Review: Et Sans Résultat 1814 Campaign Guide

Since a while I have been interested in Et Sans Résultat, the (10mm) Napoleonic all-in-one-wargame ruleset from David Ensteness/the Wargaming Company. I don’t think I will invest in his rules, but the campaign guides look useful. I bought a copy of ‘The Most Awful Situation’, the 1814 Campaign of France/6 Days guide. Short review: I feel poor and happy.

Ensteness, an American living in Minnesota, started with ESR in 2009 and with his Wargaming Company in 2015. He since has developed it into a one-stop-all-in-one-shop, a company that sells miniatures, a ruleset and campaign guides. It’s a modern business concept that is more or less similar to Baccus (terrain, miniatures, Polemos ruleset), Pendraken (bought the Blitzkrieg/Cold War/Future War Commander ruleset) and most of all to Battlefront/Flames of War. Hi-res, full colour booklets, uniform guides, boxed sets with rules and miniatures, a professional website – it’s the successful FoW-template transferred to 10mm-Napoleonics (the rules can be played in any scale, btw).

The ESR ruleset as such is for me just another Napoleonic rulebook – never played it, but based on reviews I would say it’s not essentially better or worse than grand tactical wargames like my preferred Blücher, or Volley & Bayonet, Lasalle, Over the Hills or the recent Bataille Empire (review here).

Besides, this Yankee set is for me, as European, relatively expensive.

  • The 2020 dollar price for the rules only (Complete Player’s Guide) is $60, = 53 euro. Magister Militum in the UK sells the rules to EU customers for 48 GBP plus 10 pound shipping, which is 73 euro.
  • A direct order to the US is out of reach: $60 + $22 or $44 (shipping) + $15 (customs duty) + $15 (standard customs clearance fees) = 112 to 132 dollar.

Sorry, mr Ensteness, my wife forbade me to spend that much on an umpteenth Napoleonic rulebook.

Cossacks attacking Napoleon’s bodyguard, 1814

The Campaign Guides are a different story, however. They have the same price as the complete rules ($60/48 GBP) and had positive reviews (link1, link2). With money my father-in-law gave me as Christmas present, I bought a guide.

TWC offers seven campaign guides at the moment:

  • 1805 Austerlitz Campaign
  • 1808 Iberian Campaign
  • 1809 Aspern-Essling Campaign vs Austria
  • 1812 Russian Campaign Part I
  • 1812 Russian Campaign Part II
  • 1813 Leipzig Campaign
  • 1814 Defense of Paris campaign – the guide I bought.

This guide, named ‘The Most Awful Situation’, is probably the most essential of the series. It fills a gap for me as wargamer. The Osprey ‘Essential Histories’ Napoleonic Wars (4) The Fall of the French Empire 1813-1815 is brief about this campaign. Older military history publications like Houssaye and Francis Petre (both very readable, available as cheap ebooks) lack maps and OoB’s. Internet resources are scattered. In a Caliver books catalogue I finally found one other 1814 scenario compendium, by Surdu et al. 1814 is a neglected part of military history, compared to the plethora of books and scenario’s about Waterloo, Austerlitz, Marengo, Borodino etc.

So, what is TMAS?

The Most Awful Situation is a softcover spiral binded book with:

  • an introduction;
  • 73 pages with maps, order of battles and descriptions of the early 1814 Allied march on Paris: Hoogstraten (11 January), Bar-Sur-Aube (24 January), Brienne (29 January), La Rothière (1 February), Lesmont (2 February), Nogent (10 February)
  • 48 pages with maps, order of battles an descriptions of Napoleon’s counteroffensive: Champaubert 10 February, Montmirail 11 February, Chateau-Thierry 12 February, Vauchamps 14 February
  • 50 pages with uniforms, colours for every single unit described.

The (Very) Good

  • The Belgian battle of Hoogstraten, as a prelude to the campaign, is added. It’s a forgotten battle.
  • The scenario’s have separate briefings for the umpire, the French and the Allied players, thus promoting fog of war and misinformation.
  • The scenario’s are written for 3-8 players. I like big multiplayer games.
  • Victories are decided by victory conditions and a time limit, not by point values.
  • The battles are linked. Sides get points for every victory, but an easy victory is rewarded with less points than a hard-fought victory. Thus, several skillfull defensive retreats vs a numerical superior enemy could result in a strategic campaign victory.
  • The uniform guides are exhaustive.
  • The guide refers to resources for further research

The Bad

  • Why is it impossible to buy a TMAS-PDF? Nearly all companies sell digital books these days, Osprey, 2FatLardies, Sam Mustafa, Warlord… Maybe going digital is risky for this small company.
  • The price might be fair for all the work: but is IMHO relatively high for a spiral binded booklet.
    • Osprey paperbacks are 10-20 GBP
    • hardcover Warlord is 30 GBP and a hardcover campaign supplement 22 GBP
    • a full colour Blücher hardcover is $40.
    • The excellent James Arnold Napoleonic scenario’s cost $26-52.
    • I stumbled upon a Buck Surdu 1814 campaign guide today, suitable for use with any Napoleonic miniatures rules; brief description of the battle, order of battle, full color map, special scenario rules, and victory conditions. Battles can be played separately or as part of a campaign, in which the results of one battle have an impact on forces present in following battle. Softcover 69 pages, no uniforms but half the ESR price: $29,-.
  • The guide lacks the last phase of the campaign:
    • Montereau (18 February), French chasing Austrians:
    • Bar-sur-Aube (27 February.) Austrians hit back;
    • Craonne (7 March) Pyrrhic French victory over the Russians;
    • Laon (9 March) Napoleon escapes a total defeat
    • Reims (13 March), French surprise attack
    • Arcis-sur-Aube (20 March), French Berezina-style retreat against a slow but overwhelming Austrian force
    • and the final Allied breakthrough Fère-Champenoise. The reasons to leave them out of this publication are unclear. Why is Nogent included, and Montereau excluded?
  • ESR is a grand strategical wargame. TMAS gives only a brief description, Wikipedia-style, of the moves and marches of the Allied armies and the French. I would expect a much better and more detailed explanation of the 1814 campaign, with clear maps and arrows. Not a 20-page essay, but just a few diagrams and maps, with a step-by-step explanation of the marches of the opposing armies. Maybe a next edition?

Conclusion

Overall a valuable reference guide. On a 1-5 scale I rate this guide a 4, clearly higher than average, clearly filling a gap. I would rate it a 5 if more battles were covered or if the price was lower. Useful for the late war battles that I want to play.

A PS reaction from David Ensteness

I sent him my review and he friendly answered my questions.

As to your two questions: 1) Why is there not a (cheaper) PDF version of the books available?

We currently have not released any of our books digitally, there are a variety of reasons, but it is something we continue to evaluate and may eventually do. It is unlikely that a digital release of our books will be substantially less expensive than a print version – this is because the majority of the production cost is not the physical printing, but the R&D of creating the product and that cost is not reduced when shifting to digital production.

We say “digital production” specifically because simply a PDF of our existing content does little to take advantage of digital release, and we favor a broader approach that harnesses more features of digital media. However, such a production is not directly compatible with producing a print version and includes substantial work beyond what a print layout does.

If we do not create a PDF release, and move to a different digital format, there are fundamental questions as to platform, availability, maintenance, and development. While in a technical sense these are business risks, the actual issue is resource allocation and long term commitment to support. We can’t rightly jump to a digital format and then change our minds in 18 months and switch formats – that would be leaving our customers in a bad place and we work very hard to support what we release.

2) Why didn’t we include the later battles from 1814 in our first 1814 Campaign Guide? All of our ESR Campaign Guides to-date cover large portions of yet larger topics.

1805-1 covers both the Ulm and Austerlitz Campaigns, but its broader topic is really the so-called “Glory Years” during which the French Empire is expanding rapidly. Therefore, its sequels will cover the events of 1806 and 1807.

1809-1 covers both the Bavarian Spring Campaign and the Aspern-Essling Campaign, but does not cover the many battles between Aspern-Essling and Znaim (including Wagram).

Similarly, you’ve seen that our 1812-1 guide stops at Borodino and only covers the events to that point that involve the French main army, a subsequent release, 1812-2 covers the flanks of that same period. A later title is planned to cover the retreat.

This is also the same with Iberia-1 and 1813-1 – the latter which we should note, does not cover Leipzig as you stated in your review – it covers from 1st Möckern to 1st Kulm, leaving the fall campaign of Leipzig for a subsequent sequel.

In short, 1814-1 is the first portion of the campaigns of 1814, a subsequent Campaign Guide will cover the several engagements not yet covered.

There are practical reasons for these breaks in addition to the logical separation of events. Each Campaign Guide is nominally between 150-250 pages. Both in terms of R&D and in terms of practical use, including everything that occurs in a year would be unwieldily and incredibly expensive both to produce and to purchase.

We’re very happy to be offering something that, strangely, has not been done before for the Napoleonic period. While there are uniform guides, scenario books, and historical overviews (not referring to in-depth studies) – no company we are aware of attempts to unify these into a single format that specifically addresses the practical needs of historical wargamers, and so we’re trying to do so.

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