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Subject: Battle of Austerlitz -- "Ungameable"? rss

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Eugene
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Tolstoy's War and Peace has me fascinated with the Battle of Austerlitz. Doesn't seem like there are any acclaimed wargame treatments of this famous Napoleon battle. In one of the comments for one poorly rated game, someone called the Battle of Austerlitz "ungameable". Why so?
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Napoleon's Triumph


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Eugene
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Holy crap, that's Austerlitz? Now I've got to play it. Claudio, you hear me?
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Steven Goodknecht
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Perhaps not 'ungameable' but not likely to play out like the actual battle. Napoleon led his opponents into a trap. Hindsight makes it unlikely that the French player will be able to spring the same trap.

Not uncommon that hindsight makes many historical games look unhistorical.

All the many, many games on the Battle of Waterloo. Yet from the very first turn, none will look like the actual battle. What French player will open with an assault on Hougomont?
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Martin Gallo
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It is easily gameable, just not very much fun to play for one (or even both) player(s) in a historical fashion. I find playing the French to be boring in this battle, if the game is played in a historical fashion. The other side is just depressing.
 
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J.L. Robert
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Austerlitz is possibly the most designed Napoleonic battle after Waterloo.

But, like others have stated, it's difficult to simulate the same actions as was performed due to the benefit of hindsight. Most times, a game will have some sort of rules which will hamstring the Alliance from combining forces effectively, or provide disparate victory conditions which motivate the Austrian and Russian armies to not coordinate.

But the scenario is much more playable a trap scenario than, say, Chancellorsville, which involved massive maneuvering by the attacking forces.
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Eugene
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So prior to NT, what was the definitive BoA title?
 
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Martin Gallo
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I have considered setting up a 'Austerlitz campaign' game several times - Something that allows for refereed play using several players for each side. I have never gotten very far with it, mostly because I am lazy but also because I could never get enough people involved. The http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/21915/le-vol-de-laigl... system by Pratzen Editions looks like it would create a fun game for all involved (as long as I have an obtuse and narrow minded player for the Russians).
 
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Eric Brosius
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Napoleon's Triumph has very clever victory conditions. The French have reinforcements off board which they may decide to bring in. If they don't bring them in, the Allied player must capture victory locations behind the French front line. If they do bring them in, the French player must capture victory conditions behind the Allied front line. (Or, either side can win by demoralizing the other side.)

The way this works in practice is that the Allies must attack in such a way as to be able to take the victory locations unless the French bring in the reinforcements. Then, it's a question of who wins the resulting battle.

Even though the Allies know there's a trap, they cannot hold back, because if they do, the French don't even have to bother bringing their reinforcements on.
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Ethan McKinney
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Yep, brilliant VP/reinforcement mechanics in NT.

It ignores the lack of coordination between the Russians and the Austrians, but the allies are hamstrung enough.
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Enrico Viglino
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I enjoyed Austerlitz the couple times I've played it.

The first was opposed, and as the allies, I fell right into
the 'trap' - and proceeded to have my orders (historical options
in place and all) in place overnight, and ended up doing a pretty
good number on Nappy. Could well have gone the other way though,
had the delays fallen out a little worse. While the victory conditions
don't really allow the allies to take their wisest course (standing
on the heights), I didn't feel terribly constrained to feel compelled
to take the offensive with them.
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Andy Cowen
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Austerlitz 20
Knock it out in an hour.

http://boardgamegeek.com/video/6932/austerlitz-20/video-revi...
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Justus Pendleton
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garygarison wrote:
someone called the Battle of Austerlitz "ungameable". Why so?


I don't know if the question has really been answered well (or at least not to my satisfaction ) so I'll give my poor attempt:

Austerlitz, like a great, great, great many "battles" was actually fought and won on a more operational scale. (Napoleon certainly seemed to think the actual battle was a foregone conclusion.) There is great difficulty turning that into a historical wargame.

By the time the battle begins it is a forgone conclusion. How do you make something like the ambush at Trasimene into a fun tactical game? You can make it a historical reenactment, which quite a few people like, but it's not quite what most people think of when they say something is "gameable".

You can have the operational scale that lets you maneuver around an entire theatre of war and lay these kind of "traps" -- something like Maria, for instance. (Though even there it is difficult to recreate the kind of fog of war, local terrain and weather, politics, and multiple, conflicting personalities that are often necessary to trigger something like Austerlitz.) You might end up in a situation where you spring a crushing trap against your enemy but it won't necessarily be exactly at Austerlitz on that day in that year with that order of battle.
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No Expectations wrote:
What French player will open with an assault on Hougomont?


ninja
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Another strong recommendation for Napoleon's Triumph.

If you have a PC, I strongly recommend 'Austerlitz: Napoleon's Greatest Victory' for a well produced and quite detailed implementation of the battle (and it's a few years old so should run on most modern computers)

See for example: http://reviews.cnet.com/pc-games/austerlitz-napoleon-s-great...




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Andy Daglish
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I have often thought that this particular battle had less to do with the quantities that can be portrayed in tactical or indeed grand tactical boardwargames than any other. The baroque and non-lethal nature of Napoleonic combat and certain specifics such as weapons ineffectiveness tend to heighten this impression, and the Simmons game gets this across quite well. In the case of L'Armée du Nord a new and bloody combat table was required to satiate the beliefs of the buyers, who were presumably unaware that what they thought was exciting about the military operations of this period had in fact been primarily replaced by such elements as morale and cowardice. The failure of weapons technology to improve caused it to be left behind by all other elements in the sphere of combat, which had advanced considerably in a few decades from the early Modern position which had persisted in many areas well into the 18thC, and which itself was not indistinguishable from the medieval in some of these. Napoleon was not a tactical innovator, indeed he shunned some inventions, and so his method was to manage but not enhance this rather dull & boring situation.
 
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Michael Heagerty
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hoostus wrote:
garygarison wrote:
someone called the Battle of Austerlitz "ungameable". Why so?


I don't know if the question has really been answered well (or at least not to my satisfaction ;) ) so I'll give my poor attempt:

Austerlitz, like a great, great, great many "battles" was actually fought and won on a more operational scale. (Napoleon certainly seemed to think the actual battle was a foregone conclusion.) There is great difficulty turning that into a historical wargame.

By the time the battle begins it is a forgone conclusion. How do you make something like the ambush at Trasimene into a fun tactical game? You can make it a historical reenactment, which quite a few people like, but it's not quite what most people think of when they say something is "gameable".

You can have the operational scale that lets you maneuver around an entire theatre of war and lay these kind of "traps" -- something like Maria, for instance. (Though even there it is difficult to recreate the kind of fog of war, local terrain and weather, politics, and multiple, conflicting personalities that are often necessary to trigger something like Austerlitz.) You might end up in a situation where you spring a crushing trap against your enemy but it won't necessarily be exactly at Austerlitz on that day in that year with that order of battle.


There's a computer game called Campaigns on the Danube or something like that that plays at this level. At least I think it does.
 
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olivier R
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I am curious, what makes you think napoleonic warfare was not lethal? Sure maybe only 1 or 2% of the shots fired resulted in a casulaty but it was not uncommon for an army to lose between 10 and 20% of its manpower in a day of combat. Even by modern standards this is not trivial.

For Austerlitz, wikipedia gives the following figures :

French army : 72,000
casualties : 8,245
so roughly 11.5%

Russia and Austria : 85,000
casualties : 15,000
so 17.6%, this is without counting prisonners.


Eylau

French army : 75,000
casualties : 10 - 15,000, could be as high as 25,000 according to Chandler

Russia : 76,000
casualties : 15,000


Friedland :

French army : 66,000
casaulties : 8,000
roughly 12%

Russian army : 84,000
casualties : 30 - 40,000
so 35.7 % with the lower end of the bracket


And so on...
Granted these battles were particularly bloody affairs but two battles like these in a row with this rate of casulaties and your army becomes hors de combat.
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Andy Daglish
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pepe le moko wrote:
I am curious, what makes you think napoleonic warfare was not lethal?


The proportion of permanent front-line battle casualties caused by infantry and cavalry weapons was very low.

Quote:
Sure maybe only 1 or 2% of the shots fired resulted in a casulaty but it was not uncommon for an army to lose between 10 and 20% of its manpower in a day of combat. Even by modern standards this is not trivial.


Artillery was the killer so, if they could, they grouped it in grand batteries to maximise what effect it had.

Quote:
For Austerlitz, wikipedia gives the following figures :

French army : 72,000
casualties : 8,245
so roughly 11.5%

Russia and Austria : 85,000
casualties : 15,000
so 17.6%, this is without counting prisonners.


Eylau

French army : 75,000
casualties : 10 - 15,000, could be as high as 25,000 according to Chandler

Russia : 76,000
casualties : 15,000


Friedland :

French army : 66,000
casaulties : 8,000
roughly 12%

Russian army : 84,000
casualties : 30 - 40,000
so 35.7 % with the lower end of the bracket


And so on...
Granted these battles were particularly bloody affairs but two battles like these in a row with this rate of casualties and your army becomes hors de combat.


Subtracting from the casualties those who were temporarily wounded and others who nipped off backwards reduces the percentage considerably, and we could include those who should have survived but didn't, due to post-battle circumstances, and various other categories, such as garrisons under bombardment, and so on.

The main examples are Borodino, with the greatest casualties and the enormous slaughter around the redoubt, and at Waterloo, with a slightly smaller total but that 27% rate which disturbed everyone.

Wikipedia also suggests that the British Army lost an average of six men a day killed in action for the last 11 years of the Napoleonic wars, when the army was 250,000 strong. It was an age when a few men developed long-standing reputations as duellists.

I get the impression that the power of Napoleonic offence and defence were both weak in an absolute sense. The danger of dying in battle would then be rapidly & exponentially promoted by certain rare circumstances. Even then it would be possible to predict these beforehand, and so men would tend to run, in order to restore the resting state. Cavalry riding around enemy squares is an example of neither side much bothering the other.
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Martin Gallo
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aforandy wrote:
Wikipedia also suggests that the British Army lost an average of six men a day killed in action for the last 11 years of the Napoleonic wars, when the army was 250,000 strong. It was an age when a few men developed long-standing reputations as duellists.


I am a bit confused by your logic here. An average of 6 men per day over 11 years is 6*365*11 = 12045 (plus a couple for leap years) which is roughly 4% of 250,000. Four percent sounds small, but not all 250,000 were on the field for every battle so the 4% figure seems like it would be 'effectively' higher, disproving your point.
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Charles Vasey
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garygarison wrote:
So prior to NT, what was the definitive BoA title?


There isn't a definitive title now; far too many different ways of looking at the events for that.
 
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Andy Daglish
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6x365x11 = 24090

 
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Andy Daglish
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Obviously its not going to be the exactly same cohort of 250,000 men aging over a period of 11 years. Clearly the army had to recruit vigorously, in any and all ways it could, in order to maintain its numbers. Incapacity via infirmity was an order of magnitude higher. Here's the Wiki numbers:-

British navy, 1804–15

killed in action: 6,663
shipwrecks, drownings, fire: 13,621
disease: 72,102
total: 92,386

British army, 1804–15

killed in action: 25,569
disease: 193,851
total: 219,420
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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pepe le moko wrote:
I am curious, what makes you think napoleonic warfare was not lethal? Sure maybe only 1 or 2% of the shots fired resulted in a casulaty but it was not uncommon for an army to lose between 10 and 20% of its manpower in a day of combat. Even by modern standards this is not trivial.

For Austerlitz, wikipedia gives the following figures :

French army : 72,000
casualties : 8,245
so roughly 11.5%

Russia and Austria : 85,000
casualties : 15,000
so 17.6%, this is without counting prisonners.


Eylau

French army : 75,000
casualties : 10 - 15,000, could be as high as 25,000 according to Chandler

Russia : 76,000
casualties : 15,000


Friedland :

French army : 66,000
casaulties : 8,000
roughly 12%

Russian army : 84,000
casualties : 30 - 40,000
so 35.7 % with the lower end of the bracket


And so on...
Granted these battles were particularly bloody affairs but two battles like these in a row with this rate of casulaties and your army becomes hors de combat.


Andy stated:

aforandy wrote:
...The baroque and non-lethal nature of Napoleonic combat and certain specifics such as weapons ineffectiveness tend to heighten this impression, and the Simmons game gets this across quite well....


The keys being that he referred to combat, not warfare and said non-lethal. You've given overall casualties, but not specified deaths, which are typically smaller in number than other categories (wounded, missing, taken prisoner etc.).
 
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Martin Gallo
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aforandy wrote:
6x365x11 = 24090

Ooops, makes my confusion more poingnant because of the embarrassment?modestwhistle
 
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