Against the Odds 2013 Annual
La Bataille de Vauchamps
Designers – Monte Mattson, Dennis Spors, James Soto
The Battle of Vauchamps, which was the final major engagement of the Six Days Campaign of the War of the Sixth Coalition, was fought on 14 February 1814. It resulted in a part of the Grande Armée under Napoleon I defeating a superior Prussian and Russian force.
At the beginning of 1814, the armies of the French Empire, under the direct command of Emperor Napoleon I, were scrambling to defend Eastern France against the invading Coalition Armies. Despite fighting against vastly superior forces, Napoleon managed to score a few significant victories between 10 and 13 February, Napoleon I Grande Armée repeatedly beat Blücher’s “Army of Silesia”.
On 13 February, reeling from his successive defeats, Blücher looked to disengage from Napoleon and maneuvered with a part of his forces so he could position himself to fall upon the isolated Corps of Marshal Auguste de Marmont, who was defending Napoleon’s rear. The Prussian commander attacked and pushed Marmont back. Nevertheless, the Emperor had read his enemy’s intentions and directed powerful forces to support Marmont.
On the morning of 14 February, Blücher, who was commanding a Prussian Corps and elements of two Russian Corps, resumed his attack against Marmont. The latter continued to fall back until he was reinforced. Napoleon arrived on the battlefield with strong combined-arms forces, which allowed the French to launch a determined counterattack which pushed back the leading elements of the “Army of Silesia”. Blücher realized that he was facing the Emperor in person and decided to pull back and avoid another battle against Napoleon. In practice, Blücher’s attempt to disengage proved extremely difficult to execute, as the Coalition force was by now in an advanced position and had virtually no cavalry present to cover its retreat and was facing an enemy who was ready to commit its numerous cavalry.
While the actual pitched battle was short, the French infantry, under Marshal Marmont, and most of all the cavalry, under General Emmanuel de Grouchy, launched a relentless pursuit that rode down the enemy. Retreating in slow-moving square formations in broad daylight and along some excellent cavalry terrain, the Coalition forces suffered very heavy losses, with several squares broken by the French cavalry. At nightfall, combat ceased and Blücher opted for an exhausting night march in order to take his remaining forces to safety.
by Andy Nunez
As soon as you turn to the first page in the magazine, you feel as though you are opening something special. In the one paragraph Introduction you receive a quick background to the magazines subject and game that is the center of this 40 page magazine.
- Vauchanps – Visions of Vanished Victories
by Marshal Enterprises
First of all, let’s look at the author of this article who is Marshal Enterprises the group at Marshal Enterprises. For those who may not know, Laurence Groves was the Founder of Martial Enterprises and designed La Bataille de la Moscowa. The design and release of this game in the early 1970’s brought a new vision of gaming to the boardgame world. To read a review of La Bataille de la Moscowa from Marshal Enterprises that I wrote back in late 1975 go to page 10 of the following URL http://www.mataka.org/archives/press_release_syndicated_columns/pr-columns-1976/Jan_1976.pdf. Another fact about La Bataille de la Moscowa by Marshal Enterprises is that it’s considered the first monster game in the boardgame industry. To find out more about Marshal Enterprises you can go to http://www.labataille.me. Finally, there is a new La Bataille de la Moscowa available from Clash of Arms games that will be reviewed on http://www.mataka.org soon.
Taking a look at the feature article of the magazine, the is transported back to January 1814 to take a look at the strategic situation as it existed. We are given some background of what went on up till February 8th. The Marshal Enterprise crew did an excellent job on describing the background and providing reference maps that are referenced in the article.
Vauchamps: Then and Now
In this article the reader is taken on a trip through the town of Vauchamps and the monuments there that celebrated the victory. Here again the short article is direct to the point and well written.
Napoleon’s Subordinates: The Failure of French Leadership
Here is a short look at both sides and the way they behaved and tried to react towards Napoleon. You see the Coalitions plans falling apart and then trying to pull it back together so that they can try and defeat the French Armies.
La Bataille de Vauchamps: The Players
This article provides advice to the gamer on how to approach the game. You are told that you will have a more enjoyable experience if you approach the game as a Grand Tactical maneuver simulation and not to pay too close attention to military formations and parade ground maneuvers.
Athenian Politics in the Peloponnesian War
By Harvey Mossman
This article starts with a short introduction illustrating that this war has little relevance to our current geopolitical situation. However this war is still studied in all of our war colleges and the State Department today.
The article begins with a look at the Greek World at the time of the Peloponnesian War. It continues from there to give the reader an insight to the Political Climate in Athens at that time. Next we are taken to the Corcyraean Affair that had Athens forming an alliance with the Aegean islands to continue the struggle against Persia and to liberate the Greek colonies in Asia Minor. We read about some of the intrigue that occurred during this period of the Corcyraean Affair.
Next we have the Peloponnesian War. While it was declared in 432 B.C.E. it was Thebe’s that started the fighting. Again we are taken through many of the political intrigues that occurred during the next 31 years. We learn that the Politics of this time period war strategy controlled the nation. It is pointed out to us why Athens lost the war and how the political factionalism of Athens created an inconsistent war strategy and thereby caused a misuse of military resources.
Finally we are told that understanding the politics of an ancient conflict teaches relevant lessons for today. It teaches us to analyze the events of history and apply the results to the situations today.
This is an excellent introduction to Athenian Politics that you will enjoy reading. Any wargamer should read and learn to apply some of these results to their own games when applicable.
Simulating Athenian Politics in a Wargame
In the opening paragraph we are told that no game has been designed that includes the political factions of the time. After this, the author takes us through several ways in which politics could be included in a game. If the reader, or would be designer, extrapolates this information it can be applied to any number of situations. It’s an excellent look and makes fascinating reading of including politics in games.
The Imperial Guards Attack at Waterloo
Optional Rules for “La Garde recule!”
By Paul Rohrbaugh
Paul Rohrbaugh is an excellent game designer who was given the task of designing the original Pocket Battle Game of La Garde recule. These Pocket Battle games are included in many of the issues of Against the Odds and are handed out as examples at many of conventions.
The article presented contains Optional Rules for La Garde recule. You are presented the rule and advised which side it favors. For example the Lord Wellington rule would favor the Allied player while the Elite Units rule
would favor the French. These Optional Rules breathe new life into the La Garde recule game.
A Bridge Too Few
Combining All Four Leipzig Pocket Battle Games
By Paul Rohrbaugh
The beginning of this article provides the reader with a brief look at the historical situation and some design background which is extremely interesting. After this, we are provided with all of the rules that are needed to combine together all four Leipzig Pocket Battle Games. This provides the gamer with a nice sized Pocket Battle game to play, introducing new strategies and tactics to the game because of the changes.
“Gott Mit Uns!”
Modeling Religion in Conflict Simulations
By Sam Sheikh
In this article we take a look at the bridge between religion and war. At first we are provided some reference information and quotes from various authors. Also presented is a large number of simulations that take us from past games like Ancient Conquest up to current games such as Labyrinth. For each game presented we are told how Religion affected the results of the game.
Finally, Sam Sheikh offers suggestions on other ways you could include religion to impact the results of a game. Overall this is another excellent article from which the general reader, gamer, or designer can learn much from.
A Tale of Two Camps
Valley Forge and Boulogne
By Ed Wimble
This is Part One of a two part article that compares the two camps, the American camp at Valley Forge and the French camp of Boulogne. Part One is in this issue and is devoted to Valley Forge. A future issue will look at the Boulogne camp.
The article begins by providing the reader with historical information regarding the date and composition of the Continental Army as it marched into Valley Forge. Mr. Wimble the goes on to explain reasons why this geographical area was chosen for the camp. We are then told about the new volunteers that joined the Army at Valley Forge. After this, the reader learns about how the Army was reorganized and how the Army began drilling, training, and getting experience. Overall, this is an excellent article that teaches the reader about a plethora of information regarding the camp at Valley Forge.
The GAMES?? Well, not really! One of the games, Shōgi is a variant of an existing game, while the other, La Bataille de Vauchamps is a full-fledged boardgame. First, we will take a quick glance of Shōgi.
Designer – Paul Rohrbaugh
Shōgi is a variant game for Operation Cartwheel which appeared as the 2008 Annual from Against the Odds. (For additional information on the 2008 Annual go to http://www.atomagazine.com/Details.cfm?ProdID=69&category=6.)
This variant allows players to explore a possible large scale carrier fleet battle in November 1943. Historically the Japanese Fleet failed to intercept and bring to battle the newly formed US Task Force 58 when it raided Wake Island. This variant takes under consideration that the Japanese Naval units did not disburse and are available for the Japanese to use.
The Game Components
The numbering in these rules are laid out in such that they are easy to insert and cross reference with Operation Cartwheel. Preceding each rule there is an “S” followed by the case number of where it should be inserted into the Operation Cartwheel (OC) rules. The game scale is identical to OC and there is a section which advises the gamer which rules in Operation Cartwheel will not be used. Finally, there are two new units introduced into the game and they are the RB for Reconnaissance Bombers and the CVE for US Escorts Carrier.
There are three new Scenarios that are added to, and expand the Operation Cartwheel game. These scenarios are;
- Stubborn Aussies
- Bring on the Buckeyes
- Night Action Surface Combat
Individually, each of the scenarios is a new and complete game. One scenario would favor the Japanese where the other would benefit the Allies. No matter how you put it, this variant breathes new life to the 2008 Annual which leads the players to open up their game cabinet, find Operation Cartwheel and beat on the Japanese for one last game.
La Bataille de Vauchamps
Designed by Marshal Enterprises
Finally, let’s take a look at the game. La Bataille de Vauchamps is a two or more player game that portrays the battle of Vauchamps and the ensuing French pursuit that occurred on February 14, 1814. This battle was part of “Napoleon’s 6 Day Glory Campaign” during which he was defending the French Empire against the Coalition forces and was attempting to eliminate the Army of Silesia which was commanded by General Blücher.
The physical components of this game excellent game are;
- Maps – Two full color 17″x22″ Mapsheets
- Counters – Two Counter Sheets totaling 420 colorful die-cut 1/2″ pieces
- Rules length – 28 pages
- Charts and Tables – Two 4-page Player’s Aid Charts
- One Melee Results Table
- One Fire Results Table
- Two Order of Battle Charts
Complexity – Medium
Solitaire suitability – Average
Playing time – Up to 4 to 6 hours
The physical components are up to the excellent standards of all of the games in the La Bataille system of games.
The following is the game scale of La Bataille de Vauchamps. Each complete turn represents approximately 20 minutes of real time. Each hex on the map is equivalent to approximately 100 meters from side-to-side. Each “Increment Point” is equivalent to 100 Infantry men, 50 Cavalry men with mounts or 4 Artillery Cannons.
During the game, players will need to perform die rolls during different situations such as Melee, Fire Combat or Morale. The die roll system of the La Bataille games uses a unique method that some may find a little difficult, but is actually quite simple and ingenious. Most of the die rolls in the game uses a base 6 mathematical system. The players require two dice of different colors with one die representing the 10s die and the other representing the 1s die. This provides players with 36 different results.
As an example, let’s say that that the players are using a “Red” and a “White” die, with the Red die representing the 10s and the White die representing the 1s. This provides the player with results from 11 to 66. A situation arises that calls for a 2d6 die roll in the game. The player rolls a 2 on the Red die and a 5 on the white die. The result is read as a 25 when referenced to any of the tables.
Sequence of Play
The Sequence of Play is the full structure of a Game Turn. Each side will follow an exact sequence which will capture the color and intensity of the Napoleonic period. Understanding the Sequence of Play and the game system will allow players to know when to make plans and when to break plans. The Sequence of Play is;
- Command Phase
- Cavalry Charge Phase
- Movement Phase
- Coalition Defensive Fire Phase
- Offensive Fire Phase
- Melee Assault Phase
- Recovery Phase
- Command Phase
- Cavalry Charge Phase
- Movement Phase
- French Defensive Fire Phase
- Offensive Fire Phase
- Melee Assault Phase
- Recovery Phase
As you look at this Sequence of Play it may appear to be very rigid. However don’t be fooled as there are a lot of subtleties in this Sequence as phases can interact upon one another and can easily change the ebb and flow of a turn which can easily affect the outcome of a game.
It is difficult to reflect the errors in judgment that can surface during a major battle in game terms. Throughout history errors in judgment has been reported by historians. Mostly, these errors occur when too little or too much time is spent deciding which action to take during a critical situation. To reflect this in game terms, the designers have implemented time limits for each side’s Movement Phase. For the French Movement Phase the French Player is given 10 minutes for the entire game per turn to move the units. The Coalition Player begins the game with 5 minutes per turn to move the Coalition units. The Coalition time will increase to 10 minutes when certain conditions are met during a game turn. As you can imagine, putting this time limit on each player causes a certain amount of stress and can cause player’s to make “errors in judgment”.
The epitome of cavalry operations during the Napoleonic Age was the cavalry charge. Often, the outcome of a cavalry charge can reflect brilliance of command or a tremendous folly. The results of a Cavalry Charge often determined the Victory or Defeat of a battle.
At the beginning of the Cavalry Charge Phase of the active player, all cavalry units that are going to charge are designated. All charges of the active Player must be declared and identified before any resolution can begin. Each individual charge is fully resolved before moving on to the next cavalry charge.
First, the active player selects a cavalry unit or stack of units and advance one hex at a time paying close attention to facing, formation, and terrain until the cavalry unit ends it charge adjacent to the target enemy unit. When the cavalry unit is two hexes or less away from any Line of Sight enemy unit, the charging player must designate which unit is the target unit.
If the target unit is Infantry, there are only two options for that unit in the face of a Cavalry Charge. First, a Morale 2d6 die roll is made and compared to each infantry unit in a hex to see if the unit passes. If the unit succeeds in this Morale check, the Cavalry Charge ends. If the Infantry Unit fails to pass its Morale Check, it disorders and it remains in the hex.
Other rules that are covered in this are that add to the games appeal are;
- Forming Squares
- Cavalry Recall
- Reaction Charge
- Opportunity Charges
- Cavalry Charges
The next set of game rules that we will take a look at deals with Melee. There are times when Fire Combat can break an opponent but most likely the opponent breaking in the Napoleonic era, would be though melee.
Melee assaults are resolved one at a time in any order that the active player desires. Almost all Melees are voluntary. Now we will move on to the phases that occur in a Melee. The first obvious phase is that the player must indicate which unit will perform the Melee. Next, the defender retreats any units or Leaders that are eligible to Retreat before Melee. Now, if the defending units are still adjacent to the attackers, the defender must make a pre-melee morale check. This pre-melee morale check is performed by taking the ratio of the attackers Increments to the defenders’ Increments as shown is the left column of the Pre-Melee Strength Morale Modifier Table. If the outcome of this check leaves at least one unit passing, the attacker must then take a a Pre-Melee Morale Check for each of the assaulting units. Finally, if there is at least one unit remaining adjacent to one another from the attacker and defender the Melee Combat is resolved.
Now that we have determined that there is going to be a Melee, we must carry on through this procedure. First you need to total up all of the attacking units MeVs, complete with modifiers. Next you need to total up all of the defending units MeVs, while adding any modifiers that may be due. Compare the attackers sum to the defenders sum as an odds ratio. Players will need to reduce this amount to a manageable ratio as shown on the MCRT (Melee Combat Results Table). The dice are rolled and the results of the Melee are read off the MCRT.
La Bataille de Vauchamps comes with three different Scenarios that will definitely challenge Napoleonic and any other type of players. The three scenarios are;
- The Battle for Vauchamps
- The Battle and Pursuit
- Alternate Historical Scenario
La Bataille de Vouchamps
After Action Report (AAR)
The following After Action Report (AAR) is being reproduced here with the kind permission of Michael Gandt.
Pictures A & B – 9.40 AM
The French are closing in on Vauchamps while the Russian X Corps moves west from Champaubert to Support the Prussians at Vauchamps. The Prussian 12th Brigade force marched. One Prussian Regiment ended up routed, failing both the Force March morale check and the Rally attempt.
Picture C – 10:00 AM
The French 7th Division is arriving at Fontaine au Bron from the South while the Russian 8th Division is force marching west towards La Boulardiere. Unfortunately for the Russians, the morale check for Force Marching failed, resulting in several routing battalions.
Picture D – 10:20 AM
Voila Grouchy! French pressure is mounting as Grouchy’s Cavalry Corps is entering the scene on the Northern map edge. The Prussian horse battery in Vauchamps was captured by the French and Marshal Mortier suffered a flesh wound while directing the French artillery in the fighting for Vauchamps.
Picture E – 10:40 AM
General Grouchy launched his entire light division and charged the Prussian uhlans and hussars, as well as the Schützen Company and a fusilier battalion in skirmish order.
Those infantry Units routed and had to surrender since they could not retreat. Both cavalry melees were indecisive causing losses to both sides as the Prussians successfully countercharged.
At Vauchamps there is one Prussian battalion and a foot battery left defending.
At La Boulardiere the French assaulted the Russians with a 2:1 but rolled no result. During the Coalition Player turn the Russians were driven out by French fire, though. So the French will be able to occupy the village in their next turn.
If they also manage to clear the Prussians from Vauchamps, they will win a decisive victory by next turn.
Picture F – 11:00 AM
French victory! The French occupied Le Boulardiere and defeated the remaining Prussians in Vauchamps. This means the French achieved a decisive victory at this Point. Routing two Prussian cavalry regiments with the first cannon shots at 9:00 AM greatly helped the French. In the early phase of the battle Prussian superiority in cavalry would have improved their chances, but without it the French have the advantage.
Coalition reserves were too slow to hold on to La Bouladiere. Again bad die rolling using force marches played a role.
Maybe it was a mistake to hold on to Vauchamps for too long was a mistake and Ziethen should have retreated towards La Boulardiere right from the beginning. Once the French 7th Division arrives from the south and Grouchy’s Cavalry Corps from the North Ziethen is threatened with encirclement and the Coalition reserves will be too late to come to the rescue.
Game and Magazine Summary
La Bataille de Vauchampsis really an outstanding game. You learn the game system in a legal style case format system and not in a conversational style. The game of La Bataille de Vauchampsis has been designed and written as an introduction to the La Bataille Premier ME system. There are a number of games in this system, so this game should come as a relief to many gamers who fight with understanding the conversational style of rules. Overall, a game of La Bataille de Vauchampsis can be setup and played completion in about 4 to 7 hours, which is a nice Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Throughout the game players will be able to see the ebb and flow of the tactics as the French charge and the Allies attempt to stand firm against those charges and provide defensive fire or form a square. The challenges are all there and all it takes is for the gamers to site down, plan their strategy.
The 2013 Annual is up to Against the Odds typical quality. From the Introduction by Andy Nunez to the article on Vauchamps through to the final article “A Tale of Two Camps” by Ed Wimble the reader is provided with quality writing that keeps them engaged throughout this issue of the magazine. The reader is treated to a plethora of facts and information that will keep them asking for more. Overall the 2013 Annual is a complete success from the magazine, way all the way to the games. La Baitaille de Vauchamps is a tremendous introduction to the La Bataille system of games that anyone who has an interest into Napoleonic games, especially the the La Bataille system, will not want to miss.