These Brave Fellows
Against the Odds #39
History excerpted from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_D%C3%BCrenstein)
The latest issue of Against the Odds (ATO) is issue #39 whose title is “These Brave Fellows”. It covers the Battle of Dürenstein which occurred on 11 November 1805 and was an engagement in the Napoleonic Wars during the War of the Third Coalition. At Dürenstein, a combined force of Russian and Austrian troops trapped a French division commanded by Théodore Maxime Gazan. The French division was part of the newly created VIII Corps under command of Édouard Mortier. In pursuing the Austrian retreat from Bavaria, Mortier had over-extended his three divisions along the north bank of the Danube. Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov, commander of the Coalition force, enticed Mortier to send Gazan’s division into a trap and French troops were caught in a valley between two Russian columns. They were rescued by the timely arrival of a second division, under command of Pierre Dupont de l’Étang. The battle extended well into the night with both sides claiming victory. The French lost more than a third of their participants, and Gazan’s division experienced over 40 percent losses. The Austrians and Russians also had heavy losses, close to 16 percent.
The battle was fought three weeks after the Austrian capitulation at Ulm and three weeks before the Russo-Austrian defeat at the Battle of Austerlitz. After Austerlitz, Austria withdrew from the war.
The Whiff of Grapeshot
The magazine starts as every issue does with Andy Nunez’s “The Whiff of Grapeshot” editorial. Here he provides some insight into Napoleon and wonders if he was “history’s greatest soldier”. He also writes about a number of books he has recently read and goes on to thank a few publishers for the books that were sent to the publication.
Order of Appearance
Next we have the issues Order of Appearance which looks at forthcoming issues of Against the Odds. Here each of the forthcoming games from issues 40, 41 and 42 receive a paragraph of detailed information to wet the interest of the gamer. I will do even less and will only tell you that Issue #40 is devoted to Lilliburlero which takes us back to the Battle of Boyne that occurred in Ireland on July 12th 1690.
Issue #41 places us in the snowy winter of 1942 near a little town of Velikiye Lukil. Here the game deals with the first 10 days of this battle as Soviets encircle the town and attempt to eliminate the German occupants there. The title of this issue is the “Circle of Fire: The Siege of Cholm
Issue #42 visits the Great Northern War between Sweden and Russia. With a Paul Rohrbaugh’s design titled “A Thunder Upon this Land” we will see the Swedish forces attacking Russians and then have Peter attack to upset your plans. All of this takes place in early 1700 when the great Northern Nations are forming.
The “On Guards” section is devoted to the Incomparable Ninth Légère (Light) regiment. The article begins with the creation of this unit around 1784. We follow the unit through its battles and see how the unit is restructured through time. Throughout the article, we read about the Ninth Regiments’ activities and become enamored with their accomplishments. We learn how this unit earned the honorific “Incomparable” and learn a bit about its fate during the early 20th century. (To learn more about the Ninth Légère there is the book available from Osprey Publishing which was reviewed at Mataka.ORG. To read this review go to http://www.mataka.org/wp/osprey-publishing/osprey-publishings-incomparable-a-book-dedicated-to-napoleons-9th-light-infantry-regiment/.)
These Brave Fellows
Mortier, Kutusov, and the Road to Dürenstein
We now come to the feature article of the magazine which is an excellent historical background look at this battle. This article provides the reader with an excellent historical synopsis and allows the gamer to get a deeper understanding of the historical situation and the movement of the opposing forces. We see how Kutusov created a daring plan for trapping Mortier’s forces and how through luck and bravery the French were able to survive. We read that during the battle a number of Officers urged Mortier to escape by boat to which he replied “No! We must not separate from these brave fellows. We must be saved or perish together.” Included with the feature article are a number of colorful maps which are excellent complements to the written information. Overall, the feature article is extremely well written and provides the reader/gamer with an excellent background to the game.
Great Napoleonic Thoughts
An unexpected little bonus is an article on game design in Napoleonic warfare. This article provides a small amount of insight into what a designer looks at when designing a Napoleonic game. While the article doesn’t provide any in-depth information, you can glean from the articles authors an idea of a few tidbits of information that should be included in a game for the Napoleonic period.
The Sargento Mayor
The Sargento Mayor or The Sergeant Major is an excellent article tracing the history of this special title or military rank traced back to the 16th century. This article shows the evolution of this Superior Warrant Officer as it existed in South American Military History. The article keeps you interested as you see the evolution of the “Sargento Mayor” title from the old world to the new world in South America. You learn that this rank and the system around which is was created was a perfect rank for an ambitious and talented man to progress to higher ranks.
And the Data Shows
Napoleons Maxim XI displays a willingness to be flexible that vexed his opponents for most of his career. While Napoleon agreed with most of military history’s Great Captains and theorists that unity, or concentration of force, should be a prime principle of war, Napoleon immediately states that this principle may be departed from in certain instances. This article covers three of those instances that Napoleon deviated from his Maxim XI to almost disastrous results.
While Mr. Ed Heinsman has researched this information thoroughly, he chooses three battles to which all of the other situations can trace some instances. The three battles that he looks at are;
- 1805: Auerstadt
- 1808: Bailen
- 1813: Klum
Mr Heinsman weaves a very interesting look at these Napoleonic failings when Napoleon thought they should have been victories. He shows us how the Generals were setup to failure unknowingly by Napoleon and then put the full blame of the failure on the Generals.
This is an excellent article that will also capture the tone and essence of Napoleonic warfare during the latter stages of Napoleons career.
The Autumn Rampage of Frank Luke, Jr
This article is about the Ace of Aces Frank Luke, Jr. This short article follows his career from his training through to his death from a machinegun bullet that ricocheted off his planes radiator and hit Frank in the chest. We learn that in November of 1919 his name was submitted for the Medal of Honor before the details of his last mission were known. Frank Luke Jr. was the first aviator to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The Flight of the Falcon
This article is about Abdulrahman ibn Muawia ibn Hisham of the house of Abi Sufayn and grandson of Umayyad Caliph Hisham who was born in 731 AD. We learn about this historical figures history from his birth as a prince to his flight from assassins. We are told of his wanderings and how he finally settled in Andalusia which had a great many supporters of the fallen dynasty. This short article shows us how during his 33 year reign he brought beauty and prosperity to the region.
The Not-Quite-Forever War
This is an interesting look at Hitler’s view of the Eastern front and the impact it would have had on world events if the Germans won. We see that Hitler looked at far eastern Russia as though it were the wild west and that he felt it could never be tamed. This is an interesting article that can make the reader ponder what could have been and even recommends a game that might allow you to game this type of situation.
Simulation Corner by columnist and game designer John Prados takes a look at his beginnings into this fascinating hobby of ours and provides a short history of the industry. We learn that Mr. Prados’ early memory is getting a game of Dispatcher and Tactics II while passing through Chicago. We then speed forward to look at the D&D and SPI golden eras and onto their demise. He takes a quick look at today’s companies and the game startups and free lancers and how they sell their wares. Overall, the column is a fast and interesting look at our cardboard counter world and how it has changed through the years.
These Brave Fellows
Now we come to the game itself, which is These Brave Fellows. The game is based on the feature article of the magazine with the same title. As you can see from the map below, the game map compliment the maps that are in the feature article.
The components of this issues game are up to the normal high quality standards that you come to expect form an Against the Odds magazine. With this game you receive
- 1 – 22” x 34” map
- 216 – 9/16” counters
- 2 Player Aid Charts (PAC’s)
- 1 Set of Rules
The counters may appear to be confusing at first glance, but are logically laid out for ease of understanding and gamers become accustomed to the layout in no time at all. Below is an example of a Horse Artillery Counter that is used in the game.
The rules are well written and any boardgamer will be able to pick this game up and be familiar with it in a short amount of time. The examples are well placed in the rules and provide the reader with further explanations of areas that could be confusing or require further clarification. One of the exceptional ideas presented with the rules are special Solitaire Rules. This allows the player to enjoy the game against an opponent or practice their strategy alone.
An Infantry Battalion in the game represents anywhere from 300 to 600 men and Cavalry units represent anywhere from 50 to 400 depending on the size of the unit being represented. Each Artillery piece represents from 1 to 6 guns and each hex is approximately 450 yards from side to side. Finally, every game turn equals 1 hour of real time.
Sequence of Play
The Sequence of Play for These Brave Fellows consists of only 4 phases with multiple segments within each phase. The four phases with the segments are;
- Reinforcement Phase
- Reinforcement Segment
- Regroup Segment
- Mortier’s Alert Segment
- Initiative Phase
- Activation Phase
- Movement Segment
- Defensive Fire Segment
- Offensive Fire Segment
- Melee Segment
- Recovery Phase
As you can readily see, the Sequence of Play is laid out logically as is the Segments within each of the phases. This SOP easily works with the game system to provide the player with a smooth game that flows from Segment to Segment.
The Activation Phase of the game is a simple matter but needs to be watched closely as in some ways it is the key to the game. Activation can be tiered in such a way where leaders can affect other leaders and their units can be activated and these can cause some unexpected surprise as the player can choose which units that can be activated during a turn. So, for example, if a French Corps Leader is activated he may activate all Divisions and Brigade Leaders that are subordinate to him and within 6 hexes. A French Division Leader, in turn, when activated can activate all Brigade Leaders that are subordinate to him and are within 4 hexes. A Brigade Leader that is activated, activates all units that are under the command of that Brigade Leader.
For the Coalition side a Column Leader can activate any units or subordinate leaders that are within 4 hexes and Kutusov when activated can activate any units or subordinate leaders that are within 6 hexes. No matter which units are activated during its Sequence of Play Phase, the activated unit is flipped over to denote that it has been activated.
Fire and Melee Combat
Fire and Melee Combat are handled by two different procedures. For Fire Combat the player totals the number of Fire Factors that are engaged in Fire Combat, modifies this total by any column shifts or Die Roll Modifiers, rolls a 1d10 and applies the appropriate result. As you can see, Fire Combat is handled simply but the maneuvering to gain the best result may not be as simple.
Next we have Melee Combat. Melee combat is more traditional where each player will take the total MF or Melee Factors into consideration to determine a combat odds ratio. Once the combat odds are found you refer to a Combat Results Table, roll a 1d10 to determine the results. So, as you can see whether you have Fire of Melee Combat determining the results is a simple matter.
Issue Number 39 of Against the Odds Magazine, “These Brave Fellows” is one of the better issues of this magazine that I have seen and that is saying a lot since there is normally something outstanding in every issue. However this issue IMHO goes beyond good into the outstanding arena. The articles are very well written in a manner that supports the game being presented. There is a single scenario provided with three different variants adding different units to the scenario that adds player strategy and choices during a game. Also, I believe it would also be safe to say that enterprising individuals will create their own scenarios based on the main article which has the same title as the game. A player could create “what if” scenarios had Kutosov’s flanking plan worked or if the French had fallen back. To say the French were lucky in this battle is an understatement because if the coalition had executed their plans perfectly the outcome of the battle would have been different.
The supporting articles in the magazine and the physical components of the game are excellent. The game captures the essence of the period with the Sequence of Play and challenges players with bold moves. Overall, “These Brave Fellows” is an outstanding game with excellent supporting articles that gamers will enjoy immensely.
This magazine is available from Against the Odds Issue 39.
Ziplock USA $34.95
Ziplock International $49.95
Boxed USA $39.95
Boxed International $62.95