Economic and Political Strategy
I use economic as an all encompassing term representing any buildings and units that I can build, as well as other aspects of spending money. I am a big believer in building three main buldings. All other buildings are secondary in nature to my plans. Don't get me wrong, they are important and will prove useful, but are far less useful than these three buildings. The good news is that these buildings more or less complement each other in terms of the resources of their construction. Plantations are 50 labor and 50 horses, mints are 10 labor and 40 iron, and camps are $50, 20 labor, and 40 horses. This allows me to be able to simultaneously build these buildings pretty much two a turn if I manage my resources correctly. Iron and labor are scarce, but labor will come with plantations, and iron will be boosted by the occasional iron mine built in one of my iron works provinces. The labor and iron shortages can usually be minimized by proper build planning. The only time iron becomes an issue is when I doing massive mint building or buying brigade enhancements.
I favor a centralized approach to my economic development, and tend to focus on a few core provinces that are relatively far from harms way. Below is my building specific strategy.
I am a big believer in the power of camps, even after the boost in their maintenance costs. However, camp placement is critical. Because of the 5- 25% chances to decrease population by one in April, I only build them in select provinces. I tend to pick low pop provinces with limited resource production. I know that high population provinces boost the output of camps, but it is just to risk. I had one camp in Wilmington repeated wipe out the 3-population of that province year after year. I just can't afford for that to happen in my production provinces. My resources are just to scarce. My goal is usually around the 8-10k men per turn mark. This takes alot of camps, as I can guarantee that by April of '63, the camp provinces will be at zero population. 10k men return is 40 total camps. I try to build at least one every other turn. Florida is a good place for camps, as is Texas and Kansas (once conquered). I also use Little Rock, Shreveport, and sometimes Knoxville for camps. I will also occasionally build them in Kentucky. I try to spread my initial camp building out to preserve as much income potential from the camp provinces as possible. However, after April 1862, I will load each camp province to the hilt, as come April 1863, each will be perpetually devoid of manpower.
Why camps? Mainly because the cost of new units is very high, take along time to produce, and can only be raised once a year if you don't want to significantly hinder your income production. I also am not a big fan of disbanding brigades to fill out existing units. Brigades are too precious to destroy. Over the long run, camps can and will refill brigades, which will ultimately allow you to field larger armies and more divisions. 1862 is the critical year for brigade survival. I try to minimize my contact with the Union and by extension my defeats to avoid losing brigades to surrender. I usually never go on the offensive unless I know I am assured of victory. I can't afford to lose 2-3 brigades due to an unlucky aggressive manuever. I prefer to parry the Union thrusts as much as possible, engaging in a mobile defense to maximize my defending brigades in an effort to limit my territorial but more importantly my manpower losses until my camps reach critical mass. One tactic I use quite a bit is increasing the supply priority in one select division at a time. After a major battle, I will reshuffle some of my depleted brigades (<1k MP) into the same division and bump the supply priority for that division only. This keeps my supply costs down (bumping an Army container to normal supply will consume money like its going out of style). This way I can quickly bring my brigades back up to the 2k MP mark, and then I will change the supply priority back down and do the same with a different brigade. This is a constant game of whackamole, but it must be done. Not altering supply priority will leave more brigades at <1k MP for too often, and this will cause massive amounts of brigades to insta-route in a quick battle.
More money is always good. In fact, its downright critical. If you think you have too much money, you're doing it wrong.
Increase building capacity when you need it, plus provides bonuses. Better than a mansion, because it doesn't compete with camps for your money. True plantations cost labor, which is in high demand as well, but if you have more money than labor, skip building the plantation for a turn and build a research building or buy a weapon upgrade or unit enhancement.
Diplomacy - I usually do not put money into diplomacy until I am done buying camps. By then, I will usually have enough money to support all-out diplomacy to Britain and building a research building or buying a unit enhancement every other turn. But really, I am not sure why I bother. If I can keep the Union out of my country long enough to afford the mass amounts of cash successful diplomacy takes, I usually do not need the support Europe can bring. My honest opinion on diplomacy is that its like a bank loan. You only get it if you can show you don't need it. However, there are several downsides to neglecting diplomacy, but these aren't game breaking.
1. As your support dwindles, so will the bonus resources they send you, and the supplies your blockade runners can get go down as well. Its for this reason I don't build any more blockade runners. Usually by mid to late '62, I am running out of things to gather. As for what to get first, I will prioritize the resources I need the next turn. I know what I want to build the next turn, as well as what I would like to build. If I see a resource load that will enable to build three buldings versus two, I will go after it. However, I usually try to stay away from anything that is >=40% danger risk, unless its a large quantity of a scare resource. It's not worth taking a blockade runner out of commission for several months to get 20 horses. However, I will brave a 50/40 sea zone for $60.
2. You will lose access to buying European arms. While this may not seem like a big deal, the cost of upgrading arms gets expensive quick once you cross the support limits. If I can avoid paying 70 weapons for a Richmond Musket upgrade by spending some early cash on Enfields/Lorenzes/Lieges, I will absolutely do it. I tend to spend early cash surpluses on Euro weapon upgrades. It also provides your volunteer brigades a much needed oomph.
Governors - I RP some with the game, so I will spend resources keeping a governor happy by building them a semi-uselessbuilding. Unless its the governor of Tennessee or Virginia. Those two end up hating me by mid-1862 every game, so trying to placate them by building a barracks is a waste of time and resources. The reason I build camps in Arkansas is because that governor does not allow volunteer musters, so I will never be able to benefit from Little Rocks population except by camps. Since it lies west of the Mississippi, I try not to invest in building other types of buildings there. I have decent luck (probably 50%) in getting the Georgia governor replaced in the first turn, so I will muster there when appropriate.
That is pretty much that part of the strategy. The next post will be my turn 1 purchases as well as my thoughts on impressments.