With the rules and components all online as well as plenty of reviews and session reports of Jena 20 and other Napoleonic 20 games online as well, I won't waste space repeating this useful info but would like to provide a visceral or emotional, an "experiential" reaction to Jena 20.
I am a grognard. I am old. I started board wargaming in 1970 with the purchase of AH's Afrika Korps in a department store! I first subscribed to S&T magazine with #33 Winter War. I've played monster games such as War in Europe and Europa, own several hundred wargames a few hundred Eurogames, have tried all sorts of computer games and wargames, played Magic the Gathering when it first came out well enough to get into the finals of the US championship back in the early 90's - I've been around the block - game-wise.
As I approach my twilight years (late 50's) I search for elegance in games. Anyone can design a bloated "kitchen sink" game with rules, counters, and chrome ad nauseum which collapses under its own weight. Similarly, anyone can design a "simple" game which is so basic that it is either repetitive or random.
A few rare games are "elegant". The mechanics of the game are, if not simple, memorable. The playing of the game is intense and engaging. After playing , you think about it and want to play again. You are drawn into the game and fully enjoy the immersion. Jena 20 is one of these elegant games.
I'm going to make comparisons with two other games which, at first blush, appear completely inappropriate. The first is Paths of Glory - a game which elevated the card-driven wargame to its current incredible popularity. I could have chosen Twilight Struggle but it is less a wargame that PoG.
Why would I compare PoG to Jena 20? PoG takes 10+ hours to play - Jena 20 takes maybe an hour. PoG has more "moving parts" than Jena 20 by far. But, to my mind, these two games are both elegant and engaging. In both, you use the system to implement your strategy. In PoG, I spent many initial games experimenting with an early German knockout blow of France. In Jena 20, although I have only a dozen games under my belt (half solo), I have tried the Prussian "aggressive" approach at Jena with mixed success!
The beauty of Jena 20 is that it provides for a spectrum of tactical and operational approaches and it only takes an hour to see how right (or wrong!) your approach might be! So although mechanically VERY different, Jena 20 and Paths of Glory are both deep and elegant games for all their differences.
The other game which pops into my head after playing Jena 20 is Combat Commander. Whoa, you say! This clown is comparing Jena 20, first to Paths of Glory and now to Combat Commander? What's he been smoking?
The reason I think Combat Commander is such a brilliant game is that, not only is it elegant in design, it viscerally engages you in the gaming experience. It is THE best game for drawing you into the narrative of the ebb and flow of a battlefield experience, in my humble opinion. Jena 20 does this as well, but again, on a time scale which only runs an hour or so. Will Bernadotte finally show up and help out Davout? Will the Prussians effect an Orderly Withdrawal at the appropriate moment? As with Combat Commander's events, the cards in Jena 20 provide an AWESOME range of realistic possibilities which the discerning player must always keep in mind to play well.
So hats off to the entire Victory Points Game team which has produced Jena 20. This is a polished wargaming gem which deserves the highest accolades. To be able to play a game of this depth and fun in only an hour is a design breakthrough. I look forward to the other titles in the Napoleonic 20 series which I have ordered and recommend that any wargamers worth their salt give this game and this series a try.
9.5 out of 10.
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- Glad you like it. I'm a fan, too. It might amuse you that it inhabits the same ziploc bag as Battle for Moscow (on my table, the Germans can't win here, either) & the same box as Blue vs. Gray. It is simple and elegant...which is why it'll see my table again sooner rather than later.
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- Luke Hughes
Very interesting review. I am a similar background gamer. And the one hour time frame appeals. I'm curious whether Jena 20 stands out particularly from others in the Napoleonic 20 series (http://victorypointgames.com/results.php?category=20). In other words do you think your same praise applies to others in the series or in particualr to Jena?
If you have not played others in the series than perhaps others will comment as well.
Thanks for taking time to post.
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- David McKenna(dmcke013)Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?
- I find the later ones do seem to be a bit more complex than the earlier entries, with (generally) more of a rules overhead. They are all still quite enjoyable, though - personally, I tend to prefer the games based on the Peninsula battles simply because I am more familiar with the history!
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