In the spring of 1813, the remnants of the French Army — those lucky few who had survived the long winter retreat back from Moscow — were forced to turn and again give battle; this time to the pursuing armies of the newly-formed alliance of Russia and Prussia. For France and her emperor, this precarious military situation was the direct result of Napoleon’s failed campaign against Tsar Alexander I during the preceding year. The French defeat, and the resulting terrible winter march out of Russia, had crippled what was left of the Grande Armée, and many of the French survivors of the 1812 campaign were now surrounded and besieged in fortresses along the eastern Oder River.
Napoleon, more than anything else, needed time; but time was the one thing that the French Emperor no longer had. Events had moved beyond his control, and if he was to save his empire and his throne, he would have to march straight against his enemies in Central Europe before they could grow any stronger. Thus, Napoleon’s strategic plan in the spring of 1813 was to drive quickly and relentlessly east, in an effort both to rescue his isolated garrisons, and to destroy or cripple this recently-formed alliance before others (namely Austria) could be persuaded to join.
Events, however, continued not to cooperate. Unfortunately for the Emperor, despite a series of French military successes during the spring campaign season, Napoleon found himself unable to achieve the decisive battlefield victory that he needed to end the war. Finally, the French Emperor accepted an armistice in early June; both so that he could move to prevent the open revolt of several of the restive German States in his rear, and also so that he could gain time to rebuild his exhausted army. It was, both politically and militarily, a mistake. When this brief ceasefire ended in mid-August, Napoleon found himself surrounded on three sides by a larger coalition now composed of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden.
LEIPZIG is a grand tactical (division/corps/army) simulation of Napoleon’s final campaign in central Europe in 1813. The French player begins the game faced with a hostile alliance of Prussia and Russia, with additional potential enemies hovering in the wings. Napoleon must strike at his enemies quickly and defeat them before his strategic situation worsens. This predicament represents the classic Napoleonic “central position” with all the problems and opportunities that go with it. It is also the fundamental challenge posed by the game: can the French player overcome numerical inferiority with better strategic planning and superior generalship, or will the French gradually be worn down by a larger, but less ably-led coalition of France’s reactionary enemies?
Each game turn in LEIPZIG is divided into two phases: the movement phase, and the combat phase. The combat phase can be further broken down into four segments: attacker supply allocation segment; (defender) retreat before combat segment; defender supply allocation segment; and combat resolution segment. This familiar turn sequence, however, is transformed through the addition of several clever design innovations that give LEIPZIG its special historical feel. These are: leader bonuses (which enhance the combat power of any unit or units stacked with a leader), forced marching, cavalry screens, concentration (the capacity of smaller units to combine into much stronger formations), supply (unit combat strength is halved for both attack and defense without the expenditure of a supply unit), and the option for a defending army to retreat before combat. Players will quickly discover just how difficult it is to anticipate the movements of a force that might suddenly catapult forward three times its normal movement range with forced marches; and how hard it is to bring about a battle on favorable terms with an unwilling foe.
LEIPZIG offers seven seasonal scenarios, and one extended campaign scenario. The 1813 campaign really had two distinct parts: the Spring Campaign which began in late March and ended with an armistice between Napoleon and the coalition opposing him (Russia and Prussia) in early June (12 game turns). There are four spring scenarios: the Historical Situation; a scenario reflecting Increased French Effort; a Wider Alliance (Austria enters the war against France); and an Increased French Effort and Wider Alliance (combining scenarios 2 & 3). The armistice lasted until the middle of August, after which hostilities resumed. In the summer, however, Napoleon faced a larger coalition as Sweden and Austria had joined Russia and Prussia. There are three summer scenarios that begin in mid-August and continue through the end of October (11 game turns): the Historical Situation; a scenario that assumes No German Uprising; and finally, a scenario that posits No Austrian Involvement in the anti-French alliance. The Campaign Game begins like the spring scenarios, but continues all the way until late October (35 game turns).
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
LEIPZIG, in many ways, was a ground-breaking design for Napoleonic games when it first appeared almost thirty-seven years ago. An earlier SPI Test Series version of the game had appeared in 1969, but this edition was the first commercial, ready-to-play version of the game to see print. The interactions between leadership, forced marching, and concentration for battle had never been tackled in a simulation with this type of detail before. For that reason, if for no other, this title deserves a place in the game collection of anyone with a serious interest in the Napoleonic Wars. There are certainly far more complicated, chrome-laden treatments of Napoleon’s later campaigns in central Europe; but none, so far as I’m concerned, does a better job than LEIPZIG at conveying the complex strategic situation confronting Napoleon during the 1813 campaign.
- Time Scale: 1 week per game turn
- Map Scale: 15 kilometers (9.4 miles) per hex
- Unit Size: division/corps/army
- Unit Types: leaders, infantry, cavalry, supply depots, and supply units
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: medium
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 2½-6+ hours (depending on scenario)
- One 23” x 29” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
- 255 ½” cardboard Counters
- One 11” x 14” Set of Rules (with Scenario Instructions and Combine/Breakdown Chart incorporated)
- One 5½” x 22” Turn Record/Reinforcement Track
- Two 9½” x 11” back-printed combined Combat Results Table, Victory Point Schedule, Double and Triple Forced March Table, and Terrain Effects Chart
- One small six-sided Die
- One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment printed cardboard Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers)