The Battle of Busaco using 'Absolute Emperor'

A game played at a club Sunday in October 2021 in which Pete, Vlad and Gordon refought the Peninsular War battle of 1810 using the Absolute Emperor rules. Many thanks to Pete for the following account of the battle and evaluation of the rules: -

Gordon, Vlad and myself played Absolute Emperor, a grand tactical - almost Strategic - level Napoleonic game. Each tabletop unit is a Division with Corps commanders and an army commander. The core of the game is 'Elan' which is allocated to Corps commanders and is used to rally your troops or change orders. Division oders are important in the game and can only be changed at a cost of Elan. When your army runs out of Elan, you've lost....

We played through a refight of Busaco (1810) with 7 British divisions under Wellesley (Gordon) facing 8 divisions under Massena (Myself and Vlad). At this game scale the British had no guns or cavalry on table as they were all included in the Divisions ratings.

As a trial game we started by sticking to the historical plan and deployments, and 2 French Corps (5 Divisions) attacked up a slope treated as difficult going round. The results were going pretty much as history says, with the French stuck on the slopes and getting shot away.

Wellesley began moving his furthest divisions towards the centre once the French line of attack was clear and the French Corps on the right was removed from the game. The other attacking Corps was doing significant damage to the British centre and General Gordon rashly advanced one division off the hill to deliver the coup de grace. At the same time however, the French committed their 3rd Corps and cavalry reserve and caught the British division deployed on the plain.

As mentioned, orders are important, and the advancing British Division, having been given orders to attack a certain French division, suddenly found itself with no opponents as their target was swept away by the musket fire to their front. Temporarily without orders they stopped and were caught between the Infantry of the French 3rd Corps infantry and Montbruns 3,500 Reserve Cavalry. They put up a valiant fight, but in the end were beaten by the cavalry and swept from the field.

At that point, the French army Elan was double that of the British, resulting in a medium French victory.

This was a trial game, and I chose Busaco as being not too big but doable allowing plenty of time for page turning. In the end, Busaco (65,000 men per side) is probably near the bottom of the size of battle that these rules are intended for. Waterloo, Austerlitz, Dresden, Wagram or Leipzig are entirely doable.

As Vlad said while we were playing, the rules are a bit disorganised, and important aspects are either in the wrong place or not mentioned (How you represent a single Reserve Cavalry Division attached to the C-in-C for example.) The only consolation is that the author is very proactive on FB, and his overnight input confirmed that we did things mostly correctly.

Conclusions. It needs a better QRS as an absolute minimum, but I can see us giving it another go soon.