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Subject: Levée en masse Expansion Kit : Bastille Day review rss

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Rodolphe Duhil
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Today is Bastille Day.

Yesterday, I found the Expansion kit in my mailbox. Just in time for the Bastille Day review. I ordered it at its release but I received the basic game instead.
Thanks VPG for sending me quickly the Expansion kit at no charge.

My extra Levée en masse will go to a friend in Germany as a VPG gift. As a Liberation marker too to promote Republicanism. laugh

Components


The Expansion kit brings 6 counters : 4 armies (2 Russian, 1 British and 1 Spanish), 1 Liberation marker and Bonaparte himself.

Except for the Spanish army, these armies are stationery. They are a thorn and prevent you to drive back other armies because you have to fight the closest army, stationery first, in each track.
Stationery armies, when defeated, are removed from the map. This is really important because in my game, I drove them back to the "5" spaces.

The Spanish army is better as several of the new cards activate it. The Conde de la Union came to Versailles in my game. It brought some action to the Vendée track, so it's a welcome addition.


Napoléon, who should be called Bonaparte in the game because he was not called Napoléon till he became Emperor, is a great addition to the game.

He brings +1 Military DRM with -1 Political DRM. So be sure to take Political actions before committing him to the battlefield. The rules are clear and, as it takes him some time (1 turn) to return in triumph to Paris, the use of the Bonaparte counter is balanced. Well done.

The new cards
These 12 cards, with a number on a red circle, fill the gaps of the decks.
They of course bring into play Bonaparte and the new armies.
Most of the cards are for the White deck. They usually activate 3 to 4 armies, but they give you 5 to 6 actions.


The Jacobin club
The effects of this Blue card is a bit strange. This Revolutionary society was moderate till the political debates after the flight to Varennes and the Champ-de-Mars massacre in june and july 1791. The moderates and the aristocratic component of the club left to found the club des Feuillants, the so-called Club monarchique. The club des Jacobins became more radical (the Terror, the Committee of Public Safety, ...).
But the effects of the card are clearly related to the Monarchy. Maybe, the card should have been named the Feuillants club.

Optional rules

- "Nothing is free" adds a political disadvantage (increase Monarchy or Despotism) when using To the Barricades ! (free roll against each arly in Paris). Good idea. If the expansion cards really benefits the player, I'll use it.
- "A single battalion sometimes decides the day" allows you to re-roll once a military action but it has a cost. Use it when you've just lost the game !
- "He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat" gives you a military advantage, always at a cost. Seems a bit too gamey but it could allow you to fight another day and avoid losing.
- Decisive military outcomes introduce Disorganization and Routing. It slows (but not always !) the advances of the armies, at the cost of a little complexity. It's not complicated but I think this could slow the pace of the game. I won't use it.

The Expansion kit in action

I've only played one game, so I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the new cards benefit the player. The stationery armies are not really a threat and the high number of actions per card allows you to fight for the Republican ideas (Political) and drive back the armies (Military).

Maybe it's the spirit of the Revolution today. My Bastille Day game ended in a victory. At last !
True, I'm more careful now and act to contain Despotism and Monarchy, fight hard to drive back Austria and Prussia to their "5" spaces. And it worked ! I rolled poorly some times, especially against Austria, Vendée and Piedmont. But I enjoyed a lot of Naval victories, though the British once came to Rouen.


Beginning of the White deck. The British are in Dunkirk and the Vendée army in Nantes. Despotism is high.
I realized at the end of the game that I forgot to add to the Holding box one Liberation marker.

Beginning of the Red deck. The British are still in Dunkirk and also in Nantes. Austria and Prussia are inactive : Austria with the last card of the White deck - Treaty of Campo Formio - and Prussia with the First treaty of Basel which was drawn at mid-deck.
Bonaparte is in campaign against the Piedmont army. He appeared late in the game (2 cards before the last white one). He'll be quite handy against the Piedmont, the Vendean and the Russian army in Brussels. He drove the Russians back to Vienna. He should not have because I forgot the rule for Stationery armies.

The Treaty of Amiens was the third card drawn for the Red deck and allowed me to remove the Austrian and Prussian armies. This same turn, I managed to win a Naval action and drove back the British to London. I thought if I had done this the previous turn, I would have removed them. I realize now that the conditions are checked at the Housekeeping phase ! surprise I could have remove the British. I can't believe that I've played wrongly since I received the game. I always checked the conditions before the Actions Phase. This is truly an enlightening day !


Endgame. All foreign armies have been driven back and Bonaparte is in Florence. I thought it was a substantive Victory (-2), but let's face it. It's a Republican Triumph. Yes, it is.
I should have removed the British army at the Treaty of Amiens and the stationery armies after the first victories. I would have used the extra actions to decrease Monarchy and place the Liberation marker. Definitely a Republican Triumph, appropriate for the Bastille Day.

Verdict

Pros
- Bonaparte
- the Spanish army
- the tension brought by the high number of armies activated by the new cards.
- the optional rules that allow you another shot when you think you have lost the game.
- no more gaps in the cards

Cons
- Bonaparte is called Napoléon
- the game is made easier ?
- not enough ambitious for an expansion ?

Verdict
This expansion is a good addition to Levée en masse.
Bonaparte is clearly the gem of this expansion. The cards and the Spanish army are welcome additions.
I just feel that this expansion should have been more ambitious : there's just a little something lacking to make it truly great. Maybe more cards.

Recommended for all the players that like Levée en masse.
Bonaparte and the Spanish army justify the (small) cost of the Expansion kit.
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David Kennedy
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Good job.

Please update once you've had ample experience.
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Rodolphe Duhil
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Ok, I'll update it. Now that I know the rules, I'll avoid my previous mistakes !
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David Kennedy
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I like your observation about Bonaparte vs Napoleon. Hopefully, Mr. Welch will entertain the idea of changing it to the more historically correct label. Then again, the rules and components and marketing collateral might also need revising.
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Rodolphe Duhil
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What I don't understand is that I remembered the difference between Bonaparte and Napoléon only when I brought him into play.
I should have seen it when I saw the ad for the expansion kit.
Just after posting the review, I read on Consimworld that Renaud Verlaque (designer Age of Napoléon) saw this too when reading the rules.

The counter should be corrected, as the cards that mention Napoléon (4 red cards have Napoléon in their title, others only in the historical narrative). The rules need not be changed. This is purely a cosmetic change for the sake of history.

The balance between its +1 Military DRM and its -1 Political DRM is a good thing. In my previous games, I had high Monarchy and Despotism values when playing the Red deck. I was more careful today and was not tempted to use Bonaparte because he entered play very late in the game.

If you really need Bonaparte to drive back the enemy, you will have difficulty to decrease Despotism or Monarchy. And without him in campaign (no -1 DRM), I lost many political actions. I'm curious about his role in my future games. I was very lucky today !
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John Welch
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Sorry I missed replying on Bastille Day - how fun that you posted this yesterday.

Thanks Rodolphe for the review - I think this is one of the ways the game gets more visibility. Speaking of visibility, it was my choice to put Napoleon on the counter and on the cards. I wanted to get some of the name recognition for those new to the States of Siege series or new to gaming. The use of Napoleon vs Bonaparte is also part of how I use the game in the classroom - namely that the game allows for lots of counterfactuals (your Spaniards in Versailles for example :-) and so part of the critical thinking challenge for my students is identifying which elements are historically correct and which are not...as in the use of Napoleon before he crowned himself Emperor. The other great thing about it is it generates discussions like this one which brings a more nuanced and deeper understanding of the history being recreated - we have an amazingly well educated community but I suspect there may be one or two out there that are unaware of this difference in nomenclature.

Putting the Russians and the British War Office in the game as counters that don't move was meant to add more flavor to the game without completely upsetting the game's balance. The Russians can be tough to beat and a player must defeat them before getting back to pushing the Austrians and Pietmontese back. More cards do mean more actions but also more advances by the enemies of the Republic :-) I certainly wanted the...will call him Bonaparte for this thread :-)...counter to be a real asset to the player but at the political cost he ultimately was. Being able to spread Republicanism to all the territories 'Liberated' historically is probably one of the most difficult things to accomplish in the game and thus an additional Liberation marker to make it possible.

Thanks again for this thread - I will stop now as my tendency is to write too much :-) Please keep those reviews, session reports, pictures, and questions coming. Last bit - the first draft of the Levee rules in French arrived yesterday! I can't wait to get them finalized and up on the VPG website for download.
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Rodolphe Duhil
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professorwelch wrote:
Sorry I missed replying on Bastille Day - how fun that you posted this yesterday.
That was my plan all along, when I ordered the expansion.
It was great that the second shipping arrived on time !

professorwelch wrote:
Speaking of visibility, it was my choice to put Napoleon on the counter and on the cards. I wanted to get some of the name recognition for those new to the States of Siege series or new to gaming. The use of Napoleon vs Bonaparte is also part of how I use the game in the classroom - namely that the game allows for lots of counterfactuals (your Spaniards in Versailles for example :-) and so part of the critical thinking challenge for my students is identifying which elements are historically correct and which are not...as in the use of Napoleon before he crowned himself Emperor. The other great thing about it is it generates discussions like this one which brings a more nuanced and deeper understanding of the history being recreated - we have an amazingly well educated community but I suspect there may be one or two out there that are unaware of this difference in nomenclature.

I understand your arguments, but I still think that it would have been better to use Bonaparte. The rules and/or the last card (60) could have made the link to Napoléon.

professorwelch wrote:
The Russians can be tough to beat and a player must defeat them before getting back to pushing the Austrians and Pietmontese back.

I had neutralized the Austrian and Prussian threats, so the Russians (4) were easily defeated, even more qo with Bonaparte. I won't always be so lucky. But since my third game, and a better knowledge of the cards, the neutralization of these armies is an objective.[/q]

professorwelch wrote:
Being able to spread Republicanism to all the territories 'Liberated' historically is probably one of the most difficult things to accomplish in the game and thus an additional Liberation marker to make it possible.

Very true. I was unable to place a Liberation marker during my first games. I was really in a "State of Siege" with all foreign armies at the gates of Paris. Now a bit less, as in this game, only Vendée and Piedmont entered the Paris space.
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John Welch
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Thanks so much for your comments - as a first time game designer it means a lot!

I've had some ideas concerning the Bonaparte/Napoleon question. The first is my hope that we can make Levee the first completely translated game for VPG (at least that I know of) - if so, I will use Bonaparte in the French version. My other idea I have to keep under wraps until I have a discussion with VPG - it's nothing 'earth shattering' but it might be a cool little idea - I will keep you posted.
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Rodolphe Duhil
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Does it mean that all the components will be translated, map and card included ? That would be cool.
Will the release include also the expansion ?

If you need someone to give a second look, just to be sure of getting rid of typos, I can help.
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John Welch
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Yes, the plan is to do the first complete conversion of a VPG game into French - map, counters, markers, and event cards. I believe Robin will do the expansion - and I will be sure Napoleon is Bonaparte

If you could email me your contact information, it would be great to have a second set of eyes looking over the translation.
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