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HITS/GCM 4: AAR

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HITS/GCM 4: AAR

Post  WJPalmer on Sun Jan 13, 2013 4:52 pm

A Bad Day for Couriers

The Confederacy’s return grudge match to reclaim Cumberland Gap got off to a rocky start with our force spread between several compass points. Undaunted, our fearless leader, Gen. Byrd, determined to make lemonade from the lemons he’d been served by an inordinate dispersion of Rebel divisions. He quickly decided to leave cohesion to the realm of the enemy – our plan was to boldly attack from opposite ends of the Gap! The risk was great: if the Yanks became aware of our divergent routes of approach early on, they would certainly, given their experienced leadership, make short work of one or more of our elements and smash us in detail.

No wonder then that Gen. Byrd expressed consternation when I brought my corps up to the woods near Harris (just south & east of the objectives). My desire to be in position for a quick move on the southern-most objective (#2) created a greater risk of early discovery than he was willing to take on. So we relocated perhaps a half-mile more southeast to await the pre-appointed jump-off. When the time was right, we would, as the plan unfolded, attack from southeast-to-northwest and (hopefully) smash into the defending enemy simultaneously with Gen’s, Sspoom, Soldier & Mitra coming from the west, north and northeast, respectively. The timing of all this, though not perfect, was pretty good.

My corps consisted of Swinder’s division and my own, with one brigade under the direct command of BoldRover, in his first-ever battlefield command. My initial plan was for my brigade to lead an attack on the southern-most objective, in a road march with BoldRover behind me and Swinder bringing up the rear. In this way, my brigade would form the left wing of the attack with BR in the center and Swinder taking on the right flank. As we were getting underway, Gen. Byrd arrived to announce his wish that we drive instead for the center objective. I understood his thinking to be that this would put us directly opposite and behind the attack being staged by Gen’s. Soldier and Sspoom for greatest impact, and that the southern objective would be an easy conquest once this was accomplished. In any event, this adjustment necessitated a reordering of our approach march: Swinder took the lead and our left flank while my division with BoldRover would take the right/north. Through some confusion or perhaps an unexpected positioning of the enemy, BoldRover’s brigade went in on the left making first contact with the enemy near the southern objective. Swinder, now in the center, pressed on down the road per arrangement and engaged the enemy between the 2 objectives. BoldRover, after taking some damage, did manage to disengage and relocate closer to my brigade which helped maintain division integrity. My brigade, with guns in tow and Gen. Mitra’s division on my right, came to the edge of the woods to an incredible sight. Before us loomed both the objective and the enemy, hotly engaged with Soldier’s force across the way and almost directly opposite. Accurate perception was a rare commodity in this battle and my first thought was that the enemy force was deployed to defend primarily against me, when, in fact, I was looking into the rear of several enemy regiments. Urged on by Gen. Byrd’s subtle “attack, attack, attack!” direction, I passed on the orders to Swinder (who was also keeping an eye on our left flank and the enemy to the south) and ordered my own brigade to mount an all-out assault in double-line. Onward we went, carrying the objective and directly into the teeth of a line of infantry and substantial Union battery well-trained in the use of canister. My boys took fretful losses, but with Mitra pressing on my right, Swinder on my left, BoldRover coming up behind and Soldier/Sspoom attacking from the opposite direction, the enemy was in a nearly impossible situation and the outcome was not long in doubt.

As the fighting in the central clearing wound down, Gen. Byrd came by to say that his biggest fear now was for an enemy counter-attack from the south and southwest. I knew that Gen. Swinder was looking toward that direction and covering our flank. However, I didn’t fully appreciate how heavily engaged and how challenging that situation was until after the fighting near the middle objective died down and I brought what was left of my division back to form a line at the objective. There was Swinder, fighting it out on our left toward the south and east with what appeared to be fresh Yankees. Fortunately, there was little opportunity to ponder further the dangers that lay in that direction -- the enemy withdrew from the field a few moments later.

In retrospect, it is nearly impossible to separate the roles played by luck and planning, but I believe we benefited from both. Coordinating an attack from opposite directions in an area so large must rank as among the most difficult to pull off – Gen. Byrd managed this to great result.

Given our wide dispersion and always-present intervening enemy, losses had to have been frightful among our couriers. I can’t but wonder how many sad letters must now be written to mothers of our dedicated messengers after this battle at Cumberland Gap.

Battle results: http://forum.kriegsspiel.org.uk/t600-hits-gcm-4-rebels-revenge-battle-results#5218
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Re: HITS/GCM 4: AAR

Post  FlashmanKBE on Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:20 pm

Thanks for the great AAR Ron. Sounds like a terrific game, I wish I could have been there.

Any comments on the use of human brigade commanders? Is it something we'll stick with d'you think?
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Re: HITS/GCM 4: AAR

Post  Uncle Billy on Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:27 am

As the union started in the SW corner of the map, we decided to approach the objective from two directions. Hays and Stefan would approach from the south, while Robinson, Jones and Scott would deploy west of the objective. The plan was to stay in the wood line that bordered the objective and force the rebs to attack over the open ground. Since our lines of deployment were on high ground, we had excellent positions for our artillery. If the enemy really wanted the objective, it was going to be expensive.

As the divisions began to move out, I rode to a point east of the objective to try to catch sight of the enemy approaching from that direction. Right on queue, a rebel division marched past, heading for the objective. I rode back and informed the division commanders that the enemy was approaching. By the time I got back, all the divisions were filing into position. This was the high watermark for the union forces that day.

Robinson sent me a message that Scott was not following directions and in fact not responding at all. He was somewhere far to the north of our line. I also sent him several messages and finally his command seemed to turn and march in our general direction.

Within a short time, a rebel division appeared to the east of us. It did not move forward, which made me think that it was presenting itself as a trophy to try to make us advance off our good ground and chase it into a prepared ambush. I had word that the rebels finally replaced their former hapless leader with one that was known for such ungentlemanly behavior.

Next Robinson sent word that an enemy division was approaching us from the west. This was an opportunity. The enemy had split his forces. I felt that the bulk of his forces were east of us and this other force would be only one or at best two divisions. I sent word for Scott, who was approaching our line to move back west, engage that division and send word as to its size. Once the details were established I would send a 2nd and possibly 3rd division to overwhelm that force. Unfortunately, Scott continued marching past our line towards the waiting rebel division to the east with a force of two regiments. I was surprised that the enemy didn't immediately attack, but I guess he was as shocked as I at this sight.

Soon firing could be heard to our rear and several routed union guns rush past our line headed for points east. Robinson rode west and soon reported that the enemy division was attacking Scott's guns and a brigade that he had left behind.

I ordered Robinson and Jones to each use a brigade to throw back that force. To the east, more and more enemy showed up and began to advance across the open ground. I sent a message to Hays to immediately advance and hopefully distract the enemy and stop him from attacking Jones' and Robinson's weakened line.

Stefan stepped off smartly and engaged the southern most rebel division. One of Hay's brigades was very slow to deploy forward and seemed almost afraid to engage. I learned after the battle that this brigade commander was a conscript who was at heart a coward. Hay's would have had my full support if he had executed the man on the field.

At this point, the battle grew desperate. Robinson was beset by three rebel divisions attacking from three directions. Jones was forced to use his entire division to stop that division to the west. The center of our line consisted only of artillery. Amazingly, the guns stopped the attack on our center and appeared to have driven off the enemy in that sector. Hays and Stefan were pushing hard on the enemy left and it appeared that the enemy was shifting some troops south to address this situation. Jones had stopped that division in the west. While Robinson seemed to be extracting what was left of his force and moving them south toward our artillery. For a brief moment, I thought we might be able to hold.

I rode north and saw the enemy had stopped their advance. I thought that perhaps we had damaged them to the extent that they were unable to continue. However, as I watched, I saw that they had merely stopped to reorganize their forces.

Five minutes later they began advancing again and a gray tidal wave washed over Robinson's men and the artillery to the north. The battle was over.

This was a very good battle on a great map. I am sure that the results of the next contest will be more to the liking of the north. Many thanks to Ron for organizing this fight.

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Re: HITS/GCM 4: AAR

Post  WJPalmer on Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:31 am

FlashmanKBE wrote:Thanks for the great AAR Ron. Sounds like a terrific game, I wish I could have been there.

Any comments on the use of human brigade commanders? Is it something we'll stick with d'you think?

It was indeed an exciting game with lots of twists, turns and strategy employed. It seems to me as the games develop that there's more and more ingenuity shown with each battle. The 2 hours flies by! Thanks for your insights, Kevin. Sounds a bit like the Yanks experienced some of the same disarray that befell the Rebels in the 3rd game. In HITS, as the saying goes, if you think things are going quite well, you probably don't understand the situation... Rolling Eyes

The limited experience we had with human brigade commanders was a success in this game as far as I was concerned. BoldRover did quite well given this was his first exposure to both HITS and MP. The only real hesitation I had was that human control of individual brigades might turn into "super" formations with the additional control possible, and that this might upset play balance. Two factors offset this: When brigade-level control is taken by new or fairly inexperienced players, the arrangement undoubtedly helps level the playing field a bit when they meet an experienced divisional-level opponent. The other thing I think we will strive to do is balance the number of such human-control brigades between the sides. Personally, I think opportunity presented with this technique to introduce new players to a HITS Multi-player environment in a minially threatening environment is very good -- and is a great setup to work closely with an experienced division-level player.
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Re: HITS/GCM 4: AAR

Post  Uncle Billy on Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:30 pm

Using brigade commands for new players is a good idea. Going from the helicopter to saddle view is a pretty big step. Even handling 4 or 5 regiments from the new perspective can be a challenge. As such they are probably not going to perform much better than the AI. Having 1 or 2 brigade commanders in a game with 20 or more brigades on the field, shouldn't have an undue effect. Of course we would want to 'graduate' them to division command as soon as possible.

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Re: HITS/GCM 4: AAR

Post  BoldRover on Tue Jan 15, 2013 1:17 pm

As a new player, maybe it's useful to picture my experience in HITS and n-n MultiPlayer as brigade commander (I had played 1-1 games before, but not n-n).

The following struck me during gameplay, even though I had read all docs (incl. relevant manual pages) and threads, and had a few SP Hits sessions.

Experiences:
- I couldn't see friendly troops on the minimap, not even my own regiments. Very logical and to be expected I know, nevertheless a striking experience.
- "Command & select"-LAG. I had experienced this in my 1-1 MP games, but in HITS errors made due to it, carry a risk of going unniticed (*) for some time. As such the lag isn't really an issue, but always keep in mind that it is there!
- We played 2m from the saddle, which made it hard to direct my regiments and even myself, while in combat. Adding a few more meters would be more practical I believe.
- Out-of-combat movement went fairly well, even though one of my regiments went awol for a while (*). Only during the replay I realised what had happened: something had gone wrong with the initial orders: I had given it orders by courrier, then wanted to move myself, but I guess I had them selected instead of "me". Fortunately the regiment turned up in time to send the Ohioans running panicked to the rear :-) I'm quite sure now that this miscommunication was due to LAG, where I had selected the wrong unit while trying to move myself around. So I'm positive I can reduce the chance of this happening in the future.
- I could'nt give a stance to my regiments. Only "guard unit" was available.


Lessons learnt:
- Movement orders: move myself first, then my regiments.
- Remember the lag when trying to move "me"!
- Ride ahead of my regiments in order to be able to anticipate (max 200m according to rules). In combat (at 2m saddle at least) this is especially needed in order to be able to direct regiments. This made it difficult for me to press forward promptly during combat.
- Take less initiative and wait for orders on initial contact. In my particular case I had spotted the enemy, stopping, forming in line and moving to flank them immediately, even though seconds afterwards I was ordered to fill up the centre of our line.
- Try to give more feedback (even just "confirmations") to the immediate commander. I just was too busy sending and re-sending orders to my subordinate regiments :-)


Like to have:
- Direct keyboard controls (like first-person-shooter controls) for my commander.
- "Follow-unit" command.
or
- "group units" function for orders purposes (or at least make it possible to have multiple addressees of an order).


I wouldn't mind playing a few more sessions in brigade command. I believe at least one or two more are required before moving up to division.



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Re: HITS/GCM 4: AAR

Post  kg little mac on Tue Jan 15, 2013 3:31 pm

"- We played 2m from the saddle, which made it hard to direct my regiments and even myself, while in combat. Adding a few more meters would be more practical I believe."

I couldn't agree more. The 2 yards from the saddle setting, IMHO, makes the game less realistic. Too much time spent trying to select units and move around.

I'd like to try 6 yards or even 4 yards to see if that helps make the interface a little more user friendly. So we can concentrate on tactics rather than moving to a place where one can successfully select units.

I'm all for making the game as realistic as possible, but I think 2 yards from the saddle gives a player less vision than real life would have.

That said. . . these Hits/GCM games are the highlight of the week as far as SOW mp gaming goes. Great fun, great battles so far.

It was nice to finally be on the winning side. Although reading Kevin's AAR makes it seem as if the Union won!
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Re: HITS/GCM 4: AAR

Post  WJPalmer on Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:45 pm

kg little mac wrote:"- We played 2m from the saddle, which made it hard to direct my regiments and even myself, while in combat. Adding a few more meters would be more practical I believe."

I couldn't agree more. The 2 yards from the saddle setting, IMHO, makes the game less realistic. Too much time spent trying to select units and move around.

I confess that I go back and forth on this. I certainly had my share of troubles with the 2-yard setting in my first HITS experiences (selecting units, point & clicking precise spots on the screen, etc.). But it has definitely become easier after playing more games, to the point where I either accept it or hardly notice. (I still find large numbers of AI courier message confirmations annoying, however). Your suggestion to increase the view distance after the last game led me to experiment with several distance variations trying to find one that seemed comfortable. Oddly enough, I found it personally less distracting to play at 1 yard from the saddle than 2* or even 10, for a couple of reasons: my rider, orderly and flag seemed to interfere less with my view at the short distance; and with the emphasis on using AI control and the limitations on TC'ing in the last couple of games, I've come to rely almost exclusively on written courier orders and the command map. For me, point & click has been relegated to very close combat situations and only when a single click is needed for the order I want to give to a TC'd regiment e.g., wheel, double-quick, advance to cover, etc.). I also now use the button-rock much more than the mouse to select leaders or units -- those trees always seem to be perfectly positioned to block the visual line to the guy I want anyway!

In future games we'll try some different settings to see what works (not necessarily synonymous with what is easiest). It will never be to everyone's taste. The challenge IMO is to create a personal command experience that is as realistic as possible but one that is also reasonably supported by the interface. (BTW, do we know any more about potential keyboard mapping that would make it easier to move your leader around)?

*I must also confess that my last pre-game experiment was at the 1-yard setting, and I failed to shift it back before game-time. HG4 was played at 1 yard from the saddle.
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Re: HITS/GCM 4: AAR

Post  Uncle Billy on Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:56 pm

Little Mac wrote:
It was nice to finally be on the winning side. Although reading Kevin's AAR makes it seem as if the Union won!
I apologize for any confusion. It was certainly not my intent to give the impression that the rebels were in a superior position at the end of the game. I will endeavor to do better in future reports. Very Happy Very Happy

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Re: HITS/GCM 4: AAR

Post  FlashmanKBE on Tue Jan 15, 2013 8:11 pm

kg little mac wrote:
That said. . . these Hits/GCM games are the highlight of the week as far as SOW mp gaming goes. Great fun, great battles so far.

I couldn't agree more!

Thank you BoldRover for your comments on your experience. I think it's great that people are able to play at whatever level they feel most comfortable Smile
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