SPI, LEIPZIG (1972)

LEIPZIG is a grand tactical level simulation of Napoleon’s brilliant, but unsuccessful 1813 campaign to preserve French control over the German States and Saxony. This was, for an already exhausted France, an unwelcome and hurriedly-mounted military effort that had only been made necessary by the French debacle in Russia during the previous year. The game chronicles the French Emperor’s last desperate attempt to retain his empire in Central Europe in the face of a growing coalition of hostile and reactionary monarchies. LEIPZIG was designed by James F. Dunnigan, and published in 1972 by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI).

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND


In the spring of 1813, the remnants of the French Army — those lucky few who had survived the long winter retreat back from Moscow — were forced to turn and again give battle; this time to the pursuing armies of the newly-formed alliance of Russia and Prussia. For France and her emperor, this precarious military situation was the direct result of Napoleon’s failed campaign against Tsar Alexander I during the preceding year. The French defeat, and the resulting terrible winter march out of Russia, had crippled what was left of the Grande Armée, and many of the French survivors of the 1812 campaign were now surrounded and besieged in fortresses along the eastern Oder River.

Napoleon, more than anything else, needed time; but time was the one thing that the French Emperor no longer had. Events had moved beyond his control, and if he was to save his empire and his throne, he would have to march straight against his enemies in Central Europe before they could grow any stronger. Thus, Napoleon’s strategic plan in the spring of 1813 was to drive quickly and relentlessly east, in an effort both to rescue his isolated garrisons, and to destroy or cripple this recently-formed alliance before others (namely Austria) could be persuaded to join.

Events, however, continued not to cooperate. Unfortunately for the Emperor, despite a series of French military successes during the spring campaign season, Napoleon found himself unable to achieve the decisive battlefield victory that he needed to end the war. Finally, the French Emperor accepted an armistice in early June; both so that he could move to prevent the open revolt of several of the restive German States in his rear, and also so that he could gain time to rebuild his exhausted army. It was, both politically and militarily, a mistake. When this brief ceasefire ended in mid-August, Napoleon found himself surrounded on three sides by a larger coalition now composed of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden.

DESCRIPTION


LEIPZIG is a grand tactical (division/corps/army) simulation of Napoleon’s final campaign in central Europe in 1813. The French player begins the game faced with a hostile alliance of Prussia and Russia, with additional potential enemies hovering in the wings. Napoleon must strike at his enemies quickly and defeat them before his strategic situation worsens. This predicament represents the classic Napoleonic “central position” with all the problems and opportunities that go with it. It is also the fundamental challenge posed by the game: can the French player overcome numerical inferiority with better strategic planning and superior generalship, or will the French gradually be worn down by a larger, but less ably-led coalition of France’s reactionary enemies?

Each game turn in LEIPZIG is divided into two phases: the movement phase, and the combat phase. The combat phase can be further broken down into four segments: attacker supply allocation segment; (defender) retreat before combat segment; defender supply allocation segment; and combat resolution segment. This familiar turn sequence, however, is transformed through the addition of several clever design innovations that give LEIPZIG its special historical feel. These are: leader bonuses (which enhance the combat power of any unit or units stacked with a leader), forced marching, cavalry screens, concentration (the capacity of smaller units to combine into much stronger formations), supply (unit combat strength is halved for both attack and defense without the expenditure of a supply unit), and the option for a defending army to retreat before combat. Players will quickly discover just how difficult it is to anticipate the movements of a force that might suddenly catapult forward three times its normal movement range with forced marches; and how hard it is to bring about a battle on favorable terms with an unwilling foe.

LEIPZIG offers seven seasonal scenarios, and one extended campaign scenario. The 1813 campaign really had two distinct parts: the Spring Campaign which began in late March and ended with an armistice between Napoleon and the coalition opposing him (Russia and Prussia) in early June (12 game turns). There are four spring scenarios: the Historical Situation; a scenario reflecting Increased French Effort; a Wider Alliance (Austria enters the war against France); and an Increased French Effort and Wider Alliance (combining scenarios 2 & 3). The armistice lasted until the middle of August, after which hostilities resumed. In the summer, however, Napoleon faced a larger coalition as Sweden and Austria had joined Russia and Prussia. There are three summer scenarios that begin in mid-August and continue through the end of October (11 game turns): the Historical Situation; a scenario that assumes No German Uprising; and finally, a scenario that posits No Austrian Involvement in the anti-French alliance. The Campaign Game begins like the spring scenarios, but continues all the way until late October (35 game turns).

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION


LEIPZIG, in many ways, was a ground-breaking design for Napoleonic games when it first appeared almost thirty-seven years ago. An earlier SPI Test Series version of the game had appeared in 1969, but this edition was the first commercial, ready-to-play version of the game to see print. The interactions between leadership, forced marching, and concentration for battle had never been tackled in a simulation with this type of detail before. For that reason, if for no other, this title deserves a place in the game collection of anyone with a serious interest in the Napoleonic Wars. There are certainly far more complicated, chrome-laden treatments of Napoleon’s later campaigns in central Europe; but none, so far as I’m concerned, does a better job than LEIPZIG at conveying the complex strategic situation confronting Napoleon during the 1813 campaign.

Design Characteristics:


  • Time Scale: 1 week per game turn
  • Map Scale: 15 kilometers (9.4 miles) per hex
  • Unit Size: division/corps/army
  • Unit Types: leaders, infantry, cavalry, supply depots, and supply units
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: medium
  • Solitaire Suitability: above average
  • Average Playing Time: 2½-6+ hours (depending on scenario)

Game Components:

  • One 23” x 29” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
  • 255 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 11” x 14” Set of Rules (with Scenario Instructions and Combine/Breakdown Chart incorporated)
  • One 5½” x 22” Turn Record/Reinforcement Track
  • Two 9½” x 11” back-printed combined Combat Results Table, Victory Point Schedule, Double and Triple Forced March Table, and Terrain Effects Chart
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment printed cardboard Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers)

Recommended Reading

See my blog post Book Review of this title which I strongly recommend for those visitors looking for additional historical background material.

9 comments:

  • I first saw this game along with other SPI games in a Hallmark gift/bookstore. It was in the second batch of games I got from this company I never saw before.

    I liked the game but La Grand Armee then took it's place for when wanting a full "Campaign" style game to play. 1812 was next for liking. It wasn't until a few years ago I started returning to the game again that I found it was just as enjoyable as the other two.

    I wished they did have at least a few more cities on the map! it is rather stark & bland for my taste but still OK.

  • Happy Christmas Morning Kim:

    Like you, I quickly shifted from this game to LA GRANDE ARMEE, but after playing a game that covered the Battle of Bautzen (I can't remember the publisher), I looked at it again.

    The full (spring & summer) "Historical" Campaign Game turned out to be very interesting challenge, and I have tended to stick with scenario ever since. Certainly, the game is pretty bland by today's standards, but it is still -- in my opinion, anyway -- an excellent simulation of Napoleon's problems after the debacle in Russia.

    By the way, I contacted John Young by letter about our groups "Prussia First" strategy in the 1805 scenario of LA GRANDE ARMEE. He was appalled because no one had ever tried it during play-testing. He didn't much care for our sneak attack on Prussia, but he couldn't come up with a convincing body of errata to compensate for it, either. In the end, he just argued that it shouldn't be legal!

    Best Regards, Joe

    Best Regards, Joe

  • That game on Bratzen would be from Ad Techno's from Japan which I'm still trying to get a copy and the other two titles from them on the Borodino & Austerlitz

    Now I am bummed :(

    I never tried the Prussia First before in La Grandee Armee but thought of it once but decided it wouldn't work and my French would be caught in a pincer. Then again as bad as the Allies are in the 1805 scenario I don't know why I felt the French would be hard pressed.

    Ok,I guess LGA is coming out for a play

  • Greetings Again Kim:

    The real problem for the Prussians in the 1805 Scenario of LA GRANDE ARMEE is that the French can sneak right up on their mobilization sites and then suddenly pounce on virtually all of them at once. The other thing that makes the Prussians especially vulnerable in this game is that they can't really run away and hide in their fortresses. Moreover, even with a drive against Prussia, the French should still be able to grab Ulm, and the Coalition will then have to think long and hard, given their paucity of good cavalry (once the Prussians have been dealt with, of course) before venturing out to try to take it back.

    Of course, the French have to be very aggressive if they're going to follow the "Prussia First" strategy, but, if Napoleon decides to gamble, it can pay real dividends when the plan comes together properly.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • What do you think of playing out the Leipzig scenarios on the LGA map? Do you think Leipzig would work without the extra space the original map provides? Do you think at least some of the OoB available in LGA would be suitable in the Leipzig scenario? In particular, mightn't the Russian corps/army structure and the 1809 Austrians with their slower cavalry work well? Some modification to the OoB would be required. Leaders from Leipzig would have to be used. The Prussians could use the Leipzig pieces. Any merit in this kind of configuration?

  • Are dispersed units eliminated if forced to retreat in Leipzig as in LGA? I can not find that this is so anywhere in the rules or the errata for Leipzig (including the errata from Moves)

  • Greetings Lincoln:

    You are quite correct: there is no requirement in LEIPZIG that dispersed units be eliminated if required to retreat again while still dispersed. This, however, seldom has much impact on play: usually, because such units cannot retreat before combat and hence are relatively easy prey for the pursuing foe.

    Please note that a far more important difference between LEIPZIG and the other games in this Napoleonic series is the absense of any requirement that retreating units retreat towards or, if possible, into the nearest friendly-controlled fortress. For what it is worth, this is probably a good thing because if the LGA "retreat priorities" are used, the Spring Scenario will virtually always end with a decisive French victory as Blucher's outnumbered and exposed force (with its substantial cavalry compliment) will virtually always get retreated into and then bottled-up in Leipzig for the balance of the scenario by Napoleon and his force-marching army. Remeber supply units, like infantry, are (per the SPI rules editor) allowed to triple force-march.

    One other rules anomaly I should note can also occur in any of the LEIPZIG-based games, and this is exactly how to treat leader units when the units they are stacked with are not all cavalry and can be attacked at 500% or better odds. In terms of my own experience, the rules interpretation that I and my regular opponents ultimately settled on was to allow the leader (and any cavalry) in the stack to retreat before combat, but to treat the odds of the attack (for simplicity's sake) as unchanged until the actual moment of combat. This meant that the units that had created the original AV would have to remain in place. However, if a cavalry unit was present in the defending stack (this could happen during a counterattack against an attacking force) and opted to retreat before combat, the "total" ZOC exerted by the cavalry unit disappear along with the retreating cavalry unit.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Thanks Joe,

    This point was so subtle I had to read this a couple of times. I'm glad to know this. That situation will surely arise and now we will be ready for it. We are playing again tomorrow. I can't wait.

    Best, Lincoln

  • Greetings Again Lincoln:

    Good luck in your coming match.

    By the way, I don't know which side you will be playing, but my own experience has shown that once Napoleon has captured or beseiged Leipzig, the key both to short term success in the Spring Scenario or long term success in the Campaign Game seems to be the capture of Berlin. Once the French get across the Elbe in strength, Dresden will often become too exposed for the Coalition player to attempt to maintain an open line of communication to the city. However, you can usually count on the Coalition player to fight to the death over possession of Berlin; particularly because, in the Campaign Game, a powerful French garrison positioned in the Prussian capital is a terrible thorn in the side of the Coalition.

    Best Regards, Joe

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