I had great fun with this game earlier on in its development, but lately my friends and I give up within a few minutes every time we play. Ever since the number of riflemen slots has decreased to 6, it's impossible to get one, and frankly I don't find the muskets fun in the slightest. It's simply not rewarding; no matter how much I try to close, no matter whether I am surrounded by commanders and musicians, I miss nearly every shot, to the point where hits are so infrequent that it's not even satisfying when I do score one.
I understand the motivations; some of them are valid, others less so. The goal is to emphasize line combat, but unfortunately the reasons for line fighting have almost entirely to do with the nature of movement, timing, range, and morale, and these are difficult to recreate in the context of the game. The number of riflemen slots was decreased, presumably, to decrease their significance and increase that of line infantry. However the basic problem remains that those few whose SSDs are fast enough to get to pick the role invariably do, and invariably enjoy an unparalleled advantage.
I might point out that the speed with which one loads the game is a terrible way to select who gets such an advantage (I have an M.2 SSD and even so I almost never am able to select a riflemen slot before they are all occupied, though I could when the number was 10, but that still doesn't make this a good game mechanic).
But instead I want to focus on my major objection to this game: the efficacy of muskets. While I appreciate the intention to make the rifle significantly more effective than the musket, there are better ways to do this (why is the rifle loading so fast? rifles of this era should require a MALLET on the ramrod, certainly after the first couple shots), and the most common rebuttal I have heard (I hear it ever single time I levy this objection) is "bro, have you ever fired a musket? They are incredibly inaccurate!" Ignoring my certainty that I have fired more smoothbore weapons than any who say this, it's not really true. At least, not the way the game models it, where a musket can be so close that the enemy nearly entirely fills the diamond and yet it still usually misses.
Folks seem to imagine that, presumably because muskets are considered so inaccurate, that they must shoot sideways at an angle or something. But this is not so: and it takes only basic physics to understand why. We all know the basic law of Newtonian physics, that an object maintains a velocity vector until acted upon by an external force. And, while this may be less pedantically obvious, a musket of this era has a substantially straight bore, and as such the ball leaves the barrel traveling in a vector perfectly aligned with the bore. To put it simply, muskets shoot straight.
Why then, you may ask, are rifled firearms so much more accurate? They both shoot straight, right? There are three basic reasons for this.
1. Velocity. A rifle, whether patched or swaged into the bore by firing pressure (as in a breech loader), grips the rifling tightly, and experiences virtually no gas blow-by. As such, for the same ball and charge weights it will generate significantly more velocity (and more recoil, though this is largely irrelevant as the ball leaves the barrel much faster than the far more massive rifle and shooter's body move in reaction to the recoil force). Because objects fall at the same rate, a faster projectile will fall less in the time it takes to reach a given range, and this gives the effect of "flatter shooting" that is perceived in high-velocity arms. So, all else being equal, a rifle will require less drop compensation than a musket.
2. Aerodynamic stability. The act of spinning a projectile averages out asymmetries in mass distribution as well the effects of air turbulence acting on the bullet.
3. Angular momentum. Adding angular momentum to the equation significantly increases the projectile's total momentum (inertia), thus making it respond less in response to any external force. This is commonly observed with everyday objects: bicycles and fidget spinners come to mind.
What is the common factor of all of these? They are effects which accumulate over time, which with a moving object also equates to distance. A musket is exactly as accurate as a rifle until these effects have had a chance to become significant. In fact, at point-blank ranges (say, 30 yards or so) a muzzle-loading rifle is at a huge disadvantage to a musket, as it takes significantly more time to load (probably twice as long with most shooters) with no range to take advantage of its inherently more stable projectile. This is why riflemen would frequently omit the patch and shoot the bare ball, in essence turning their rifle back into a smoothbore (albeit one with increased blow-by due to the unfilled rifling, this further disadvantaging it to the musket).
What is the consequence of this on the game? Riflemen become super-soldiers, free to snipe or to move solo and dance around the enemy ranks. So long as he stays outside of melee range, he is almost trivially able to defeat any individual enemy soldier not equivalently equipped. This is undoubtedly why their number was deceased from 10 to 6, but with facts like these they would honestly be better off eliminated from the game entirely.
But this could all be fixed. I propose a couple changes:
1. Rifles should be much slower to load (not just marginally). I want to see mallets come out.
2: Instead of the linear "cone of hit probability" model, whereby a projectile is modeled as moving straight out from the bore at some angle to the bore axis, thus the deflection between POA and POI increases linearly with distance, this should be an exponential model. At ranges up to, say, 30 or even 40 yards, the musket should experience no decrease in accuracy. At long ranges, say 150 or 200 yards, it should be virtually impossible to hit unless using a rifled firearm. A linear model is only appropriate at intermediate range where only a single instance of air turbulence has thrown the projectile off range.
This would eliminate the ability for rifles to operate with advantage at close range without the immediate support of a line of infantry, and I don't think it would diminish the object of enhancing the significance of line fighting tactics.
Also, it would make the game much more realistic. At present, muskets are stupidly, pointlessly inaccurate. If they behaved as such IRL, it would be a miracle if anybody ever used them. A bow and arrow would be far more effective. The whinings of ignorant gamer kids "muskets suck!" be damned.