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Thursday, 12 April 2018

Lodi'd dice!

I know, any excuse for a bad pun, sorry 'bout that. Still, Lodi merits mention. The Italian campaign of 1796 was where Napoleon made his reputation, and the storming of the bridge at Lodi was one of its most glorious episodes and caused his name to echo round Europe.

Massed Austrian whitecoats defend Milan, looking uncannily like Pisa.
2mm figures by Irregular Miniatures.

Lodi was the culmination of his crossing of the Po, when he brilliantly outflanked Beaulieu's army with a lightning march to cross at Piacenza, defeated the Austrians at Fombio to secure his bridgehead, and then stormed the bridge to breach their last line of defense on the River Adda. The Austrians retreated, leaving Napoleon free to march triumphantly into Milan.

This dramatic week of action provides the third in my series of scenarios for the 1796 campaign. It has already been playtested by the Corlears Hook Fencibles in New York. Now it was our turn to try it.

It was a lightning march, all right; the game lasted just an hour. This is good - these op-level scenarios are intended to be slick and quick. It gave a suitable feel of ponderous geriatric Austrian lassitude being outmaneuvered by French youthful dynamism (thanks to the scenario rules, no reflection on the Austrian players). Both sides had enough operational and tactical challenges and choices to keep them interested and amused, as well as to give some insight into what happened and why. The Austrians lost, not by any errors of theirs but rather because they were stiffed by how I'd drafted the victory conditions. But that we can fix, and that's why we playtest.

One challenge for the scenario designer is how to replicate the French deception at the start, whereby they feigned preparations for a crossing at Valenza facing the Austrian centre, but then did a forced march to cross at Piacenza well behind the Austrian left. In the scenario I allow the French to carry out two crossings, which naturally results in the players using both to get their forces across the Po. I think that possibility still needs to be present so the Austrians can't totally ignore the threat, otherwise it's a simple race to the east; but it does need some limitations on the secondary crossing. After our team playtest, I tried it again solo with some tweaks, which produced a very interesting and balanced solo game.

When I'm happy that the scenario is ready to share, I'll post it in the BBB Yahoo group files as usual.