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Arcola: The Battle for Italy, 1796» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The Poor Man's Introduction To The Napoleonic Wars. rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
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Battle For Italy


Two-player Mini-game of Napoleon’s Northern Italian Campaign
Designed by Kevin Zuker & Tom Walcyzk
Published by OSG (1979) and TAHGC (1983)



Battle for Italy was originally published by the Operational Studies Group under the title of Arcola. The map was printed on paper and the game came in a zip-loc bag. Avalon Hill republished the game four years later, with a different name, a mounted map and a box – I guess that makes it the deluxe edition.

I don’t really understand how Arcola came into being. OSG and Kevin Zucker had started on a series of games called the Campaigns of Napoleon. OSG had published Napoleon at Bay and Bonaparte in Italy. Since then many other titles in the series have been published such as Struggle of Nations (Avalon Hill) and 1809 (Victory Games). The games in the series share a common core set of rules.

The only game in the series I have played is Bonaparte in Italy. In that game I was the Austrian player and Napoleon died on the field of battle. I pointed out to my opponent (a devotee of Napoleon) that the rules said that if Napoleon died then we didn’t have to play the other games in the series – so we didn’t.

Arcola is a very small game which shares some of the systems used in the Campaigns of Napoleon series. Because of the smallness of Arcola I don’t think that systems are really appropriate and that Arcola does not have the feel of the larger games – I have been led to believe that Arcola was actually designed as an introduction to the series.


The components: the game comes with a small 11” by 17” map (it’s probably close to the same size as games that have large 11” by 17” maps). The game comes with 100 counters but close to half of them are blank – there are only a very, very small number of combat units on the map during play. The rules are 8 small pages in length but are very wordy which makes the game actually feel more complicated than it is.


The game systems: the game’s rules are quite different from your standard garden-variety hex-based war game. Leaders are very important. Leaders are rated for initiative – this means that to move a leader you have to roll the die and you need to roll equal or less than the initiative rating for the leader to move. The Austrians are allowed free movement for one leader. The French have more leaders than the Austrians and have a higher average rating as well. This gives the French the chance to be more mobile than the Austrians. Unfortunately for the French the Austrians have 43 strength points to the 25 French strength points.

Combat units are allocated to a leader. Higher ranked leaders can have more combat units than lower ranked leaders. Higher ranked leaders may also have other leaders attached as their subordinates. You have to be careful during play to make sure that leaders are not given more units and subordinates than they can handle and that there are never more than five combat units in a hex. Leaders and their subordinates can be in the same or adjacent hexes.


The third main aspect of the game system is that each combat unit’s strength may change during the game. As units are involved in combat they lose individual strength points and become weaker due to the attrition of combat. Each combat unit also can reach a level where they become ineffective, which means they are no longer allowed to attack but they can still defend.

The situation: the game goes for seven turns and the Austrians win by occupying Verona at the end of game turn seven and having it in within dispatch distance – this means basically not having it surrounded by the French. As the French move second each turn this may be difficult to achieve. Alternatively the Austrians can win by exiting 10 or more strength points off the southern edge of the map. The Austrian forces come on from two different parts of the map edge – the French have the advantage of interior lines.

The French have the advantage of superior leadership that gives some useful die-roll modifiers to assist in combat when the French are on the attack.

The game is a full of options for both players. Do the Austrians concentrate and try to take Verona or head south and exit those ten strength points. The French have to try to concentrate strength against one of the Austrian forces while holding off the other force.

In principle I like the Campaigns of Napoleon system but I don’t think that this small game does justice to it. I feel that the forces are too few and that as a result the dice has too much impact when resolving combats.

If you don’t have this game in your collection the first thing you should keep in mind is not to panic. If you can pick it up very, very cheap you may as well do so. However, you may be better off to pick up one of the meatier games using the same system, such as Bonaparte in Italy, Napoleon at Bay, 1809 or some of the newer games using the same basic system.


"The Game is Afoot!"


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June Hwang Wah
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Re: Please, If You Don’t Have This Game Keep In Mind That You Don’t Have To Panic.
There is another OSG game Bonaparte in Italy based on the same system, but on a larger scale.thumbsup
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Re: Please, If You Don’t Have This Game Keep In Mind That You Don’t Have To Panic.
grognard wrote:
There is another OSG game Bonaparte in Italy based on the same system, but on a larger scale.thumbsup


Yes - I think I mentioned that at the start of my review.
 
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Nathan James
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Re: Please, If You Don’t Have This Game Keep In Mind That You Don’t Have To Panic.
da pyrate wrote:
grognard wrote:
There is another OSG game Bonaparte in Italy based on the same system, but on a larger scale.thumbsup


Yes - I think I mentioned that at the start of my review.


Also, I read in a review recently that there is a game called Napoleon at Bay, which uses the same system.
 
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Nathan James
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Re: Please, If You Don’t Have This Game Keep In Mind That You Don’t Have To Panic.
Thanks for a good review.
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Magister Ludi
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Re: Please, If You Don’t Have This Game Keep In Mind That You Don’t Have To Panic.
I actually think this is a great litle game and a perfect introduction to the NAB series. Can be a suprisingly tense little contest. You can play it twice in one night, changing sides to see how well you each can do...not many other games can boast the same.
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Alan Sutton
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Re: Please, If You Don’t Have This Game Keep In Mind That You Don’t Have To Panic.
da pyrate wrote:


...If you don’t have this game in your collection the first thing you should keep in mind is not to panic. If you can pick it up very, very cheap you may as well do so. However, you may be better off to pick up one of the meatier games using the same system, such as Bonaparte in Italy, Napoleon at Bay, 1809 or some of the newer games using the same basic system.


David,
I have just bought this game from you on e bay and thought you might be the man to help with a query on the rules. The rules say that ZOCs do not extend across Primary Rivers except at bridges but they also say the cost for crossing a river is +1 MP. I'm thinking that Primary Rivers do not exist in Arcola (they must be in another game in the series) so in this game you can cross Rivers, attack across them and ZOCs extend across them. Is this correct?
 
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Kim Meints
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Re: Please, If You Don’t Have This Game Keep In Mind That You Don’t Have To Panic.
Alan

Just forget the word Primary(that word really should have been left out)
Rivers are all the same

So

1.Zones of Control Do Not extend across Un-Bridged river hexsides.They do extend across Bridged hexsides

2. It cost +1 to movement to cross a river hexside except at a bridge which cost no additional movement points.

3. Since ZoC do not extend across a Un-Bridged river hexside you do not need to stop or attack a adjacent enemy unit but may do so if you wish.If moving next to a enemy unit on the other side of a bridge then you would need to stop and attack it
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Alan Sutton
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Re: Please, If You Don’t Have This Game Keep In Mind That You Don’t Have To Panic.
Thanks Kim,
that's a pretty concise summation of what's in the rule book. The "Primary" river phrase threw me. It also seems the rules are confusing here but you have cleared it up. Actually rule 11.21 does talk about the defensive benefits of rivers. I think, actually, it is just that these rules are turgidly written, I was looking on Consimworld last night and that was the general impression there. Thanks again for your help. I think I will like this game and am keen to learn the rules and start playing some others in this system.
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Mark Owens
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This little game of ARCOLA was a great introduction to the larger games.
The scale is the same as the (now called 1X) larger games, two miles to the hex, 1000 men per strength point.

The advantage here is that you do not have to worry as much about your Administration. Here you can concentrate on the mechanics of movement, Forced March, Combat, and the leadership matrix. (Lower rated leaders have a much more difficult time disengaging from higher rated leaders like Napoleon with a '5', with pursuit after combat, the greater killer of strength points, much more severe also with a high rated leader pursuing a low rated leader.

The Original "Big Brother" game was the original "BONAPARTE IN ITALY", from which the Arcola scenario was taken and expanded. The revision of BONAPARTE IN ITALY, first phase "The Quadrilateral", uses the more slightly revised system to produce the ebb and flow of the effort of the French to take the city of Mantua, key to the defense of the Quadrilateral of North Italy and the Austrians attempt to retain it, sustain it, and defeat the French threat.

At this scale, look for the Kevin Zucker operational games noted (1X).
If you can find it, the higher scale "HIGHWAY to the KREMLIN" is not to be missed.
 
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