Jim Miller (left) force marches his
way to victory against GM Jeff Cornett.
A Mighty Cannonade
Among all the block wargames, Napoleon is unique in
that battles are fought on a separate tactical map. Armies are
moved on the campaign map but battles are won through a combination
of cavalry, infantry and artillery combined arms tactics. This
year's tournament had some truly great battles that resolved
several exciting campaigns.
One of the early highlights of the tournament was a second
round rematch of last year's Finals opponents. This time the
sides were reversed, but the bid was the same at a tournament
high 10 step-increases to the French for the right to play the
Allies. Playing the Allies this time, Phil Rennert set up the
exact defense successfully used against him in last year's Finals.
Scott Cornett was confronted for the first time with the challenge
of how to crack his own patented Autobahn Defense.
The French advanced in force toward Liege while splitting off
half a dozen units to assault Ghent. The British chased the French
out of Ghent, but the forces needed to do this allowed the French
to overwhelm the Prussians on the other front and seize Liege.
The Prussians fell back toward Brussels while throwing out pickets.
The Prussians soon dissolved from supply attrition. The Allies
promptly surrendered in a match that lasted only an hour.
The first semi-final matched five-time WBC finalist Jeff
Cornett against veteran wargamer, Daniel Broh-Kahn, who had played
over 100 games of Napoleon, but mostly the older Avalon
Hill version of the game. Daniel settled for only one step increase
to play the French, but it did not matter. Under Napoleon's personal
leadership, six French cavalry force-marched to capture Ghent
before nightfall. During the night they were surrounded. In the
morning, the entire British army plus the Prussian cavalry easily
defeated and captured Napoleon.
The second semi-final matched defending champion, Scott Cornett,
as the Allies (bid of 6), against Jim Miller, a veteran wargamer
with but four games of Napoleon played prior to this tournament.
Having just defeated his own Autobahn defense, Scott deviated
from his usual Allied strategy and adopted the Cornett Center
Defense used by his father. Jim's attack led to a exciting game
with numerous combats on the tactical board. The following is
Jim's personal account of how things went:
"The bid was for six extra steps for the French - all taken
with cavalry. Napoleon's main thrust was along the Hal road towards
Brussels with two five-unit groups aimed at Ghent and a six-unit
diversion maneuvering in the direction of Liege. The allies shifted
the bulk of the Prussian forces west to aid Wellington while
a nine-unit force shadowed the French eastern diversion. June
16th saw Napoleon focusing too intently on what he was going
to do to the Allies instead of what the allies could do to him.
The French main force at Braine le Compte was caught by the converging
Anglo-Dutch and Prussian forces and defeated, with the Grand
Army retreating in haste to Soignes. Napoleon moved up a six-unit
force to Enghien to cover the thrust towards Ghent and assist
the Grand Army.
At this point the Allies' dilemma was whether to use their moves
to again pound the Grand Army or to trap the French diversionary
force heading towards Ghent in a surround attack and potentially
eliminate it. The Allies chose the former resulting in another
ignominious defeat of the Grand Army, which retreated to Mons,
and the elimination of the French corps at Enghien. At this point,
the French army was only five blocks from total collapse, with
the only good news being that the French flanking force on the
right had taken Liege and that on the left had occupied Ghent.
Otherwise, the Allies have not lost a single block.
Fortunately for Napoleon, the fall of night allows him to gain
a temporary reprieve from total destruction and concentrate the
battered Grand Army at Ghent before the Allies can deliver the
knock out blow. Needing only five more kills for a well earned
victory, the Allies must decide between knocking out the Grand
Army at Ghent or the diversionary corps holding Liege as they
are both Allied supply cities. In a council of war, Wellington
and Blucher decide to go after the Corsican ogre and thus reshuffle
their forces for the final knockout blow in the battle of Ghent.
On the 17th, three columns of the combined Allied armies simultaneously
storm Ghent. The battle opens with a massive Allied cannonade
on the French right. In a desperation move, Napoleon launches
every horseman he can still muster on the Allied right, a move
that is immediately countered by the Allied cavalry. Remember
those extra six French cavalry steps awarded from the bid? In
a battle of attrition they prove decisive. Whereas the French
cavalry has its finest day, the Allied horsemen seem confused
as to which end of the sabre goes into the other guy, and the
Allied grand battery appears to be using damp gunpowder.
While the carnage in the cavalry battle plays out, Napoleon launches
three infantry divisions at the Allied center. The battle degenerates
into a slugfest with most of the units being reduced to single
steps, Wellington and Napoleon desperately rallying units in
the cavalry battle and Blucher attempting to rally the Allied
center. The Allied center finally cracks, and Napoleon wins a
miracle victory having lost but a single additional block thanks
to those six extra cavalry steps and a lucky Lego dice tower."
The lesson learned in last year's tournament was to always
bid one more for the right to play the Allies. (It's a simple
rule to remember.) However, Jeff's strategy was to play the French
but at the exact same step-increase price Jim successfully used
against his son in the semi-finals. If Jim could defeat both
Cornetts bidding the same price, but playing each side once,
he would certainly deserve the tournament win.
Jim set up using a slightly split defense, with the British surrounding
Brussels, and the Prussians centered on Ligny with four cavalry
dangled like a worm to entice the French to attack Charleroi.
Jeff decided to pounce upon the Prussian flank before the British
could arrive to save the day.
Thus, the Finals
would be a strategy matchup between Miller's daring "Come
and Get My Prussians" defense against Cornett's "Meet
Me in Namur" French attack.
Napoleon force-marched the best of the French army to Ciney,
Marche and Dinant on Turn 1, threatening the entire Prussian
flank. The Prussians concentrated in Namur and Huy (minus their
cavalry). The British grouped in Waterloo in preparation for
a desperation force-march to reinforce the Prussians.
On Turn 2, the French crossed the Meuse river to attack the Prussians
in both Namur and Huy. After a brief fight, the Prussians retreated
from both battles, and were left with divided forces. The French
reinforced with a strong concentration of forces in both cities.
Six other French continued up toward Ghent, while five French
light infantry straggled behind in Givet.
With the Prussians split into pieces, and the British a long
ways away, prospects looked grim for the Allies. Their only chance
was to force march the British to within reinforcing range of
Namur, while sending the Prussians to engage in Namur while also
attacking in Huy to tie down half the French army. The opening
setup for the Allies in both battles looked bleak, but the Allies
would have strong reinforcements to bring in each turn in Namur.
With most of the French cavalry in Huy, they charged the Prussian
center on Turn 1 and broke the Prussian army on Turn 2. This
quickly freed up reinforcements for the decisive battle in Namur.
The setup in Namur revealed the French grand battery concentrated
on the French right, with only a few units of infantry to defend
the center and left. The Allies were lightly defended in all
three fronts with virtually no artillery, but with the Prussian
cavalry available in reserve. The Allied cavalry charged the
French left flank supported by light infantry. The Allies brought
up desperately needed reinforcements. The French grand battery
fired blanks on the right, while the French infantry formed square
on the left.
Facing infantry in square, the Allied cavalry withdrew leaving
their infantry while Allied reinforcements continued to flow
into the battle. The French grand battery again proved not so
grand, and the infantry on the left came out of square. Nevertheless,
with the battle in Huy resolved, fresh super-cavalry (remember
the bid of six step increases) began to arrive in reserve, while
the grand battery should eventually overwhelm the enemy on the
In the spirit of just playing out the game, the Allies launched
an all out cavalry charge in the middle using most of the British
and Prussian cavalry. Caught with minimal defenders, the odds
started to look uncertain for the French in the middle. The infantry
in the middle had to form square, resulting in the French cavalry
reinforcements in the middle being chewed up by the charging
As the French battery continued to unimpress on the right, the
Allies reinforced that flank to create an even artillery duel.
Meanwhile, the forces from both sides on the left flank became
a mixture of 1's and 2's causing a slow moving battle of attrition.
Napoleon and Wellington were working hard to rally their troops
to keep fighting.
The battle in the middle was reinforced heavily from both sides
with heavy casualties in fierce hand to hand combat. After initially
just hanging on, the French cavalry in the middle finally proved
superior. The Allies were reduced to one 1 there with other 1's
disengaging. The five remaining French cavalry 2's now looked
supreme on the battlefield, and began studying their targets
At this moment, the seven Allied cannons fired at long range
against what was now only five strength points of French guns.
This volley resulted incredibly in six hits (die rolls of 1).
The remaining five strength of French artillery were obliterated
in one devastating volley, thus breaking the flank, winning the
battle and the game.
Jim's wargaming experience (and dice) proved decisive. Congratulations!
He learned this game very quickly, and was near flawless on the
tactical board. His inexperience in playing on the campaign map
almost ruined him. However, aggressive force-marching allowed
the Final to be closer then expected and resolved by dice (similar
to the Semi-Final). One of the keys to winning Napoleon
is to work the campaign map well enough so that the game comes
down to a close battle that can be decided by good battle tactics
(plus a little luck).
For more details and a complete history of the WBC Napoleon tournament,