Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Keeping a Napoleonic Empire in Arms

Indicative of the joy of reading Dominic Lieven's Russia against Napoleon is that I've started thinking of classic Avalon Hill boardgame Empires in Arms again.

I hadn't realised it was published in 1983, neigh 30 years ago!

Lieven describes the limits to expanding the Russian army, the quality of the light cavalry horses and the trouble of acquiring enough horses for the heavy cavalry. While the light cavalry horses were plentily available from the steppes and easily maintained, the heavy cavalry horses had to be bred specifically for this purpose and as a result were scarce and expensive. This meant that Russian commanders were very careful with their heavy cavalry. You don't see this reflected in most wargames (board or miniatures), which is a pity.

But it made me look at Empires in Arms again and check whether it reflected the above. It doesn't, of course. On the other hand, it is probably not a decisive factor and only adds colour.

It is a long held dream of mine to play in an EiA campaign again. I did two years of game time of it in a couple of months when I was 18 or so. I've been harking to get back since.

Infantry and cavalry corps counters as well as a leader

The great thing about EiA is that it combines operations with geo-politics and diplomacy with long term choices in building up your army. Creating a pool of untrained troops at home that can be used to replace losses is smart, while cavalry is expensive and takes a long time before it's ready. Careful planning is therefor required.

The cool thing is also that reparations can be imposed on defeated opponents in peace treaties. This hampers their ability to rebuild their army, which was exactly what happened historically as Lieven shows.

The game is a bit of rough diamond. I've seen a few online campaigns of EiA get bogged down in rules arguments and player drop outs, so I'm not too eager to join in. I have thought about buying the computer game, but never got round (and probably shouldn't, considering my inability to withstand the temptation of playing the heck out of computer games). So if you've got a copy lying around unused, DON'T get in touch!

Probably a post-retirement plan, then. I'd better live healthy and keep an eye on the longevity of potential opponents...

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