Monday, July 28, 2008

Napoleonicus Interruptus

Last week, Mike and I played Napoleon's Triumph (NT). This is Simmons Games' followup to Bonaparte at Marengo (BaM) and covers the battle of Austerlitz, considered Napoleon's greatest tactical triumph.

I'll say right away that this is a difficult gaming session to report for one primary reason – we had to abort about halfway through as we had completely botched a rule obviating many things we may have learned.

I'll give some early impressions, though. First, don't assume anything you've learned from BaM when playing NT. The games look remarkably similar, but play VERY differently. Someone on BGG likened BaM to chess, and NT to poker. That's not too far off.

The first thing you notice is that the armies are deployed by Corps, not by unit. Throughout the game, the bulk of what you're going to do is by Corps, and units get detached over time. Both armies are able to make more orders to Corps than units, so this degradation does a wonderful job of simulating command and control.

Corps can do any one of the following move, attack, detach (and move) units, or attach a unit on any given turn. Units can move (including an optional detach), or attack.

Combat is completely different in NT. It still uses the same no-luck approach from BaM, but how you arrive at a final result is much more involved. First, the attacker has to declare the approach where combat is taking place. Then, the defender must declare the pool of defending units (there are a number of restrictions on who's eligible for this.) After this, the attacker has the opportunity to call it a Feint and possibly split off a unit from the defending pool. If it's not a feint, then there's another bit of give and take including possible counter attacks before you arrive at a final number.

This sequence is where the poker analogy comes in. It's not always obvious where the main thrust into a locale is coming from, and it may change depending on the choices the defender makes.

Our session included a fair amount of give and take, and usually held to somewhat of a battle line. I did feel the need to bring on reinforcements while playing the French, however, which would have made it rather difficult for me to win had we played to the end. (The victory conditions become much more onerous for the French if they bring on reinforcements.)

The rules have a fair number of special cases, and they can seriously effect play. You have to be careful when playing this for the first time. The rule we botched was that attacks declared during road movement (which incidentally have to be feints) can only be done by cavalry. We exploited this quite a bit declaring a number of road-based attacks to split up defenders before moving in with the big group to take the locale. It shouldn't be quite that easy, as there's not THAT much cavalry in the game.

First impressions were very good, however, despite aborting the game. It's definitely bigger and more involved than BaM, and the play time increases accordingly. The French have some very tough decisions to make regarding their reinforcements.

We're playing the game again this week, and I hope we'll remember (nearly) all the exceptions. Look for a much more involved report in the coming days.

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