Balloon Recon

Particularly for Napoleonic (stretching early military use a bit) and American Civil War versions, balloon units can be an aerial recon that move and embark/deploy like artillery (say, a 1-hex spotting range while transported in wagons and a 5-hex spotting range when deployed).

"Federal observation balloon Intrepid being inflated. Battle of Fair Oaks, Va., May 1862. 111-B-680." (archive.gov)

Update: K.u.k. General WWI campaign uses this idea with a zero movement (when not "towed") which I think is appropriate.

PG v. AG Berlin (W) Scenario

Two versions of the same scenario:

PG’s “Berlin (West)” and AG’s “Germany

Both PG and AG like to give the player(s) wonder weapons and both tilt in favor of the Germans. However, AG is the more realistic by providing “only” 2-3 jets (21 points in 3 units) and 1 King Tiger while providing some workhorse units like the Marder IIIM improvised tank destroyer (TD), some towed PaK 40 anti-tank (AT) guns, and as a nice touch a Pz IIIN in its swan-song fire-support role. PG provides more wonder weapons to both sides but is even more of a German fantasy with 6 jets and 3 King Tigers contributing to the false impression that 67% of Luftwaffe planes were jets and 93% of the panzers had Panther/Tiger-type guns.

Against the Allied AI, both versions are easy to win as the German commander and share the same solution but the PG version was particularly easy.* In the PG version, I eliminated all but 4 Allied units and took every objective (VH) plus every non-VH town/airfield on the map to win on Turn 8 of 13 with 2,297 prestige points after game’s end (the mud slowed me down for a few turns). I played with the following self-imposed restrictions:

  • I never used the Luftwaffe (left them in starting hex, never fired them on my turn)
  • I never used any of the Berlin units (some nice elite units there though)
  • I only bought armored cars, never anything else
  • I forfeited my first turn (so finishing on Turn 8 means that I only moved for 7 turns)
The strategic map doesn't show the capture of all the towns and airfields (Metz, Liege, etc.) except by the highlighted areas to indicate a player's spotting range. In the north are a depleted Pershing, Firefly, and Sexton (Allied units are yellow stars). In the south is a Pershing trapped in the river:

I lost a Tiger I in the north and a Panther in the south due to aggressive use. I could have reduced my losses if I had allowed myself to buy artillery with the 1,000 prestige points that I averaged each turn--and I probably could have won sooner if on the first turn I disbanded the Berlin units to build on the frontline (click the image for an easier read; the Allies lost 9 tanks and 9 artillery but the "9" looks a lot like a "0"):

This was the first time I played the PG version so PG vets might have a better scorecard.

Post your game results in the Comments.

* Hard setting, normal experience/prestige, hidden units, supply, weather—this is my default setting unless noted otherwise.

See these other scenario reports:


Allied General PDF Manual

I posted my backup copy of my original AG manual (see Archives/AGW Downloads at right). It is a large 300dpi bitmap with color cover but feel free to tinker and provide a modern, smaller PDF size for storage here.

New Partisan Stealth Ability?

It would be interesting if partisans sometimes slipped through the fingers of attackers as U-boats do. Classifying partisans as U-boats won't work because of the lamentable restriction that only destroyers and tactical bombers may attack submarines. Intrepid programmers should leave comments here.

Update 8/27/06

Add Infiltration ability to Partisans, Commandos, or Japanese Infantry

PG/AG partisans are little more than poor frontline infantry but there are many better ways to model the espionage, intelligence, sabotage, raids, and uprisings behind enemy lines (with appropriate cost adjustments).

1. Fix Partisan Purchase Deployments

PG/AG oddly makes purchased Allied partisans appear behind the Allied lines, exactly where the Allied general does not need them (great, French partisans show up in Paris 2 days after Allied combat units liberate the city). Fix this by creating a partisan “minor nation” with only partisan units and assign partisan control to minor towns in France, Ukraine, etc. behind German lines.

2. Place Static Partisan Strongholds behind Enemy Lines

Place a strongpoint on a crossroads behind enemy lines to represent a partisan roadblock and place a strongpoint protected in the woods/mountains with 4-hex spot range to represent an area infested with partisan lookouts and informants. These partisan strongholds don’t move or capture cities but they can dominate a general area, ambush an unwary convoy (the roadblock), report enemy positions, and be a general thorn in the side. You could pre-place them as part of the initial deployment or make them available for purchase in the partisan-nation screen. As against strongpoints, infantry are best for clearing partisan strongholds.

3. Add Stealth/Infiltration ability to Partisans

Represent the special nature of partisans by giving only token attack value but robust survival and a penchant for denying control of an area, disrupting supply, and impeding reinforcements:

I tested this unit and it is not invulnerable but it is a nuisance and (appropriately) infantry are the best medicine for rooting partisans out from woods and cities. I tinkered with AA-class (cannot capture cities) and AD-class (also cannot initiate attack) but settled on infantry-class for the moment. The final numbers might differ but the basic idea of low attack but hard to eradicate seems promising.

The "Partisan Nation" purchase screen might include:

  • Current Partisan unit
  • New Infiltrator unit
  • Infiltrator "transport" (to make skilled partisans)
  • Truck transport
  • Partisan Stronghold (Strongpoint)

You could make "anti-tank" partisans with molotov cocktails but I felt that the infantry bonus in close-quarter combat (woods/cities) covered this (that's why they do not have HA=0).

"We know they're there but we can't get a grip on them!"--Infiltration for other, famously slippery units

I labeled this unit “Infiltrators” for now because you also could assign Infiltrators as “transport” to commandos or Japanese infantry to represent the special ability of these units to approach a target stealthily before assembling (toggling) for a full-strength assault. For instance, even though simple spot rules might show your commando unit, stealth mode might allow your boys to infiltrate through an artillery zone largely unscathed--but they must give up their stealth protection and expose themselves to attack in strength. In the case of Japanese infantry, Infiltration ability (the investment in infiltration training) can be a standard purchase option in addition to Truck. In the case of unpurchasable units for special scenario situations, you have the additional options of using Infiltrators as the base unit with 1 towed MP or 1 air MP.

Uses of Infiltrator Mode (toggled "transport"):

  • commando/guerrilla hit-and-run raid (stealth to approach a target for major assault)
  • Stalingrad sewer movement to worm through frontline ZOC to flank
  • Japanese cave-system travel (and the shift from defensive to offensive mode also can simulate Pacific General's Banzai bonus)

Vote on Infiltrator idea


Random Start Deployments?

Replayability Improvement:

It's unavoidable that players remember enemy unit positions and no longer need recon for the opening moves. This unbalances replayed games against the defender even in human-opponent games and especially against the AI which is newborn and lacks past-life recon memory. It would be better if each scenario randomly selected a unit mix/deployment from at least 3 different variations.

Is the AA on the left flank or the right flank this time?

Update 8/17/06

A possible way to simulate variable AI deployments during campaigns is to allow the AI to go first and react to any spotted deployments of the player's core, so a player's changed deployment might cause an AI changed deployment before the player's first move. The AI should have adequate spotting (frontline strongpoints?) so that it's not too easy to trick the AI.

An interesting experiment would be to allow the AI to go first and to start the AI with minimum units but plenty of points to purchase its own custom force and make its own custom deployments on its first turn. See if it buys the same thing in the same place every time, or if at least it varies purchases based on a player's core deployment . If the AI tends to spend everything on planes, you either could see if this achieves variable air deployments, or you could make the AI's planes unpurchasable so it buys a custom ground force.

Update 8/18/06

Limitations of the purchase method include restrictions on location (near a town), experience (being new units), strength (start at 10, not 5 or 15), and entrenchment (starting with none).

Update 8/18/06

A small test with PG's Poland scenario which deleted all Polish units except the 3 cavalry and set Prestige Points to the exact value of the deleted units indicates:
  • The AI replaced the number of units
  • The AI bought units that differed from the original, removed units
  • The AI bought cheaper units overall so it did not spend all of its allocation (only 1 unit cost less but this lowered the total sum)
  • The AI bought units that were "more effective" than the original units for the same price (remove an infantry and it buys a 37mm gun which has much higher cumulative initiative/spotting/attack/defense) (See this update comparing infantry and ATG value)
  • The AI arguably deployed better than the original design (instead of a vulnerable, forward artillery and a tank in the last city, the AI placed an anti-tank gun in the last city and forward-deployed its tank outside another city)
  • The AI did not vary its purchases in multiple iterations of its turn
  • The AI did vary its deployment in multiple iterations of its turn by alternating between 2 positions (only 1 non-city unit, the artillery, was removed and it was the new non-city unit, the tank, which alternated between 2 other locations, although the tank's appearance also shifted the local cavalry unit by 1 hex)
  • The AI did not vary its purchases or deployments based on the forward cavalry unit being changed to Guards cavalry with 3-hex spotting range to see an additional German infantry unit
Promising Results:

The results are slightly promising in that providing the AI with a skeleton force and money to customize its forces showed that it automatically varied its deployment among 2 choices, thereby requiring more realistic recon by the returning player. Larger and more extensive testing is necessary to determine if the AI would use any purchase variance or more deployment variance in other situations (1) where more non-city units were removed, and (2) where the AI is presented with a much greater difference in spotted units than tested here.


Changes for AG

Here are some of the goals that I have in mind for a new equipment file:

  • Fix or improve individual units
  • Re-calibrate characteristics for groups of units
  • Add new units or unit types for interest (this might require an "early war" file and another "late war" file because of limited slots in the file)
. . . and most important of all:
  • If the new file creates a new set of unit interactions and undoes some patented solutions to scenarios (Unit X can't reach Hex Y on Turn 1 anymore), I consider this a good thing because it will be like providing the veteran players with a whole new campaign to solve


Poll Archive

I converted this post to the Poll Archive.

Pick New PG/AG Campaign Ideas

Make Free Polls

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Fix PG/AG Recon

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AG Uses Different Speed Scales?

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New Partisan Stealth Ability?

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HE and Radios for the Red Army

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Add Mortars to PG/AG

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Add Spice to "Desert" Scenarios

Web Polls by Vizu

Allow Subs To Surface in PG/AG

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Improving Mountain Troops

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Amphibious LVT for PG/AG

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AG Uses Different Speed Scales?

AG uses different scales--or at least a non-linear scale--for infantry and vehicle speeds.

Here are general rules of thumb:
  • 3mph - average person's walking speed
  • 4mph - "expert"-infantry-qualification marching speed
  • 5mph - "forced march" (urgent) marching speed
  • 6mph - WWII US Ranger "speed march"
If infantry maximum speeds scaled directly with vehicle maximum speeds, based on a 3-movement-point (MP) non-elite infantry speed, the M18 Hellcat instead of 8MP speed should be about 15MP speed offroad and 30MP speed maximum, faster than the speed that AG gives the Me262 jet aircraft. The Me262 should be about a 300MP speed--fast enough to go from the first scenario to the last scenario in one turn?

Update from first 2 comments:

If the 3MP infantry represent a 3mph cruising speed (1mph=1MP=1 clear hex), then Shermans, Panthers, and Sdkfz 251 half-tracks never average higher than 6mph.

Update 8/28/06

The problem with saying that vehicles move at a tactical speed is that infantry tactical speed=1mph=1MP=1 clear hex. I was never clear about how a bridging unit moves at all without transport but bridging units would be even more useless if they had to enter a river hex next to the enemy while still embarked so 1MP "towed"might be the most realistic option for bridging units ( cannot enter a swamp carrying girders on your shoulders). Cavalry presents a problem because PG/AG represents cavalry's high tactical burst speed but cavalry's sustained, long distance, operational-level speed was closer to an infantry column than to a medium tank convoy. Operationally, perhaps cavalry should have the same speed as infantry but better spotting and initiative than infantry. Operationally, horses merely allowed guns to keep up with foot soldiers. Even a 57mm gun is back-breaking to manhandle over broken ground (try to push a car through rutted fields--the M1 57mm weighs more than a 2006 Honda Civic sedan).

I have an experimental efile with almost all infantry at 2MP "leg":
  • 0MP towed for the heavier, less mobile guns
  • 1MP towed for bridging units and lighter, wheeled guns
  • 2MP leg for most infantry (regular, HW, engineers)
  • 3MP leg for unconventional units (rangers, commandos, partisans)
  • 4MP leg for cavalry
Now I see that Civettone already tried 2MP for regular infantry.

Important: These MP are based relative to a medium tank's 5MP but I might reset the baseline so vote according to suggested relative ranking of unit speeds (not the exact MP):

Update 9/07/06

I also am considering something like this, possibly with slightly increased vehicle speeds:
  • 0MP towed for arty and AD with 3-hex range
  • 1MP towed for most guns
  • 2MP leg for 37mm guns
  • 3MP leg for regular infantry

Toughest Scenario?

As far as I recall, the only scenario that I never won was Pskov as a stand-alone scenario (it's easy to hold all 3 towns but that always rates a loss and I only have been able to take a few German towns before time elapses; in campaign mode, Pskov has easier victory conditions), so if you won it please let me know what you did.

This post updated 8/21/06

See The Curse of Pskov for an After Action Report (AAR) map

Is Allied General Unbalanced?

Allied General (AG) is unbalanced most in favor of the US and most against the Soviets, as far as the Allies go (the Brits are in the middle). Against a human opponent, AG might be unbalanced in favor of the Germans, particularly with often fanciful panzer and Luftwaffe strength. Against the computer's Artificial Intelligence (AI) opponent, AG is unbalanced in favor of the Allies. It is easy for an experienced player to win most scenarios. The replayability comes from self-imposed challenges:
  • Win a Major Victory, not merely a Minor Victory
  • Win in the lowest number of turns possible
  • Win without losing a single unit
  • Win without buying a single reinforcement
  • Win without using elite replacements
  • Win without using ahistorical or unrealistic units/unit combinations
Sometimes I would take every Axis town and airfield even though they were not objectives, destroy every fortification and strongpoint no matter how out of the way (Le Havre in AG's Overlord), and destroy every single enemy unit except one (because eliminating the last enemy unit ends the scenario) before I marched into the last objective hex.

Mission Statement

Hello. I intend to develop equipment files or other improvements to Allied General and/or the rest of the SSI 5-Star General Series (Panzer General, Pacific General, etc.) of computer wargames --one of the best and most re-playable game series that I ever have tried. I also will discuss strategy and tactics for victory.