On June 18, 1815, one of the most decisive battles in military history was fought in Belgian fields twenty miles southeast of Brussels. Within a short 100 days, Napoléon, former emperor of France, had returned from exile on the island of Elba, again seized power, quickly assembled an army, and marched to defeat the dispersed British and Prussian armies now preparing to invade France
When translated into this game, it means each player controls some blocks, and tries to kill the other. This is a two player game, in which one player controls the French units, and the other controls the Anglo-Dutch and Prussians. There are rules to play this with three players, with one player controling the Anglo-Dutch, one the Prussians, and the third would be against them both as the French. I have yet to play it this way, but seems like it would work.
One thing that goes hand-in-hand with block games, are the values along the edges of the blocks being representant of that units ability to perform in battle, and it's health. This game is no different. All units start at full strength, and are weakened in battle until they die and come off the board. There are four different kinds of blocks:
- Artillery (foot)
- Artillery (horse)
Each of these blocks works differently in small ways, but are basically the same. For instance, The Cavalry and Horse Cavalry can move two spaces, while the Infantry and Foot Artillery can only move one. The different kinds of blocks are clearly marked using old wargame symbols (a boxed X for infantry, etc,) but they are functional, and engraved in the wood, so no stickers need to be applied. I would say that they are of decent quality, being small, and not very numerous. As for the amounts of blocks for each nation:
- 18 French
- 16 Prussian
- 14 Anglo-Dutch
The board is a pretty bland grey-white color, with red roads,, blue rivers, and cities that are just a scattering of small squares at two or more intersecting roads. Not very pretty to look at, but functional, just like the blocks. Although, when the board is set up, there are reds, blues, and greens aplenty enough to add a little color to your playing expeirence. There are about fifty-five or so (quick count) cities on the board, so battles can vary as to where they take place, and there is no lack of cities to go on your turn. Of course, whether or not the open cities gain you any advantage, or are a waste of movement, is another matter.
There is also a smaller board, the Battle Board, that is used when a combat situation arises. This will be explained in more detail when I get to combat.
It might be of worth to note that a few extra counters are needed that Avalon Hill didn't think neccessary to supply. Markers for the game turns and to note which cities are being fought for are needed. The rules suggest pennies, but anything can be used. I use things from other games.
The rules are only about three and a half pages, in smaller than average size font. So, four pages, maybe. They are relatively clear-cut, and to the point, except some spots regarding the Battle Board. I feel that any experienced Eurogame player would be able to comprehend these rules, and have the game up and going fairly quickly, as I was once able to. A few quick references to the rules during the game may be needed, but only for combat reasons, and maybe retreating. Again, this is an older wargame so the rules are in black-and-white, with a few diagrams and pictures, but are not something exceptionally spectacular to look at....but who cares.
This is really two games in one I feel. The movement and the combat. Now, your thinking, "every wargame has movement and combat." Yes, but this one really separates the two in a unique way.
The Movement Aspect: The movement in this game feels really chess-like to me, takes place only on the map, and is probably the most mind engaging part of it. Units always move from city to city, and because of the restrictions that the roads and rivers have, how much of what you can move where is not always apparent. Especially since the French player's only hope in winning is to get his units to one of three cities deep in his opponent's area, he needs to really move his units so he get the most there, with the least amount of combat. There are several movement restrictions:
- Main Road (Thick Red Line): Can move 8 units
- Minor Road (Thin Red Line): Can move 6 units
- River Crossing a Road (Thick Blue Line, duh!): Halves the amount of units normally able to cross
There are three special cities on this board, all deep in the Anglo-Dutch/Prussian side of the board. When the French player occupies these cities, then the Anglo-Dutch/Prussian player must remove units from the board at the end of every one of his turns, as long as the French retain control. These cities are:
- Ghent: One Anglo-Dutch unit must be removed
- Liege: One Prussian unit must be removed
- Brussels: One each of Anglo-Dutch and Prussian units must be removed
Thats pretty much it, considering there are no stacking limits in the cities. This is my favorite part of the game. Until a combat happens...
The Combat Aspect: While movement unfolds on the map, combat happens off the map. The combat in this game is a little harder to grasp than the movement. When a combat happens, all the units are moved to a Battle Board, where the combat actually plays out in a very organized manner. The Battle Board is separated into three columns, with each player having their own side, with a middle ground in-between. When units are in the middle ground, they are referred to as being "engaged." A unit can either move, fire, or retreat. Units can either move forward to engage, move to a different column, or move back to their own rear ground from being engaged. Different units fire in different ways, and it depends on whether or not they are in the middle ground or not. Each unit must specify which unit it is attacking, and roll an amount of dice equal to it's strength. Roll of six hit. Here are some of the specifics:
- Infantry: Cannot fire unless it is engaged or units are engaged with it
- Cavalry: Same as Infantry, but when it engages, has higher chance of scoring a hit
- Artillery (foot and foot): Can fire across the middle ground, unless they are engaged by units, or its own units are engaging the enemy
There are a few more little rules, but this gives you the basic idea. Units can only fire upon enemy units in its own column, but can always move between the columns. When at any time there is an empty column on a player's side, then that player loses, and must retreat. Retreating may mean pursuit fire, and step loss and whatnot, so its a bad thing to retreat. This all creates a very fluid combat, and offers alot of options for each player. I seem to forget all about the movement aspect of the game when immersed in these edge-of-your-seat battles.
An army is deafeted when half on its units are killed and have been removed from the board. When this happens, the rest of the army are also removed from the board. The French player wins when both the Anglo-Dutch and Prussians have been defeated. And vice-versa. Also, the Anglo-Dutch/Prussian player wins if the French player has not won at the end of the last game turn.
I think that Napoloen is a great intro to not only block games, but wargames in general. Light on rules, heavy on gameplay, with luck and strategy all rolled into one. I can see how the Columbia Games version might be better though, as it has more units to work with, and larger and prettier board. But, while maybe the components are bland, the fun is in full color, and I will never turn down a game of this classic game, known only, as Napoleon.
- [+] Dice rolls