HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDOn the night of 4 July, 1809, Napoleon ordered the (French) Armies of Germany and Italy, numbering over 154,000 men, to cross the lesser arm of the Danube using Lobau Island as a staging area. The French advanced guard quickly drove back the Austrian pickets and the French crossing was completed by the early afternoon of 5 July. With daylight slipping away, the French Emperor decided not to delay and launched a late-day attack against the enemy formations to his front. Archduke Charles’ Austrian troops, some 158,000 strong, fought tenaciously and the initial French assault was bloodily repulsed. Clearly, the Austrians had established strong positions and were determined to hold them, whatever Napoleon threw at them. Despite the disappointing results of his first attack,however, Napoleon was undeterred. Instead, the French Emperor studied the enemy dispositions and began his preparations for the morrow. The battlefield laurels for the first day had gone to the Austrians; Napoleon, however, was determined that the 6th, bitterly-fought though it might be, would end in a French victory. The success of Napoleon’s whole Austrian Campaign now hinged on the outcome of one more battle. And it was a battle that he knew he could not afford to lose.
WAGRAM is a division level simulation — based on the popular and widely-used NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System — of the climactic battle between the Austrians, under Archduke Charles, and French, led by Napoleon, at Wagram on July 5-6, 1809. This hard-won French victory brought the war of 1809 to an end and resulted in the Peace of Vienna. WAGRAM is played in game turns, and each game turn is further divided into two symmetrical player turns, each of which proceeds as follows: the first player movement phase followed by the first player combat phase; the second player then repeats the same sequence. The French player is always the first player to act in any game turn. At the conclusion of the second player’s turn, the game turn marker is advanced one space, and the turn sequence repeats itself until the scenario ends. Stacking is prohibited at the end of the movement phase, and supply is automatic for both players. ZOCs are rigid and 'sticky': once units become adjacent, they may only exit an enemy unit’s ZOC as a result of combat. WAGRAM uses the familiar 'odds differential' type Combat Results Table (CRT), and terrain effects are typically represented by the doubling of a defending unit’s basic combat strength. Artillery plays an especially important role in this combat system. It can be used both to attack adjacent units, and also to attack (barrage) non-adjacent enemy units either independently or in concert with other friendly units. There are no “optional” rules.
WAGRAM simulates the historical battle only; there are no scenarios. There is, however, one special (what if?) rule: the possible appearance of Archduke John’s Austrian army on the east map edge during the second day of the battle. The possible arrival of these additional Austrian reinforcements is determined by a die roll; Archduke John may show up on Napoleon’s right flank, or he might not — it all depends on the Austrian player’s ability to roll “1s.”
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONThe NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System is probably one of the most successful conflict simulation design architectures ever created. Besides being used in numerous SPI (and other publishers’) Napoleonic games, it also formed the foundation for the SPI BLUE & GRAY Civil War quadri-games, and showed up in at least one WWII title and even appeared in a modern naval game, SPI’s 6th FLEET. These games all share many of the same characteristics: they are easy and comparatively quick to play, full of action, and they usually model interesting and historically significant conflict situations.
Such is the case with WAGRAM; it simulates a battle that Napoleon really had to win: having pushed his army across the Danube, a French defeat could have turned into a military disaster. Napoleon also knew that a second Austrian army, under Archduke John, was approaching the battlefield from the east. Thus, the French Emperor had to win and he had to win quickly before Charles and John could unite their forces. In the actual battle, he almost didn’t. And in fact, the French did not finally drive Charles’ army from the field until the afternoon of 6 July. These factors all combine to make this battle a great subject for a wargame, and, not surprisingly, this title is one of my favorites among all of the Napoleonic games that have been published in this series. It is well-balanced, exciting, and both players must attack and defend effectively to win. Moreover, the French and Austrian players both have different options when it comes to the conduct of the campaign. In short, this historically fascinating game situation, combined with the NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System makes for a fast-moving and exciting game that is easy to learn and enjoyable to play. All of the games in the NAPOLEON AT WAR game series are both simple enough to serve as introductory games for beginners, and still challenging enough to make for an exciting contest for experienced players. For this reason, I recommend WAGRAM for anyone with an interest in the Napoleonic Wars, or just an affinity for good, well-balanced, and fast-paced games.
- Time Scale: 2 hours per daylight game turn; 4 hours per night game turn
- Map Scale: 800 meters per hex
- Unit Size: division/corps artillery
- Unit Types: infantry, cavalry, and artillery
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: below average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 2-3 + hours
- One 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Track and Terrain Key incorporated)
- 100 ½” cardboard Counters
- 20 cardboard Random Number Counters (included in all of the “folio games” as a substitute for a six-sided die)
- One 8½” x 11” NAPOLEON AT WAR Standard Rules Booklet (with Combat Results Table and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
- One 8½” x 11” WAGRAM Exclusive Rules Booklet (with Combat Results Table and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
- One 7½” x 8½” SPI Products Catalog
- One 4” x 8½” SPI Mailer
- One 9” x 12” card board Game Folio
See my blog post Book Review of this title which I recommend as a source for additional historical background information.