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Posted on Jun 14, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

HPS Jena-Auerstaedt Review

By Mike Tomlin

Passed Inspection: Excellent tried and tested game engine; great atmosphere; number of scenarios both individual and campaign; Size of maps

Failed Basic: Limited campaign types

In the summer of 1806, Emperor Napoleon was the pre-eminent force on the Continent of Europe. The previous year he had destroyed the military power of the Austrian Empire, first at Ulm, then at Austerlitz, arguably his great masterpiece. Even the Russian Tsar had been forced to acknowledge defeat and retreat back into the Russian wastes waiting his opportunity to rejoin the fight. The only bar to his victorious march had been the utter destruction of the French Navy at Trafalgar, which meant that his old enemy, Great Britain, was safe beyond his reach. All of the other continental powers were either cowed or beaten, with the exception of Prussia. Living on past glories, with an outmoded and outdated military system, and a weak monarch, the Prussian Eagle chose this time to cross swords with the greatest power in Europe. Encouraged by the support of Russia, whose armies were marching west to its aid, Prussia challenged Imperial France in October 1806, and within two weeks was completely shattered at the twin battles of Jena and Auerstaedt. It is this lightning campaign that HPS has chosen as the setting for its latest outing in its Napoleonic Battles series, Jena-Auerstaedt.

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Of all Napoleons campaigns this is unique. The culmination of the fast marching campaign was to take place at two battles, fought on the same day, less than 20 miles apart. Each of the opposing commanders, Napoleon and the Duke of Brunswick, believed himself to be facing the main body of the enemy, whereas in fact they were both wrong, and never met on the same field. While Napoleon with some 96,000 men was crushing the flanking force of 55,000 Prussians under Hohenlohe at Jena, Marshall Davout, with a mere 26,000 men, was fighting an action against their main body of over 60,000 men under Brunswick at Auerstaedt, where heavily outnumbered he not only held the Prussians but defeated them. After the battles, the French conducted a pursuit which became a model to military experts and which effectively knocked Prussia out of the war. The Russians retreated back into Poland, and awaited Napoleon there.

HPS’ Napoleonic Battles series is based on the tried and trusted game engine created by John Tiller, which has seen previous outings in campaigns covering the Russian Campaign, Eckmuhl, Wagram and Waterloo and has a large and knowledgeable following. Jena-Auerstaedt is a welcome and very interesting addition to the series and incorporates some interesting new features. The main elements of the game are the ability to fight individual battles from a provided selection against either the computer or a human opponent, a campaign element to link scenarios together and include greater variability, and finally a scenario editor to allow for the creation of new scenarios, albeit only on the maps provided.

The battles are played out on hex-based maps of varying sizes with each hex represents 100 metres. The game is turn based with each day time turn representing 10 minutes and night time ones 30 minutes. All of the expected unit types are modelled: infantry, cavalry, artillery, leaders, supply wagons. Infantry units represent battalions, although skirmisher detachments can be detailed off, and cavalry are grouped in squadrons. Artillery is shown in batteries, although these may be of varying numbers of guns. Leaders are a key component as the game relies heavily on the command structure of the army and combat resolution and other decisions will be heavily biased by the existence and proximity of experienced leaders.

Orders are given to units by means of a combination of keys and mouse and these may include formation changes, movement and combat. Each unit faces in a specified direction which effectively covers the three sides of the hex to its front. A unit’s ability to accept orders is limited by the movement points available to it, and each type has different capabilities in terms of formations, speed of movement and terrain it can cross. Infantry can form in column for fast movement, line, extended line and square. In addition to normal line infantry there are also other types such as light, guard, restricted or militia, each having slightly differing qualities.

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