Friday, August 26, 2011

Napoleon: Egypt Campaign Fun in the Sun

Napoleon had a hard time in Egypt and the advisor at the start of Total War's Egypt campaign leaves you under no doubt illusion that you will too. You have two and a half years years to drag your armies from a toehold in North West Egypt all the way over to Damascus in Syria. Everyone is out to stop you including the British, the Mamelukes, the Bedouins and the Ottomans. These guys are so pissed off with Napoleon that the diplomacy option is greyed out - you won't be able to bribe your way out of this.

Things start out calmly enough. You start with three generals, two armies and a foothold in Alexandria. The advisor helpfully suggests that you take Cairo to the South to deal a blow to the Mamelukes and while you are at it why don't you send a few ships to Cyprus to end the British threat too. The Cyprus mission seems a bit premature because the British already have a massive Mediterranean fleet  and I don't have so much as a leaky bathtub. Cairo seems more reasonable so I dispatch my largest force under Napoleon to take it Everything goes well for a few short months.  Cairo falls to Napoleon and he then leads his army South to root out further Mameluke strongholds while my second army mops up a few weakly defended regions to the West.

So far so good but then everything goes horribly wrong. Cairo erupts into rebellion and a full stack of rebels destroys my defending forces. The Mamelukes make aggressive sorties from South and from the West. The Bedouins send a large force of camel troops northward to teach me a lesson and a massive British fleet turns up on the doorstep of my capital to drop off an army. As if all that weren't enough the workers in many of my captured towns decide to show their displeasure at my occupation by going on strike and rioting. This  strangles my economy to the point where I cannot afford to recruit new troops. Arghhhhhhh.

I almost gave up and started over at that point thinking that I must have done something radically wrong. On reflection though I decided that  for things to go so wrong so quickly some of these events must have been scripted. I decided to tough it out.

Napoleon's Grande Armee was too far to the South to deal with the main threats so I let him continue his march Southwards to root out Mameluke and Bedouin strongholds. That left my other two generals and a handful of troops to root out the Rebels, the Bedouin and the British in that order as best they could. There were a few touch and go battles but thanks some hastily recruited fusiliers and a lone unit of canon that Napoleon had left behind I managed to survive the immediate threats in the North. Although firearms have altered the face of warfare since Rome days one thing that hasn't changed is that you still need a backbone of solid infantry units to hold a formation and fusiliers provide this. The cannon serves a dual purpose. With round shot its great range allows me to control the battlefield sometimes tempting an enemy to come into closer range, sometimes frightening them from the field altogether. At short range switching to canister shot will quickly rout large numbers of enemy troops with a "whiff of grape".


The widespread unrest in my settlements caused  own problems. With the reduced town management features of Empire/Napoleon games there are really only two steps you can take to quickly quell unrest: Stuff the garrison with militia or exempt the region entirely from taxes. Both of these steps incur significant financial costs and further contributed to my ongoing penury. 

Is now Late December 1798 and after several months of desperate fighting some semblance of stability has finally been restored to the Western side of the map. Napoleon has been busy mopping up Mameluke and Bedouin strongholds which should reduce the likelihood of further attacks from these factions. The immediate threats in the North have been eliminated and I can start to think about Eastward expansion again. Tax break carrot and militia stick tactics have tamed the unruly provinces and I am finally getting a small surplus of income over expenditure to invest in expansion.

All I need now is a bit of time: time to replenish my armies sorely depleted from constant battles and gruelling desert marches, time to establish an economy to pay for further expansion and time to build up a Navy to stand up to the British. Unfortunately time is the one thing I haven't got. The game ends in barely two years and Napoleon's sorely depleted Grand Armee is sweltering in a one camel desert hovel  at the far Northwest corner of the map just about as far as he could possibly be from the end game goal of Damascus.

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