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Subject: Just-right Napoleonics from Victory Point rss

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J. R. Tracy
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I tried a pair of Victory Points' Napoleonic folio games last night,
Waterloo 20 and Borodino 20. These are very straightforward games,
with an ur-wargame chassis supporting a couple tweaks that make it
worth revisiting some familiar terrain. Both are ostensibly
operational, but the Waterloo game feels more campaigny while Borodino
has a set-piece battle vibe, even though both cover three days of
action. Both use essentially the same system, though, with a touch of
color unique to each situation.

As stated, the basics are well inside the comfort zone: units rated
for combat and movement, locking ZOCs, and mandatory combat. The CRT
is d6 and differential, running -2 to +4. The results are the first
sign of departure - AW/DW for Attacker/Defender Withdrawal; N for
Engaged (no result but defender will be locked into a counterattack in
his next turn); AR/DR for Attacker/Defender Rout, and AB/DB for
Attacker/Defender Broken. A 'broken' result is really elimination with
a chance for recovery during Night turns, while Rout is a d6 retreat.
Enemy ZOCs don't prevent retreats but will Break a unit 50% of the time.

So far, so good, but on top of this has been added an Army Morale
concept. Morale is the currency of this game - you spend it when you
lose terrain or battles, you gain it when you inflict losses, rest, or
during Night turns. You can also use it to shift a column in combat or
force march, and need to spend a point to commit the Guard and *also*
if the Guard fails in an attack. Each side starts in the seven to ten
point range depending on side and battle, and if you hit zero, you
lose. The French win by driving the Anglo-Allied or Russian sides to
zero, lose if the A-A/Russian morale equals or exceeds their level, and
draw every other result. This is the heart of the game and is a part
of every decision you make in terms of maneuver, timing and combat.

Finally, there is a light random event mechanic - these offer minor
constraints on movement, morale boosts or debits, small combat bonuses
and the like - no game-breakers here but enough to nudge the narrative
one way or the other.

The two battles have some unique wrinkles, including split Lines of
Communication for the Allies in Waterloo, Russian Reserve Release and
Davout's flanking march at Borodino, and one or two others. The Random
Events are unique to each game as well. Additional period chrome
includes cav withdrawal and countercharge and some additional abilities
for elite units and artillery. There is a Fog of War option as well,
with units face down until engaged with some dummies to add some more
confusion.

All told, there's a lot here in some very small packages. We finished
both games in a touch over three hours, with me losing as the Allies at
Waterloo and winning as the French in Borodino. The morale track was
the focus in both games, keeping things tense throughout. Every turn
had difficult decisions, with tough fight or flight options on defense
and timing issues on the attack. When you drop the hammer, it will
likekly damage your own morale as well - you just have to come out
ahead in the exchange. That's not as easy as it sounds given mandatory
combat and no stacking.

I found these to be great fun and good value. I thought they looked
awfully pricey given the physical components - there's not a lot of
there there - but gameplay wins out. Solitairability looks strong
too. Recommended.

JR
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