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Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/23/2008 9:18:31 PM   
gryfon_james

 

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Joined: 7/23/2008
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Due to a recent back injury, I finally had time to extensively play ACW after owning the game for some time.

My background is a semi-retired computer wargamer, now focused mostly on board wargaming. I consider VG Civil War to be one of the best wargames, and certainly the best Civil War strategy game to date.

So, after two games against the AI as both the Union (victory in mid-1863) and the Confederates (victory in about 10 turns), I would say that I am very impressed with most of the game. However, there are a number of issues that would make me not likely to play it again in it's current form. I am hopeful that some of the criticism below could make it into a future patch and I could revise my opinion.

The game is clearly too complex for even a gifted AI to understand. A few points:

1. As the Confederates, desparate economic actions were initiated from the beginning (full mobilization, inflationary actions, etc.). By 1863, the AI didn't seem to be able to build troops any further. The Union AI seemed to do the same thing, although this game was much shorter so I don't know what impact it would have had. The AI selection of inflationary items should be the result of setbacks, not plan #1.

2. As both sides, the AI is constantly making deep raids into enemy territory. As done by the Confederates, it was somewhat effective until I figured out a solid militia/cavalry countermeasure. From that point, it was merely a nuissance to keep chasing units on their way to Chicago and fix the railroads. At several points, however, the Confederate strategy ended with very large armies backed into corners with massive losses. This was without putting the AI on aggressive. As the Union, the AI was a complete game-breaker. Seemingly every Union leader made a charge for Atlanta as soon as possible - Lyon was surrounded and killed around Memphis, all of the western units dove on Texas, etc. The main failure was when the entire Army of the Potomac decided to advance partway down the Shenandoah and then stop. A simple assualt on Washington ended the game. The AI needs some force preservation instincts.

3. As the Confederates, the AI finally lost in 1863 when a single division marched from Fort Monroe to Richmond basically unmolested. This was with numerous stops by Halleck due to inactivation.

4. Teleporting Commands: You really should be able to make the computer have zero of the instant relocations. This really makes a joke out of planning an offensive based on where enemy forces are. I think I fought AS Johnston and EK Smith on every single front, every other turn.

So, the Confederate AI can put up a fight, but is pretty easily lured into countless traps that will bleed it to death by the middle of the war. The Union AI, on the other hand, doesn't seem able to make any coodinated attacks that would actually threaten the Confederates, and has little, if any, skill to prevent the loss of Washington.

Okay, so the AI is just to learn the game, why don't I just PBEM the game? There are actually several issues that I think could be easily changed. If the game was shorter or simpler, I wouldn't consider these to be major issues. As a game that will take dozens and dozens of hours to play, these items become game breakers:

1. Activation: Yes, this can be turned off, and I would have to do so. The idea is that non-activated leaders move slower and fight badly. This is not a bad thing. As it works though, it becomes a very gamey item as you just have to reshuffle commanders to get want you want done, esp. in 1862+ once you have extra leaders. A worse aspect of this is that inactivated leaders can't choose an offensive stance - not bad on the surface until you realize that a defensive army will let the other army pass - quite the easy way to lose Washington, even though you had the whole AoP in between the Confederates and Washington. I also don't understand why you need activated leaders to build forts or form divisions - this is just a pain. McClellan, the poster-child for inactivity, seems to have been able to form divisions and dig in just fine.

2. Promotions: This is a more serious issue. As I understand this, you must promote the leader the turn he is due for promotion or you lose it. In a game that you have dozens of things to do every turn, adding this little micro-managment item is silly. It goes beyond silly when you have to move the leader out of his current command to promote him, or you take a huge VP loss because you promoted someone with less seniority. This is carrying the whole seniority bit too far. For army commands, this is understandable - you only have a limited set of army commands and the stakes are high. For lower-level generals, the level of managment it would take to try to get certain generals into combat ahead of certain others is impossible, esp. with only a one-turn window for each promotion. Suggestion: Make all of the promotions automatic, as in the VG boardgame. When a general is due for promotion, he gets promoted without any player input. Or, if players still want management of this, have a pop-up that asks Y/N on each promotion that is due - without VP costs for promotion ahead of seniority.

3. Army change of Command: This mostly works, although I question if McClellan is really worth 300 VP when high taxation is only 25 VP. If the player replaced every general that Lincoln actually replaced, I think you would end up with negative VP. The main problem is this; say you replace McClellan with Grant as Grant now has higher seniority - cool, no VP cost. However, now McClellan is still in the game, so every army command change you make must always consider McClellan first. Again the suggestion is follow the board game - when you remove a general's command, you have the option to remove him from the game completetly. I think once you have a passed a general over, the political cost has been payed, it shouldn't come up again.

4. Naval Cohesion: Even though I checked the option to have naval units not lose cohesion, they still seemed to keep losing it - does this feature work?

5. River Forces: While I made many attempts, I could never enforce a naval blockade on the rivers. The computer is always able to cross rivers at will; I don't know if I didn't have enough ships in enough areas, or if it was confederate ships moving in and out of the spaces, but the Confederates constantly slipped units into Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. There really should be a way to easily blockade a river and prevent this.

The above items are the ones that would prevent me from wanting to PBEM the game. Considering the dozens of hours I played, I also found several elements of the game were not worth the 'mental overhead' to deal with. Maybe I missed something, but in a boardgame, I would consider removing or abstracting several things:

1. Loyalty screen - losing VP to get martial law of dubious impact?

2. Economics screen - Aside from building trains and river transport, didn't see the point - I didn't industrialize the North and yet never had any serious issues with supplies of any kind.

3. Political Options - most of these seem to be no-brainers (emancipation, blockade) or never used (territorial concession).

4 Unit purchases - this could really get streamlined - does it really matter if you have 10lb or 12lb cannons at this scale? Why does the North need to purchase brigs or armored frigates; the blockade flotillas and normal frigates seeem to be all you need. Support units; can't you assume the North probably has these (field hospital, signals, etc.) and the South doesn't and just factor it into the army HQ?

5. Blockade - I never bothered with the brown-water blockade due to the micro-management and lack of feedback. How can you judge if closing of a port is woth the cost of the ships? Is it really worth it for the North to put transports at sea (and escort them) when they have plenty of supplies? This would be a much more interesting area if you had some charts or something that would tell you what you are accomplishing.
Post #: 1
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/24/2008 5:30:02 AM   
pasternakski


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Terrific post. I hope your back is getting better. Ain't "semi-retirement" grand?

I find just about all of your remarks right on the money (most particularly those concerning VG's Civil War, which I consider to be among the finest boardgame designs of all time). I think that AACW suffers a little from its heritage, which is Europa Universalis. I have played it extensively (I keep losing PBEM opponents, however, who seem to take it personally when I'm whuppin' 'em), along with its precursor, BoA. The bottom line for me is that there is just too much being hidden "under the hood" that I cannot get information about. Your brown-water naval blockade remarks mirror my experience exactly.

I find these games to be "incomplete." They are fun, in their own way, but rely too much on the old "let's hide things in order to make it more profound" technique of game design that has doomed so many of my purchases to hard-drive deletion in the past.

Have you run your ideas past the good folk over on the AGEod forums? I tried being a little "constructively critical" over there for awhile, but wound up in the state that so many of us semi-retired types do, wearing a "pariah" cloak as one shouting blasphemy at the (alleged) Almighty.

Oh, well. As the little boy put on the marker over the grave of his dead goldfish, "Here lies Fred. He was fun while he lasted."

_____________________________

Put my faith in the people
And the people let me down.
So, I turned the other way,
And I carry on anyhow.

(in reply to gryfon_james)
Post #: 2
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/24/2008 1:49:50 PM   
Arsan

 

Posts: 409
Joined: 7/1/2005
From: Madrid, Spain
Status: offline
Hi
Very interesting post!
Some comments…
About your AI points…
1- I think this is done so the AI can fight against “gamey” players who will also take high risks options. I would also like a more historic approach, but at less it gives the AI enough money and men to fight.

2 – I agree with deep raids issues. AGEOD is constantly working and tweaking the AI so I hope so this will improve.

4- “Teleports” only work on Leaders, not whole commands. Really I have not seen the effects you mention. I think it helps the AI to organize his forces and seems reasonable also for the player. Lone men should be more much mobile that armies, and in game railroad speed is more appropriate to regiments and brigades movements.

About luring the Ai, yes unfortunately, all AI’s can be lured… I just don’t find this kind of gaming interesting and try hard to don’t trick the AI and play fair on her.

About “game breakers”…

1- Active and inactive leaders in real history is a very difficult issue to represent on game. I think the activation works pretty well in game, but it’s not perfect (completely agree with you on the division formation for example). About the gamey leader shuffling, instead of turning off activation, maybe you should try the hardened activation option.

2- I really like the promoting system and the dilemmas you get with political cost versus good leaders. But I agree is a pain having to unstack the leader for promotion. It seems it’s an engine limitation, sadly.

3- In one of the latest patches (not sure what game version you used on your games) they introduced an automatic “seniority loos” (-4 point) for passed over or replaced commanders. It alleviates the problem you report.

4- This option is intended to affect just the ships on the blockade/transport boxes. ”On map” ones works normally.
River bloackades has been tweaked on the latest patches. Now you don’t need to be on offensive to impede crossing on a river zone. Just need four gunship elements (before it was just 1) posted there on defensive. This change increase cost but reduces rotation/micromanagement (as the ships does not lose cohesion on defensive posture).

5- About reduced micromanaging, I agree, but mostly not on the issues you reports… I will like for example a way to concentrate newly raised units on selected spots (like on the civilization games) or an improved 1 turn sentry order.



If you seek less micromanaging maybe you should take a look to the recently published BoA2: Wars in America (demo coming soon) or the original Birth of America (BoA 1).
They are very fun and less time and micromanaging demanding historical games.
And if you like Napoleonic wars, check NCP (Napoleon Campaigns), a more pure wargame without recruiting or many political/economic options.

Regards!

(in reply to pasternakski)
Post #: 3
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/24/2008 3:28:00 PM   
Widell


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Joined: 4/27/2005
From: Trollhättan, Sweden
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I also think this post should be duplicated at the AGEOD:ACW board which has a more active community related to the game: http://www.ageod.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=78

_____________________________


(in reply to gryfon_james)
Post #: 4
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/24/2008 3:41:01 PM   
Erik Rutins

 

Posts: 34454
Joined: 3/28/2000
From: Vermont, USA
Status: offline

quote:

ORIGINAL: gryfon_james
My background is a semi-retired computer wargamer, now focused mostly on board wargaming. I consider VG Civil War to be one of the best wargames, and certainly the best Civil War strategy game to date.


Gryfon,

Thanks for the detailed feedback. If you're an ACW gamer, you may also want to look at Forge of Freedom and Gary Grigsby's War Between the States. We're very fortunate to have three different and excellent ACW grand strategy games to choose from these days.

Regards,

- Erik


_____________________________


Erik Rutins
Director of Product Development




For official support, please use our Help Desk: http://www.matrixgames.com/helpdesk/

Freedom is not Free.

(in reply to gryfon_james)
Post #: 5
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/25/2008 1:06:56 AM   
gryfon_james

 

Posts: 2
Joined: 7/23/2008
Status: offline
I just purchased WBtS to try out, so we'll see how it goes.  However, the scope of the ACW game is much more interesting than WBtS, not to mention the incredible map artwork and such in ACW.  Hopefully this doesn't sound like an impossible request, but I am looking for a game the size the ACW, but with options for automating or abstracting certain things as desired.  I want this, that, and the other...

The activation rule already has an option switch, and it sounds like my naval cohesion issues were caused by putting the ships on offensive postures.

I guess this would just leave two requests for a future patch (if planned):

#1 - An option switch to query to player if they would like to remove a leaders from the game when he is dismissed from army command.  Was there a case in the Civil War were a general in command of an army was replaced by a lower seniority general and then later allowed to command an army again?  There were so many army command changes in the actual event that I would never attempt to say it NEVER happened, but my recollection is that all of the army generals that were canned due to a poor performance never gained an army-level command again.

#2 - An option switch to automatically promote any leader that is eligible without VP penalty.  I would really like to not have to read all of the messages every turn to make sure I didn't miss that someone was eligible for promotion.  Also, I guess I just don't agree that the promotion of one-stars over each other had significant political costs to Abe or Jeff; army commands, certainly, but one to two stars seemed mostly below a commander-in-chief's concern.  Plus, it is hard enough placing the right leaders in the right spot without adding the additional constraint of trying to get higher seniority one-stars into combat ahead of lower seniority one-stars.  Perhaps this option could be just for one-stars?  If the rules were kept the same for two to three stars, it would be much easier since the numbers of leaders to worry about would be much less, and two-stars are typically in seperate stacks anyway, so it avoids the engine limitations.  At the least, how about a button that sorts out promotion potential from the message log - flashing red text, alarm bells, something .

Please?



(in reply to Erik Rutins)
Post #: 6
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/25/2008 4:05:03 AM   
bigus


Posts: 88
Joined: 10/25/2007
Status: offline
Hi Gryfon.

Valid complaints. I suggest you post your requests for future patch materiel in the same forum over at AGE ("Help Improve AACW")
the support from the folks there is very good.(and as I write this many of them are on holidays.........but be patient).
Also check out the WIKI for the latest and greatest......

http://ageod.nsen.ch/aacwwiki/Main_Page

Bigus

(in reply to gryfon_james)
Post #: 7
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/27/2008 9:04:21 AM   
korrigan


Posts: 67
Joined: 6/26/2006
Status: offline
quote:

ORIGINAL: pasternakski
Have you run your ideas past the good folk over on the AGEod forums? I tried being a little "constructively critical" over there for awhile, but wound up in the state that so many of us semi-retired types do, wearing a "pariah" cloak as one shouting blasphemy at the (alleged) Almighty.


Dear Pasternakski,

With all the respect due to you, I can not let you imply that you have been censorerd/attacked/banned/frozen out after having been "constructively critical toward the alleged Almighty" (I assume the Almighty must be us (AGEod).

May I remind you that you decided to leave the forum after failing to convince the rest of the community that updating the game thanks to some Betas work with some new patches in order to improve it (ie: a more accurate railroad network) was wrong as this would drift way from the original game as designed by AGEod.
Your leaving post here:
http://www.ageod.com/forums/showthread.php?p=69735#post69735

You are intitled to have your own opinion, and I respect your point of view, even if I regret your decision to abstain yourself from posting anymore in our forum. However, after all the discussion we had on the forum, please do not write a post that could let some people think it is not allowed to criticise our games and our team in the AGEod forum.

The AGEod community is one of the most wecloming and helpful around and the AGEod team is open to discussion, as Gryfon has found out, and because we always want to improve our games we glaldy accept criticisms (as long as people are ready to discuss too).

I sincerlely hope we'll have a chance to read from you again in our forum (and I noticed your post about AI work four weeks ago)

Best regards,

Korrigan


NB: For interested readers, Gryphon's post is now discussed here http://www.ageod.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9964

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(in reply to pasternakski)
Post #: 8
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/27/2008 5:55:49 PM   
Erik Rutins

 

Posts: 34454
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From: Vermont, USA
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I'll vouch for the AGEOD community forums, they're one of the best run I've seen.

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For official support, please use our Help Desk: http://www.matrixgames.com/helpdesk/

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(in reply to korrigan)
Post #: 9
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/28/2008 9:46:47 AM   
Gray_Lensman


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From another semi-retired type:

How ironic it is that one of the few person's to actually oppose enhancements to the AACW game, would imply that he made any suggestions to improve the AACW game and that those suggestions were blasphemous. Give me a break. Up until recently, the main "constructive criticism" that Pasternakski made was to freeze enhancements to the AACW game unless it was the exclusive work of AGEod programmer/developers, in which case the flurry of enhancements and fixes that has made the game so popular would still be a long time coming while everyone waited for the programmer/developer's valuable time to be reallocated from the newer games they were developing. If he really felt that the AACW game was not really that fun, why do I see him on the AGEod site virtually every night, scanning thru the AACW threads? This strongly suggests to me that what Pasternakski posts is not what he actually thinks and does.

At least gryfon_james came over to the AGEod site and posted his concerns and criticisms for everyone to see and answer. I don't think gryfon_james particularly cares how his comments and suggestions are implemented, so long as they are implemented in whatever manner is possible for his full enjoyment of the AACW game.


< Message edited by Gray_Lensman -- 7/28/2008 9:48:03 AM >

(in reply to Erik Rutins)
Post #: 10
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 7/28/2008 11:39:23 AM   
Erik Rutins

 

Posts: 34454
Joined: 3/28/2000
From: Vermont, USA
Status: offline
Let's not turn this into a thread about Pasternakski and what he may or may not be thinking, that gets a little close to the "no personal attacks" line for my comfort. I think it's fair to say that the AGEOD forums allow plenty of constructive criticism and discussion, as we do here and that some great work has been done by both the developers and volunteers to make AACW even better. Let's leave it at that.

_____________________________


Erik Rutins
Director of Product Development




For official support, please use our Help Desk: http://www.matrixgames.com/helpdesk/

Freedom is not Free.

(in reply to Gray_Lensman)
Post #: 11
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 8/10/2008 6:36:01 AM   
pasternakski


Posts: 6565
Joined: 6/29/2002
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gray_Lensman
If he really felt that the AACW game was not really that fun, why do I see him on the AGEod site virtually every night, scanning thru the AACW threads?

I was willing to let this go and forget about it until I saw this. You have no business reporting to the world at large as someone with access to company records what my online habits are or are not. You do this again, and you will find yourself in receipt of legal process.

I tried to make my feelings known on the AGEod forums. If you review what I have had to say there, it is consistent with what I have had to say here. I am a staunch supporter, but I will not refrain from being critical when I think I need to be. Then, AGEod decided to market its products through Matrix and allowed forums to be set up here for commentary and response. All I said in this particular thread was that the original poster might want to take his comments to the AGEod forums. You people did exactly that. Where did I do anything that entitled me to all this criticism from representatives of a game company for which I have never expressed other than respect? Where have I disrespected products, which I have bought in support of AGEod? I said that my thoughts got short shrift. They did. My suggestions were ignored, and the game I was commenting about has wandered off, as far as I am concerned, in directions I wish it had not gone. Sorry. That's how I feel about it. If you don't want commentary here, don't allow it.

The mean-spiritedness of what has been posted here would deter a lesser consumer from buying the company's products, but I intend to support their efforts financially in the future despite all this. I like their games, I just think they are allowing themselves to be steered in bad directions by people who were not part of the initial development effort, but came on board as modders and contributors and now dictate the terms and conditions under which the games will evolve in the future. Nobody asked me if I wanted that to happen. I commented that I did not, and I got nothing but derision and criticism.

As for posting on their forums? What good would it do me? You see what it has gotten me in the past.

< Message edited by pasternakski -- 8/10/2008 6:40:14 AM >


_____________________________

Put my faith in the people
And the people let me down.
So, I turned the other way,
And I carry on anyhow.

(in reply to Gray_Lensman)
Post #: 12
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 8/13/2008 7:38:01 AM   
Gray_Lensman


Posts: 640
Joined: 4/10/2003
Status: offline
Sorry to disappoint you, but being a volunteer, I do not have access to any of AGEod's company records. However, when you log on to a site, you are publicly announcing the fact, and it is shown on the main forum page for anyone to see. This is not only true for the AGEod site, but for the Matrix site or almost any other forum site you wish to log in to. If you want to remain anonymous, you have to remain a "guest".

Since Erik Rutins has already requested (over 2 weeks ago) that this thread not be diverted, I'll reserve any further comment.

(in reply to pasternakski)
Post #: 13
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 8/17/2008 8:55:39 PM   
Titanwarrior89


Posts: 3281
Joined: 8/28/2003
From: arkansas
Status: offline
I'll second that!
quote:

ORIGINAL: Erik Rutins

I'll vouch for the AGEOD community forums, they're one of the best run I've seen.



_____________________________

"Before Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure. After Guadalcanal, he retreated at ours".

"Mama, There's Rabbits in the Garden"

(in reply to Erik Rutins)
Post #: 14
RE: Comments after Two Complete Campaigns - 8/18/2008 5:19:50 PM   
GShock


Posts: 1245
Joined: 12/9/2007
From: San Francisco, CA - USA
Status: offline
@Pasternaski:
You must resign to the evidence that expressing opinions and critics doesn't entitle you to expect a DEV company to follow them like divine guidelines.

I second Erik's point on the fact that with the help of the community the game has improved.
Unfortunately, the engine has its limitations, like all engines, and volounteers can't pass these limitations if the DEVs don't first. Perhaps the game is missing the "second step" improvement, but how many DEV houses do that, instead of selling a brand new game? None. Don't lose all hope, I am sure most of your suggestions will fit in that new game.

@Gryfon:
Play vs human and u'll have solved 99% of the problems: AI.

(in reply to Titanwarrior89)
Post #: 15
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