Some Tips for Adding a Little More "Chrome" to 'LA GRANDE ARMÉE'

LA GRANDE ARMÉE: The Campaigns of Napoleon in Central Europe 1805-1809, first published in 1972, is a grand tactical simulation — based on the LEIPZIG Game System — of the 1805, 1806, and 1809 Campaigns of Napoleon in Southern Germany, Austria, and Prussia. In the course of these three military campaigns, the French Army fought and defeated the armies of Prussia, Saxony, Austria (twice: in 1805 and 1809), and Russia (twice: in 1805 and again, in 1806). These were also the brilliantly conducted campaigns that confirmed Napoleon’s place as one of History’s Great Captains. And despite it age, even now it still remains one of my all time favorite SPI games. Its three scenarios are all well-balanced, challenging, and full of surprises for the unwary or careless player. Still, thirty-seven years is a long time, and a lot has happened in the field of game design since this title originally debuted. So, while there is nothing that I would alter about the basic game design of LA GRANDE ARMÉE, there are a few small changes that, I believe, might modestly improve the play and historical feel of this great old title.

Of course, LA GRANDE ARMÉE really doesn’t need any help from me in the play-balance or excitement departments. Thus, the “optional rules” that I am proposing are offered mainly as a means of adding a little historical color, or “chrome,” to an already very well-designed game.

1. Stacking: The combat units of different allied contingents may stack together only if leaders from all of the stacked armies are also present in the same hex. Fortress hexes are an exception: friendly units from different national contingents may stack in fortresses without penalty as long as all other fortress and stacking rules are obeyed. The supply and depot units of allied countries may stack with all other types of allied units without penalty.

Rationale: While different national armies did occasionally combine forces for major battles (e.g., Austerlitz), the individual armies tended to maintain their own strong national allegiances and chains of command. This type of arrangement was far less likely if a senior commander was not available to lead and to protect the interests both of his soldiers and his sovereign. For this reason, when it came to the deployment of smaller contingents, these types of forces were rarely placed under the command of foreign officers.

2. Supply: Units of different national armies may never use another country’s supply unit to support forced-marching, stacking, or combat, even if units and leaders from both national armies are stacked in the same hex. Thus, if both Russian and Austrian units, each accompanied by their own leaders, occupied the same hex, a single Austrian or Russian supply could be used to support the actions only of its own nation’s forces; the unsupplied unit or units would have to attack or defend at half strength. More importantly, the unsupplied unit or units would be eliminated at the end of the game turn because of lack of “stacking” supply.

Battle of Austerlitz, engraving

Rationale: While gunpowder is gunpowder, and hardtack is hardtack, it is rare for the quartermaster corps of different armies to share, even grudgingly, their provisions and supplies. In point of fact, it was usually difficult to induce different quartermasters within the same army to pool their stores or to share supplies with each other. The first and most obvious reason for this, of course, is that during the Napoleonic Era, armies on the march were almost always forced to forage for much of what supplied the armies’ men and horses. Usually, there just wasn’t that much to share in the first place. In addition, even in those cases in which supplies were more plentiful (typically at the beginning of a campaign), military regulations against pilferage and theft were so draconian that, unless directly ordered to do so by a senior officer, it was a rare quartermaster who could be induced to share any part of his unit’s stores even with a fellow quartermaster from a different regiment.

3. Forced-Marching: For any unit to attempt to forced-march, with or without the use of supply, it must begin the movement phase stacked with or adjacent to a leader of the same nationality. This means that even adjacent allied leaders may not confer this advantage to units from a friendly but different member of the same alliance.

Rationale: One thing that a careful study of the Napoleonic Wars shows is that military units of every nationality repeatedly failed to reach their intended objectives in a timely fashion or even to arrive in the battle area at all, despite clear and often detailed instructions from corps or even army commanders. This is probably not surprising when it is recalled that the armies of the period were often operating over unfamiliar terrain, with poor, often faulty intelligence, and usually unreliable maps. This rule simply insures that if a unit is going to attempt an extended march, its marching orders come directly from a recognized commander of the same nationality.

These “optional rules” can be used individually or in combination. None of them dramatically alter the flow or play-balance of any of the scenarios, although both players will soon discover that they will probably take greater pains than previously, to protect their leaders from disruption or elimination. That probably is as it should be. Moreover, these rules do illustrate pretty convincingly the advantages of Napoleon’s reliance on well-trained corps commanders and his system of the “Battailon Carré” during the French Army’s advance.


  • How about the Austrian depots in Vienna and Prague can only produce supply for Austrian units. Supply created by the third depot can be used by the Russians but only on the turn it is created. This forces the Austrian player to choose. Place the third depot toward the rear to help the Russians move up or place the depot in a more central location where it can help supply a counter thrust just as the French are possibly becoming over estended. I think this might make force marching the Russians forward, while still the best choice, slightly less effective.

    Question: Are the supply units not yet brought on as reinforcements nevertheless available as supply at depots or is a player limited to whatever is in excess in the counter mix and that supply which has already come on the board? This makes quite a difference in the Allied capacity.

  • I have read that some folks would like to see an impact on movement by leaders. I don't think there is much room for this in the game and force marching seems to work well the way it is. However, something I have been thinking would help the French just slightly is the following:

    If Napoleon is in the hex units do not have to pay the extra MP to combine into a higher echelon.

    What do you think?

  • Sorry, unknown above was also Lincoln

  • Allowing the unit strength of the Prussians to be subtracted from the VPs seems excessive. It also forces the French to send too many units south for the wrong reasons.

    What do you think about a change here?

  • Greetings Lincoln:

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments; they are all appreciated! Since virtually all of them have merit, permit me to address them in order.

    First, while your idea of a a single "multi-nationality" Austrian depot makes a certain amount of sense, I suspect that it adds a bit of unnecessary "rules clutter" for very little return.

    Second, yes -- based on a response from SPI to a rules question from my group (many years ago), blank counters can be used to suppliment printed supply counters if all of the regular counters are in play. This is a change from the LEIPZIG rules, by the way.

    Third, the best solution that I have found to the "leaders" issue is to deny the ability to force-march to any unit or units that are not adjacent to or stacked with a leader of the SAME nationality. This has very little impact on the French, but it really hurts the Austrians and Russians because of their shortage of leaders. Another optional rule that I considered, but did not include had to do with "leader casualties". That is, everytime a leader was directly involved in a battle -- whether attacking or defending -- two dice would be rolled: on a roll of '12' the leader would be killed and permanently removed from play; on a roll of '2' the leader would be considered to have beeen wounded and would be removed from the map for four game turns, after which he could reenter play at any friendly city (that was not beseiged by enemy forces) on the beginning of fifth game turn after being wounded. The only leader who would be exempt from this rule, not surpriingly, would be Napoleon, himself.

    Fourth, I actually think that the strategic threat posed by a suddenly belligerent Prussia was serious enough, historically-speaking, that the rule probably should be left as is. It places a lot of pressure on the French player , but given Napoleon's predicmanet, that is probably as it should be.
    Fifth, I suspect that it would be better to use the LGA units on the LEIPZIG map. The idea about using the Austrian 1809 units for both the Austrian and Prussian armies (with their slower cavalry) is probably reasonable, as is your idea of using the smaller Russian infantry corps in the LEIPZIG scenarios. The only problem that I can see relates to color: during the "Spring Scenrios", the Coalition units are all concealed until a French unit moves adjacent. Because the different armies are different colors, I suspect that a shrewd French player would be able to tell something about the forces in front of him, unless the Coalition player was very careful in how he covered his "hidden" units.

    Thanks Again for your contributions and
    Best Regards, Joe

  • Greetings Again Lincoln:

    Upon reflection, I like your idea of using the standard LEIPZIG counters for the Prussians and Swedes. However, my concer about the different colors of the various nationalities still obtains.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Thanks Joe,

    I will take your lead regarding the single Austrian depot idea. Very interesting about the use of blanks! And I can see why this would not do in Leipzig.

    With regard to leaders, I have some reservations. Let me explain why so you can set me straight. My feeling is that the 1805 scenario needs a slight tweak in favor of the French to make it a better more balanced game. This seems to be the point of view of most commentators on LGA. While the Prussia first strategy is very interesting, I still feel that a straight game should be just a little more viable for the French. I personally like the ability that the allies have to use their limited resources and the terrain to vast effect. I think this is a key point of enjoyment in the game for the allied player and the problems created by good play along these lines is fascinating for the French player as well. One of the options the Allies make use of is using leaders to extend a cavalry screen or cover a flank or a bridge. I see this as a pretty key facet of allied play. With your recommendation to require leaders to force march these kinds of tactics are exceedingly problematic, are they not? I admit that if the allied player plays carefully at worst his leaders will become available for forced march use one turn later. Still if this delay is right after the opening moves when often things are in flux and when the French often leave a few openings this could be too strong and influence.

    Instead, I thought a better tack might be to strengthen the French just a tad instead of weakening Allies a bit more. In my limited knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars I have come to understand that when the French were successful it was because Napoleon was generally able to assemble a larger force 'at the battlefield' than his opponents. This seems to be something that Napoleon uniquely excelled at and that is well within the context of the Leipzig operational system used by LGA. Allowing Napoleon to assemble troops more readily seems in keeping with this. I think I will put this to a play test or two unless your far greater experience in all these matters can save me the trouble through clarifying to me why this method just wont work out the way I want it to.

    I don't know why I didn't think of using the Leipzig board with the LGA pieces. The hidden movement problem is a big one. I am not certain how big though. I shall give this a bit more thought. Short of producing a new set of counters or using a universal counter on top for all the allies the limited intel will be compromised. The original game advises the use of black counters on top. This could maybe make the LGA counters a little less transparent. I'll have to take a look at the chit profiles. Still this may be just enough obfuscation.

  • Greetings Again Lincoln:

    If your goal is to tweak the 1805 Scenario of LA GRANDE ARMEE to improve French chances, but you don't want to restrict the Coalition forces too severely, permit me to recommend three relatively modest rules changes.

    1) During the initial set-up, the three exposed Bavarian divisions are deployed face down along with three blanks. The Austrians may still attack and destroy these units, but at least one Austrian combat unit must move adjacent to a concealed unit before its true idenity (real or dummy) is revealed. This change will not necessarily save these units, but it will make it considerably more difficult for the Austrians to destroy them all with enough time remaining to scamper back to safety in Austria.

    2) The neutrality of Ansbach must be respected by both sides. As the rules are written, the French player surrenders 15 Victory points the minute a French unit enters or passes through Ansbach, but a Coalition unit can do so without penalty. This often results in the ridiculous situation of a single Austrian infantry brigade skulking about in perfect safety in Ansbach, a position from where it can threaten French supply units. My suggestion is to change the rule so that both sides (and not just the French) are penalized 15 Victory points if either or both of them violate the neutrality of Prussia's tiny ally.

    3) Allow the French player to count the offensive leader bonus (not to exceed the actual combat value of any units involved) in computing the Victory points for any French withdrawals off of the southern mape edge. Thus, should the French player withdraw two infantry corps (10 strength points) and a leader with a 9 point offensive leader bonus, the French would be credited with 19 rather than 10 additional Victory points.

    Obviously, none of these rules changes are major; nonetheless, I think that you will find that they do improve French prospects considerably.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Excellent ideas one and all. I hope to play LGA again this next Monday. I will bring them up with my opponent. Its great to be able to pick the brain of someone with long experience with the game.

  • Greetings Again Lincoln:

    Thank you for your kind words and for your interest in a game system of which I still think very highly.

    Good luck in your upcoming game; the nice thing about all three of the scenarios in the LA GRANDE ARMEE is that I personally never really cared which side I got to play: I thoroughly enjoyed either the Coalition or the French.

    By the way, how did your LEIPZIG game turn out?

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe,

    I have played the Leipzig campaign two times as the French against the same opponent and I am at a loss as to how the French can pull off a win. Well, as my opponent has repeatedly advised, Berlin must be invested as soon as possible. If this is done they probably can find a way to win. So far as I can tell this is the only possible French strategy. I set up and soloed the Summer scenario and have decided that I want to give this scenario a few trials. It looks like the French may have a better chance in this scenario. Added to this, as opposed to the campaign the scenarios can easily be completed in one sitting.

    We have switched to LGA for now though we will definitely return and use your suggestions for that game. Our first game of LGA was just tonight. I have played the game numerous times with other players over the past two months. I played the Coalition forces. My opponent, James who is frankly a much better player than I, decided to try the Prussia first strategy right out of the shoot. I managed to win the game! But in the process we developed a couple of new questions for you. They follow in the next post.

  • First, does an automatic elimination require an additional supply expenditure or is the same supply used for an AE eligible for use in adjacent combats? Case L of the Combat Rules ends with, "...but attacking units must have Combat Supply (and expend it)or are considered to be at basic Combat Strength."

    My assumption has been that this is simply pointing out that when the time comes for destruction (at the beginning of combat) supply must be expended. My opponent feels that this rule indicates that an additional supply must be expended during movement that would be separate from combat supply expended during combat.

    Second, if a unit(s) establishes the 5-1 odds required for an AE during movement could any of these units continue their movement after the conditions exist? Three situations come to mind. The first is if a series of units move into a hex adjacent to an enemy unit creating an AE and all the units had MPs left over, could these same units then move past or over the unit subject to AE. (I think not- units must be moved individually)

    But to cut it a bit finer: the French have already moved a supply into place somewhere adjacent to the hex that the unit will have to enter to cause the AE, let's say the defending unit is a Austrian 1-5 brigade. The French now moves a 5-4 two hexes adjacent to both the supply unit and the Austrian brigade. The 5-4 has created AE conditions and still has 2 MPs left over. Could this 5-4 then expend its last two MPs to enter the brigade's hex? Or, must the unit creating the AE situation end its movement? (I think the latter is correct) This is because, the above situation is the only one in which a singe unit moving can achieve AE odds. Plus, this isn't some kind of overrun but an Auto Elim.

    Let's cut this a bit finer, Lets suppose the defender is a French 2-5. The Coalition force moves up a supply. Then they move up a Prussian 3-3 from 3 hexes away followed by a leader that has 3 attack factors to support the 3-3. Already adjacent to the hex from which the AE will take place is a Russian 4-4. This unit pays 2 MPs to enter the hex and now AE conditions are in force. The Russian 4-4 still has 2 MPs left over; could that unit continue on moving around and over the unit? (I think not for the same reasons stated above) What if the Russian 4-4 was already adjacent to the target French 2-5 and hand not yet moved at all? The AE conditions exist could this unit (even though it is part of the force that causes the AE) move past the 2-5 ignoring its ZoC. (I think no, and I add that the force causing the AE conditions must still be in the same hex with the other units causing the AE to be possible when the combat phase comes along and the enemy unit is removed from the board)

  • Thirdly and finally (and hopefully I haven't entirely worn you out) Because the rules don't seem to limit entry into Prussia and Saxony by the Coalition forces before Prussia is activated we have been sending an Austrian covering force up toward Magdeburg to try to stop the French completely surrounding the city. While this has been very exciting we think we may be missing something.

    By the way, we used the House Rule you recommended for entry into Ansbach only adding that once Prussia enters the game both sides can enter Ansbach freely. We didn't add in the rule providing decoys for the French starting forces because our experience has shown us that the French can set up the 3 2-5s carefully and force the Austrians to overextend themselves in order to get a chance to get any kills. Only if the French blithely set their Bavarians to far forward are they in any danger. Finally, because the French player chose to try the Prussia first strategy and chose to entirely ignore Ansbach in preference for not spitting his forces, we didn't get to your suggestion about allowing leaders to exit south.

    We did add a rule that if the French pass the Weser or are on the east side of passes between Saxony and Bavaria the Prussians role a die at the start of every turn. On a 5 or 6 the Prussians can begin moving within Prussia-Saxony. Prussia is not activated until actual Prussian or Saxon hexes are entered and they have no ZoC until the first French unit enters these territories.

  • It strikes me that on question two I just have to ask for two other clarifications.

    First, what if the force that will cause the AE begin the turn adjacent to the hex subject to the AE, can other units ignore the ZoC moving past (yes) and then after every unit that can move past the unit has completed its move, the units causing the AE situation to exist...can they just move away? (I just don't think so)

    And Finally, it a large force is adjacent to more than one unit that it could cause to AE could it AE multiple hexes all at once, allow other units to move over/around multiple hexes due to the influence of units in one hex. For instance, the Coalition force of 10 supplied factors, mentioned above, happens to be adjacent to two separate hexes containing French 2-5s. Would both be subject to AE and all its intendeds?

    In advance, many, many , many thanks.

  • Greeting Lincoln:

    I pleased and gratified that you and your friends are finding these olf SPI titles as challenging as I still do.

    The French have a difficult time, it is true, in both the "Spring" and "Campaign" Scenarios; yet the Campaign Game remains my favorite. Based on my own experience with the game, the French have their best chance of victory if they attack as much as possible of Blucher's exposed force on the first turn. With Blucher and a sizeable portion of the Coalition's starting cavalry bottled up in Leipzig, Napoleon can then begin a methodical secondary drive to threaten to encircle Dresden, while the bulk of his army moves (now reinforced by his Eugene's army and his other German allies) decisively against Berlin.

    Now, regarding your several questions:

    #1: Yes, a supply used to sustain an AV can be used to support other battles as well.

    #2: No, combat units and leaders -- once assigned to an AV -- that is: just as soon as the AV has been established and stipulated by the phasing player, must remain in place (stuck in amber, as it were) through the end of the combat phase; at which point, by the way, both the target AV'd unit and the suporting supply are finally removed from the map. Remember, the AV'd unit loses its ZOC but does not disappear until the phasing player's regular combat phase. Moreover, if an enemy cavalry unit occupies the AV target hex, its "total" ZOC remains in effect whatever the odds against it and the other units in the hex.

    #3: Regarding the Bavarians: I don't think the Coalition commander is trying hard enough! I think that you will discover after a little additional tinkering that you will find that, with aggressive starting positions (think of deploying in or near the northernmost pass, with all infantry broken down for rapid movement) and the liberal use of "forced march" supply, at least two of the Bavarians are probably going to be toast.

    #4: No, sadly for Napoleon, the phasing player may attack only one hex with an attacking stack, whether the combat is an AV or a conventional battle.

    Finally, I'm interested in the fact that your opponent tried the "Pussia First" strategy. However, I am not clear as to whether he dispatched a flying column to seize and garrison Ulm -- this can make quite a difference in the late game -- or whether he was able to capture Berlin. As I indicated in my essay on this topic, this strategy is absolutely not for the "fait of heart" as both the French and the Coalition forces fighting in Prussia and Saxony will often have their flanks dangling in thin air.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Greetings Again Lincoln:

    In my rush to fire off an answer to your questions, I neglected to address the issue of dispatching Austrian forces to Prussia prior to the outbreak of war between France and Prussia. This idea, while certainly appealing as a Coalition ploy in the "1805" Scenario, is probably historically unlealistic enough that it should not be permitted. There are two reasons for this: first, the Austrian army was, as is clear from the game, badly out-numbered by the French at the beginning of the campaign and hence, such a division of forces would have probably been strongly opposed by Vienna; second, Napoleon was the one in the "neutrality violating business", not the Coalition, and it is very doubtful that the King of Prussia would have looked kindly upon, much less allowed, a belligerent Coalition force to enter his ostensibly neutral territory. Prussia's leaders might have been contemplating war with Bonaparte, but not on the Coalition's terms, but their own.

    Best Regards, Joe

    PS: Some players have raised the issue of the seeming helplessness of the Prussian army when confronted with the "Prussia First" strategy. This is certainly a valid concern, however, I personally believe that the structural rigidity that had infected the organization and leadership of the Prussian army by the time of the Napoleonic Wars, made just such a disaster possible. The Prussian army of 1805 was still reliving its glory days from 50 years before and was utterly incapable of envisioning, much less prosecuting, the new type of warfare that Napoleon was about to unleash in Central Europe. They would, of course, avoid calamity in 1805, only to experience it in 1806.

  • With only one game under my belt using the northern option, it seems to me that the Prussians are spread out and slow moving. The French do not have the terrain hurdles they do in the south and, per the errata, the Prussians can not take cover in their numerous fortresses. To freeze the Prussians in place once the French cross the Weser seams to me to be as highly unrealistic as allowing the Coalition to enter neutral Prussia and Saxony.

    But two wrongs don't make a right. Possibly there should be some kind of 50/50 die roll for release of each Prussian contingent and for Coalition entry after Prussia has been attacked.

    I do not believe the French army could have slipped across the Weser or the passes to the south in force without the Prussians being aware that a very large french force of at least numerous corps was moving in their direction instead of to the south. While there was a lot of trouble determining exactly where each French corps was operating, or exactly how big that corps currently was, they certainly new that the French were operating in the area. It seems to me that while the Prussian would not have reacted well they would have done something to save themselves. It also seems to me that there may have been some delay before Coalition forces could come to their aid.

    This Prussia first strategy hinges too much on a game weakness. Even Young felt that the Prussia first strategy ought to not be allowed. It would seem that after several decades we ought to be able to come up with some simple mechanic to improve this blind spot.

    I think that while the Prussia first scenario will be tougher if the Prussian army cannot not be entirely taken by a coups the strategy still is certain to give the French at least a tie.

    Two questions come to mind though. Once the French were clearly invested in a surprise coup against the Prussians, what would keep the entire Austrian southern army in the south?

    Also, should the French be given more time? Would their supply situation have been better in the North thus buying the emperor more time?

  • Greetings Lincoln:

    As usual, you raise a number of quite reasonable points, so let us examine a few of them in turn, starting with John Young's very real discomfort with the "Prussia First" strategy.

    In my several exchanges with John, he had intimated that the best solution to a sudden French descent on Prussia was to have the Prussian forces enter at another Prussian-controlled fortress farther (perhaps much farther) in the rear. The problem with this, we both agreed, was that the Prussian depots were and should remain stationary; moreover, given Prussian military thinking in 1805, it would have been unthinkable for the high command to have moved them from their settled locations and, given Prussian doctrine at the time, where the depots were, there also would be the major troop concentrations. Moreover, in one of my letters I pointed out that the rules of the "1805" Scenario already took historical liberties by allowing the Austrians to sit securely in their mountain passes rather than, as was actually the case, march west to cover the "Black Forest Crossings". Thus, in my view the real issue -- at least, from an historical standpoint -- is how much credit do you give to Frederik William IIIrd? Based on my own study of the events of 1805-06, not very much. When Murat's cavalry swept through Ansbach, the Prussian King could be induced only to present a tepidly-worded protest to the French; at the same time, against the arguments of the "war party" and his own wife, he refused to mobilize the army and allow any redeployments that might be construed by Napoleon as "unfriendly". Even with Napoleon and his army stuck deep in Moravia in the winter of 1805 dependent a long, tenuous, and largely defenseless line of communication leading back to the French depots in the west, the Prussian King could not be induced to act; and after Austerlitz, the Prussian moment quite clearly had passed.

    Communcations is another issue of more than trivial concern. It is doubtful that the Austrians could have acted -- even if they had wanted to, which is doubtful -- because by the time La Grande Armee had passed east of the Wesser, the French would have already been within striking distance of the main Prussian and Saxon force concentrations. To have had the news, what there was of it, of Napoleon's movements reach the Austrian high command and then have had them act on that information in a timely fashion is probably unrealistic in the extreme.

    On a slightly different topic: while it is true that there is no evidence that Napoleon ever seriously considered a sudden blow directed against Prussia, there is also nothing in the historical record to show that he would not have done so, had he seen such an attack to be advantageous. After all, he attacked Spain (a loyal French ally) without provocation, just because he thought that he could grab a little real estate on the cheap (little, of course, did he know how much Spain would ultimately cost him).

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Greetings Again Lincoln:

    As a continuation of my earlier comments, I would like to add the following thoughts.

    The point you raise about using the Weser as a trigger for Prussian "activation" is an interesting one; however, even if a die-roll was used to potentially wake up the Prussians, its effects, it seems to me, should only apply to those Prussian garrisons within four hexes (this to account for the time actually spent moving, by both the French and the Prussian dispatch riders) of the advancing French force.

    On the issue of campaigning in the north, you put you finger on one of its major appeals: there is simply very little terrain to impede the rapid movements of an aggressively-led force. For my own part, I usually like -- once, of course, the Prussians have largely been dispensed with -- to concentrate a large force (under Napoleon) near to the Main River. From this central position, Napoleon can threaten (by forced-marches) both the Prussian remnants, any incoming Russians that get too aggressive, and also the Austrian passes. In one game, my Coalition opponent scaped up a fairly substantial force and marched against the French force (three infantry divisions and one cavalry division) in and around Ulm. Napoleon's force (near the Main, remember) descended on the Austrian cavalry screening their right flank with forced marches and, after routing most of the Allied cavalry, trapped all of the column except for a few leaders and a single cavalry brigade west of the Austrian mountain passes: it all had a very Napoleonic feel to it.

    As to your final two questions:

    The answer to the first is, simply stated, the French army. Stripped of advantageous terrain, neither the Austrians nor the Russians are really strong enough (the leadership deficit is the real killer here) to trade punches with Napoleon's wonderful Grande Armee; it is nice (for the French player) when they try, but the Austrians will usually find it much safer to cover the mountain passes and try to keep the French from suddenly pivoting against Prague.

    The time pressure against the French when using the "Prussia First" option is one of the elements that I actually like about it. Neither side has any time to really mess around. Moreover, in this situation, you will usually see a lot more force-marching by everbody than in the conventional "Austria First" game.

    Best Regards, Joe

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Our last two rounds of comments has placed forefront in my mind that in the original design of La Grande Armee the specter of Prussian entry was meant to be a tool that would force the French player to drive as hard as Napoleon originally did.

    The impression I get is that the only reason that the French were nearly exhausted by the time of the emperor's ruse at Austerlitz was because of Napoleon relentlessly pursuing the Coalition forces trying to bring them to decisive battle. The route into the heart of Austria was limited and increasingly bottle necked and diminished the further he went. If it weren't for the fact that huge supplies of both munitions and provisions were captured in Vienna the French would have been in dire trouble. While the new experiment in creating a supply tether was helping it was not truly enough. Anyway, this is the dynamic that the game is meant to show and the potential advent of all those points from the standing Prussian army coming over to the allies was meant to be largely the stick driving the French player's behavior.

  • Having said that, close to half of the game board is made up of Prussia and its satellites. Possibly this is mostly for the later campaigns? Don't know enough about these to say.

    Along comes Berg and his article about the Prussia first strategy. And this along with improved allied play making a successful traditional French southern attack so much tougher and we have a whole new game dynamic for the 1805 scenario, a dynamic that LGA was not designed for.

    It is highly unlikely that the Austrians would respond in time. Agreed. Heck the Russians were operating off the Julian calender and so their time table was more than a week behind what the Austrians thought it was. While it seems unlikely that the Russians would be terribly responsive, I wonder if their retarded position would actually have helped them respond better than the Austrians?

    I had always assumed the small size of the Austrian force in the 1805 scenario was meant to account for the losses they historically took after having been caught in Bavaria. Is this not the case? I always assumed the first three turns of the games was nothing more than a little simulationist parady to add a little stage setting and not a real attempt to show the opening battles in Bavaria.

    Again, one has to wonder whether some of those southern Austrian troops would not have been freed once the French showed their hand in Prussia.

    And if the French were to strike out on the northern plain, would not the Austrian adventure in Bavaria have been a success? Or should more troops be wedded to the south or some French troops able to enter earlier in the North?

    It also seems likely that to drive Prussia both ignominiously into the coalition and then swiftly back to neutrality they would have had to take Konigsburg as well. What would have been the effect of the slowly coalescing Coalition on the French border.

    I sense in my limited knowledge that there are other unaccounted for troops that would be drawn into the 1805 struggle as well as other victory locations.

    Within the context of LGA should not the French have to exit some units of the east edge of the board to complete the Prussian defeat? Prussia not being driven out would potentially be a source of Coalition points as well as the off board objective would render points for France. I favor making Ulm and/or Mainz and/or Strassburg potential coalition points. And what of the Austrian forces brought north.

    The other conceit of LGA is that the ultimate French goal must be destruction of the Coalition army. No victory should be possible for the French without achieving this goal. Clearly, capturing the Prussian objectives as well as Ulm and possibly Prague would insure a tie against the most careful Coalition player but in reality the French would have eventually have had to return home at the end of the extended campaign season and these objectives would revert to their owners.

    I think that all these questions have to be taken into account in altering the scenario if the French choose a Prussia first scenario. And then of course there is play-testing.

  • Greetings Again Lincoln:

    As you note, when one ventures in the realm of historical "what might have beens?", things can get a bit confused. In the case of the unlucky General Mack, for example, if you wanted to duplicate the early stages of the campaign, you would dispatch Mack, three infantry corps, and all three Austrian cavalry brigades west to Ulm. Historically, by game turn five, General Mack, five infantry brigades, and one cavalry brigade would be lost to the French in the Ulm encirclement.

    Obviously, John Young couldn't start the game in this fashion as it would have rapidly degenerated, game after game, into a French "romp"! So no, the game begins without the Austrian debacle at Ulm. Also, General Mack, once repatriated by the French was not returned to the field but was, instead, sent to prison for his failure at Ulm.

    One thing that you should probably try is the "1806" Scenario, or as a friend of mine used to call it: "Prussians on a stick". I think that if you play this rather odd scenario along with a good history of the campaign as a reference (the chapter in Chandler's "The Campaigns of Napoleon", titled "Rossbach Avenged" is -- in my view -- an excellent choice) you will be somewhat less enthusiastic about the military capabilities of the Prussian army in 1805/06.

    When it comes to play-testing, I have found that the most useful play-testing occurs when ordinary players approach the game with "new eyes". Actually some of the best features of a lot of my favorite games were clearly not designed into the games on purpose, but resulted, as often as not, from happy accidents.

    Finally, if the 'LEIPZIG' series of games has a truly serious design flaw, it is that far too many of the major cities are treated as fortresses when they were, in fact, nothing of the kind. There is a reason that Vienna and Berlin were declared open cities when the French arrived, and it wasn't because they were impregnable defensive bastions.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I'm getting ready to go out of town so I wont respond in detail except to say that I have traditionally been a WW2 gamer. But in the past year I have become increasingly absorbed by all things Napoleonic. I bought the Chandler book a few months ago and I plan to take it with me on this trip. It seems I will have internet access on this trip so I will post again within the week. Hopefully a bit wiser, at least concerning the Prussian situation in 1805. Finally, you comment on the delay of dispatch riders is spot on. Turns in this game are 10 days. Interesting...very, very interesting.

  • Greetings Lincoln:

    Have a good trip!

    I presently own several hundred books on Napoleon, the generals who served or opposed him, many of the individual battles, and, of course, the military campaigns that made his reputation; however, there is no better single volume that you could read to gain an understanding of the man and his era than Chandler's "The Campaigns of Napoleon"!

    Interestingly, I purchased my own copy (part of the 3rd printing) back in 1973 when it only cost $17.50; in the interrum, I have read and reread the book cover-to-cover at least four times, and have referred to it on countles occassions when I wanted to double-check my facts on a specific action or campaign. In short, it is a truly great historical reference, and a fabulous read, as well.

    Best Regards, Joe

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  • Joe,
    I have neglected to get back to this thread since my trip. I will do so in the new year. Just thought I would stop long enough to wish you a Merry Christmas.

  • Greetings Lincoln:

    I hope that you had a pleasant and productive trip; and, needless-to-say, I look forward to hearing from you after the 1st. In the mean time

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

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