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Bonaparte at Marengo» Forums » Strategy

Subject: How to start? rss

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Wulf Corbett
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I realise this must have all been gone over before, please forgive the repetition - there are 29 pages of posts on this game, I'll be perfectly happy to be pointed at a good one to answer my question!

Here is that question - what's a good (or, "the best" if such a thing exists) way for the Austrians to start the game? With a few practice runs, I can see them being run off the board if they allow the French to activate before the Austrians 'break out' of the 3 unoccupied areas at the bridehead - Manoeuvre Attacks will drive infantry back on turns 1 or 2, and the entry area will be overcrowded by turn 3!

My idea is to start off (as Austria) by galloping 4 cavalry units (using all 3 activations, over bridge & pontoon bridge) along roads, and 2 of those can make Manoeuvre Attacks immediately, allowing all 4 to use Continuation to block Approaches. This, however, leaves my extended bridgehead exposed to retaliatory Manoeuvre Attacks by French cavalry, if they're there, and I leave the Approaches to the areas they occupy clear (there will be 1 or 2 of these, since I'll only have 4 units to cover 6 Approaches). Unfortunately, even if I only make 1 Manoeuvre Attack on turn 1, there will be 5 Approaches and only 4 cavalry units, so there's no failsafe option...

In turn 2, I'd move up the remaining 2 cavalry units, blocking Approaches if they're still open, plus the two 3-point infantry units.

Am I on the right track here?
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Brad Miller
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Been awhile since I played, but I would say no, you are seriously on the wrong track.

The french are unlikely to attack you, and even if they did, you'd much rather block the approaches with lame 2 step infantry, than with your cavalry.
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Wulf Corbett
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Windopaene wrote:
Been awhile since I played, but I would say no, you are seriously on the wrong track.

Why though? And what's the right track?
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Mark Buetow
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You're better off coming on a little slowly so as not to wake the napping French too quickly. If they are so foolish as to block your approaches and challenge you, you can bring up some arty and blast through them.
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Mark Christopher
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In the wonderful game, Bonaparte at Marengo, this is how to get nasty Frenchies out of a village.
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Here are a few discussions of the first turn possibilities:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/74048

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/74641

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/84527

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/117658

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/118960

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/346615

Numbered reference map: http://www.simmonsgames.com/products/Marengo/Reference.jpg
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I think you're too worried about what the French can do, Wulf. They only get to activate one unit on the first turn, plus whatever you move adjacent to, until you've entered one of their start areas. That isn't enough to stand up to the four units per turn which you can bring to bear.

If they try, so much the better. As Mark noted, you can pound them with artillery, and follow up with infantry assaults to knock a hole in their line. Once you've done that, you'll roll up the flanks of whatever they still have engaged.

Have you looked at the sample game on Bowen's website? I think stepping through the early turns of that will give you some good ideas.
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Wulf Corbett
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Thanks everyone - I realised late last night I'd misread the Road movement rules, so I couldn't have made 2 attacks on turn one anyway! If the French activate a cavalry unit on turn one (and 1 or 2 more on turn 2, perfectly possible) they could be a severe problem though!

I'll have to study the effects of attrition over a few turns rather than the immediate effect of the first couple.
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Mark Buetow
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Time is just not on the French side, especially if they try to hold the Austrians to their entry locales. The preponderance of Austrian forces able to muster and punch through will disrupt the French opportunity to make an organized fighting withdrawal. The two general French options are to hold as best they can along that first river (Fontanone? Boy...it's been a long time since I've played BaM!) or to run like the dickens for their map edge. There are, of course, various degrees of trying to hold position and cover the withdrawal or of doing a fighting withdrawal. But if the Austrians get through the line, it's nearly all over as it becomes much easier to get troops behind the French to take their stars.
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Wulf Corbett
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markus_kt wrote:
Here are a few discussions of the first turn possibilities:

Thanks for that. Interestingly, my first idea, before I read any of these, was 5211

However, I'm now thinking I might try 3211, cavalry in 2 & manouevre attacking into 3, arty & an elite infantry in 1. I'm hoping my opponent doesn't have cavalry in 3, so he loses a step when he retreats, but I won't if he retaliates in kind!

It might work, especially as he's never actually seen the map yet devil

Of course, there's always the possibility he wants to play the Austrians...
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László K.
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I know that Bonaparte at Marengo has been played, analyzed, re-played, and re-analyzed numerous times. There are set openings for the Austrians and, at least in the BaM Ladder Tournament community (although I suspect throughout most of, if not the entire, BaM community), a meta-game has developed wherein the most advantageous French strategy is to simply withdraw as quickly and efficiently as possible. To a new player it may seem as if there was nothing to explore in the game.

Wulf to you, I would say only this: Explore the game on your own. Try everything. If you can find a way to replicate the historical French attempt to bottle up, if even only temporarily, the Austrians at the Fontanone, then please let us know. Maybe this is not even remotely possible, and maybe it is. (Before everyone chimes is, I do know about this strategy article on the Simmons Games website.) However, if we [the gaming community] were to always approach games based on what has already been done before and never re-examine them from a fresh perspective, then it would never be worth playing an older game (and yes, I do admit that "never" may be too strong a word in this context).

To put it another way, if it weren't for a Swiss patent examiner in 1905 who looked at some problems from a fresh perspective, the state of physics as a science might not be where it is today. (I freely admit that comparing the exploration of BaM to the discovery of Special Relativity [et al.] may be extreme, but again the point is about examining things from an unbiased perspective.)

If you end up coming to the some conclusions as the BaM community, then so be it; if not, then so much the better.

Anyway, that's just my 2 cents. Good gaming, and have fun playing BaM.
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Wulf Corbett
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The BaM (and, I'll bet, the NT) community seem to be a very thoughtful and almost philosophical bunch Thanks to you all for guidance and advice - the one thing I like is a game with no fixed solution. In fact, when I find a solution to a game, i'll deliberately play it another way to see if it's the only solution!
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Mark Buetow
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And if there's one thing the tournament play has shown is that BaM is not solved at all. There are certainly "lines" that are common, but the conclusions are hardly foregone! Thus, BaM has often been compared to Chess in that there are "lines" of play. Enjoy your play. I'm keeping my copy of BaM as my hunk of gold in a bad economy!
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
The BaM (and, I'll bet, the NT) community seem to be a very thoughtful and almost philosophical bunch Thanks to you all for guidance and advice - the one thing I like is a game with no fixed solution. In fact, when I find a solution to a game, i'll deliberately play it another way to see if it's the only solution!


Even if you decide that you've found the optimal Austrian opening move, your best line of play would not be to use it every time. The hidden info element should not be underestimated, and if you become too predictable it can (and will) be used against you.
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Russ Williams
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I followed this new thread with interest, because a friend (Maks) and I arranged to play BaM today - his first time, and my 3rd game, after a break of 1.5 years (!) after my first 2 games. So we were basically both new to it.
Ladislaus wrote:
Explore the game on your own. Try everything.

I agree, it is good fun to just explore the game and find out how it works at first instead of trying to read and absorb strategy articles. Especially with this game. Its rules are so unorthodox that one really seems to need to just get some first-hand experience. Reading about it is not sufficient, at least for me. I had to actually play through some turns to really start to realize the tactical implications of the rules - e.g. about the power of maneuver assaults.

In our game we just played, I was the Austrians and made a foolish early attack with one unit, just in the spirit of trying stuff, which also helped him activate more units at the start. Perhaps that made Maks overconfident, as he started attacking back against my larger groups and so he lost some battles and morale. Then I got more and more units spreading around and started doing several maneuver assaults against several approaches so he couldn't respond to them all and got driven into retreats, losing points along the way. I think he should have been retreating to the other end of the map, but he was still thinking he could hold back the red tide... after a couple more turns of using my larger number of units to keep attacking him on multiple flanks, which he couldn't all block, I demoralized his army and won.

But then we played a game of Manoeuvre and he got his revenge; I'd only played it a handful of times, and Maks owns it and plays often, so he demolished me.

Anyway, it was cool to finally play BaM again. I hope we play again soon now that the rules and some basic tactics (especially about the expensive losses when one is forced to retreat...) are fresh in our minds. The 1.5 year gap had basically wiped my brain of all knowledge of the game...
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