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Subject: Review of Jena 20 rss

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Paul Franklin
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Jena 20 from Victory Point Games (also GMT Games)

Playing Time: 60-90 minutes

Jena 20 is a quick-playing game of the battles of Jena and Auerstadt on October 14, 1806. One player takes command of the French army, and the other player takes over the Prussian armies of Brunswick and Hohenlohe. It is part of the Napoleonic 20 series from Victory Point Games.

The series rules are 8 pages long and they state that the aim of the game is to never have more than 20 active units on the board at one time, hence Jena 20.

There is one page of special rules for the game. The rules are simple enough that players won’t need to refer to them after the first few turns, except the occasional special circumstance.

As one would expect from the low counter density and the size of the battles (between the battles of Jena and Auerstadt, there were almost 250,000 combatants!), counters represent a large amount of men. The units in this game of the series represent Corps.

The map isn’t that large, so it’s easy to grasp the sweeping movements of the armies on the field. The French start with just a few units on the board, making it seem like they are in trouble at the start of the game. The Prussians have twice the number of units and command of most of the field, but all of these things change as the game proceeds. Despite this apparent advantage/disadvantage, the game does play out as being well balanced. The French player has a lot of work to do, but the Prussians can’t just sit back and wait for the French to do all the heavy lifting either.

Controlling usage of the morale track is key to playing this game well. Each player has a number of morale points that fluctuate throughout the game. These points can be spent as a resource to balance out combat odds or as payment for committing Guards units and reserves. However, they are difficult to come by in quantity, so it’s vital to spend them wisely.

Each game is guaranteed to be different because of the addition of the Random Event cards. There are only twelve cards, but they are recycled at the end of each night round, so it’s entirely possible to not see all of them in a single game. Each card is either applicable to both players (e.g. Fog) or army specific (Saxe-Weimar Cavalry). These cards seemed to balance out the game in some areas, and they are specific to each game in the series also, so they tie into the feel and the flow of the game.

While at first glance, the game seems simplistic, the proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes. Players will find themselves making a lot of tough decisions in this game, despite the low counter numbers and the size of the map. Choosing between defense in one area and attacking in another is a frequent conundrum. This game requires a lot of thinking and it does so right from the start.

I think the inclusion of the morale track and the Random Event cards can give this game the appearance of a war-themed Eurogame, but I never got that feeling from it. It always played like a wargame, and the entire time I was making decisions based on tactical decisions, whether it was advantageous terrain or cutting off the enemy from his retreat path. It’s decisions like these that make this game so enjoyable. The limited time (there are only thirteen turns) and the limited number of units make sure that you are using every resource to the maximum.

This is an enjoyable wargame that fits the bill of being playable in an evening. Both players can try each side to get the most out of the game, and it has great replayability. The game plays solo but mostly as an exercise to test strategies against a real opponent. Jena 20 fits into the beer and pretzels wargame category, and it is a very welcome entry in that category.

Further Recommendations: Victory Point Games Napoleonic 20 Series (see website) Decision Games Folio Series (Liepzig, Marengo), Clash of Arms Games Campaigns of Napoleon System Days Series (see BGG entry).
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Bob
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Nice work Paul! thumbsup

Planning to order this one tomorrow during the VPG 4th of July discount.

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Josh Morgan
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Nice review. This system is pretty fantastic. So far I've only been able to play solo, but the depth is definitely there.

Ashitaka wrote:

Planning to order this one tomorrow during the VPG 4th of July discount.
If you end up enjoying the game, you should take a look at the Fading Glory P500 from GMT. It's basically a reprint of a few existing Napoleonic 20 games, and one brand new one. Quality will be GMT standard.

Anyway, have fun with the game!
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Paul Franklin
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I preordered the Fading Glory set after I saw the demo from GMT online a week or so ago. It should be a lot of fun, and it's a bargain at less than $40 for four entries in the Napoleonic 20 series. Highly recommended.
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Steve Herron
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My only complaint of the game was the Prussian unit IDs were too small for me to read. I reminded me of the old SPI quad games on steroids. In my opinion it has been one of the best game series to have come out reciently. For a simple game it has a lot to offer the player. I am planning to get FG also.
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Paul Franklin
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sherron wrote:
My only complaint of the game was the Prussian unit IDs were too small for me to read. I reminded me of the old SPI quad games on steroids. In my opinion it has been one of the best game series to have come out reciently. For a simple game it has a lot to offer the player. I am planning to get FG also.
Did you get the Victory Point Games version of Jena 20 or the version that came with C3i? I didn't have a problem with the writing on any of the units in the C3i version. I don't have any of the VPG series, so I don't know what the counters are like for those.
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Steve Herron
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I got the C3i version. My wife got me a huge lighted magnifying table mounted glass at a garage sale. Small counter print problem won't be a problem now. The Fadfing Glory counters will be larger.
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Lance McMillan
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The C3i version uses 1/2" counters; the VPG version has 5/8" counters. Supposedly the "Fading Glory" counters will be 3/4" (and there's even been some discussion about making them a full 1" if the pre-pub numbers warrant it).
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