HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDToday, a monument stands near the Saxon town of Leipzig; and, at over two hundred and fifty feet in height, it is the tallest structure of its type in Germany. It was erected to commemorate the greatest battle of the Napoleonic Wars: the Battle of Nations. The towering Leipzig monument is a stone testament to those who fell in the actual battle; it is also, however, a monument to German nationalism and its armed triumph over French political domination. During a six-day period in October 1813, a French army that ultimately totaled 175-185,000 men, commanded by Napoleon, faced a Grand Coalition force of 330-350,000 soldiers, composed of troops from the armies of Prussia, Russia, Austria, and Sweden. The Battle of Nations was also Napoleon’s greatest battlefield defeat. In the course of the fighting, almost 50,000 French troops would be killed or wounded, and another 11,000 would become prisoners. The soldiers of the Great Coalition would also suffer greatly. The victorious allies would, in the space of a few days, lose over 54,000 men killed or wounded at Leipzig. Until the industrialized, wholesale carnage of the two World Wars, the Battle of Nations would hold the dubious honor of being the largest battle in modern European history.
NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG is an operational (battery/regiment/brigade/division) level simulation — based on the NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System — of the most critical and decisive battle of Napoleon’s 1813 Campaign in central Europe. During this hard-fought campaign, the French emperor faced a powerful coalition of enemy states that included Prussia, Russia, Austria, and Sweden. In October 1813, the armies of the Great Coalition crashed into the army of France around Leipzig, a major logistical center for Napoleon’s army. In Kevin Zucker’s game, NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG, players maneuver combat units and leaders in an effort to destroy and/or demoralize enemy units. One player commands the forces of France, the other player commands the armies of the Great Coalition. The focus of the simulation is on command and control, leadership, decisive action, combined arms, and morale. The player who most effectively coordinates these separate combat elements will usually win. Napoleon’s position at Leipzig is far from hopeless. And despite the disparity in numbers between the French forces and those of the Great Coalition, the French Emperor — benefitting from better generals, a unified command, and his army’s more rapid concentration — can still defeat the slowly assembling allied armies, burdened by their independent and often uncooperative command structures, before the coalition’s sheer numbers swamp the battlefield.
NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG 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 Command and Reorganization Phase; the first player Movement Phase; and the first player Combat Phase; the second player then repeats the sequence. 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.
The game mechanics of NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG are intuitively logical and surprisingly easy to learn. Stacking is typically limited to two units at the end of the movement phase. The supply rules, although important, are uncomplicated: the supply status of both sides’ units is determined during night game turns only, and requires only that a unit be able to trace a line of communication over passable terrain to those supply sources designated by the scenario being played. ZOCs are rigid and “sticky:” once units become adjacent, they may only exit an enemy unit’s ZOC as a result of combat. NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG uses the familiar “odds differential” type combat results table, and terrain effects are typically represented by the doubling or tripling of a defending unit’s basic combat strength, or by the halving of the attacker’s basic 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 attacking friendly units. Both unit and army morale are also important; units, for example, that have become demoralized may not enter an enemy unit’s zone of control. Command and control, and leaders figure prominently in the play of the game: units require commands in order to operate reliably, and they must be within the “command span” of the appropriate leader for those orders to be received. In addition, leaders are required to “reorganize” units disordered (eliminated) during combat. The game offers several levels of complexity: additional rules can be added to increase simulation realism as players become more familiar with the game system. To model these more “advanced” historical elements, there are special rules for combined arms attacks, step-reduction, pre-movement unit orders, unit reorganization, the French Imperial Guard, cavalry actions, and unit integration (enhanced stacking for component units of the same parent organization), among others.
NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG offers several versions of the Campaign Game: the Standard Campaign Game which begins during the last night turn of 16 October and runs to 13:00 hours on 19 October (46 game turns); and the Early Start Campaign Game that begins at 11:00 hours on 14 October and continues to 13:00 hours on 19 October (69 game turns). In addition the designer has also included three shorter scenarios, or “mini-games,” that run any where between eight and eleven game turns and that can be played to a conclusion in a few hours.
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 NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG. When I first played the OSG version of this title many decades ago, I was immediately struck with how quickly I and my opponent, despite the fact that neither of us had ever seen the game before, could get right into the play of the Standard Campaign Game. The reason for our effortless comprehension of the new game system was simple: we were both already familiar with the rules to NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG because we had seen most of them before. For anyone who has ever played SPI’s NAPOLEON’S LAST BATTLES quadri-game, this title will seem, if not an identical twin, at least like a strikingly similar cousin. In fact, a player who is familiar with NLB can skim the rules for the Standard Game of NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG and then immediately sit down and play. This probably should not be surprising as both games were authored by the same designer, Kevin Zucker. However, in the case of this game, the designer has been able to add additional rules, in increments. Thus, the more advanced versions of NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG appreciably increase both realism and the historical color of the game over the designer's earlier treatment (for SPI) of the Waterloo Campaign; yet it does so without adding significantly to the players’ rules “learning” load. This means that, almost alone among the many grand-tactical monster games dealing with famous Napoleonic battles, this title doesn’t require weeks of preparation before players finally feel knowledgeable enough about the game system to attempt to play.
The other thing about NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG that I feel compelled to mention is the generally wonderful quality of the game’s graphics. The maps and counters of the Clash of Arms Games’ version are simply gorgeous. The OSG maps and counters were okay, but those in the COAG third edition of the game are absolutely striking.
NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG, like its cousin, NAPOLEON’S LAST BATTLES, is not a particularly complicated game, yet it does have enough historical ornament to be satisfying to any but the most dedicated detail-obsessed monster game fanatics. Moreover, what it lacks in operational “nitty-gritty,” it more than makes up for in ease of learning and playability. Granted, this may not be the definitive conflict simulation of the Battle of Nations, but it is a heck of a lot of fun to play, and different battlefield strategies seem to emerge every time you begin the game anew. For this reason, I recommend this title, both for those experienced players interested in the Napoleonic Wars generally, and for casual gamers who enjoy a challenging, fun game that doesn’t require hours to figure out or to learn. For those players who are particularly interested in the Battle of Leipzig, however, this title is probably a MUST OWN.
- Time Scale: 1 hour per game turn (daylight turns); 3 hours per game turn (night turns)
- Map Scale: 480 meters per hex
- Unit Size: Each strength point represents 350-800 men or 1 battery (6 to 14 guns)
- Unit Types: leaders (army/corps/division), infantry, cavalry, foot artillery, horse artillery, and information markers
- Number of Players: two (excellent candidate for team play)
- Complexity: average/above average (depending on which version of the game being played)
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 3-16 + hours (depending on scenario)
- Two 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Combat Results Table, Cavalry Charge Table, Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, National Morale Tracks, Command Order Boxes, Casualty Boxes, and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
- 380 ½” back-printed cardboard Counters
- One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions incorporated)
- One 8½” x 11” Study Folder (with Historical Commentary and detailed Orders of Battle for all of the armies present at Leipzig)
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed NAPOLEON AT LEIPZIG “Gold Edition” Rules Supplement
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Clash of Arms Games Price List and Order Form
- One six-sided Die
- One 3¾” x 8½” tri-fold Ad Slick for The Military History Press
- One “Against the Odds” Magazine Ad Card
- One 3½” x 8½” Clash of Arms Games “Customer Response” Card
- One 9¼” x 12” x 2” bookcase-style cardboard Game Box
See my blog post Book Review of this title which I strongly recommend for those visitors interested in additional historical background.