Vauban's Wars is a set of rules by Eric Burgess, now in final playtesting and development, for conducting sieges on the tabletop. There is a fairly detailed description/discussion of the rules concepts on Eric's blog. While it is designed for the 18th century, it is hardly a stretch to use them for the Napoleonic era, and with modifications by the gamer they could easily be used for as far back as about 1500 AD. If you're like me, you've probably already got a castle, fort, or similar in you collection. If not, there are some great, inexpensive ones available from the folks at Paper Terrain, as well as more expensive (and much heavier) resin and plaster alternatives available elsewhere. Those with more talent and time than I might even have scratch built one. Regardless, if you're like me yet again, that lovely model has mostly sat around looking good on a shelf, but gathering dust from lack of use.
Be prepared for these rules to change all of that! First, if you've ever fought any kind of campaign in the gunpowder era, sooner or later a siege scenario is going to come up. These rules would fit perfectly for that situation, but they are really designed to allow you to set up a siege game in isolation, and test your skill against those of Vauban, Coehorn, and the other master military engineers, and produce a fun game that will reach a definite conclusion within a single gaming session, or two at most.
While we don't tend to think much about sieges in the Napoleonic era, in fact there were quite a few important ones, including Genoa in 1800, Danzig in 1807, Stralsund in 1809, and Hamburg in 1813-14. The campaigns in the Peninsula in particular were full of notable sieges including Valencia, Saragossa, Gerona, Astorga, Almeida, Cuidad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Tarragona, Sagunto, Cadiz and Pamplona.
Perhaps the most famous siege of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, however, was the siege of the immensely strong fortress of Mantua during General Bonaparte's first Italian campaign. After kicking (or scaring) the Austrians out of Lombardy, Mantua was first invested on June 3, 1796. Limited siege supplies, limited availability of troops, the marshy environs, and repetitive Austrian offensives over the alps lead to both slow progress and out right abandonment of the siege on no less than two occasions; the Fortress did not finally fall until more than 8 months after the siege commenced. This was our second siege using these rules, and the scenario was loosely based upon this situation. We started our game with but 2 weeks of summer left, in mid August of 1796. Each siege turn in VW represents a week.
Well into Autumn by now, some heavy rains halt further action this week, but the French have now dug a final parallel right up to the edge of the Moat!
Week 14 of the siege; it will be Winter next turn, and the defenders are down to zero food. The Governor passes a test and the populace remains quelled, but it is now just a matter of time before they rise up and turn the city over to the enemy. With the walls breached and French Grenadiers massed for the assault, Petrovic asks the second replacement French Commander, one Francois Barras by name, for terms. Otherwise, should the coming French assault succeed, a bloody sack of the city by the enraged besiegers is likely, with all the horrors that entails - the usual rape, pillage, and murder.
Say, does anyone know where a thirsty ex-General can find a decent cask of Brandy?
We had a great time with this one. It was quite different being inside the Fortress instead of besieging it as I was last time. We identified a few rules points and questions, but the game went by quickly, and generally smoothly. Espionage was mostly suicidal this time out, but the French did score one key intelligence success. The French Heavy Mortar actually managed to have some impact on the Morale of the defenders, but as it turned out they were so generously supplied that it had no real impact upon the outcome. In different circumstances, though, the impact might have been significant. The game played out well, with a number of unique and dramatic events. Highly recommended!
Till next time,