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Colonel Marbot
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A Full Campaign played... two years after my first.

Sun Apr 09, 2017 7:26 pm

My first complete campaign prior to one of the final beta releases and continued through completion at 400+ turns. In that game, I had conquered much of the map, having defeated Russia and invading the middle east through the Ottoman empire before turning to England and finally Spain. The game back then was not perfect but was fun, and held many advantages over previous titles on the Napoleonic wars. I was confident that updates would develop that would make the game even better. And these updates did in fact materialize.

Now, almost two years later, I began a new campaign, with the latest version. I edited my settings, ratchetiing up the difficulty, and the aggressiveness of the opponent, and selecting the variant which gave me better relations with the Ottomans. (I had had a real change getting them on my side in the first campaign and thought some help in that matter might make things fun. (More on that later).

I chose the campaign that starts with 1805 historical starting locations. (I hate having to take the time to relocate forces in this game) and could not improve much on Napoleon’s own starting locations. The 1805 campaign from my perspective gives you two approaches: The first is the conservative approach and going at Ulm in Battle Square where each corp can support each other. In this campaign there is always the possibility that the Austrians will strike out (especially because of that aggressiveness setting). And while Victory is guaranteed should Austria strike out against the Battle Carre, a portion of the Austrians would break off and this would result in a retreat across Bavaria trying to pick off its rear guard at Munich, Linz, and a likely final stand at Vienna, reinforced by advance elements of the Russians.

The second approach is my preference which is riskier but has greater dividends: a double envelopment of the Austrians, surrounding them so as to cut off their avenues of retreat. This is more dangerous against an aggressive Austria since if they strike out while the double envelopment is occurring, they will likely engage only a portion of the Grand Armee.

The artificial intelligence of the Allies has been greatly improved since the first versions I played, but that is not to say that it does not make mistakes. One such mistake occurs early when it chooses to send Charles over the Alps to support Mack, leaving Bellegarde against Massena. Massena’s army is in great need of reorganization, but if you take the time to balance the wings, spread artillery and cavalry and form a central artillery and cavalry reserve, you can easily push Bellegarde back and pressure Austria’s underside. As long as you are not rash and allow a silly defeat to occur, Massena can be a big help.

The Double Envelop was successful and the combination of Lannes, Davout and Murat were strong enough to turn back Charles and the long race to Vienna began. This is all about time and I was able to get to Vienna, defeat the Russian advance guard and take the capital. Peace is offered quickly but my strategy employs NOT immediately accepting the peace and pushing hard against the now retreating Russians to first get their peace offering. It is essential for my future plans that I get that Russian peace treaty first.

I guess now it is time for me to digress and speak about play style and expectations. I had a hard time understanding the criticism by some about this brilliant game. After some time in thought, it has occurred to me that some of us love this game and other criticize it because we are looking for different things. For those that want a simulation that exactly duplicates history, then the game will naturally evolve away from the historical path and change takes our game history into a different direction. For myself, that is exactly the attraction. I know the history of the period and am not interested in repeating it. I am interested in what different choices I can make from the Emperor and perhaps succeed where he failed. My goals are to ask, Can I do better than he in Spain? What if I aim my army at Istanbul and into the Middle East? Can I defeat the British Navy at Sea? So for me, this is a great game, offers infinite variety. I may not choose to use a historical event card at all. Other players want the game to duplicate historical turning points, and I think that the design of a 10-year campaign makes that likelihood much more difficult. If only both sides and both styles of play would respect the other and work together to continue and improve the title.

After peace with Russian, the Austrian peace event can be selected resulting in the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the formation of the Rhine Confederation. One of the challenges is then to build relations with the Rhine Confederation quick enough to allow the 1806 invasion of Prussia. This is not so important for me. I use three columns to hit Prussia as Napoleon did, but I select a more southerly route up through Austrian territory, my most western column moving from Prague to Dresden. Prussia cannot stand up to the Grand Armee, provided that you did not suffer foolish losses in 1805. And with Russia at peace, Berlin and the cities up through Stettin, Danzig and Memel fall sequentially.

I don’t waste time with my decision to form the Duchy of Warsaw (and wish the designers had programmed the option of creating the Polish Kingdom for later) which was something Napoleon considered but never chose to do.
Whichever direction you go, 1807 is likely a building and repositioning year. 1806 saw the building of the 8th corp. One of my goals of this game is to see if I can keep the strength of the Grand Armee in place without the dilution that is common. It is easy to get Soult/Lannes/Davout off running armies in secondary theatres and to promote strong division generals to Corp Command, integrate expeditionary forces into the army and combined with foolish losses result in a weakened French force. I do prefer to promote Suchet to command the 8th, and promote Rapp into Suchet’s divisional command. 1807 should be bringing on a 9th corp and that can be given to Victor who you have brought in from Denmark. For this game I had to use Victor to replace Ney who had died in my 1806 campaign.
Which direction will you go in 1808? Moving two of Massena’s corps down against Sicily in south Italy is a no brainer. But where do we send the Grand Armee? Portugal is a possibility but even with success in Portugal, it will result in two corps being stationed there perpetually to guard against English Invasion, as well as the promotion of an Army Commander. Dilution… more dilution.

Russia makes the most sense. But back to Russia, they are probably still partially depleted and most of my army is in Prussia, and Poland, but this will take time. ( I might also add that I hate having to relocate troops as I would have to do in order to go into the Iberian peninsula. Hint: The game would benefit from a cart transportation mode such as Napoleon used to relocate Ney’s corp in 30 days from Prussia to Spain). For Russia we will need the 8th, 9th (stationed in Bavaria to watch Austria), and the 10th in observation of Prussia… but we need to build supply wagons, and a boatload of depot battalions to hold the eventual supply line into Russia. By now, the minor allies in Central Europe have joined the cause and this version of the game has allowed me to raise a fairly large number of expeditionary forces to assist the Polish corp that will be invading along with me. And risking aggressiveness from Austria, I prefer to bring Massena up and across to invade the Ukraine, aided by Marmont’s second corp and a second Cavalry corp. 1808 is spent building, preparing and positing of troops.

1809 brings my invasion of Russia. I have three sets of forces. The North is Davout, Soult, and Victor and a cavalry corp under Grouchy. This group has the objective of coastal towns and St. Petersburg. My Southern Force is Massena’s Army less St. Cyr (in Italy), with the additional corps of Marmont and Callaincourt (cavalry). The main force is in the center and will take the Minsk, Smolensk road to Moscow and has Napoleon, the Guard, Murat, Lannes, Bernadotte, Suchet and Poniatovsky’s Polish Corp. The operation begins with Massena who’s immediate goal is to draw troops from Moscow south

As Massena fights to Kiev, sure enough the Russian army arrives across the River. Kutusov, Buxhowden and a cast of characters wait for Massena. So I let Massena gather reinforcements in Kiev as the other two columns go in. Napoleon encounters little serious opposition and by the end of 1809 is sitting in the Kremlin. Davout and Soult’s force has had the longer path with more difficult obstructions but is approaching St.. Petersburg. Kutusov is making a series of moves to envelop Massena but must call off these forays to march North for a token assault against a fortified Napoleon. ... not good for the Russian army which fall move back south to regroup.

1810 brings the fall of St. Petersburg and the pacification of Russia. The decision that must be made by conquerors in this game is whether to press for a victory, the enemy’s capital, a profitable peace treaty with property concessions, or else to occupy and hold the country. I chose the latter and this was truly challenging. Russia is so very big with so many towns that inevitably you make the choice to start splitting your armies into Corps going different directions and then splitting again into Divisions. As the turns go on, it is natural that you get a bit lazy, and the end result is that I made the mistake of allowing Buxhowden to catch an isolated division under Rapp who died along with most of his Division. Damn!

I experimented in 1810 sending Bernadotte and Murat eastwards into the Urals and Russian Steppes. Another bad mistake in that it takes two weeks to get there, then conditions are harsh, you stop getting replacements and it takes forever to get back out again. After taking St. Petersburg, I sent Davout south but ran Soult up into modern day Finland to diminish the irritating Swedish.

But come 1811 it was time to think about England. My plan was to leave Massena’s army in an occupied Russia with 3 small cavalry corps to deal with the growing Cossack threat. Overall, I thought the Artificial Intelligence did a great job of playing cat and mouse with my French forces and punished me when I made a bad decision.

As you recall I picked the Ottoman variant cementing relations with that power and I really had hoped that I could leverage that relationship to help me in south Russia with an Ottoman offensive and Ottoman expeditionary forces. I was disappointed to find that the Ottoman’s were of little help in my struggle with Russia. The Ottoman empire merely capitalized on the situation to fight a continuing struggle with Persia. So much for that variant idea. In my first campaign, and early war between the Ottomans and Russia had soaked off a number of Russian troops. This time it was the opposite.

1811 saw also another unique variant of my own. I had been building a corp a year and in Germany had an army of observation under Mortier, with corps under Oudinot (Prussia), Junot (Bavaria), and also corps with both Kellermans as their commander. I used Mortier, and both Father and Son Kellerman to invade Sweden. Hey… what the hell? I already owned “Finnish Sweden” and the Swedish property in Northern Europe. This minor campaign turned out well and I was able to conquer the Swedish peninsular. A side benefit of this conflict is that Bernadotte was never called off to run the Swedish army, leaving him at the head of the 1st corp till the end.

1812 brought in my campaign the invasion of England. So let’s talk Naval power. Whereas the AI for Russia is quite good. The AI for running the English navy could be improved, although by doing so, it might unbalance the game which is winnable now from both sides. (or else make the invasion of England not necessary for a French victory). The French navy CAN beat the English. It means carefully consolidating existing naval forces, dedicating a portion of your economy to build more war ships, and integrating Spanish and Dutch naval expeditionary forces with the French. By operating in masse against individual English fleets, they can be defeated even with their superior admirals.
By 1812 I had depleted the English Navy and I had Naval Superiority over the channel. Invading England is likely the most difficult part of the game. The reason is that until you own a port to unload whole corps at a time, you are limited to one unit per turn per fleet. It also forces you to spread forces across southern England.

I had begun the invasion with a diversion. I landed the imperial guard light cavalry up in Scotland and sure enough, an English army under York went flying north with 60,000 men. As the majority of my forces then landed in the south, it was a much smaller English force which counterattacked my beachhead. Bisson’s division was wiped out along one of Augereau’s (the latter injured). It proves to be a close run affair until you secure that first port, and I can say that it was that northern diversion which made all the difference. Once I had the port, and could land my heavier cavalry units and artillery it became a race to London. Lefebvre-Desnouitte (sorry, I just keep adding vowels until it looks close) had been able to harass the Duke of York’s force and delay his return south. By the time York got back down to London, Napoleon had the city under Siege and held his enviable central position. The outcome was assured.
1813 brought the invasion of Ireland by Soult, and Lannes, while Davout, Marmont, and Murat were sent by sea down to invade Portugal. By July 1813, the game announced the French total victory.

I love the way that the scale of this game allows the player to use Napoleonic Grand Tactics as well as Grand Strategy. The battle planner then allows you to pick a tactical battle priority. .. and it does make a difference what you choose! I also love the way that the personalities of the game come into play. Kutusov plays differently than Buxhowden. … Blucher plays differently than his inane monarch. Replacements are an important consideration. I always kept my replacement recourses full even if it meant holding off the building of a new unit. I will say that the original version of the game was more challenging economically. Just as in Napoleon’s time, the first versions of this game made horse reserves quite limited. That version required a carefully use of cavalry. Changes made based on player comments did dilute this and from 1811 onward, I really had no economic challenges. I’ll also say that the changes to how “bloody” battles are, allows a degree of carelessness. In my first campaign I made a mistake that decimated a corp under Gazan. In this version, it is very difficult to suffer the types of losses that Augereu did at Eylau.
I am saddened that more have not rallied to this game and banded together to polish and correct any remaining bugs. 7 guys dedicated to playing a complete campaign and sending sending feedback in could make all the difference. (The game did crash on me a few times, but I was able to work though it. If you are having issues, turn off all the background stuff, disconnect from the internet so you can shutdown your virus protection programs).

So, after 2 years, I find the game greatly improved. Yes, there are still a few bugs and it can be polished still, but what out there is better from a Grand Tactical or Strategic level? By now we should have expansion sets out on various campaigns and variants if we had been fair and put our efforts into polishing the title. Until then, the current game is a lot of fun.

Taillebois
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Re: A Full Campaign played... two years after my first.

Sun Apr 09, 2017 10:36 pm

Excellent post,

Can you put it on the Matrix site also to give some positive views there.

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Pocus
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Re: A Full Campaign played... two years after my first.

Fri Apr 14, 2017 2:24 pm

Yes, please, publish your extended review on the Matrix website, that would be appreciated :coeurs:

veji1
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Re: A Full Campaign played... two years after my first.

Mon Apr 24, 2017 12:13 pm

Nice, it shows one can have fun in a sandbox setting, but it also underlines that if the engine continues to work well for campaigning and battles all the diplomatic aspects, MC and supply issues, overreach of France and Spanish ulcer, etc couldn't get properly modelled and mean that the player can't really find a way to emulate those grand strategic issues. Still glad you had fun.

LCcmdr
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Re: A Full Campaign played... two years after my first.

Sun Apr 30, 2017 1:30 pm

This is wonderful, encouraging post. Many thanks!!

gwgardner
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Re: A Full Campaign played... two years after my first.

Thu May 04, 2017 5:26 pm

Very interesting and encouraging read. I want to start a campaign now, in that rather sandbox mode.

If one does not play Napoleon as intent on unprovoked conquest, but instead simply wanting to safeguard his empire and extend his reforms/restructuring, will the AI offer a challenge? Will it force him to war after his initial victories of 1805-6?

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Colonel Marbot
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Re: A Full Campaign played... two years after my first.

Tue May 09, 2017 3:04 am

@gwgardner. Thank you for your kind comment. Good luck on your test game. I would think the game will work fine from a defensive perspective. I have not spent much time on any side but the French, but I am guessing that the AI may do a decent job if not great, commanding the French against the power you choose. Let us know what you find.

veji1
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Re: A Full Campaign played... two years after my first.

Tue May 09, 2017 11:00 am

gwgardner wrote:Very interesting and encouraging read. I want to start a campaign now, in that rather sandbox mode.

If one does not play Napoleon as intent on unprovoked conquest, but instead simply wanting to safeguard his empire and extend his reforms/restructuring, will the AI offer a challenge? Will it force him to war after his initial victories of 1805-6?


No. If you want to have fun in a sandbox setting, building up your forces, mopping up ennemies, etc. You can. but the game will not be stimulating nor fun if you want to stick to some sort of historical roleplaying for several reasons, : the AI is still clueless diplomatically but the main issue is that force building and structuring is very bad (ie building too much arty and cav, etc..) and once the Austrians or Prussians have been trashed once, they are gutted for the whole game.

vaalen
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Re: A Full Campaign played... two years after my first.

Thu May 11, 2017 3:07 pm

Thank you, that is a very inspiring post.

I have had great enjoyment with this game, but got discouraged by the failure of the AI to build good armies, some of the diplomatic issues, and the problem referred to by Veji, that once you defeat Austria and Prussia, the AI is never able to rebuild a decent army for them.

Have you found that any of these have changed?

I love the feel of this game, for many of the same reasons you have described. I thought that fixing just a few issues would make it into the best game ever on the subject. Sadly, the resources to do this are not available, though I hope they someday will be.

But it sounds like you have had a wonderful time with the game recently, and you have inspired me to start playing it again.

Regards,

Vaalen

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Colonel Marbot
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Re: A Full Campaign played... two years after my first.

Fri May 12, 2017 11:13 pm

@Vaalen

To answer the questions concerning diplomacy, supply and army build, I will say that they have improved but still have a ways to go.

In terms of diplomacy, it feels like the minor countries have been tweeked to give some sort of affinity index with France and countries such as the Rhine confederation although beginning neutral will quickly come to the French side. They are also much more willing to donate expeditionary forces. I got good sized cadres from Naples, Italy, Westphalia, etc. The challenge I remember with diplomacy was that the historical event cards were unforgiving and would create Catch 22s. For instance you sign the peace with Austria, Ulm is given back to them, and now you can't dissolve the HRE and form the Rhine Confederation because Austria has Ulm. So... you had to learn to not sign a peace unless it gave Ulm to you as part of the deal. Those kinds of things have been largely corrected, but still not perfect. For instance in my most recent game, I conquered Prussia and formed Westphalia before trying to Annex Hanover and as a result was never able to. As a result I merely occupied Hanover for the game. It is a bit annoying to have to look at that unused Annex Hanover event card, but in the larger scheme it just doesn't effect the play of your campaign in any really significant manner.

Supply is an interesting element. At launch of the game, historical supply was impossible. Now, I don't know, i will need to retry it. Probably we needed a mid-point between basic supply and historical supply in terms of difficulty. I will say though that it is interesting because all of us are benefiting from historical knowledge and when we invade Russia or Spain, by its very nature we are taking steps to protect supply lines. I used a lot of cavalry for that purpose in my campaign. I also rarely moved during harsh weather, breaking my advance into two pieces (as many had stated that Napoleon should have gone into Bivouac around Smolensk in 1812.) I waited for winter to pass before I marched my troops out of Russia. Had I done what Napoleon had done, I likely would have had supply lines cut and have paid a terrible price retreating through harsh weather.

The army build issue has improved. The former challenge of it building artillery because it was building the easiest cheapest at that moment, has definitely improved. It seems to be fielding significant sized divisions as replacements, but no, I have not seen a replacement sized Corp or Army thrown against me. So, the game does not support something like the 1809 campaign where Charles built a new Nationalistic Army that was greatly improved.

So.. instead of invading Austria again in 1809 with a large army, it is more likely that your army is looking for opportunities against the Ottomans or perhaps the Sicilians. Absolutely not historical, but an invasion of Sicily can be challenging from a transport perspective since you are keeping your fleets massed on the Atlantic coast of France. And laying siege of Constantinople, followed by a campaign through the hills to Persia is another challenge that can be fun.

The AI was not asked about, but I will say that this is more important to me than say recreating supply challenges. The previous AGEOD title on Napoleon was a good game as well, but the AI would do crazy things, for instance in the 1812 campaign when Barclay de Tolly would decide to execute a Guderian style Blitzkrieg attack against Napoleon's 600K men. AS mentioned in my previous post, the AI still can be improved but is much better than previously.

The game right now in its current condition is more fun for me to play than any other Napoleonic title I have run across. No, it is not perfect and yes, experience helps with the game. (Such as if you get three generated errors come across on turn changes, then shut the program down and bring it back up again, since a hard crash is imminent). Is this kind of thing optimal, no... of course not, but I am not going back to a game created 10 years ago. There are some older titles that are very board-game-like which are aesthetically not as appealing and there are newer titles that are very abstract due to their scale. From a tactical perspective, I will say that I love the Scourge of War Series, but they are just plain hard work, as you find yourself running around the battlefield changing formations and hoping that you do not have the other side of the line routing while you are trying to manage this side of the line.

I hope things go well for you in your future campaigns. - R

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