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Gen’l,

Today we take a look at the economy of Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865). Although there were many hints from the community to not overdo the economic part of the game we thought that this was an important factor of this war. Therefore we are currently adding all the nice features to the game, but taking care of not forcing the player to micromanage too much.

Most of the economy in Grand Tactician is run by the AI, for example companies are established automatically near towns depending on the available workforce, connected infrastructure, corporate tax and the local availability of pre-goods and demand for the finished product. These companies produce more than 30 goods which are circulating through the trade system, all produced to feed and arm your economy, population, military units and fleets. Supply depots are building up stocks in weapons, ammunition and provisions to supply nearby armies. Although supply depots can be captured or constructed by the player, you will always need to take care about your supply lines as trade and supply routes can be cut off to reduce the condition and morale of the affected units. If a unit operates far from its supply base the supply trains take longer to reach it, resulting in lower supply rates. If you overstretch your supply lines you may use means like Sherman on his march through Georgia in 1864: raiding and foraging. But who knows the outcome of such operations? The economy in the affected region would suffer, people would starve and maybe more men are rushing into the enemy ranks.

Land of the Free, but Not for All.

A very controversial and sensitive topic for us was the representation of slavery in our game. As slavery was the main cause of the war we decided not to abandon it to play safe, sanitizing the evils of men – as that would desecrate the integrity of the historical story we’re attempting to portray. From an economic perspective the use of slaves on the southern farms led to a plunge in production costs of agricultural products, thus leading to a huge competitive advantage. A southern farmer could have returns of 20% on his investment, much more than the average return on industrial investments. In reality the northern states had nearly 10 times the industrial output than the southern states while 84% of the southern economy was related to agriculture – especially “King Cotton”. These effects are accurately simulated in our game. But we will also add a pre-war campaign scenario, which allows the player to push the economic development into another direction by using certain political means. So maybe in 1861 the South has industrial dominance and blocks northern harbors while the North needs to buy blockade runners from Britain?

Looking back into history, the US pre-war economy was closely linked to Europe. Especially Great Britain and France were depending on “colonial goods” like cotton and tobacco. The player will need to negotiate trade treaties and secure his export routes, while there will also be option to import products from Europe, weapons or modern battleships for example. The latter was mostly an option used by the Confederacy as money was better available than production sites. Although we allow European nations to intervene in the war, Britain or France will weight what to gain and what to loose: so blocking southern harbors to push up cotton prices may not force Britain to react if the country is more depending on Union wheat deliveries, which was an important topic as well, due to the higher demand since the Crimean War. But maybe the Confederate player increases the pain further by adopting an export ban on cotton? As the Old World superpowers used blockade as a legal means for their own warfare, a blockade tight enough may prevent intervention as well.

Military Focus Maintained.

A further aspect of the war was the change of the means of transports. Canals and later railroads not only affected troop movements but also trade routes. The railroad network can be expanded to further strengthen infrastructure. This will be an important issue especially in pre-war scenarios. Trade flows much faster along major rivers like Mississippi, the many canals leading west, and railroads, making them priority targets for military operations. Especially raiding tactics could disturb or even cut trade and supply routes, resulting in lower production, more expensive supplies and less corporate development. This is directly connected to the morale of the public, which is the key factor that allows waging the war to a decisive conclusion.

As you can see the economy works very detailed in the background, but grand tacticians don’t need to be afraid: the player will only need to take a few major decisions to influence the economic state of his nation, either by using certain policies or determining the economic framework on a macro scale. Also the economic system is not as vulnerable as in my previous game The Seven Years War (1756-1763), where each industry building could produce only one type of goods. Now, a single iron works can produce rifles, artillery pieces and ammunition depending on demand and expertise. So there would not be a total lack needed goods, but as the production suffers, prices will skyrocket and this will hurt the whole nation.

Your Most Obedient Servant,

Gen’l. Oliver Keppelmüller,
Chief of Engineers, &c.

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Gen’l,

The Grand Tactician is an operational level strategy game. This means the main thing the player is supposed to do, is to muster, supply and command his/her armies and fleets in order to meet the strategic goals of the nation. While we have discussed and shown in videos how commanding armies functions in battles, this time let’s take a quick look at what’s in store on the campaign side.

Your Orders, Sir?

Like on battles, we use order delays on campaign as well. Here, too, the delays depend on initiative of commanders and distance between units within an army. But when commanding the armies themselves, you are able to utilize telegraph infrastructure. Telegraph stations within range of one another are considered in contact, which allows a chain from the capital city to the armies. When on campaign, the player can use the army to construct new telegraph stations. But these stations can be captured or burned down by the enemy, which will mean the loss of communications and much slower delivery of orders. Other military infrastructure the player’s armies can erect in the game are supply depots and forts. But we’ll cover those later!

Like in battles, the movement order can be given as timed orders. This will better allow coordinating movements of multiple corps within an army, for example, to make sure they can support one another during the movement too. You can also direct the army to use, or not to use transportation via railroads, rivers, or sea. Depending on the route, and available transportation equipment, the army will then take the quickest route and transportation combination to ordered destination. This will allow amphibious movement and river expeditions. If a forced march is ordered, the unit will move faster, but rate of attrition will go up, and condition of men down, while also readiness suffers.

Armies can be ordered to take offensive or defensive stance. When offensive, the units will engage enemy units, siege enemy forts and reinforce battles that take place within their range, or the range of their parent army, if they are within range of the army commander. Offensive units will encamp when movement is finished, but will not start to dig in to allow quick reaction to further movement orders. When encamped, units will be resupplied, and the men can rest. If encamped during the winter, the army will go to winter quarters, which will protect them from the cold, but will increase order delays. Defensive units will not engage enemies within range, but will instead stop and dig in. If two opposing defensive units meet, they will both entrench and the end result could be Petersburg kind of trench warfare stalemate situation. Offensive and defensive orders will allow you to block terrain and enemy movements, create reserves, and so on, with ease.

Cavalry during the Civil War was a versatile branch of arms, with the effects taking place also outside field battles. For this reason player can order the way he wants his cavalry to act within his armies. During the early war, guarding was the most usual task. The cavalry would patrol the close proximity of the armies, secure lines of communications and be deployed as a screen behind the main line to stop stragglers and deserters. In this role the cavalry units will not fight in the battles, but on campaign game-play, the readiness and security of the army is improved, and desertion lower. When raiding, the cavalry will attack enemy infrastructure, skirmish with enemy units, and forage the countryside. This allows burning down the Shenandoah Valley, and similar operations, which will also hurt the support of the civilian population. The third special order for cavalry is to scout. Scouting cavalry will improve readiness and intelligence gathering of the army immensely, will skirmish with enemies within range, but will not appear in battles, except in case of a cavalry corps. If on a scouting mission, a cavalry corps will join field battles, but could arrive a bit late due to the need to concentrate beforehand. Think Stuart at Gettysburg. With no special orders, the cavalry will fight in field battles with the rest of the army.

Any Signs of the Enemy, Sir?

While the above orders allow flexibility in your use of the armies and planning of operations, one problem you have is the information about your enemy. Many times during the Civil War, the information about enemy movements was quite vague. While it probably was known if an enemy army was on the move, the exact location and status was not. And this made operations tricky.

To simulate this effect, we have created a different kind of fog-of-war mechanic for our campaign map – we call it the intelligence map. In battles, you basically see the enemy units when your units spot them in the terrain. On the campaign map the same is true, but information about unspotted enemies will also be available. This information is gathered via spies, scouts, local loyal population and from the local news – even those of the enemy. The less sources of information you have from an area, the less accurate the intelligence from there will be.

We simulate this intelligence by showing approximate information about the enemy, hidden in the fog-of-war: for example you may learn that Jackson’s Corps was sighted near a town three days ago. Most likely the corps has since then moved on… but where to? When intelligence about the same unit pops up from elsewhere, you are able to track the approximate movement of the enemy. But there are a couple of twists there: depending on the cunning of the commander in question, the intel delay is further increased. Also the number of men within the army will be just an estimate. And depending on your commanders, they may interpret and assess the received intelligence with errors. So, with this mechanic, it will be possible that the 500,000 rebels reported by McClellan being dug in around Richmond could actually be quite a lot less in numbers, and maybe attacking the right flank as we speak!

To help the player to understand what kind of intelligence to expect and from where, we’ve added an information layer on the campaign map. With this layer we can easily visualize on the map the intelligence coverage. With the same system we are able to show a lot of other information later on, like the dynamic front lines (depending on positions of armies, ownership of towns, etc.), population density, support, and so on.

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer, &c.

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Gen’l,

While news have been scarce during the summer, the Grand Tactician -team has been pushing full steam ahead on multiple fronts.

Fleets are Being Constructed.

Construction of ships and creating fleets under naval officers is possible. Depending on capacity in your ports, you can build ship types depending on available technology and resources. With certain policies, you could also import new ship types from Europe. Assembling a fleet is as easy as managing the armies: simply drag and drop ships from ports (“pool”) to the fleets. You can even do this if the ships are not yet finished. They will join the fleet once ready. Moving single ships between ports and fleets has a delay depending on travel speed and distance to cover.

There are 26 different ship types available to build, from simple gunboat steamers (mainly civilian ships with some armament) to ocean going ironclads. Each one has different attributes, for example the number of days they can spend at sea. As these numbers will be different within a fleet, to reduce micromanagement, we have added automatic ship rotation within fleets. This means the fleet itself will always be where you ordered it to be, for example blockading enemy ports or patrolling, but single ships will autonomously return to port for supplies, repairs, and upgrades, then return to the fleet. If you add a monitor class ironclad to a fleet with sailing sloops-of-war, it means the sloops can stay out a lot longer, and the monitor will need to resupply about every 20 days…

Campaign Map Gets Populated.

Work on an epic campaign map has been ongoing from producing the tools to populating the map with cities, towns, roads, railroads, and so on. This includes a ton of historical research, and sites like bridgehunter.com have become real useful in finding out which bridges and ferries have existed at what time, and when they were built. As we allow expanding the railroad network during the game, we will also have the correct railroads ready and available depending on campaign starting date: years before the war the rail network started expanding rapidly, and work continued throughout the war.

With an infrastructure network concept implemented, the map, including economy and logistics, will interact with the armies. Armies will be able to block trade and supply flows through towns, bridges, mountain passes, rivers, canals, etc. This allows real nice maneuvering to cut enemy supply lines by taking choke-points or raiding railroads. Taking hold of Mississippi river alone, for example, will be possible without the need to control whole states in south.

This will take some time, though, as the map is huge. Once ready, the map looks will be improved by the artists, and this will include also the beautiful paper map as seen in previous blogs.

Bolstering the Armies.

By adding customizable attributes to armies and fleets player can make his experienced units more effective. For example an army could become more effective in intelligence gathering in multiple ways. Using a balloon is slow, but with experience, the aeronauts could maybe direct artillery fire, making the army slightly more effective in sieges? Or an intelligence bureau would improve accuracy of information about unseen enemy movements and the information delay? Or maybe organize hand picked cavalry scouts to work behind enemy lines, like Wade Hampton’s iron scouts? The amount of attributes for armies will be limited in numbers, so you better choose wisely. And yes, here too we aim for historical accuracy instead of gamey superpowers.

We also added a little feature called “history” for commanders and units. This means the game will track what your armies and officers are doing during the game – listing dates of promotions, battles fought, and such. Additional information about, for example, pre-campaign history can be added manually. This allows the player to better keep track on who’s who in his military.

Armies and fleets already roam the campaign map, and the campaign-to-battle-to-campaign -link is established. Though a lot of work is still ahead on this side, including combat models for sieges, naval battle and so on, it’s encouraging to see the main ideas behind the game come to life.

Bolstering the Story.

As you can see, a lot has happened in Grand Tactician during the summer. We also are finalizing the original soundtrack recordings, and starting the work on the campaign videos, using LionHeart FilmWorks’ beautiful footage, with a professional TV producer. All this will allow better immersion into the Civil War world of Grand Tactician!

Have a great summer! Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer, &c.

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Gen’l,

One of the most important things the player will be doing, is army management: from recruiting troops to appointing commanders to lead them, and to organizing the troops into units and effective armies. Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) also allows a number of ways for the player to customize the units he commands.

Volunteers Needed!

War! War! War! The beginning of the Civil War saw both sides mustering volunteers to fight for their cause. When the war was said to last ninety days tops, there was no lack of men willing to join the ranks. The initial recruitment system was not designed for a long war. As the war dragged on and number of casualties kept rising, the fervor died with the brave volunteer soldiers. Soon both sides would struggle to fill their ranks.

During the campaign of Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865), player will need to manage the armies carefully to keep on fighting. Here, support and morale play a key role. Each state is tracked for support for both sides of the war, and the morale of the population. With high morale, or war fervor, you will find volunteers to fight for the side they support, especially if the contract time is short. Some states will end up supplying troops for both sides. But as the war drags on and list of casualties within the state grows longer, the willingness to join up will diminish. While volunteers could be difficult to lead at times, especially when the end of the contract period is near, drafting could cause opposition among the public and increased rate in desertion.

This means, population is the key. And there are ways to influence the population, from policies to economy and to immigration, to having armies foraging up all the food in the countryside or even raiding and burning the crops to deny support for the other side. With mismanagement of the population, you could end up with no-one left willing to join the ranks, and many of the service men reported being away without leave.

Getting Organized.

In addition to recruiting new units, infantry, cavalry and artillery, player has the tools to manage the organization of the armies. Single brigades can be formed into divisions and corps, and placed under armies, or garrisoned in fortifications. This is done in the army management view (as seen in the image above), by dragging and dropping units inside the order of battle. While changes within an army will happen fast, transferring unit to another theater will take time.

Whenever a new unit is created, player has the ability to appoint the commander he wishes. Managing the commanders is important, and here too player has some options. There are three types of commanders available: professional soldiers (mostly Westpointers), volunteers and high ranking political figures, and each type has its own characteristics. The professionals are trained for warfare, and come with a special experience in one of the four main “branches” in the U.S. military of the time: infantry, cavalry, artillery or engineer. Even though most are captains, as the U.S. army is merely 16,000 men prior to the Civil War, they can be trusted with command responsibility wherever needed. The volunteers are from the recruiting state, and usually have no experience of military matters. They too can rise in rank, but require combat experience. A political strongman, assigned in high command within your army, could bring in the support of his state, but could also create personal issues within the leadership, and be hard to get rid of without a political backlash.

In commander management, the personalities matter, as will seniority and fame, and political influence. Not always you can put the best man in command of the largest armies. And in case of defeat, even the best commander could lose the trust of his men and the population, and needs to be replaced to avoid a drop in support.

Unit Customization.

When recruiting, player has the first opportunity to customize the new unit (though this is not necessary, if the player does not want to). The color of the uniform can be changed for the unit to stand out, or the main weapon changed. In case of weapons, most important weapon types of the Civil War will be available, but being able to use them requires money, industry, or import. A mix of obsolete weapons like flintlock muskets for infantry or shotguns for troopers will always be available, and the more standardized weapon types will cost a lot less money and time to produce in numbers. So, while equipping all of your army with repeating rifles or breech-loaders could sound tempting, it won’t be possible for your armories to produce the more complex weapon types fast enough in required numbers.

When the volunteer (or forced via conscription) greenhorns are formed into brigades and ordered to join an army, they are not much of soldiers. Drilling them will do some good, but only with combat experience, “seeing the elephant”, will they become an effective fighting force, especially if well led by a competent officer.

When a unit gains experience and stands out from the rest, it’s possible that they get specialized training (a ka an attribute, a perk), that makes them more effective in certain way of fighting, or allows them to carry out feats others cannot. The unit could become known for its fearsome charge (“Texans always move them!”) or sheer discipline (“They must be made of iron!”), or it could have specially trained sharpshooters for effective long range engagements, or engineers to build pontoon bridges. The number of these perks will be limited, making the specialized units really stand out. With enough experience, or a heroic feat in a battle, they will get better in their trait, and even become an elite unit, in which case player can rename the unit (yes, it does make a difference whether a unit is called “1st Brigade” or “Iron Brigade”, doesn’t it?) and give them a unique flag they will carry proudly in battle. Armies and fleets can also receive custom attributes to make them more effective: a balloon corps would help in intelligence gathering while rigorous forced marches could earn fame as a “foot cavalry”. To mention a few…

The unit customization options are historical, and hopefully will make you care more about your units and the fate of the men serving in them. They will not make super-soldiers out of your troops, but the public will love great stories about the famous units, and in a desperate fight, the arrival of an elite unit could rally wavering men to stand their ground instead of turning and running.

Most Respy,
Gen’l. Ilja Varha
Chief Designer, &c.

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Gen’l,

The beautiful maps have drawn a lot of attention from followers of the project. To-day we discuss shortly the steps that are required in creating one of these maps, from research to drawing table, all the way to the game. We also take a quick look at how the map has evolved from a concept to what it is to-day.

In Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) we want to immerse the player in the Civil War, and one of the ways of doing so is audio-visual style. When designing the game, one of the ideas for battles was not to use a mini-map for situational awareness, like many other games do. Instead, we created what we now call the “Paper Map”: zoom out in-game far enough, and the 3D terrain is changed into a map, that is drawn using 19th century drawing style and technique. On this map we show the battle (and later campaign) situation in a quite unique and informative way – and style.

From Concept to Reality.

The concept for the Paper Map was created very early in the project. At first the idea was to add a full, drawn image to be used as a map. Soon we realized that this would not be sufficient, as any minor change in the map would require re-drawing also the Paper Map. At this point Oliver came up with the idea to include Paper Map graphics for each of the map 3D elements, such as roads, buildings, fences, and so on. This basically allowed editing the map as much as we wanted later on, with the Paper Map also being updated accordingly.

This is how the initial concept looked like in a very early development build of the game:

Paper Map Concept Image

This was basically Ilja’s handy-work, and the style was just a test. But the idea is already visible: the map should be functional and should show enough terrain information to allow the player to give commands to his/her units, just like in the 3D terrain.

Later, when artist Wasel joined the project, we started refining the map style. Wasel’s hobbies include historic maps and drawing styles, so we decided to try a more historic approach by applying similar drawing styles and visualization of map information, as the real Civil War maps had.

Base-Work.

There are quite a few steps required to create a Paper Map. It starts from historical research. Ilja’s job is to gather the information about the battle-field, and turn it into a reference map. The reference map is used by the artists to create the needed elements (layers) that eventually make up the Paper Map:

- The topography for the map is compiled from old topographical maps. Though ready heightmaps would be available from the battle locations, the problem with these is the fact that from mid-20th century, the topography has changed a lot in most battle locations. The topography is turned into a heightmap, drawing by hand, and the heightmap is used for both reference for drawing the elevation on the Paper Map, as well as creating the 3D terrain mesh.
- The landscape, including the infrastructure, is drawn according to historic maps, battle descriptions and available research. Here one must admit, that the level of research differs depending on battle-field. While Gettysburg and Antietam are well researched (see Bradley M. Gottfried’s books), some others require a lot more compiling of information from multiple sources, and in the end also educated guesswork. The landscape reference map is used to draw the terrain types on the Paper Map, as well as drawing the infrastructure, such as roads, creeks, buildings, fences, &c., on the 3D map.

The Art of Mapmaking.

After the reference maps are drawn, Ilja continues with the 3D terrain creation, while Wasel works on the actual Paper Map. Let the man himself explain the steps required:

“To start with I had to make a lot of design choices how to produce these maps. By far the most tedious part would be elevation and terrain textures. To be able to maintain production schedules I tried out many different automated methods of producing the various terrain types including Illustrator, CorelDraw, Photoshop, even Macromedia Freehand and various scripting and programming methods, with a lot of filters and effects on top. None of them were very convincing.

To create convincing battle maps I ended up producing them the same way they were made during the civil war—drawing by hand. As nice as it would be to draw the maps the way they used to be done, to accommodate production schedules I decided to use a digital drawing pad instead so everything would not only appear to be hand-drawn—they actually are—though digitally. Every detail was meticulously studied and compared to originals. To speed up working on various terrain types, I created hand drawn textures that were layered to avoid repeating patterns. While elevation nowadays is indicated with contours, during the Civil War it was less exact. It would be the engineers drawing the map according to what they see when surveying the terrain. They didn’t have heightmaps, so elevation data was also more relative than accurate. Instead of elevation contours, the more common style of today’s maps, hachures (i.e. line haching) were used to highlight elevations.

I start a map with the most tedious part: drawing the hachures. I begin by studying the black&white heightmap and comparing it to various historical battle maps of the area to decide what tactical elevations to highlight and what to leave out while keeping the end result geographically correct. Maintaining the look of original maps is a tedious job, since period maps were not very detailed and they were drawn by many different people in a multitude of styles and accuracy.

Next step is to draw the terrain types: water, forests, swamps, fields and orchards, that dotted the countryside. In the historical maps these were often colored to stand out, and I decided to do so. I went with a greenish light blue for water, and green for forest vegetation taking according to period examples which vary across different maps as much as any other detail.

For the infrastructure I created a set of hand-drawn icons and patterns researched and modeled according to historical sources, to be placed in-game. When zooming out on the 3D map, the 3D objects are changed into these icons on the Paper Map. For example, the road pattern is repeated and curved to follow the exact path of the 3D road mesh, which ensures that all elements are placed 100% correctly in both the 3D map as well as the Paper Map.

In addition to the actual graphics, an important part of any map is typography. To depict the hand drawn texts I painstakingly designed fonts replicating hand written examples in extant Civil War maps. The font was also distressed and various exchangeable letter-forms were designed to to achieve a hand written look.

Since the finished map is to contain a multitude of moving icons and other in-game elements depending on game progress, the completed map is constructed in-game from various layers containing paper texture, elevation, terrain patterns, text and various grime layers to make it look like a battle worn item.

Here you can see the work-steps so far, in a single image, from left to right:

Creating the Base Paper Map

– On topmost layer you see the scale grid.
– On the extreme left, you can see the topographical map used for elevation reference. Moving right, you can next see the black & white heightmap, which I use to visualize and mark all the most important formations and then draw the actual hachures.
– After the hachures are finished, I use the terrain reference map, in this case drawn according to Gottfried’s book The Maps of Gettysburg, to place the terrain patterns accordingly.
– After the terrain is ready, I create a new layer for the map texts, where I use custom-made fonts that match the ones used in the historical examples.”

From Layers to Complete Map.

The rest happens within the game engine. After the 3D terrain is drawn, the Paper Map is automatically assembled from Wasel’s paper background, adding the terrain map (elevation, terrain types). On top of this, the engine automatically draws the roads, creeks, etc. from the hand-drawn icons. Then the map text is added on top. This allows overlapping elements on multiple layers, making it appear like it’s drawn as one. Placed on top of this base, the unit symbols move according to their positioning in the 3D terrain. To finalize the look of the map, we use a “dirt-layer”, drawn by Wasel, which makes the map look slightly worn and vivid – just like one would look, after folding it open on the wooden table of the commander-in-chief.

Here you can see the end result from all this work:

Creating the Base Paper Map

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha
Chief Designer, Chief Topographer, &c.

Gen’l Wasel Arar
Chief Cartographer, &c.