Austerlitz: Optional start variant

The optional starting forces for the French are a great method for introducing the uncertainty that is key to simulating Austerlitz. While the official rules work great, I have a little trouble swallowing that the French player would have any reason for bringing on his whole army and having to win, when he can just as easily leave Davout and Murat behind, while bringing on the Guard (who were always with Napoleon), and only require a draw to win?

What if Napoleon split his army in two, intent on mounting a real threat elsewhere whilst pinning down the Coalition Army at Austerlitz? What if his choices were to bring his full army to Austerlitz, or merely leave Soult and Lannes to tie down the Coalition Army?

Let’s look at the French army:

The whole French Army. In this variant, only the right most two Corps appear.

In this variant, if Napoleon doesn’t bring on his whole army and fight with the regular Victory Conditions, he can simply fight a holding action with two Corps, and all he needs to do is manage a draw. If he does this, he wins.

Soult and Lannes have a significant force, maybe not enough to defeat the Coalition Army, but certainly enough to possibly force a stalemate. On their side is their superior organization and staff work. This is reflected in their 4 leadership rating compared to the Coalition Army’s 2. This means that when the French want to Alter Turn Order, they probably can, and when the Coalition want to Alter Turn Order, they probably can’t.

Now let’s look at the Coalition Army:

The somewhat disorganized Coalition Army

The Coalition Army actually has pretty good troops, they are just poorly organized and led. This isn’t so bad if they are merely defending (not so good either, but not so bad), but if it turns out that the French player only has a couple of Corps on the board, then they must attack!

Their poor leadership rating will make it hard for them to coordinate an attack on a key point at the right moment. Their artillery superiority is hard to use effectively because early on when they’d really like to have it, the fog will prevent its use.

Adding to their woes, the French have Five HQ cards to hide and disperse/or concentrate their forces, the Coalition player has only 3! Two wily players will only have HQs on the map and all their forces hidden in reserve. This makes it very hard for the Coalition to cover a broad front while searching for the French army.

The other tough part is they have very poor intelligence of the real French strength. Whether or not they are all there, All the French HQs will be on board until they can see them and call their bluff.

All of which puts them in a tough spot. They must begin as though the French only have the two Corps in play, and if it turns out they bet wrong, they have to quickly revert to the defensive with a slow, disorganized command structure.

Fought this way, the battle is actually quite even. If the Coalition strikes hard and quickly, they should usually break the French army, but if they find themselves stuck in and suddenly facing the whole French Army, they are in desperate straights. In either case, victory will go to the player who best manages the crises as they develop.

Now I want to add one little flavorful rule that you can take or leave. The historical battle was won when the French forces gained the Pratzen in strength and “broke” the coalition’s will to fight. I replicate this moment by saying that if the French player ends the game with an unpacked Baggage Train in the town of Pratzen, then they win, it’s as if they have broken the Coalition army.

Pratzen, just East of Kobolnitz

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