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Subject: Attrition and Maneuever - A Play by Play Session Report rss

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Brian Evans
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This is a session report of the second game between Chris and myself using VASSAL. This time through I took the Allies and Chris lead the French. You can find the first game between myself and Chris here: Austerlitz At Noon

I recommend pressing the little magnifying glass button on each of the pictures to pull up a larger image.


The Deployment



The Tsar instructs his Generals to deploy the bulk of the Allied army along the Pratzen Heights and prepare for an early assault on the enemy's center.
“The French are weak and will seek to out maneuver us on the open plains along the Allied right. This cannot be allowed. We must seize the initiative and press an all-out attack quickly, at a single point, forcing the French into a battle of attrition rather than one of maneuver, a battle perfectly suited to the Allied army's best advantage: strength in numbers. To victory!”

Meanwhile, the Little Emperor carefully observes the Allied deployment and seeing the Bratze Berg overflowing with enemy troops dispatches reinforcements to the French right and center. Legrand is ordered to dig in and to not let the enemy outflank his position at any cost.



The Tsar's plan of attack for the Allied army.

Dokhturov and Prebyshevsky are assigned small but powerful commands with heavy infantry formations and all the Allied artillery. They will lead the assault along the narrow confines of the river crossing. Once the artillery has shattered the French holding force, Langeron and Lichtenstein will advance across the river and cut the French army in two. Heavy Cavalry and Guard Infantry will form the backbone of this force. Bagration is charged with protecting the main road and the Allied right in case of a French counter attack.


7:00AM Allies

Dokhturov and Prebyshevsky take the lead and the morning advancement proceeds to plan. A cavalry detachment harasses St. Hilaire, hoping to goad him into standing his ground. St. Hilaire deftly avoids the trap. On the left, Kienmayer maintains contact with the advancing Allied formations while Bagration deploys a cavalry screen on the right.



7:00AM French

On the French right a detached cavalry unit sees an opportunity and begins moving to the Allied rear. In the center St. Hilaire slowly pulls back as the French left mobilizes and shifts to center. Vandamme dispatches more cavalry to harass the Allied right.



8:00AM Allies

The Allied main thrust continues its movement while the detached cavalry command again skirmishes with St. Hilaire but this time the French commander forms battle lines and digs in at the river crossing. This simple maneuver would come back to haunt the Tsar in the near future. Seeing the advancing French corps, Langeron maneuvers to protect the right flank of the main attack. On the right, cavalry elements from Bagration, Constantine and Miloradovich surround a French cavalry unit. It's annihilation is all but assured.



8:00AM French

Seeing the attack develop in the center, Legrand takes the opportunity to begin mobilizing his corps. French cavalry on both flanks continue to harass the enemy while the entire French left swings into action, pressing the Allied main attack. Three French corps directly threaten the Allied vanguard.



9:00AM Allies

Dokhturov and Prebyshevsky report imminent catastrophe. The town of Burtoivitz has been occupied by French troops under Murat. Lichtenstein must advance and push back Murat's corps or risk the complete collapse of the Allied vanguard. Lichtenstein's response sends chills down the Tsar's spine.

“The terrain is too congested and the roads already occupied by Allied formations. I cannot be in place to effectively screen the vanguard without sending in my corps piecemeal, something I cannot in good conscience do. The vanguard is on its own until it can push across the river.”

A later report from Langeron sealed the fate of the Allied attack. “The enemy has responded faster than anticipated. My corps is pressed on three sides with enemy cavalry soon to threaten from a fourth. Per my standing orders to avoid a general engagement until the breach, I must withdraw.”

Across the field, the Allied attack is called off. Bagration, faced with an empty road and few enemies presses forward. The surrounded French cavalry is finished off.



9:00AM French

Seeing the enemy withdraw, Napoleon resets his defensive line. Artillery on the Santon and heavy cavalry from Vandamme's corps assault Bagration, pulling his corps apart from every angle. Behind enemy lines, the lone French cavalry unit continues to advance.



10:00AM Allies

Moving on to plan B, the Tsar turns the mighty Allied juggernaut's aim squarely at Legrand's position. Sokolnitz must fall! Prebyshevsky and Langeron will hold the center while Dokhturov and Lichtenstein joined by Kienmayer, moving down from the heights, will assault the French right. On the Allied right, Bagration quickly falls back out of range of the Santon's guns.



10:00AM French

Legrand abandons Sokolnitz as St. Hilaire and Vandamme repositions to meet the oncoming assault on the French right. French cavalry skirmishes with Allied cavalry as Murat once again advances into Burtoivitz. On the French left, the Santon artillery sends the last remnants of Bagration's corps fleeing.



11:00AM Allies

Seeing daylight between St. Hilaire and Vandamme's corps, Allied cavalry charge across the Gold Bach. Sokolnitz and Dos Schloss fall to the Allies without a fight. Lichtenstein and farther back Langeron position for a breakthrough.



11:00AM French

A feint attack catches Dokhturov off guard and, not wanting to break up his corps, he defends with three units. Legrand's follow up attack sends a French heavy infantry formation into Sokolnitz where it is met by an equally sized Allied unit. Much to the Tsar's chagrin, the superior French training wins the battle. Dokhtoruv loses both his artillery units and the remainder of his corps is sent racing for the Pratzen heights. St. Hilaire takes up a position to defend against Kienmayer as Vandamme reveals his all cavalry corps (one medium cavalry and one heavy cavalry) in pushing back the Allied cavalry. The lone French cavalry unit on the Bratze Berg continues to make a nuisance of itself.

Note: Off-screen Vandamme sent a (presumed) cavalry unit by road to the locale just north of the penetrating Allied cavalry unit. Vandamme then attacked the cavalry which retreated south since all other routes were blocked. Incidentally, the French cavalry move was illegal since there were no roads along that route.



12:00PM Allies

Allied cavalry moves by road (illegally, as there is no road, oops) towards Telnitz while Lichtenstein takes up where Dokhturov failed. Kienmayer moves into the approach, ready for a long struggle. Now behind the battle line, Dokhturov reforms his corps, this time with Guard Infantry. Langeron and Prebyshevsky advance in the center once again as a cavalry feint attack pulls Vandamme back into the trenches once again. No further troops can be allowed to reinforce the French right. On the Allied right, a lone infantry division attempts to sneak around the Santon.



12:00PM French

Near the Santon, Bessieres and Lannes push forward, threatening the Stare Dinohradi hill. Murat, at last gives up the town of Burtoivitz and pulls back to defend the river crossing where only Vandamme's small cavalry corps and a light infantry division hold the line. Hoping to slow Langeron's attack, an independent French cavalry attacks by road through Burtoivitz revealing itself to be the second heavy cavalry formation. French Cavalry pursues its counterpart on the Allied left while an unknown unit from Legrand's corps crosses the river to defend the open ground in front of Telnitz. Previously this unit was thought to be an artillery piece. The Tsar, mystified by this bold move, begins to doubt his scouting reports. Perhaps it is the last unknown French heavy cavalry.



1:00PM Allies

Lichtenstein and Kienmayer begin the assault on St. Hilaire while the allied cavalry near Telnitz attacks and then thinks better of it. Dokhturov continues to reform his corps. Prebyshevsky advances across the Gold Bach, threatening a blue star. Constantine advances to meet the adventurous Lannes.



1:00PM French

On the allied left, the cowardly allied cavalry is in turn attacked where he again chooses the better part of valor. It's at last revealed that the mysterious unit is in fact an artillery piece. An attack against it would have easily succeeded. The Tsar, showing poise in the midst of chaos, merely asks for the local commander's name and that of his nearest kin. In the center, Murat meets the advancing Prebyshevsky and Lannes once again pulls back.



2:00PM Allies

Lichtenstein and Kienmayer continue their assault as Dokhturov prepares to take over if Kienmayer were to fail (as expected). In the center Prebyshevsky moves into the defense approach calls for his artillery to move to the fore. On the allied right, allied cavalry push past the french cavalry screen.



2:00PM French

The independent commands along the French right maneuver to either reinforce St. Hilaire or to harass his attackers. Likewise, in the center Vandamme again moves to reserve in hopes of reaching St. Hilaire in time. Near the Santon, the previously retreated French cavalry moves to head off the flanking allied unit.



3:00PM Allies

The assault on St. Hilaire's position continues in earnest. Allied losses have been catastrophic, severely weakening allied morale, but St. Hilaire's troops cannot hold against another attack and both sides know it. In the center, Langeron again attempts to feint against Vandamme, luring him once again into the approach but this time Vandamme signals the retreat, allowing his corps to be broken and pushed before the Allied advance. Prebyshevsky at last begins his artillery assault against Murat. Miloradovich and Constantine press forward but it is far too late in the day for a new attack to commence.



3:00PM French

The entire French line holds save for several crucial maneuvers all originating from Vandamme's corps. Vandamme's detached cavalry all move to the relief of St. Hilaire's battered troops revealing themselves to be fresh heavy cavalry divisions. Meanwhile, Vandamme personally leads the defense of the Gold Bach against the much larger corps under the command of Langeron.



4:00PM Allies


The Tsar launches attacks all along the line hoping for a breach but the timely arrival of Vandamme's fresh heavy cavalry dashes all such hopes. With the sun nearing the horizon and the Allied army scattering in all directions the Tsar at last admits defeat and withdraws.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

Game over. French win a decisive victory.



Final





Strategy in Retrospect

Looking back at the game, I can't help but feel I was my own worst enemy, not to take anything away from Chris who, aside from losing one cavalry unit early, played a flawless game. From Dokhturov's foolhardy defeat to my inability to pin either St. Hilaire or Vandamme and even my mistakes on both flanks late in the game with my independent cavalry (one against the artillery near Telnitz and the other near the Santon where I forced a French cavalry unit to retreat who then was able to maneuver to block my attempted sneak attack on the Nomabora hill), I caused myself many difficulties. My single biggest mistake however, well aside from losing Dokhturov I suppose, was that when my plan didn't execute flawlessly I backed out instead of pushing forward. I advanced with both of my artillery corps in the fore. Problems arose, however, when Murat took up position in Burtoivitz. With no room left in the locale to bring up Lichtenstein to defend against the flank I decided to pull back. This decision, combined with Dokhturov's later failure resulted in a four hour delay in my attack. An attack which I knew needed to begin as early as possible as attritioning your way across a narrow approach with artillery is a very time consuming process.

Conceptually, I attempted to mitigate the French command advantage by making a single powerful thrust. My thinking was that a wide battle line would play into the French players ability to fight in multiple places (due to his extra commands). By making a single point of contact I could eliminate that advantage. Unfortunately, it didn't play out that way. Seeing my single thrust, Chris rightly used his command advantage to move troops from non-vital areas to vital ones, namely from the French left to center in the morning and from the French center to right in the afternoon. Looking back, I see that a proper Allied plan needs to accommodate a second front even if that additional front is nothing more than a diversion. Of course there in lies the rub, if you delay the main attack too long in order to setup a diversion have you really accomplished anything?

There are many lessons I have taken away from this game but chiefly among them is that the onus is very much on the attacker, on the Allied player. The French, with their all powerful tie breakers can sit back and play to the Allied players mistakes while it is up the Allied player to not only mitigate his mistakes but to supremely control the pace of the game. He must understand that setting up an attack takes considerable time and breaking through can take even more. Plans must be in place to pin French troops, keeping them away from the main combat zone. Finally, the breach and the ensuing French reinforcement attack must be handled with care. Everything has to be in place before it is needed. You have to see it all coming. I'm admittedly still a novice at this game and attempting to work my way towards becoming a journeyman but I see the role of the Allied player as step up from that of the French. With that said, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game and Chris, I very much want to play the Allies again next we meet. I have new plans for the Allied assault. The Tsar senses a change in the wind. Victory is not so far off. In future variations of this strategy I think I might try a river crossing using artillery as a secondary attack to a more substantial assault somewhere else. Perhaps a cavalry / Guard force along the open ground on the Allied right and a steady artillery barrage along the river? So many thoughts and not enough battles in which to apply them... Until next time.

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Mark Christopher
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Excellent report!
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Chris Montgomery
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Another excellent report, Brian.

After our game, I have to agree that the Allies have a three-fold more problematic learning curve in this game: first, how to lay an attack that stops the French from being able to reinforce at the point of weakness; second, if successful, how to hold a locale that will very likely be a three-sided noose with French on all three sides; third, assuming all this is successful, how do you hold your position against the inevitable bringing on of French reinforcements?

As I think about it, the Allies pretty much need attacks all along their line to pin the French. But if the French player discovers a weakness in that line, it will be exploited. I am thinking that the wide flanking maneuver along the French left to draw off one or two corps (usually the strongest French corps), and then a generalized attack along the center or right (or both). Assuming a star is captured and the reinforcements are brought on, the Allied player needs to avoid becoming enveloped by the double-moves of the French reinforcements.

In any case - I think this would have been an Allied victory but for Dokhturov's defensive choices in the morning. I had been feinting that time just to break Dokhturov up and get him committed to approaches, but when he defended with three divisions from one feint attack, I decided to carry through, to pretty good effect. IMHO, had that one defensive error not been made, the Allies would have easily captured a star, and I would have had to bring on reinforcements and go on the attack. The Allies are in an imminently more favorable position for a win if they can force the Allies to bring on their reinforcements.

Anyway - a great game, again, Brian. I unfortunately did not play a flawless game, as you allege. Lots of luck, especially along the French left. For a while, there, I thought you had me - which must be pretty close to the feeling the real commanders had when they saw the inevitable defeat, only to find victory by providence.

We'll try it again, and if you want, you can be the Allies again. It seems they have a much more deft game to play, at least until they capture a star.

Cheers.

Chris

PS - I think it was a French marginal victory, right? The Allies weren't driven to zero morale . . . ? Or I suppose they were, but you did so after we both realized there was really no saving the game from a French victory. That's technically a marginal victory in my book since you could have chosen not to attack at the last.
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Very, very well done. Thanks for sharing.

Did you two play the game real time on VASSAL or did you do it via PBEM? It looks great, but did you find that the module functioned well also?

Thanks.
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cmontgo2 wrote:
After our game, I have to agree that the Allies have a three-fold more problematic learning curve in this game: first, how to lay an attack that stops the French from being able to reinforce at the point of weakness; second, if successful, how to hold a locale that will very likely be a three-sided noose with French on all three sides; third, assuming all this is successful, how do you hold your position against the inevitable bringing on of French reinforcements?

As I think about it, the Allies pretty much need attacks all along their line to pin the French. But if the French player discovers a weakness in that line, it will be exploited. I am thinking that the wide flanking maneuver along the French left to draw off one or two corps (usually the strongest French corps), and then a generalized attack along the center or right (or both). Assuming a star is captured and the reinforcements are brought on, the Allied player needs to avoid becoming enveloped by the double-moves of the French reinforcements.

I'd be very interested in hearing which (if any) of those elements you no longer subscribe to after you've played another half dozen games.
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Great session report and analysis. Thanks for taking the time to compile it.
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Chris Montgomery
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Capt_S wrote:
Very, very well done. Thanks for sharing.

Did you two play the game real time on VASSAL or did you do it via PBEM? It looks great, but did you find that the module functioned well also?

Thanks.


Real time via Vassal with Skype so we could talk during the game. It really does work great if you and your opponent can get online at the same time. It's my preferred way to play online.
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Sphere wrote:
cmontgo2 wrote:
After our game, I have to agree that the Allies have a three-fold more problematic learning curve in this game: first, how to lay an attack that stops the French from being able to reinforce at the point of weakness; second, if successful, how to hold a locale that will very likely be a three-sided noose with French on all three sides; third, assuming all this is successful, how do you hold your position against the inevitable bringing on of French reinforcements?

As I think about it, the Allies pretty much need attacks all along their line to pin the French. But if the French player discovers a weakness in that line, it will be exploited. I am thinking that the wide flanking maneuver along the French left to draw off one or two corps (usually the strongest French corps), and then a generalized attack along the center or right (or both). Assuming a star is captured and the reinforcements are brought on, the Allied player needs to avoid becoming enveloped by the double-moves of the French reinforcements.

I'd be very interested in hearing which (if any) of those elements you no longer subscribe to after you've played another half dozen games.


I am very interested in that, too! I'm usually wrong about my strategic thinking for games. Even now, I'm not so sure that I have the right of it. But I'll be sure and post.
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Thanks for putting this together.
I have just recently discovered the enjoy in wargames and this game is on my radar.
This report was very helpful.
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dooz wrote:
Thanks for putting this together.
I have just recently discovered the enjoy in wargames and this game is on my radar.
This report was very helpful.

Great to hear, Susan! I just got a copy. Played with Tripp a few weeks back. Despite screwing up tons of rules and fumbling our way through, I think we're in agreement that this is an incredible game - evocative, engaging, tense, unique, and beautiful. And it is the perfect wargame for an abstract and euro fan such as yourself.
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cmontgo2 wrote:
Sphere wrote:
cmontgo2 wrote:
After our game, I have to agree that the Allies have a three-fold more problematic learning curve in this game: first, how to lay an attack that stops the French from being able to reinforce at the point of weakness; second, if successful, how to hold a locale that will very likely be a three-sided noose with French on all three sides; third, assuming all this is successful, how do you hold your position against the inevitable bringing on of French reinforcements?

As I think about it, the Allies pretty much need attacks all along their line to pin the French. But if the French player discovers a weakness in that line, it will be exploited. I am thinking that the wide flanking maneuver along the French left to draw off one or two corps (usually the strongest French corps), and then a generalized attack along the center or right (or both). Assuming a star is captured and the reinforcements are brought on, the Allied player needs to avoid becoming enveloped by the double-moves of the French reinforcements.

I'd be very interested in hearing which (if any) of those elements you no longer subscribe to after you've played another half dozen games.


I am very interested in that, too! I'm usually wrong about my strategic thinking for games. Even now, I'm not so sure that I have the right of it. But I'll be sure and post.


I gotta say I'm right with both of you in that I see the Allies predicament and have some notions about it (as written in the OP) but I can easily see myself reversing opinions on some of them as I get more plays in. This game, I think, is very deep and peeling back the layers of it is going to be lots of fun but its gonna take some time. I can't wait to go again.

Sphere, you seem to be one of the more experienced players around here. At least, I see you active on the forum quite a bit. Can you offer any insight into the predicament of the Allied attack? For instance, was my plan from the get go at least a competent one? There were some obvious mistakes, like Dokhturov's defense, that well, were just really obvious. But was there anything more subtle that stuck out to you? Any thoughts that I can chew on as I plan the Tsar's revenge?
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Capt_S wrote:
Very, very well done. Thanks for sharing.

Did you two play the game real time on VASSAL or did you do it via PBEM? It looks great, but did you find that the module functioned well also?

Thanks.



My pleasure. This is one of those games that is almost as much fun to discuss as it is to play. After Action Reports just about write themselves. (Too bad they don't take photos by themselves too! ) We played this game on VASSAL across two play sessions but that's because Chris had to cut and run early on the first one. I think we could of banged it out in one sitting pretty easily. I'm a bit of an Action Paralysis guy (though I like to call it deep thinking ) but even so I think we only spent about 4 hours total on a nice lazily paced game. We still reference the rules quite a bit as we go to make sure we don't screw up (which unfortunately we did again! doh blush ). I really recommend the VASSAL module. Sure it's not all fancy like the Twilight Struggle module but it gets the job done well enough and is, of course, really convenient.

Oh, I forgot to add that we use Skype. Though if you have access to a Ventrilo or TeamSpeak server that would work great as well. Voice communication is a real plus so when your heavy cav flank attack across a wide approach you can hear, as well as see, the enemy's morale break.
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Furyn wrote:
Sphere, you seem to be one of the more experienced players around here. At least, I see you active on the forum quite a bit. Can you offer any insight into the predicament of the Allied attack? For instance, was my plan from the get go at least a competent one? There were some obvious mistakes, like Dokhturov's defense, that well, were just really obvious. But was there anything more subtle that stuck out to you? Any thoughts that I can chew on as I plan the Tsar's revenge?

My NT activity is primarily answering rules questions; I seldom offer strategic advice. I'll offer a couple of thoughts, but it has been more than 4 years since I played, and my mind has turned to mush, so caveat emptor.

Starting with generalities, I don't see the Allied problem as more difficult than the French one. It must be dealt with first by new players, though, because until the Allies deliver a credible attack, the French won't begin to see their own very real difficulties. The Allied army is unwieldly, so planning is at a premium for them. Once the Allies are forced off plan, they are usually doomed (as in your game). The French can improvise far better, because they can move all their corps each turn, so letting things get loosey goosey favors blue. The Allies must be strong, solid and conservative in their play.

I won't write a lengthy assessment of your session, but the first thing that jumps out at me is that from the French side of the table, your intentions of blasting through the center must have been clear from the first turn. My advice is to avoid becoming so wrapped up in playing the board that you neglect to play the mind of your opponent.

It's entirely possible to mask your primary effort until the second or third turn, by launching a secondary attack in support on one of the flanks, or at least demonstrating elsewhere with weak forces (which must appear credibly strong to your opponent). Anything to hold the French player's attention and make him wonder where the hammer is really going to fall. If you give him the opportunity, I'm sure he'll sometimes oblige you by misreading your intentions and reacting tentatively or incourrectly. Your forces look much more frightening to him when he doesn't know where you've put your guns and your guards. Exploit that by leaving him in doubt as long as possible.



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Sphere wrote:
It's entirely possible to mask your primary effort until the second or third turn, by launching a secondary attack in support on one of the flanks, or at least demonstrating elsewhere with weak forces (which must appear credibly strong to your opponent). Anything to hold the French player's attention and make him wonder where the hammer is really going to fall...


As a newbie NT player (that I very much consider myself), one observation that I took away from this lovely game is the impact time plays on my mind. Not so much for the Allies, but rather for the French.

I spend my time as the French sweating about the question of the Reserves. Should the situation arise that they are needed, I am very concerned that if I leave it to late then I would not have time to cover the ground to attain a geographic victory.

Sphere's idea of the delayed Allied attack struck a chord with me in this regard. In addition to the subterfuge it could cause, I suspect that the Allies can afford such a delay whereas if may just put a little more pressure on the French should they need to bring in the Reserves and become the aggressor.

Now, all that being said, I have only ever seen or read of morale loss victories in the game (as opposed to geographic ones). Still, the latter cannot be disregarded.

I am still tossing the idea around in my head. One of the best aspects of this hobby for me is puzzling out a problem or pondering a new idea.

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Capt_S wrote:
Sphere's idea of the delayed Allied attack struck a chord with me in this regard.

I'd characterize it more as a disguised attack than a delayed one. The Allies have time pressure of their own, as darkness comes early in a winter battle and there is much to accomplish and fewer turns than they'd like. But if a couple of corps advance here and a couple there on the first turn, which is the main effort? The French player must take both into account. The secondary advance can serve the primary anyway, by providing flank protection and tieing up opposing units that might otherwise reinforce the defenders at the point of attack.
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Thanks for your thoughts Sphere. Definitely gives me something to ponder.



Quote:
As a newbie NT player (that I very much consider myself), one observation that I took away from this lovely game is the impact time plays on my mind. Not so much for the Allies, but rather for the French.

I spend my time as the French sweating about the question of the Reserves. Should the situation arise that they are needed, I am very concerned that if I leave it to late then I would not have time to cover the ground to attain a geographic victory.

Sphere's idea of the delayed Allied attack struck a chord with me in this regard. In addition to the subterfuge it could cause, I suspect that the Allies can afford such a delay whereas if may just put a little more pressure on the French should they need to bring in the Reserves and become the aggressor.

Now, all that being said, I have only ever seen or read of morale loss victories in the game (as opposed to geographic ones). Still, the latter cannot be disregarded.

I am still tossing the idea around in my head. One of the best aspects of this hobby for me is puzzling out a problem or pondering a new idea.



I certainly agree that 'timing' is a powerful word in this game. I think a delayed attack is perhaps possible when attacking across wide approaches but if your aim is to break through the center or Allied left I don't think you can afford much of a wait. My strategy in this game called for an early attack because of my intention to batter across the narrows. Still, I probably could of waited a turn or two to advance along the Allied right as a means of protecting the flank of my main attack once it got going. Lesson learned.
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Scipio O.
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This is a great report; I really enjoy reading these. But I think there are some rules mistakes made here with respect to corps road movement? I don't believe there's any way to get two corps into the locale facing St. Hilaire at 7am - because one of them (here, Prebyshevsky) has to move by road. The same seems to happen on the 10am turn with the corps that moves toward Das Schloss.

Am I right?

7:00AM Allies

 
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Brian Evans
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Yes, I believe we later realized a mistake with the road movement. At least I think so. It's been awhile since this game was played.


I *think* we played it that after road movement into a locale that locale was shut down for the remainder of the turn but any movement into the locale before the road move was still OK. Not sure how I came up with that but it's clearly wrong. Oh well. It was still a fun game!
 
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