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Napoleon's Last Gamble» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Some thoughts on the Grand Campaign rss

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christopher moeller
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So, if you've been following the videos, our group is well into June 16th of the Grand Campaign, and I've been thinking about where and why "our" Waterloo has deviated from the historical campaign. My first thought is that it hasn't deviated too much, honestly. The road net (and supply sources), have helped dictate both armys' marches. As the Allied player, I'm very conscious that the bulk of my reinforcements will be coming in at Nivelles during the afternoon, and there are only two main roads out of that town: one to Quatre Bras, and one to Mont. St. Jean. If holding Quatre Bras were possible, that would be the obvious first choice. The road from Nivelles continues from there to the Prussian positions at St. Amand and Ligny. If Quatre Bras is taken, then Mont St. Jean is the next obvious concentration point. I've heard a lot about the "good ground" at Waterloo that caused Wellington to make his stand there, but I've never heard about the "good road" from Nivelles (which, from my perspective is a much more compelling reason to concentrate there). The game has shown that to me.

For Kurt's Prussians, the Ligny/St. Amand area is the most obvious concentration point, and that's where our Blucher chose to assemble. It has direct access to supply and reinforcements, and has the most direct road to Wellington. The Grand Campaign increases the incentive to stick to historical ground where possible through the use of terrain-based victory points. On the 16th, only the Quatre Bras and Ligny regions supply points. Both players want those to help keep the momentum on their side. On the 17-18th, those points go away and shift further towards Brussels.

So those are the similarities. What are the differences? The thing that jumps out at you is how Aaron and Chuck's French have made better time than their historical counterparts,(and that despite ahistorical bouts of mud). I can think of several reasons for this. First, Napoleon got off to an earlier start on both the 15th and the 16th than he did historically. The rules do build in the historical delay. On the 15th, Napoleon must roll a 1 to get moving (a roll Chuck made on his first attempt), and on the 16th, Napoleon again must roll a 1 to get moving (Our boys played an "early start" card which canceled that). Second, our French sprinted, in road column, right out of the gate. They did not remain concentrated during their marches on the 15th, as the historical positions seem to indicate Napoleon's did. They sent cavalry forces out in front, (especially towards Ligny), followed by flying columns of the Old Guard. Third, our Prussian Kurt chose to keep his I Corps intact, rather than contest the Sambre crossings, or the roads to Ligny and Quatre Bras. That preserved his force for the battles to come, but left the road net between the Sambre and Ligny/Quatre Bras more or less open.

For these reasons, the French were able to assert their influence on both the Ligny and Quatre Bras battlefields well before their historical counterpart, BUT with relatively fewer forces, and those strung out on the roads. This was effective at Quatre Bras, where that handful was able to push the Dutch/Belgian occupiers aside. Against the Prussians, by evening of the 15th, the advancing columns of Guards had levered I Corps out of Ligny and St. Amand. The downside, from the French perspective, is that neither Allied army was particularly hurt in those meeting engagements. By noon on the 16th, the Prussians had deployed two untouched Corps and a still functioning I Corps around Ligny. The Anglo-Allied forces, which looked to be gobbled up in the morning, were able to extricate themselves and slowly gain mass as the day wore on.

We'll see how this all plays out over time. This is a very long campaign, and small mistakes can snowball into large problems. For example, one allied unit on the road south of Quatre Bras on the morning of the 16th could have kept the French at bay for most of that morning. As it was, the Prussians evacuated that section of road on the night of the 15th, and the French got an early start at dawn, closing from the old roman road to Gemiancourt in two quick bounds.

A final observation. If you know my history with the Library games, you know that I love vedettes and hidden forces. Maybe I have some John Bankhead Magruder blood in me, but I do love to bluff and make wild gambles... holding sections of line with nothing but air. Well, if you enjoy that sort of puzzle, I encourage you to play the Allies in this game. At times I've held the line around Quatre Bras with leaders. With baggage wagons. With my pontoon train. With one precious Prussian vedette, pried away from Kurt's greedy hands. It's been an amazing dance, one I haven't been able to share with my excellent opponent Aaron, because if he knew what I was working with, it would have been over the next turn. I can talk about it now because I've been stiffened with some reinforcements, but it's been one of the best gaming experiences of my life.

-Chris


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Andrew Hobley
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I do wonder what exactly is behind those French wood blocks in the videos; I worry those pesky French may have learnt a thing or two from the master of concealment.

Excellent points Chris and interesting how even without a 'historical' start there may be more similarities than differences in the early stages.

Be interesting to see how thinks lie at the end of Day 2; unless the French have a killer attack lining up at Ligny they may be pinned there and not able to exploit Davout's successes on the Brussels road without rising a flank attack. And I do hope Bulow is getting a move on.
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