A Brief Look at Patrick Nix's and Fred Schacter's Game Variant for SPI’s LEIPZIG: “LEIPZIG REVISED”
When game players are also amateur students of military history, it is virtually certain that whenever they sit down to play a war game, they are going to find historical “nits” to pick. I know, because I am as guilty of this practice as anyone. Usually, these minor discrepancies lead to a few uncharitable comments about the designer’s laziness, lack of intelligence or general disregard for history, but then they pass harmlessly into the ether. In extreme cases, however, a particularly incensed player may decide that the various “nits” are so egregious that nothing will do but to offer an alternative to the standard game; thus is born the bane of game designer’s everywhere: the “game variant.”
Some game variants are eccentric, if not a little silly: the players from down under, for example, who insist that the Australian Brigades in AFRIKA KORPS should all have their combat factors doubled; or the players who want every destroyer and PT Boat flotilla included in the counter-mix of VICTORY IN THE PACIFIC, just so they can have a lot more ships to sink.
In other cases, game variants and rules changes can be quite minor and sometimes, even reasonable: for example, grafting rules additions or a changed CRT from a newer to an older version of the same game, or to a different game that uses the same basic game system. Making minor adjustments in replacement rates, or even accelerating or delaying the arrival of reinforcements can all occasionally produce workable outcomes. Once in awhile, these minor rules adjustment even work out better than expected: swapping the CRT from NAPOLEON’S LAST BATTLES for the older and bloodier CRT in BORODINO, for example, tends to benefit both players equally well.
Occasionally, however, a game variant or significant rules changes can end up producing a very different simulation from the one portrayed by the original title. This is the case with Patrick Nix and fred Schacter's, LEIPZIG REVISED.
Both Nix (rules and tables) and Schacter (counters) are clearly dissatisfied both with the historical accuracy and with the mechanics of the original game. I can sympathize; there are elements of the LEIPZIG game design — particularly when the older game is compared to its SPI counterpart, LA GRANDE ARMÉE — that seem poorly thought out, and even a little primitive. Nix and Schacter introduce their own variant, LEIPZIG REVISED, with a critique of the starting locations and Orders of Battle for the belligerents in SPI’s LEIPZIG that, on the whole, is both credible and historically valid. Nix then follows this commentary up with carefully prepared instructions so that players can correct the starting positions of the various armies; again, so far, so good. Next, however, he proceeds to argue for a significant reduction in the abstract nature of the game by urging the introduction of artillery and historically accurate army corps units into the counter-mix; at this point, I think, his ideas begin to go off the rails.
The original LEIPZIG design, as the Designer’s Notes explained, was intended to simulate only a few of the key elements of Napoleonic warfare within the context of an abstract, but manageable game system. The central challenge posed by Dunnigan’s game was for the opposing players to effectively coordinate speed and maneuver with offensive mass, combat supply, and battlefield leadership. It appears that it is precisely these elements that the variant’s author is eager to reduce, if not eliminate all together. What LEIPZIG lacks, and what his variant is designed to correct, is combat. Mr. Nix, not to put too fine a point on it, wants battles; and the more battles, the better. To drive this point home, Patrick recommends that the game’s distinctive “percentage differential” CRT be replaced by the traditional and much “bloodier” Avalon Hill CRT. And at this point, Nix and Schacter’s dramatic transformation of the original game is exposed: LEIPZIG is not being revised at all, but instead, it is being completely redesigned. For better or for worse, LEIPZIG REVISED finally reveals its new identity: it is really WATERLOO in Central Europe, or if you prefer, LAST MAN STANDING in Saxony.
Now, because I remain, admittedly, a big fan of the original Avalon Hill WATERLOO, this variant is not personally a disappointment, or even — if one overlooks the typos and amateur rules writing — necessarily a bad game. In fact, if players approach this variant with the right “bloody-minded” attitude — and a little flexibility when it comes to rules questions — it can actually be a lot of fun. LEIPZIG REVISED, however, is not really a revision of Jim Dunnigan’s LEIPZIG at all. Instead, in view of its more old-fashioned, combat-oriented approach to the 1813 campaign, it is actually a radically different game design that just happens to use the same map sheet as the SPI original.