general may serve as General-in-Chief of all Union Armies. The most senior 4* general located in Washington DC is considered to have the role of General-in-Chief. A 4* general need not be located with SPs or a depot in order to be moved to Washington. The post of General-in-Chief is considered vacant if no 4* General is located in Washington DC.

EFFECTS OF HAVING A GENERAL-IN-CHIEF

1.) The costs of building a depot, fort or fortress for the Union player are reduced by 1 CP.

2.) The Union player has the option, in any combat, to ignore a demoralized result, in exchange for an additional loss of 1 SP. Utilizing this option immediately awards the confederate player 1 VP.

3.) The CP cost of moving any army in Washington DC will utilize the General-in-Chief's leadership rating. The general-in-chief may move with the army and vacate the GIC post, or may stay in Washington provided a subordinate may serve as army commander. Once out of Washington, the cost of the army movement is calculated using the army commander's rating

RATIONALE

The primary abilities of leaders like Halleck and McClellan rested in their organizational skills which kept the supply trains running and reinforcements arriving (relatively) on time. During McClellan's tenure as General-in-Chief, the North quickly expanded its logistical capacity for warfighting, and developed a first rate military organization. Later, during the Overland campaign, Halleck was adept at funnelling reinforcements and supplies to Grant which allowed him to keep pressure on the Army of Northern Virginia despite horrific losses in manpower.

In the original game, the Union player has little incentive to bring Halleck or McClellan anywhere near Washington, which tends to result in their somewhat ahistorical use. This variant gives the Union player a strong incentive to put up with the poor ratings of Halleck and McClellan and keep them close to the White House. The reduced CP costs are reflective of the north's rapid logistical development, and the ability to ignore a demoralized result reflects the ability of northern armies to sustain high casualty rates and maintain operational capacity. The VP award to the confederate player reflects the political costs of heavy combat losses, and the corrosive impact they had on northern support for the war.

Again, I'd like to reinerate that I haven't playtested this idea yet, and I'm curious if you guys think this is a good idea and worthwhile. Any improvements or suggestions?
 
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Warren Bruhn
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Union ability to ignore DM results at a cost of 1SP could be hell on the CSA. Given current belief among some of the top pbem players that the game is now balanced more in favor of the CSA, perhaps that might offset somewhat. But I personally would not want to play with that part of the rule. DM and rally are key parts of the game, and are often the only salvation for a CSA player who wants to hold anything.
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Chad Marlett
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Getting a chance to attack a DM CSA army is a huge bonus for the USA. I don't think you want it to happen anymore than it does already.
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Wade Reckman

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Would it be a better rule if the confederate got 2 VP's every time the option got used? That would prevent the union player from using it prolifically, but gives him a way to avert a military disaster.
 
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Chad Marlett
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Hard to say, you would need to playtest it once.

The problem is that a when a DM army is attacked, besides a fairly guaranteed 3SP loss for no return damage, is that it could be backed into a bad position and destroyed. If I took out the AoT by making two attacks I couldn't otherwise make for 4VP, it would be a great trade.

I know I wouldn't like the rule if I was the South. It isn't always fun being a punching bag as it is.
 
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Ken
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First, I don't see what this is meant to simulate. Halleck was actually terrible at his job until Grant was promoted and given command of all US military forces because he specifically wasn't focused on keeping logistics flowing smoothly. It's entirely arguable that decisions he made regarding where forces should be allocated and how commanders should be treated had a direct and negative impact on the war. Plus, he was one of the larger proponents of maintaining a huge garrison (40,000 men) in and around Washington. So I have to question how this reflects the history of the situation. McClellan would arguably be worse in that role because he read every intelligence report in the most detrimental fashion possible, and replacing Halleck (which was politically untenable given McClellan's views of the relationship between the army and government) would likely spread his paralysis to others.

Second, the benefits are far, far too great. The reduction in CP costs alone would be a massive benefit to the Union and really doesn't reflect any significant benefits that aren't already built into the game through the blockade rules. Giving the Union an additional benefit for taking a useless commander and sticking him in D.C. (which is how this would almost certainly play out for a smart player - the AotP wouldn't end up in DC) are far too large. And the ability to avoid demoralizaiton fails to capture the reality of combat, doesn't reflect anything historically interesting (the AotP's morale was good under Grant/Meade because they kept it moving south, not because of Halleck), and hands a huge advantage to the Union since a beneficial dice difference means that their armies are attacking demoralized Confederate armies. That costs the CSA their primary advantage early in the game - leadership - and does so in a huge way since they both lose their leadership, suffer a detrimental column shift when attacked, and provide the Union with things like a free reroll during the fight.

While the Union benefited from better logistics, that had more to do with the effect of squeezing confederate supply and being able to operate along coasts and rivers to receive supply. Those are already built in to the game and don't require magnification. Particularly when it would appear to go against the realities of the generals we're talking about. McClellan was brilliant at getting the AotP organized, but he also instilled in its command structure approaches and thoughts that cost the army dearly later in the war (for example - corps or division commanders typically did not reconnoiter their fronts themselves because that was a job for the army HQ). Halleck was a paper-pusher more interested in making sure that stuff cleared his desk that the actual contents of that stuff and the impact of it on the fighting forces he was coordinating. It's not until Grant goes east and sets new rules that his bureaucratic skills end up delivering real benefits.

I think you'll unbalance the game pretty dramatically and add chrome that does little to reflect reality. I don't think this needs playtesting, myself. It's just going to hand too many advantages to the Union that it doesn't really need with little basis in the history for doing so. Halleck was a miserable curmudgeon who effectively crippled Grant through 1862. McClellan probably would have been as well. Neither should be providing benefits.
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Dave Turansky
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Many players have come up with many variants, but this is the first time that I've seen something like this. Good to see that there are new ideas and that this great game has continued popularity.
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Wade Reckman

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I guess I was trying to come up with a compelling reason for the Union player to put Halleck and McClellan in prominent roles - most of the games I've played see McClellan spending a lot of time touring the scenery of West Virginia and Halleck getting shuffled off to the corner of the map farthest from the fighting. McClellan should at least be a 4(1)0 rating, but he is very rarely placed in command of the AOP with that rating. I wanted to give the Union player an incentive for keeping a leader with such poor ratings in a prominent field command like the AOP.

Maybe give McClellan the ability of ignoring a DM result in exchange for automatically losing a combat if he's the commander of the AOP? Maybe he automatically rallies the AOP if he replaces a removed leader?

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Ken
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There are various variants that introduce requirements for using high-ranking commanders such as McClellan for at least one combat before they can be sent off to frontier duty. I'd recommend looking at those rather than making other modifications. Generals like McClellan, Butler, Banks, Hunter, etc. had their commands because they had sufficient connections to make removing them untenable until they'd demonstrated they weren't competent (and in the notable cases of McClellan and Butler, well after).

I'd be inclined to remove some leaders from the mix if using such rules. For example, Halleck and Fremont were department commanders who never actually commanded armies (and weren't likely to do so). I'd remove them from the pool as a result because rules like this can actually force the Union player to use commanders who never saw significant battlefield commands take the field.

I would not add benefits for any of the generals, I'd instead look for rules that make it harder to move useless commanders away from the front.
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Chad Marlett
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Although I haven't played the variant, the one that always interested me is the one that made all leaders generic 1, 2, or 3 stars until they get used in battle.

That would guarantee that most of the generals would get used at least once.

My only concern with that is that I happen to think the game is fairly balanced with the 'unofficial 3rd edition' rules, and the North is sure to be hurt more by unknown generals getting into battle than the South.

Almost all the proposed variants I have seen improve realism, but game balance is a tough thing to get right.
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Dave Turansky
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I'd encourage you to give McClellan a 2 rally rating. I playtested a variant 4 initiative McClellan, and that didn't work at all. Nobody wants a 4 initiative leader in command of an army. There is certainly a valid historical basis to improve Mac's rally rating. It also provides an incentive to place him in command of a major army.

Perhaps you could create some small administrative bonus for Halleck or Fremont, such as an increase in Union rail capacity. If you play with non-army leader reaction rules (which Eric Smith recommends), you'll get more leaders into play.
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Ken
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I'm not sure why you'd give McClellan a benefit as a leader for rallying purposes. He only rallied the army when he was installed in command, not when he'd led them in combat. There's no question that the men loved him, but that didn't grant him magical powers - after the Peninsula Campaign and Antietam, the army was just as demoralized as it had been under any other Union commander after a major loss. Arguably, the rally benefit should go to Grant because despite suffering losses on his push to Petersburg the army did not "give up" or get demoralized because he kept shifting them south rather than running away from the ANV.

I think the game has McClellan about right, particularly when compared to the ratings of Halleck (even slower to move) and Fremont.
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Philip Hernandez
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The position already existed: Commanding General of the United States Army. At the start of the war, it was held by Winfield Scott. Lincoln considered him very valuable (remember "Scott's Anaconda") but McClellan's intrigues caused the 75-year-old Scott to retire, and McClellan got the job. After Lincoln relieved McClellan from the position so McClellan could concentrate on the Army of the Potomac, the job was briefly vacant, and then went to Halleck. Eventually, Grant received a promotion to the permanent rank of lieutenant general (three stars), so that he could hold the position as he would then be senior to all other officers, no one else holding that rank. This occurred in March 1864.

Incidentally, despite Grant taking personal command, Meade remained in command of the Army of the Potomac for the duration, and served very well in that role.

This variant thus has historical basis. Scott does not appear in the game as he was no longer fit enough to serve in the field (indeed, he spent most of his time in New York to get away from McClellan and his ilk).

In this context, I don't know if having the commanding general out of Washington caused any real penalties. Grant did not seem to have any problems running the Army from City Point, and in any event Halleck was still performing the administrative functions for him. In fact, Grant was headed to Nashville to relieve Thomas and take personal command there but turned around when he learned that Thomas had destroyed Hood's army outside the city. I don't think Grant would have done this if it would have affected the troops around Washington. Indeed, when Early threatened Washington, Grant never left the Army of the Potomac; he simply dispatched troops there, ordered them back when Early left, and organized a new force to follow Early, all without returning to Washington. Many of the construction functions would fall under the War Department, or other organizations like the U.S. Military Railroad. Similarly, the rest of the Army continued to run smoothly while McClellan was in the field.

The removal of Halleck from play (as already provided in the rules) would represent his appointment as commanding general -- he never left Washington thereafter -- and his subsequent position as Grant's administrative deputy.

I am inclined not to use this variant. Effect number two also has an historical basis, as the Army of the Potomac recovered very quickly after Chancellorsville. Perhaps this could be its own variant, allowing the Union player to perform this action a maximum of once in the course of the game.
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