Guidelines for Emperors
By Phillip Hanson
The game EMPIRES IN ARMS maintains its fascination because so much happens within such a simple framework. Guiding the destiny of a nation successfully through this turmoil requires patience and planning on a scale seldom heard of in wargaming. It is not unusual to be terribly concerned about events which will occur 12,18 or even 36 turns in the future. Furthermore, events conspire to make drastic revision in plans necessary, so that flexibility is also vital to success. The player which sticks to an outmoded plan will lose as surely as one with no plan at all.
When thinking on the game in progress, you must avoid the common trap of according too much importance to the battle currently underway. What to do after a battle has been joined is "Tactics", and is only lightly represented in this game. The more important questions of what to produce and how to feed your growing army are "Logistics", to which the successful player pays constant attention. Conducting the various wars (that include your current battle) is the domain of "Strategy". And the when and why of war comprises "Grand Strategy".
Each of these considerations are of increasing importance. Winning players
keep Grand Strategic matters uppermost, and organize lesser matters to
save that objective. A wonderful aspect of the Grand Campaign Game (the
me that Tons 132 turns, from 1805 to 1815) is that it offers sufficient
scope for a well-conceived Grand Strategy to triumph in the face of even
severe setbacks stemming from early bad luck. Those who play any lesser
version have no guts and deserve no glory.
So, a battle is on. It may or may not be the battle you wanted, but it is the battle you have. Keep your wits about you, abide by these principles, and you will do well enough.
Learn the Mechanics. Surmising that your attacker's best tactical choice is "Outflank" will do you little good if you don't realize that means you should choose "Cordon". Examine the charts carefully so you know the rough morale and casualty implications of each combination for each side. Especially be conscious of the morale losses. Too often, commanders are seduced with rapacious fantasies of crushing the enemy to the last man, and so overlook choices that could merely win them the battle (along with its accompanying Political Points). Knowing what's going on - or should be going on - will also help catch such slips as using the wrong chart or overlooked die roll modifiers. Don't depend on others to remind you of such, as their interest is not as immediate or powerful as your own.
Know Your Enemies. Is this battle similar to any previous ones, from your opponent's point of view? Do you remember what happened in such cases? Look for any pattern in enemy chit picks and exploit it. Put yourself in the shoes of the enemy. What are his objectives in this battle? What would you do if faced with his situation? What tactic would advance those objectives? Will he be trying to break you morale; or is he out to kill factors? Now ... what should you do to counter that?
Consider too what the leader in command of the other side is capable of doing. Often you can eliminate some enemy choices as simply unreasonable based on the competence (more commonly the lack thereof) of an enemy leader. This will aid your own selections. For instance, Alexander or Hohenlohe we unlikely to risk either "Outflank" or "Withdraw" due to their strategic ineptitude. All these considerations will guide the opponent's chit picks, and frustrating these should guide yours.
Know Yourself: Armies and generals have their idiosyncrasies. So do players. Try not to fall into predictable habits that others can use against you. Examine the game history, looking at it with the eye of an opponent. What are your weaknesses as a player? What patterns have you fallen into? Others will be watching you, even as you watch than.
Consider Each Round Afresh. Observe the ebb and flow of battle. Important changes can occur between rounds of battle, some of which contain opportunities you can exploit.
It can be to your advantage to have your commander "sandbag". For instance, if Kutuzov is fighting the Grand Vizier and already has a cavalry superiority of +1, his +1 for command will be wasted. But, if he sandbags down to a "3" tactical rating, this gives the Turks a -1. And +1 for Russia and -I for Turkey is far better than a +1 for Russia and 0 for Turkey. From the viewpoint of the Russians, anyway. This situation arises whenever your opponent has a "2" tactical rating, while yours is "4" or "5". Switching from +1 to -1 for him, and vice versa is possible each round. Examine the charts for maximum impact, and remember that +1 helps win battles while -1 helps avoid defeat - not the same thing at all.
Also think about committing the Guard after each round. If committing it would guarantee an otherwise uncertain break, do it. If your side is going to break anyway, throw them in only if it will take significantly more of the enemy down with you.
Just because reinforcements are available does not mean they should be used. Calling than forward may simply catch than up in the ruin of the original force, and perhaps soak up some of the enemy overkill in the bargain. They can also raise your Political Point loss, a very bad thing. However, if you have the enemy on charts that hurt them, the extra factors can heap their casualties to gratifying levels (especially if the reinforcers bring cavalry to the Pursuit afterward). Again, what about the reasons you placed that potentially reinforcing mass where it now is? If you move it, their objectives may go unmet. Keep always the big picture in mind.
This is, after all, the lowest level of play in this game.
It is difficult to know what to write about this without appearing to belabor the obvious. However the stupid things I have done make me think that the obvious may well need belaboring.
Plan Your Supplies. The good commander knows where his next meal is coming from before he sets out. Do you plan to forage, then don't head for barren country. Realize that when foraging you are rolling 1D6 to find your loss of factors. If your negative modifiers to this roll total less than six. you face a risk of loss. Check out those modifiers that apply here carefully. The most important is the "forage value" of the area. It can give you a -6 right off. Unused movement points help. Being at home helps.
Everything else hurts your chances. Everything. Extra corps account for a +1 or +2. Force marching for another +1. Winter kicks you for +2. These are not trivial effects. Each of these pluses can mean three money and two manpower lost, and less punch in the next fight.
Consider this example from an actual game. Napoleon declares war on Austria in December, and promptly obtains victories campaigning in fertile Italy that month. Come the next month, six magnificent French corps pounce on a pair of Austrian corps hiding in the Tyrolean Alps. Oops! Napoleon forgot to fill the treasury during the interphase, spending like there was no tomorrow. The nearest depot is three areas away. He elects to use his paltry six saved money to pay for the artillery corps' supply. The others must forage. All except the cavalry have moved their full allowance. The area has a "2" forage value; they are not at home, but it is winter, so they get +2 for that - to go with the +2 for the horde trying to find sustenance among these rocks. Total modifiers: +1.
The French get to roll a 1D6 (+1) for loss out of each of the four infantry corps and 1D6 for the cavalry corps. The average loss will be 4.5 factors (3.5 for the cavalry) - 21.5 in all. Poor rolls can make this worse ... much worse. In fact, in this game, the cavalry all died, contributing nothing to the battle for all their suffering. The result of this was a mauling of La Grande Armee before the first musket was fired. Some 60 money and eight manpower in the cavalry loss alone. Desertion had put a hurt on the Guard that the Austrians never could have. And what was Napoleon's comment on
this debacle? "I didn't think it would be that bad." The first three words, at least, are true.
Always be careful of your supplies. It is probably not worth foraging losses of ten factors to kill five factors of an enemy, who will probably just withdraw anyway.
Plan Your Depots. Depot supply is the best way to feed your army in most situations. Depot supply in the above example would have cost 30 more money. A considerable sum to be sure, but a much better investment than the ten infantry factors the French bought as an alternative.
Avoid placing depots haphazardly, and remove them when no longer needed unless you can garrison them. An enemy often finds the carelessly placed depot the perfect answer to his own supply problems when campaigning in your rear. Depot garrisons we nice to have around. They don't have to forage or pay for supply; they can destroy the depot before it falls into enemy hands; but they are still there to help fight when enemies come into their space. In this way, they can add much-needed depth to a defensive campaign.
Produce What You Need - Not What You Want. Kings (and players) have a mania that can bankrupt or otherwise destroy a thriving kingdom. Especially important is whether or not to build ships, for instance. Prussia and Austria can find good use for a single ship. This vessel will allow sea movement and supply, so long as no "real" navy objects.
But others have no need for ships unless they plan to challenge British dominate on the high seas. Good luck to those who try. British pluses are hard to beat. Instead, husband your resources for uses more helpful when the little Corsican with the big army shows up again.
If you simply must have a navy, protect it. Its home port must be garrisoned for the port defenses to function against a possible visit from Nelson. Be on guard against British landings, as well. They have superior morale, so it can be tough to keep those expensive fleets from being scuttled due to a combination of blockade and land attack. Your port's garrison must be large, with help available from nearby corps. Will the expected results from your naval spending really be worth this sizable diversion of resources?
Build Just a Little Militia. Militiamen pollute the morale of your forces and can cause them to break before their time. Nothing is more galling than the unnecessary loss of a battle, unless it is the accompanying unnecessary losses of political status and victory points.
This leads many elitist types in the game to conclude that militia have no proper place in the armies of the era. Au contraire! If a hostile force threatens an important ungarrisoned home city during the interphase, a ragtag force of militia can keep them from walking in. The enemy will then have to lay siege, and may fail their roll, so buying time for reinforcements to arrive. Of course, one wonders why such an important city was left unguarded in the first place.
Too, city garrisons for most players can have militia on a 1:10 ratio with regulars without my morale penalty. Check it out. Ten regular SP at 3.0 plus one militia SP at 2.0 makes 32 which, when divided still equals 3.0 after rounding up. The same can be done with field armies of course. Calculate its morale; add two morale points and divide by one more factor. Keep going until you can no longer round up to the same tenth of a point. Largeforces can often accommodate three or so militia SP without penalty. Why waste nine money making them regulars when they can count as forage and early battle losses just the same as your precious regulars?
Militia also appear immediately, a great advantage when you need to exploit a rapidly changing situation. If you figure an enemy will quit the field if hit with large casualties, militia can provide the factors on your side that you need to produce those casualties on their side.
I am ambivalent about the "Militia Conversion" option (12.1.1). It cuts die special Prussian advantage considerably, reducing it to merely a use for odd manpower points and the capacity to raise troops from reserves during wartime. No much solace compared to the disadvantage of having to play Prussia (about which we further below).
Save Money. The rich player can defeat the broke by the simple
expedient of declaring a winter war. Declaring in January, just after the
enemy has blown mother chance to set wide a financial reserve, will yield
two months when they cannot move without severe foraging losses while you
own troops feast on the fruits of better times. See the above example of
Napoleon in Austria for the importance of keeping a healthy warchest on
"Logistics" is, at its best, but one component of "Strategy". All the supplies in Europe won't win the war for you without a definite, and competent, strategy. So, a few guidelines on the other aspects you should keep in mind follow.
Use Mass. EIA has been described as "Mass Warfare in the Age of Napoleon." Take this credo to heart Mass Warfare. MASS. Let this one word be your guide as you ponder the disposition of your forces.
In this combat system, the harm done your foes depends on how many men you bring with you. Bring many and be rewarded with heavy enemy casualties. Bring few and your hopes will lie in an unmarked grave, despite all your victories. Political status is the most important thing, but it is not the only important thing. Warmaking capacity depends on available troops (i.e., mass). A string of losses in which the enemy, notwithstanding victory, loses more factors than you is still a logistical victory for you. (Complete victory can be defined as breaking and destroying the enemy.)
Neglect of the use of mass has been the undoing of many an ambitious general. Corps are not simply corps in this game. Just because you have four corps and the enemy two, victory is not guaranteed. Theirs may be "full"; yours may not be. Always assume the enemy corps are at maximum strength unless you possess absolute knowledge to the contrary. This will save you from unpleasant surprise.
And keep your forces concentrated in one main army. Splitting your resources usually merely allows you to be inferior in two places at once. Factor superiority is crucial to victory. If you cannot obtain superiority on two fronts, concentrate you force against the principal foe. If you cannot achieve superiority anywhere, surrender. There are worse fates.
Pay Attention. Use the limited intelligence rules to your advantage. Keep track of the forces involved in all battles. If no one else is maintaining a running record of game events, do so yourself. He who has sole ownership of the game history will find himself in a powerful negotiating position when others suddenly became concerned about the exact strength of a force which has turned and now threatens their capitals.
A "public" history is useful to all players, and I recommend keeping one posted and updated. In this case too, use the limits of knowledge to your advantage. Enemies will stalk your weak corps, hoping for easy Political Point gains. Slip your available reinforcements into an eligible understrength corps, and it suddenly becomes powerful, ready to surprise the unwary.
Remember Cavalry Modifiers. If you are using the Cavalry Superiority option (188.8.131.52). as you should, then you must seek cavalry superiority and avoid cavalry inferiority. If the enemy is known to have exactly four cavalry SP, then to attack with only two or seven is to fight at a disadvantage, and to expose your men to needless peril.
Choose Your Ground Carefully. If the enemy is cavalry heavy, try to maneuver the battles into swamp, forest, mountain or desert where pursuit is difficult.
Always keep in mind that mountains discriminate in favor of the defender. A fine thing when defending; on attack it can turn against you. One ploy is to attack a weak force in the mountains with a strong force of yours. The enemy retaliation will occur within these same mountains, except with you on the defensive this time. This may be just the edge you need to bleed an otherwise over-powerful enemy force.
Any clever deployment can be well worth the extra effort, as the following example will demonstrate. The French, after causing themselves legendary suffering by foraging in winter in the Alps (see above), eagerly looked forward to crushing the two Austrian corps set out as bait. The first round goes poorly for the Austrians despite favorable chit picks. But the sound of battle draws the attention of Archduke Charles, who promptly arrives with four reinforcing corps to take charge of battle and give the upstart a rough handling.
Assign Leaders Thoughtfully. Study the tactical modifiers chart and compare your leaders with the desired tasks. Then make appropriate assignments. For example, there is an automatic tendency by Austrian players to assign command of the army facing Napoleon to Charles. But he may not he the best choice. Mack and Charles have exactly the same modifiers against Napoleon (+1 to the French). It may be better to give Charles command of a different force and send him out to hunt lesser French commanders down, since he is better than any of them (except Napoleon).
Compose Your Groups Carefully. It is the foolish player who does not calculate the morale of his force in advance. You should know what it is and be prepared to exploit the "round-up" rule in calculating morale under the preferred method. See the above comments on militia for but one example.
When grouping forces, combine arms. This ancient doctrine is still the most effective way to fight, as witness the fact that sensible countries in EIA have cavalry intrinsic to their infantry corps. Nations without this advantage (Britain, Turkey, Russia, by and large) will find it hard to get both maximum leadership benefit and cavalry superiority. Bringing along enough cavalry corps is just too harmful to the leaders' tactical abilities. Hard choices then must be made.Be sure to bring infantry along in every force unless you we hunting cossacks (which is usually a waste of good cavalry corps and exposes them to the danger of later attack). If you have only the precious cavalry, Guard and/or artillery in a group, any battle losses will be expensive indeed - in line with mother ancient adage which reminds us about a fool and his money.
Know Your Objectives. There are many reasons to fight a battle. Even if you are defending (meaning the time and place were not of your choosing), you still have something to gain from each fight. Battle objectives might include such things as: take a city; defend a city; gain political status; preserve a force; kill as many of the bastards as possible. Before you commit yourself to a battle, take a moment to work out what it is you realistically can achieve, because you strategic objectives might dictate different actions.
Many are best pursued running away. Even the French should withdraw occasionally when there is little hope of profit from a particular battle. Think carefully about what you wish to achieve and how each tactic might advance your goal. This is particularly critical for the defender. The attackers chose the time and place for this fight, and undoubtedly did so for a reason. Frustrating their intentions should be foremost in your mind. Perhaps they wish to gain political status from beating you up; retreating into a city or withdrawing successfully would deny them this. Consider each case.
Perhaps your chances of victory are essentially hopeless but you are forced to fight anyway (to defend your nation's capital, for instance). Appropriate goals here would be to fight on until reinforcements or allies can arrive, or simply to bleed the foe in preparation for the next war to follow your surrender.
As an attacker, you must know what you want. If you seek political gain, killing everyone in an inferior group is unwise. If you can beat them this turn, then they will be so much the later and you can beat them again for more points. Cats, the most successful of nature's hunters, often play with their food before eating it to further their enjoyment. So should you.
Low-morale forces attacking dominant powers must realize that their main chance for victory lies in bleeding factors (manpower) front the enemy. Neither France nor Britain can afford to throw away SP. If you force them to do so, they may decide that aggression against your nation simply does not pay in the long not.
Defense Is Cheap. Naked aggression really is more expensive than defense. Wars which were not your idea are cheaper because the enemy must carry the fight to you, operating at a distance from supply and reinforcement. Remember that the declarer must force surrender on the defender, which usually means heading onto the defender's home turf. The defender, on the other hand, falls back closer to his sources of supply, often fighting directly atop his depots. The upshot is that defenders eat cheap, and receive prompt reinforcements.
Know What Time It Is. There is a time for war, and a time for peace. For most countries, most times are times for peace. Peace is good. Peace is a time for rebuilding or strengthening your defenses and alliances. Let others lose political status to declare on you. And when you feel the need for a war coming on, lie down immediately and hope it goes away. If it won't, try to goad your enemy into declaring war on you. Three Political Points is a lot to lose at the outset, and better he should suffer this than you, right?
But for France, most times are times for war. France has a powerful
thirst for victory points, which can only be slaked by political status,
which is most easily obtained by aggression against her neighbors. This
is what keeps the pot boiling in EMPIRES IN ARMS. But all this conveniently
starts to creep into the realm of "Grand Strategy ".
Honesty IS the Best Policy. Do not try and be clever and jerk the other players around with a two-faced diplomacy. To do so will only make them mistrust you, shun coalitions with you, and secretly strive to clean up the neighborhood by disposing of you.
As an example, a Prussian of mine acquaintance agreed with the Russian, Austrian and Brit to form an alliance against France during the diplomacy phase of January 1805. In the very next phase, he and France declared war on Russia, achieving nothing but to anger those he had gratuitously lied to (the Frenchman was, of course, overjoyed). This same Prussian agreed to an informal peace in a later war with Austria, then backed out. So when Britain saw an opportunity to put Prussia into civil disorder with a swift declaration of war he did not hesitate, and wound up in control of half of Prussia. The only motive espoused by the British player for this action was "to clean up the neighborhood." Beware lest ye fall victim to the same folly.
It is seldom worthwhile to lie. Cultivate ambiguity instead. Avoid definite commitments, except those you intend to honor. Be also very specific in your agreements, keeping promised actions to a minimum. When you do make a promise, keep it. This will make you a sought after partner in many profitable adventures.
Don't Jump on the Bandwagon. The "bandwagon effect"occurs when a country is down. The urge among wargamers to jump into the war can be very strong, especially with other players egging you on. Resist until you have decided and defined what you will gain. Realize that those who were in the war ahead of you we likely to make off with all the juicy peace conditions. Too, you may someday desire the aid and/or friendship of the down-and-out nation.
It is often better to aid the suffering empire. This can be done through a declaration of war against the winning players, sudden deployments on the border of one of the combatants, discreet (and deniable) subsidies, or even studied neutrality. Such a rescued empire is much more likely to remember your actions with gratitude than those already winning the war, who are probably just going to resent sharing the spoils with you anyway.Even if war with the unfortunate is in your national interest, it is usually better to wait until the present one is complete. That way you get to have the peace conditions all to yourself. Also, this allows both sides - each of whom is a possible future opponent anyway - to bloody each other while you grow stronger. Better their troops should die cutting your enemy down to size than yours.
If you do decide to add the critical mass to swing the war to one side or the other, be sure to get firm commitments on what's in it for you. Carefully evaluate the dangled inducements in light of your long-term plan before jumping.
Keep an Eye on the Standings. Unlike most games, EMPIRES IN ARMS
is not won on the game map. It is won on the "Political Status Display".
There me several indicators of relative progress that you should keep an
1. Total VP Gained. Know not only your own totals, but those of the other players so you can best judge where you stand. This is the most primitive indicator of success, but is amazing how many players overlook even this simple measure.
2. Percentage of Victory Level Gained. Divide the total needed to win the game (minimum VP total plus your bid) by the number achieved so far. Keep track of this for everyone. This is a much better gauge of progress and gives much solace to small countries who might otherwise become disheartened as they watch the larger gain VP in huge-seeming jumps.
3. Number of Interphases Needed to Finish. This one is very important
during peace, when countries tend to settle at a certain level of VP per
quarter for long stretches. Subtract the current victory level for each
nation front the total it needs and divide by the number of VP gained this
interphase. This can be a telling number, especially if a smaller nation
has few" points than a larger one but is gaining them at the same rate.
The race nature of the game cannot be overemphasized. These measures will help you figure out where you stand compared with the other players. This should help guide your Grand Strategy. Remember that your goal is political status rather than imperialism, or militarism, or ego massage. If you do, you will go far.
Hang Ten. The goal of your striving is to get to the third space in the dominant zone while manipulating for the "+2". This space yields the highest number of VP sustainable through economic manipulation. Hold here through long periods of peace and you will have a leg up on the others, and can conceivably simply coast to a victory. If this is not possible, there is no excuse for not being at the top of the neutral zone during peacetime. Manipulation alone can get you there and, once arrived, can sustain an eight-VP per quarter gain indefinitely by just +1 " manipulation.
Never, never manipulate for loss of political status. Ever. Always manipulate for the "+l" or "+2" unless sure and certain events will put you up so much that the extra bonus will be wasted. For example, if you can guarantee that you will be at the Neutral "6", "8" or "10" space, then manipulating for "+1" will be wasted. Similarly, at Neutral "9", "+2" will be wasted. When at peace, it is often possible to predict exactly what your political situation will be at the next interphase. Plan your political status as carefully as you plan your campaigns.
Some players feel that war is an excuse to cease manipulating because of the huge amounts of money and manpower the war will chew up. Most countries, though, cannot be so sure of winning battles that they can afford to waste opportunities to gain political status. And what happens when you lose you minors by being that one point into the instability zone? What good will your three or few extra factors do you then?
Manipulation is also your best friend when healing from a losing war. You will have peace with the Victor Or Victors for six long interphases. During this time you can gain as many as 12 extra Political Points. Sneer not, that is more than a whole zone on die display.
Gauge Character. In this, as in all games with a diplomatic component, sizing up the other's integrity and capability helps considerably. Have you played with these people before? Who was trustworthy then? Odds are they will play this game in the same style. It's also a good bet that a competent player of other games will handle this one well, too.
More subtly, it helps to know if a particular playa is more susceptible to threats, pleas, misdirection, flattery and/or bribery. Blending all these in proper proportions makes for a formidable diplomacy. Cultivate deftness, and be bold enough to act on yew perceptions when indicated, even to the point of modifying the hints given in the next section of this article for each country.
Don't Try for Dominant Status. For Austria, Prussia, Russia, Spain and Turkey, striving for dominance is foolish. It will only lead you to shoot yourself in the foot by alienating friends you will almost certainly need later. Besides, it's usually much easier to simply win the game.
Bid Wisely. The most common error I've wen is to bid fantastically
high for the powerful countries. What formulating your bid, plot out -
roughly - where those points will be coming from. Do not simply assume
that you can always go out and kick a little butt for that extra political
status. Most players' ability to kick butt at all is severely constrained
by the ugly realities of weakness and mutual dependence. In short, adhere
to the KILL principal: "Keep, It Low, Lunkhead."
Bidding for Play
Turkey, Prussia and Spain need, as a base, less than 7.5 VP per quarter to achieve their necessary totals by game end. Austria and Russia can get by with less than eight on average. Britain will need almost 8.5, while France needs to gain over nine per interphase! To raise your necessary total to over 8.0 (which can be achieved by manipulation during peace) or 10.0 (the maximum sustainable during peace) is very grave and should not be done without good reason - and a definite plan for where all these points win come from. "I'll just declare war if I have to, " is not a viable answer - even for Napoleon.
Don't Give Up. There is a terrible tendency to despondency among the smaller empires after being overrun by Napoleon's steamroller - Historically, Austria was beaten before the game begins, and was twice more thrashed by the Corsican, before finally emerging victorious. Smaller countries - especially Prussia and Spain - can take a defeat or two, even a severe one and still come back to win the game. Not so France. If France gets dragged down into instability (let alone fiasco) even once, her chances of winning go down the tubes along with the status. So hang in there and bleed La Grand Armee, even when losing; then start the buildup for the next time. Your day will come.
Now, let us apply the above to each of the seven empires in turn.
In the next issue, Mr. Hanson will apply his Precepts for expert
play to each of the seven ,major powers in EMPIRES IN ARMS in the second
part of his lengthy analysis.