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Subject: 3rd solitaire play and my take on the game so far rss

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Marc Gouyon-Rety
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I have just completed my third solitaire play of the game, and had prepared a full AAR, but unfortunately a typing ,mistake wiped the post's content before I could post it, and I don't feel ready to type it again, so I will go for a short summary, which is probably as well.

My strategic intention in this 3rd play was for Marlborough to secure his rear against the "Nijmegen maneuver" (see previous AARs) and the wealthy spaces of Flanders before moving on to Paris, to knock out Bavaria early, and to contest Italy and Spain more fiercely.
In Flanders, Nijmegen was initially secured, but Marlborough's campaign floundered against Villars in Antwerp, losing a battle and Nijmegen subsequently, and again 2 years later while Marlborough was seizing an opportunity in Namur (left ungarrisoned). It is only when the French field forces, much depleted by a lot of fighting, had to concentrate to counter the Austrian efforts on the Rhine (Strasbourg fallen, Besancon besieged) that Marlborough was able to make good headway, resulting a in a big battle at Lille in 1710, the last large fortress before Paris. Unfortunately, Villars inflicted there a devastating defeat on Marlborough: Famous Victory, capture of both Allied leaders (Marlborough ransomed for 3 VPs), then a second Famous Victory when crushing leaderless reduced corps retreated in Tournai (only 4 corps able to escape in garrison and led by Overkirk's replacement), and finally Tournai falling back to the French thanks to the FV bonus: i.e. a massive 9 VP swing!
In Germany, Eugen utterly crushed the Bavarians in 1703, and then managed to cross the Rhine, but French reactions stabilized the front on the Rhine.
In Italy, Vendome conquered most of the peninsula (including the whole of Savoy, which unwisely switched sides in 1704), though Austrian and British/Dutch forces held Naples and contested the ports.
In Spain, the Atlantic ports were garrisoned early, guarding against a British/Dutch descent, but the Portuguese campaign was botched by Berwick, and then strong activity by Spanish and Austrian Habsbourg (from Naples) forces, with Starhemberg and then Eugen himself operating there, stretched Bourbon defenses to the near-breaking point, with only the success in Flanders staving off collapse.
Speaking of collapse, the French Economy's collapse but early (1709) and deeply (Bourbons reduced to 3 wealthy spaces in 1710), which appears to have spelled certain doom quickly as Bourbon forces were suffering mightily from heavy fighting/sieging in Flanders, on the Rhine and in Italy, but again a fast Automatic Victory (0 VP) in 1710 saved Louis XIV's and his grandson's asses.

I really feel that, but for the crushing reverses suffered by Marlborough in Flanders in 1710, the Allies were on the verge of triumph, even though a British withdrawal was still possible with VPs in the 7-9 range. The game was extremely pleasant again, flowing smoothly and naturally, and with plenty of surprises, even in solo (I play by revealing Action cards for both sides at the last moment, so one never knows how many actions will be available during the year).

Generally speaking, the historical feel of the game is quite good, even though I expected the Allies to have an easier time of it. In my games, Villars has tended to "own" Marlborough, which, though pleasing to the Frenchman that I am, should be atypical.
I have read again the chapter on the war in John Lynn's excellent "The Wars of Louis XIV", and the main differences with my plays seem to be the size of the armies (a lot of historical actions had between 20,000 and 80,000 men on each side, where in my plays, huge concentrations, with 100,000+ armies not uncommon, are the norm, at least in Flanders and on the Rhine) and the frequency of battles. I don't know if the game is failing to restrict the commanders to engage in battle as historically, or if I have been too aggressive, but I would tend to suspect the former, as my take has been to play the Allies aggressively as they try to bleed dry the Bourbons (saddled with a lower replacement rate). Maybe Marlborough's "3" TR makes him too ambitious...
Apart from that, the sieges are dictating the pace of the game, as should be I think, and the management of the layers of the French "Pre Carre" definitely dominates the Bourbon player's mind (again, as should be I think). Italy and Spain tend to be sideshows in my games, mainly because I have not been able to generate sufficient pressure with the Austrians both on the Rhine and in Italy at the same time.

Overall, a very polished and fin game to play (really amazingly few rule questions, as standards go nowadays), which plays quickly with plenty of options and surprises. I am really looking forward to try it face-to-face now!
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Warren Bruhn
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Thanks for another AAR. In my games it is usually Berwick who beats Marlborough regularly. I'm beginning to think Marlborough needs to have a single die reroll option to reflect how well he managed battles.

I lost a long AAR of Empires in Arms one Saturday night when the BGG website went down for maintenance. And another time when my laptop battery went dead! Another BGG person recommended that long AAR's be written on a word processing program and then pasted into a sessions report here on BGG. That proved to be very good advice.

Good game, but it is extremely tough for the Allies, very hard to control as many fortresses and as much space as they did historically by the end of 1711.
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Marc Gouyon-Rety
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It's probably me being French, but I really do not think Marlborough was that extraordinary. Just read Lynn's book (and he's no Frenchman): very good, yes (and he is the only 3-rated leader in the game), but invincible? Hardly. What is striking when one reads the history of the war is how often he was matched against second-rate French generals, who made big blunders... The "problem" here, as often in games, is that we know how dangerous he is and so place the best leaders and plenty of troops, fortified lines, etc... The historical Marlborough had it easier...

The knack is probably to find the right balance between aggressiveness and prudence for the Allies: yes you have more RPs, but the clock is ticking fast. The Bourbons cannot sustain a heavy tempo of operations everywhere, especially with the siege step losses, so at some point they cannot cover all avenues. In my last game, I really think the Bourbons were in the ropes until the catastrophic battle at Lille, which became such more because of rolling "11" for both Allied leaders rather than simply the defeat. How likely is that? 4 chances out of 1296. i.e. 0.3%!!!
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Fredrik
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I'm thinking of Napoleon/Wellington in good ol' War and Peace, as the only 3 leaders in that game, with some 2's and a multitude of 1's around the map. Granted, in that game the French also often have the upper hand in quality, adding another +1 modifier - but all the same, being the only "3" in the game certainly makes a difference, if not overwhelmingly so.

Possibly a greater problem for the Allies: IIRC they only have a "3" and a "2" leader against three French "2" leaders? Even with Villars going away now and then to fight some rebellion/argue with some court fops, that would basically even out the leadership in the long run, bar leader deaths/captures.
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Warren Bruhn
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In the game Marlborough isn't that scary. All his rating does is give one extra die throw over Villars, Vendome, and Berwick, which may or may not inflict an additional step loss on a Bourbon side corps. Perhaps it is fine that Marlborough isn't that scary in the game, as I don't think the Bourbon leadership really thought he was that good at the time. So the game probably fairly reflects the lack of respect the Bourbons had for him.

It is only in retrospect that we see how his operational and tactical combinations were so good, and his judgment so sound. What strikes me is that he usually got the enemy to start overreacting to his tactical moves on the battlefield, and was able to achieve local superiortity somewhere. He did this whether the enemy leader was Tallard, Villeroi, Vendome, or Villars. Most other commanders, including Villars, Berwick, Vendome, and Eugene, either seemed to be fighting a battle already determined by how the armies lined up, or were simply reacting or over-reacting to what the enemy was doing.

On the other hand, the Bourbons were frequently affected by divided command. Perhaps Oudenaarde might have had a different outcome if Vendome was fully in charge. Or perhaps another battle against a Marlborough led allied army might have had a different outcome if Berwick had been fully in charge. However, understanding how the enemy leadership is likely to act and react is as important as understanding how well their troops will fight.

I don't think Marlborough was any more perfect than Napoleon or Wellington or Robert E. Lee. There were some imperfections in Marlborough's moves here and there. But he often dictated the flow of events, and did so while excercising sound judgment and skill. If that doesn't put a general in the "brilliant" category I don't know what does. I think he is the closest thing the British ever had to a Napoleon like general, with all due respect to Wellington and to the Black Prince.

This quick and simple game of handfulls of dice doesn't really give an impression of Marlborough's level of control in a battlefield situation as well as a system such as VG The Civil War might have done. There the army commanders have a number of "dice reroll options" that are used to affect the combat outcome. These can be used to either try to increase enemy casualties, or to reduce one's own.
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Fredrik
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Definitely an interesting case for a house rule test.

On the other hand, his extra '1' in leadership is even more powerful when it comes to evading/intercepting - not to be forgotten. This is rather in line with what you are saying:
Quote:
It is only in retrospect that we see how his operational and tactical combinations were so good, and his judgment so sound. What strikes me is that he usually got the enemy to start overreacting to his tactical moves on the battlefield, and was able to achieve local superiortity somewhere. He did this whether the enemy leader was Tallard, Villeroi, Vendome, or Villars. Most other commanders, including Villars, Berwick, Vendome, and Eugene, either seemed to be fighting a battle already determined by how the armies lined up, or were simply reacting or over-reacting to what the enemy was doing.
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Warren Bruhn
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The 3 rating is also very good for bypassing fortified lines, something that Marlborough was very good at.

One thing that might help the Allies a little bit would be for the Allies to be able to elect to do the reinforcement phase 2nd during the 1703 through 1707 turns, the turns when the Allies have the initiative. That would allow them to perhaps get a better leadership matchup for two or three of the early turns in the game. As it stands now, letting the Bourbons alway do the reinforcement phase second allows the Bourbons to respond with best leaders on whatever front Marlborough and Eugene are on.
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Fredrik
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Very good points.
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Marc Gouyon-Rety
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Indeed, very good points: Marlborough, even with a defeated army, behind Level 2 fortified lines is a scary proposition (Amsterdam anyone?), as even with a Leader 2, it is very unlikely the lines will be bypassed...
Now, I suspect we 21st century players, with historical hindsight (and centuries of English propaganda?) probably are expecting too much of him, and expect to win battles all the time. Historically, Marlborough did indeed seek battles - unlike all contemporaries -, but was frequently restrained by allies and hierarchy. It may be that Marlborough being, in game terms, not invincible, is a way to keep the players a little bit more wary, i.e. more in line with historical behaviors. In NPWS, battles are very chancy affairs, and players should always hesitate before rolling the dice, except when doing nothing is worse than losing a battle (say, when a key fortress is about to fall).
Now, from my own plays, I noticed a lot of big battles, probably more than historically. So, blame my aggressiveness / recklessness, but maybe there should be another mechanism simulating instructions / overrule from monarchs and/or allies (the Dutch...) to limit battles, something like: when you attack, roll 1 die to see if you are allowed to proceed, maybe with modifiers based on the year and the criticality of the space (key fortress, last line of defense, capital city...).
Another consideration to bear in mind: to achieve rough parity with Marlborough, the Bourbons have to essentially allocate two of their best leaders (at least one "2" and one "1") and most of their RPs to their army in Flanders, which is bound to leave other fronts significantly depleted or even uncovered, which should be telling if for instance the Austrians are making a strong push with Eugene on the Rhine. One large Bourbon army can, to some extent, shuffle between Flanders and the Rhine, but cannot hope to hold both for long, as at some point the luck of the dice will turn against it. If the second push is taking place farther from Flanders, i.e. in Italy or Spain, admittedly more difficult terrain, then there is no way the Bourbons can cover both with this one big army...
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Chad G
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In War and Peace each command rating is a +1 on a 1d6 table. That's much bigger than an extra dice roll of a possible hit on 5-6. I'm guessing Marlborough may need the extra die to simulate his abilities. He never lost a battle or siege over years of campaigning after all. I know there is the odd history but the record stands.
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Fredrik
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Budrou784 wrote:
In War and Peace each command rating is a +1 on a 1d6 table. That's much bigger than an extra dice roll of a possible hit on 5-6. I'm guessing Marlborough may need the extra die to simulate his abilities. He never lost a battle or siege over years of campaigning after all. I know there is the odd history but the record stands.
Beg to differ - first of all, War and Peace used a 2d6 CRT; +1 is not huge. IMHO one really nedds to take NPWS's interception/evasion/bypassing lines effects (nonexistant in W&P) into account when evaluating the leadership factors, not just the pure combat effect. Pretty much being able to select whether to fight a battle or not is half the victory...
 
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Charles Vasey
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
In the game Marlborough isn't that scary. All his rating does is give one extra die throw over Villars, Vendome, and Berwick, which may or may not inflict an additional step loss on a Bourbon side corps. Perhaps it is fine that Marlborough isn't that scary in the game, as I don't think the Bourbon leadership really thought he was that good at the time. So the game probably fairly reflects the lack of respect the Bourbons had for him.



Which marechals do you think did not "respect" Marlborough?
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Chad G
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Dug out my old War and Peace game and I stand corrected. The point still stands, that Marlburough is way underrated.
 
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Kris Van Beurden
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
The 3 rating is also very good for bypassing fortified lines, something that Marlborough was very good at.


Not just that ... also for preventing the opponent to bypass *his* fortified lines
 
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Chad G
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I think Marlburough's very under rated in the game, and the point about army sizes mentioned here is a good one. The cost of putting 100k men in the field was very high.
 
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Severus Snape
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Budrou784 wrote:
Dug out my old War and Peace game and I stand corrected. The point still stands, that Marlburough is way underrated.


Or could it be that our view of him needs revision? Just wondering. whistle

goo

 
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