Scourge of War: La Souffel - The Penultimate Battle of the Napoleonic Wars26 Jun 2019 2
Wait, shouldn’t that be Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo by Feldmarschal Blucher and the Royal Prussian Army of the Lower Rhine (ably assisted by an able British commander nicknamed “Beef” to be sure)? Actually, no. While the campaign of 1815 is often defined by the quad battles of Quatre-Bras, Ligny, la Belle Alliance and Wavre, there was one more pitched battle to be fought, a triumph for France some 10 days after the debacle of Waterloo.
The Battle of La Souffel is known by few and covered by less in the wargaming world, perhaps an add-on JTS digital scenario or Keven Zucker hex-based offering, not to mention my own free PDF download for miniature wargaming in support of an article I wrote. That’s about it, but not to worry. If you own Scourge of War Waterloo, you’re covered. A user mod covering the entire mod has just dropped, its free and well worth a return to the computer. The cry la Patrie en Danger has been heard across Paris once again so let the drums roll and the march to glory begin.
Thunder at Strasbourg
The campaign in Belgium was not fought in a vacuum, but was part of a larger campaign that additionally involved the invasion of France by armies from Austria, Russia, Bavaria and many minor, if unenthusiastic, German states to the tune of 750 thousand soldiers. Napoleon’s overall strategy was based on his famous concept of the Central Position. The main French army would destroy Wellington and Blucher’s forces in Belgium, then immediately swing southeast (picking up replacements and new formations along the way) to deal with what he hoped was a thoroughly hesitant set of Allies. Until then several independent corps were deployed to slow down the advance of the invaders, to include the Armee du Rhin (V Corps d ’Armee) under General de Division Jean Rapp, former ADC to Napoleon, a top notch battlefield commander, and as he had already been wounded in combat 25 times, brave to the extent of lunacy.
Thus in the conduct of his duties he finally met the Allies in battle on 28th June 1815, in this case the Allied III Armeekorps under the command of the Friedrich, Kronprinz von Wurttemburg, about 40,000 men in all. Rapp’s little army consisted of about 30 thousand, not including a nearby Garde Nationale formation, formed into two infantry divisions and a single cavalry division under General de Division Christophe Antoine Merlin. He deployed and battled Friedrich’s Austrians, Hessians and Wurttemburgers along the River Souffel just north of Strasburg, holding firm until the latter forced a crossing of the Brundt Road bridge heading directly for the city. Wurttemburg cavalry poured across the bridge which lay right at the juncture of Rapp’s two infantry divisions, guns and infantry right behind. A nightmare to some, to Rapp this was an opportunity to excel.
He immediately refused the two relevant flanks of the infantry divisions so that they caught the enemy horse in a blistering crossfire. Rapp then placed himself at the head of Merlin’s cavalry (remember, shot 25 times) and charged, hitting the Wurttemburgers before they had a chance to deploy or countercharge. The impact caused their cavalry to recoil, then break . . . right back into and through the closely packed Wurttemburg foot and artillery crossing the bridge close behind. According to Rapp the charge splattered enemy troops all over and penetrated two leagues where the Allied baggage trains – to include Friedrich’s personal belongings – were plundered and declared French property. The Allies broke contact leaving Rapp master of the field, securing for France a stunning victory in the last pitched battle of the Napoleonic Wars.
Rapp then settled into Strasbourg and endured a siege, suppressed a mutiny and finally surrendered to the Allies. But not until he demanded and received full pay for his troops from the re-instituted Bourbon monarchy, the very government he had just waged war against. Whatever the word for Chutzpah is in French, the man had a seriously large portion thereof.
If your copy of SOW Waterloo is up-to-date, getting the la Souffel couldn’t be easier. Simply follow this link to the designer’s Google Drive and download a 95 meg ZIP file named LesCent-Jours.zip. Once downloaded, extract the file and copy the resulting folder (Les Cent-Jours) into the Mods folder of the Scourge of War Waterloo root directory. Assuming your game is current, this folder will sit alongside three other folders, one on The Full French Campaign and two others on an Expanded Grog Toolbar. Seriously, the hard part is over.
Now crank up the game and on the initial screen click on Modifications. On the next screen check Les Cent-Jours (BTW, this is The 100 Days in French), then click Use Selected Mods. Do not click on any other mods listed as they will conflict with this one, especially the Grog Toolbars. This will return you to the main screen where you will click on Single Player, then on the next screen click User Scenarios. The next screen should show five new engagements designated LS01 – LS05, named Hessian Fury, Blood at Souffelweyersheim, Heroes of Strasbourg, la Souffel – German Side and la Souffel – French Side. Make your choice and hit Launch Scenario, but be advised that some scenarios cannot be played until prior, easier engagements have been completed.
Now pop back to the main screen. If you see Lady Butler’s vaunted British square replaced with the 112th Ligne’s welcome of Napoleon at Grenoble by Charles de Steuben and the words Les Cent Jours, you are ready to play.
Now some more good news. Remember the old minimum hardware specs to run SOW Waterloo included things like running in Windows 7 compatibility mode or mandating a dedicated video card with 256 megs memory vice an integrated motherboard video card? Well that no longer seems to be the case. Windows 10 works fine and I assume that current low end machines sport on-board video cards more than capable of handing the software. A couple of other things undoubtedly helped as well. I have a new gaming mouse with a bazillion DPI setting, and I cranked up all the camera speeds in the game to max. I also have a brand new monitor courtesy of Father’s Day and given my previous monitor was 11 years old, the difference is mind boggling. So right now I am running the game at max res with all graphics set to high on my wife’s refurbed Dell workstation and have not had even a whisker of difficulty. It’s a matter of the game demanding a dual core chip to run while finding any PC with less than a high end quad core is damn near impossible. Awesome.
Pas de Charge
When you play the game, don’t expect a whole lot different from SOW Waterloo or its siblings covering the other three famous battle in Belgium. It plays the same way, with all the plusses and minuses previous reviews have spoken of. Overall the game is still one of the most accurate, if not THE most accurate computer representation of the battle, certainly putting Total War to shame. I’ve said this before, but if you really want to know what it looked like, this game is as close as you will likely get. Now add in chrome like HITS (HQ in the Saddle) where you the player can only see what is in view based on your geographic location in the game, and you start to appreciate how tough it was for even a Napoleon.
What makes this scenario special is that is an entirely new battle, not just additional unit models or rules modifications, along with brand new armies fighting one of the most challenging yet least known of Napoleonic battles. Rapp is outnumbered and forced to defend an extremely long front with barely enough troops on the field to cover everything. General de Division Sigismond-Frederec de Berckheim’s National Guard division seems unavailable, so the only real advantage seems to be Rapp himself, though in the real battle that was more than enough.
Based on my research, the battlefield has been very accurately rendered, again with some of the most accurate looking village complexes and foliage I have ever seen. The armies, still 2D vice 3D models, are realistically uniformed for the 1815 period based on unit type and regiment, as are the flags they carry. Historical accuracy seems paramount in this design as the Austrian infantry carry both a white Leibfahne and yellow Ordinarfahnen complete with Flamengrenze edging and if you look very close, even a rectangular patch in the upper staff corner where the regimental number was normally written. Artillery colors are also correct, so yes Austrian artillery have carriages painted muddy ochre manned by gunners resplendent in deer brown with bicorne. As always, the Austrian Hussars on station take the cavalcade of color award, and like the parent game, all units are historically designated with unit commanders named.
Yet there are just a few things I noticed about game play that seemed to be either new or unique to this battle. The first concerns guns firing cannister, which the French use a lot (ask me how I know). Now when such rounds are used there is a whizzing, buckshot sound and the graphics portray a blackened clump of ground kicked up while soldiers flop over as casualties. Likewise there seems to be a new formation called Masse in the game, though I have yet to see it used. Guessing here, but this may be an Austrian only formation whereby battalion columns (eg, the company battlelines are arrayed one behind the other vice side by side in a battalion line) have closed intervals such that forming square can be quickly achieved by simply having the front company stand still, the rear company about face and the soldiers on the ends simply face left or right.
The Austrians called this Masse and used the concept far more frequently than other armies given their love-hate relationship with the horse heavy Turks. Finally, I noticed that in some scenarios the AI actually runs some friendly formations as well, which was a surprise. I’m playing the entire battle from the German side and my Austrian division is moving along its historical route, completely oblivious to every order I’ve given it. Maybe its that couriers have yet to arrive, or maybe they need to pack a loaded pistol to get the point across. I mean, these are Austrians after all.
SOW Waterloo in many ways reminds me of a 15 mm vice 28 mm miniature wargame. The spectacle is not in the detail of each individual model. Here Total War anything is the winner hands down. Rather the visual splendor is in the massed formations of troops, reminding one of de Mille like cinema blockbusters which used thousands of real people vice CGI. Therefore, fight the battle at a reasonable distance, not close up, for maximum eye candy, because . . .
Now with the addition of the battle of la Souffel, we have yet another reason to return to that game experience for a refresher. The engagement is unique in more ways than I can count and is just the right size so those players who like to manage each and every battery and battalion can do so, tho trust me, HITS can break you of that habit real quick. With even today’s modest equipment, the game runs like a champ and best of all, the battle is free. Let me repeat, its free, making this is THE proverbial no-brainer.
So now excuse me, for while the Emperor has abdicated, France endures and the fight for Souffelweyersheim has yet to be decided.