Sunday, January 30, 2011

Command & Colors:Napoleonics - First Impressions

Yesterday I had opportunity to play C&C:Napoleonics Richard Borg's latest offering from GMT Games with my friend Andrezj. I hadn't had a chance to read through the rules in advance but I was already very familiar with C&C:Ancients and had read a one page summary of the differences provided by another friend, so I wasn't too concerned and assumed it would be easy to pick up, and so it turned out.

We played four scenarios Corunna, Talevera, Coa and Bussaco, I played the British in each scenario. After winning Corunna I lost the remaining 3 games though the final battle of Bussaco came down to a nail biting finish where a 50/50 throw of the dice could have won it for me but it was not to be.

So what do I think of it?
Productions value are up to the usual standard for C&C games and as I have said if you know one of the variants you will have no problem in picking this game up. As a game it was thoroughly enjoyable, of the four scenarios I played all but Coa were reasonable well balanced. I would recommend this boardgame to anyone and plan myself to get a copy at a later date, an easy game, lots of fun, what more can you ask for?

But what of it as a 'Napoleonic' game as opposed to yet another C&C variant?
Well here my feelings are mixed, first compared to lot of tactical Napoleonic games it didn't feel like I was playing PanzerBlitz which is a major plus but at the same time I didn't really find it had a strong 'Napoleonic' feel to it either.

I had difficulty in making effective use of the 95th Rifles, in one game they were attacked by cavalry forced into square and destroyed over the next two turns, in another they occupied a town and a couple of rounds from an artillery battery destroyed them as an effective fighting unit. I have a hard time imagining my getting into that position in a 'miniatures' game.

The British get a +1 die when firing, the French get a +1 for melee but that was it and I didn't find that did much to add any flavor, though it did 'mix things up' a bit, you didn't really get much feel of the French coming on in columns to be met by the volley and bayonet charge of the British. The reverse slope tactic seems to be non existent, if the British occupied the first hill hex then they would take hits from the French artillery, if they occupied the next hex back the French could approach without taking fire and when they did attack there melee advantage had the Britsh just retreating and the only way to stop the rot was to go on a general offensive and engage in a melee in which the British had no advantage and simply relied on being able to concentrate numbers in the right place at the right time. You can argue all that has been abstracted and then factored in to the dice throws, that is the usual answer to any criticism of a Borg game but for me it left the game with little real Napoleonicness.

Add to that I felt far too many times my batteries were charged (successfully) by cavalry, I would say frontally as well but there is no 'front' as such  in C&C games. If it had been Mercer at Waterloo he would have been ridden down on the first cavalry attack without having got off a single round.

Now on the subject of Cavalry, when they attack all they need to do is to force the unit they are attacking to retreat and then they can advance into the hex and attack any adjacent unit, again to put this in a Waterloo context the Scots Grey charge the French who turn and run at the sight of them and then the Grey's instead of continuing on and plowing through them they stop on a dime, turn over 90 degrees to their right and roll up the line, don't expect to ever see your Union brigade way over the other side of the ridge way beyond control, sabering the Grand Battery.

The game "work's" as a game, in fact exceedingly so, it "work's" in replicating a battle, it work's as a beer and pretzel game for none Napoleonic grognards but I just didn't feel much flavor was there for a true Napoleonic fan, my metals and Lasalle or BP can rest easy they are not threatened by this game.

One caveat, this was the first sitting and Borg games are notorious for taking several sittings before you begin to appreciate them and realize the mistakes you were making, so I am hesitant to suggest that it would improve with some rule changes, even if I think it would!

So in conclusion, at this point I would say, great game, worth buying, you will have fun with it but not really that "Napoleonic" in feel.

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