Comments 24


In this devblog we have a very special guest writer. So far we have not shown the game to outsiders of the development team, except in the official updates like these dev blogs. But when a renown strategy game designer Philippe Thibaut asks to have a look at the game… Well, you show the game! You may know Philippe as the author and designer of the original board-game and PC-title Europe Universalis, or the founder and lead designer of AGEOD, including titles like Birth of America, Civil War, and the gigantic Civil War II, the most comprehensive strategy game of the American Civil War to date!

So, let Philippe himself describe his first impressions after having a look at Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) alpha-version, the campaign and battle game-play, behind the scenes.

– Ilja Varha, Designer, The Grand Tactician -Team.

Meylan, France, May 12, 2020, 9 p.m.

Tonight, I was very lucky and had the honor to have a personal presentation of the brand-new game Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) directly by its lead designer and author Ilja Varha.

First impression? Well, I am missing words…may be “Woahh…!!” is looking most appropriate.

I have been in video games for the last 22 years, worked on Europa Universalis and all the AGEOD titles, and many more other games, like the one I am doing now with my new venture Avalon Digital. I have played many monster games, including the Total War saga… but I must say that I am baffled!

This is, in my opinion and based on what I just saw, probably the best grand strategy game I have seen so far.

It has everything you can desire and dream of in such a venture. The level of details and the clarity and precision of the content is stunning. I thought we had done a lot in AGEOD’s American Civil War, but these guys did better… the content is impressive. No wonder it took so much time to design and produce, this is a treasure chest for any Civil War historian.

But even better, the game is exactly what a grand strategy game should be: you are not controlling everything, far from it, but you find yourself playing with two main levels of personification.

Player can steer his nation via different policies and Acts, like introducing conscription or, like here, investing in industrialization.

First, at the grand strategic level, you are a key member of your nation’s War Cabinet. You intervene on a lot of fields, from domestic politics and trade acts to foreign diplomacy or industrial conduct of the war effort. You are immersed in the huge task of creating your army from scratch (I saw the early 1862 Union side). And you also decide where to conscript, which units to raise, which commanders to appoint – The game has an encyclopedic list of over 1,300 commanders to assign to the various commands, both on land and at sea.

Fortunately, for the non-micromanagement fans (like me), a lot can be delegated to the AI (like running the economy) and that’s better like this. Speaking of economy, remember we are in the land of free enterprise, so the show is run by private businesses and it’s both realistic and ideal (no burden of choosing which little stupid building to build here or there)…

Second, you also get in command on the operational and semi-tactical levels: you have a wide range of realistic options and orders at your disposal as the Army’s High Command, and you shall have to decide on many issues and choices such as training troops, choosing deployments postures or trans-theater transfers. Preparing to battle is almost as important (if not more) as running the fight itself. Knowing (well, actually learning, like most commanders of the time) how to dispose and disperse your corps and divisions, how to make sure they can march to the sound of guns in good order, how to dispatch your orders so that they can be reached – and executed – in time, etc… the list is as long as a real Civil War general agenda… all beautifully displayed in a great art style.

And last, but not least, even for a grand-strategy only amateur like me, the part where you jump into the fray, finding yourself on the battlefield is even better thought. You enjoy – if I could say so – the torment of General Meade trying to guess where the Rebs are on this day of July 1863, and more generally trying to sort out reports in the midst of a very well rendered fog of war, weather constraints, fatigue and disorganization… you really feel you are there, and it is almost disturbingly real.

We also took a staff ride around one of the historic battles.

We spent 3 hours on this game, I had the impression it lasted 10 minutes so big was my astonishment and marvel at such a vast game. I would even dare say a masterpiece.

I even wonder if I should take the risk of playing that game… it would capture my mind and soul and I could not leave it. I wish I had the means, knowledge and tools to have done something like that before (but my game was 13 years ago, an eternity…)

Bravo guys, keep up the good work, you just did immensely great and I expect a huge success for your game.

Chapeau Bas Messieurs!

Philippe Thibaut

CEO, Avalon Digital,
Head of Development and Lead Designer, SGS,
AGEOD : Founder and lead designer,
Europa Universalis: Game Author and Designer, &c.

Comments 10


The American Civil War officially ended in May 1865, four long and bloody years after the rebellion turned into armed confrontation. Though it was quite clear from the onset that the Confederacy had no real chance for victory, it took four years and hundreds of thousands of casualties to finish the war of the rebellion. But, at many points, the war could have taken a very different turn – and that’s what Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) is all about.

Chapters & Objectives.

In our previous blog we discussed the story of the game, showing one of the chapter videos. The War, our main character, is divided into four chapters. Some followers of the blog were concerned we would use these chapters to steer the War along the historical lines, from 1st Manassas to Vicksburg to Petersburg, &c. But fear not! The chapters are there to carry the story, not the decisions made by the player.

Like revealed previously, each chapter will have some objectives to complete and to keep alive the war effort of your nation. Instead of directing the player to move certain direction, the objectives can be achieved in multiple ways. The main objective is to crush the enemy’s morale. Once the other side breaks, the game will end. This could happen early on in the game, or later than historically. It all depends on the campaign events, orchestrated by the player and the opposing AI.

Chapter I is the time before open hostilities, but the game cannot be won there. What’s the point of a Civil War game, if there is no Civil War? There are certain historical facts we are following to make sure the Civil War will erupt. For example, the southern player cannot simply choose to abolish slavery before secession – as then there most probably would not have been a secession in the first place? There will be a chance to do this later, though, but even then it’s not a simple thing to do, nor without drawbacks.

In Chapter II, as described in previous blog, there will be objectives to direct how the war will evolve. For example, winning the first major battle in the war will be an objective for both sides, and this battle will have more weight than any later battles in what comes to morale of the citizen. In general, the morale will continue to go down on both sides, the speed being dependent on campaign events like victories, losses, casualties… Some objectives will boost morale, for example by winning multiple consecutive battles, or taking the fight to the enemy’s territory.

Then there are historical objectives that player can try to achieve to gain the upper hand, like for Confederacy to capture border states and make them secede and officially join the Confederacy. In Chapters II and III there are also objectives to influence the Union elections. During the War there were two main elections: the House of Representatives election of 1862 and the presidential election of 1864. In either case, if Republicans, Mr. Lincoln’s party, would have lost, there would have been a chance of turmoil in Union policy making. If the Union support can be lowered enough, the elections will not play out as they did historically, and the nation would be further divided, driving the Union towards peace with Confederacy – which is one way for the south to win the game.

If events follow the historical lines, in the end, the war will end in exhaustion, with one side breaking first. And for the Confederacy, the underdog in the game, there is for example an objective to cause great enough casualties to make the northern spirits waver – even if own casualties would also be high.


Many readers of the Engineer Log have been asking about how we will implement research or politics in the game. Regarding the latter you see some hints above. But in the big picture we will not handle internal or partisan policies any further. This is something that happens in the background. Instead, we have a game mechanic called “policies”, where player can set the guidelines for his nation to follow.

The policies are linked to finances. Player, whose actions are government funded, will need money for the war effort. With the collected funds player will recruit and pay military upkeep, but there is more. With government subsidies player can influence the economy of the nation, trade, diplomatic relations with the European superpowers, recruiting, public order and policy making. From these, let’s take a closer look at the policies.

Both sides have a policy tree available, with some twenty policies and similar amount of acts in them. Policies provide certain bonuses to the nation, but only a limited number of them can be chosen at a time. This forces the player to prioritize, as he cannot have it all. Funding -branch of policies allows new means of collecting government funds, military policies allow new means of recruitment, and so on. With industrial focus player can unlock new weapon types to produce, and with diplomacy policies new imported weapon types become available. Each policy “branch” has multiple levels in it, and these levels are unlocked when moving to next Chapters. Player can change the policies to follow, but this will take some time, which simulates the political debate needed. Diverting money to policy making shortens the delays and allows more policies simultaneously.

Acts on the other hand are one time political decisions that player will need to live with for the rest of the game. You can see a number of Union Acts in the bottom row of the image above. Acts are not limited in number, but they can be accessed only via certain policy, act, or a combination. Each act will bring a benefit, but also some drawbacks, so choose wisely. For with Militia Acts, player can introduce longer contracts to volunteer service to make his armies more effective in the long run, but this will reduce the amount of men willing to volunteer. And when out of volunteers, there’s the possibility to introduce recruitment bounties, with more volunteers available for money, but also introducing disciplinary issues in the ranks. Or maybe one wishes to introduce conscription, allowing drafting…

The policies and acts also allow changing the course of history. The north could end up with great relations with the natives or Europeans, while the south could try to industrialize and, at a later stage, even moderate or abolish slavery, with the possibility to recruit Confederate States Colored Troops. But, like said, all this will come with a price, and could also cause the player’s side to lose the game in the long run!

Grand Tacticians Against Micromanagement.

Like described, player has a manageable amount of tools available to change the course of history without the need to micromanage minor details. But, if the player feels even this is too much responsibility to bear, both the finances and policies can be given to the AI to handle.

Most Respy,

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

Comments 21


The main character in Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) is the War itself. To make the War come to life for the players of the game, the game features cutscene videos with epic reenactment footage from Richmond, VA based LionHeart FilmWorks and a soundtrack created just for the game by Wasel and the Weasels. With these tools, among others, we wish to create an atmosphere true to the period.

In Their Words.

The campaign will have multiple starting dates, with the earliest one being set before the secession of the southern states. The pre-war scenario allows player to choose political guidelines that will effect how the United States looks like when the war erupts. For example, the South could try to industrialize or hail King Cotton like was done historically. The chosen policies will also effect the border states and diplomatic relations with Europe. The later scenarios will allow jumping off from a historical situation, from where the War will develop according to choices made by the player and the campaign AI of the enemy.

The War is divided into Chapters, each with their own objectives and possibilities for the Union and the Confederacy. Thinking again about the South, for example, during early war it could be possible to have the European superpowers intervene offering substantial military potential in the fight for independence. And later in the war, even if the fighting focuses on survival, it could be possible to demoralize the Union population by inflicting unbearable casualties, grinding the northern advance to a halt.

Each Chapter will start with with a video, telling the story. The above example is from Chapter II, named The Demon of War, where fighting has just erupted and the next step will be a major confrontation between the inexperienced volunteer armies. The videos are produced by our in-house director and editor Matti Veekamo, featuring epic Civil War reenactment footage from LionHeart FilmWorks, and music from the game’s soundtrack recorded by Wasel and the Weasels.

Writing the videos, I wanted them to give voice to the people that lived and fought during the war. In this we got great help from our friend and author Jonathan R. Allen, whose work 501 Civil War Quotes and Notes: Learn Civil War History From The Words Of Those Who Lived It And Made It we were allowed to use in the making of the game.

And as the war progresses, the atmosphere changes as well. From the fervor before the first major engagements, to the realization that the war would not be over by Christmas, to the shock of the new industrial war becoming total war.

Most Respy,

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

Comments 13


The War was not over by Christmas, like some of the more optimistic Engineer Corps officers made you believe earlier. But as the last full development year of the game draws to an end, it’s time to take a quick peek at the campaign side of the game. Sometimes a few images tell more than a wall of text, so let’s jump right into it!

In Command of the Armies.

In the campaign, player takes a role in the high command of his chosen side’s leadership. In the above image you can see the power balance between North and South – this balance is what you are trying to tip over to your favor! Here, playing as the Union, good ‘ole Honest Abe is running the show, with good, though a lot older All-American was hero Scott in command of the northern armies. Most important thing is to keep the morale of the citizen and support high. Only this way can the Union rely on volunteers to fill the ranks, and the citizen to keep carrying the weight of the war. The listed numbers control this balance, so winning battles is just one part of the puzzle, that the population is trying to figure out from the news.

As it’s 1861, the means for funding the war are quite different from to-day:

Your government is funded by land sales and taxes, and by loans and bonds when needed. As the player, you can influence how funds are collected and then distributed – or you can leave this to the all-so-trustworthy politicians (automanage). After the fixed costs of military upkeep, the surplus can be diverted as government subsidies to support the kind of policies you choose to follow. More about the policies later. You can also compare the economic success with that of the foe.

The Theaters of War.

In the game, the campaign takes place on an epic campaign map, spanning from Maine to Texas, from Florida to Dakota territory. The map is created from period surveys, and most important routes can be seen dotting the countryside, along with hundreds of towns, ports, ferries… The rail lines can be expanded during the game, too, as can be seen in this comparison picture (also from editor) from 1850 to 1865:

And below is the campaign map in action. You see the roads and rail lines, along with canals, mountain passes and ferries – and the dynamic weather system creating different weather on different parts of the map.

On this fine July day, the General, whose name is on every lips right now, and in a good way for now, does not need to worry about rain and muddy roads. Though he may be worried more about the untrained troops he is going to lead into battle soon, in the scorching heat.

When zooming out from the terrain, you, again, can use the paper map to see the big picture. When zooming all the way out, you have also tools to visualize how the campaign map lives behind the scenes. While you can see the state lines running neatly in the map, this is not the military reality. To see who is in command of what areas, player can choose to view the dynamic front lines, as they move. Here you can, for example see, how controlling forts in Virginia places parts of that state and North Carolina under Union control – a true thorn in the side. When the armies move and cities are conquered, the front lines move as well. Area and infrastructure under your control is blocked from the enemy to use freely – this includes and allows cutting supply lines!

Here Patterson, who still is one of the top Generals in Union Army, has his troops camped on the northern entry to Shenandoah Valley, over watching Harper’s Ferry. As the town is under Union command, northern supplies and trade flow there freely. In case it would be blocked by the Confederates of Johnston, the flow of supplies would cease, and the transport capacity in this area would suffer. This means raiding will be an important tactic, which will not only deny the enemy important routes for the time being, but will also effect the area for a longer time, as replacing equipment, roads, railroads, etc. are needed. A well placed raid deep into enemy territory could have severe consequences, not only in cutting supply lines, but also affecting the morale and support of the population in the longer term!

Here, on the map, Union Army intelligence gathering is shown in a heat-map. Though McDowell rates his intelligence as excellent, he has no idea what is happening beyond the Confederate armies, and even the information about those armies is sketchy. Also seen are the combat and command radii of the army. Within the combat radius (inner circle), enemy units are engaged if the unit stance is set to offensive – if defensive, the unit will stop and start digging in. Within the command radius (outer ring) other armies can reinforce this army, in case it goes to battle. Though, the further away the other armies are, the longer it takes for them to reach the battlefield. In this position it’s even possible that Johnston’s Army would reach Manassas quicker than Patterson? Patterson could move in and hold Johnston in place (both on defensive stance and close together will fortify positions and are considered “locked” to one another), but if he’s cunning, he could slip away regardless?

In the Chesapeake Bay, Union has a fleet ready to sail out to meet the Confederate Navy, or to support land operations by bombarding forts or escorting transports to, say, the Peninsula? But who would go on that God-forbidden swampy wasteland? At least any time soon…

Army Management Made Easy.

Keeping the armies in shape for fighting is vital. This means also recruitment and management. Here McDowell’s ranks are bolstered with a new Brigade. Volunteers are available where support is high, and population is available. States can, and will, provide troops for both sides of the war if the population’s support is divided. At least in Maine the rebel cause has not won many hearts, so the recruits will be heading to D.C. in blue uniform. But only for 3 months for now, as that’s what Abe said it would take to quell this pesky rebellion – and that’s how long the contract is.

Once the required regiments are mustered, the shiny new brigade will march to join McDowell’s 4th Division under Runyon. Depending on distance, the time can be from days to weeks. Commanders can also transfer units within the army, or between armies, by simply dragging and dropping, and off they march:

And in case you’re not happy with the weapons the unit is carrying, upgrading is possible. But bear in mind, you will need functioning weapon industry or good relations with European superpowers willing to export their weapons. Standardization plays a role, so throwing expensive repeating rifles at every unit is – in addition to complete waste of ammunition – handled within the economy.

OK, that’s it for this year, General! More campaigning will be coming your way soon! Have a Happy New Year!

Most Respy,

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

Comments 12


As 2019 draws close to end, it’s time to take a look at where the Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) stands. While a lot has been achieved so far – and it would be possible to march the game as an inexperienced greenhorn to the field – we have decided to continue drilling in winter quarters to make sure the game is ready to face the odds. While the delay to summer 2020 may come as a disappointment to the troops in the field, there will be plenty to do while preparing for the decisive summer campaign. And this time, let’s have a look at some of the remaining features in the game, and the time line to finish them – this will also answer some of the questions raised by the community recently.

From Economy to Politics.

The economic concept of the game has been described already in recent blogs Economy – Part I and Part II. Currently we are finalizing the economy with government funding controls, with 19th century references. The economy was very different back then, with most of the U.S. Government funding to cover administration costs and military upkeep coming from tariffs, excise taxes, loans and land sales. In 1860, the annual budget was a bit over $60 million. Mustering the great armies and fleets of the Civil War, more money was needed, with U.S. defence spending alone hitting its peak of nearly $1,200 million in 1865. This of course requires new ways of government funding. Here politics come in.

In the game, player can steer the direction of his nation with policies. The policies will be divided into different categories, one being the economic branch. Here player can choose to push for new means of collecting revenue, like the revenue act of 1862, introducing the first federal income tax. With this policy in place, player has access to income tax control to increase the amount of tax. While more money is collected, this will affect the wealth of the population – which they use to set up new industries and to buy goods. While the collected taxes and tariffs will not be sufficient to cover the cost of a prolonged war, issuing bonds and borrowing money will allow keeping the wheels of war turning. With problems to cover the interests, credit rating will slowly plummet and prices rise, so a strong economy is needed to fight on. Player can also step back and let the AI automanage the economy.

Policies are also used to drive military innovations and reforms, as well as expansion and diplomacy. By issuing government funding in form of subsidies (from the collected revenue), player can influence the policy makers. Player can for example expand the pool of recruits by introducing conscription, inspire western expansion, or improve relations with the European powers, allowing weapon imports and even purchase of modern warships.

Freedom of Action.

In Grand Tactician campaign you are free to choose your strategy and design your own operations. As the AI enemy will be doing to the same, it’s highly unlikely Your Civil War will follow the War’s historic path. This is of course a problem for me, the game and map designer, as at the same time we want historically accurate, detailed battlefields and on the other hand the battles could happen where in reality they did not.

Creating the historical battlefields and maps has already been discussed in our previous log entry. These maps will be used in the campaign. We’ve added on our campaign map, with a ton of other information, so called “battlefield markers” that control where the battlefields are located. So, if two armies clash near Manassas, then the battle will take place on this historic battlefield. The maneuvering of the units according to campaign map disposition is taken into account, so reinforcements and troop movement directions are assigned accordingly.

We’ve also added “random map markers” as well. These markers manage a number of sets of non-historic battlefields. These battlefields will also be manually created to allow the same level of detail as the historic maps. The sets are compiled according to terrain in different parts of the United States, so you would not get same randomly chosen map in Texas and Vermont. There is also an upside to not having procedural random maps: the level of detail in the maps and the game-play aspect. Even maps generated randomly for simple hex based terrain engines (Steel Panthers is a prime example) tend to produce quite good maps, but also very bad ones. And while getting your campaign randomly produce you an impossible terrain to fight in would be fairly realistic, it would certainly kill some of the fun – especially if this was the battle that would decide the fate of your nation.

And while the initial release will see a certain number of battle maps available, with the described mechanic in place, we can later on expand the number of maps and the size of the randomly picked map sets. Basically any later created map can be very easily integrated in the main campaign map, expanding the game as post-release development goes on.

The Time Line.

We are driving on, as planned previously, to include all the main features by the end of the year. With these implemented, we will have an alpha version in our hands, and will start proper testing of the game engine(s) to fix bugs and balance the game play. While alpha testing is ongoing, we will have time to polish the game, including adding campaign cut scenes using LionHeart FilmWorks’ epic footage directed by professional producer and director Matti Veekamo. A beta version should be available around March, and from there we would march on to summer 2020 release.

But before the end of the year, we are planning on releasing more info and footage from the campaign game play. So stay close to nearest telegraph station to hear the news as they appear!

Your Most Obedient Servant,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha
Chief Designer, &c.