Harrumph, ahh, (muffled) cough, the unbelievable has occurred! Steve Gausche and I have played Napoleonic’s twice one week! This is more games of Napoleonic’s then we have played in the last 10 years. We played Saturday morning at the Bismarck room annex of the Bengal club (the Bismarck room annex is located just to the right of the main Bengal clubs activity room down the corridor approximately 13 miles. So you might want to have your Bateman bring a pot of tea and some cakes for the drive!).
We both like age of Eagles rule set and figured that a small controlled game with fewer players would help us sort out and get a better handle and feel for the rules. I spent most of the intervening five or six days since the game at the Bengal club last Friday and the one we played this Saturday reading through the rules. While reading through rules helps you to know what section of the book to look for answers in, hands on playing is really where you learn them. So after a hearty breakfast at Tommy’s we pulled out some troops and had at it.
Fortunately I had bought a bunch of 15 mm Napoleonic’s off of eBay that I was planning on rebasing to augment my personally painted French army. I found I had purchased more French and a Russian army and luckily these were both based correctly more or less for age of Eagles. Steve played the Russians and I played the French. We were going to do a straight meeting engagement but I decided that it might be faster and we might learn even more if I skewed the set up slightly. So I turned it in to a Russian blocking force at a small village crossroads attempting to block a French flanking attack. For the forces the Russians had 5 brigades of 6 or so stands with a battery of guns each and two brigades of Hussar light Cavalry. The Russians started out deployed in the town and along the road too the right and left of the crossroads and town.
The French had a slight advantage in infantry with 3 divisions of infantry (Regular Line) 6 brigades of 5 stands with 3 gun batteries. They also had 2 divisions of Cavalry, 4 brigades, with only one battery of horse artillery. After we started I realized that Steve had pulled more troops out than I wanted the defenders to have, and I thought that the French might have a very hard time of it. Russian artillery is better than most in AOE and when you are attacking it, it makes a big difference.
We started the game and it took 4 complete turns to really come to grips with each other. We got a good feel for the Reserve movement rules and the tactical transition too. It seems in AOE that deployment and game length is critical! I aimed 2 of my divisions straight down the road towards the town and the middle of the Russian deployment. My light cavalry division swung to the left threatening his infantry while my Heavy Lancers swung out wide to the left in a flanking move. I really like the rules simulation of the problems of getting your troops to do what you want. Orders are not always acted on do to messengers getting lost, captured, killed, or messages being interpreted incorrectly and the delay caused by more messages being sent to clarify the orders received before they are acted on. Clearly if you want a set of rules where your plans always go of perfectly as you wished AOE is not for you.
This difficulty in getting your units to do as you wish marries well with the Command control rules. The better you maintain you command structure the faster and more often your orders will be executed. My flanking heavy cav division got some bad die rolls and stopped to graze their horses for no apparent reason. Once your unit fails a “March table” roll it becomes harder to get them to move again, conversely if you units are making their rolls they get benefits for this too. Once my Cav lost their roll they had a hard time getting going again do to low follow up rolls. This stalled my flank maneuver and gave freedom of movement to his left flank infantry to move closer to the bridge in front of the town where my two divisions of infantry were trying to cross and deploy for an assault on the town. These troops had the effect of slowing down my deployment in the center and stalled the attack there.
On my left (the Russian right) flank things were touch and go with my Hussars making some bold threats against his infantry and guns while they waited for my other infantry division to deploy out into attack formation. I had decided to risk the destruction of my two Hussar brigades there in an attempt to get around the flank of the Russians and at the same time screen my now deploying infantry. Steve’s gun Battery’s had some bad rolls against my Cav allowing one to gallop across the field gaining the flank of the infantry. I had failed a tactical march table roll for the other hussar unit and they failed to follow the first group, bad news for me. Steve tried to activate his two brigades of Cav to advance over and protect his now threatened right Flank but with rolls of 1 and 2 it was plain to see that the messengers were killed or got lost! Steve refused his flank on his infantry and my Cav charged in! The dice off in “Bayonet and Saber” resulted in a difference in +5 for me the attacker and a result of “Driven Back” for Steve’s Russians. By this time Steve’s Russian Cav had started to move but my Cavalry’s successful charge and “Breakthrough” charge caught them by surprise and I rolled well again with another result of “Driven back” to his cav!
The Russians then decided to make a bold move Steve’s troops in the center and his left flank charged out to meet my two columns that had become disordered and were stuck in march column formation, At this point in the game my die rolls got hot and Steve’s went cold….. His firing against my columns was so, so, causing only disorder again. While he had concentrated on my infantry my infantry’s gun battery’s had arrived and deployed at close range fired two salvos into the charging Russians, with me rolling a 9 and 10! For a “Driven back” and a “Shattered” result! This now pretty much ended Russian hopes of preventing a French breakthrough into town. With heavy losses in the center, including a General captured, being flanked on the Russian Right, and my finally moving Heavy Cav swinging around his left flank the Russian commander decided to withdraw what he could and we ended the game.
All in all we had a good time and learned quite a bit more about playing AOE! You really need to remember the level you are playing at to do well and enjoy the game Steve and I were used to playing at Battalion level and kept having think “division/Brigade” level. We were happy with things generally and these rules will become very fast once we all get the rules down. I will be using a CHESS timer to do movement. This will greatly speed up play. This works by giving each side say 2 hours a piece for movement. You click your timer when you start your side move and click it when you finish. This then deducts what ever time you used from your sides two hours. Once you used up this time pool then all movement after that is done in “set” time limits of say 3-5 minutes. Any movement not completed puts that unit into an automatic “Hold ground” order not allowing any formation change or movement by that unit. This timer method works well to force gamers to be ready and pay attention! Or suffer the consciences. It speeds up the game to the enjoyment of all!
“Viva La Emperor” was heard all along the battle line as the French took positions from the withdrawing Russians. Napoleon looked perturbed at the delay and ordered his forces to quickly reform for the march onward to the big battle over the horizon!