Franco Prussian War
Games; 6, Prussian wins = 1, French wins = 5
This game deserves a write up for 2 reasons, firstly it is the last magazine game that I enjoyed playing, I have played 1918 and Salerno since then but can't say that either was much fun. Secondly Russo Turkish War is due out soon, because the 2 games have the same basic system this piece is the nearest I can get to reviewing a game that has not come out yet. I will cut from tradition and write the bottom line here, at the top, FPW is a fun game playing in about 2 1/2 hours, but has 2 big drawbacks. The simulation cannot be accurate because the French are likely to win and it falls down as a game because the French are likely to win.
Having frightened off anyone from buying the game I will describe it in detail and give a few hints towards weakening the French advantage. The game is by " pick a chit " Miranda and it shows, it owes a lot to Trajan and Afghanistan, if you hated either of these you need not read any further (is there anybody left out there ?). The game uses 3 separate types of chit, 10 are combat chits with results of combat on them, write down this info and roll a D10 for combat instead. We are left with 2 sets that will have to stay. Random event chits are drawn on a die roll of 1, 1 2 or not at all depending on how well the side is doing. They are also drawn on winning a major battle, the chits may benefit either side but if the result could benefit the enemy it can be kept out of play to confer an advantage. These events did or could have happened at the time and include the likes of an Austrian war against Prussia, a Spanish war against France, revolts in Algeria or South Germany, the 3rd Republic, the Commune and so forth. They are fairly balanced but because the winning side will draw more chits, it will benefit most, this effect tends to shorten the game which is no bad thing.
The last type of chits are issued by general (French) and HQ (Prussian) counters, which also act as marker units, their commands being kept (hidden) off board. These units can issue 1 or 2 chits except the Prussian FGS (Field General Staff) that can give up to 3 chits to itself or any HQ within 3 hexes. These operations chits bend the rules, players will use them as often as possible stacking 2 commanders together for extra chit picking power. A lone unit has to roll to move with a 50% chance of success, if it fails it may stay still, fall back or charge off towards the enemy. Play a chit and the whole stack moves freely. In combat the defender can hit the attacker before same can cause any damage, not so with a chit, the attacker shoots 1st, if both sides play chits the defender still shoots 1st. Without playing a chit units can only trace supply 5 hexes, pick a chit and the unit can trace to a HQ and then along railway lines to the supply source, usually fortifications. Finally they are used to raise extra troops. The Frenchie has a slight problem because 40% of his chits say ineffective on the back, if pulled the effect is the same as if no chit was pulled and no you can't try again with the same leader. 20% of the chits say elan representing some quirk of good luck, this allows the stack to move twice or always fire first in combat
National Will affects game play as it governs the number of random event chits pulled and the degree of recruiting allowed. It is forced down by winning battles and capturing key forts. The game starts with Prussian forces concentrated near the border and the French scattered around, the Prussian needs to knock these out fast before they gather together and recruit sizeable armies. If the French can keep enough troops and not lose Paris they will march into Germany. The key to the game are the victory forts, they boost the defence of French units and lie on railway junctions that the Prussian will have to clear to advance on Paris. As a bonus reinforcements come on at forts so if captured new troops will arrivefarther away, finally a force defending in a fort may surrender if the attacker "has siege artillery, "a painless victory.
Any game on the subject must address the Napoleon problem, never a great commander he was now aging but still C in C, some commanders (Bazaine) gave allegiance to him 1st and France 2nd. A game on the FPW without him would be like the Russian campaign without the snow. In this game Napoleon must remain within 5 hexes of an enemy stack or be in Germany to avoid a drop in French National will, as a bonus the French gain greater rewards if he commands a force that wins a major battle. Historically his surrender led to the 3rd Republic, much to the surprise of the Prussians who had expected the war to end at this point. In the game if the Prussian holds the 3rd Republic event chit, there will be no Republic when the Napoleon counter is eliminated, usually in battle, the French then fight on but will probably lose. It is more likely that this counter will not have been drawn and the loss of Napoleon gives the French the advantage of the 3rd Republic.
Basically this means new (decent) leaders and a massive increase in recruiting ability and National Will, the down side is these new troops are of low standard and that the regular army is demoralised (fights at 1/2 strength) for a turn or 2. This option has turned up in over 1/2 the games I have played and I can safely say that the gains outweigh the losses, it is worth considering letting Napoleon go as long as not too many troops are lost with him. Don't do this straight away, wait until the French troops are concentrated 1st, if the French are doing OK with him keep the guy but if things look bad it is worth the hassle of losing him. The new troops that the Republic can raise are simply not bad enough, true, they are easily demoralised and a 2nd demoralised result in combat means elimination but they are easily replaced. I recommend reducing the movement allowance of the mobiles from 10 to 5 to represent the (justified) fear of advancing that the mobiles' commanders had. Also reduce the roll needed for a successful French railroad use to 5 or 6 at all times, the French did not have the railway organisation of the Prussians.
I've got the Franco-Prussian and Russo-Turkish War games from the Wars of the Imperial Age series. I played 1 game of the Franco-Prussian War in which the 2 forward French armies were destroyed in the first Prussian turn. The Northernmost French army was surrounded and couldn't retreat after combat. The Eastern army was demoralised and the Prussian player drew the political chit that would cause a demoralised army to surrender at the end of his turn and played it immediately.