Basic tactics for SPI's game Napoleon at War / explained by Bob Merry This article has been written in an attempt to give newcomers to boardgaming a little insight into the tactical possibilities that arise from a grasp of some of the basic rules. My own interest lies principally in Napoleonic warfare and I have, therefore, based the examples on the Napoleon at War rules. However, there are a large number of games, from SPI and others, whose rules are based on those developed in 1972 for Napoleon at Waterloo, refined in Borodino and Austerlitz and now used for the Napoleon at War and Napoleon's Last Battles QuadriGames. Consequently, many of the tactics described here can be readily adapted for games with similar rules. The tactical key is mainly to be found in the Combat Results Table, an example of which is shown below: The first point to notice is that between odds of 1-2 and 3-1 the only results are Dr and Ar - an apparently "bloodless" form of combat. At 4-1 and above there are De results but coupled with these are chances of Ex results. As we shall see, this is quite significant. Now let us look at a couple of the rules which will have a bearing on our tactics. Firstly, we will quote part of the rule concerning retreats: "A retreating unit may not retreat into a prohibited hex, cross a prohibited hex-side, or enter an Enemy controlled hex. If no hex is open to retreat into, the unit is eliminated". This is, in fact, the most common way of eliminating Enemy units. The rules also allow a player, prior to an attack, to voluntarily reduce the odds for that attack. With these factors in mind, let us consider a few examples. In each case, the attacker is moving up the map. Consider Fig.l. The attacker, who is about to move, has a strong infantry unit and a cavalry unit available to engage an isolated enemy cavalry unit. How should he plan his attack ? The first alternative is a direct assault by the infantry . This attack (Fig.2.) gives odds of 4-1, with a one-in-six chance of eliminating the Enemy unit, a one-in-six chance of a very costly exchange (since all 9 strength points are required to satisfy the Ex rule!) and four chances of the Enemy making a withdrawal. Although this can be followed up with an advance after combat which, because combat in NAW is mandatory in Zones of Control, commits the Enemy to either fighting at 1-5 next phase, or reinforcing the position, generally speaking this is not a very good tactic. Nevertheless, it occurs surprisingly often when the uninitiated attempt to employ brute force against small units. In Fig.3., the cavalry unit has been involved, increasing the odds to 5-l. There are now two chances of a De result, two chances of an Ex result, but with the cavalry unit now able to absorb the attacker's share of the loss and only two chances of a retreat. This is clearly preferable to the previous example and may well be occasionally used where a frontal attack on a weak point is unavoidable. However, in the example we are considering, there is another alternative. A typical strategy used by Napoleon was to send part of his force to outflank the enemy and cut his supply lines before the frontal engagement. We can adapt this principle here in a tactical situation. In Fig.4. the more mobile cavalry unit has circled the enemy (and his Zones of Control, which do not allow movement through) and come up behind. The infantry has moved ready for the frontal assault. The enemy is now surrounded by Zones of Control with the four hexes marked 'x' in Fig.4. being adjacent to one or other of the attackinq units. There is now no escape route in the event of a Dr result and the enemy will be eliminated instead. In which case, why risk an exchanqe? In some games, losses can more easily be borne by one side. If the attacker were to be in the situation where any loss would cause a weakness, either because of the disposition of his forces or because the effects of losses hit him harder, it would be preferable that the one-in-six chance should be one of Ar rather than Ex. The odds should be voluntarily reduced to 3-1 before the attack. A throw of 6 would be frustratinq but qenerally speaking the reduction in odds is advisable, especially in the early stages of a game. So much for picking off a weak, isolated unit - now let us see how to deal with a short line of units, such as that in Fig.5. Here, the three infantry units should be vulnerable to the superior strength of the attack, so how can we best take advantage of the situation? The flanking enemy cavalry prevent us from getting units to the rear of the line, as we did in the previous example and many players would settle for the frontal assault, merely hoping to gain ground. However, intelligent choice of the order of combats and the use of the "advance after combat" option open to victorious units may prove to be a little more profitable. Fig.6. shows the situation after the Movement Phase. The cavalry units have moved to the flank to hold the opposing cavalry, leaving all the infantry units free to deal with the enemy infantry. Bombarding artillery are also useful in diversionary attacks in those games where they can attack from two hexes away. Leaving aside the flanks, which are straightforward, we can now concentrate our attentions on the three combats in the centre. We will use two units of 6 strength points each to attack the left hand infantry unit, a similar combination against the right of the line and two 9 point units against the centre. This gives us three attacks to be resolved: (A) at 2-1, (B) at 3-1 and (C) at 2-1. The possible orders for these attacks, allowing for the symmetry of the situation, are, basically, ABC, ACB or BAC. Fig.7. shows the position after successful attacks at (A) and (B), with the appropriate advance after combat. The final enemy unit is now surrounded by ZOCs and a third lucky throw of the die will eliminate it. A similar fate awaits the centre unit if we resolve the combats in the order ACB. Tempting as it may be to "roll up" the line in a logical order, we have a potentially more profitable alternative. Look at the situation in Fig.8., which results from successful B attack. Now, both the other units are vulnerable. A word of caution, however. There is a one-in-three chance of failure in each of the 2-1 attacks and a one-in-nine chance of them both resulting in an Ar results. In this event, the advanced unit from the initial attack would itself be cut off and unable to retreat as a result of the counter-attack in the next phase. Each situation must be judged on its merits, but remember that a weak unit is just as effective as a strong one in cutting off retreats with its ZOC, so it may be wise to use weaker units for advancing after combat in positions similar to the example cited. It is also possible in many NAW-type games to enhance attacks with bombarding artillery but, again, keep the odds down to 3-1 to avoid Ex results. The tactics described above can be extended to longer lines, with attacks being alternated along the line to create the "surround with ZOC" situations. Reasonable luck with the die should allow the odd prize to be picked So far in this article, we have looked at some basic attack situations and seen how we should try to devise attacks that surround the defender with ZOC so that retreat is impossible. We will end by seeing what lessons can be learnt from this to aid the defence. In many games, one side starts as the weaker force and has to hold ground until the arrival of later reinforcements redresses the balance. The Allied position at Waterloo is one such example, whilst the Allied side in Battle of Nations is probably an even better case. On the first day of the Battle of Nations, the advantage is definitely with Napoleon and, unless the defence is conducted correctly, he can take advantage of this to end the battle before the main body of the Allied reinforcements arrives. Consider Fig.9. Here the defending units are spread out such that it is irnpossible to surround any units because of the ZOC over lapping. Even after successful attacks, advances after combat will not cut off the line of retreat of any other units and the advanced units may themselves become the tarqet of counter-attacks. Of course, when adopting extended line defence like this, it is more than ever important to protect the flanks adequately or else units may be picked off one by one. The pivot of such a line should be a strong defensive barrier, such as an uncrossable riverside hex, a well defended town or some terrain feature that will limit the mobility of any cavalry unit that attempts to outflank the line in the way that we saw in our first example. Well, I hope that this short article will enable newcomers to boardgaming to appreciate some of the basic tactics and to avoid what should, to more experienced players, appear to be the obvious pitfalls. Have a careful look at your next game and see if the rules are based on the NAW system. You will find a wide range of games that can be played using these basic tactics. New subscribers to Strategy & Tactics will, of course, have an excellent example in the form of Napoleon at Waterloo. Like many of the early examples of the qenre, however, the Combat Results Table is a little different and the chances of Ex results greater. The rules also do not allow for voluntary reduction of odds and care is needed in planning attacks. It can be most annoying to lose your Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard in an exchange with a piffling little cavalry unit that blocks its advance - believe me, I know from bitter experience!