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Battleground Civil War Strategy Guide

 

~By Dave Moser and Richard Hamilton

(Editor's Note: When this article was originally posted, it only applied to the Battleground Series of Civil War games put out by the now defunct company, Talonsoft. These games (Battleground: Gettysburg, Shiloh, Bull Run, Antietam, and Chickamauga) have since been released again by Matrix Games. Many of Rich and Dave's tips also can be used in playing HPS Simulations' Civil War Battles series. There are some differences, which I will try to point out by adding a brief note. -ST)

This is being written with the novice in mind. As experienced players will have already formed their own opinions regarding the use of the various elements, and we would certainly welcome others' thoughts on these matters, but we write from the perspective of a somewhat experienced player and hope the following comments will be useful to those of you who are new to the BG Civil War series, and are looking for ideas as to how to improve your play.

General Tactics:

Use line of sight to your advantage. Try to conceal your intentions by keeping as many of your troops out of sight for as long as possible. If you have enough men, try using decoy units to make your opponent think you will be attacking someplace else...

When setting up a defense, always take the high ground with as much cover as possible (i.e. trees, rocks, etc.) If there is time,then build breastworks. Anything to help improve your defensive rating. Also try to create overlapping fields of fire. If at all possible you want to be able to hit your opponent from multiple directions (with artillery preferably) before he can do much damage to you!

Leader Tactics:

Leaders are extremely important!!! This cannot be emphasized enough! Units must be kept together with their Brigade commanders at a minimum and preferably near their whole chain of command. This is even more vital when playing as the Union since the quality of that army makes a rout very likely, if not probable!

Make sure to dismount your leaders when close to enemy units. A mounted man makes a much better target! Additionally, you need to use leaders for melee purposes. This will greatly enhance your chances for a successful melee.

Some players, myself among them, also like to aggressively use their corps and army leaders just behind the lines to both hold the lines and to rally other troops behind the line.

Infantry Tactics:

With respect to the infantry arm, there are only so many things you can do, which would include movement, firing, and meleeing. So we will look at each of these functions in turn. Since every game and scenario is different, these concepts will be examined in the generic sens here. and will look at specific scenarios and battles later.

The lowest level Civil War unit that is represented in the game is the regiment. Unlike the Napoleonic series where skirmishers can be deployed to protect your movement, the Civil War series does not allow this. The regiment is limited to moving in two ways; in line, and in column. They can change facing during the movement phase as well.

Movement:

1. Line Movement

There are a few considerations regarding how you wish to move, either in line or in column.

In general, when you are in the vicinity of the enemy you should be in line formation, since in the BG series, fire is not allowed in column formation, although melee is. Movement is most easily carried out in the 2-D normal view mode, as long as you are familiar with the terrain, since this allows you to most easily see the overall view of the battlefield, and how your units relate to each other, specifically, how they relate to other units of the same command. I find it easiest to click on the "next unit" button and then highlight the unit, and then using the command button to find which other units of the same command are present, and then move that command. This allows you to keep your units under command control, which is very important in determining whether they become disrupted, routed, or recover from these conditions to a normal state. Be sure to check the help file regarding command control ratings at the beginning of the scenario to determine the ranges of your command control, since they do vary.

By keeping your units in line formation you allow them to be in the maximum condition to fight should they encounter unseen foes. Remember to align your facing in the way you desire before advancing into "unknown" areas since when they encounter an enemy, their movement points are reduced to zero,and you will not be able to change facing at that point.

A word here is probably appropriate regarding how the units are aligned. One can use the "every other hex" method, which is commonly employed, or the "contiguous line" method of deployment. The advantage of the former is that it allows you to establish a contiguous zone of control along your line, while stacking your units in one hex, making them less vulnerable to your opponents counterattacks, specifically melee. This is very different from the Napoleonic consideration, where units in line are all subject to opponents artillery fire, while in the Civil War series, only one unit receives the artillery fire in a given hex. The "contiguous hex" method of deployment has the advantage that your opponent must successfully defeat two hexes to create a breech in your line, but since by deploying in this fashion, it becomes easier for him to do so. In general, I would recommend the "every other hex" method of deployment, but there are times when the "contiguous hex" method is best.

One should try and keep reserves behind the front line to fill any holes created by routs, but this is often hard to do, as your opponent will generally try and stretch you line as thin as possible. If you do have units behind the front line, you should probably allow spaces in between them to allow for routs to get through without disrupting your reserve units, as a routing unit moving "through" your reserve units will often disrupt them, making them less useful in the "plugging the hole" function.

2. Column Movement

Column movement is best used along a road, or when it is required to cross a bridge hexside.

Since many of the battles in the CW series are meeting engagements, it may be best to send your smallest regiment ahead of the line of troops moving in column along a road, since if they run into unseen enemies, you may get your smallest unit wasted, but at least the main body is forewarned, and can adjust their movement accordingly. Infantry is fortunately fairly cheap in the scheme of victory points, and if you occasionally get a small regiment pounded on, it may save you huge losses by moving the whole unit as a group along the road. Many players move their units individually, so this may not be a concern for those of you who do, but for those like me who use the "accelerator" form of movement (see the help file), it can save you many uncomfortable moments to have a "skirmish" unit ahead of the main body of troops.

The only time that column movement should be used across the "open fields" is when you need to get a body of troops to a given point quickly, and don't have the time to change their formation into line. Be forewarned, though, that if you are caught in column formation by artillery or counter attacking troops, that you will suffer significant losses by defending in column formation.

3. Facing

Fortunately, the BG Civil War series is significantly more forgiving than its Napoleonic counterpart, with regards to this issue. The Civil War regiment is far more capable of firing in a 180 degree direction than its Napoleonic equivalent. The main consideration here is when the line "bends" at a certain point, creating a salient. In the hex where the "bend" occurs you may wish to have units facing both angles of the "bend" so that you do not expose a flank to the enemy. As General Longstreet noted, you should be "as sensitive about your flanks as a virgin". NEVER, NEVER,NEVER, expose a flank to the enemy if you can avoid it. If you choose to do so, you will likely pay a significant price as your opponent will be more than happy to exploit it..

The only real "tactic" involved in most charges is to bring pressure on a salient in the line. As most of you know, it requires about a 3:1 superiority to crack a line, and salients offer this most easily. Pay attention to these points where your line bends, and make sure you have the maximum number of troops that you can put there, and that you do not expose a flank to the enemy. These areas are the points of the line that are most easily broken.

Fire:

Try to make every shot count! For example, if your in close quarters and its your offensive fire, look for the disrupted units in your enemies line and then concentrate on them. This is especially effective against the Union army. By doing this you will greatly increase the chances that some (or all, hopefully) of his troop will route on the subsequent movement phase.

When defending a position and heavy artillery fire is expected, have the regiments defend on the backside of a ridge, out of line of sight of the artillery. This is mainly useful in BGG on day 1 for the Union as they pull back to their historical defensive position. This is still a good tactic for holding a position and avoiding artillery fire. Also supporting artillery units can be placed behind the infantry, thus getting 2 or 3 hex range shots on any attacking infantry. Very devastating for attacking units. The other advantage of this defense is that the enemy doesn't know exactly your position or strength. Another big rule is never leave artillery without any infantry support. Artillery can't hold ground against a melee attack. So if artillery is near the enemy's front lines, within one turn move, provide some infantry to protect them, either in the same hex or in front hopefully not blocking LOS. Once again this is especially true for Rebels in BGG.

If it is your defensive fire (referring to phased play -ST) and you are in close quarters try to pick out his best troops, both in quality and order. If you are using extreme fog-of-war you will not know much beyond weather they are disrupted or not, that is unless you have played that army before and remember the troop ratings. By doing this you stand a decent chance of disrupting his units and preventing him from meleing you successfully.

If you are at a distance, try to let your artillery do most of the damage. You can fire at your enemy with most troops from a range of 5 hexes, but your chances of doing much damage decrease with every hex.

My friend Tom would also like to point out that in longer scenarios you need to watch your ammo depletion. You might want to rotate which units you fire each turn to ensure you have ammo when you really need it!

Two other points need to be brought up in relation to artillery. You can de-crew a battery if you are lucky. I recommend when in close quarters, devote at least one unit to fire at the opposing battery. You may get lucky and it will save you a lot of troopers. Also it pays to melee artillery just to disrupt it. Once disrupted, it seems to take a very long time to reform, which subsequently effects its fire capacity and movement allowance.

Cavalry Tactics:

Cavalry has two main functions for me:

* Reconnaissance - I try to send out my smaller cavalry units to the enemy's far flanks and to every high point on the battle field. If you men can see the enemy, then you, as the General, can see them! It costs more in victory points when you loose these troops, but when properly handled, the information gained can far outweigh the cost.

* Rapid response - If you are trying to hold a long front with minimal resources you can keep your cavalry in reserve to help plug holes as they appear. They can cover a battle field much quicker than infantry, as long as you keep them mounted. Just remember, they can not fire in the offensive fire round after there movement if they dismount, so either dismount at a safe distance and move in next turn, or melee if you think they can withstand your opponents subsequent movement and fire turns.(this mounting aspect is not part of non-phased play within the HPS Civil War series -ST)

* As a note if you are approaching another cavalry force, remember that they can move a long way, too, and if you do not have your flanks and rear protected you can be surrounded very easily and devastated, having no time to react. Particulary noticeable in the Stuart Arrives! scenario (BGG -ST).

Artillery Tactics:

This is difficult to say, as on the one hand if you place your cannon on your defensive line you will make your oponent pay dearly for the ground near it, and if they assault you. The draw back is you loose a lot of victory points for cannons. In some scenarios you have no choice but to do this, as in Shiloh, where the terrain does not provide large open areas for LOS. This has been my normal policy, but from recent games I have learned the other method is probably best. Place you art. at high elevations behind your line so they can pick at the enemy as they move closer. If the enemy breaches your line you have them in reserve and can most likely wear the survivors out before they reach your artillery. This works well in (Battleground) Gettysburg, Bull Run, and Antietam.

Guard your horse artillery carefully, they are a very valuable asset as they can limber up, move, and unlimber all in the same phase if not moved too far. They can also keep up with your calvary units.

The majority of the systems' artillery falls into two main types. 'N' for the12-pounder Napoleon and 'T' for the 3 inch rifled cCannon. 'N' should primarliy be used against infantry, they are very effective in this role, while 'T' should be used primarily against enemy batteries. 'T' is also effective against infantry, but not as much. The novice should be wary of taking long range shots early in the scenario with artillery though, as one tends to waste your ammon for minimal effect when later in the scenario, you may have to pass on close shots because you've used up too much. Check the help files for artillery amunition rules.

(20th Sept 2002)

 

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