Sinews of War - Economy: Part II

Comments 11


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.


  1. A few questions:

    Will it be possible to re-bore smoothbore muskets to rifles as was done in the war?
    Will the player be able to make limited use of early repeating weapons like the Agar Gun and perhaps other unusual weapons?
    Will nations run the risk of having their foreign built ships seized if opinion in the building nation turns against them similarly to what happened to the CSA IRL?

  2. (Author)

    Hi Brennan,

    Weapons: at initial release at least there won’t be any unusual weapons, but it’s highly possible we’ll add some later.

    Ships: If you mean during the building process, then yes.

  3. Just kind of stumbled across you guys on YouTube. I’m super excited, was a huge fan of Total War:Empire, and have a feeling you will make a much more intricate game. Thanks for doing what you do.

  4. “Now, a single iron works can produce rifles, artillery pieces and ammunition”
    I hope that there is down time and cost for “retooling” industry to a new task. Needless to say they only produce one type of good at a time.

  5. I am a great fan of your title ‘The Seven Years War’. The depth of the economic model and the realistic battle simulation make it one of my all time favourite games. I’m proud to say that my review (as Roadkill) from the early days after release is still the most recommended review on Steam. This new title looks like it enhances every area and has removed some of the micromanagement making it my most anticipated title of this year. Is there any news on potential release dates?

  6. In time of war civilians study tactics, generals study logistics.
    The deeper the economic system, the better the game.

    Because of the lack of a support system, the South conducted only raids in the North, while the Yankees went on offensives into the Confederacy, and kept what they took.

  7. Having sunk many hours in the Seven year war 1756-63, my only real gripe was that trade was entirely based on city based traders. Will companies in this game posses organic trading capability?
    I notice you discuss and are including (rightly) slavery but will you model U.S. coloured troops into recruitment? You mentioned in a previous article about the duration of enlistments so I wonder if the impact of African American volunteers in the late war will be seen
    Anyway the game looks awesome so far and I’ve been checking your site daily for updates and any sign of a release date. Keep up the great work!

  8. (Author)

    Trade will work differently this time. Companies nor cities have organic trading capacity, but trade routes (point to point) do. This will allow goods to “flow” along the trading routes a lot more freely than in TSYW. Depending on the route type (road, rail, river, canal, sea) the capacity will be different.

    USCT troops will be included in the game. Release date has been set to summer of 2020!

  9. (Author)

    Thank you for the compliment! Release date is set to summer 2020!

  10. I wholly agree slavery is evil and it still exists and even flourishes today in such places as Libya, Africa.

    It is quite popular in today’s politically correct society and taught practically everywhere to believe and say “As slavery was the main cause of the war …”. The fact of the matter is that slavery only became a useful issue for the Union during the war and thereafter.

    Quoting President Abraham Lincoln
    “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union”.

    Then there is the Emancipation Proclamation, in which, if you read carefully no slaves are actually freed – because it quite clearly excluded all territory held by the South and those Union territories that allowed slavery.

    The secession of Southern states was due to the Federal government’s abuse of it’s states rights. The Unites States constitution, then and now, is quite clear in that where the power or right is not declared that right or power belongs to the individual states, not the Federal government (my paraphrasing).

  11. (Author)

    Most of the credited scholars of the war, even from before the modern PC era, agree, that the main root cause of the war was slavery. Though this is an anachronism, which in history study is a grave error, without slavery there would not have been the kind of states’ rights issues that eventually sparked secession and then the war.

    We fully appreciate that the issue over slavery is very difficult to express in a game, and thus we will do our best to be as objective as possible. Depicting the story of the war from a modern perspective is not our aim in any way, as this too is an anachronism. We’re also fully aware that this could cause issues – ACW games have been banned for nothing more than showing a confederate flag… But as we want to be true to history, there will be confederate flags and slavery.

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