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Mark Herman's Wargaming Blog
Saturday, 11 July 2015
For The People and Simulation Verisimilitude
Topic: For The People Material

Periodically friends who really like FTP as a game raise there concerns on some simulation elements in the design. What I continue to experience is people make points and I use statistics and analytics to make my simulation case. It was how I was raised by Dunnigan. What has been the case almost without exception is no one changes their mind, yet I also never get any analysis in reply, just a restatement of the original point, still not supported by any data. It is the way of the internet and all of the people in this discussion are friends, so it was at all times a gentlemanly disagreement.



I am posting this here so I can keep the information for future purposes. If you want to read the entire thread hit the link. Here are my responses to the salient points, so you can judge for yourself.


Great posts...


most of the counterpunches Lee pulled off in Virginia were in the hopes that the North would just get sick of all the dying and withdraw.


This is a case where we see the same things, understand the same history, yet see it differently. Taking just your one remark of many well stated ones, that is the point of SW and the invasions.


1) Smith's and Bragg's invasion of Kentucky, meant to "liberate" Kentucky (they even installed a temporary pro-CSA government on their way to Perryville) 2) Antietam, arguably meant to win Britain and France over 3) Gettysburg, arguably meant to do the same thing.


Using your succinct points, which I agree with...


1. Bragg is trying to liberate KY, this to me is a KY border state still not controlled by either side with the outcome being KY becomes a Union state. If Bragg is successful KY becomes a CSA state, which was its intent as evidenced by them trying to put a CSA State government in power. KY is also represented by one of the 13 stars in the CSA battle flag.


2. Antietam campaign: intent was to bring in Foreign Intervention which can occur if the CSA can get their SW to 110+ as simulated by the raid raising CSA SW value.


3. Installing a CSA army in the North was Lee's intention for both his invasions. If you read the OR (Official Records of the Rebellion) he states this exact thing to Davis. So, I can only conclude according to Lee's statement that he intended to put his army on Northern territory to cause the Union to sue for peace. This would be moving toward doubling the Union SW for the auto win.


As far as raiding being the main CSA path to victory, it was in all three cases how FTP handles them. As far as the Davis strategy of defense only, all I can do is cite recent Pettus and Docter CSA defense victories that have been on the rise over the last few years now that the metagame on how to properly defend Washington seems to have taken hold.


CSA players denuding the West to attack in the East are extreme strategies that you can argue could not happen. My response is the Union has more SPs and should be able to more than match a CSA asymmetrical buildup and still have sufficient forces to wreck the South in the West. I note that the Union has twice the CSA strategic transport capability, so they can always place more SPs in the East than the CSA. While I could have legislated various strategies out of the game, I feel that if they can regularly be defeated with appropriate response that should stop the activity. You should check out Dockter's and my CSR winning article on how to defend in the East, with a sidebar from the Master. I also note that there is a Crisis in the West card that can wreck this strategy. I must confess that I put this in the game in 2006 and nicknamed it the anti-Pei card.


An interesting sidebar to the CSA goes East strategy and why it should not work is the 1863 scenario. Watch James Pei play the Union. He gets a modest force into the Trans-Missippi and converts MO, AK, TX, and LA then the Union knocks the South down 15 points and 3 SPs plus gains the Union 10 (25 point swing). In the end FTP is won by the side that gets and holds the initiative. I do not fear a CSA build up if I am hitting them with where they ain't.


Anyway, as you can see we see and understand the same history, but I am unclear how FTP handles it with SW is not directly tied to the history vice other games with VP systems that are design for effect. Regardless, my point is this is what I call simulation verisimilitude. The CSA debated the defend versus attack strategy. In the end they flip flopped between the two and both are available. It is up to the players to refute a strategy, its always artificial and easy to do with garrison rules, etc.


Good discussion, others... I love this can of worms...


A games historicity is a function of many factors, but one of them is my responsibility that I believe that I have executed to the highest standard I am capable of. I also believe that there are many myths about this war that have been created by the games that we play on this conflict and upon which I have written about when I talk about psychological history. If a Union player is not worrying about Washington because his fortresses are impregnable then you are not experiencing Lincoln.


The other responsibility falls upon the player, just because a thing can be done does not mean it should be done. If the CSA player wants to play an all out offensive strategy to win the game by turn 6 and fails to a better Union strategy, whose responsibility is it that this does not look like the war in the books. As you note:


Gosh darn it, I always forget about New Bern.


To get a more historical game, the Union has to play like the Union or they reap what the sow. FTP can generate the historical starting positions for each of the yearly scenarios. I would argue that a weak Union player allows the South to gain advantages that were possible if Lincoln played like Davis. Not only is New Bern an important way historically to begin the isolation of Virginia, but it is a necessary move to shut down the South's ability to send offensive levels of forces to that region.


I would also note that one of the most significant victories in the West was the fall of Forts Henry/Donelson. Once this fort is taken out the South's ability to do anything in KY is neutered. I rarely see this move taken on. This means the Union has to invest in AA... Dockter's AA Cartel image would be good here. The play of one AA card (e.g., Fox) neutralizes the impact of the fort. Get Foote or Porter and the Union attacking the fort that usually has one SP garrison gets a +4/+5 drm, which is almost a guaranteed win. Once this historical move is made then the West opens up. Knock out New Orleans, historical, and the MS river is opened up and the South cannot easily send reinforcements to the Trans-MS, etc. If you let history be your guide FTP will reward you.


So, in the end, the designer and the players have a dual responsibility for historicity. As long as I do my job and create the environment where playing historically is correctly baked into the game and is a solid strategy to follow it is up to the players to use that history to their advantage. As I am not a fan of scripted history, I design history to be an emergent property. Players can and do run off the rails, but in a plausible manner. As I said history is in the eye of the beholder.


An addenda to this last point occurs in my Empire of the Sun game. Most Japanese players as they run short of air units often denude Japan of all aircraft. At some point the Allies figure out that this vulnerability can temporarily shut down all Japanese reaction and does so. Then the novice Japanese player writes in big letters this is a-historical and could never happen. I agree, who said you should take all of your planes out of Japan. The Japanese never did that. I of course could have written a rule that says you cannot take out all of your planes from Japan, then it never happens...


As the Riddler told Two Face (Harvey Denton) when he was about to kill an unconscious Batman... "Don't kill him. If you kill him he won't learn anything."


Then a new thread begins in the discussion…


Thank you Gilbert for your cogent remarks about FTP. I appreciate that you are a fan of the game but less so of the simulation. I have been waiting for this opportunity to have this discussion once again. I would offer that if you listen to Dockter's excellent podcast, Guns Dice and Butter, I cannot remember which episode we discuss this very topic. I will make the same point I made there, but with more statistics. You will note that Eric Lee Smith agrees with my point. I have also had this discussion with James McPherson and got similar agreement. This goes into the bucket of 'for what it is worth'.


I will use the following statement as a point of departure for my answer. This out of context comment is not meant to minimize the detail that is behind it as folks can read the full text above.


How could a Confederate army hundreds of miles from it supply bases sustain itself for months AND be able to control the local populace? Live off the land you say? How? Where would a confederate army get their ammunition from? In particular artillery ammunition. The only evidence we have for Confederate invasions of the North are from the historical record itself.


I will begin by taking the view that I have always had, if Sherman (Union) could do it, why couldn't Lee/Jackson? The evidence that cannot be demonstrated historically is that Lee made a 300 mile march off of his supply line as Sherman did. That is true because in both invasions he lost the big battle. What would have happened if he had won? I cannot believe that Lee and the AoNVa known for being a tough army that marched and fought on limited rations was inferior to the abilities of Sherman's army. I see no evidence for that and the substance of my analysis is based on the distributive property that if Sherman could do it, then any well led Civil War army could do the same. I am not sure what the argument would be against it, but I will continue with some statistics.


Sherman's march to the sea was 250 miles in length. His second and as significant next march off of a supply line was 300 miles (Savannah to Bentonville). So, it was done twice and I conclude that a march of 250 to 300 miles was not only possible, but a proven fact. The distance from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati is around 280 miles, but it works for any march inside of Ohio. Therefore what can happen in an FTP game when Lee goes through Pittsburgh to anywhere in the mid-West is an equivalent event.


Sherman's army consisted of 62,000 men, which includes a cavalry bde, so in FTP terms this is a 10-11 SP army with Sherman, McPherson, and Scofield plus a Cavalry brigade general.


During the course of the march Sherman requisitioned, foraged, stole, you pick which term you like best:


5,000 horses

4,000 mules

13,000 head of cattle

9.5 million pounds of corn

10.5 million pounds of fodder



Ohio had a population that was twice that of Georgia and from what I can see had probably 3 times the agricultural capacity, so Ohio would generate at least twice the amount of material for a foraging CSA army of equal strength.


The last point that comes up is ammunition, especially artillery ammunition when you are off a supply line. Well for starters Sherman managed two long campaigns without access to these materials, so unless you are fighting a big battle this is not much of an issue. For a benchmark the AoNVa over the three days of Gettysburg expended 80% of its artillery ammunition that it could not replenish and was certainly a factor in Lee's decision to withdraw. Using this as a benchmark a 62,000 man army off of its supply line could fight either the largest longest battle of the Civil War or many smaller engagements similar to the skirmishing encounters that Sherman encountered during his march and not be ammunition depleted.


I conclude from this that a CSA army once it had broken into open country after taking the surrender of Pittsburgh would be in the same situation except each city has an armory and unless it was destroyed would offer some opportunities for ammunition forage and capture of Union ordnance. This situation was a regular feature of Civil War battles. A large portion of the AoNVa rifles and a proportion of their artillery train were captured Union issue.


So, to summarize my thoughts on why I respectfully disagree and make the claims that I do is I have done a great deal of research on this topic and this is my conclusion that is baked into FTP. Any well led Civil War era army could march at least 300 miles off of its supply line. Sherman did it and Lee certainly could have done it. The difference between the two is Sherman won the battle of Atlanta enabling his march, Lee lost his battles and was prevented from doing what he told Davis he was going to do, operate and subsist his army on Union territory.


Gilbert I do not expect you to fall down and acclaim that you have now seen the light, but I wanted you to know that if I did not think this was an important historical simulation element in FTP, it would not be there. I did not haphazardly allow for this possibility, it was well researched and considered.


Thanks for the opportunity to debate...


Thanks Jeff... I will note that this kind of discussion can go on forever without resolution since no two events during the war are exactly the same and since it is based on a simulation model of what is possible, you can always introduce another factor and so on. That said let me take your two points on this way.


I would note wonder about how much of Shermans "raid" was in fact supplied by the Union, and how much it worked because he knew he was moving towards a eventual supply source - the port of Savannah, *and* he had good intelligence that there simply wasn't any southern force of note that could possible engage him, hence ammunition was not of particular concern to him.


Sherman could not carry more than about 3 days of food with him, although he did have 20 days of hard tack. This has been an historical fact since the beginning of time due to the fact that the animals collectively pulling the wagons consume the contents beyond this period. See Alexander the Great and the logistics of the Macedonian army for the details. Since each march took more than a month, Sherman was living entirely off the forage that I spoke of.


As far as the intelligence goes, Lee would have equivalent information, usually gleamed from reading Union newspapers and cavalry. If Lee had won the battle of Gettysburg, where was there another Union army? There was none and he would have been in a similar circumstance. Historically Sherman's march to the sea works because Grant aggressively pinned the AoNVa and its units in VA with his advance on Richmond. Put McClellan in that position and a Corps is dispatched. This is more or less what happened in the Chickamauga campaign and Sherman now has a problem. Remember in FTP even a lousy Union general gets a +2 drm when the enemy is out of supply.


As I said, Lee's army in the Gettysburg campaign had at least four days of artillery ammunition in its trains. And there was no battle during the war like Gettysburg for length, size, or intensity. So, while circumstances would differ I think artillery ammunition is important but not a show stopper. As I also note he would have foraged some amount of captured ammunition if he had won the battle.


One thing that Gilbert mentioned that does both me is the very gamey tactic of spreading your troops all over the place to control spaces, then sucking them all back in - it just feels rather ridiculous from a simulation perspective


First off the notion of 'gamey' as a derogatory verb is just nonsense. No insult intended but what the heck does it mean, its a game.


Anyway, what you describe as 'ridiculous' was a standard feature of how 19th century armies operated. This is true for Napoleon through the ACW. Lee regularly detached forces in exactly this manner because he could not keep his army concentrated over the winter or even a long march.


Many people forget that a Civil War army was larger than most cities of the era. The AoNVa was the second largest city in the South after the fall of New Orleans. Any Civil War army, to include Sherman's during his march, especially if they are off of their supply line, marched in parallel columns.


If you remember the Gettysburg campaign Lee's army occupied the Harper's Valley, Chambersburg, and Harrisburg spaces prior to concentrating at Gettysburg. At the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign (battle of Chancellorsville), you will note that Longstreet is not present. The reason is Lee is using the 'gamey' tactic of moving a Corps to Suffolk to subsist his army to avoid attrition. So, if 'gamey' means simulating exactly what was done historically, then guilty as charged.


The danger of spreading our your forces in the game is they can be defeated in detail. In order for the South in FTP to do what more or less occurred regularly requires a proportion of its 7 strategic transport. So in the game if you use your last card play to spread out to avoid attrition, the next turn you either pull them in expending most of your strategic capability and forgoing any reinforcements being brought up OR you stay spread out and you are a target for being defeated in detail. Its not a free lunch, and as Chancellorsville shows it has an historical downside.


Anyway, I think I have made my point and I do not want to appear argumentative, but I am very passionate about historical simulations and what I put in my designs always has facts behind them. You do not have to agree with my facts and my interpretation of history, but I rarely see any statistics or facts that make me think I missed something. So in the end, simulation verisimilitude is in the eye of the beholder.


Thanks for your support...


It ended as it began, respectfully with everyone right where they started. But I leave it to others to make up their own minds.


I hope you are enjoying the game… the reprint is top notch.



Cape Cod

Fortress of Solitude

July 2015

Posted by markherman at 8:25 PM EDT
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