NAB Expansion Kit: Designer's Notes

In 2015, shortly after the publication of OSG's  Special Study Nr. 7, "1814: The Fall of Empire," I received an email from Dick Vohlers, pointing out that a few details on operations presented in the Study did not match the set-up information in  Napoleon at Bay. Dick suggested that it might be time to update the information in the game in light of this newly-uncovered research.  

I started to notice more and more discrepancies between the 1978 research and our current best information. The original research was done at the NY Public Library and all the location information I was able to put together appeared in the Situation Maps printed in the original Study Folder. We created seven (later eight) game situations using those same maps as our starting point. 

These days, of course, there is a vast online resource for research. The most important source, which was not available at the time in English, was Maurice Weil,  Cavalry of the Allied Armies during the Campaign of 1814 (covering all the operations in detail, not just the allied cavalry). 

The number one source for the NAB Exp Kit was, obviously, Special Study Nr. 7, especially the completely new map appendix of 14 maps. In addition, we had extensively researched the battles of late January and mid-February for OSG's  La Patrie en Danger; and for early March, for  Napoleon Retreats. Only the battles on the Seine remained to be researched for this new project. 

The start dates are the same as the 1997 Edition, except that 21 March was changed by one turn, to 19 March. The new French Leader Manifest specifies 87 locations (excluding Major Generals); only 30 (about one in three) are the same. The Army of Silesia has 101 locations; 44 did not change (44%). The Army of Bohemia Leader Manifest shows 75 locations; 39 did not change (50%). In this later case, not one single location given for 15 February was correct, and only one location for 19/21 March did agree (mostly because of the date change).  

After revising the set-ups (and the combat strengths) we found that a few new units and leaders were needed: units such as Arrighi's Depot troops that joined Marmont during the Laon-Craonne campaign. On the whole, however, the OrBat information we devised in 1978 stood up remarkably well.  

With all these revisions, it was time to test the new battle scenarios in conjunction with the cleaned-up and reduced rules. Playtesting continued through August of 2019, generally finding that one player aid or another did not agree on the specifics of who-what-when-where. Hopefully we reduced these discrepancies to the absolute minimum. 

What's the Point?
I came away impressed to find how good the original research was. Even though only one-third to one-half of the set-ups were exactly correct in the 1978 edition, that is actually an impressive number given the limited resources we had to work with in those days. It is true that a large handful of locations only changed by one hex. However, we did toil over these in order to provide the best information we could. 

Will that change the outcome of the game? In some cases it will, especially for 15 Feb and 19 March. But it is just as true now as it was in 1978 that many grognards use the games not so much for competitive play as for study. The new NAB Expansion Kit provides a unique means to understand the campaign of 1814 in more detail than ever. Just by setting up the battle scenarios in order one can get a sense of the incredible brilliance of Napoleon and the plodding inevitability of the Coalition.