By Michael Stultz

Publisher: Legion Wargames LLC

Designer: Andy Loakes

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Recently, the Maine Historical Wargamers’ Association held its annual convention. Primarily a miniatures event, there are those blasphemers like me who prefer to battle on a map with cardboard pieces. Thankfully, the Association is happy to accommodate the grognards by making space available for us in a corner where we may huddle over our cardboard minions in deep contemplation. As is my custom, I usually host a game or two each year. This year, the simulation I brought to the table for my willing comrades in arms to play was Legion’s Toulon, 1793. A fascinating subject that I don’t believe has been the subject of treatment before, one that reminded me of the SPI game, the Art of Siege, or AH’s Siege of Jerusalem—two of my early favorites. Toulon was the battle that generally ushered Napoleon onto the European stage, and while rather obscure when compared against his later victories, it was here that Napoleon attracted attention and formed friendships and loyalty that would come to serve him in the years ahead.

Usually when one thinks of Napoleonic battles, what comes to mind is a combined arms battle that involves climactic cavalry charges, artillery bombardments, large formations of infantry marching into position for the assault, and a battle of maneuver. There is none of that in Toulon. This is siege warfare. Battle is methodical and development slow. There are no hugely bloody clashes. Playing this game is an exercise in planning and patience. Grab a cup of Earl Grey, hot (thank you, Captain Picard, for that enduring memory), and enjoy the experience for victory is the reward of careful resource management and thoughtful development of position. But, time is not eternal. Each player, especially the French, will be up against the clock and limited resources as they strive to defeat the Allied forces.

by Paul Comben

Designer:  Denis Sauvage

Publisher: Golden Games, Shakos

 

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Napoleon’s 1806 campaign in Prussia was one of those occasional examples in military history where two culturally similar nations, armed with much the same sort of weaponry, and this in the hands of more of less similar numbers of men, managed to produce entirely different results. To be blunt, from beginning to end, this campaign really wasn’t close. One tempting comparison (involving much the same combatants, broadly speaking) was the German offensive against France in the spring of 1940. One side (no two guesses which) had the modern method to match the modern weapons, and a daring plan to match the method and the weapons. The other side (narrowed down to a choice of precisely one) thought they were still fighting their last war, and thus had no relevant method, no daring plan, and not that many commanders who would have looked out of place posing for one of Mister Fenton’s photographic portraits in the Crimea.

It was largely the same story in 1806 – just with the roles reversed. Napoleon was the modern military thinker with an army nearing peak performance. By contrast, Prussian leadership was obsessed with the doctrines of Frederick the Great (in 1806, the best part of half-a-century past their best) and the higher tiers of its automaton army were thoroughly overpopulated with aged fossils with no inclination to think or fight other than how it had all been done decades earlier.

by Paul Comben

Designer: Kevin Zucker

Publisher: Operational Studies Group

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If you keep fighting battles and if those battles keep getting bigger, and if there is never any end in sight save the nagging feeling that sooner or later your luck must run out, eventually you are very likely to fail.  Napoleon did not say this in the first bright twilight of his decline, at least not in so many words, but he certainly suspected it to be the case.

When precisely he first sensed it is open to conjecture, but it is impossible to think of the man in the high heat of a Russian summer in 1812 without his being occupied at various points in his mounted forays and carriage dashes by the first intimations of total disaster.  All of a sudden, with his legions still advancing upon the dusty road to Smolensk, he declared that the war against Russia would be a three year affair – 1812 to see his army encamped between the Dvina and the Dnepr; 1813 an advance upon Moscow; 1814 a conclusion in Saint Petersburg.

But this was not the original plan, and it was not even some clever extemporization upon the original concept as events unfolded.  It was a consolation.  It was a pretense.  It was, for all intents and purposes, a bulletin composed for his own benefit as well as for those who commanded the corps and the divisions he led to calamity.

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by Russ Lockwood

DESIGNER: Mark G. McLaughlin
DEVELOPER: Fred Schachter
ART DIRECTOR: Rodger B. MacGowan
MAP, CARD, & COUNTER ART: Mark Simonitch
PRODUCERS: Gene Billingsley, Tony Curtis, Andy Lewis, Rodger MacGowan, Mark Simonitch

The great thing about a Weekday Wargame is that taking a full day during the week feels like such a treat. On Wednesday, Dec. 20, at around 11:00am, Marc, Rory and I gathered at Dan’s house for a day of gaming. Fueled by doughnuts, coffee cake, and other sugary goodness, we started with the GMT game Wellington.

This fantastic four-player game — admittedly a little long in the tooth now, but entertaining as ever — pits English and Spanish players against two French players (north and south, or as the counters are colored, blue and green).

By Paul Comben

Designer: Adam Niechwiej

Publisher: Strategemata

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During the October and November of 1944, the newly raised contingents of National Socialist Volkssturm gathered in halls and in city squares across Germany, collecting a variable mix of old rifles, foreign rifles, armbands and panzerfausts, swearing oaths and then parading with determined zeal for the benefit of the newsreel cameras.   The largest assembly was in Berlin on November 12th, where, in a constant rain and under leaden skies, thousands of men in their civilian jackets or overcoats, and not a few with medals from the last world catastrophe proudly on display, marched past the stern-faced and saluting Joseph Goebbels.  At the same time, two hundred miles to the southeast, many thousands more gathered in Breslau’s Schlossplatz, and were led past the spectating multitudes, mainly women, and boys, by their Gauleiter, Karl Hanke.

Such manifestations of the nation’s will were meant to create an air of imperturbable resolution and invincibility, and yet the Volkssturm’s performance over the coming months of crisis would often fall short of the desired ideal.  Breslau, in many respects, was the exception.  In Breslau Hitler had a fortress city that actually did what it was meant to do.  Invested by Red Army forces following their advance across the Vistula in January 1945, Breslau then resisted enemy attacks for a longer period than the Soviet forces that had defended Stalingrad, and the city garrison was still fighting even as their Führer was putting an end to his life on April 30th.

In the pages of his diary, Goebbels would highlight the role of a dedicated party machine led by a determined Gauleiter for the city’s prolonged resistance.  Certainly, those factors played a part, but they never were the whole story. Other factors can be found in other books; but then, if you want an actual working model of the siege, to get to the nub of the hows and whys, where else should you turn but to a bona fide military simulation of the event in question.  So, is Festung Breslau such a game, and just who exactly is Strategemata?

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by Russ Lockwood

Designer Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, Jeff Stahl

Publisher Academy Games

I’ve enjoyed the variety of Academy Games’ war games (1775 and 1812), having played most of them multiple times with multiple gamers. Each game is generally close, with the balancing mechanism of cards and dice blessing and cursing player actions with equal aplomb.

In general, the four-player games are more exciting than the two-player games because who knows what your enemy might do on any given turn — or worse, what your ‘ally’ might do on any given turn.

So, along comes 878 Vikings, a two- or four-player game of the Viking invasion of England. The $75 boxed game has the usual components you expect that justifies the price. Academy also has a $50 expansion that adds more dice, cards, and cardboard counters.

By Paul Comben

 Designer: Emanuele Santandrea

 Publisher: VentoNuovo Games

 

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(N.B. Blocks are shown exposed in photos for illustrative purposes)

Yes, the title quote is from the film Waterloo, and the game is about Borodino, but the quote, nevertheless, is entirely apposite and appropriately Napoleonic.  Bloody Monday is a game very much about timing – timing and unit movement/placement; timing and the ordering of attacks; timing and the waiting game; timing and the implied sense of having not too much time to do anything.

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by Harvey Mossman

Design: Mark Herman

Publisher: GMT games

“We will leave this war to our children “, King Archidamus’ prophetic retort to the Spartan assembly at the opening of the 2nd Peloponnesian war sounded the alarm that the conflict would be generational. His compatriots did not agree and thought an easy victory would be had, yet the war lasted 27 years, cost thousands of lives and fundamentally changed the Greek civilization. How do you simulate such a cataclysmic event? Wargame designers have tried for years to simulate this tragic epic. Now, acclaimed designer Mark Herman brings us a fresh perspective on both the 1st and 2nd Peloponnesian wars, seamlessly meshing the politics of the polis with the wider military conflicts in a unique design that captures the challenges of the era.

By Paul Comben

Designer:  Godfrey Bailey, Geoff Noble

Publisher: Legion Wargames

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Is there fun in total failure?

Some military ventures are simply wrong from the start.  Everything about them is inauspicious and ill starred, with calamity and disaster simply awaiting their cue to show themselves to full effect.

Colenso, the subject of Legion Wargames Redvers’ Reverse, is about as good an example of this as you can get.  A British army of over sixteen thousand men was meant to be lifting the siege of Ladysmith in the last days of 1899.  In their way were several thousand Boers with German rifles, a small number of German-supplied and German manufactured artillery pieces, a winding river the British had not positively identified the fordable regions of, and a fair amount of high ground overlooking the British low ground.

IMG_2738

By Michael Stultz

Publisher: Draco Ideas

Designers: Luis Alvaro Hernandez, Alvar Sanz

By the time the Romans established control of the entirety of peninsular Italy, the legions had faced and defeated the queen of the battlefield, the Macedonian phalanx, showing that they were equal to anything the ancient world could muster against them. The gaze of the Romans now cast south across the straights of Messina to Sicily. This would bring them inevitably into conflict with Carthage, the greatest naval power of the day, and the masters of everything from the African coast as far as the straights of Gibraltar, southeast Spain and Sardinia and western Sicily.