Cockpit of Europe: France & Flanders 1744-48

Volume I in the Lace Wars series

Cockpit of Europe (CoE) is the first of a set of four games covering the War of the Austrian Succession. From 1741 to 1748 this relatively unknown conflict raged on the continent of Europe. The primary land actions took place in three theatres: the Low Countries, Germany, and Italy. Each game covers one of these theatres. The second game in the series, Charlie's Year, covers a related topic, the famous Jacobite Rising of 1745-46.

CoE deals with the Flanders theatre, between the years 1744 and 1748. From 1743 on, Britain and France were formally at war. The French leadership was divided into two schools of thought. The traditionalists believed that the Habsburg dynasty was the primary threat to France's position in Europe, and that the main thrust of the war should be made against their possessions in Italy and Germany. The new school feared the rise of the Maritime Powers (England and Holland) and counselled a hard blow in that direction, possibly through a naval war. But there was one location where both schools could be satisfied: Flanders.

A campaign here would directly confront the Maritime Powers, and force the Habsburgs, as the current rulers of what would become Belgium, to intervene as well. Success would drive a wedge into the enemy's Coalition, both politically and geographically. As an additional spur, France's own allies, the Spanish, were demanding action. Attacking in Flanders would be easy for the French and would distract the Austrians from Italy, where the Spanish Queen hoped to conquer a duchy for her son. If her attempts failed, a captive Flanders could be used as a bargaining chip in the eventual peace negotiations…

CoE looks at the five years that the French spent in the Low Countries attempting to fulfil their plans. Even though they, thanks to the sublime leadership of their German-born Marshal, Maurice de Saxe, defeated every army sent against them - conquering the whole of modern Belgium and invading Holland - the effort resulted in a draw. The subsequent peace merely restored the status quo. The stage was then set for the titanic Seven Years War.

You are the King's Captain General, and as such, are unconcerned with the outcome of the war.Your goal is to make a name for yourself. And there is great scope for you in Flanders. The armies involved were the largest yet seen on a European battlefield - the French had over 200,000 men, and the Allies tried their best to match them. The region is relatively compact, yet difficult to operate in, with the open country thickly studded with fortresses and cut by rivers. Seaward are tracts of swamp and fenland. On the other flank are the dense woods and rugged hills of the Ardennes. The French player, with the strategic initiative, must constantly press forward, laying siege to town after town (and leaving many men idle in garrison), as he seeks to lever the Allies away from the French frontiers and ultimately threaten the Allies' own bases of operation. The Allied player must decide whether to defend everywhere, to bide his time and harass the enemy, or to launch an offensive of his own. Even if he makes the right choice, however, he must still get the agreement of all the nations under his command...

The Game

CoE is a two player operational study. One player is the French, the other the Allies. The Allied army includes contingents from Britain, Holland, Austria, Hesse, Bavaria, and even Russia! (The Dutch army itself contains Swiss, Saxon, Bavarian, Walloon, and Scottish mercenaries, not to mention forces from Holstein-Gotthorp and Hessen-Philipstahl). Map scale is 8.5 miles per hex. Unit counters are brigades. Units are rated for Strength (in battalions), Effectiveness (a combination of morale and training), and Movement. Turns are equivalent to three weeks. There are scenarios for each year of active operations - '44, '45, '46, '47 - plus a Campaign Game. The object is to accumulate Prestige by fulfilling a set of Campaign Plans, generally involving the conquest of territory.
[In this era, decisive victory was beyond the grasp of most nations' war effort, despite their grandiose plans. It is thus more realistic to expect the players, as theatre commanders, to use the war to further their own ambitions. The campaign game ends when peace breaks out, but as this event is beyond the players' control, player victory is based on personal performance instead.]

The heart of the game is the Operations Phase, where 'movement to contact' and combat occur. The players alternate conducting Operations with their forces, as determined through an initiative mechanic which is dependent on the amount of strategic momentum each side has developed (usually the French have the initiative). The combat system has a tactical feel - while not a full sub-system with battlefield maps, it addresses the key issues of frontage, reserves, and supports, as well as firepower and morale. Winning a battle will bring you the acclaim of your noble peers, but may not gain you any strategic advantage; losing a battle can be catastrophic.

Leaders have an important role to play, as befitting an era where personal command was critical. They are rated for skill or effectiveness, personality, and influence (i.e. the chance they have of retaining command despite their incompetence). The supply system simulates the effects of foraging, in tandem with the use of pre-positioned depots. River and canal movement has been taken into account and will prove as critical to success as the use of rail lines in more modern games.

One unique element is the use of Auxiliaries. Auxiliary counters represent support troops and irregulars who had a major impact on operations, but cannot be adequately represented as traditional game units. Instead, a player might have a pontooneer auxiliary that he can play onto a stack to help it cross a major river, or a converged grenadier auxiliary that provides a morale bonus in combat.
[Playing cards could have been used instead of counters, but there are production issues involved, and besides, some of the auxiliaries' functions are hard to indicate with cards. In essence, however, auxiliaries are that kind of game asset, not "pawns" like the combat units.]

Components

1) Two 12x18 inch full colour maps representing Northwest Europe from the Channel to Metz, and from Paris to the Zuider Zee. They were derived from a mix of modern cartography and period maps dating from 1715 to 1750.
[NB sample map image is low-res].

2) Over 1000 counters. RSG is a DTP company, so by default, the counters come printed on label paper, which you must affix to cardboard and then cut out. However, we do carry a limited stock of die cut counters. (You can compare the prices on our Order page; games with die cut counters also come boxed, and we also sell the counters as separate sets).
[NB sample counter images are low-res].

3) A set of charts and tables on 8.5x11 inch cardstock, plus two 11x17 inch HQ display cards.

4) A series rulebook (called the King's Regulations and Orders, or KR&Os), a game-exclusive rulebook, and an historical commentary.