Detailed Battle - Tactics: Help wanted!

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Detailed Battle - Tactics: Help wanted!

Post by Ralegh »

I am trying to think through how the AI should in an ideal world reason its way through detailed battle, and have put together a bit of a logic flow. I would appreciate some help from y'all... other ideas/comments/suggestions?

Each division should have a strategic allocation:
  • Line of battle, or pinning force, they aren't moving until we go to the PURSUIT phase. Some cavalry may end up in the line of battle if we needed to rush to occupy a certain hex, but they aren't usually intended to be here. All artillery will be in the LOB.
  • LOB supplementary - these guys can fire into the enemy, but aren't holding the line themselves. They can give up their position to plug a whole in the line or make an opportunity raid. How many there are (if any) depends on terrain.
  • Battle-line reserve - these guys are dedicated to swapping out for divisions in the battle line who need to be replaced. Sometimes they are in LOBsup positions, but usually they are resting, waiting for their turn drawing fire. Usually 1 division for every 4 in the battle line. Cavalry can do this role quite well.
  • The manoeuvre force, or strategic reserve, exists to either be sent as an outflanking force, or exploit a breakthrough, or replace units being pulled back to regroup, or to counter an enemy outflank/breakthrough. It is common to use cavalry as a manoeuvre force - a high movement allowance is critical. [Note that an outflank often this involves turning the end of the enemy battle line and rolling it up, not necessarily coming in from the rear].
Phase 1: Initialialise
During this phase of the battle we are looking for the best terrain to fight on. We will either pick some terrain and set up there, or advance on the enemy and set up wherever we encounter them. The decision is mainly based on the correlation of forces, and whether we would mind the battle going multiple days.
  • Defend - this relies on the enemy to come to us. We are choosing the ground, and they will choose when (or even if) to approach our line.
  • Advance to Contact - Choose line and order of advance(s)
    ¨ On terrain of our choosing near the initial point of contact or
    ¨ In contact with the enemy
    [Note: if the enemy are advancing too, then there will be something of a rush to get the best positions. If they are in defence, we should approach more judiciously. For example, we might change into line formation before closing.
Characteristics of a battle line:
  • Anchored ends
  • Protected territory behind the line for units to regroup and to hold caissons.
  • No gaps for enemy cavalry to ride through.
Terrain evaluation for battle line
  • Focus on features to anchor ends of the line
  • Anchors reduce risk of enemy turning the end of the line: ideal anchor is impassable terrain (either a mountain range or a lake) for say 6 hexes.
  • Distance between the anchors depends on the formation size - no more than 2/3 the units should be used filling the hexes between the anchors
    If one (or in the worst case both) end cannot be anchored, should "make" an anchor with units.
    In evaluating different possible battle lines, evaluate the hexes that will be able to fire into the enemy, and the enemy hexes that will be able to fire onto the battle line. Ideally we want to be able to fire with lots of our units, while the enemy do not have many places they can shoot back from. [This is the influence of ridge lines]
Decide on how to populate the battle line
  • Any artillery should be sited on ground level, with flanking infantry so that they are screened.
  • Any points that can be fired upon by lots of enemy should only be populated if necessary to hold the line, and should be held by defensive units
  • Fill in the battle line and any additional points that could fire into the enemy battle line or units to their rear with our better offensive units in the areas best suited to attack, and worst units in the areas with least aggressive potential
  • Evaluate tempo - sometimes rushing a cav into a hex is vital to get the position right… sometimes infantry have to occupy a position you would have rather reserved for arty
  • The battle-line reserve will be one division for every 4 in the line.
Phase 2: In battle:
  • If there is a hole in our battle line, can a unit that is not in the battle line plug it - if so, it should
  • If a unit is disordered, and its chance of reforming would be less than 50%, can we pull it out and plug in another division? If so, it will regroup, and the division from the reserve will replace it. If not, it will rest
  • If a unit is fatigued and shaken, it should rest
  • If a unit is part of the battle line and has no target, it will rest
  • If a unit is not part of the battle line and has no target it will rest is it is shaken OR fatigued - otherwise it will join the reserve.
  • Units who are drawing enemy fire (ie. Say 3 fire attacks?) should rest. If possible, they should put out skirmishers.
  • For every enemy division that is either:
    ¨ Artillery that is not screened
    ¨ Disordered but unbroken
    If a unit could charge them, allocate one to do so. EXCEPTION: a unit should not charge if successfully doing might create a breach in our battle line that is not blocked. If this could happen, use a reserve ro block the potential breach.
  • Remaining units will make fire attacks:
    ¨ Should be concentrated on the lowest morale ordered unit
    ¨ Multiple fire attacks should be made into that unit
    ¨ Units should rest rather than fire if they are fatigued OR shaken UNLESS there is a decent chance that their attack will disorder or break the target unit
Special actions:
  • Surround - sometimes an opportunity arises to surround an enemy unit (ie. They have impassable terrain and our units completely around them). If the opportunity arises for an elite enemy unit, it should be taken, and the surrounding forces will pour fire/charges into the unit, resting as necessary, until it either surrenders or is completely destroyed. By definition, an elite unit costs 40 or more textiles to build.
  • Opportunity raid - sometimes an opportunity arises to attack a unit behind the enemy line - typically, artillery, supply, and disordered units trying to recover. Forces should not be sent on such a raid unless there are reasonable prospects of bringing them back [this is the avoid clever traps provision].
  • Screening - if they are not in a protected reserve area, every caisson and artillery unit should have 2 or 3 (depending on terrain) screening units, preventing them from being charged. These may be regiments, or very weak divisions - but must be in order. (Garrisons can do this well). If our reserve is penetrated, screening units should immediately move into place. [Note: unscreened artillery goes over to the enemy. The enemy should have to destroy the screening force before charging the artillery or making it surrender. The AI should over-defend it!]
Phase 3: Pursuit
    If the enemy line disintegrates, and we have a compelling firepower advantage of formed troops, we launch into pursuit. In pursuit, we abandon our line of battle and chase the enemy down. We want to prevent them regrouping. (This is BEFORE they call retreat.)
  • No units change to line formation
  • Any units in line formation change to column the moment they cannot use a fire attack on a formed enemy unit or charge a unformed enemy unit
  • All units initiate charge attacks of unformed enemy units, and look for opportunities to surround elite enemy forces
  • Formed enemy units may be ignored if there are suitable unformed units to charge.
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RE: Detailed Battle - Tactics: Help wanted!

Post by Ron »

Excellent analysis Ralegh and hopefully the right direction for improving the AI in detailed battles. Obviously each of us approaches the battle a little(or lot) differently so my comments are based on my experience and what works for me.

I like your force allocations, ie battleline/reserve/manuever, however I usually put all of my infantry/artillery into the battleline apart from 1-3 infantry(max) acting as the LOB reserve and they are almost always right behind the battleline. The rule of 1 in reserve for every 4 in the battleline seems too high IMO - you should have the bulk of your infantry and all of your artillery 'active' to bring more firepower to bear on the enemy - if necessary 'wrapping' around the enemy. My cavalry acts as the manuever/shock force and is evenly distributed on either flank and center reserve - almost never using them to fill the battleline - but instead to force/overwhelm a section of the battle where I am doing well.

Advance to Contact - yes very important for the AI to maintain some coherency in this stage of the battle.

Terrain Evaluation - all good points but from my experience rarely possible unless defending right from the start. I find it is more important in the end to form a battleline first and foremost regardless of terrain. I would hate to see the AI run willy-nilly trying to find the best terrain.

Yes, artillery and infantry should almost always form one continuous line with artillery placed 'evenly' throughout. Lt Infantry should be placed in 'rough' terrain and skirmish from there.

In battle - important for the AI to concentrate on a few enemy with overwhelming force to break/disorder that section of the enemy's line. If the enemy is doing that to the AI's line then the AI should pull those untis back before they rout. Sometimes I will continually press the attack regardless of fatigued/shaken in the hope of disrupting the AI lines. There needs to be some variability in the AI's actions and not simply if fatigued/shaken then rest. Reducing and/or disrupting the enemy artillery should be an AI priority! The AI should ignore enemy supply caissons until the battle has been decided in their favour!

Pursuit - excellent.

If this sort of AI 'battleplan' can be implemented then that would go a long ways towards making the AI a formidable foe. Great work and really looking forward to the improvements here.


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RE: Detailed Battle - Tactics: Help wanted!

Post by Joram »

I agree with Ron, especially on the terrain. As it is, it's so random that unless you get a lucky set-up, it's nigh impossible to really incorporate it into your plan.

Otherwise, I enjoyed your analysis. It seems that you would need to write a separate AI routine for each function, and phase, that you described. Not being a (good) programmer, I don't know how feasible that would be as a patch. Maybe for a sequel though. :)
Lee James
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RE: Detailed Battle - Tactics: Help wanted!

Post by Lee James »

Presumably their would be some variation as to the proprtion of troops allocated to each task (including none at all) otherwise it will all become predictable ?
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RE: Detailed Battle - Tactics: Help wanted!

Post by Ralegh »

Yeah - we'd try to have some probabilities both on allocations and on selection of tactics, as well as on charge decisions etc.
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RE: Detailed Battle - Tactics: Help wanted!

Post by Grand_Armee »

I think the (first and foremost) important thing for the AI to do is actually form a LOB. ...And then move if necessary.

As far as reserves, resting units, and other actions, I think a lot of variables need to be put into place to make it competitive and non-boring. Your ideas are great...but you need a whole lot of variables to keep it from stagnation. For instance the AI should have a different number of broad strategies (defend-cordon, frontal attack, Echelon attack, defend in depth, outflank, go-hell-broke-for-election, etc.) from which to choose...then it can worry about how it disposes of it's men. For instance, it wouldn't need a manuever force if it were defending between two fortresses...just a decent reserve.

Also, it should (most often) defend when it is the one sitting in the province being invaded, or be compelled to attack if it invades a province. The human player should suffer the same coercion to attack when invading a province...can you imagine both sides sitting and forming defensive lines?Likewise, the human player shouldn't be able to draw it away from it's fortifications...I do that to the AI repeatedly just to avoid the little buggars acting as heavy artillery. (Despite the engineer upgrade, fortress gunfire drives me to distraction)

This game has a lot going for it...only the detailed combat AI is the snoozer. I still applaud this game...I just can't wait until I'm either playing a human opponent, of feel like I'm playing a human opponent.

Ralegh for President!

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RE: Detailed Battle - Tactics: Help wanted!

Post by mavraamides »

One minor point I'd like to add that I do and maybe the AI could as well:

The FIRST thing I do, is fan out all my cav to observation areas to figure
out where, how many, and what kind of units I am facing.

The way I do this is pick a point with good observation of open terrain about
two thirds of my cav's movement allowance so I can move there, note what I see
and then withdraw back towards my LOB. Since cav is so much faster than foot
units, it usually has plenty of time to get back into position.

Also, how quickly I form my infantry into lines depends on the quality of troops.

If I have well trained, veteran troops that can form lines easily, I move them
into position in column and then change them to line. If I have lower quality and
haven't researched formation drilling yet, I form them into lines right away where
they stand and then try to manouver from there. I may end up with gaps that I have
to plug, but at least I'll have SOME of my units able to bring full firepower on the
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