Military Units and Your Army Strategy
Victoria's military system is no easy one to learn. There are a fair few land units available, once you include all the different types of brigades. It can also be very confusing that, while the basic units remain the same through the game, their performance changes massively through dozens of incremental inventions. The army you have at the start of the game is the same as those that fought at Waterloo - redcoats armed with muskets and bayonets, forming squares for strength against cavalry charges. The army at the end of the game is the radically different force that fought at the Somme, wearing khaki and only daring to leave the protection of trenches to attack enemy machine guns after a long artillery bombardment.
Please see the Unit Progression Overview for more detailed tables to back this up.
- Strength is the number of men in a division
- Morale is willingness to fight, rather than retreat
- Organization determines how fast morale rebuilds, as well as how quickly a unit can 'dig in' for extra defense
- Fire Attack is a combat value which determines how quickly you reduce enemy Strength
- Shock Attack is a combat value which determines how quickly you reduce enemy Morale
The Decline of Cavalry
For about 20 years at the beginning of the game, cavalry are a strong unit. With a high shock attack value, they are able to win battles against enemy infantry divisions (particularly if your opponent has the Clausewitzian doctrine path). Once the enemy is retreating, your own infantry can move in, conquer territory, and fight at an advantage against the enemy's damaged divisions.
However, as the game progresses, two things happen to render cavalry useless in pitched battles.
1. The research of Army Leadership techs raises morale: over time, morale reaches very high levels compared to the initial 24 or so. There is no compensating increase in Cavalry's Shock Attack: the only technology which raises Shock attack is Strategic Mobility, an early tech. Therefore, Cavalry become slower and slower at winning battles. 2. Infantry become significantly more lethal. Their initial Fire Attack is 4; by the end of the game it is 16. Infantry have the benefit of an increasing defense value to help them resist the additional firepower. Cavalry, however, do not, and so Cavalry units suffer heavy losses when trying to engage infantry.
The consequence of these developments is that trying to engage enemy infantry with your own cavalry quickly becomes an undignified slaughter. Cavalry has a chance until the 1850s, possibly even the 1860s against an opponent who is both backward and Clausewitzian: however after that the increases in infantry power and morale, to which cavalry do not scale, make cavalry a dead duck.
Is Cavalry useful for anything?
While Cavalry has some remaining advantages that apply in situations that aren't pitched battles, it also has an additional major disadvantage in its cost.
Shock attack against rebels: Cavalry retains a significant advantage in dealing with Rebel Scum, who always have low Morale. Furthermore, it is in your interests for battles against rebels to be short and bloodless: after a rebellion is put down, the rebels go back to work, and the fewer of them killed the more workers your nation has. Speed: Cavalry remains the fastest unit on the battlefield. However, speed is not that important in Victoria. Many players will be used to Hearts of Iron, where games are decided by fast-moving spearheads carving up enemy territory and conducting encirclements. In Victoria, because of the longer games, more limited peace options, and the time taken to occupy enemy territory, this is far less significant. Trying to use cavalry in a 'breakthrough' or 'recon' role is also made very difficult by its fundamental weakness late in the game.
Cost: A Cavalry division, with all techs researched, costs 432 gold to maintain. Infantry, by contrast, costs 174. You can have two and a half times as much Infantry for the same upkeep, and the infantry divisions are more effective. (Of course, 2.5 Infantry divisions costs more Manpower - but there are ways around that).
If you are engaged in a major war between 1836 and about 1855, it is in your interests to build cavalry. Any time after that your strategy needs to be based on infantry. Unless your nation is plagued by frequent rebellions you should consider disbanding your Cavalry to save on the maintenance bills.
The basis of your army, particularly in the mid-to-late game, needs to be on Infantry divisions. The question is: standing army or reliance on a large mobilisation pool? and: brigaded or non-brigaded Infantry?
Standing Army vs Mobilization
The answer is most probably 'both'. The advantage of troops in mobilization is that they don't need to be maintained in peacetime. The disadvantages are twofold: they cannot be brigaded, and they take several months to arrive. They are therefore relatively unsuited to wars where you are hoping to be quickly on the offensive, and to wars where you have less manpower than your opponents. Of course, mobilizing is almost totally useless if you are dealing with a colonial conflict where it would take another three months to get your troops to the enemy.
Do you use Brigades?
Brigaded infantry has some significant advantages. In general, brigades offer you a way to get more firepower out of your infantry divisions for less expenditure of manpower. If you have a rich economy but a small population, brigades are the way to go.
- Artillery has simply massive fire and shock attack values. It also has huge cost - maintenance of 881 by the end of the game! It is the brigade par excellence. Only the excruciatingly high maintenance value prevents an all-artillery army being possible.
- Regulars and Guards each upgrade Fire Attack at a significant cost. Regulars are very good value for money, and Guards more expensive, but still much cheaper than Artillery for the firepower they give.
- Engineers, when they become available, give you additional defensive bonuses. Notably, one division with an engineer brigade in an army or corps allows the entire formation a higher total "dug in" bonus. Very useful when stationed on a defensive front. It also increases the morale and organization of the division to which it is attached.
- Headquarters are available later in the game. They give a good organizational bonus to their division.
Waging War in Victoria - valid for Revolutions
Tactics for the 19th Century General
The first thing that new players of Victoria have to learn is that this game is not a war game. Instead, the player will use war as a means to an end. The primary goal as set forth by the Victoria game engine is to be the greatest of the Great Powers - to be ranked #1 by the game engine. This can prove to be an extremely difficult goal at times, especially if the player chooses to play a minor nation or start out as an uncivilized country. Often, players will choose specific goals for their chosen nation to achieve before the game's end. Whatever type of game is being played, in the majority of games, there will be a need for war whether it be an offensive war of aggression or a static war of defense. Hopefully, the points given here will be helpful as you learn to fight war the 19th century way. These are not to be considered Laws for Combat. Consider them to be general guidelines to help you transition to Victorian combat.
The number one thing to avoid is trying to utilize your cavalry and dragoons like armor and motorized infantry. Blitzkrieg really does not work in Victoria. Victoria does not use HOI's movement as combat system or whatever it's being called these days. Combat does not start until after the unit reaches the province where the enemy resides. Conquering the province does not begin until after the enemy force is defeated and retreating from the province. Any interruption by an enemy unit resulting in combat puts conquering "on hold" until the new force is defeated. Larger invasion forces conquer a province quicker than smaller forces. All these factors mean that attempting a 20th century-style blitzkrieg will result in frustration and defeat.
Instead, use your forces the way that 19th century generals used them. Infantry is the heart of your army. Major pitched battles will be conducted by infantry. Once the enemy's army is defeated and retreating, use your cavalry for pursuit and harassment of the defeated forces, denying them the time to reorganize, reinforce and effectively counter-attack. Do not use your cavalry for deep penetration into the enemy's rear area. Putting your forces in a province surrounded by provinces that you do not control is inviting a massacre. If your cavalry is defeated with no "friendly-controlled" province adjacent to retreat into, it will be eliminated instead. Don't risk it!
Remember to use smaller forces in concert, attacking from multiple provinces, to provide encirclement benefits to battle rather than using a single, large force. Attrition will be smaller also. Just remember that overall, your forces still need to outnumber the defender if you want to be successful. It is a rare battle where you are able to win against a numerically larger force. Remember that this is a strategic-level simulation. Robert E. Lee was able to tactically win multiple battles against a numerically superior foe, but ultimately lost the war strategically as his manpower and resources were exhausted.
Having more numerous but smaller armies, or corps if you prefer, also helps in implementing strategic and tactical reserves. In pitched battle, having one or more reserve corps in adjacent provinces allows you to cycle your units in and out of the battle zone so that you can reinforce the weakened force while the reserve takes up the battle. This takes practice to figure out, but once you understand the concept and get adept at implementing it, you will find yourself winning more with smaller losses in terms of economy. Allowing an army to stand in battle to the point where individual divisions evaporate is poor army management in economic term. Rebuilding a new division from scratch takes time and resources in addition to manpower. Reinforcement of weakened divisions requires only manpower. The math here should be obvious.
This tactic of cycling forces in and out of battle is key to winning against a fortified position, whether alone or in conjunction with defensive terrain.
In battles where you have multiple units in the province, remember that the one shown at the bottom of the your stack of units is the one that will retreat. Note that the enemies' units will be shown below your list of units, so don't let that confuse you. Left-clicking the battling units will pop up a window showing the units in the province. Your formations are shown at the top, with the enemy formations below. Repeated mouse clicking will rotate your formations (the leader display does not change during battle, so ignore that). When the formation you wish to retreat is at the bottom of your list, click any province adjacent to the embattled province to retreat.
Now, the important thing to remember about reinforcement is the loss of organization in your divisions when you reinforce. The greater the need for reinforcement, the greater the loss of organization. When you have to massively reinforce a stack of divisions, be careful to allow the organization of the force to build back up to its maximum, which will take time. Throwing a newly reinforced army back into battle with a low org strength is guaranteed to result in a quick defeat.
This loss of organization from reinforcement allows some rather gamey battle tactics if you like. Retreating a force from battle where you are doing badly while timing a new force to arrive a day or two later can result in a quick victory. The day or two the enemy's force is sitting alone in the province will allow the AI to reinforce, and the resulting low organization allows your new army to win almost effortlessly. Some consider this gamey, and thus a form of cheating. Others might consider this merely a legitimate exploitation of the game engine. The ultimate choice is yours, of course.
Now, force cycling to conquer fortified provinces is all well and good, and a decent enough tactic; but it is extremely wasteful of manpower. In a war between major powers, one aspect of the war is going to be attrition of manpower through reinforcement; and if you are consistently attacking fortified positions and spending the manpower to win, you will most likely find yourself running out of manpower at some point. This will result in you converting manpower into soldiers, assuming you have a party in power that allows such a thing, which in turn reduces your economic capabilities. This could potentially prove to be disastrous.
Another tactic is luring your enemy into attacking out of its entrenched position by placing a weak force in an adjacent province, with a stronger army lurking behind the front waiting to pounce once the enemy is lured out of position. Without its entrenchment bonuses, they are ripe for defeating. With a good cavalry force available for exploitation, you can keep the enemy army on the run and thus easily break through their front defensive lines and into the usually unfortified rear areas.
Composition of Standing Armies
As was noted earlier, a good mixture of a standing army along with a good-sized mobilization pool is an excellent way of creating an economical military power. Here are some suggestions on your standing armies for you to consider and modify to suit your given situation.
- Mobile Cavalry Army - 3 to 6 divisions of cavalry with a good cavalry leader when available, or a leader with + shock / + speed values at least. Depending on the size of your nation, anywhere from 1 to "several" of these armies could be necessary. For "revolt whackers", single division corps are all that is necessary for the most part. Most nations will only need one "revolt whacker", and most can use their single cavalry army to double up; but one extra, single corps is useful when the calvary army is at war with another nation.
- Mobile Infantry Army - For later in the game after cavalry has lost its offensive power, or earlier if you just don't like cavalry. But who doesn't like cavalry? Ideally, 2 to 7 divisions brigaded with either regular brigades or guards brigades for the added firepower and organization. Definitely no artillery as this slows down the army and you lose the "mobile" designation, in my opinion. Larger nations might see a need for more than one of these armies available, especially if you find yourself in a multi-front war.
- Heavy Infantry Army - Obviously this is where you have your artillery. These armies are going to be a bit slower due to the speed penalty of artillery, so go ahead and have multiple brigades of artillery attached in this army. The speed hit is not cumulative, but the additional firepower and organization is ideal for attacking armies that are dug-in, in fortifications, or in mountainous terrain. For economic reasons, a mixture of regular brigades along with the artillery is good, say three or four regular brigades along with one to three artillery brigades. Later, as the 19th Century makes way for the 20th, barrels (tanks) become available. These do significantly increase the shock attack value of the division, but the speed of the unit takes a major hit. The early tanks were notoriously slow, after all.
Generally speaking, these standing armies are your standard expansion force. Wars against smaller nations should only require these standing armies without your mobilization pool. This is utilizing what I like call "economy of force". Ideally, you can expand with your standing armies at full strength while still having your economy "in the black", or making a consistent profit throughout the expansionist war. War should be a profit-making venture in Victoria, whenever possible. Otherwise, you are not thinking in the 19th century.
The only times that mobilization should take place are in a war against another major power that requires you to reinforce your standing armies significantly, ideally with the effort allowing a quick end to the war. Usually, with the pool mobilized, your economy is going to start losing money due to the cost of maintaining your large army. If possible, you really want to avoid going into debt. A large treasury obviously helps during wartime also.
Tips and Tricks to Winning Wars:Strategy and Tactics
These helpful hints are in random order and include tactical advice as well as strategic tips. Note that this is NOT a guide to a World Conquest, or WC, game.
Defeating a Larger Enemy Force - When confronted with a slightly superior foe, try this tactic. Allow one army to suffer the casualties of fighting this larger force. It needs to be large enough to inflict some considerable casualties against the enemy, so if it is in a dug-in position with good defensive terrain and/or fortification, even better! Keep a close eye on your own casualties! Remember to try and prevent total evaporation of any divisions, for economy of your forces. When your defensive force starts to get really weak, and they have had plenty of time to inflict their maximum casualties against the attackers, retreat them; but have a second force ready to throw right into the fray. Once you have practiced and can accomplish it correctly, start your second force advancing so that they arrive only 1 or 2 days after the initial force's retreat is begun.
Once your initial force leaves the province, the AI will almost immediately reinforce their attacking force, thus reducing their organization and morale a lot; and you will hit them when they are at their weakest in their organization and morale. The enemy force will almost immediately retreat, depending on how many reinforcements it took to bring them back up to full strength in numbers, of course. This works best when you can hold out and inflict a considerable number of casualties, obviously.
If you have a decently-sized cavalry unit or a good infantry unit with a +speed leader available, you can then continue to hit the enemy's army and drive them back, keeping them off-balance while your infantry assimilates provinces.
Make Controlling the Enemy's Capital a Top Priority - Not only is this a historical choice for warfare in this period, it gives you an advantage in the game engine for negotiating a peace treaty with your enemy.
Use Multiple Wars to Conquer - Your first negotiated peace treaty with your enemy should be, at minimum, a Humiliation. This reduces your opponent's prestige, usually to a value below -100 (unless your fighting Prussia or some other nation that easily gets a lot of prestige during the game). Reducing their prestige makes it a lot cheaper, in prestige costs, to declare war again later. This allows you the ability to conquer the enemy piecemeal, keeping your badboy score down.
That first humiliation treaty should gain you back the majority of that first large prestige hit of 100 points. The other peace treaties should then gain you prestige, since each subsequent DOW only cost you 1 prestige point. Remember that nationalism-induced revolts can occur for ten years after you conquer a province, so make sure you have forces available to keep the peace afterwards when you are going for territorial gains.
Use Native Forces to Keep Peace in Colonies - If part of your strategy is gaining provinces at the expense of some uncivs, and it really should be, then be sure to utilize the native soldier pops that you gain to create a peace-keeping force. This will allow you to transfer your more valuable national units back to the home land while having forces to stop rebellions. Also, by using the Multiple Wars tactic mentioned above, you will soon find yourself with a lot of native soldier pops even without having a Full Citizenship party in power. I like colonial wars against the South East Asian countries, whenever feasible, for just this reason. If you stretch out assimilation of the unciv using at least two wars, often three or four if patient enough, you will have lots of manpower for your armies without having to convert your national pops to soldiers. If you have to convert them initially to get the starting manpower to get warfare going, then afterwards you can convert your national pops back to useful citizens while retaining enough army manpower through native pops alone. However, be careful with this tactic. If you convert ALL of your national soldier pops back to laborers or whatever, when it comes time to mobilize you may find that the only place you can initially deploy your force pool is overseas, which can really ruin your day.
Avoid Offensives In Mountainous Terrain - The defensive benefit provided by mountains is a real killer in Victoria. Avoid attacking into these types of provinces when a defense force is present unless you have a definite, overwhelming advantage in numbers, org and morale, or army technology, and even then be really careful. Even when the odds are clearly in your favor, you will often see the time to defeat the enemy so extended that they can easily get reinforcements transferred. If you are really stubborn about it, you could easily find yourself exhausting your entire army against one province leaving yourself open to defeat by the AI.
Check Diplomacy Before Issuing a DOW - This should be a given; but for you beginners out there, this is really important. Nothing ruins your plans of conquest quicker than overlooking this basic step, and finding yourself at war not only with your intended victim, but two or three other major powers you are not ready to tackle. An ounce of prevention ...
Encirclements Kill Armies - You can't really blitzkrieg in Victoria, but surrounding an army with provinces that you control before attacking them leaves them without a retreat path and they die instead. Use this whenever you can to win the all-important war of attrition.