David G. Cox Esq.
Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
The Incomplete Victory
Two-player Tactical Napoleonic Wargame
Simulation of the Battle of Ligny - June 16, 1815
Designed by Jay Nelson & Kevin Zucker
Published by S.P.I. (1976)
During the 1970’s, S.P.I. was famous for its ‘quadrigame’ concept – four separate games on the same topic that could be sold individually or as a set. A couple of these quadrigames, Napoleon’s Last Battles (NLB) and Battles for the Ardennes, had the added bonus that the four games and maps could be combined to create a fifth campaign situation.
I have played NLB in its four folio formats as well as the campaign game. I think that the campaign game is truly superb and significantly better than the individual folio games and hence the title given to this review. One of the aspects to the folio games that is interesting from a game-play point of view is that each of the four games simulates a different type of battle – Ligny is a set-piece battle.
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday June 18th, 1815. Two days prior to Napoleon’s ultimate battle a significant engagement occurred between the French and Prussian forces at Ligny. Napoleon had deliberately split his force into two, sending the smaller force to the west to take Quatre Bras and keeping the larger force, hoping to engage and destroy the Prussian forces before they could combine with Wellington’s Anglo-Dutch army and gain a numerical superiority over the French. The result of the Battle of Ligny was inconclusive. The French made a successful direct assault against the centre of the Prussian army, crushing it. The two flanks of the Prussian army held firm, allowing the Prussians to withdraw from the field of battle in good order, despite having suffered substantial losses. Marshal Blucher was badly hurt when his horse fell on him. At the end of the day blucher’s Chief of Staff, von Gneisenau, distrusted Wellington and suggested to Blucher that the Prussians should withdraw eastward on their own supply line but Blucher insisted on a northward withdrawal so as to maintain contact with Wellington.
Historically the French army won at Ligny – they held the town at the end of the day but, significantly for the Allies, the French were unable to stop the Prussians from withdrawing in good order. The French objective had been to destroy the Prussians so that they could give no support to their Anglo-Dutch allies. The French should have won more decisively. The French 1st Corps was available to reinforce the battle at Ligny, but spent the day of June 16 marching back and forth between the nearby Battle of Quatre Bras and Ligny without actually entering either battle.
One 8-page rulebook containing 6 pages of basic and optional rules, 1 page of scenario details for all four folio games and 1 page of designer’s notes.
The are large number of units involved at Ligny – all units start on the board. The French start with 37 counters (strength of 166). The Prussians start with 41 units on the map (strength of 139) and receive no reinforcements. The counters are double sided with the reverse side showing the same unit at a lower strength – the reverse side is only used in the campaign game. French counters are light blue while the Prussian counters are a light lime green.
The game is played on a 17” x 22” non-gloss map with a soft cream background and greens, browns, greys and blues to represent woods, crests, villages and streams respectively. The combat results table is printed on the map. The terrain effects chart is printed on the back of the rules.
The game lasts for 7 turns, each one representing an hour of real time. The game has a very standard French movement, French combat, Allied movement and Allied combat sequence of play.
Stacking is two units per hex. Roads give movement advantages. Streams, woods, crests and villages give the defender a combat bonus.
Zones of Control are rigid and once you enter an enemy ZOC the only way to leave it is through combat – advance, retreat or elimination. Once in an enemy ZOC combat is mandatory.
Artillery can fire at 2 hexes range (providing the line of sight is not blocked) and can either bombard independently of other troops or make a combined attack with other friendly units.
There are rules for Demoralization and an armies Demoralization level is measured by the number of its units that have been destroyed – the Demoralization level varies from scenario to scenario. Once Demoralized the French will automatically lose the game. The Allied armies only lose the ability to advance after combat. The Allies have a second level called Disintegration. If the Allies reach their Disintegration level then the French will automatically win the game.
There are optional rules for Combined Arms Attacks and the Imperial Guard.
The French win by Demoralizing the Prussian army (kill 55 Prussian strength points) and French losses are less than 35 strength points. If the French player fails to Demoralize the Prussian army OR loses 35 or more strength points then the Prussian player will win.
Playing the Game
I am quite happy to play Ligny and consider it the second best best of the four folio games. The game takes around 150 minutes to play – most players have to be very careful with the placement of their units during the game. Once a unit is surrounded it becomes much easier for the enemy forces to destroy it. Because the counters stack two-high and there is a lot of congestion where the fighting is heaviest, I like to play using tweezers to pick up and move the counters – my thumbs just cause massive problems. The game doesn’t have the same high excitement level as Quatres Bras (where a lot can hinge on a single die-roll). Ligny has much more tension than excitement. It is a large, grinding battle.
The French units are, on average, stronger than the Prussian units – French average is 4.5 per unit to the Prussian 3.4 per unit. This can actually be a little to the French disadvantage. Even though it allows them to get more combat factors into a small area it also means that on an Exchange result they may sometimes have to lose more strength points (units) than they should. The Prussians also have a couple of ‘hellishly’ large artillery units that can put a lot of firepower into a small area.
The game begins with the Prussian 1st and 2nd Corps in a salient stretching from Ligny westwards. The 3rd Corps and elements of the 2nd Corps are positioned a little to the north and give the Prussians a force with which they may manoeuvre.
The French have a screen of troops running west to east and are in contact distance (roughly 400 metres) from the Prussians. There is a large force of French further south. The French player, ideally, would like to envelope both Prussian flanks. The combination of rivers, villages and Prussian troops make this difficult to achieve.
This is an excellent game as both armies are strong enough to launch local attacks but neither is strong enough to gain superiority along the entire front. This battle should be a real slugging match with both players looking for the right spot and the right time to put in each punch.
(This has been previously posted under the Ligny listing, but I felt that it was just as valid here and perhaps some people will locate it more easily now.)
“Dead Men Tell No Tales – And There Be A Good Reason For This.”
New England Patriots!
I agree. I have always thought Ligny was the second best of the quad after Waterloo. The campaign of course is the best!
Andreas E. Gebhardt
da pyrate wrote:
“Dead Men Tell No Tales – And There Be A Good Reason For This.”
a very well done report you posted here