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Subject: A eurogamer's review rss

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William Springer
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First off, a little background. I don't like a lot of luck in my games; very few games in my collection even have dice. As you can imagine, I almost never play wargames.

So why am I trying this one? I am, alas, a completest; since I have a treefrog subscription I insist on having all the games in the series, and I also hate having games I haven't played. Having gotten Waterloo and Gettysburg so far, I decided to take them in order..

What's in the box
This being a Treefrog game, the box contains a board, a rulebook, and a bag of wooden pieces (also a cloth bag, some plastic bags, and, thankfully, two player aids). You get four types of playing pieces (cavalry, artillery, infantry, and leaders) in a variety of colors, a number of cubes to represent damage, action disks, dice, square markers (to, simply enough, indicate that infantry are in square formation), and some numbered tiles that I'll discuss later.



The scenario
At the start of the game (noon), the allies are heavily outnumbered by the French forces (all the blue pieces) and are primarily fighting a defensive battle until reinforcements arrive. At 3:00, the Prussians will start showing up, but until then, the allies are hard-pressed. (Actually it's not as bad as all that - I count 52 French pieces and 38 allied pieces - but it sure feels like it!) Additionally, until 4:00 the French player gets more action disks, so he has more flexibility in what he can do (and the possibility of taking a lot more actions - more on that later)

How things work
For most of the game, the French player will have the initiative (and may keep it for the entire game, if things go well for Napoleon), which means he gets to go first each turn. A turn consists of some number of rounds, each of which contains a variable number of actions. The key gimmick in this game - which actually works really well representing the uncertainty of war and making it difficult to plan ahead - is that you don't know how many actions you have. There is a bag containing pieces numbered 2 to 5 (2 of each) and at the start of a round, the non-active player draws a piece and has the job of informing the active player when his actions run out and his round is over. (Incidentally, one thing we didn't see in the rules is when the tiles get thrown back in the bag; we figured it was probably at the end of the turn but ended up just throwing them back in after each round). Thus, when planning something that will take more than 2 actions to complete, you have to weigh the risks that your turn will suddenly end before you've finished everything you meant to do.

So, the actions. Players get a number of green, red, and (for the French player only, the first few turns) purple action disks. Red disks only let you attack, purple disks only let you do a reserve movement (basically, a double move that can't go into any regions bordered by the opponent) and green disks let you take any action. Players alternate rounds until it would be one player's turn but he doesn't have any green disks left, at which point the turn is over. There are the attributes typical of a wargame: movement exceptions based on the terrain and type of unit, tables governing the rolls needed to succeed given the types of units involved and any modifiers, etc. On the whole it's not overly complicated, but it does take a while to get used to; we were referring to the player aids every turn to check numbers.

Napoleon's goal is to capture Mont St Jean; he also wins if he inflicts at least 13 casualties on the allied army (but the Prussians don't count). The allies want to capture Rossomme or inflict at least 16 casualties. Capturing a city (my term) means having an infantry unit in it at the end of the turn. If neither player wins by the end of the 9th turn, the winner is whoever inflicted the most casualties (but the French must have killed at least 13 non-Prussian allied forces). Also, I don't know why, but cavalry don't count as casualties.

The game
I took the allies and attempted to hold the ridge line. I made the mistake of being overly aggressive, attacking when I should have simply defended and waited for the Prussians to arrive, but I wanting to make sure I held the strong points on the French side of the main ridge line. My units were also fairly uncoordinated - it seemed that for every two actions they took, the French were taking five! (ie, bad pulls from the tile bag) In spite of that, things were fairly even for the first hour or so, but shortly after 1:00, disaster struck - the French captured Hougoumont!



It was at this point when I started counting dead pieces and realized I had a problem - while I had killed a few more pieces than my opponent had, I also had a higher victory condition. To make matters worse, more of the pieces I'd killed were cavalry, putting me even farther away. Suddenly, my goals changed; no longer interested in killing, I simply needed to preserve my troops until reinforcements arrived.

Towards 2:00, however, two bands of French mercenaries, aided by two helpful "5" draws, broke through my lines; the group of cavalry would attack my infantry and be pushed back, then his infantry would attack mine, which now suffered the disadvantage of being in square position. It was only minutes until 3:00, with losses piling up so high that the allies were considering surrender, then the last remaining French infantrymen behind the lines were able to kill off the cavalry guarding Mont St Jean and capture the city!



Game game ran just under 3 hours including setup, so pretty much real time; however, we're guessing we can play a full 9-turn game in 3-4 hours now that we have some idea what's going on. Not being wargamers, this definitely had a bit of a learning curve with figuring out who was shooting who, which modifiers applied, and how to play without knowing how many actions you'd be able to take.

Overall thoughts

I'm not sure yet whether or not I like this game. It had interesting decisions, but I was frustrated by the luck of the tiles (and the astonishing number of 1s - thank goodness British infantry get a +1 to their rolls!) I do think it's worth playing again now that we have a better idea of what's going on, but I'm not ready to recommend it.

On a side note, Martin Wallace is definitely getting better at writing rules. Fans of his games will know what I mean; the rulebook is generally easy to read, but it can be hard to look up something as key information will be scattered around (see in particular, Brass). In this case, it was generally (though not always) easy to find what we were looking for.

My rating? I'm not sure yet. But I'll play it again. Napoleon WILL meet his Waterloo at Waterloo..
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Kevin Duke
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You'll find a number of questions, answers, and some FAQs posted, which make the game a lot easier.

I'm not familiar with earlier MW rules so I don't know about improvements, but these seemed to be difficult and have drawn a large number of questions about basic mechanics (never a good sign).

Still, I appreciate things about this game that are extremely different from anything else I've ever played. I'm not "luck averse" even though my die rolling is something of a legend among friends ("when he's hot, he's very hot, but mostly he's staggeringly, odds-defyingly cold"). Dice are dice, but the 'luck' element of the 'how many commands can you give?" mechanic is one of the most interesting parts of the game to me.

Get some rules help and I'm glad you'll try it again.

Maybe "good luck" is a bad parting-- how about "bon voyage"?
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William Springer
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kduke wrote:

I'm not familiar with earlier MW rules so I don't know about improvements, but these seemed to be difficult and have drawn a large number of questions about basic mechanics (never a good sign).


Eh, we didn't have any trouble understanding the rules - it's just having to constantly look stuff up in the tables. (Of course, I'm the designated rules explainer in my group, so..)

We played Gettysburg the next week and I liked that better; it's similar but without the "how many commands" aspect (which is interesting but too swingy imo)
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