Borodino (Gamers USA)

Borodino (Gamers USA)

Playings 2 (8 hours) 1 French, 1 Russian win

This is the 4th game that I have on Borodino with another coming up in my S&T sub. The 1st wargame that I bought was the original SPI Borodino in a plastic box at a hugely overpriced 4 pounds 55 pence. I played it a good deal to get my moneyís worth and am sure that most of the tactics from that game will not work here. The culprit (or saviour) is a command and control system based on tracing lines to superior leaders and having to roll to go if you canít. Nothing new here but the Russian organisation is something else. There are 2 Russian armies one divided into 3 Wings. Below this are Corps that have to trace command up to the Wing and then to the C in C (who canít move).

Forget any cunning plan of moving the Russians from the North to block the inevitable French flanking moves down South. These are part of the Left Wing, good troops with rubbish command initiative. Even a gentle push straight ahead should the Frenchies leave the North uncovered is going to take a lot of luck and not get very far. The French on the other hand command all their Corps direct from Napoleon who sits with Berthier giving a healthy 6 command radius (half the map).

The commands units belong to are identified by the Corps number and a rather too thin horizontal line. Luckily the full organisation is printed on the map for both sides and I can safely say that I have never spent so much time studying tables of organisation in a game. This may sound bad but is not that much work and does make one think about organisation for a change.

The key hook for this game is the use of areas and l" long infantry units. Most of these areas are designed so the long infantry units can only fit in with 1 or 2 possible facings. If the unit canít fit it canít go there. There are no areas that a long infantry unit cannot be fitted into but the required facing will restrict what can be attacked and facing your side or rear to the enemy is not good news. There are also regular square units for cavalry, artillery, leaders and a few infantry. These can be jammed in regardless of the shape of the area but do obey stacking rules. You can get 20 strength points in a regular area and 30 in a double area. This is the best part of a cavalry Corps or a long infantry unit with supporting arms. It can also be quite a squeeze in some areas, a tip is to stack the lot but leave the Corps number showing as that will be most often looked for.

Formations are activated in turn by a die roll, usually 1 at a time. When one side has activated all formations a more powerful activation table is used. Activation allows that formation to move and attack so any attempt at co-ordinating more than 1 formation will require them all to be activated at the same time. This is not going to happen often and will be happening less often for the Russians. Stacking applies during movement allowing plenty of opportunity for units to get in the way because another formation has to clear the road first.

Combat is based on both sides rolling a D6 with various modifiers for strength, position, morale, cavalry and artillery. You need a good +12 as the attacker to make it really worth rolling the bones without having to take a retreat or losses. Due to the big bonus for cavalry it becomes very hard to shift them with infantry alone. I guess that this must represent the cavalry moving back, the infantry forming square and no one going very far. The Russian can make good use of this to block his open South flank until the French sort out some cavalry in the area. The various militia infantry are a little too useful over here in absorbing heavy combat losses. The 1st loss has to come from the good stuff but the militia will happily take the rest. Losses from the advance to Moscow means that on average the Russian cavalry are better than the French.

The basic situation does not appear strong in replay value. The Russians are dug in with a weak South flank. The French have to push around this and force the centre back. A win requires eliminating a hefty number of Russian long infantry steps and not losing any light cavalry from the French cavalry Corps. A narrow win allows losing 1 or 2 of these boys but this restriction means that the French will be taking horse artillery or heavy cavalry losses when they go up against the Russian cavalry. The rationale here is that Napoleon must destroy the Russian infantry and maintain the light cavalry for his pursuit. It is hard work knocking down enough Russian long infantry as they are well supported by artillery that can be taken as losses instead of the infantry steps.

The 3 day battle looked way too much but I did have a go at the 3rd day and Davout variant. The old Davout ploy has a French force appearing off the South map edge to the side of the Russian line. Arrival is governed by the dice and can be reduced by the Russian permanently setting aside some cavalry. These tend to get in the way anyway so the Russian can spare a few units but is unlikely to delay Davout past turn 3 or 4. The flanking plan is not as cunning as it 1st appears because it requires a hefty chunk of the French army making it more difficult for the rest of it to hammer the Russian centre. You can send in the Old and Middle Guard but this only adds to the number of Russian long infantry that have to be taken out.

Gamers USA planned a series of games on this system but the only one to make it out was Friedland. This should be a more open battle and based on my playings of Borodino I will be keeping an eye out for it at the right price.