Anyway, four of them have played up until now. I was the fifth; the odd man out. Whilst there is a mechanism in the campaign for this, it's less ideal than just having a sixth player. And a couple of weeks ago, we coerced JohnP, who has never played Maurice before, to be that sixth player..
So last night - the fourth round of the campaign - Europe saw six nations vying for supremacy. The players are split into alliances of equal size, and these last for the duration of a war. A war is a series of battles which are fought until one alliance has a particular majority of epic points (the VP in the campaign) over another.
On the one side we had Peter (Austrians), Daniel (Russians) and JohnP (Prussians). On the other was Caesar (French), Gary (Ottomans) and myself (Sweden).
My army is based on an alternate Great Norther War, where Sweden came off better against Russia and remained a major player in the Baltic. They also maintained their highly-motivated, small-army Ga Pa approach to warfare; my army is small and very aggressive, with a roughly equal mix of infantry and cavalry in terms of both numbers and quality.
I drew Daniel as my opponent, so we ended up with a rematch between old foes, on the Russian plains.
Here's my army, deployed to attack the Russian right. With only ten units (plus one of mercenaries), my aim was to strike one portion of his army very hard before he could bring his numbers to bear.
The Russians. A lot of the infantry were conscripts, but there were some guard units in there as well.
Meanwhile the other battles were beginning. Next to our table, Gary's Ottomans were attacking Peter's Austrians. Peter has gone for the bold move of having no national advantages for his army, thus allowing him to spend all of his points on troops.
Gary's Ottomans are very pretty, with hordes of irregular troops.
Elsewhere in the room, Caesar's French were defending against JohnP's Prussians.
Back to my game. I advanced both my infantry and cavalry as rapidly as possible. I decided to push the cavalry around the Russian right flank, which involved negotiating a wood filled with irregulars. Rather than be shot at, I used a Confusion card to draw one of the units out into the open ...
... and then rode it down.
Daniel moved his cavalry over to intercept, and that's where my plan fell apart. His lead unit was elite, and my lead units were elite. Despite my numbers, and Cavaliers national advantage, actually breaking his unit was very hard indeed. It wasn't helped by the fact that the Russians could rally like there was no tomorrow, thanks to one of their national advantages.
I kind of lost the plot at that point and, without really thinking it through, advanced my infantry into musketry range of the Russian line, despite being unsupported and outnumbered at the point of contact. Needless to say the two lead units were cut down, without inflicting any real damage on the enemy.
Eventually I scored a breakthrough with my cavalry, despite having lost one of my elite units. Unfortunately my units were also very shaky, and a charge by the last remaining Russian cavalry unit broke two of them, to give Daniel the game. Trying to push my infantry into a bottle-necked killing-ground was a bad idea, as was using my cavalry in a location where I had no real means of exploiting the advantages I had. Still, I imagine all of my early games will be learning exercise with this army.
In the other battles, JohnP used Prussian discipline to march around the French flank, and mowed them down in droves. Not bad for a first game.
Meanwhile, Gary and Peter bashed away at each other, and burned through all three decks, leaving neither army unbroken at the end of the day. But Gary had captured the objective from the Austrians, to pick up a marginal victory.
The Ottoman win was the only one for our alliance, and saw the their side win the war and gain some extra points. However this also helps me, since lost units are generally replaced by conscripts at the end of a battle, and I had a few. However during the peace, conscript units can be trained up to regulars, which means that my damaged army has a little more backbone in it.
The next set of games - Round 5 - will see a new set of alliances fighting each other, in the Third War of Illawarran Succession.
(Looking through the campaign rules it strikes me that if you're playing a long game, you choose an army with lots of cheap conscript units at the start. Yes, you may lose a few battles early on, but conscripts are replaced at the same grade, and surviving conscripts easily upgrade to regulars, which means that, over time, your army will become worth far more points than it started with.)