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Subject: Sherman, set the Wayback machine for 1975 rss

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Steven Goodknecht
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After eleven years of laboring under the delusion that Avalon Hill was the only wargame publisher in the world, I accidentally stumbled upon a whole new world of other wargame publishers in 1975.

I had been playing AH’s Waterloo game since 1973 and Napoleonic history had become a passion. But it was apparent that AH didn’t share my passion and that Waterloo might be the only Napoleonic game I would ever own. So in 1975 when I walked into a hole-in-the-wall hobby shop with all trains on one side and all wargames on the other, I got a new lease on my wargaming life. Without that discovery, I would have probably drifted away from wargaming within two years. But now the hobby was virtually brand new again.

I had been reading about battles like Wagram, Borodino, Leipzig and Friedland with no real hope of ever being able to play a wargame that simulated them. When I discovered companies like SPI, I suddenly found that there really were games on these battles. It was a revelation. My first purchase was SPI’s Napoleon at War; four battles in one game! My second and third purchases were SPI’s Napoleon at Waterloo and Friedland 1807 by Imperial Games. I played NaW first and soon learned that it was the father of Napoleon at War and also other Napoleonic games that I would later own, including Friedland 1807.

Napoleon at Waterloo was a game system that cried out to gamers who liked to tinker. I have no doubt that Friedland’s designer, Jon Baxley, was one of them. Mr. Baxley never designed another game and Friedland 1807 was the only game ever to be published by Imperial Games but it left a lasting impression on me.

Friedland 1807 was published in 1974. It was my first game to come in a ziplock bag. Like SPI games, it had an unmounted map and these were also new to me. It was printed on a heavier stock paper than the SPI maps and didn’t lay perfectly flat so there was a problem with the ‘trampoline’ effect; if you weren’t careful, units would bounce. The three-color map is functional but unattractive. The counters use NATO symbols with the French printed with white on dark blue and the Russians with white on dark green. Also included were two sheets of charts. The rulebook was small and the 17 pages also included an OoB. A coversheet over cardboard with a crude map of the battlefield area and a picture of Napoleon completed the package. The sticker price was $7.

The game scale is 400 yards per hex, units are mostly brigades and each turn represents 30 minutes.

Because Friedland 1807 is a NaW system game, I will only discuss where the designer deviated and expanded on NaW. The first thing I noticed was the CRT. Instead of results of 1-6, Friedland uses two dice with 2-12 results. Besides the usual A ELIM, D ELIM and EXCHANGE results, there is also A or D ROUT. The affected unit is eliminated but the loss doesn’t count for victory points, only demoralization totals. SKIRMISH means that the defender can either counterattack at 1 to 1 odds or accept a D BACK 1/A ADV 1 result. Other results are A or D BACK 1-4 with some allowing the victor to advance but others not.

For retreating units, NaW used a simple displacement system. Friedland muddies the water with the way it handles retreats. Although there is no stacking in the game, retreating units may stack but must unstack the following turn. If unable to do so, they roll a die on the Morale Table for each unit in the hex. Effects are No Effect, Unit Retreats One Additional Hex, Unit Retreats Full Movement Allowance or Unit Routs. If attacked while still stacked, only the original unit may defend but the other units also suffer any adverse combat effects. If the original unit is forced to retreat, the other units defend with a combined strength of 1. I assume the designer was attempting to simulate the Russian situation when they were fighting with their back to the Alle River but it is the least elegant part of the rules.

ZOC’s are locking but cavalry, horse artillery and leaders are able to leave a ZOC or move from a ZOC to another ZOC for the expenditure of two movement points. Only Cossacks are allowed to enter a woods hex that doesn’t contain a road. But Cossacks aren’t allowed to combine non-woods with woods movement in the same turn. That may not seem like a significant rule until you actually play the game. Cossacks have more freedom of movement but still aren’t allowed to run rampant.

Unlike NaW, Friedland has army and corps leaders. Both sides have parenthesized defense strength and although they may not move into an enemy ZOC, they must attack if they begin in one. French leaders may also give their factor to any one unit within three hexes for both attack and defense each turn. Russian leaders may not perform that function. The French units are always in command control but all Russian units except Cossacks must begin within ten hexes of any leader in order to move. Needless to say, protecting leaders is always wise.

Artillery is handled in an interesting manner. Foot artillery may never move into an enemy ZOC. They may only bombard unless an enemy unit moves into their ZOC. Their range is five hexes although 4-5 hexes is soak-off only. At 1 hex they are doubled, 2 hexes normal and 3 hexes halved. They may also attack the pontoons and check the Bridge Bombardment Table for results. Learning how to use artillery effectively is a key to victory.

The last major departure from NaW is that the unit manifest contains infantry breakdown units for both sides. The infantry may breakdown and recombine. They may also be used to keep losses even in an EXCHANGE result. A nice touch.

Aside from some special rules for the Imperial Guards of both armies, the above pretty much sums up the differences between NaW and Friedland. It shows that the designer did his homework on what differentiated the two battles and came up with mostly simple but effective ways to deal with them. Some of these solutions were very original in 1974.

I would be curious to know where Mr. Baxley obtained the OoB for this game. My understanding is that even today, an accurate OoB for Friedland is elusive. I checked it against Kevin Zucker’s 1807, Triumph Without Victory and of course there are discrepancies, especially with the Russians; mostly with which wing the units were attached to. The map features seem fairly accurate; at least the towns and the rivers seem to be in the right place. The placement of some of the woods is questionable compared to some more current games and maps. Overall, I would give the designer a ‘B-’for accuracy. But considering the resources available to him 38 years ago, it would be an ‘A+’.

The game opens with Lannes’ corps in a cordon defense running the length of the board and with nothing in reserve. He must hold until Napoleon and the rest of the French army arrives. Much of the Russian army is within striking distance but still has a reserve on the other side of the Alle River which requires a die roll for each individual unit each turn in order to release them. The Russian Imperial Guard is in or near Friedland.

The game requires careful thought and planning for both players. Holding the Russian player off early in the game requires the French player to wisely deploy his units and optimize the terrain to his advantage. He must also know when to trade space for time although his space is limited. The trick is to hold a defensive position as long as possible but still not sacrifice too many units.

The Russian player must also plan his attacks carefully and use his Cossacks to move through the woods that the French will be using to anchor his defensive positions. Infiltrating with cavalry is also effective; remember, they can move through ZOC’s at an extra cost. He also has to look out for the French artillery, which is very strong and think twice before moving adjacent to them because they are then doubled.

Mortier’s VII corps is the first to arrive in the north on turn four and relieves some of pressure on the French around Heinrichsdorf. But it can still be desperate in the center and south. On turns 9-12 Napoleon and the balance of the French army arrive and if Lannes has survived, things then begin to get tough for the Russians.

Now it’s time for the Russians to begin a fighting withdrawal back towards Friedland and the bridges and keep losses to a minimum. Their goal is to be holding Friedland and the bridges at the end of the game. Losses are crucial as the Russians are demoralized after 50 combat factors are destroyed and the French after 80 factors. Once demoralized, an army’s attack and defense factors are halved and unit movement is reduced by one.

The game is fairly tense for both sides, first for the French and later for the Russians. This is not a game for ‘counter-pushers’; you have to pay close attention to small details in unit placement and both sides need to adept at both defense and offense.

Play wise, Friedland 1807 hasn’t held up too badly for being nearly 40 years old, as long as you accept its limitations. Graphically, it hasn’t held up as well. I finally made my own counters and then I got ambitious and even made my own map. I then copied the rules and charts and sold the original game on eBay.

There are now better games on Friedland but I can still remember when this was the only game on the subject and remained so for a number of years. So I’ll pull it out and play it once or twice a year and remember how happy I was to find it back in 1975.
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Kim Meints
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Nice review Steven

You should should have gotten in on the boxed edition when it was first release.packaged in those great shirt boxes back in the day with the flimsy white bottom and clear plastic lid(with that Coversheet glued to a thin sheet of cardboard)

My 3rd copy ended up being in the ziplock bag.

I still drag it out every so often to play.
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Excellent review - I can't believe you have received such a small number of thumbs - this is to make up for it...thumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsup
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Steven Goodknecht
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Thanks, David! That's high praise from someone who has written so many great reviews!

I suppose few people on BGG are even aware of this rather obscure game. I didn't really expect that many people would read it while I was writing it. But I enjoy reviewing obscure games anyway.
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Michael Parchen
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No Expectations wrote:
I had been playing AH’s Waterloo game since 1973 and Napoleonic history had become a passion. But it was apparent that AH didn’t share my passion and that Waterloo might be the only Napoleonic game I would ever own. So in 1975 when I walked into a hole-in-the-wall hobby shop with all trains on one side and all wargames on the other, I got a new lease on my wargaming life. Without that discovery, I would have probably drifted away from wargaming within two years. But now the hobby was virtually brand new again.


Wow! This paragraph brings back a lot of memories! Like you, I was at a stage where I was drifting away from the hobby, since it only seemed like Avalon Hill was the only company around making wargames. And then I walked into a deluxe game shop in Costa Mesa, California, and saw all of these games from a company going by the initials of SPI! And like you, I have never looked back!
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Kim Meints
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Same here.I went into the Hallmark card/bookstore over in the Mall 2 blocks from my summer job at the car dealership my Dad worked for one during my lunch hour.While wondering around looking for military/history books I stumble upon these flat boxed games in cardboard and plastic with these great looking covers and topic's I never knew existed.I was flooded and exicited and was at a loss on which ones to buy. I think Napoleon at Waterloo Deluxe,Phalanx,Kursk,and Leipzig were my picks that day. That next Monday with my new paycheck money I got another 4 games.Every payday there after I made a lunch time trip to the Hallmark store.

My first AH games were bought at J.C.Penney of all places
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