Les Grognards - Austerlitz

I am really excited about Les Grognards.  It's an older game from a small publisher that apparently was a Battlefront title before it was self-published.  I discovered it about a month ago and decided to give the demo a go last week.

It looks like a self published title and my graphics card doesn't make it look any sharper.  That said, I played the demo for a week before I decided to buy the title.  Like the amateur gamer that I am, I have been fumbling through the game and learning on the fly ever since. 

Les Grognards reminds me of the Scourge of War series before Slitherine/Matrix took over the publishing of that series.  Which to me means: poor graphics some weird mechnics but awesome historical detail and therefore a must have.

The Les Grognards demo is full of glitches (try playing the Montebello map with the Montebello order of battle) but somewhere on the battlefield of GrandChamp I decided this may be the best Napoleonic warfare game I have played or read about.  I own Napoleon:  Total War (NTW) and enjoyed it quite a bit, but it is not a simulation of Napoleonic warfare and the battles have a pinball quality to them.  To me the Total war battles are comprised of attacks made by bouncing one unit against another and then hoping the unit you are attacking with is heavier than the opposition so it routs.

I don't know enough about Les Grognards to know what goes into the simulation of combat yet but I do know I fought for at least an hour yesterday at Austerlitz and did not achieve a victory whereas in NTW I totally defeated the combined Russian-Austrian army at the Austerlitz historical battle in just under 30 minutes.

The Battle of Three Emperors

David Chandler in an Osprey Campaign title called Austerlitz "The Battle of Three Emperors" because Napoleon is fighting the Austrian and Russian Emperors. With the Russian Emperor Alexander actually on the field of battle along with Napoleon. I know a decent amount about this battle and so I was eager to start someplace familiar.The battlefield, by comparison to NTW is completely different with the Pratzen heights less imposing and the field of battle much more spread out. I like this better and I think it is closer to the truth. 

At the start of the battle, the historical disposition of the troops is incorrect though.  Davout's Corps is only arriving on the field and should be in the south.  He eventually moves into more of a central position but this is later in the morning.  Lannes' Corps should be in the north matched up against Bagration. Soult's position, Oudinot and Bernadotte all look correct.  Bessierres and the Imperial Guard as well.

The starting positions.  I learn about the F8 key half way through the battle so you can see who is who without mousing over one of the counters.

I start the battle by sending Murat's corps of cavalry north to reinforce Oudinot.
Murat heads north.

While Murat is heading north and Lannes is preparing a defensive line in the south, Bagration's column of Austrian and Russian troops is marching to contact in the center at the Pratzen.
Bagration's allied column marches to contact.

Bagration clashes with Davout's corps in the center on the Pratzen.
The battle begins.

During the Napoleonic era, the Austrian cavalry was the class of the battlefield and it showed in this battle. I had real issues holding back Liechtenstein's Curaissiers and had to divert some of Murat's cavalry and later in the battle Bessierres and the Imperial Guard to counter them.
Here come the heavies.
My initial impression of the game is there isn't much micro managing, or that the user interface makes it incredibly hard to do, so I let my Corps commanders do their thing. I didn't notice any strange behavior though some commanders are slower to engage than others.  I found these French troops rallying below the Pratzen in the distance while French dragoons arrived at the gallop to support them.

Historically correct, I found Russian Duke Constantine hanging back on the battlefield with the Russian Imperial Guard.  He eventually counterattacks Soult's men on the Pratzen.
Constantine's men hung back historically and were used to counterattack the French positions after Soult seized the Pratzen.
The French Imperial Guard begins it's deployment to counter the Austrian Cavalry. Napoleon would have probably sent them into this battle much later than I did but I was fearful the Austrians would overrun Davout and Bernadotte's corps which is also now fully engaged.
The Guard deploys.

As the French Imperial Guard moves into the center, the Austrian cavalry is regrouping in the woods southwest of Pratzen.
Carpathia is so nice this time of year...

As the French resistance stiffens in the center with the Imperial Guard's arrival some of the Allied cavalry bugs out.
Let's get out of here.

A view of the battlefield using the 2D tactical display with the F8 key pressed. I love this feature of the game.
You can see Murat is just arriving in support of Oudinot and Bessierres is moving in to support Davout.
The second phase of the battle was mostly about the arrival of fresh French forces.  Murat arrives in support of Oudinot and the arrival of Soult in the center.
Murat deploys.
Oudinot's men formed their defensive line in "mixed order." Not sure what that means yet but they did a great job keeping the Russians at bay in the north.
Oudinot's line.

This is a picture of Soult arriving. All of the screenshots are from a distance, which I hope will improve once I get a handle on the interface.

Soult deploys.

This is a view from the Russian perspective on top of the Pratzen. You can see there is a hill but not much of one which is a little more accurate than the Napoleon Total War map for this battle.
View from the Pratzen.

One of the great features of this game's engine is the surrender of individual regiments. Here is a shot of one of Murat's units heading east to an uncertain future of detention in the Russian and Austrian camps.
Surrender...The Emperor will be displeased.
The battlefield as it stood when I powered down.
French on the move.
The casualty list after an hour of gaming.

The state of the individual French Corps. Note Davout's heavy losses and Lannes relatively light involvement. I also think that Bernadotte in the historical battle never really got engaged, which I believe became an issue between him and Davout (I need to check this).
Corps data for the battle.

The Austerlitz scenario was a great start to my owning Les Grognards. I definitely have some issues with the game (I believe some of these have been fixed with patches that I need to download) but it is a far better game than NTW if you are looking for a simulation of what the tactical complexities of a Napoleonic battlefield were.


Doug Miller said…
I tried the demo of this about a year ago and liked it, but have been waffling about buying it ever since. I think I saw that the developer was working on an entirely new version, so I was planning on waiting for that.

Still, this really is like Scourge of War for Napoleonics. I might just have to break down and give this another try. I'm in the mood for that realistic 18th century command experience.
Chris said…
Hi Doug. It is pretty good. Definitely some frustrating issues with the game but I have a low expectations threshold I guess, so I've not really become frustrated yet.

The mods are interesting. I downloaded the Battle of Marengo scenario this week and I thought it was well done. Didn't play it all the way through but the map looked right and the troop disposition for the French was right as well I believe.

I did see that a second version was coming soon but it's unclear when that might be. I believe the original release was delayed so I made the assumption version 2 might be as well.

I plan on blogging more about the Marengo scenario after I play it through (hopefully).

Thanks for the comment.