Friday, November 02, 2012

Battle of Leipzig - Avalon Hill's Napoleon's Battles

After having a chat with James Fisher of Avon Napoleonic Fellowship, and discovering that he was unaware of the mapping solution that the Avalon Hill, Napoleon's Battles system had, I thought I might share some of the details here.

From Module 2, which was all about scenario design and a few selected battles (that did not make it into the original main rulebook) the map layout for Leipzig has four 'tabletops' as depicted:

"Tables" A - B - C

"Table" D and layout
The scenario calls for the "Allied" armies (Russia, Austria, Prussia and Sweden) to 'march on' the table for the most part (some are deployed to the south).  While this does miss some of the artillery strength that the allied forces had it does permit the battle to commence without the need for a truly massive table space, or running the game on the floor.

Another thought has come to mind from the reading of David Chandler on the subject of Leipzig battle.  The Allied 'plan' was roughly divided into four sectors:

The battlefield of Leipzig covers a wide sweep of ground, divided by the Rivers Elster, Pleisse, Luppe and Parthe.  The city stands at the confluence of the first two named, and in 1813 the terrain separating them was extremely marshy and wooded.  The old city and its suburbs lay to the est and north of this difficult area, and the single road running westward from the Rannstdt Gate to the village of Lindenau was carried along and extensive embankment cut by several wooden and stone bridges.  Near Lindenau, another stream - the River Luppe - leaves its parent the Elster and runs away to the northwest roughly parallel to the main river enclosing between them another swampy region.  Immediately to the north of the suburb of Pffandorf, the Parthe tributary leaves the Elster in a northeasterly direction, before describing a broad southerly sweep towards its source near Kolm Berg.

These four rivers, radiating out from Leipzig, divide the surrounding circle of country into four main sectors.  Approximately to the south of teh city lie the marshy areas already referred to.  To the west, between the Elster and the Luppe, lie two roads, running from Lindenau to Merseburg and Weissenfgels respectively.  Here the ground is at first very flat and open, but five miles down the Weissenfels road near Markranstadt the terrain on each side of teh highway becomes increasingly hilly.   The northern sector lies between the Elster ad the Parthe.  Here again the country lay open and fairly level, with a number of roads radiating out toward Halle, Duben and Eilenburg.  The fourth and most significant area, destined to see much of the battle, lies between the Parthe and the Upper Pleisse.  It is marked by a series of low ridges runnign outward from Leipzig toward two pieces of relatively high ground - the Galgenberg (lying between the villages of Wachau and Liebertwolkowitz) and the Kolm Berg, some two miles to the east.  Although the undulating nature of the terrain and the large number of villages and hamlets made it a naturally strong defensive position, much of the countryside was very open and well suited to large-scale cavalry action.  Several important roads cross the area, running toward Wurzen, Dreseden, Grimma, and Borna.  Linking these were a large number of earthen lateral farm tracks of dubious military value.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 923

Allied forces were so concentrated to move inwards towards Leipzig along these four sectors, with only (relatively) small crossing forces dispatched from the south to enter the marshy westward sector (where the final escape route lay).  This means that, for tabletop purposes, the western sector can be 'simulated' via other means and a concentration on the south east and north regions can be done.  Indeed this is generally what the Avalon Hill scenario aims to achieve.

For someone wanting to simulate this great battle, I would first request a general battle plan from the Allied commanders, and keeping the Schwartzenberg, Alexander and Blucher players apart while they did their planning.  The French player could lay out their outer defenses and keep  any reserve details secret.  Then once this was done, on paper, I would lay out the battle for tabletop action based on the advances that the allied commands called for.  This way the best use of the 'tabletop' gets put into use and the overall battle can still be actively pursued without the need for an immense table or some other such 'accommodations' as trap-doors or player cut-outs, when it is understood that vast areas of the battlefield will, by necessity will be either inactive or simply vacant.

Likewise, there is no need to depict the ground that any allied 'reserves' are standing on or marching from.


James Fisher, FINS said...

That’s really useful David, thanks.

The order of battle will be good to compare to the one that I am doing, also about 1:50, using a combination of Pigeard and Nafziger. I’ll still do our own as i) I like to do that (the research adds to one’s understanding and appreciation of a battle) and ii) I like to have the name of a unit or units against each of the units on the wargames table.

The four table approach has some merit and is like the “tables on wheels” approach that Ben mentioned that they use at the NWA. It will not be the best solution for us though as we don’t have the room in our ANF HQ to separate out the tables when we need access to one of the ‘internal’ areas. I also prefer the manhole and notch option as it means that we’ll have an entire battlefield for aesthetic effect whilst playing—and for the photos. I also think it will be great fun to be in a manhole ‘inside’ the battlefield; not to mention allowing for some beaut photos!

I looked over Napoleon’s Battles in the early 90s when a few of the fellas at the club that I used to attend in Perth used them. To me they seemed a bit too much like a board game with figures, but I may need to revisit them given your comments and those of Rafa Pardo. Perhaps they will get a guernsey post-June 2015!

MurdocK said...

Most certainly the visual aesthetic of laying out the entire battlefield with the 'manhole' will be impressive.

The challenge with that usually is that the better visuals are less 'game' playable (especially for those with less than 1 meter reach!)

MurdocK said...

There were two systems that I 'cut my teeth' with going into Napoleonic wargaming. The first was Napoleon's Battles, the second SHAKO (version I).

I still consider Nappy's Batts the best set of commercially produced rules for encapsulating both the tactical (Battalion level action) and the Grand Tactical (or semi-strategic) (Corps level action) into the SAME GAME.

There are compromises and challenges to be sure, and the system holds up well including certain national characteristics and shifting the details over time to reflect the changes in organization and skill of the different nations starting from the 1790's and running to 1815.

Were I to have the financial ability (and the space) I would most certainly do most of my battles with Napoleon's Battles.

My challenges are financial (I would need to get the minis - I would likely use 5-6mm, more of them on a stand, than the 15mm called for in the system) and logistic ... I just do not have the game space right now and have to content myself with the lower cost (homecast) 25mm ones that I already have and can 'convert' from system to system.

I did do the Friedland match in 2007 using Napoleon's Battles (converted for use with 25mm minis) and found out the limits of my table, minis and gaming space. This included the skill and desire of the players...

Sun of York said...

It took a while but in the last two years a fellow gamer and myself completed the Napoleon's Battles Leipzig scenario, playing it as four tables in sequence. There are challenges with the deployments being close to the table edge. The scenario could do with more work as it certainly is a good fit for Napoleon's Battles. The AARs are on my blog. It is possible a revision will come with the new fourth edition of the rules.