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Subject: Lines of communication : a new strategy finally revealed (I) rss

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The Discriminating Cavalryman
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Part I:

Usually players think of only two options to win the day for their army: demoralisation of the enemy army or capture of a star-locale.

There is, however, a third winning option which is not often envisaged by players: cutting your opponent's lines of communication.

“Impossible task !” I hear you cry. Indeed, you're right –: your opponent's reinforcement entry locale is on the other, far unreachable side of the board, there are way too many roads to cut and road intersections will always enable your opponent from taking a side-path and bypassing your desperate roadblock – when he's not altogether forcing you out of the locale you occupy...

True, the road network in NT is one of the most intricate and baffling aspects of the game.

Yet there is an escape key to this.

I say, cutting the lines of supply of your enemy is not only much easier than it seems, but sometimes as easy as capturing an objective-locale.

Significant note: readers should bear in mind throughout this essay the fundamental difference between occupation of an objective locale and control of that said objective locale.

As per the rules:

An army is considered to control an objective locale if both of the following requirements are met:

• It is occupied by a corps of that army
with at least one infantry and/or artillery
unit.

• A path by road can be traced from the
locale to a main road reinforcement
entry locale for that army (the Allies
have two such locales, the French one).
The entry locale cannot be enemy-occupied and the path cannot pass through an enemy-occupied locale.


This implies that an objective locale is considered as controlled when a path by road directly connects the occupied objective locale with the reinforcement entry locale(s) (no break or “jump” in the road path) and does not pass through an enemy-occupied locale.


Well, let's take a look at the map.





How to read the map:


The blue lines show the French supply network interconnecting the French main road reinforcement entry locale with every black, red and green objective locales.

It is a schematic rendering of the communications and supply canvas superimposed on the road network.

This means that the blue road system shows all the paths that the French can take to connect ANY of the 19 objectives and their reinforcement entry locale.

The French objective locales are depicted as black, red, black-red, green and black-red-green circles with a blue rim.

The Allied objective locales are not depicted because the map shows the communications and supply network of the French army.

Now, each series of like-coloured red-edged diamonds shows the minimum number of locales being the shortest distance away from the Allied initial positions that the Allied player has to occupy to cut ALL French lines of communication.

It is to be read as the representation of a ratio distance : number.

Two-coloured diamonds mean that the corresponding locales are shared by two series of same-coloured diamonds.

Also, there is a gradation in the colour of the diamonds: the darker the diamonds are, the more difficult it will be for the Allies to occupy the corresponding locales. Likewise, the lighter they are, the closer they are to the Allied set-up positions and then possibly the easier to occupy.

Finally, the tiny crosshairs indicate which roads are cut by which diamonds, i.e by the occupation of which locales.

Therefore, the deeper into French territory that the Allies get, the less number of locales will they need to occupy to cut ALL French lines of communication (obviously); conversely, the harder it will be for them to effectively get there and occupy these fewer and fewer locales.

For example: the Allies need only occupy two locales (61 and 38) to cut all lines of supply of the French army but they need to actually get very deep into enemy territory to cut these lines.
Alternatively, the Allies may choose to remain as close as possible to their starting positions, but they will need to spread and extend their lines so as to occupy no less than 12 locales to cut all French lines of communication.

This map therefore shows the balance of commitment and possibilities between distance and number of occupied locales that the Allied player has to deal with in order to cut all French lines of communication.

I have purposely left out the French objective locales in the count for the very reason that the diamonds show the minimum number of locales needing Allied occupation to cut all supply lines in the case of the occupation by the French of ANY objective locale.
Remember this is a theroretical play-aid. In practice, only 1 or 2 objective locales will be occupied by your opponent in a game, so the possibilities for line-cutting will become more obvious and specific. This is when this map comes as a trump card.



What the map teaches us:


The French supply system covers 137 of the 170 locales of the gameboard, or 80,59% of all locales whereas the minimum number of locales needing occupation to break this wide supply system only represents 7% (12 locales) to 0.5% (1 locale) of the gameboard !

HOWEVER, these figures do not stand the comparison with the calculation of the degree of difficulty it takes to occupy these 0.5% to 7% of the board and which cannot be measured in terms of figures.

Interestingly, a pattern emerges: the cone-shaped system of roadblocks follow a 1-2-4-8-12 pattern.



As for the tactical implications:


Bearing in mind that the Allies' primary misssion is to occupy and control a blue-star objective locale rather than to cut French lines of communication, Allied strategy can be divided into two categories:

A) Either the Allies head straight in a massive push for the centre-right and show no interest for the southern area
OR
B) they apply pressure in that southern sector and do not push in the centre-right at all.

A) With the first strategy and generally speaking, your blue-star objectives as the Allies should rather be those in the West-North-West sector than those in the South (Legrand's sector). There are 4 reasons to this:

1) First, you will focus your effort in a concentrated area and will therefore extend your front line less.

2) Second, you will need to occupy less locales to cut the French lines of communication.

3) Third, by aiming at the western blue stars, you will come closer to the French reinforcement entry locale and apply more pressure on the French.

4) Fourth, even if the French do capture a star of their own, you just don't care since you can cut their lines of communication and preserve the cohesion of your army at the same time ! You can even leave a conspicuous gap in your line around the Southern sector to that effect; it doesn't matter.

If the French want to capture a 3-star locale, the Allies need not race after them or withdraw to protect these locales. If the French want them, well let them have 'em ! You can always cut their lines from far away west.
This, in turn, has implications on the impact of French reinforcements on the game. Do not run to the hills ! Keep your North-western advance going, cut their lines AND caputre a blue star. Do not relieve the pressure. Do not go back. Do not stop. Do not let your offensive die down. Keep pushing for the French reinforcement entry locale. This will undoubtedly make your French opponent lose his composure !

In short, these are four things which you cannot achieve if your objective is the Southern blue-star locale(s).

B) If however you choose that second category of strategy and your objective is and remains the southern sector, then you can simply display a solid wall of red troops to the French close to your initial positions and to the stars. You don't need to move your northern and centre corps.


To be continued…



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Alan Richbourg
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> If the French want to capture a 3-star locale, the Allies need not race after them or withdraw to protect these locales. If the French want them, well let them have 'em ! You can always cut their lines from far away west.

This only applies after the French bring on reinforcements, since before that happens, those French in the Allied rear are cutting the Allies' lines. With the Allied lines cut and no French reinforcements, the French win, i.e. no different than the situation at the start of the game.

However, this analysis vaguely reminds me of the famous stalemate lines analysis in Diplomacy. Good work; I like it.
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The Discriminating Cavalryman
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chargetheguns wrote:
> This only applies after the French bring on reinforcements, since before that happens, those French in the Allied rear are cutting the Allies' lines. With the Allied lines cut and no French reinforcements, the French win, i.e. no different than the situation at the start of the game.


Well, no. Perhaps that wasn't clear enough but getting French troops behind Allied lines and cutting the Allied supply lines is not that easy even without reinforcements.

This is why I've explained that there's no need for the French to get in the East in order to grab a three-star locale or even any star-locale for that matter -- without reinforcements.

If the French don't bring Davout or Bernadotte, they have no reason at all to ever want to capture a three-star locale.

If however they bring these two corps, then they must have a 3-star locale, but then the Allies need not race backwards after them to protect these locales.

I hope this makes more sense.
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Alan Richbourg
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I think you are missing my point entirely, which is not too surprising since it is only tangentially related to your thesis. I will rephrase in this way. You say "even if the French do capture a star of their own, you just don't care." That's true as far as it goes, since the French "supply lines" are fairly easy to block. I agree that you don't care really if they capture a star, per se. So you recommend "the Allies need not race after them or withdraw to protect these locales. If the French want them, well let them have 'em!". But one of those locales is an Allied entry locale. My point is that ignoring French units in the Allied rear is an almost guaranteed game losing strategy for the Allies if the French never bring in reinforcements (unless the Allies can win on morale), since those French units, if left unchecked, will go sit on the Allied entry locales, preventing the Allies from controlling their blue star. So the Allies do actually have to race after French behind the Allied lines and deal with them until the French bring in reinforcements. In other words, before French reinforcements, French actions aimed at capturing a 3 star locale or blocking Allied supply lines are too similar to be distinguishable, so any French penetration to the rear has to be dealt with (unless, I suppose, it is just one French unit back there).

I almost always just aim for a morale victory, regardless of which side I'm playing. But it is interesting to consider all the options.
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The Discriminating Cavalryman
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Quote:
any French penetration to the rear has to be dealt with


We agree on the fundamental basis of our respective thesis.


Yes I think I understand your point, which is why I replied that getting units behind Allied lines as the French and drive those units east to control a 3-star locale (with a corps commander and infantry) and/or blocking both Allied reinforcement entry locales is not an easy job regardless of which of the two actions the French secretly want to achieve.

True, you can always slip a couple of indie cav behind Allied lines but mouting a real threat to the Allies' rear without French reinforcements seems somewhat overoptimistic - from my perspective at least.

With French reinforcement the situation changes, the onus shifts from red to blue and capturing a 3-star locale does not mean controlling a 3-star locale.

If the French want to control a 3-star locale, their lines must be open and their reinforcement entry locale unoccupied, in other words a defense hard to set up since you devote at least one corps to the capture of a 3-star locale and at the very least a second to the guarding of lines of com -- therefore too few corps to the defense of the French western sector.

With the Allies not being concerned with the 3-star locales in their rear but aiming for the French reinforcement entry locales instead, the French should rue the day that they brought their reinforcements.

The French just can't simply deny the western boulevard to the Allies AND get 3 stars at the same time.

What I mean is that a French marginal victory may be easier to achieve without French reinforcements and without the capture of any black, red or green star-locale -- in other words a passive French marginal victory (=active Allied marginal defeat).

What strikes me as obvious with these two maps (which have to be read together simultaneously) is that French reinforcements are in fact a huge liability to the French when we talk about marginal victory, be it active or passive.

The conclusion being that a strategy of agression by the French might not be the best course of action available.

The stars are like mermaids enticing the French to leave their "formidable positions".


Quote:
I almost always just aim for a morale victory, regardless of which side I'm playing.

I confess that simplifies the matter altogether. You're right in the sense that one should always try and decide if they will be aiming for a marginal or a complete victory before kickstart.
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