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.