The choice between playing the Union or Confederacy comes down to regional affiliation for a lot of people. Regardless of which side you choose, it is useful to know the differences between the SMG versions of the armies.
As in the real battle, the Confederates have a significant advantage in the quality of their commanders. In SMG this translates into a greater command range. Rebel commanders do not have to be as close to their men to lend morale blocks, order charges and holds or rally stressed or routed units. Here's a table of command ranges from the Strategy Guide:
|Union Range||Confederate Range|
|Superb Superior Commander||200 yards||300 yards|
|Experienced Superior Commander||150 yards||225 yards|
|Competent Superior Commander||100 yards||150 yards|
|Mediocre Superior Commander||50 yards||75 yards|
|Superb Brigadier General||133 yards||200 yards|
|Experienced Brigadier General||100 yards||150 yards|
|Competent Brigadier General||66 yards||100 yards|
|Mediocre Brigadier General||33 yards||50 yards|
A 2 tree by 2 tree square in an orchard is 80 yards across. Or choose Show terrain grid on the Preferences screen. Each square of the grid is 20 yards from side to side and about 30 yards from corner to corner
Union regiments tend to be smaller. For an extreme example of this consider Kelly's 116th PA - 66 men (at least they're veterans). Considering that regiments tend to disappear if they fall below 40 men, this is one to be careful with. On the other end of the scale, there's Pettigrew's 26th NC, a crack Confederate regiment of 659 men.
While Federal regiments are generally smaller, there are more of them. There'd have to be since the Army of the Potomac had a 15,000 man advantage over the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg.
A look at the order of battle quickly makes it evident that the Confederate regiments are of higher quality. For example, I count 38 crack infantry regiments in Lee's SMG army. There are 11 on the Union side. As before, this reflects history in the Eastern Theater of the War. Owing to the Confederacy's early successes (1st Bull Run/Manassas in particular) and generally superior leadership the Rebels had a definite morale advantage over the Federals at Gettysburg. This wasn't the case in the West, but that's another subject.
There's no difference here beyond what's already been covered for infantry. In any case, cavalry plays a fairly minor role in the game.
The Federals have more and larger artillery batteries although the difference
isn't that great. In SMG artillery isn't nearly the factor that infantry
is. However, well-placed cannons can certainly aid in fending off an attack,
softening key points in a defensive line and restricting an enemy's manuevering
behind his lines. Given good ground, this last use can significantly restrict
an enemy's ability to get to your flank.
How these differences affect play
In broad terms the Union player has to micro-manage his forces more. In return, he gets greater flexibility by virtue of more and smaller units. And for the scenario to be fair, he'll typically be given a numerical advantage, superior position or both.
If you're playing Union you have to be more careful about the placement of commanders. They aren't able to effect as much of their brigade, division or corps as their Rebel counterparts. You also need to spend more time clicking on your regiments looking for points to lend command support - points where your units need the extra morale block and/or need the option to charge or hold.
Ideally, you'll then further adjust the position of your commander to find a spot where he can be near enough to key points while also lending support to as many other units as possible.
Since you have more units and they're generally more fragile, more units will get stressed or routed. That means that you'll be faced with the decision that the Confederate player won't have to confront as often - whether to use a commander on the line to fight or behind the line to rally.
If you're playing Confederate, however, you can often plunk a commander somewhere around the middle of a brigade or division and forget about him for awhile. His magnanimous spirit will radiate far and wide among the troops.
I've used Rebel superb superior commanders to both lend support on the line and rally regiments resting well behind the line. Take Hood and his 300 yard range, for example. You can put rallying regiments 600 yards behind the line and place Hood halfway between. 600 yards is a pretty healthy distance. Of course, Hood's men don't often need to be rallied.
If you're playing Union you've probably got more units so you have to spend more effort finding good spots for them. You also have to check up on them more often. If a regiment gets stressed, bring up support and/or let it fall back before it routs. A routed unit adds a full block of stress to nearby regiments. You don't want that. On the positive side, more units means more flexibility. There are several ways this can pay off.
You've got more leeway to maintain reserves. Thus, you you can better react to a changing situation. Reserves can be used to relieve stressed units and to plug gaps in your line. They can be moved forward to exploit gaps in the enemy's line or swung wide to take advantage of an exposed flank.
You've got more leeway to detach regiments for skirmishing duty to chase away artillery, flush out defenses, delay advances, decoy defenders etc..
You can create flanking situations more readily. Your weaker regiments can then be used to effectively gang up on big, bad Rebel regiments like the crack 1st TX (426 men). The greater the angle from which a unit fires, the greater is its effectiveness. Here are the numbers from the Strategy Guide:
45 degrees - 200% fire effectiveness
60 degrees - 300% fire effectiveness
75 degrees - 400% fire effectiveness
90 degrees - 500% fire effectiveness
And here's an example:
Four of them stood across from one of Robertson's crack Texas regiments (I don't remember which). On either side, Federals and Rebels were falling back or retreating. As they did, Kelly's flank regiments turned inward to fire on the Texans holding the Devil's Den. I clicked on Kelly to see the angles of fire. The flank regiments were shooting at about 30 degrees. While 2 of the units kept the Texans occupied up front, I slid one over to a full 90 degree flanking angle. I got the other to about 60 degrees. After wheeling back and forth trying to decide which flank to expose the Texans hung in a minute longer, then ran. I pushed my tiny regiments forward and claimed the Den and its 500 points.
Consider that the regiment firing from 90 degrees was firing at 500% its normal effectiveness. 75 men become 375 this way. The already powerful 26th NC essentially would pick up 2,636 extra muskets (and 5,272 arms to fire them) by virtue of being on a flank. The 60 degree unit was firing at 300% its normal effectiveness. You can see what kind of pressure the 1st TX was under.
Situations like this don't present themselves all the time, of course. Neither was it entirely rosy. One of the regiments occupying the Texans in front turned and ran in the middle of my maneuvers, but the other one held out until the Texans gave up.
If you've read this far, you probably already have a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the Rebels as I see them. Less micro-management is the central strength. You don't need to spend as much time positioning your commanders and regiments just so. This frees you to concentrate more on larger issues. If you're playing the AI it also means you won't need to resort to the pause key as much.
Artillery chasing and flanking have their own strengths and weaknesses for the Confederates. While you have less flexibility to detach regiments for these things, once detached they will be more effective than their typical Union counterpart.
If you're playing the Confederates, keep in mind that Union artillery power is probably better than yours. If the ground dictates it and you can spare a regiment, detach one and give chase. The greater morale of a typical Rebel unit means it can chase longer and spend more time in skirmish formation without breaking. Its greater firepower means it also can do more damage.
With more regiments, the Federals can maintain a longer line than you and so can be difficult to flank. However, more morale and firepower means you can often send a single regiment out to do this work where the Federals usually require two or three regiments.
Frankly, I've had more success with frontal assaults as the Rebels. For me, successful engagements often play out as follows against the AI: I simply line my bigger, better units up against it and look for gaps and/or sagging flags. When I see a Federal weakness ripen I throw a reserve regiment at it, concentrate artillery fire there if possible or move/wheel nearby units toward it. Sometimes I do all three. When the weakness widens into an exploitable hole I push through.
When the AI is attacking a VP site it isn't usually very good about keeping reserves. If a hole develops it usually starts to desperately tweak its line to try to stem the tide. As often as not, this only creates more problems rather than solving anything.
Naturally, most of the above is generalization. As the Federals you will at times fight with elite units like Vincent's brigade. Likewise, the Rebels have their weak brigades (Jones and his 6 small trained regiments, for example). If you find yourself with Jones simply fight like a Yankee.