TITLE: Grande Armee
AUTHOR: Sam Mustapha
PUBLISHER: Scale Creep Miniatures
PUBLICATION DATE: 2002
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
PRICE (with date): $30.00 (in 2008)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
Grande Armee (GA) is a spiral bound book. It runs 112 pages. The main rules run 55 pages. The remainder of the book covers some optional rules, scenarios and several appendices. These provide a method for converting an OOB into a scenario for GA.
Grande Armee (GA) is a Grand Tactical game suitable for recreating larger battles such as Salamanca or Waterloo. It is not well suited to smaller battles such as Quatre Bras or Vimiero.
The number of figures required is quite elastic and depends both on what scale you prefer to game in, as well as how many figures you put on a base. However, as a point of reference the French army for the Aspern-Essling scenario requires 31 infantry and cavalry bases and 8 artillery bases.
Each unit represents a brigade sized unit. If a battle has many small units these are combined into a single unit. The goal is to have most units with roughly the same number of Strength Points (see below).
- Ground Scale: 1” = 100 Yards
- Time Scale: Each game represents one day of battle. Turns and pulses represent periods of activity, not segments of time (see below).
- Figure/Base Ratio: Not applicable – GA does not use a fixed ratio
- Recommended Figure Scale: Any
- Table Size: Because GA is designed for larger battles, most scenarios require at least a 4’ x 8’ table
- Game Length: 4+ Hours
All units except artillery are based on 3” square bases. Artillery is based on 1.5” wide by 3” deep bases. Many players also use other scales such as 2/3 (with 2” square bases) or my own “pocket scale” substituting centimeters so bases are 3cm square. As the game is organized around bases and uses rosters, any scale of figure and any number of figures may be placed on a base.
In Grande Armee a battle is made up of an unknown number of turns. Each turn is made up of an unknown number of pulses. The overall turn sequence runs as follows:
- Weather Phase (Skipped on turn 1)
- Command Phase – both players roll for Command Points (CPs) and initiative is determined.
- Pulses – for each pulse repeat the following steps:
- Simultaneous skirmishing
- Simultaneous artillery fire
- First side phasing
- Control segment: Issue commands by spending Command Points (BPs) or take Control tests
- Movement segment: The phasing player moves all eligible units
- Combat segment: all combats are resolved
- Second side phasing (repeat the same steps as during the first side phasing)
- Remove suppression from artillery units
- Roll for initiative / end of turn
- Simultaneous rally segment – units may recover Strength Points (SPs) and broken units may be rallied
Dice Used: The game uses six sided dice.
Time scale and Turn Sequence: One of the first indications that GA is a very different style of game is the amount of uncertainty a player faces, beginning with dealing with time. Scenarios do not have a set number of turns, and turns do not have a set number of pulses. Therefore a player can never be sure of he will have enough time to execute his battle plan. At the end of each Pulse a die is rolled. If the number is equal to or less than the number of the pulse just completed, the turn ends. For example, if the second Pulse has just been completed, the turn will end if the die roll is a 1 or a 2. Thus a turn will have no more than 6 pulses. Note that units may move and engage in combat in all pulses.
A similar mechanism applies to turns. Each scenario has a basic length, meaning a minimum number of turns.. At the end of the last, each player rolls two dice. If both rolls are less than or equal to the turn number just completed, the game is over. For example, a scenario has a basic length of 6. At the end of the sixth turn each player rolls two dice. If both rolls are 6 or less, the game is over and victory is determined.
Unit Characteristics: There is no figure removal in GA. Instead, the strength of each base is tracked on a roster. Every unit has a certain number of Strength points (SPs). These may be lost to skirmishing or combat. Once a unit has lost its last SP it is considered “broken.” Once broken it is removed from the table. In the rally segment the payer may attempt to rally this unit. If he succeeds it is placed back on the table with a new SP value. If not, the unit does not return for the duration of the battle. It should also be noted that units may recover SPs. If they are far enough from the enemy and within the command radius of their commander, they may recover all but one of their lost SPs. There is a very real purpose to pulling a unit out of the line in GA. It is important to note that the SP concept includes not just numbers but training, quality and morale as well. In the “Design Your Own Scenario” appendix, a conversion table gives the appropriate ratios. For example, for Guard units, a unit should have one SP for every 200 men, where as for Conscripts it is one SP for every 600 men. Regardless, the rules recommend not having units larger than 12 SPs – instead break such units down into two smaller units.
Another common feature of Napoleonic warfare is noticeably lacking: formations. GA puts the player in the role of army commander – as such they do not concern themselves with the formation of the units under their command. The 3” square base represents the “footprint” of the unit. It is assumed the individual unit commanders are making the appropriate tactical decisions.
Movement: As with time, speed is uncertain in GA. Rather than a fixed rate of march, units have a base speed to which they add the roll of a die. So light cavalry, for example, move 10” plus the roll of one die per pulse. Similarly, terrain costs are likewise variable. When a unit enters or crosses terrain that will affect its movement, it rolls a die and the cost to enter or cross that terrain s determined by whether the roll is odd or even. This makes it difficult to execute the perfectly coordinated attacks possible under some rules.
Another major constraint commanders face is losing control of their units in the presence of the enemy. All units have a “Contact Zone” that extends 6” in all directions. Once an infantry or cavalry unit enters this contact zone it must move either directly toward or directly away from the closest enemy units. (This applies only if the unit moves.) Furthermore, when a unit starts its move in an enemy Contact Zone and rolls a 1 on the move die, it may not close with that enemy unit. Conversely, if it rolls a 6 it must close with that enemy unit!
Combat: Combat in GA is simple. Combat only occurs between adjacent units. The rules cover how units face up, dealing with 2-on-2 battles and so on. Units roll one D6 for each strength point in the unit. For every die that rolls a 4 or higher, the enemy unit loses 1SP. When resolving combat there are a small handful of modifiers to the die roll – for being flanked, for fighting against combined arms, or being out of their commander’s command radius. In a few cases a unit may be able to make a “saving throw” to negate the hit. These are conferred by cover, being on a higher elevation, etc.
Combat is again distinguished by what is missing: charges, assaults and firefights. Again, all of these are combined into the combat mechanism. The neat distinction between fire and melee is dispensed with for a single all-encompassing combat mechanism. The tactical details are again below the notice of an army commander.
Skirmishing and Artillery Fire: The exception to the Combat above is Skirmishing and Artillery. These are ranges attacks that happen once per turn. As with regular combat the firing unit rolls to hit, with successful his causing the target to lose one SP.
Command Points: Command Points (CPs) are a critical component of the rules. Players may do three things with CPs: (1) Attempt to gain the initiative (2) Move a force or (3) Help army morale. Each turn a player rolls for CPs. Since the player does not know how many pulses the turn will have, CP allocation is a major “game within a game.” Prior to rolling for initiative players may secretly allocate CPs. Each CP thus spent gives them a +1 to their die roll. But these CPs are spent whether they are successful or not.
The major use, however, for CPs is to get forces moving. A force is a group of units that roughly corresponds to a Corps. When rolling for CPs the result is a multiple. The player receives this number of CPs for each force in his army. For example, if the die roll yields a multiple of 6 and the player has 6 forces, he will have 6x6=36 CPs this turn. (CPs may be spent on any force, the player need not spend 6 CPs on each force.) The cost to move or activate a force is determined by its commander’s Control Number. Thus better commanders have a lower control number. The cost is further affected by distance (units further away take more CPs to move).
If a unit is not given CPs the force may make a Control Test. This is a simple die roll – if the die roll exceeds the commander’s control number, he has passed and his force will move and act exactly as desired. If the test is failed, the force will either go inactive (it may not move at all), adjust (it may change facing only) or attack (it must move to engage as many enemy units as possible).
The rulebook includes 4 scenarios: Fuentes de Onoro, Aspern-Essling, Friedland and Waterloo. Dozens more scenarios are available online through the home page or the Yahoo forum. The rules also include a chapter on how to convert an order of battle into a scenario for GA.
When I first read Grande Armee I was excited to have found a set of rules that elegantly introduced so much “fog-of-war” into a game. The rules themselves are very well written with ample examples and diagrams. There are also sidebars with designer’s notes explaining the design philosophy behind most of the rules.
I have played Grande Armee perhaps a half dozen times. While some players miss the “rock-scissors-paper” of formations and more tactically oriented games, many appreciated not having to micro-manage every battalion in their army. The game was also successful in my old gaming club for another more simple reason: a number of older players had trouble moving hundreds of small stands. But being in control of just a dozen big 3” squares meant they could move their troops themselves.
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