John Tiller’s Napoleonic Battles: Campaign Bautzen – PC Game Review
Passed Inspection: There is a wealth of scenarios, campaign options, editorial options and resource materials. Easy interface that is standard for all Tiller games.
Failed Basic: AI is rather weak in some scenarios that are not specifically designated for solo play.
The battery thundered and the men on the flank of the formation, nearest to the guns, flinched at the report. The brigadier, looking at the enemy lines with his telescope, commented to all around, “They will all step off after the next volley of the guns.” The guns thundered again.
Up and down the lines could be heard the command, “Battalion, Forward!” The men stepped off, not all at the same time, but they got moving. “Harumpf!” grunted the brigadier, “They don’t seem to be too keen. Sloppy, sloppy, I expected better of Colonel Prien.”
Smoke from the guns drifted towards the enemy’s lines. There was the slight “pop” of skirmish fire as the lines of men moved towards the enemy position atop the crest of a hill. As the lines of the battalions closed upon the enemy, there came the familiar rippling sound of a volley of musket fire. “Don’t stop, don’t stop!,” muttered the brigadier as he watched intently thru his telescope. But one battalion did, and it let loose a ragged volley before it started moving again. Two battalions struck into the enemy, but the one that stopped to return fire had given the enemy time to reload and fire again before the men could close.
The men were unnerved. A few turned and ran, at first only one or two, but as the sergeants tried to turn them around others joined their flight. Then, as if on command the whole battalion’s morale snapped like a twig, and the men broke for the rear. The other men of the brigade were in close with the enemy.
“Blast and Balderdash!” yelled the Brigadier, “Colonel Mecklin, get those damn men stopped and turned around!” Turning his telescope back upon the hill, the brigadier saw a none-too-pleasant sight:. The enemy in front of the fleeing battalion had moved forward and, coming over the hill, he could see a fine unit of cuirassiers. “Major Sehenstedt, form the reserve battalion into square, and get those guns firing on that cavalry!”
There has been a steady supply of John Tiller-inspired Napoleonic games available from John Tiller Software directly or thru HPS Games, and the latest, Napoleonic Battles: Campaign Bautzen is a great addition to the previous eight titles. This one not only allows you to refight the actions that occurred during the spring of 1813 in and around the great battles of Bautzen and Lutzen, but there are also a host of scenarios that cover the Russo-Swedish Wars that occurred in 1808–1809. Some of these scenarios are quite challenging and the terrain can be frustrating, but some include a new unit type—ships!
As with all of the previous titles, the game comes with a nice interactive tutorial, a design folder that has useful notes on the game and scenarios, Terrain Effectiveness Chart/ Weapons Effectiveness Chart, over 70 game maps and over 100 scenarios to game. Adding in the option to run thru the games using the Campaign system included, it presents a sweeping vision of the Napoleonic battlefield. There is a design file included to assist players in creating their own scenarios, as well. As a final bonus, there is an additional 36-page document that highlights the armies, gives a brief description of their components and some truly nicely illustrated uniform pictorials (see attached pdf). The game is currently only available as a download thru the John Tiller Software Website.
The game uses an I go / U go system which lends itself to email and head-to-head play. The non-phasing player may have units opportunity fire during the opponent’s turn,; however, there’s no guarantee that fire will occur. You play your turn out as you see fit: You can move one unit part of its move, then jump to another, fire some artillery, maybe begin and resolve a cavalry charge—and then you can return to the unit you started moving, to finish its move based upon what has occurred elsewhere. The things that will usually end a unit’s move include entering a ZOC, expending all of the available movement points, firing and / or conducting a melee. It is possible that as you advance upon an enemy unit, it could fire at you in every hex you enter that is in range and within its firing arc. Then you may choose to shoot back before executing a melee. But, as you commit the unit to melee, the defender may get one last shot at you before you actually fight.
Moving is as easy as highlighting a unit or stack of units and dragging and dropping to the desired hex with your mouse. The units will generally head the way you want them to, but even the best laid plans can go wrong; an infantry unit might march thru a hex occupied by cavalry and disorder both units, for example. When you don’t want to make a crucial mistake, go slowly, hex by hex. There are stacking limitations, but the game will usually tell you when that is occurring and not let you try to overstack a given hex.
Turns represent 10 minutes of real time, but for the Russo-Swedish War scenarios, turns represent 5 minutes and the game scale of the hexes is increased. Units represent battalions, batteries and squadrons normally, but Russo-Swedish War units represent companies, troops (half squadrons) and artillery sections. The scenarios can run from 8 turns to over 100 (a few near 200) for some of the big battles. Some of the maps are sprawling, allowing the armchair general to truly maneuver his troops and choose the ground to fight over.
I truly love the sweep and scope of the Tiller Series games, and this one is no exception. The game is best played against a human opponent. The designated solo play scenarios are challenging, but, if you play some of the other scenarios solo you may find the AI woefully lacking (example: the AI loves to have cavalry attack infantry, even if the infantry is in square). For many of these scenarios there is a document in the files that has specific solo play Victory Conditions for each scenario, and for a few there are also some specific special rules that apply. This is the first title I have seen where the French player may find himself saddled with lower quality troops, usually the Allied player’s burden. The French usually have better leaders (rated for a Command radius and Leadership ability) than the Allies, which can play a key role. It seems that victory as the Allied player is a bit tougher to achieve than as the French. However, isn’t that why we play wargames—not for an easy victory but for a hard-fought contest to challenge our ability? Well, that’s why I do.
The game lends itself well to email play. In fact, the Napoleonic Wargame Club uses the Tiller titles as part of the systems employed by members. The NWC is a good group of people from around the world who share an interest in the battles that framed the Napoleonic period. Drop on by and join up—you’ll find me there ready to give the command, “Battalions, Forward!”
Armchair General Rating: 89
About the Author
Michael Peccolo is a member of NWC (Napoleonic Wargame Club). A retired Armor Major from the US Army with overseas duties, Company commands and additional assignments in recruiting and ROTC, he lives in Tennessee where he raises horses with his wife. He volunteers at Ft. Knox to be a Civilian on the Battlefield.