It was an interesting, bloody, but ultimately fun, “Age of Eagles” game last night. Members of the Bengal Club did a scenario loosely based on one of the smaller pre-battles before Eggmuhl 1809 between the French and Austrians. As hostilities once again opened up between Prince Charles, his Austrian army, Napoleon, and his “La Grande Arm’ee de LAllemagne” Prince Charles detected a chink in the French deployment. Davout’s III corps was far out on the right flank with their back to the Danube River attempting to move south east to link up with the Bavarian’ s and concentrate French forces better according to Napoleons wishes. Prince Charles pushed his Austrians forward in an attempt to pin and defeat Davout with his superior numbers. This would be a tremendous blow to not only the fighting power of the French but be a real damper on their morale as well as a great boost to Austrian pride and morale. When I say “based loosely” I mean that we did similar terrain, objectives, troop strengths, and dispositions, but added the crossing of a small river to complicate matters and help the “French” (me) balance the fact that I was facing two able commanders (Steve Gausche and Mike Estey) with about a 50% advantage in infantry on the Austrian side. The river had one bridge, one ford, but cavalry could ford anywhere with a one in six chance of stand loss during fording due to currents.
The battle started with Austrians pushing over the river on both flanks at both the ford and the bridge. Due to my lack of troop strength I was spread out trying to cover both. As the French I decided to concentrate forces on covering the bridge as it provided a much more defensible position, in fact it was as the Austrian commanders later called it a “meat grinder”! The first 5-6 turns of the game went well for the French with my well known dice rolling and “others” well known poor rolling having an effect on my Austrian opponents morale. My covering of the ‘Ford” on the left was strictly a slowing engagement with my troops not really able to stop or really even slow the Austrians down, their commanders poor activation rolls was all the help I could ask for. This had the effect of wrecking the timing of the attack on the Bridge side allowing me to again concentrate forces there and cause casualties with my reserves kept close in case of a breakthrough on that side.
Meanwhile the Austrian Cavalry crossed in the center to threaten both the left and right of the extended French line. The French commander had however placed his own 5th and 13th Hussars in the woods only a short distance form the Austrian crossing point and there quickly developed a cavalry battle with both the French and Austrians matched even up (one Austrian Cav unit was elite) going toe to toe. Once again the French commanders die rolls settled the issue and shattered the Austrians Cavalry with the remnants streaming back across the river. This French success opened the way for my cav to wheel and threaten the mass of Austrian Grenzers forming for an assault on the French Brigade holding the hill. This again had a numbing effect on Austrian morale and their command decisions suffered. The French cav charged but the Austrians managed to form square and the French Hussars bounced off. The French cav remained unchallenged in the center menacing the Austrians and contributing to the slowing of their flanking attack that so desperately needed to push through and support the attack towards the bridge.
As is usual in war games no ones luck last forever and here my die rolls started to fail at this point and the Austrians rolls picked, up in fact one of their commanders was seen to roll 2 tens in a row! Unheard of for that commander (initials SG)! The French guns were obviously running out of powder and shot since a battle here was not planned for and supplies were moving west. However it was late in the game and victory was within French grasp, in with the cold steel! throw them of balance one more time and Davout’s III corp’s escapes the trap! All across the front the French surged forward and threw the Austrians back, temporarily, but back none the less! The Austrians finally took the hill on the left flank but would still have several turns to sort themselves out and fight my rear guard before threatening the bridge. At this point the game was called, since I had secured the needed time for III corp’s to move, link up with the Bavarians, and I would now just withdraw my forces to catch up with them. The Austrians had the field at the end but again the main objective had eluded Prince Charles who historically had remained several miles away with uncommitted troops until his arrival was too late to influence the outcome.
Once again the more I play the rules the more I understand them and the better I like them! Yes it helps that I have won many of the battles played but I have also lost more than a few. I have always on looking back at the game found that the reason for my loss was due to my mistakes in usage of troops, timing of attacks, or basic strategy, etc….not in a failure of the rules. I have yet to find a situation to come up that could not be settled within the rules, I many times could not find the answer while playing but usually a short read after the game found the answer for me within the AOE rules. If you cannot find your answer in the rules there is a very active Age of Eagles yahoo group that will have an answer almost instantly! (Its one of the most active groups on Yahoo!) Age of Eagles was published in 2005 officially and was extensively play tested for several years before that so have effectively been around for 10 years. It is directly based on the game mechanics used in the widely popular American Civil War rules “Fire and Fury” with several years of work done to tailor them to the Napoleonic period. Add to this the fact that it is still widely played at conventions, is still sold and supported by its original author, and has a active forum for questions, answers, and clarifications directly from the author and many, many dedicated, knowledgeable players for me makes it rank amongst the best Napoleonic rules ever written.
As with most Napoleonic rules you may like or hate it but also as with most Napoleonic rules one must first get ones head around the authors intent in writing the rules and figure out if his intent and execution fits in with what YOU want in a Napoleonic game.
Make no mistake this is a big scale game where the smallest “maneuver” unit is a Brigade with players playing the part of division commanders or even Corps commanders. Given this level of play much of the detail found in other Napy rules is glossed over to speed game play and allow you to reasonably play the large actions that characterized the Napoleonic period in a reasonable amount of time with a reasonable amount of troops! All that without a lot of charts and referring to the rule book. The game is heavily focused on a commanders ability to get his troops to where he wants them, in the formation he wants them, and then to do what he has commanded them to! The “crux” of the Napoleonic period! Turns represent approximately 30 minutes of “real” time or longer if it is raining, night or some other scenario specific condition warrants it. Now much of the normal maneuvering, loading, formation dressing, and whatever else is happening during that time is packaged up into a simple activation roll “given the units current condition / morale / commander proximity” allowing it to execute the orders given to it this turn or not. The unit then can have full success, partial success, or even a dismal failure executing those orders. There are modifiers to this roll reflecting the units proximity to its commanders, the enemy, nationality (French are better at it), its formation, and its current condition. Firing too is amalgamated into a total number that is applied to a given enemy unit that causes disorder / casualties or both which after all is the bottom line for a units fighting and maneuver ability on the battlefield. For me there is plenty of flavor for the period left in the game and more than enough differences in troop types available after streamlining of much of the tedious processes that other rules put you through to get the same end results in a Napoleonic game.
I had left my Napoleonic figures lay on the shelf for ten years before being introduced to this set of rules by HMGS/PSW member Doug Kendrick at a Bengal Club game night and have been enjoying them ever since, I’m even painting new units for the game! So if you are interested in giving them a try or finding out more about them visit the AOE homepage http://www.ageofeagles.com or check out and ask questions of the AOE yahoo group http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/NapoleonicFireandFury/ you can also contact me for info on playing with our group in the Santa Clarita area.
Former President HMGS/PSW (Retired, yippee!)