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Board Game: Napoleon at War: Four Battles
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Napoleon At War

Board Game: Napoleon at War: Four Battles

Four Great Battles from the Napoleonic Wars
Designed by David Isby, Irad Hardy, Frank Davis, Edward Curran & Redmond Simonsen
Published by Simulations Design Incorporated (1975)


Even though Jane Austen wrote her stories two hundred years ago, and even though her plots are about a society that is far different to ours and despite the language being quite different to current usage, her books continue to be popular and can be quite a good read.

I put Napoleon at War in the same category. The designs are quite dated, originally designed over thirty years ago. The mechanics are simple and clearly typical of an era from wargaming’s past. Despite the age of the game, its components, its design and its graphics, it remains an enjoyable gaming experience.

Napoleon at War is made up of four separate games using the same system. The games are Marengo, Jena-Auerstadt, Wagram and The Battle of Nations (Leipzig) – despite sharing the same rule set, each battle has its own specific rules, but, in each case, the rule additions are quite minimal.

Napoleon at War is based upon the 1972 design Napoleon at Waterloo. It is a game typical of 1970’s wargames – one player moves all of his units and then resolves battles between adjacent units using an odds-based Combat Results Table.

Once units move adjacent to enemy units they are locked in place and can only move as a result of combat.

As is typical of S.P.I. quad-games (four games using the same system and having related subjects) the four battles have been carefully selected and each one gives players a quite different gaming situation.


Board Game: Napoleon at War: Four Battles

Marengo: Napoleon in Italy, 14 June 1800 –
Marengo is the smallest battle represented in the quad. In this game the Austrians have a vastly superior force numerically. The larger Austrian units also have larger strength factors than the French units. All Austrian units start on the board while the French receive a lot of reinforcements during the game. The French player has two advantages at the start of the game – the Austrian units are bottled-up behind a river which makes it difficult for them to use their numerical advantage and the Austrian units tend to have lower movement rates. A special rule allows the French three turns towards the end of the game where they can counter-attack due to having the strength of their units doubled for three consecutive turns. It is a tense game where both players have to make careful decisions about where and how to attack and then gutsy decisions about advancing after combat. If there is a problem with Marengo it is that luck plays too big a role – a couple of crucial dice rolls in the first few turns can make a big difference to the result at the end of the game.


Board Game: Napoleon at War: Four Battles

Jena-Auerstadt: The Battle for Prussia 14 October 1806 – the general feeling about this game is mixed – it has the lowest individual BGG rating of the four games but some players have commented that they really like it. It is unusual in as much as it has two separate maps and tracks between them. This reflects the dual nature of the battle where Napoleon fought one action while Davout was successful elsewhere while outnumbered 2:1.


Board Game: Napoleon at War: Four Battles

Wagram: The Peace of Vienna, 5-6 July 1809 –
Wagram is a large set-piece battle. It is generally considered to be the best of the four games in the quad. It is a big battle, the sides are evenly matched and the result can be very close. Victory points are scored by eliminating enemy units. Both armies have a Demoralization Level of 50 points – if an army becomes demoralized it simply means that units are not allowed advance after combat and this can be crucial as advance after combat is a technique that allows you to surround enemy units and then destroy them as they have no escape path.


Board Game: Napoleon at War: Four Battles

The Battle of Nations: The Encirclement at Leipzig, 16-19 October 1813 – this is the longest of the four games and has several scenarios. The campaign game can go for four days of battle, even though the real battle only went for two days. This game is well balanced and both players will have the opportunity to both attack and defend.


All in all, Napoleon at War is a fine wargame. It is certainly on the simpler end of the scale of complexity. It has the beauty that you can basically play four quite different battles even though you are reading only one relatively short set of rules.

Despite the apparent simplicity of the game system, there is a real subtlety in the game and experienced players will consistently defeat the inexperienced.

The bottom line is that the games are quick to set up, fast to play and good old-fashioned fun.


Board Game: Napoleon at War: Four Battles


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Three of the four battles (Battle of Nations, Marengo and Wagram) can be played at www.hexwar.com (subscription service). You can also play the original system game Napoleon at Waterloo for free to try it out.

Other Napoleon at War game system games available at Hexwar are Borodino and Napoleon's Last Battles.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I played these quite a bit back in the day, three of them anyway. Wagram was an excellent straight up battle, and Marengo was an entertaining (and quick) change of pace.

Jena-Auerstadt was the most interesting design of the group, stretching the system by linking the action on two small battlefields. Not as good as Wagram and Marengo, but not a failure either.

Unfortunately, I have no use for Battle of Nations whatsoever. The tactical situations that make the game system interesting arise from the interplay between the three combat arms. Not surprising then that Battle of Nations, which has no artillery units, falls flat on its face.
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Eric Brosius
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I think Battle of Nations is the most exciting of the batch, though (as the previous poster mentions) the Napoleonic feel isn't very strong.
 
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Wagram is the true gem of the collection.

How does Austria lose on its own training grounds?

Archduke Charles actually found a way and the Austrian-Hungarian was out of the war.
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Eric Brosius wrote:
I think Battle of Nations is the most exciting of the batch, though (as the previous poster mentions) the Napoleonic feel isn't very strong.
It could have been, if they hadn't crippled the game by adhering to the 100-counter quad format.
 
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Quote:
The campaign game can go for four days of battle, even though the real battle only went for four days.
Sounds like in need of an edit.
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David G. Cox Esq.
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bartman347 wrote:
Quote:
The campaign game can go for four days of battle, even though the real battle only went for four days.
Sounds like in need of an edit.
Makes sense to me - kinda...shake
 
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Sphere wrote:
Eric Brosius wrote:
I think Battle of Nations is the most exciting of the batch, though (as the previous poster mentions) the Napoleonic feel isn't very strong.
It could have been, if they hadn't crippled the game by adhering to the 100-counter quad format.
Agree, and there was a lot of spare space on the Marengo sheet -46 blanks, but they had to keep it to 100 for the folio version.... sometimes SPI were too systemised - actually that happened quite a lot come to think of it. Probably never ocurred to them to do a "double folio" as a 1 off, given this was the second ever quad (after Blue and Gray I).

It would be interesting to create a fresh counter set with the artillery seperated and the divisions reduced in strength, or better still with the units at regiment & brigade size, and leaders using NLB rules.

Actually Kevin Zucker has done that already.

 
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I think the games are interesting as gaming experiences in a retro sort of way for us old-timers. I don't think they're the best way to introduce new players to the hobby beacuse there are better, mroe exciting games to play now. Similarly, they're not really worth playing as simulations, either, as newer designs at similr scales are superior.
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Kris Rhodes
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wargamer55 wrote:
I think the games are interesting as gaming experiences in a retro sort of way for us old-timers. I don't think they're the best way to introduce new players to the hobby beacuse there are better, mroe exciting games to play now. Similarly, they're not really worth playing as simulations, either, as newer designs at similr scales are superior.
What are some better more exciting games out now that a new player (i.e. me) could be introduced to the hobby with?
 
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Speusippus wrote:
wargamer55 wrote:
I think the games are interesting as gaming experiences in a retro sort of way for us old-timers. I don't think they're the best way to introduce new players to the hobby beacuse there are better, mroe exciting games to play now. Similarly, they're not really worth playing as simulations, either, as newer designs at similr scales are superior.
What are some better more exciting games out now that a new player (i.e. me) could be introduced to the hobby with?
You could try Waterloo 20, Jena 20 Commands & Colors: Napoleonics or Napoleon's War: The 100 Days for games that are similar in complexity. simulation accuracy and playing time to the Quad games but I think are more fun to play and a better reflection of current design techniques. They are also in print and readily available.
 
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Mild disagreement; my experience with the various "wargame light" type of games coming out these days don't come across as particularly fun, accurate, or compelling. They don't bring me to the edge of my seat, and I usually end up bored looking at my cards.

Certainly Columbia's Napoleon and Simmon's Napoleon's Triumph are more successful simple wargames that have reasonable amounts of simulation (though not at a Zucker/OSG level - The Last Success, et al). They also put me on the battlefield and grab me emotionally.

I just ordered some counter sleds for TLS and imagine that using them for some limited intelligence house rules would add some variety to the various gunpower era SPI quad games.
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