From: Marietta, GA
I enjoy the questions, so fire away.
Very interesting. You asked for questions, I got plenty o' questions. :P
One question is about research: do you accumulate a set number of "light bulbs" automatically each turn, or is the gain in research somewhat randomized, with a greater chance of a gain if you invest more?
I'll report a screenie from earlier.
In the research section at the left, you can see the progress your research is making in each category - the +XX is the anticipated progress this turn. Progress is fixed based on several things (most of which change based on circumstances). The light bulbs show how far you are in progressing to the next upgrade. So, Naval for example, will earn 9 research points this turn and is about 20% of the way to the next upgrade - meaning don't expect to see one for a while.
If you hold the mouse over a given vanue of research, it will show how your progress is derived. So, I am making 6 research points of progress in logistics this turn. The tool tip shows that 3 of those come from research buildings (meaning I have one lab building somewhere). I lose 2 due to the difficulty level. I left the difficulty level on "Captain" without thinking and even though there are 2 human players, that is handicapping both of us. Unlike many games, this one shows you where the difficulty is applied against you. In the income screen shots, you might have noticed the deduction there as well. I have a governor who is supporting logistics research, so that adds 5. So, the net is +6 per turn. If I were to build another lab, that would add 2 more. Also, each time I get an upgrade, it required 2 research points to "support" it. So, while you will make some progress with your initial starting research buildings, as you progress they do less and less good and you have to build more if you want to progress further.
Also, a strategy question: why is your focus in the west? Does this reflect the starting disposition of forces or your own choice?
The ANV has a significant quality advantage over the AoP. And the defender gets strong bonuses that are especially potent in the early part of the game when troops are green. So, I can't really mount an effective offensive in Virginia at the start of the game. And I can't move the army away and leave Washington and the economic corridor of New England undefended. So, I find myself instead trying to focus in the west where armies are smaller and I can tilt the balance by bringing in the hordes and making some key investments. I think I have a pretty good advantage out there right now so I hope to take advantage of that. With a few wins under their belt, the troops will see good growth in quality and I can then march east and pin the ANV between a veteran army from the west and the large but clumsy AoP. Or I can march up the mississippi and cripple his economy by taking his cities and cutting him off from his western income (If the USA occupies the entire mississippi, the resource production of the cities west of the mississippi is lost). So with a dominant position in the west, I'll have plenty of strategic options available to me.
Finally, I gather you plan offensive operations in the west and holding operations in the east. When you go on the offensive, what's your ultimate objective?
Pretty standard stuff. I want to crush his forces and destroy his ability to fund and supply his war effort. The most important thing is to cripple his forces. Once I do that, I am then free to conquer the land. But if I start threatening his economic livelihood, he'll have to react. Once I have him reacting to me, then I have the initiative and get to choose where we dance - which is especially important to me due to the wild difference in quality levels among my troops. That's the theory anyway.