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Subject: End of Campaign game.. thoughts... rss

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David Murray
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Here are a random set of thoughts and reflections on playing the campaign scenario - check out the videos for the campaign itself.

Where did it all go wrong for Napoléon?

This is an easy question, it was having me as the commander! We all know that Napoleon was on the back foot at Leipzig and it requires some imaginative play from the French to secure a victory – I provided none.

1. Committing Marmont’s VI Corps to the south of Leipzig.

This should have allowed Napoleon to control the southern front, but ultimately it was a failure. The French were not aggressive enough with VI Corps and when the Coalition began their assault to the north of Leipzig, VI Corps were sorely missed. It was ultimately the collapse of the northern front which lost the battle for Napoleon. The failure was in part due to me underestimating the time it would take to relocate forces on the huge map – which were also delayed by the process of giving orders.

Marmont’s Corps should have swung the battle in the south. The large French cavalry attack between Gulden-Grossa and Stormthal should have been decisive – however poor timing prevented the infantry and artillery support arriving in time and the attack petered out. This was without doubt Napoleon’s (ie mine!) biggest error. I still think a coordinated attack on the Coalition on the 14th is the French’s best chance of success. The poor timing of the French attack permitted the guns of the Russian to wreak havoc and the French attack to weaken. Even so it was only the timely arrival of more Coalition forces on the 15th that really dismissed any chance of success the French might have had.

2. The destruction of the French guns.

It took me some time to work out how to conduct a fighting retreat with the French guns. Early on in the battle too many were lost as the Coalition targeted French artillery positions regardless of the losses – and overran many. The Coalition, who already had an advantage in artillery, were adept at using their horse artillery to ‘pin’ units trying to retreat and causing the French line to become disjointed.

A fighting retreat is not easy to conduct. In most situations, a battery would be stacked with an infantry column. Option one was to limber the artillery, move back two hexes and unlimber next turn. The infantry would change to line and defend the original position and then next turn move back to the now unlimbered guns. This provided a controlled withdrawal of two hexes each turn. The problem the French faced was that after completing this several times the defending infantry, who would have had to stand against enemy artillery fire, were slowly reduced and lost effectiveness. The second option was to pull back the infantry first and leave the guns to defend – that looked a better strategy on paper but as the Coalition knew they had numerical superiority they would assault the guns regardless of the losses – this was not always successful but it did gradually reduce the number of French guns on the battlefield.

After a few days of fighting the Coalition had a huge advantage in guns. This permitted them to continue to cause casualties on the French even when the rest of the army was in no state to fight. This was most noticeable on the last day of battle when Wittenstein’s Corps was demoralised and was in no condition to fight, however, their large artillery contingent still made its presence known.

3. The battle of Connewitz.

Another decisive aspect of the battle. This one went back and forth, however superior Coalition artillery fire into Connewitz and slopes beyond made it possible for the Prussians to gain a foothold across the Pleisse. When the Austrian Reserve Corps and Russian and Prussian Guards arrived causing Mark-Kleeberg to fall, the French had to spread themselves thinly to defend between Connewitz and Mark-Kleeberg – this thin line finally snapped!

It was at this point that the French realised that their advantage of committing Marmont’s Corps to the south had be wasted, as the whole of the southern front had to be pulled back to prevent a Coalition breakout from Connewitz.

4. Collapse at Mockern and the Russian night advance.

If only Marmont’s VI Corp had been there… The Russian night advance, through the woods north of Leipzig, caught the French by surprise, not only in their sudden appearance outside the walls of Leipzig but in how it put pressure on the French line of communication out of Leipzig. Ney’s epic defence of this area will go down in the annals of history, but even he could not stem the tide and went down in a blaze of glory!

Game related observations:

I had no problem with the rules. The only issues I had was just with the scale of the game! Tracking command ranges, orders, fatigue in such a large battle was challenging – I am pretty sure towards the end with the French chaos around Leipzig I missed a few things.

I played with the level 4 command rules and they worked really well. The written order system reflected the role of the overall commanders well. I very much appreciated more the role of the tactical orders in this large game than in the smaller ones I have played. Following the criteria of the tactical orders occasionally created some lower order chaos as formations were ‘forced’ to fulfil the requirements. At first when some anomaly occurred I thought that would never happen, however, that was from my ‘god-like’ perspective. Down on the ground in the smoke and chaos of battle that course of action made have appeared to be the correct thing to do. So, at times there were ‘foolish’ attacks and apparently ‘odd’ deployments. These all added to the enjoyment of the battle.

The one rule I would recommend everyone use is the fatigue rules. They really brought the game to life and created a dynamic not usually found in games of this type. You cannot just keep asking more and more of your troops and expect them to comply. I found myself pushing my units harder in this game than usual – suffering a morale penalty in order to achieve some tactical advantage. But, that was a risky tactic and in more than one occasion I had my fingers burnt. Combat can get very dicey, very quickly when fatigued. Take an example of a morale 8 unit, with a fatigue penalty, attacking another unit. The unit has to suffer defensive fire before it can attack – let’s say it takes a step loss and therefore checks morale, without the fatigue penalty it has an effective morale of 7. There is still a 58% chance of passing – not great but okay. Now if you factor in the fatigue the effective morale is now a 6 and there is just over a 40% chance of making it. Put very simple, it changes it from probably passing to probably not passing.

I look forward to more games in this system in the future (but probably smaller ones )
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Terry Lewis
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Well done, David! I particularly like your "Game related observations."

I have three other games from Didier Rouy's Vive l'Empereur! Series. However, they are smaller games, and I have decided [because of the scale -- I do all of my gaming solo] to not acquire Leipzig -- so this is as close as I am probably going to get to playing this one!! Thanks for sharing!!
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David Schubert
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There are several smaller battles you can play from the Leipzig game. Several one map scenarios. Leipzig was several battles within a battle. Don't sell this one short.
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David Murray
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Agreed some of the smaller battles look interesting - however this game is now becoming quite difficult to find...
 
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