ModAAR: American Front, a CSA v USA WIP mod

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FOARP
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ModAAR: American Front, a CSA v USA WIP mod

Post by FOARP »

Hi All,

I thought I'd write a sort-of AAR on modding this game. I hope this will be helpful for anyone else thinking of starting their own Strategic Command mod.



The Concept

For a long time I've wanted to create a mod based on the Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191/Southern Victory books, where the CSA won the US civil war and became a great power on the North American continent. The first series of three books in the this timeline deals with a WW1-like conflict featuring an Entente-aligned CSA and Canada battling against a Central Powers-aligned USA, and that's what I'm going to focus on in this mod.

One of the problems with Timeline-191 for me is that it depicts the CSA as powerful enough to be able to challenge the USA in industrialised warfare. In our timeline, the states that made up the CSA have, since the Civil war, always been less economically powerful than their richer northern neighbours so this seems a bit unlikely at first. However, it can be explained by technological superiority and foreign aid, and indeed this is how the books explain it. As such, in this mod, the CSA will have significant foreign trade and start with more advanced technology. Mexico will also provide assistance.

Another thing that has to be dealt with is Canada, historical sparsely populated and having an extremely long border with the USA, being able to survive years of 20th century-style warfare with their Yankee neighbours. In this mod they will receive substantial British reinforcements and help, and the St. Lawrence will be uncrossable for most of its length giving them a strong rampart against the USA.

However *Spoiler Alert* in the books the USA does eventually win the war so the US will have a significant numerical advantage and, as the war goes on, be able to mobilise massive resources from its vast interior towards crushing the CSA and Canada.

Next up: creating the map

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FOARP
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Creating the map part 1

Post by FOARP »

Creating the map: part 1

The Southern Victory stories mostly play out on the North American continent. None of the other Strategic command mods I've seen actually have a sufficiently large and detailed map of North America for my purposes so for this mod I was going to have to create my own.

Luckily the "extras" folder in the game directory (Strategic Command World War I\Extras) contains a map-scanning app which can generate a land-and-sea map by scanning an ordinary image file and recognising the colour blue (0000ff in binary) as sea and includes a pre-prepared map of the continental US, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Canada as far north as Hudson Bay (look in Strategic Command World War I\Extras\Map Scanner\SC3 Map Scanner_Data\Resources).

Unfortunately, the map scanner creates mis-aligned coast-lines (see image for an example of what Vancouver Island and its surroundings looked like), so although it save a lot of time in getting the basic proportions and land-masses correct, the coastlines had to be corrected by hand in the campaign editor. This requires going through every hex having a misaligned coastline, going through the 600+ potential coastlines, selecting the correct one, and then moving on to the next bad hex. As you can probably understand, this took a long time to get right, especially in regions with lots of islands!



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BiteNibbleChomp
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RE: Creating the map part 1

Post by BiteNibbleChomp »

LOVE the idea of a TL-191 mod!

Looking forward to see where this goes :)

- BNC
Ryan O'Shea - Designer - Strategic Command: American Civil War
eightroomofelixir
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RE: Creating the map part 1

Post by eightroomofelixir »

Long time fan of TL-191 series here, very looking forward to this mod.



I am also curious about several aspects:


1. In the original book, the trench warfare mainly happened in the Kentucky Front (stable) and Virginia-Maryland-Pennsylvania Front (lots of back and forth), and I wonder how their scale will correspond to the in-game hex numbers. Currently the in-game Western Front trenches are about 20 hexes long (as in the 1917 campaign).


2. USA and CSA had lots of "naval" fights on the Mississippi. How will this part of the naval campaign represented in the map? Turn the Mississippi into sea hexes with the same width as the Red Sea?


3. I love your idea that the wartime economics of CSA and Canada will based on significant foreign trade. However in the original books Turtledove overlooked the convoy and commerce raiding part of the war.

In the books, the CSA only had a small navy which focus on coastal defense and commercial raid, mainly composed of cruisers and submarines. If the Royal Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy did not get the main USA naval vessels into large scale battles, the much larger USA Navy can easily annihilate the CSA fleet. How will this balance of the fleets represented in a North America only map, not resulted in the USA Navy destroy the CSA Navy and raiding all the CSA convoy lines at ease?

As for Canada, IRL, the main port for British sending supply into Canada is Halifax. In both War Plan Red and Defence Scheme No. 1, both American and Canadian war planners had considering the control of Halifax a crucial part of the war, as if Canada lost her Atlantic ports, her economic strength of continuing an all-out war with USA would be fatally reduced.

However, Turtledove wrote that the USA took the Maritime Provinces at the beginning of the war, and reach to the south bank of St. Lawrence River before 1915. The Canada in his works continued to fight till 1917 even without sufficient British supply, but I doubt that this scenario will happen in the game (unless turn Canada into a MPP powerhouse). How will you address the importance and defense of Maritime Provinces in the mod?
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FOARP
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RE: Creating the map part 1

Post by FOARP »

ORIGINAL: BiteNibbleChomp

LOVE the idea of a TL-191 mod!

Looking forward to see where this goes :)

- BNC


Hey BNC, glad to see a fellow Paradox forumer over here. As you might remember I’ve previously tried to do this with various editions of HOI, but the frequent DLC and patches makes it a thankless task - you get most of the way to making one and then the game changes. SC is way more stable so it should be easier.
American Front: a Work-in-progress CSA v USA Turtledove mod for SC:WW1 can be seen here.
FOARP
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RE: Creating the map part 1

Post by FOARP »

ORIGINAL: eightroomofelixir

Long time fan of TL-191 series here, very looking forward to this mod.



I am also curious about several aspects:


1. In the original book, the trench warfare mainly happened in the Kentucky Front (stable) and Virginia-Maryland-Pennsylvania Front (lots of back and forth), and I wonder how their scale will correspond to the in-game hex numbers. Currently the in-game Western Front trenches are about 20 hexes long (as in the 1917 campaign).

It’s about 30 hexes from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi.
2. USA and CSA had lots of "naval" fights on the Mississippi. How will this part of the naval campaign represented in the map? Turn the Mississippi into sea hexes with the same width as the Red Sea?

I considered this but in the end concluded that it would look bad and that the monitor combat is not something that the game can model well anyway. I’ll probably include some colour events about it though.

3. I love your idea that the wartime economics of CSA and Canada will based on significant foreign trade. However in the original books Turtledove overlooked the convoy and commerce raiding part of the war.

It’s briefly mentioned by other characters, though the Roger Kimball submariner character (and to a lesser extent George Enos destroyer man character) centres around it. In game terms, though, it has to be in-game otherwise you wouldn’t really care about the naval war.
In the books, the CSA only had a small navy which focus on coastal defense and commercial raid, mainly composed of cruisers and submarines. If the Royal Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy did not get the main USA naval vessels into large scale battles, the much larger USA Navy can easily annihilate the CSA fleet. How will this balance of the fleets represented in a North America only map, not resulted in the USA Navy destroy the CSA Navy and raiding all the CSA convoy lines at ease?

I basically consider the CSA to be a more technologically advanced version (in military/naval terms) of France. The CSN will therefore consist of about the same size of force as the French navy in the base game, but with more subs and dreadnoughts instead of pre-dreadnoughts. The main threat to the USN, though, will come from the Royal Navy.

Mexico will also have a small navy (a pre-dreadnought and a cruiser squadron at most) built with CSA support similar to that which the Ottomans built with German support.
As for Canada, IRL, the main port for British sending supply into Canada is Halifax. In both War Plan Red and Defence Scheme No. 1, both American and Canadian war planners had considering the control of Halifax a crucial part of the war, as if Canada lost her Atlantic ports, her economic strength of continuing an all-out war with USA would be fatally reduced.

However, Turtledove wrote that the USA took the Maritime Provinces at the beginning of the war, and reach to the south bank of St. Lawrence River before 1915. The Canada in his works continued to fight till 1917 even without sufficient British supply, but I doubt that this scenario will happen in the game (unless turn Canada into a MPP powerhouse). How will you address the importance and defense of Maritime Provinces in the mod?

New Brunswick and Quebec south of the St. Lawrence should fall quickly. From memory the books do discuss Nova Scotia as still being partly Canadian-held a bit later (1915?) so it should be possible to hold up the US on the Isthmus of Chignecto (eg Amherst may be a fortress). PEI will not be that important but may require a naval invasion to take.

Ultimately, though, the St. Lawrence line, which will be impassable along most of its length (by making it sea hex if there is no other way) will be the key position for Canada east of the Great Lakes, and Quebec City will be main trading port.

One thing I hope to do extensively in this mod is to provide substantial numbers of Canadian militia/ CSA state militia whenever the USA penetrates into a new area. Anyone playing as the USA should never feel that they’ve won simply because they’ve moved the front forward a bit, and the war should definitely carry on longer than 1916 in any event.
American Front: a Work-in-progress CSA v USA Turtledove mod for SC:WW1 can be seen here.
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RE: Creating the map part 1

Post by BiteNibbleChomp »

ORIGINAL: FOARP


Hey BNC, glad to see a fellow Paradox forumer over here. As you might remember I’ve previously tried to do this with various editions of HOI, but the frequent DLC and patches makes it a thankless task - you get most of the way to making one and then the game changes. SC is way more stable so it should be easier.

I'm not actually on Paradox, I think it is more likely you remember me from this PzC thread instead: https://www.slitherine.com/forum/viewto ... 47&t=69858

What HQ stat were you thinking of giving Custer? 'Hopeless' and 'Brilliant' both fit him pretty well :)

- BNC
Ryan O'Shea - Designer - Strategic Command: American Civil War
FOARP
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RE: Creating the map part 1

Post by FOARP »

ORIGINAL: BiteNibbleChomp

ORIGINAL: FOARP


Hey BNC, glad to see a fellow Paradox forumer over here. As you might remember I’ve previously tried to do this with various editions of HOI, but the frequent DLC and patches makes it a thankless task - you get most of the way to making one and then the game changes. SC is way more stable so it should be easier.

I'm not actually on Paradox, I think it is more likely you remember me from this PzC thread instead: https://www.slitherine.com/forum/viewto ... 47&t=69858

What HQ stat were you thinking of giving Custer? 'Hopeless' and 'Brilliant' both fit him pretty well :)

- BNC

Ah! Thanks for the correction!

You’ll be glad to know that, once I’ve got the American Front mod out of the way, I’m planning to make a Settling Accounts mod for WIE and will re-use the graphics from the Panzer Corps mod which I never finished.

Custer is very obviously Turtledove’s take on Joffre/Foch and so will have similar stats
American Front: a Work-in-progress CSA v USA Turtledove mod for SC:WW1 can be seen here.
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RE: Creating the map part 1

Post by eightroomofelixir »

Thank you for your reply. These are all really thoughtful considerations; I also assume that a USA push towards the Gaspé Peninsula and north New Brunswick will be limited IRL due to low supply situation there (northern part of Maine and New Brunswick are generally thick forests), the Canadians can probably held the banks of the Lower St. Lawrence, therefore the Lower St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence should be relatively safer for Canadian commercial trades. (Although in the books the USA effectively reached at least Rivière-du-Loup.)

Looking forward to your results.
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Creating the map part 2

Post by FOARP »

Creating the map: part 2

So after ~10 hours of work, I've managed to at least fix all the coastlines so they align. Vancouver Island now looks like the attached picture. This is not particularly great but I think it's good enough to be getting on with. I may go back later and try to fix the coastlines a bit better. The islands and lakes in the game particularly take a lot of work to get right.

As a general comment, I think it would be great if there were some way of drawing the coastlines free-hand, or even a routine in the map reader app that recognises and corrects coastline misalignments.


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Creating the map part 3

Post by FOARP »

Creating the map part 3

As fans of the Southern Victory series will know, Hawaii (known as the Sandwich Islands in this timeline) is the site of important actions early on in Timeline-191's version of the Great War. Unfortunately the map included with the map reader app's resources doesn't extend that far west - so I'm going to have to fix this one myself.

The first step is to resize the x-axis using the map size editor (Map-> Edit Map Size) of the game from 270 hexes to 400 to make extend far enough to fit Hawaii in. Unfortunately you cannot choose where the extra sea hexes this adds go, and they are added on the eastern side of the map, so the next task is using the shift function (Map-> Shift contents) and then use the first and third columns to select the sea hexes to be moved to the western side of the map.

The final step is to use the land/coastline editor to add in the islands by hand - and hey presto! The islands of Hawaii are now there for some gruelling amphibious battles.



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Creating the Map part 4 - Borders

Post by FOARP »

Creating the Map part 4 - Borders

After creating the sea/land hexes, the most important part of creating the map is putting in the borders. Players generally orient themselves by where the borders they see on the map are, and will then see if towns, rivers, and geographical features line up with them, particularly where the borders follow geographical features. The borders will also determine the placing of fortifications and units later on. As such the next step is to put the borders in.

The first book of Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series, How Few Remain, describes how Special Order 191, the order from Robert E. Lee which in our timeline was lost and then found by Union soldiers, was instead found by Confederate soldiers. As a result the Battle of Antietam ended in a disaster for the Union, and a Confederate victory in the US Civil War followed. Similarly, Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky succeeded in Timeline-191, meaning that Kentucky forms part of the CSA, as does (under the name Sequoyah) Oklahoma, which in this timeline remains largely populated by Native Americans. West Virginia, on the other hand, remained out of the CSA.

How Few Remain then describes how the CSA bought Cuba (and, I assume, Puerto Rico) from Spain in the 1870s, and then the states of Chihuahua and Sonora from Mexico after a war against the USA (which sought to prevent the purchase) in 1881. The Second Mexican War (as it was called even though Mexico was not involved in it) ended with Britain and France intervening on the side of the CSA in return for a promise to end slavery in the CSA, and the USA being force to concede northern Maine to Canada.

As such in the completed map you can see that the CSA stretches from Virginia in the east to the Sea of Cortes in the west, and from Ohio in the north to the Caribbean islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico in the south.

Canada has part of Maine (the part that the British claimed during the Aroostook War) and otherwise retains the borders it had in 1914 in real life. Labrador and Newfoundland are still ruled directly from London. France holds only St. Pierre and Miquelon on this map.

Some notes:
1) I only discovered late in the process of painting national territory that it is possible to paint large areas of national territory by holding the shift key and clicking and dragging. Knowing this earlier would have saved a lot of time!

2) Colouring on the mini-map seems a bit off. For some reason the UK and the CSA are the same colour, and whilst it was possible to make Canada be coloured by making it a great power (though I intend for it to be a UK-ruled minor) this removed the colour from Mexico (which I intend to be a major power, albeit a weak one).

3) Canada is far too long and thin, so if I get some time I will add further terrain to the north of the map. Cities like Edmonton at present won't fit on the map. I might also add a bit of terrain to the south of the map just so it includes some of France's Caribbean territories, though I don't intend to include any of South America in this map.

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RE: Creating the Map part 4 - Borders

Post by eightroomofelixir »

A small suggestion: In terms of add further terrains, I think some degrees of distortion of the map will be fine. For instance Labrador Peninsula and Newfoundland Island does not have an important role map-wise, and the Pacific seems too large for the game play. WiE has certain distortions, let alone WaW.
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RE: Creating the Map part 4 - Borders

Post by BiteNibbleChomp »

ORIGINAL: FOARP

Some notes:
1) I only discovered late in the process of painting national territory that it is possible to paint large areas of national territory by holding the shift key and clicking and dragging. Knowing this earlier would have saved a lot of time!

2) Colouring on the mini-map seems a bit off. For some reason the UK and the CSA are the same colour, and whilst it was possible to make Canada be coloured by making it a great power (though I intend for it to be a UK-ruled minor) this removed the colour from Mexico (which I intend to be a major power, albeit a weak one).

(1) is actually done by holding down Ctrl, rather than shift. Great find, that will help me a lot too! Many thanks :)

Re (2), the colours are determined by going Campaign -> Edit Major Country IDs and then choosing from the 'Set Display Source' list. Major_01 is UK, 02 is France &c. In my Civil War mod for SC2 I gave the Confederates the Russian colour (a fainter green than the ones the Americans use), which may be a better idea than copying the British graphics set? Seeing as the Empire of Mexico was installed by the French, I was thinking Austria-Hungary's colours (a faint blue-grey colour) would fit them well?

Looking forward to future developments :)

- BNC
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RE: Creating the Map part 4 - Borders

Post by FOARP »

ORIGINAL: eightroomofelixir

A small suggestion: In terms of add further terrains, I think some degrees of distortion of the map will be fine. For instance Labrador Peninsula and Newfoundland Island does not have an important role map-wise, and the Pacific seems too large for the game play. WiE has certain distortions, let alone WaW.

The Canada issue isn’t really solved by distortion as the lack of depth would still be there. - the US can still simply advance a cavalry division in a gap between cities to the top of the map and cut the link between east and west Canada. Making Canada deeper makes this a trickier prospect as it becomes easier for the Entente to close the gap behind any US advance. The books describe the possibility of railway lines connecting east and west Canada being built north of Lake Winnipeg so the map needs to go that far anyway. I’ve extended the north of the map by another 22 hexes to fix this - I’ll post a proper update about this when I get time.

If the Pacific turns out to be too big for play there are a number of possible fixes to this problem including changes to naval move ranges. However for the moment my intention is that combat in and around Hawaii should take place as though it were in a different compartment of the map - moving units to Hawaii, at least for the Entente, should primarily be via movement from the Atlantic using designated hexes. As the books describe, the USA should open the game in a position to attack the “Sandwich Islands”.

In terms of general scale, I’m thinking of pitching it somewhere between all-corps-scale and all-division-scale. The CSA should start with an army similar in size to that of France but with more divisions/detachments/cavalry divisions to cover the west. The USA should have an army similar in size to that of Germany. Canada will have lots of smaller units but relatively few Corps-sized ones. Mexico should have an army similar in size to that of Serbia but again with more small units.
American Front: a Work-in-progress CSA v USA Turtledove mod for SC:WW1 can be seen here.
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Creating the Map part 5 - Blame Canada

Post by FOARP »

Creating the Map part 5 - Blame Canada

As Canada was looking a bit on the thin side I've opted to add a further 22 hexes of depth to it. This has the added advantage of extending the map far enough that the southern end of the Alaskan panhandle fits on the map. In TL-191 Alaska is still "Russian America" and relatively undeveloped, but you should see some Russian units showing up to oppose any US advance in the Rockies.



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RE: Creating the Map part 4 - Borders

Post by eightroomofelixir »

Making Canada deeper makes this a trickier prospect as it becomes easier for the Entente to close the gap behind any US advance.

Sure, Canada should be think enough as kind of "defense in depth." I was wondering if the size of Mexico and Caribbean can be reduced in order to leave more space for Canada on the map (as I don't really remember any major actions happened in Mexico proper or south of Cuba in the book - again my memories may go wrong).
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RE: Creating the Map part 4 - Borders

Post by FOARP »

ORIGINAL: eightroomofelixir

Making Canada deeper makes this a trickier prospect as it becomes easier for the Entente to close the gap behind any US advance.

Sure, Canada should be think enough as kind of "defense in depth." I was wondering if the size of Mexico and Caribbean can be reduced in order to leave more space for Canada on the map (as I don't really remember any major actions happened in Mexico proper or south of Cuba in the book - again my memories may go wrong).

Mexico saw an invasion of Baha California, and Hispaniola saw a Confederate conquest of Haiti (the books don’t say anything AFAIK about the Dominican Republic but I’m going to assume they were involved given how much they sometimes dislike the Haitians).

But mostly it is included because it was on the automatically-generated map. If it becomes cumbersome or leads to excessively long AI turns then I’ll definitely cut down a bit.
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Creating the Map part 6 - Sandwich Islands 5-0

Post by FOARP »

Creating the Map part 6 - Sandwich Islands 5-0

The US pacific campaign in TL-191's version of WW1 opens with an attack on the "Sandwich Islands" (as Hawaii is known). The US navy has safely decoyed away the Royal Navy dreadnought that protects the islands, and its attendant escorts, leaving the islands protected only by an armoured cruiser and a few weak detachments of troops, although the fortifications at Pearl, with their "Concrete Battleship", might prove a challenge.

Oddly it does not seem possible to pre-position US ground troops next to the islands so hopefully some events can be used to fix this by spawning US troops in the right place.

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Creating the Map part 7 - Cuba (no es) Libre

Post by FOARP »

Creating the Map part 7 - Cuba (no es) Libre

So a quick update to let you know what I've been working on lately. First the map, where I am now slowly working on city, river, road, rail, and terrain placement. It seems easiest to work out the co-ordinates on which to place cities and then try to work everything else in around them, as they are the focus points of the game. I've used this approach on Cuba as a test case and it doesn't seem to be working too badly (see photo for details).

Cuba in TL-191 is ruled by the CSA as its most populous state and as an important naval base. I've also include the historical mines at Moa and Cobre in the south, so this is an important piece of real-estate (though I may have to tone down Cuba's economic importance for balance purposes later). I've also very liberally interpreted "Bocage" to include the kind of dense farmland found in the Caribbean - I think the effect it gives on the map actually looks more correct, but please let me know if you disagree.

Actually the biggest challenge from a technical point of view in recent days has been modding in the flags and roundels for the CSA. If you're interested the graphics files that have to be modded to do this are: Flag_sprite and game_screen_flag_sprites in the interface folder, and the files morale_flag_sprites, resource_flag_sprites, unit_counter_flag_sprites, unit_counter_flag_sprites_zoom, unit_nato_flag_sprites, and unit_nato_flag_sprites_zoom, and unit_activation_sprites in the bitmaps folder. To create the transparent icons needed for that last one you can paste whilst using the layer feature opacity slider (accessible via Ctrl-L) in GIMP. I still need to come up with some appropriate unit graphics though.




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