The Napoleonic Wars - Board Game Box Shot

The Napoleonic Wars

| Published: 2008
4 1

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.

Set in 1805 Europe, you must weigh the strategic dilemmas facing the two alliances in mortal conflict. Napoleon's France enjoys a superb army, central position, superior leadership, and a useful, if not powerful, ally in Spain. However, she faces three foes.

Napoleon must beware of Britain's seapower and wealth, Austria's threatening position, and Russia's reinforcing hordes. In the wings, Prussia, Turkey, and Sweden teeter on the brink of war, begging inducements to join either side. Even lowly Denmark's fleet can upset the balance of power. When fleets or armies collide, battle-related cards may be played and then dice are rolled to resolve the battle and inflict casualties. Even the most brilliant maneuver faces the chance of floundering. So play The Napoleonic Wars now, and put the strategist in you to the test. Your options are only limited by your vision, a meddlesome enemy's cards, and the hand of fate.

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“Glorious Battle in the Napoleonic Era”

The Napoleonic Wars (TNW) is the first of a three game Napoleonic Era series of Card Driven Wargames (CDW) by Mark McLaughlin. These three games are known as the ‘buckets of dice’ series because unlike many wargames which use only a single die roll to resolve combat, these games use many dice rolls to resolve a combat. TNW is centered on Napoleon Bonaparte’s military campaigns which took place in Europe during the early 19th century. The major powers of France, Britain, Austria and Russia vie for supremacy of the European continent. The object of the game is to score the most victory points (VPs) by conquering Key Duchies, obtaining resources and gaining minor power allies. The conflict is well represented in the card events and other game mechanisms. TNW is for 2 to 5 players ages 14 and up and plays in about 4 hours. I would recommend TNW for 4 or 5 players to experience the full flavor of the diplomatic aspect of the game.

The components are publisher GMT’s standard quality. The paper map is large, colorful and pleasing to the eye. The cards are somewhat durable and have fairly nondescript artwork which depicts the time period. Owners will probably want to sleeve the cards. The cardboard counters are thick, colorful and present information well. There are also several cardstock player aids which are very handy. The 24 page rulebook is very well organized, well written and contains examples of play. The game also includes a Campaign Manual which contains an extended example of play and strategy tips. Very helpful! Overall, the components function well but are not exciting graphically.

The game contains set-up instructions for 3 scenarios in which players can play only a specific year of the conflict, either 1812 or 1813, or play the entire campaign. Set-up time takes approximately 15 minutes. The initial land and sea forces for each power is placed on the map, the deck shuffled and cards dealt. Once players become familiar with the starting forces, set-up time will decrease.

TNW is played over five turns, each representing two years. Turn 1 starts in 1805-06 and Turn 5 ends in 1813-14. The game can end any time after turn 1 due to a variable end mechanic. Each game turn consists of the following five steps:

1. Impulse Rounds
2. Attrition & Naval Build
3. Conquest
4. Peace
5. Interphase

Each power, in Order of Movement according to the Movement Track on the mapboard, becomes active and plays a card. This activation is called a Scheduled Impulse. The power with the most cards can interrupt the Order of Movement by declaring a Preemptive Impulse. No power may have two consecutive impulses, meaning a power cannot declare a Preemptive Impulse immediately before or after its Scheduled Impulse. Once the Preemptive Impulse is complete, the Order of Movement continues normally with the next scheduled impulse.

Cards can be used for either Command Points (CPs) or for the event on the card, but not both. If used for the event, the player carries out the specific instructions for the event on the card.

If a card is used for CPs, then the player uses the numerical rating (2 to 8) in the upper left hand corner of the card to perform any number of actions. The CPs can be spent on one or more of the following actions:

A) Build New Unit. It costs 2 CPs to build a 1-strength Unit otherwise known as a ‘Strength Point’. A Strength Point (SP) is a generic representation of military units used in the game; specific types of units such as infantry, cavalry and artillery are NOT used. Building a leader costs CPs equal to the leader’s Command Rating, typically 4 or 6. It costs 4 CPs to build a naval squadron. Leaders and SPs can be placed on any Home (starting) Duchy and naval squadrons are placed on any Home Port Duchy. A Duchy is a space on the mapboard which represents cities or towns.

B) Regroup Unit. Certain card events take units and leaders from play to the Regroup Box. It costs 1 CP to remove a leader, SP or naval squadron from the Regroup Box. Regrouped leaders and SPs can be placed in a friendly Home Duchy. Regrouped naval squadrons receive a Refit marker and are placed in a friendly Home Port Duchy.

C) Move Units. Land units move from Duchy to Duchy along connecting lines. For each Duchy entered, it costs 1 CP to move an Army consisting of a leader and SPs up to the leader’s Command Rating. A leaderless group of SPs, known as a Formation, moves one Duchy per CP; however, the cost is per counter. It is inefficient to move SPs without a leader.

A Naval Fleet or Squadron moves from Sea Zone to an adjacent Sea Zone or from Sea Zone to a Port Duchy within the same Zone or vice versa. A stack of naval squadrons of the same power in a Sea Zone or Port Duchy is a Fleet. It costs 1 Maneuver Point (MP) to move a Fleet or Squadron. 1 CP equals 2 MPs.

D) Flag Duchy. For 1 CP, a power’s Army or Formation may flag (i.e. place a control marker) an unfortified Duchy that it occupies. Flags signify which power controls a Duchy.

E) Influence Foreign Consuls on the Diplomatic Track. Each power can spend CPs to influence the consul of the non-player minor nations of Denmark, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. Each player power has a Diplomatic Track which it can spend the indicated amount of CPs to positively influence a minor nation’s Consul toward Pact or Ally status. Powers may also spend CPs to negatively influence a minor nation’s Consul on another power’s Diplomatic Track to move the minor nation away from Pact status. Once a power achieves Pact status with a minor nation, the player takes control of the minor nation’s card hand and playing pieces. Pact status can only be broken by certain card events.

F) Attempt to End a Foreign War. Foreign Wars occur when certain card events are played. A power can attempt to end a Foreign War by spending CPs to make an ‘End War’ die roll for each CP spent. A 1D6 roll of 6 ends the Foreign War and removes the event from the game. SPs and Squadrons embroiled in the Foreign War are moved to the Regroup Box.

During the Impulse rounds, while units are moving there are a few actions which can occur:

Interception: An inactive Army may attempt to enter an adjacent Duchy to interrupt the movement of active enemy units. The interception attempt is successful on a modified 2D6 roll of 9 or more. The interception attempt is modified by the leader’s Battle Rating, terrain and ownership of the Duchy. If the interception fails, then the active Army continues movement and the inactive Army may not attempt to intercept again for the remainder of the Impulse. A successful interception allows the inactive Army to be placed in the Duchy prior to the active Army entering the space, causing an immediate battle. Naval interception is similar.

Evasion: An inactive Army may attempt to withdraw instead of fighting a battle when an active Army enters its Duchy. The evasion attempt is successful on a modified 2D6 roll of 9 or more. The evasion attempt is modified similarly to an interception. If the evasion fails, then a battle occurs. A successful evasion allows the inactive Army to move to any adjacent friendly controlled space as long as it is not the space from which the active Army attacked. Naval evasion is similar.

Battle: A battle occurs whenever an active Army enters a space containing enemy units and the defender cannot or chooses not to Evade. First the active power, then in Movement Order any other powers with units in the battle declare if they are playing a Battle card. Then the number of battle dice are determined for each side. The number of dice each player rolls is 1 for each undisrupted SP plus any battle events, the power’s Nationality Bonus, the Commander’s Battle Rating and any terrain bonus. This can result in a whole lotta dice! Each 5 rolled Disrupts 1 enemy SP and each 6 rolled Kills 1 enemy SP. The side which inflicts the higher amount of casualties (Kills & Disrupts) wins the battle. If tied, then another round of battle is fought. The disparity between the casualties each side rolls has other effects. Larger disparities in casualties will result in a Rout (Disrupts become Kills) and possibly Overrun (complete elimination) of the losing force. The winner could also obtain battlefield loot (Resource). Kills are removed from the mapboard and the loser retreats to an adjacent Duchy. Naval battles are resolved similarly.

Siege: A fortress, represented by a star Duchy on the mapboard, can only be flagged by performing a successful siege. A siege does not cost any CPs to perform. Sieges are similar to battles except that the attacker inflicts casualties by rolling 6’s. The defender rolls a number of dice equal to the fortress’ strength rating (usually 2) and still inflicts casualties on 5’s and 6’s. If the defender rolls more casualties than the attacker, then the siege attempt is ended for the Impulse. Otherwise another siege round is fought. The fortress falls if it suffers a cumulative number of “6” hits equal to its strength rating during the Impulse.

Formations in uncontrolled Duchies suffer attrition. For each SP and leader in the formation, 1D6 is rolled. One SP or Leader is lost for each 6 rolled. The surviving formation then places its flag in the non-fortress Duchy.

Naval Squadrons built during the Impulse Rounds phase receive a Naval Build marker. During this phase the Naval Build markers are flipped to their Refit side. Spending a MP during a subsequent Impulse will remove the Refit marker and allow the naval squadron to sail at full strength.

Potential conquests are resolved. A nation is conquered if it lost all its Key Duchies. A nation must make a conquest roll if it still controls at least one Key Duchy but its Capital is enemy controlled. If the modified 1D6 roll is 6 or more then the nation is conquered. Conquered nations cede territory to their conqueror and then become a neutral for at least one game turn. After one game turn, the power may choose to join the Imperial Camp (France) or the Coalition Camp (led by Britain), or remain neutral.

A 1D6 roll is made to determine if peace breaks out, ending the game. Each player power in Order of Movement may reduce his upcoming turn hand size by one card to add or subtract one from the Peace die roll. On a modified roll of 6 or more, the game ends and VPs are tallied. On a die roll less than 6, the game continues and progresses to the Interphase.

This phase prepares the players for the coming game turn. It consists of three parts, camps, reinforcements and draw.

First, players decide whether they want to switch to the other Camp. Neutral powers also decide to join a Camp or remain neutral. A power may join a Camp only if all players in the Camp agree.

Second, each power receives a number of reinforcements according to a set schedule. The reinforcements are placed in the power’s capital and can be Deployed on a limited basis.

Lastly, all nations draw a new card hand according to the number of Key Duchies each controls. One card is drawn for every two Key Duchies or up to the power’s minimum hand size. Nations which drew more cards than their maximum hand size discard one card at random to gain a Resource. Nations with hand sizes still above their maximum discard to their maximum and receive additional reinforcements.

The turn marker is then advanced and the next turn begins.

TNW has a moderate learning curve but is still fairly accessible for those who are new to CDWs. TNW treads middle ground in complexity between Axis & Allies/Memoir ’44 and the super complex hex & counter ‘Grodnard’ games. New players will learn most of the mechanics after one play; although it may take several plays to grasp strategies as each power plays differently. Even after many plays, I still find myself agonizing over the best play for each card.

Players stay engaged at all times during the game because there is high player interaction. Besides the usual maneuvering and clashes between armies and navies in a wargame, players can also play Response and Battle cards on another player’s Impulse. Players must also keep a close eye on the Diplomatic Track, lest they allow their opponent to gain a minor power ally. Game time is long by most game standards; however, short for a wargame. Since this game is so engaging, the time passes very quickly.

If you’re looking for a historical simulation of the Napoleonic Wars during the 19th century you won’t find it in TNW. Significant people, places, events and even quotes are in the game. However, you won’t fight the same battles or play events along the same timeline or even at all. This makes TNW very replayable.

Luck plays its part in TNW. Obviously luck will make an appearance when ‘buckets’ of dice are rolled and cards are drawn. The dice can be fickle and generous at times with each player. I have been involved in games where players have hot dice but at some point the dice cool down for that player and heat up for another. By the same token, maybe your card draw wasn’t good on one turn but very good on the next. Usually luck evens out in the end.

The Napoleonic Wars is a great game and one of my favorite CDWs. It’s a lot of fun to throw your massive armies into epic battles, play card events to foil your enemies’ plans and fight the tug-of-war on the diplomatic track! The Napoleonic Wars would make an excellent addition to your collection and I highly recommend it to avid and power gamers.


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