Friday, July 25, 2008

Aborted Triumph

As planned, Eric and I met for my choice of game, Napoleon's Triumph. After my enjoyment of Bonaparte at Marengo in a previous session, I was keen to see how this game worked. Same, but different, is the answer, and still very excellent.

However, we majorly screwed up the rules, allowing all units to advance along roads and create a threat, rather than just cavalry units, which we didn't discover until around 2 thirds the way through. By that point the game was a major bogey, and we bagged it, planning to have a second attempt the following week.

The basics of BaM is still the same in NT, but the combat is more involved, starting from the concept of an attack threat, to which the defender has to respond. This response is either in the form of retreating from the locale or by moving troops from reserve to the approach. At this point the attacker can declare the threat to be a feint, and an attempt to get he enemy forces committed, or can continue with an attack. At this point the defender selects the leading unit (or units, for a wide approach), the attacker selects leading units and the initial result is worked out. This part is the same as BaM. However, the defender now has the opportunity to counter-attack if there are available units, and the battle result is recalculated, again using the same evaluation criteria as before. Losses are removed, retreats applied, and morale levels adjusted. However, in another change, only the side that lost the battle actually loses morale points.

In practice this all works smoothly, but does take a fair bit of getting used to. Remembering all the possible combinations of reserve and approach, threats, feints, the difference between defending units and leading units, and which units may be leading, all take time to internalize. Artillery took a long time to figure out, but I think we got it right by the end.

So, how did our aborted effort go? I was the Austrians, and set up with the plan of holding him on the left, with a mix of artillery and weaker infantry, trying to encourage him to advance in the center/right towards his VP spaces, hopefully opening a seam or exposing a flank, so put a lot of my best units into Liechtenstein's corps behind my left/center line. On both flanks I kept some cavalry and infantry, in order to try to work around his flanks to occupy a VP space or two, or at least threaten to do so.

Eric was very weak in front of my left flank, a corps with 3 units, and a couple of independent units support in the adjacent locale. Most of his strength appeared to be in his corps on my right flank, although I couldn't tell how strong those units were. The weakness on the left flank was just crying out to be taken advantage of, so my initial moves created threats on the independent units, and moved one of my holding corps to administer the coup de grace, for a good start in a French morale loss. On the right my initial flanking threat worked as he moved a whole corps to balance my single unit, leaving a gap in the middle of his line. As it had worked so well in our Manoeuvre games last week, I pushed a corps through the gap.

Eric responded by bringing on both his available corps reinforcements, to shore up his rapidly disintegrating right flank and to meet my incursion. Due to my misreading of the rules (and in a change from BaM) my cavalry heavy advanced corps retired from the gap in his line, losing 3 steps (and, more importantly, 3 morale points), and restoring the battle lines. Not sure I'll try that again...

He retired a little in the center/right, and I pushed forward, hoping to get my artillery more into action. However, now I'd left a gap in the center/left of my line, and Eric was threatening to exploit it. Over on the left flank I'd removed LeGrand's corps, as well as an independent unit he'd detached.

It was whilst I was removing this independent unit on my left flank that we spotted the rule about road moves and attacks, and we agreed that it had seriously impacted the game to the point where it was better to start again.

This is truly up there as one of my favorite games, on a par with OCS. The concept of attack threats and feints works superbly, and gives a great feel. The handling of corps just feels right. Tension like you wouldn't believe, it has more in terms of bluff then BaM, and just feels even more accurate in portraying Napoleonic battles.

I can hardly wait to get it back onto the table on Monday. Let's hope we can actually play without screwing it up, this time.

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