The classic wooden block wargame:
20 players participated in the 2002 Napoleon tournament
-- almost a 50% increase from the 14 who played in 2001. The
tutorial drew about nine people -- about half of whom were newcomers
learning the game for the first time, and the other half were
old-timers who last played years ago using the previous Avalon
Hill edition. Some of the new players chose to play each other
in the first round. Otherwise, players were matched randomly,
yet so that players with copies of the Napoleon game were
scheduled against those without. Good sportsmanship was demonstrated
throughout the tournament. Many of the newcomers appreciated
the lessons their more experienced opponents taught them and
plan to apply these lessons in next year's event.
In the semi-finals, last year's runnerup, Tom Ruta, faced
2000 champ Jeff Cornett. Jeff was expecting to see the "Ruta
Center Probe" first introduced in last year's finals. However,
when confronted with the "Cornett Center Defense",
Tom decreed that "it was time to learn something new."
Tom chose an attack formation that flooded the British flank,
but with a handful of units deployed on his right to distract
the Prussians. The game ended early when Jeff surrounded and
defeated a small force raiding Ghent -- which was personally
led by Napoleon himself! In the other semi-final, Matt Calkins
was matched against Scott Cornett. Scott conceded his match for
scheduling reasons -- allowing Scott, Matt and Jeff to each play
in other tournament finals on Sunday morning.
The finals thus matched tournament newcomer Matt Calkins'
French army against Jeff Cornett's Allied forces. The game was
memorable more for strategic maneuver than for the fast, but
decisive, battles themselves. As Matt described it, the game
proceeded through two distinct phases: 1) the "Forced March"
phase where the French advanced rapidly while the Allies scrambled
for cover, and 2) the "Attack" game where both sides
initiated major battles. At first, it seemed like the Allies
would use the hide in Brussels and retreat to Liege long game
strategy. Later, when the French started to shift their forces
threatening an end run on Liege, the Allies came out of hiding
to attack the flanking French army in Nivelles. With vastly superior
artillery, the outcome of this battle was never in doubt. However,
the victory left Brussels open for the French to take -- which
they promptly did on the next turn. The French also immediately
pounced on the regrouped British army in Waterloo, while the
Prussians were momentarily distracted with a soak-off attack
back in Nivelles. After quickly dispatching the French skirmishers,
Blucher once again marched to the sound of the guns to save the
day at Waterloo.
Aside from the battles themselves, the most interesting aspect
of the game was the initial set-up. Players bid on sides with
Jeff winning the right to play the Allies for a cost of three
step-reductions. It was then discovered that there was a misunderstanding
over the size of the British artillery in their II Corps. For
WBC and PrezCon tournament play, this unit is strength 4 as printed
on the counter -- not strength 2 as shown in the historical order
of battle sheet. Players agreed to rebid for sides with Jeff
again winning the Allies -- this time for a cost of five step
reductions (three off the Prussians and two from the British).
The former champ then promptly set up his book opening as the
Allies, after which Matt pondered for a long while how to attack
the Cornett Center Defense. The challenger's answer (now referred
to as the "Calkins Left Sweep") was to push the entire
French army up the gap toward the sparsely defended British side.
This involved 20 forced marches on the first turn alone! Unfortunately,
it also resulted in a worse than average ten step reductions
due to attrition. This made the bid of five step reductions for
the Allies look cheap, and ultimately left the French weakened
for the major battles to come. With a comfortable 8 PM start,
the game was played at a leisurely pace. The entire first turn
took about two hours, and the game did not end until 1:30 am,
lasting over five hours.
The defending champion,
George Seary, did not attend this year. Consequently, we did
not have the chance to see a repeat of the "Seary British
Forward Defense" attacked by the Ruta Center Probe as used
in the 2001 WBC finals. As you can see, one of the most intriguing
aspects to the Napoleon game is the variety of strategies
that are employed by different players. Who can say what the
perfect offense or defense is, but if someone ever figures it
out, the method of bidding for sides using step reductions would
soon obsolete any such strategy. Start planning now for next
year's WBC tournament, and if you make it to the final, you too
can have an original opening strategy named after you.
For more details, browse to http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/rabdwombat/nap_review_2002.htm.