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Subject: A Successful Combination of Operational and Tactical rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815 is a Columbia block game on the final major campaign of the Napoleonic Wars. Waterloo gained its fame by being the final fight for many legendary generals (Napoleon, Ney, Wellington, and Blucher among many) and the work of artists and writers on both sides of the Channel have kept it alive in the popular consciousness. Nevermind that Leipzig is where the dreams of empire ended and Napoleon's strategic situation in 1815 was hopless, in the English speaking world Waterloo is the battle of battles. It also helps that the battle has a drama all its own and it represents the last act in the epic struggle between France and Britain. As for Prussia, Belgium, and Holland, the story of the battle and its significance is very different.

Here I'll be reviewing the third edition of this classic game,which is the version I prefer.

Gameplay (28 out of 28): Napoleon is a blend of operational and tactical gameplay in a system that reminds me of the underrated Mississippi Fortress and its brethren. On the operational level the game alternates between players moving groups of blocks on a point to point map. The French, although outnumbered, start in a strong central position and are more flexible, being able to move three groups of blocks. The Coalition is out of position and not as flexible, with both the Prussians and Anglo-Allied forces being able to move only two groups of blocks. Considering how spread out their forces are, this is a dangerous situation, but they do outnumber the French. Each side can try to move their men further by force marching, with leaders helping to reduce march losses.

The Operational Game in Progress:


When two armies meet they fight on a tactical map covering the right, center, left, and reserve positions, with reinforcements coming into the fight and allowing battles to go from small to epic. Units line up and strike at each other, and when a force is able to control one of the enemy's positions, the enemy army crumbles and must retreat. The units involved are infantry, cavalry, and artillery, and each has their own unique strengths.

The French and Prussians Duke it Out:


The older editions had fewer troops, so I found the game to be centered on a 1-2 battles, which did not feel right. While the third iteration of Napoleon gives you plenty of units, and thus has has crowding issues, an early defeat is not the end of the line. Both sides have a fair chance to win a battle such as Ligny only to lose Waterloo.

Operational/Tactical (5 out of 5): Like may Columbia Games, the operational contest is captured with little fuss. You can only move a limited number of troops each turn, with major and minor roads adding further limits on movement. Add a simple force march mechanic, and you have the entirety of the operational game, which is uncomplicated, but will still bust your brain because of both fog of war and limited movements. The tactical game is not simply a tacked on and cumbersome battle resolution mechanic. Artillery are deadly up close but can shell at long range. Cavalry are devastating if they attack infantry not in square. So like the real war, it is better to bring cavalry and infantry together, because squares are poor against an advancing column of troops.

Accessibility (5 out of 5): If Columbia has one thing they consistently do right it is making clear and easy to understand rule books. Napoleon is no exception. Novices to blocks and wargaming might be overwhelmed, but anyone else will have no problems understanding the game.

Components (4 out of 5): The map is among Columbia's better efforts and the units look good without being fussy. That being said, this is not a knock out like some of their other titles, such as the latest edition of War of 1812, but Napoleon is pleasing to the eye. The addition of division names is welcome. It is always good to know when you are committing divisions under Foy, Kellermann, Prich, Roder, Picton, and Somerset and not simply a generic unit.

The Units are a Treat:


Originality (0 out of 2): This edition is just a rehash of the old with more units. It can't really be called original in the same way the older editions were. The game does add leader units and more blocks, so at best it is an update.

Historical Quality (4 out of 5): The battles capture the military culture of forbearance. You must be able to take losses as well as dish them out because the other side may also try offensive maneuvers in an attempt to break you before you break them. That certainly reminds me of Austerlitz and other Napoleonic battles. Many battles will seem like a race against time, as the enemy's forces are often times also trying to defeat you and force a rout. That being said cavalry is perhaps a bit too strong, as they move fast and hit hard. It seems that infantry are punished for being the most numerous forces on the map. All in all Napoleon captures the tension of the situation and the essence of Napoleonic warfare in a moderately complex game. In my sessions the game has never affronted history. Even if battles do tend to happen in only a morning or an afternoon, it is an abstraction that does not detract much from the game, and it feels right enough for the history being simulated.

Overall (46 out of 50): Napoleon has climbed my favorites list with each play. The game is an accurate simulation of the campaign and Napoleonic battles without being cumbersome. Most sessions are tense and comebacks are not unheard of. That being said I have to wonder why Columbia did not expand upon this system with other Napoleonic campaigns? There certainly are not enough games on the Italian campaigns, and I think the maneuvers that led to Jena, Eyalu, Friedland, Wagram, and Salamanca would all work nicely with this system. One can only hope, but so far there is no evidence that Columbia will pursue this idea.

The Game is Always Tense:
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Pete Belli
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I think you just cost me another $35 plus shipping.
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Robert Wesley
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pete belli wrote:
thumbsup

I think you just cost me another $35 plus shipping.
blush oh Pete! you ought to just get the W~A~Y enlarged MAP version like I've GOT, and then just use 'minis' instead! surprise
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Seth Owen
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This is one of may favorite games ever since the first edition. I think it's often underrated because some wargames simply can't take a game seriously unless it has hexes.
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Stu Hendrickson
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Really?
1) this edition was published in 1994, right?
2) the increase in units makes the map way too crowded. you can tell even from your pictures.
3) they got some rules wrong- inexcusable in a 3rd edition. Like there was aproblem with firing when you got DF verus some units but SF against others. erratta fixed this- do you have it?
4) before french moved 2 and allies 1 each. Now allies move 2 each french 3. this completely changes the character of play, to the worse in my opinion. See my review in canadian wargames journal, published 1994 or 95.
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Bob Roberts

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pete belli wrote:
thumbsup

I think you just cost me another $35 plus shipping.


Heh, I was thinking as I clicked the link that I need to quit reading his reviews as it could get expensive.
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Jon
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Very nice review as always. Much appreciated.

Extra thumbsup for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force t-shirt.

I have only played this once in a three player session and rather enjoyed it, despite being plastered as the Prussians. Not as bad as the Allies were hurt though, but that is just because Napoleon went west instead of east. I found that I had no immediate answer for the devastating mass cavalry charges coming out of the French reserve, so more rulebook perusal is required prior to my next play.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
thumbsup

I think you just cost me another $35 plus shipping.


Then my work is complete!
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
2) the increase in units makes the map way too crowded. you can tell even from your pictures.


I noted the crowding issues. They are a legitimate problem.

Quote:
3) they got some rules wrong- inexcusable in a 3rd edition. Like there was aproblem with firing when you got DF verus some units but SF against others. erratta fixed this- do you have it?


Which parts of the table are you talking about exactly? I do have the errata and the second edition rules.

Quote:
4) before french moved 2 and allies 1 each. Now allies move 2 each french 3. this completely changes the character of play, to the worse in my opinion. See my review in canadian wargames journal, published 1994 or 95.


We'll just have to disagree on this one. So far no two sessions have been alike and each has been quite close.
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Stu Hendrickson
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arty fires sf against inf, DF vs squares. suppose 4 cv arty fires at defender having square 3 cv inf and reg 3 cv inf. roll is 1156.
so does the 6 hit the square reducing it to 2 cv and all the 5 is a miss? or does the 5 hit the square, reducing it leaving the 6 to hit the remaining unsquared unit?
previous editions do not have this problem since only one unit was targeted by the attacker before.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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My rules say this:

Quote:
Targeting: if some enemy units in the same engagement are in square, and some not,the firing player must specify which formation is being targeted. Each firing unit may target the units in square or the units not in square. Hits are allocated to the strongest units within each target formation.


If that was missing in the first run of the third edition, that is one hell of an oversight.
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
Thanks for the review. This is the type of review I've come to really appreciate on BGG, informative and clear, but not over-loaded with rules explanation (or simply a re-citation of the rules). Cheers.


I'm glad you like the format, as I too dislike rehashes of rulebooks, although sometimes it works.
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Niko Ruf
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While I like the game very much, not the least for its use of battleboards, we did find that it was somewhat broken with the current rules.

What I mean is that it is rather easy for the Coalition to delay the French until the time runs out by picketing, i.e. by screening all available roads with single units. These fall back automatically if engaged, taking single steps of damage (obviously, you don't picket with artillery!) - or no damage in case of leaders. This means that at some point before the game ends, you can already count whether Napoleon has enough moves left to even reach the Coalition supply cities or not.

The solution we found was to increase the rout attrition by one step of damage if no battle takes place due to the defender having less than three units. That makes it a bit easier for the French to push back and break through the enemy pickets and either occupy the supply cities or force some real battles.

What is your experience with the picketing tactic? Did it even come up in your games? Is there a way around it within the framework of the rules provided?
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
What is your experience with the picketing tactic? Did it even come up in your games? Is there a way around it within the framework of the rules provided?


I've thought of that tactic when I played the coalition and then I had this thought: where is the fun in that? I did run a few pickets, but with the intention of massing my forces for a showdown battle. The result was I lost the opening fight, but came back to win it all. This was my only experience using the picket strategy.

I think you bring up a legitimate problem in tournament play, if such a thing exists. However, if playing for fun and someone does that to the point of annoyance, then they have problems outside of the game. That being said, next time I play I'll try it out to see how it works.
 
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Niko Ruf
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gittes wrote:
I think you bring up a legitimate problem in tournament play, if such a thing exists. However, if playing for fun and someone does that to the point of annoyance, then they have problems outside of the game. That being said, next time I play I'll try it out to see how it works.


I believe that some picketing is necessary to play the game well as the Coalition. So the problem would be deciding what is appropriate - especially as I and my usual opponents play to win and consider that part of the fun. Increasing the cost of picketing (= higher step losses) did solve that issue for us.
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
I believe that some picketing is necessary to play the game well as the Coalition. So the problem would be deciding what is appropriate - especially as I and my usual opponents play to win and consider that part of the fun. Increasing the cost of picketing (= higher step losses) did solve that issue for us.


Well, different gaming cultures in each group I guess. The people I get to wargame are not exactly "hardcore" enough to desire extremely competitive play, although everyone is of course still trying to win.

Thanks for letting me know about this. When you are in a certain gaming culture for so long these things fly under the radar.
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Stu Hendrickson
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1) yes, that WAS a heckuvan ommission from 3rd edition rules! thank you for agreeing that it was inexcusable.
2) allies CAN win by picketing, but must be careful about how thwey do it. small mistake and you will lose. also, the setup you show ('game in progress') is actually failed british setup . allies must set yup far back. this game differs from previous editions suince french must play a cautious advance, in contrast to lightning strokes of previous editions. this is mainly due to move allotments; 4 for allies vs 3 for french. agree with increae rout/pursuit penalties as a fix.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
1) yes, that WAS a heckuvan ommission from 3rd edition rules! thank you for agreeing that it was inexcusable.


No problem, that sort of stuff is stupefying. At least it got fixed.

Quote:
also, the setup you show ('game in progress') is actually failed british setup .


It was the best picture I could find of its kind.
 
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Mark Beyak
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Niko Ruf wrote:
While I like the game very much, not the least for its use of battleboards, we did find that it was somewhat broken with the current rules.

What I mean is that it is rather easy for the Coalition to delay the French until the time runs out by picketing, i.e. by screening all available roads with single units. These fall back automatically if engaged, taking single steps of damage (obviously, you don't picket with artillery!) - or no damage in case of leaders. This means that at some point before the game ends, you can already count whether Napoleon has enough moves left to even reach the Coalition supply cities or not.

The solution we found was to increase the rout attrition by one step of damage if no battle takes place due to the defender having less than three units. That makes it a bit easier for the French to push back and break through the enemy pickets and either occupy the supply cities or force some real battles.

What is your experience with the picketing tactic? Did it even come up in your games? Is there a way around it within the framework of the rules provided?


I found that picketing broke the game. Your solution is elegant and makes me want to play the game again.

Thanks Niko!
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
I believe that some picketing is necessary to play the game well as the Coalition. So the problem would be deciding what is appropriate - especially as I and my usual opponents play to win and consider that part of the fun. Increasing the cost of picketing (= higher step losses) did solve that issue for us.


While I've done picketing before, never to the degree you suggested. I tried picketing today in my gaming session. The results were I was able to delay the French but not before I could bring about a large concentration of men. The French entered Ghent and soon the situation collapsed. A major battle was fought at Hal and the French lost in spite of some close calls. The result was a close Coalition victory.

I'm not sure picketing is as effective as you said. It seemed that if the Coalition spent a lot of time setting these up then it is harder for them to concentrate their men. That being said, if one has enough experience they could develop a killer strategy. I'm using your simple rule for rout attrition the time being because I can see it getting out of hand.

btw, French player found the strategy very unamusing and asked me why anyone would play if they could just do that. He said "If you do that, then you lose by winning." I see his point, but a quick fix is still necessary. Thanks for pointing it out.
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kevin kinsel
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1st edition is the best
Though the later editions add leaders, color to the mapboard, and more pieces, I think the "tenseness of play" is best in the original AH Columbia block version. Very balanced and un-cluttered.ninja
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Tom Swider
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gittes wrote:
Quote:
I believe that some picketing is necessary to play the game well as the Coalition. So the problem would be deciding what is appropriate - especially as I and my usual opponents play to win and consider that part of the fun. Increasing the cost of picketing (= higher step losses) did solve that issue for us.


While I've done picketing before, never to the degree you suggested. I tried picketing today in my gaming session. The results were I was able to delay the French but not before I could bring about a large concentration of men. The French entered Ghent and soon the situation collapsed. A major battle was fought at Hal and the French lost in spite of some close calls. The result was a close Coalition victory.

I'm not sure picketing is as effective as you said. It seemed that if the Coalition spent a lot of time setting these up then it is harder for them to concentrate their men. That being said, if one has enough experience they could develop a killer strategy. I'm using your simple rule for rout attrition the time being because I can see it getting out of hand.

btw, French player found the strategy very unamusing and asked me why anyone would play if they could just do that. He said "If you do that, then you lose by winning." I see his point, but a quick fix is still necessary. Thanks for pointing it out.


Picketing is certainly a viable tactic. The French player can attempt to counteract this through using Regrouping movement after each victory. It's also necessary for the French to consider force marching aggressively in order to keep the allied player off balance.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
It's also necessary for the French to consider force marching aggressively in order to keep the allied player off balance.


Perhaps it is as simple as that. Whenever I am the French I press my men hard in order to get right at the enemy. Seems very Napoleonic too.
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Sight Reader
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tswider wrote:
Picketing is certainly a viable tactic. The French player can attempt to counteract this through using Regrouping movement after each victory. It's also necessary for the French to consider force marching aggressively in order to keep the allied player off balance.

BTW, what would happen if this tactic was attempted in real life? Would there be supply issues or organizational problems?
 
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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
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gittes wrote:
That being said I have to wonder why Columbia did not expand upon this system with other Napoleonic campaigns? There certainly are not enough games on the Italian campaigns, and I think the maneuvers that led to Jena, Eyalu, Friedland, Wagram, and Salamanca would all work nicely with this system. One can only hope, but so far there is no evidence that Columbia will pursue this idea.

Exactly what I thought after my first play! The compromise between strategy and tactics felt so good that I wondered why stop here, it seemed more like a system than a game...
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