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Albuera 1811: A Lines of Battle Game» Forums » General

Subject: Stacking rss

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Edward Pundyk
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I have been playing the heck out of Albuera 1811 over the last few weeks. I estimate I’ve played at least 20 games or so. I have two regular gaming opponents that I regularly play live on VASSAL. We originally found the game to be tense, exciting and balanced, as well as a reasonable facsimile of Napoleonic grand tactics, without a complicated and taxing rules overhead. I managed to teach both of my buddies the game and have them playing it with 15-20 minutes of instruction. Neither of them had so much as opened the rules booklet before playing (of course, after the first gaming session they read the rules). So far, so good.

During our last session, however, one of my opponents appears to have broken the game. With the French, he concentrated all of his infantry on the west side of the Chicapierna Brook into one area, along with his heavy cavalry and artillery, using the light cavalry as a screen and flank protector. This is doable within the first two turns because the Allies get so few Command Points that they can’t stop it from happening. Then, the monster stack simply bulls its way through all opposition and either destroys enough Allied units to cause demoralization or reaches either space 2 or 3 with an infantry unit within the first 4 to 5 turns. Game over.

We’ve switched sides several times and have duplicated it each time. There appears to be no defence to this. Did this situation not come up during playtesting? Are we missing something?

We’ve instituted a house rule that limits both sides to 6 infantry and 6 cavalry strength points per area, with no limit on artillery. We’ve played a couple of games with this house rule and it seems to have restored the game to balance, but we thought we should consult with the designer to hear his views.
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David Kershaw
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I did try this in playtesting and found it was stoppable (this is the French historic tactic). Did you not find that screening with light cavalry can delay the monster stack? A single strength 3 unit on the Approach should stop it too, or cause it unacceptable casualties so that the Allies can defeat it.

Remember that the setup of the Allies is in the Areas, but it does not specify that they cannot be in square, deployed on an approach, limbered.

The no stacking limit is the one thing that was most controversial in playtesting and I was very close to implementing a stacking limit but stopped at the last minute to keep things simpler but also because at 500yds across in theory the Areas are big enough that stacking should not be restricted.
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David Kershaw
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Another thought - you could also try the "bid for victory" optional rule to see who gets the French.
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Edward Pundyk
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kerpob2 wrote:
Did you not find that screening with light cavalry can delay the monster stack?


Not long enough to make much of a difference.

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Edward Pundyk
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kerpob2 wrote:
Another thought - you could also try the "bid for victory" optional rule to see who gets the French.


Yes we did, but it then becomes a question of bidding to see who gets to drive that unstoppable tank through the middle of the Allied lines. The whole focus of the game changes and it no longer feels like a Napoleonic battle.

Our stacking house rule seems to work and creates credible outcomes. It truly is an excellent system and we look forward to seeing many Napoleonic battles done using this ruleset. If you need playtesters for future volumes in the series, my group would be ready, willing and eager to assist.
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M. Kirschenbaum
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I've wondered about the stacking issue too. It's not just about how many men you can physically cram into the area, it's also about whether formations can properly deploy with the requisite frontages and individual spacing.

Eagles of the Empire (which, interestingly, offers an Albuera game in the Spanish Eagles package) has a very different take. The areas on the map are created in response to the divisional deployments that would have been possible in that terrain--a unit can "fit" in some orientations, but not others, and stacking is very much restricted. Certainly worth a look for the contrast.

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Edward Pundyk
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David Kershaw has kindly exchanged VASSAL files with me to take a closer look at this issue and to provide suggestions regarding Allied initial set-up and first move. I have also engaged in some intensive solo play to try different Coalition defences. Also, David pointed out an error that has crept into my standard VASSAL set-up which reduces the number of areas required to be activated by the French on Turn 1. blush

I have concluded, given some good luck on the part of the French or bad luck on the part of the Coalition, that the "massive stack" can be a potent gambit for the French. In most of the 2-player games I was involved with over the weekend, that is generally what happened. There are ways to mitigate the Coalition position, involving the use of light cavalry screens, putting weak Spanish infantry units into square and others on the approaches in the initial set-up and on Turn 1, such that the "Albuera Tank" can be defeated.

The game isn't broken...there are nuances that my wargaming opponents and I had not yet discovered in this top-notch design. Carry on. Nothing to see here.

[edit: changed "Allied" to "Coalition"]
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M. Kirschenbaum
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It's good that the "tank" can sometimes be stopped, but it'd be a shame if the total lack of stacking restrictions led to its becoming a common (or even occasional) gambit. Whatever else might be said about it, it's certainly not anything close to a historical representation of the battle, nor are tactics like stopping it by feeding it Spanish infantry in square.

I imagine it will also make testing future battles a headache as the "tank" is going to have to be a ploy tried and tested for both sides . . .

An Austrian tank at Marengo? A British tank at Salamanca?

This hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for the game, but I find the Eagles model far more convincing.
 
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David Kershaw
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mkirschenbaum wrote:
It's good that the "tank" can sometimes be stopped, but it'd be a shame if the total lack of stacking restrictions led to its becoming a common (or even occasional) gambit. Whatever else might be said about it, it's certainly not anything close to a historical representation of the battle, nor are tactics like stopping it by feeding it Spanish infantry in square.


The weird thing is that the French did historically try the "Tank" putting a large force into one area - effectively the whole of V corps - and trying to roll up the Spanish. But, as the game shows, a single unit in a defensive line (approach) can stop such an assault dead.

NB - the weak Spanish units in square are for protection against cavalry attacking the flanks not against the "Tank".

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Edward Pundyk
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mkirschenbaum wrote:
It's good that the "tank" can sometimes be stopped, but it'd be a shame if the total lack of stacking restrictions led to its becoming a common (or even occasional) gambit. Whatever else might be said about it, it's certainly not anything close to a historical representation of the battle, nor are tactics like stopping it by feeding it Spanish infantry in square.

I imagine it will also make testing future battles a headache as the "tank" is going to have to be a ploy tried and tested for both sides . . .

An Austrian tank at Marengo? A British tank at Salamanca?

This hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for the game, but I find the Eagles model far more convincing.


One thing I’ve noticed about “the tank” is that when it fails, it does so spectacularly. That ought to give players pause before employing it at all.

And I second David’s clarification regarding putting the weak Spanish infantry units into square. That’s meant to deal with the French cavalry screen that accompanies “the tank”. It makes them more vulnerable to infantry or artillery attacks, as it should be in an accurate simulation of Napoleonic tactics.
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M. Kirschenbaum
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So at risk of becoming tedious, may I make a few more points for sake of discussion?

1. In my own games, I have found an attack against the Spanish flank involving the entirety of V corps developing quite naturally (typically against areas 28 or 29). All in, this gives the French 11 infantry strength points in one area.

2. I would note that that's a far cry from all of the French infantry in the game, which is what I understood Edward's tank gambit to have involved. Here, the French still have another 13 infantry points not committed as part of V corps.

3. The most immediate Allied counter to a strong V corps attack is the Spanish 4/1 brigade. On the Approach, it indeed stands a reasonable (but by no means guaranteed) chance of holding off successive waves of French attacks. Yay, history! I have no problems with any of this. Quite the contrary, it's beautiful modeling.

4. Where things get loopy for me though is the prospect of piling even more infantry into a single area. Currently the potential game breaking behaviors, whether in this or another battle, become such that one wonders why a simple stacking limit isn't on the table. What's to be gained by leaving the door open for this grotesquely ahistorical behavior?

5. I understand that it's "my game" and I can house rule whatever I want. But that's not the question. I'm interested in the designer's thinking, especially when the designer so clearly knows what they're doing. cool




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David Kershaw
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mkirschenbaum wrote:
So at risk of becoming tedious, may I make a few more points for sake of discussion?

1. In my own games, I have found an attack against the Spanish flank involving the entirety of V corps developing quite naturally (typically against areas 28 or 29). All in, this gives the French 11 infantry strength points in one area.

2. I would note that that's a far cry from all of the French infantry in the game, which is what I understood Edward's tank gambit to have involved. Here, the French still have another 13 infantry points not committed as part of V corps.

3. The most immediate Allied counter to a strong V corps attack is the Spanish 4/1 brigade. On the Approach, it indeed stands a reasonable (but by no means guaranteed) chance of holding off successive waves of French attacks. Yay, history! I have no problems with any of this. Quite the contrary, it's beautiful modeling.

4. Where things get loopy for me though is the prospect of piling even more infantry into a single area. Currently the potential game breaking behaviors, whether in this or another battle, become such that one wonders why a simple stacking limit isn't on the table. What's to be gained by leaving the door open for this grotesquely ahistorical behavior?

5. I understand that it's "my game" and I can house rule whatever I want. But that's not the question. I'm interested in the designer's thinking, especially when the designer so clearly knows what they're doing. cool


You can pile everything into one Area if you want - as the Areas are 500m by 500m then this is quite a big area. 250,000 square meters: 25 hectares, or about 62 acres. Plenty big enough.

Playtesting shows that this is not a good idea. As mentioned, it can be halted by a single unit deployed on an approach ( a brigade of approx. 2000 men easily covers a frontage of 500m). But worse, it leaves the flanks very vulnerable to spoiling attacks/feints. It also takes a bit of time and coordination to achieve, which the Allies should not allow.

It does make me think that there should be an equivalent "autovictory" place in the rear of the French in, say, Area 75, since that was their line of communications/supply and they would be in trouble if the Allies took it.

Interesting stuff!
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Don H
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Suggestion: Rather than auto-victory, how about during a player's Victory Phase his side loses a morale point (or two) if the enemy occupies one of his "rear areas". Keeps an army mindful of it's supply line but prevents sudden death due to a rogue unit's dash behind the lines.
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Edward Pundyk
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dherndon wrote:
Suggestion: Rather than auto-victory, how about during a player's Victory Phase his side loses a morale point (or two) if the enemy occupies one of his "rear areas". Keeps an army mindful of it's supply line but prevents sudden death due to a rogue unit's dash behind the lines.


I like that idea. One of my opponents also suggested a similar rule during our session last weekend. It would tend to keep the French “honest”.
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Balmer David
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Calculating Frontage with The book of Guy Dempsey '3Albuera 1811)
il realised that the big column french Attack was 300 yards wide at first then deployed on a 900 yards frontage against the spanish infantry and nearly 500 yards agaisnt Colborne brigade on their left flank.

When moving at first the tail of the column would be 1500 yards or more behind.


The question is not: to cramm or not to cramm a big tank army in a one zone, but
How much of it coulf fight out of it ?


Deployed in line a brigade would cover 400 yards minimum.
In dense column of division a french brigade, would cover half ot that.

3 infantry units should be the maximum able to fight out a zone.
(i don t count units on approach "on the flanks of the zone").



The other problem is mixing Infantry/cavalry in an attack.
Historically in Albuera Battlefield yhey were separated, Cavalry on the left (view fom the french) infantry on the right.

because it was difficult to have the place to deploy cavalry when the terrain was crowded with infantry all around.

The destruction of the Colborne brigade by the Vistula Lancers
and the 2e Hussard was possible because the french cavalry had an open space to charge ont the british flank.
(the approach concept is excellent at simulating that).



So, i think, that the question is the availability of the units stacked in a zone for fighting.
It should have some malus after the 2nd or 3rd unit used to attack or defend, or have stacking rules.

If there is a defending infantry in aproach, it should be able to limit the number of units attacking it frontally.


"The big tank tactic" can be successful because there is no constraint of space like inthe real life battlefield.

The stacking rules can be rigid, and could represent an old school habit which needs new way of thinking, ok, but getting rid of it without nothing else can be a problem.












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