Review – Leuthen: Frederick’s Greatest Victory 5 December, 1757 from Victory Point Games

Leuthen_cover_front(FULL)

Review – Leuthen: Frederick’s Greatest Victory  5 December, 1757 from Victory Point Games

Designer – Frank Chadwick

Artist – Tim Allen

Victory Point Games has provided a copy of this game for review purposes.

I was pretty excited to get my mitts on a copy of this game for 2 reasons. Firstly, I would like to become a bit more familiar with more games on the battles of the 18th century and VPG is going to produce a series of these games, YES! Second… The Legend, Frank Chadwick is the designer.

From the Victory Point Games website –

Drums & Muskets is a game system that recreates battles of the 18th Century, from roughly the adoption of the socket bayonet through the French Revolution. Leuthen is the first game in the series.

The very existence of the Hohenzollern monarchy is in question. Prussia hovers on the brink of collapse after a string of defeats as the winter of 1757/58 approaches. Frederick throws his small army against an Austrian force nearly twice its size with time only for one desperate battle to redeem his fortune before the snows fall.

Designer Frank Chadwick has created an elegant set of simple game mechanics that seamlessly integrate command control, maneuver and morale with the uncertainties of a combat. The battles of The Age of Reason are yours to refight with the Drums & Muskets series!

Just to whet your appetite, here is a little bit about legendary designer, Frank Chadwick

Frank Chadwick is a game designer who co-founded the company GDW Games in 1973. He is the co-author of the Volley & Bayonet rules system and has contributed to other miniature rule systems such as the Command Decision series. Chadwick has also done consulting work in the defense industry. He has said that, “All historical-based games are role-playing games.” He has more than 60 published games to his credit including classics such as:

Un-packaging

So, I have a ziplock bag copy of the game and here’s what you get:

The paper map of the Leuthen battlefield looks lovely. The graphics are very much like the period maps and this immediately add to the feel of the battle.

Leuthen_map

You will notice that the counters for the units are longer than the usual war game fare, which should immediately tell you that unit facing plays a part in the game. They are nicely done, and chunky so they are easy to move on the map. My only gripe is that the artillery icon for units supported by artillery is too small.

Leuthen_counters(front)

The Event cards, are simply excellent. The Event effects are clear and the historical information is interesting.

Leuthen_cardsample_1Leuthen_cardsample_2

All in all, this is a well produced game within the constraints of Victory Point Games’ approach. The higher standard of art and components that VPG is now using is definitely a very good thing and add value to the game experience.

Game Play Overview

Leuthen is meant to be a simple and elegant game for 2 players, for ages 12+ . Meaning you aren’t going find a simulation here. Rather you will find a game that gives you a sense of the main elements of the battle with a flavour of the way battles were fought in the period, without great depth and detail. Just right if you are looking for a game you can play in a short time with more of a “gaming” experience.

SEQUENCE OF PLAY

Leuthen has 6 Game Turns as shown on its Game Turn Track.

First Player Turn

1. First Player Movement Phase: The First Player places Reinforcements due to arrive that turn, if any. The First Player may play one Tactical card, and afterwards the Second Player may likewise play one appropriate Tactical card. The cards will tell you which phase they can be played in. The First Player may then move all, some or none of his units, as desired.

2. First Player Discovery Phase: All Hidden units of both players that are adjacent to an enemy unit (either Discovered or Hidden) are flipped to their Discovered side.

3. First Player Combat Phase: All Attacks and Supporting Fire are declared. Then the First Player attacks enemy units.

4. First Player Administrative Phase:

A. Remove all revealed Dummy units from the map.

B. Both players check their Corps Morale markers and implement effects based upon newly Demoralized corps.

C. The First Player discards any cards in his hand that he desires and then draws as many additional cards as necessary to bring his hand back up to its Maximum Hand Size.

D. The First Player Rallies one Routed unit automatically, and attempts to Rally his remaining Routed units.

E. Determine if either side has won an Immediate Victory.

The Second Player Turn

Repeat Phases 1 through 4, above, reversing the roles of the First and Second Players.

5. Second Player Movement Phase

6. Second Player Discovery Phase

7. Second Player Combat Phase

8. Second Player Administrative Phase: In addition to the other actions, advance the Game Turn marker one space on the Game Turn Track or, if the last turn was just completed, stop play and determine victory.

With a small amount of units per army, this is a very user friendly process. Experienced war gamers will have no problem at all. What’s really nice is that the process is simple, intuitive and moves along quickly.

The card play is central to the system, as its not just a case of playing a card to support your attack. You will have the chance to play cards to impede the enemy’s plans too. This is very interesting as you will need to choose carefully which way will have the best impact in any given turn, and remember, with only 6 turns, there is a lot riding on each decision.

Another very nice feature is the fog of war aspect where you start with hidden units. This gives both players the chance to experiment with initial set ups. The terrain will influence your decisions for set up as well. You can use the historical set up. of course, which works best as a solitaire exercise.

This is not a case of shooting and destroying units. You are trying to cause the enemy to break. As units rout, they impact overall morale. This give a good sense of the ebb and flow of the battle.

Lastly, unit facing has an impact on movement, and combat for flank attacks. So many other simple war games in this and other eras have this missed out, but Frank Chadwick shows you how it can be done with very little added complexity.

Did I like Leuthen: Frederick’s Greatest Victory  5 December, 1757?

This is a fun game for war gamers who enjoy simple, shorter games that still give a nice feel for the problems faced by the commanders and a nice feel for the historical events. The design is very solid and I can’t see any need to tinker with it. The system feels like it could be used in tournaments, with an easily learned, commonly accessible process and I think the players will find them very competitive.

The use of cards is indeed, interesting and fun as you consider whether to add to your actions or throw a monkey wrench into the enemy’s plans. Its so nice to see someone like Frank Chadwick, keeping his hand in the hobby and still capable of creating a gem. I would rank this system alongside some of his best work. Yes, the luck of the draw may have a bit of an impact, but we need to be honest and admit that generals do need some luck!

The fog of war through hidden units is very nice and simple, and keeps you guessing. The cards also add to the fog of war and therefore keep the game from becoming stale.

Leuthen is indeed elegant, as there is a good amount of feel for the warfare of the time in a simple, playable system which has just enough options and flexibility to make you want to come back and have another go. Ultimately, this is a slugging match and with limited turns and a small map, so it very much becomes a case of coming together in the face of the enemy as there is no time for fancy maneuver. It looks gorgeous, plays well,  and, very importantly, is fun. Not sure that I can ask anything more.

A lovely game which I highly recommend.

For more information go to – www.victorypointgames.com

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