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“Sid Meier’s Gettysburg” Hints and Tips

by on Feb.23, 2010, under PC Game Hints & Tips, PC Retro Gaming

High watermark in Pennsylvania.

This article was originally published in Computer Games Strategy Plus magazine.

When it comes to gaming, the American Civil War has always been a favorite period in history for me. Throughout my gaming career I’ve watched with horror at the senseless slaughter at Antietam creek, ventured with Banks along the Red River (no pun intended), and watched with astonishment as Lee executed his audacious Seven Day’s campaign. From paper wargame to silicon battlefields I’ve been fortunate to witness many of the best (and worst) designs concocted throughout the last few decades. Now with the advent of real-time strategy games we are presented with Sid Meier’s latest tour de force, Gettysburg. In an effort to showcase just how realistically this portrays this battle, we’ll endeavor to highlight the strategies you’ll need to execute, and some of the problems you may encounter as the Union and Confederacy encounter each other along Cemetery Ridge.

“Maneuver Column”
Probably the most important feature of this game that gamers regularly fail to acknowledge is the pause [p] key. Many players I’ve encountered seem to get the 1860s version of “tunnel vision” when they examine the map, concentrating o­n a key area to the exclusion of the rest of the battlefield (and the carnage taking place therein). Pause the game regularly to issue orders and admire the scenery; Lee won’t take offense at your tardiness.

Maneuver your units as Brigade formations as much as possible. This cuts down o­n issuing a multitude of regimental orders every few minutes and ensures that your morale bonuses will be as high as they can get. If you are required to split up a brigade, try to keep the subordinate regiments in pairs to provide at least o­ne support block. When you re-issue brigade commands later in the game, use the [Shift-X] keystrokes to re-attach any stray regiments (unless you wish to leave them detached). It’s also important to sort out your brigades after major engagements; many melees can result in three or more brigades intertwined in a small area. A set of brigade column orders can rapidly re-organize your troops (just keep them away from the prying eyes of enemy artillery.)

To view planned deployments at a divisional level, click o­n a superior commander to see all subordinate regiment locations, destinations and facings. This will assist you in “fine tuning” your battle line, reserve positioning, artillery fields of fire and the other minutiae of battle.

Avoid the double line as much as possible; the reduction in firepower is rarely worth the morale block bonus. This formation is best used to concentrate your forces during movement where columns would provide too lucrative a target for enemy fire.

Rough terrain can be both a blessing and a bane depending o­n the type of activity being undertaken. When in a defensive posture you should try to make as much use of covered/rough terrain as possible; the disruptive effect upon movement won’t be felt as much and you’ll receive an extra morale block to assist the defense. When advancing upon the enemy, rough terrain like boulder fields and woods can interrupt the coherency of your battle line; try to avoid these areas where possible if rapid movement is required.

When advancing towards the battle, move your units in column (road or maneuver) as often as possible. Sometimes even a daring column march into unknown territory can pay dividends if you can flank your opponent. Artillery at medium and long ranges usually inflicts minimal casualties and is a worthwhile trade-off to gaining a position of advantage. Use terrain masking to avoid known enemy concentrations and shake out a regiment or two of skirmishers to probe ahead if you’re feeling particularly paranoid.

“Keep up your fire!”
The key to inflicting casualties is to maximize firepower against chosen enemy units. Whether it’s against an enemy regiment that has advanced out of position or an outflanked opponent, you should always endeavor to have as many units as possible concentrating firepower o­n an enemy target. Conversely, try to make sure that each enemy regiment is opposed by o­ne of your units directly. This reduces the chances of any point in your line being subjected to massed enemy fire.

Artillery is lethal at close range or when firing down an enemy formation in line. Keep your Napoleons close to your battle line where they can subject your opponent to some withering canister rounds. Your rifled cannon are best used in an advanced position o­n the flanks. o­ne strategy you can perform is to advance several batteries (with some skirmishers) to some high ground perpendicular to the enemy line; several minutes of concentrated fire should see most enemy targets withdrawing to safety.

“We can’t hold em!”
Ensuring that your regiments don’t get too stressed is a skill that all battlefield commanders must learn in a timely fashion. A line that stresses to the breaking point can rapidly render an entire section of your front untenable. To maintain the steadiness of your lads try the following strategies.

Keep your green brigades (those with a high proportion of green and trained regiments) together and in command to increase your bonus morale blocks. Their inherent brittleness makes them most useful in static defensive positions rather than key assaults. Remember that routing units reduce nearby unit morale blocks by o­ne; if you have any available reserves keep them near these potential trouble spots.

Watch your morale levels carefully; if a regiment is getting hit a lot you may need to withdraw it (and possibly its support) to reduce losses and maintain your line. Keeping o­ne regiment in reserve to rotate into the line as required can be a God-send, but with the relatively low unit counts in some scenarios it can also be a luxury you can ill afford; consider your options carefully before doing this. Beware of enemy routed units; while they are currently not a threat they can rally and provide you with an unwelcome surprise from an unexpected quarter later in the scenario if you are not paying attention!

“Good work General!”
Skillful use of your leaders can shore up a brittle battleline or rally a dispirited regiment cowering in the rear. With o­nly a handful of leaders available in each scenario, it’s important to make the most of their abilities. In most scenarios if a regiment routs it probably won’t be in any useful state for the rest of the scenario. Even with a talented commander, it can take anywhere from half to three-quarters of an hour to successfully rally them. As such, it’s best not to withdraw your leader to rally unless your brigade is not heavily engaged or you have a high percentage of your subordinate regiments hors de combat.

The temptation to use senior commanders as rally points should be resisted as long as possible; these gentlemen are best used at the point of main effort as the extra morale block they generate can sometimes mean the difference between victory and defeat. Leave the defensive areas to survive with their own brigade commanders.

“Reinforcements are comin’ up!”
Here are some basic strategies that should tilt the battle in your favor: Flank the enemy as much as possible. Whether it’s an outflanking move by a regiment or a brigade, this is the primary means of gaining firepower superiority against the enemy (and consequently causes them to stress and rout more quickly.)

You have a god’s-eye view of the action. Sighting an enemy formation means all your divisions now know of its placement. Bait enemy brigades by moving into their line of sight and threatening a scenario objective. o­nce they have responded to your move, you are free to concentrate an assault at another more critical location o­n the battlefield.

Keep a reserve! In most scenario’s you’ll be assigned a proportion of your order of battle for just this purpose. The commitment of this reserve is usually the focal point of a battle. By releasing it you’ve essentially chosen the time and location o­n the battlefield where you feel this formation can do the most good; make sure your choices are sound.

A good rule of thumb in most balanced scenarios is that two lines of similar length will inflict comparable casualties upon o­ne another. o­nly if a line is flanked or broken will this situation change. Therefore it’s important to capture or hold the specified VP locations to ensure victory. o­nce you have captured a position keep your most stressed units there and allow them to rest and entrench (facing a likely enemy counterattack). Hopefully they’ll be in a good position to resist the enemy when, inevitably, he returns. Your fresher brigades should keep up the pressure to ensure that the resting units are kept out of the line of fire.

Finally, when preparing an assault try to set-up your attacking brigades out of enemy fire range and out of sight to reduce preemptive losses. If part of your attacking formation must advance through rough/wooded terrain, move them before the rest so as to have the entire force o­n-line simultaneously when they reach the enemy position.

©1997 Strategy Plus, Inc. (reprinted with permission)

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