For father’s day I got me this gem of a game:
From bgg: The Marshals III covers the campaigns of winter 1814 that took place in France north of Lyon and in Italy on the Mincio. These theatres of operation are considered to be minor since they occurred far from the Emperor’s view who was engaged in the north of France.
The rules are simple and fast to play, although they suffer from being a bit obscure in my opinion. To be honest I am often times not sure whether I am playing according to the rules. For me the rules are not unclear because they are badly written or translated from french, I guess it’s because they are really short and lack examples.
I started with what seems to be the smaller of the two games: France 1814. Again taken from bgg: In the first, the “Lion of Castiglione” must seize Geneva to cover his march on the enemy lines of communication. The second relates the Austrians’ offensive return from Dijon and the fall of Lyon after the battle of Limonest. The third covers the whole campaign from the beginnings of Augereau’s timid offensive to the loss of the “capital of the Gauls”.
Normally the game is played with fog of war and decoy units, but as I am playing solo I chose to leave out the decoys and just play it like an omniscient god. Next time – when playing solo – I will probably use decoys for the side which I deem to be “the enemy” and script their behaviour in some way. For the first game a simple get to know the game affair was all I needed though.
If I look at the set up, I am honestly not sure how the French can win. The starting forces are almost equal, but the Austrians have 3 extra stacks with reinforcements (at the top) ready to roll down on Lyon. At least the situation will be very tough on the french.
As i play solo I determined the broad strategies of both sides before making the first move. It seemed like a no-brainer at the time, but oh boy how wrong I was.
Austrians: actively defend Geneve by giving battle near the forts and then fall back on Geneve if necessary. As soon as the reinforcements arrive roll through any opposition and win big.
French: March towards Geneve as fast as possible. As I see it now, their only chance is to win a lucky field battle and seize Geneve before the real Austrian army arrives.
Turn 1: the Austrians start to concentrate their forces around the two forts near Geneve, planning to give battle there. The French on the other hand force march toward Geneve.
Turn 2: the French almost reach the forts. Austrian cavalry Division Lederer moves toward Lyon as it cannot reach the main Austrian army in time. In the southeast General Marchaund flies towards the small Austrian detachment in his way.
Note to self: wow stacks are extremely fast in this game.
Turn 3: cavalry division Lederer attacks Lyon but achieves no result. Marchaund on the other side of the map blasts through the Austrians – destroying them in two combats – and now stands a stone throw away from Geneve. In the meantime the Austrian army battles the French near the forts. French General Augerau loses the battle badly as an entire French division is late and subsequently becomes demoralised.
Turn 4: the Austrians get a free turn as the French are inactive due to an event. After winning the battle near the forts the Austrians hurry back to Geneve trying to reach it before Marchaund. They leave behind heir baggage and artillery but still fall short. Near Lyon the Division Lederer is beaten by the French defenders and falls back.
As events the Austrians draw “heavy snow fall” reducing the movement of everything, while the French draw their second reinforcement. The drama around Geneve seems to kick into overdrive with a heavy snowstorm increasing the pressure on the Austrians even more.
Let’s see who reaches Geneva first:
Turn 5: the Austrians win initiative and their cavalry reaches Geneve first. Next up Marchaund walzes in and the cavalry decides to let itself be besieged instead of being combatted by a full French division.
This now is quite the pickle for the Austrians. Division Bubba joins the party around Geneve. Maybe the Austrians can throw out Marchaund before the other frenchies come from the west?
The other Austrians – with all the artillery and baggage – can’t move due to the snow and are overtaken by the French at Fort L’Ecluse. The French force a passage and override the Austrian batteries which can’t fire due to the heavy snow. As they cannot retreat they are destroyed entirely. Finally down in the south the new division Remond joins the defense of Lyon, securing the city for good.
After this turn and with roughly one hour play time passed, I called it a day and ended the game after just 5 turns. To sum up:
The Austrians are pretty much shattered. Their army around Geneve does not exist anymore. No austrian reinforcements whatsoever came into play.
The French army is almost unharmed, in control of Geneve and has saved Lyon.
Starting out I would’ve never thought this could happen. So what did I learn:
- Stacks move fast, always put something in front of them to slow them down.
- This game is not about battles, it is about manoeuvre
- Thus you should not ignore a threat to your flanks. Small detachments are easily swept away
- Reinforcements won’t always come into play and might change play balance extremely
All in all it was an awesome first game. I am already itching to play again and set up a “proper” defense as the Austrians.