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Board Game: Napoleon on the Danube
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Napoleon on the Danube

Board Game: Napoleon on the Danube


Two-player simulation of the Battle of Wagram, July 1809
Designed by Mark Hinkle
Published by New England Simulations (1992)


Board Game: Napoleon on the Danube


To have a good life we need harmony and balance. Boardgames are the same and Napoleon on the Danube has both these ingredients in abundance.



I think that Napoleon on the Danube is physically one of the most attractive games that I own. The map has really nice colour combinations that tone together so as to be pleasing to the eye and still be very functional. The fonts are attractive, appropriate for the period and well set-out – and are still very functional. The counters have a classic beauty – they have subtle colours and are very functional without being busy. The French counters are colour-coded in three ways – the basic colour for the main French army is blue while the Army of Italy under Eugene is green. The coloured bar at the top of the counter shows the nationality of the troops and a coloured band across the middle of the counter shows which corps the brigade belongs to. The rules are clearly written and well laid out. The physical quality of the game is superb.

But we all know that beauty is only skin deep. The physical quality of the components is certainly matched by the quality of the design.

Napoleon on the Danube is a simulation of the Battle of Wagram – the second largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars. It is fought on a 22” x 33” map where each hex represents 480 years yards. There are 400 counters (quite a few are markers rather than combat units) representing brigades and leaders. There are three scenarios – scenario I covers the first day of battle and runs for 15 turns. Scenario II starts at 4:00 pm on July 5 and goes for 19 turns, finishing at 7:00 pm on July 6. Scenario III covers both days in full and runs for 31 turns.

Scenario II is the main scenario – counters have their set-up hexes for Scenario II printed directly on the counters so it certainly makes it quicker and easier to setup this scenario.

Board Game: Napoleon on the Danube


The Mechanics

The game is based on Napoleon’s Last Battles but has some differences. The game is one of traditional Igo-Ugo hex and counter wargames. The most important feature of the mechanics, which gives the game great flavour, is that of command control. Army commanders have a limited number of commands they may issue to Corps Officers who will relay the commands to their brigades. Brigades within 3 hexes of their officer are ‘in command’ as long as their officer has received a command from the Army Commander. These units can do what they please – they can run, jump, skip, frolic up to their full movement allowance AND they can move adjacent to enemy units and then fight them. If the units are within command range of their officer but the officer has not received a command then those units are ‘out of command’ which means they can do everything EXCEPT enter and enemy Zone of Control. If a brigade is more than three hexes from its commanding officer then it is actually ‘out of control’ which means it has very limited movement options. All units that begin next to an enemy unit may stay in place and fight, no matter what their command status may be. Some of the French officers have a ‘command bonus’ which allows them to be in command a little further away from Napoleon than some of the other officers.

One of the ways in which it differs from Napoleon’s Last Battles is that it is possible for units to have incremental reduction of their strength. A small number of results on the Combat Results Table will cause units to reduce their strength rather than being totally eliminated. In some situations the players will have a choice of retreating two hexes and becoming disrupted or retreating one hex, taking a loss of one strength point and NOT becoming disrupted. Disrupted units have no Zone of Control, suffer losses more easily and have a reduced morale rating.

Morale is handled nicely in Napoleon on the Danube. During combat, units with a higher morale than the enemy units involved in the melee will receive a positive Dice Roll Modifier. Eliminated units with a higher morale level are more likely to be able to be reorganized than units with a lower morale.

There is a page of Optional Rules that allow you to add more complexity to the game if you wish to.

Each corps keeps track of its losses. When the losses reach a certain level the corps becomes demoralized which will adversely impact upon its ability to move, fight and to rally/reorganize.


The game turn is structured with:

French Player Turn
A. Command & Reorganization Phase
1. Command Segment – work out which officers and brigades are in command;
2. Reorganization Segment – try to bring back previously eliminated units;
3. Rally Segment – disrupted units have a chance to rally
B. Movement Phase
1. French units move.
C. Combat Phase
1. Combat between adjacent units is mandatory. Artillery may bombard from a range of three hexes.

This sequence is then repeated for the Austrian player.

Board Game: Napoleon on the Danube


The Situation.
The rules have been put together in such a way as to create an interesting and balanced situation with several options for both players.

Players receive points for elimination enemy units so a prime aim for both commanders is to destroy the enemy army. The Austrian player receives points for possession of Essling and Gross-Enzerdorf at the end of the game (unlikely if the French player is semi-competent and non-comatose – I suspect that even my Grand-mother could hold these two towns against Austrian attacks). The French player receives points for exiting cavalry units off the northern edge of the map. The French player also gains maga-points for occupying four of the five towns north of the Russbach Brook. The French player also gives points to the Austrian player the first time he commits the French Guard to combat.

The main French force is lined up south of Russbach Brook and facing the main Austrian force which is positioned on the Russbach Heights. Both players have small forces positioned to the west. Command control is a serious constraint. Both Napoleon and Charles have more corps than they can effectively control at any one time.

There are some interesting rules that give players options. The Austrian Defensive Command Rule means that if Charles is in an elevated hex north of the Russbach Brook, all officers north of the Russbach will be in command. This gives lots of options in that area but leaves the western corps isolated. The Austrian Offensive rule allows the three western corps to become operational for four turns with options to continue in command but by invoking the offensive it means that the Defensive Command rule is no longer used and this may limit what the Austrian player can do with his main army.

The French player receives points for exiting cavalry units off the northern edge of the board – but there are two catches. There are three quite distinct areas where the exit can be effected. At the start of turn 18 the French player secretly writes down which of the exit areas he intends to use and only units exited in that particular area scores points. The units must also be able to trace a supply line at the end of the game.

There is the possibility of Austrian reinforcements. There are three ‘trip wires’ in the north-west section of the map. As the French cross each line the Austrian player rolls a die to see if he receivbes reinforcements from that direction.

What this all means that there is an enormous amount of replayability in this game. There are not necessarily any ‘perfect plans’. Playing scenario 1 or 3 allows the French to develop the battle as they wish to as they come on from the southern edge of the map and deploy for battle as they see fit.

Board Game: Napoleon on the Danube


Initially the most time-consuming aspect of the game is working out which corps you will place in command and then manoeuvre your troops and officers in such a way as to keep control of the most important parts of the battlefield.

In the game the French player needs to get to grips with the Austrians quickly. The French player needs to be careful as the Saxon troops demoralize easily and the possibility of an Austrian offensive in the west means that the French need to keep a reserve for such contingencies. The Austrian player has the advantage of terrain and starts the game in a winning position (due to receiving points for each undemoralized corps). The onus is on the French to attack. It is the role of the Austrian player to stay cool, use terrain and hold the line as best as possible and know that you hold the threat of a counter-offensive should it be to your advantage.

One of the beauties of the game is that it puts you firmly and clearly in the role of Army Commander. You have to move around the battlefield giving orders to the higher-echelon officers to keep the army moving where you want it to be - and this is not an easy task.

All in all, Napoleon on the Danube is a very pleasing package.


Board Game: Napoleon on the Danube




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Sim Guy
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Nice.

I have this game. I picked it up when it was relatively new, mostly because it looked and felt like a late SPI style Napoleonic design, on which it was obviously based. I liked the leadership and partial loss rules, and looked forward to giving them a try. But, for some reason, I never got around to it, and my game languishes unpunched ann unplayed.

I remember hoping that NES would be coming out with a larger series of Napoleonic battles, making them sort of a poor man's La Battaile series. I see that they still exist - to my surprise - and have put out a game on the battle of Dresden. I guess two is a series...
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Kim Meints
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Next to OSG/CoA NaL Nap on the Danube is my favorite Napoleonic game.Yes the graphics are in the later years SPI style which I still love today.

I too was bummed no other games were released.I thought Austerlitz,Borodino or Friendland would have been good.Bautxen for certain.

Nice Review David!

Sim Guy-Get that baby punched and played!cool


The only thing that bummed me out with the game was no box.The folio cover had great graphics which would have made an outstanding box art but when you're a young new company something had to be a cost saving measure I'm sure.
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Michael Lavoie
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Well, I don't want to start any rumors but over in the New England Simulations topic on CSW it has been mentioned that Mark Hinkle is working on a game on Eylau. I can only assume that it uses this system. Looking forward to that one for sure!
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Kim Meints
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I read that too.

Mark had some health issues so the Eylau design was going very slowly from the last report over on Consim.I think it's been some time since I really looked at their Comsim Company folder
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Pete Pariseau
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Great review - I think this is a neglected classic.
 
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Graham Lockwood
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If each hex equals 480 years, how many centuries will it take cavalry to cross the map?

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David G. Cox Esq.
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promuso wrote:
If each hex equals 480 years, how many centuries will it take cavalry to cross the map?

I think it depends a lot upon the light in which you look at it - if you have light cavalry and they use light-sabres it then converts the years to light-years and that means they can travel a lot quicker as long as they travel light - its all fairly scientific and complicated.

I also think you are getting a bit mixed up - Napoleon didn't have centuries - you are probably thinking of Julius Caesar and his Roman legions.



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Jim F
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Doing a fine job here, reviewing some older titles and giving some the love they deserve. I salute you.
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James Istvanffy
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Good review.

I was very excited about this game when it came out because I cut-my-teeth in wargaming by buying the Napoleon at War Quad - in which the best game was (in my opinion) the Wagram game. The manuever was great and tense. I loved it when OSG upgraded the Battle of Nations with Napoleon at Leipzig (another great game!) and I further loved the Napoleon's Last Battles game which I have used as an instructional aid in serveral Universtiy courses I offer including one called "Napoleon's Last Battles - The Waterloo Campaign."

Napoleon on the Danube is a beautiful game and I would love to be able to do what New England Simulations has done with some of the old SPI classic games.

James Istvanffy 403-249-2083
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Pete Pariseau
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Istvanffy wrote:
Good review.

I was very excited about this game when it came out because I cut-my-teeth in wargaming by buying the Napoleon at War Quad - in which the best game was (in my opinion) the Wagram game. The manuever was great and tense. I loved it when OSG upgraded the Battle of Nations with Napoleon at Leipzig (another great game!) and I further loved the Napoleon's Last Battles game which I have used as an instructional aid in serveral Universtiy courses I offer including one called "Napoleon's Last Battles - The Waterloo Campaign."

Napoleon on the Danube is a beautiful game and I would love to be able to do what New England Simulations has done with some of the old SPI classic games.

James Istvanffy 403-249-2083
James, you might check out what Kevin Zucker has been doing with the Napoleon's Last Battles system lately: The Coming Storm: Quadrigame of the Fourth Coalition October 1806 - June 1807 and The Last Success: Napoleon's March to Vienna, 1809. The combat system is somewhat updated (not as much as in Napoleon on the Danube, but an improvement nonetheless). There are other titles in the system on the preorder page at GMT pursuant to a new OSG/GMT partnership.
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