The Napoleonic Wars
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The Napoleonic Wars, 1805 - 1815, brings you a fast-paced, tension-filled, card-driven wargame using a point-to-point movement system that pushes the envelope in a new direction for this pivotal period of history. Having a simple-to-learn strategic system and short rulebook, The Napoleonic Wars, can be played in an evening as the cards and Diplomatic Track make for tough decision-making in the face of everchanging enemy threats.
The Napoleonic Wars is a superb game. It has a simple play system that can be learnt (If you are taught by an experienced player) in 15mins.
The game plays very well, giving players a wide variety of options...'Do I influence Turkey to become my ally or do I attack neutral Prussia to gain points, I could help my allies - they might double cross me later though.'
The game takes anything from 1 hour to 4 hours to play and each game is garunteed to be great fun and diferent from the last.
This is one of the finest multiplayer wargames. The system is easy to learn but good play involves many less than obvious points. I've played it in all configurations from 2 to 5 players, and as all sides. I've won from every position, and I've seen every possible game end. Anyone bored by it is not paying attention or is playing very poorly.
Take the contention that Russia must do XYZ or Austria will be conquered and France will run away with the game. I've won on the last turn as Austria, by a single 'key' over Prussia, which depended on the outcome of the last 2 battles resolved (either going the other way would have swung it) - after being conquered by France on turn 1.
When Russia did not help me enough and France concentrated on me alone, Britain made gains on the other side of the map. So I just sided with France. In one turn, Russia became immensely solicitous and Britain lost its entire position on the continent.
When I switched back again it was all we could do to bring France down again on turns 3 and 4. By the last turn is was clear he was going down, but not who would get the lion's share on the coalition side. I was in a long competition with Britain for that position, but Prussia almost pulled off a last minute steal. In the end I won my last battle against the French while the Prussians lost theirs, and that was the difference.
I've also seen France conquer England on turn 2 (after a disasterous 'Trafalgar'), which brings an automatic early end rather than the die roll 'possible early victory' mechanism. I've seen France conquered on turn 3.
The core of the game is the card system, not the moves on the map. The command points cards confer are effectively 'money', and just about anything can be accomplished with enough of it thrown at a given problem. The largest battles often turn on supporting cards rather than mere odds. Burning cards gets things done, but being left lower than others makes every minor threat a menance (because you won't be able to react to them all). All powers have some control over how fast they play their hand.
The strengths of the various powers are asymmetric, and trying to play any of them just like all of the others will get you creamed.
Britain's strength is its ability to disengage at will (behind its fleet) and the strategic coherence its investment of cards can take on because of the flexibility this allows. It does not have to react to most threats as urgently.
France's strength is the power of its superior leaders, combined with the largest hand. Together these confer a marked initiative when things are going well (to deny battle here, overwhelm there, etc). But it has numerous threats to cover, and pushing too aggressively in any one area can lose the other half of Europe in half a turn. It must use the threat of its initiative to paralyze enemies, at least as much as executed campaigns. The combined hand of its opponents can always outspend it.
Russia's strength is its distance and the near invulnerability this confers, boosted by bonuses when fighting in Russia proper. It also has the next best leaders to France. Its best role is leading corps supplied by other continental powers. Its main difficulty is securing actual territory for itself as opposed to its allies. It has constant temptations to get that by actually or tacitly siding with the French (e.g. by going after minors and neutrals).
Austria faces the greatest immediate threat from France. It must be played diplomatically, not merely militarily, to be successful. It is in an excellent position to pick up territory whichever way the war goes, but only by moving with events instead of against them. It should also husband its army, preferring to lose a war occasionally rather than throw away the investment it represents.
Prussia can typically get away with more neutral play than the other powers, picking its moment. It can be hard to defend if the war comes to you at the wrong time, and its hand is not very large. But you can usually take your pick of offers, and territory to gain is readily available nearby, against any chosen target. I find Prussia typically wins only when it sides against France in the end, because when it backs France it usually gets a small share of the spoils. I've seen the direct road to Paris pay off for Prussia several times, in the later turns.
In 4 player the Prussians are a minor neutral, up for grabs diplomatically. This tends to force the Russians and Austrians to cooperate somewhat more, just to balance France. In 3 player they are controlled by the same person, and Austria's diplomatic niceties aren't really part of the game. Instead it becomes Russia's shield. I think England is slightly weaker than the others in 3 player, but I've still seen it win. In two player it is everyone against France, and France is heavily the underdog, because coordination of play of the combined allied hand is vastly improved. But I've still seen France e.g. conquer England outright in a 2 player, after naval events took an unexpected turn. I think the game is best played with 4 or 5, but I've enjoyed it with any number.
Learning the deck is a key to improved play. At a more basic level so is full use of the intercept and evasion system to choose your battles or deny them. That includes e.g. use of small detachments to reduce occasions for intercept, hold passes, and use of several leaders in mutual support distance to be strong in several places at once.
It also helps to develop a realistic sense of the likelihood of outcomes involving multiply dice, because control of variance is as important as the expected outcome. Understanding when risk helps you and when it hurts, etc. Just because you are favored to win a battle does not mean you want it - not if too much would be lost on serious defeat e.g.
I found this created a good period feel for the decision to accept or deny battle, and the role of leadership in making that easier to do. This is the bread and butter of a turn of maneuvering. And even if you aren't the one playing a card, you should be watching the board carefully, because those decisions are going to come up and they are crucial. You should not just let the other guy decide such things for you by always accepting battle, or even by always accepting if favored and declining if not favored. There is a lot more to doing it well.
It is also just a fun game to play. There is enough chance cropping up to make events seem unpredictable, and enough control over the flow of your operations and card play to let you try to drive events through those chances anyway. There are definite better and worse courses and it is easy to make outright mistakes. But there are also multiple courses open to you on every impulse - you are not 'railed' on a single optimum track.
The Napoleonic era was complex time in history, but THE NAPOLEONIC WARS has captured the period feel with a smooth and remarkably fun card-driven system.
I have enjoyed this title several times both 2-player and multi-player, each game being more tense than the last.
Personally, I found the included rules to be OK, but the latest version puts to rest those inevitable queries which trail the card-driven games.
The components included with the game are topnotch - it's a bit strange to read that another reviewer found the components below par.
Anyway, my feeling is that THE NAPOLEONIC WARS will go down in gaming history as a classic. It's a versatile design that almost effortlessly transports players back two centuries to the Spanish Ulcer, the Tsar's Palace, or the Streets of Paris.
Easy call to rate this one 5-out-of-5 stars.
The Napoleonic era has been simulated many times over at the battle level, but rarely in the grand strategic arena. McLaughlin made such an attempt in Avalon Hill's War and Peace.
This point-to-point grand strategic simulation of most of the Napoleonic Era (1805-1815) is a design with both old and new elements. There are the usual counters, a map similar to that used in GMT's Wilderness War (winner in our Historical Simulation category last year), and cards that drive the mechanics. Even the units are generic (Risk-like). Added to these familiar components is a change in scale and a strong diplomatic content, making the game a true multiplayer gem. You'll be rigorously challenged to use your resources (Activation and Event cards) optimally.