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Thread: The Infantry Conundrum

  1. #1

    The Infantry Conundrum

    The commanders of the Civil War were using Napoleonic/Mexican War tactics they’d learned at West Point of bunching up men in high density lines to fire volleys at each other.

    In reality, the significantly improved accuracy of the weaponry since Napoleonic times meant they could form skirmish lines with men yards apart and still inflict heavy casualties on their opponents without providing such juicy targets for each other. The weapons had surpassed the tactics. Not just my conclusion but that of many military historians.

    So we face this conundrum of encouraging (and maybe forcing) people in WoR to form high density shoulder-to-shoulder/double-rank lines in the name of authenticity when in reality skirmish groups yards apart can be a very effective way to play.

    Essentially the Conundrum is this - is it gaming the game to play smart, self-preserve and not provide a juicy target for the enemy if you’re still inflicting casualties on them?
    Last edited by Quaker; 10-27-2018 at 11:55 AM.

  2. #2

    USA Lieutenant Colonel

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    So first things first the game has a ticket system in place that works of how many people are in line and how close they are but you are quite right skirmishing can be a more effective way to play but there is nothing forcing you to have to form big line you can skirmish with people and still get the formation buff. But the developers are quite rightly trying to encourage us as players to form up into lines so to encourage more team work and also to keep that slight historical authenticity which defines the game for what it represents in my eyes. But yet again there is nothing stopping you from getting some players together and skirmishing. Also PS have you played the current phase II stage of war of rights ?


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    Last edited by Quaker; 10-27-2018 at 01:55 PM.

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    We are a skirmish unit and fight that way the majority of the time. Occasionally we will join a line or line up on fences shoulder to shoulder but for the most part we fight in loose formations. As long as you have 4 guys together minimum and stay 3-5 paces apart you should be good as far as remaining within the skirmish buff and not costing your team lots of tickets by dying out of line.
    Last edited by Shiloh; 10-27-2018 at 08:03 PM.

  5. #5

    CSA Major

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    No, it is not 'gaming the game', because when you use the tactics of the time and mass fire, it is deadly and sometimes can take down large swaths of enemies that are all spread out and not massing their fire. Skirmishing can still have it's advantages in certain environments certainly, but on average, making a solid line is still very deadly and effective, plus it looks badass. Not to mention the whole morale system which promotes it.
    The chances are by the time you have finished typing a long response to my post, I have changed half of the original post.

  6. #6
    Best thing in this game is a combination of both lines and skirmish formations.
    3rd Alabama Company A "Mobile Cadets"

  7. #7
    WoR-Dev GeorgeCrecy's Avatar
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    Hey there everyone,

    In the discussion of why they did what they did, as well as a different way to look at it, I might suggest reading Earl Hess' Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training, Combat, and Small-Unit Effectiveness.
    As to the other part of the discussion, you are certainly encouraged to either form line, or to form as skirmishers for the purpose of playing this game as they would have. Skirmishing has the benefit of technically being harder to aim at than a big block of guys, but can easily be routed by a more concerted force, so there is a give and take to how each performs that a commander must consider when deploying those under them. As brentcarter mentions, it was often best to have a mix, hence why companies of regiments would be deployed in front of the rest of their comrades as skirmishers, where the rest of the regiment would be in range to support.

  8. #8
    This particular part of CW combat always interests me. When you go to CW battlefields you often expect these places to be huge and are quite surprised to see how condensed they are and how close the action often was. Studying combat in general you learn that guys historically always make poor use of the full range of their weapons up until perhaps more recently with less stock put into seizing and holding terrain nowdays. It strikes one as utterly impossible that the fights could occur in these places with the casualty figures being less than total annihilation and yet they'd often be 20-30% or less.

    Obviously the average soldier was no crack shot and had little practice often and yet there are plenty of cases of individual targets being hit with extreme prejudice. Iron brigade skirmishers at Willoughby Run West of Gettysburg picked off numerous NC troops in the color guard advancing down the slope in line of battle. Several remarked that it was the most well-dressed line they ever saw as they fired on it and it was an easy shot. They had a clear line of sight as this was following a lull in the fighting. This of course doesn't last long as they close in and the skirmishers fall back on their respective regiments. The first volleys of the defenders were devastating (as is often the case targeted on line of battle) but their effectiveness rapidly decreases as visibility becomes spotty at best. The location they were fighting in is said to have become as black as night from the black powder discharges in a short period of time and this accounts for a large drop in effectiveness and the possibility of a protracted firefight at "no more than twenty paces." You often hear the same thing about powder cutting visibility severely.

    Reading extensively about CW combat I'm led to believe that the prime factor is visibility in allowing for these types of fights to happen. Staying with Gettysburg, the wheatfield is another great example. Musket range is easily clear across the entire field. Slight changes in terrain allow defilade but it doesn't explain how formations could possibly exist fighting each other that close that long. The best explanation is always the smoke hanging in the air limiting visibility severely. You can imagine how terrifying this would be existing at the mercy of a slight breeze revealing you to a ready musket. Parts of Anderson's Georgia Brigade recollected taking cover in a stream bed on the edge of the wheatfield where, with their muskets level to the ground, they were able to see the legs of the union infantry below the smoke. Initial volleys could often be devastating on a line of battle reducing in effectiveness with each successive blinding canopy ignited. You start to build up a picture of opposing skirmishers being at work between the main lines as the distance narrows the skirmishers are withdrawn or absorbed and the first fire between main lines are exchanged with that thin existing smoke screen. Gradually the attackers may feel able to begin to narrow the distance under their own smoke screen and that of the defenders essentially until they were absurdly close and still missing wildly with the overwhelming number of shots.

    Since smoke is such a pesky thing you rarely hear about it from a tactical standpoint, being almost totally out of control of leadership, and yet it's clear such a novelty was sublime. On D-Day, casualties were much lighter in a wave that landed in a sector effected by a brush fire (coincidentally ignited by the naval barrage) partially obscuring the German defenders. This makes you wonder why smoke was not more often employed offensively in the major wars in Europe. Night attacks were rare in the Civil War and yet you have to wonder if that type of boldness would not have paid off despite it's many setbacks. Artillery cannot target effectively at night. CSA Chief of artillery E.P. Porter said from his newly acquired position in the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg that after the sun went down he realized the futility of keeping up the fire as each side was only firing at each other's flashes and the shells looked like meteors streaking across the sky. Wouldn't a well-disciplined body of soldiers be able to carry a position across open ground far easier at night? Nowadays night is often chosen for offensive operations. The US Rangers motto is "We own the night" (or some such) and indeed they do a lot of their raids at night when they had a decided advantage in night vision and thermal optics. Clearly concealment is a poorly under utilized condition and was a paramount reason that the style of combat was even remotely viable.

    It's always been a concern of me this idea of "opening up the map." Quite frankly you could put 5 times as many guys in a server and keep the skirmish areas the same size and you might get close to a more realistic concentration of muskets in action. I'm afraid it's going to result in perpetual skirmish action with artificially deflated life expectancy in a line. We already basically can't advance across the open within 150 yards. Every movement is spastic and often conducted at the 'run' under a hail of bullets. Without allowing for enough concentration of players you won't even touch this major factor or CW combat.
    Last edited by Poorlaggedman; 10-28-2018 at 03:10 AM.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Poorlaggedman View Post
    It's always been a concern of me this idea of "opening up the map." Quite frankly you could put 5 times as many guys in a server and keep the skirmish areas the same size and you might get close to a more realistic concentration of muskets in action. I'm afraid it's going to result in perpetual skirmish action with artificially deflated life expectancy in a line. We already basically can't advance across the open within 150 yards. Every movement is spastic and often conducted at the 'run' under a hail of bullets. Without allowing for enough concentration of players you won't even touch this major factor or CW combat.
    Perhaps when the game goes public we’ll end up with two communities like Holdfast - the simulation enthusiasts on some servers role-playing ACW formations and tactics while the public servers will have a mix of play styles primarily based around skirmish lines and small skirmish groups.

  10. #10
    This video dropped at YouTube a couple of hours ago.

    It demonstrates the accuracy of these game muskets at long distance - and bear in mind this is the first time this guy has visitied the target range.

    I’d be reluctant to bunch up in close formation if I was facing a gun this accurate.



    On bullet drop, it seems at furthest target range at the drill camp the drop is minimal. The guy is surprised at the test results.

    According to some sources, bullet drop should be significant once you get over 250 yards (see image below).

    630D6B6F-1E7B-459D-A9D3-0A15131336DD.jpg
    Last edited by Quaker; 10-28-2018 at 08:23 AM.

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