Monthly Meeting Saturday 6 December 2003

after action report


"A man will fight harder for his interests than for his rights." ~ Napoleon Bonaparte


A session report as was told by a British officer in 1805 - by Lawrence Hung


We gathered a group of 7 to play "Soldier Emperor" (Avalanche Press), a sequel system to the "Soldier's King" by the same designer Rob Markham.  It is a grand strategic Napoleonic game and all major powers get played with these 7 guys - France, Britain, Spain, Russia, Austria, Prussia and Turkey.  Be prepared for the micro-management it needs though, as it is a Markham authorship design - a lot of tactical decisions on a grand strategic scale.


We played the 1805 scenario, i.e. the beginning of the Napoleon's aggression in Europe .  Things soon get heated up in the first year alone when both Prussians and Austrians ganged upon Napoleon's France.  The British would harass the French coast of Normandy and Brittany and France would then have a war on two fronts.  Spanish, automatically allied with France initially, fought with British for control  over the Mediterranean and Atlantic.  The Turks, on the other hand, would lurk into North Africa, where no major power was present. 


The game does have a diplomacy phase but there's not much to do initially.  The use of cards during battles is tricky because some of them do have significant effects on the battle outcome. 


The concepts of Money and Manpower pull a string on everybody when planning their campaign, whereas everyone has to support their army in the winter phase.  One strange rule that troubles players is the leader casualty rule.  The rule makes leaders almost no hope of surviving from a grand battle where both sides have had serious damage inflicted  in terms of troop step losses.  Looks more like a grand finale every time you conduct a major battle.  One tactic to counter this is to bring along another leader but this is quite absurd as soon you find no more leaders to call on after several battles.  A deterrent to the use of Napoleon initially which is not historically convincing as Napoleon liked to be present at the battlefields commanding his generals and troops.


I played the British and, worrying about the French might come across the Strait, started the first Spring season doing nothing, overlooking what's going to happen in Continental Europe.  The game saw the Russian invading Austria, hungry for more money to support his huge army.  France, taking advantage of the Russian invasion, also invaded into the hinterland of Austria near Wien in Spring. 


Prussian was busy in setting up the Rhine Federation, hoping to take control of the neutrals bloodlessly.  The British did hold back the French army on the Northern shore from intervening against the Prussians' moves, by deploying a significant force under Jervis in London.  Spain, on the other hand, went on to blockade Gibraltar, one of the British colonies that helps generate rich treasury income, such that the French could move onto Malta, another British colony, in the Mediterranean Sea. 


The summer saw the campaign in Austria heating up.  The Austrians lost Archduke Charles and the French lost Messina while accompanying Napoleon.  The French did win the battle and took the city.  The Russians set sail to the Baltic Sea and landed in Sweden.  Everyone then tried to influence the Swedish to become allied with them.  The Brits finally got the deal by rolling the highest number of the sum of two dice and raised two independent armies, stopping the Russian's further advance in Scandinavia . 


Back in the Mediterranean, Malta fell into the hands of the French because of the bad British intelligence (a card effect played by Spain on the Brits) sending a British fleet to the Black Sea.  The blockade on Gibraltar ended and Nelson was brought on to the city, commanding ships to intercept any fleet moving between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.  Seeing the French pushing his troops forward to the East, the Brits landed on and took Brittany by besieging the city successfully.  The French now found that he was fighting on two fronts.


In Autumn, Spain came to the rescue of France by sending a fleet of 3 north to blockade Scotland.  The British navy intercepted them out of Brittany and only one Spanish fleet could make it through.  If things could not be corrected by the end of winter, the Brits would loose 7 money for just one blockaded port.


The French also massed up an army to head to take back Brittany.  The cunning Brits, however, played Burned Bridges and Trap cards, making the French attack futile at only half its usual strength.  The Brits held onto the city in the end after this brilliant tactical manoeuvre.


Back to the continent, the Austrian counter-attacked the French near the city of Wien with one huge army.  The Austrian was aided by the Russian (with a play of card) and an army doubled its strength.  The battle resulted into Napoleon's death but the French retained control of the city.  The Brits moved last in this phase and they fought the Spanish fleets up north, forcing the Spanish away. 


The game ended in the winter phase with no one getting an automatic victory.  We decided that the Prussian did the best in the game so far as he had avoided any major battle with the French and had set up the Rhine Federation successfully.  The Turks, on the other hand, did not do many things except helping the Brits to grow their population (the Brits have the lowest manpower level) in return for money traded for recruiting contingents.    


Overall, the game does present challenging options to all players (powers) and it can accommodate up to 7 players.  On the downside, the more players you have, the longer the game takes.  It took 6 hours for a 7-player game just to finish the first year.  Some players could do little but sit there and wait for their turn to come.  The use of cards that can help your allies did compensate this nothing-to-do time though.  Buy extra dice before you play this game . . . only 4 dice are provided in the game and the fact that you need a lot of die-rolling during battles makes it impossible to live with that.  (1 dice for every strength point you have, e.g. 20 die-rolls for 20 strength points participating in combat or 4 dice x 5 times).  We did, however, enjoy the game as much as we could even though we could not finish the whole game.




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