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David G. Cox Esq.
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Last Days of the Grand Armee


Two or Three-player Simulation of the Waterloo Campaign, June 1815
Designed by Kevin Zucker
Published by Operational Studies Group (1998)



Kevin Zucker is generally considered to be the pre-eminent designer of Napoleonic wargames – he has designed and developed a large number of games at an operational level. To the best of my knowledge Last Days is his fourth game which explores Napoleon’s final campaign. His other designs on the Waterloo Campaign have been Napoleon’s Last Battles (1976), Hundred Days Battles (1983) and The Emperor Returns (1994).

I have mixed feelings about Last Days but, nevertheless, am happy to have it as a part of my wargame library. Complexity-wise, Last Days falls somewhere between Napoleon’s Last Battles and The Emperor Returns. It is considerably quicker to play then either of them, taking around 3 hours to complete. It comes with a Ligny/Quatre Bras scenario, a Waterloo scenario and a full Campaign game. The rule book contains detailed historical notes.


As I have come to expect from OSG, the counters are extremely attractive and a nice thickness. Although many people seem to find the map attractive, I find it very disappointing and not nearly as good-looking as many other maps produced by OSG. While the map is clear and functional, I feel that the dark green of the woods is too dark and the mottled wood-grain around the edge of the map looks messy. However, all of this is fairly insignificant as it is the mechanisms of the game that will really determine how good a game is.

The designer, Kevin Zucker, introduced an operational Napoleonic system many years ago in his design call Napoleon at Bay. The NAB system focuses to a large extend on the need to have competent commanders in the field and the importance of lines of communications to keep control of troops. Last Days continues this focus but with a system much simpler than most of Kevin Zucker’s other designs.

The first thing you notice when playing the Campaign is that no French, and very few Anglo-Allied or Prussian units begin on the map. Most units will enter the game as reinforcements. This has the nice feature of giving you the same resources that were available at the time but doesn’t greatly force you into the same paths that were taken at the time. It really feels as though you are an artist who has just been given a commission and a blank canvas. It places Napoleon with the situation of trying to defeat his enemies before they have a chance to combine. It places the Allies in the situation of having to draw a fine line by trying to delay the French and, at the same time, not put themselves in a situation where their forces are being destroyed piece-meal.

The game goes for 18 turns. The game starts on June 15 and the first four days each have a morning, afternoon, evening and night turn.


Sequence of Play & Rules

Day Turns - in each turn one player will have their turn first and the other player will have their turn second. Both players use the following sequence of play during the three day turns.

Command & Reorganization – players attempt to recover previously eliminated units. Players allocated command points to officers and then determine which units are in command. All other units are marked as out of command. Being out of command is a minor nuisance – it means that although units may move normally, they may NOT force march. Out of Command units may engage enemy units but may not advance after combat.

Movement Phase – this is another of Kevin Zucker’s innovations – at the start of their movement phase the phasing player draws a chit from a cup and the number on the chit specifies the movement allowance for Infantry and Cavalry units for that turn.

Force Marching - each player may choose to Force March if he meets certain criteria. The movement chits are quite interesting and I think I need to tell you something about them now. In the Campaign game the French Player starts with two chits in his cup and they are both 4/6s (Infantry have movement of 4 and cavalry have movement of 6). In his hand he has a 3/4, and two 2/3s. At the end of their movement phase each player may force march all units that are in command and all new reinforcements by taking a chit from their hand, showing it to their opponent and placing it into the cup with their other movement chits. They may then move all eligible units that amount. This is a really interesting feature and one that I feel is quite realistic. The initial French chits are better than those in the player’s hand. By force marching there is a chance that for future moves your movement allowance will be less than it would have been had you not force marched. If you force march you want as many units in command as possible. Force march gives the opportunity to gain an advantage over your opponent but it comes at a cost. Choosing the right moment to use it, or choosing not to use it at all could be crucial.

Combat Phase – combat between adjacent enemy units is mandatory and is resolved on a fairly standard odds table that runs from 1:5 through to 6:1. There is no combat phase during each Night turn.


Other stuff worthy of note are:

Hidden Forces – all units are place and moved face-down until they start a combat phase adjacent to an enemy unit. If they later move away so that they are no longer adjacent to an enemy unit they are again turned face-down.

Pontoon Trains & Bridges – the French player does have the ability to lay down a couple of bridges where and when the French player thinks that they will do the most good.

Repulse – during movement, units which have at least 5:1 combat odds, may launch a Repulse Attack. If successful the defending unit will retreat and the attacking units may continue to move. If unsuccessful the attacking units will move no further that turn.

Elite Units – Most units are limited to one attack during the combat phase each turn. Some elite units have the chance to try to make a second attack in one turn.

Artillery – as one would expect, artillery may bombard enemy units in an adjacent hex and will be exempt from any negative results.

Demoralization – with each army are several formations (e.g. divisions). Each formation has its own Demoralization Level. As each formation suffers losses it will approach demoralization. Demoralized units don’t move or fight as well as units that have good morale.

Vedettes – these units represent light cavalry. They can break down into smaller units and reform later. They are useful for screening and for flanking movements.

Supply rules only apply to the Campaign game.

Victory is primarily determined by the losses you inflict upon your opponent compared to the losses that you suffer. The supply hexes on the map edges are worth a small number of victory points but the primary aim is to actually defeat the opposing army or armies.


The Emperor’s Reflections Upon His Way To St Helena

The counters look great but the map doesn’t.

Kevin Zucker is an innovative and knowledgeable designer who knows his way around Napoleonic battlefields in general and Waterloo in particular so you would expect a competent design.

Because there are so few units on the map at the start and the French come on strong it feels a bit like a Battle of the Bulge game as the Anglo-Allied and Prussian armies try to stop the French juggernaut.

There are plenty of options available to both players which will give lots of replayability.

The rules and systems are rather straight-forward while appearing to have a high level of verisimilitude.

Due to the counters being move face-down there is a high degree of tension in the game and the game rewards good solid strategy.



arrrh "Dead Men Tell No Tales!"


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Steve Bernhardt
United States
saratoga springs
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I like this game, especially the way cavalry vendettes are used. Actually breaking cavalry divisions down in order to have forces to conduct recon and screen your forces from enemy cavalry peeking at your stacks is really neat.

The latest version of the rules:
http://napoleongames.com/last-days.html
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M Stumptner
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That's the game where the historical Waterloo setup (available as a scenario in the game) is illegal per the rules - the armies could not be where they are set up on a morning turn.

The game's main problem (as with its older sibling, The Emperor Returns) is that battles in the game don't develop at all like the historical battles. The game's saving grace is that people generally don't notice because (except for that aforementioned scenario) battles only develop gradually through the campaign and so the discrepancy is buried.

FWIW, I rather liked the map.
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Bob James
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BUT IN THIS CAMPAIGN there was not vedettes running all over (maybe others) but they had to keep Calvary formations intact to attack, to charge.
Now on the crossing into Belgium, Cavalry vedettes on both side clashed and Infantry against French vedettes/Rgts. But as a whole, there was little vedettes, Grouchy with a large Cavalry force lost contact as he didn't break off any rgts, but moved intact to charge the Prussians when found.
Napoleon broke off even less and could not see vedette rgts killed piece meal.
I think this game is best played without them for the most part.
or at least should be limited.
 
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Hawkeye
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BOB JAMES wrote:
BUT IN THIS CAMPAIGN there was not vedettes running all over (maybe others) but they had to keep Calvary formations intact to attack, to charge.
Now on the crossing into Belgium, Cavalry vedettes on both side clashed and Infantry against French vedettes/Rgts. But as a whole, there was little vedettes, Grouchy with a large Cavalry force lost contact as he didn't break off any rgts, but moved intact to charge the Prussians when found.
Napoleon broke off even less and could not see vedette rgts killed piece meal.
I think this game is best played without them for the most part.
or at least should be limited.


Well, the real question should be whether the cavalry had the capability to form vedettes and it was historical practice that they do so. If that is the case, then of course the players should be able to use them. If you are saying that one or both sides did not have that capability, then that is different. As a gamer, I want to be bound by the conditions faced by the opposing commanders (troop quality, weather or even doctrine) but not by bad decision making.

Just my two cents ...
 
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