Monday, January 24, 2011

Commands & Colours: Napoleonics - First Brush

Finally managed a game of CC:N on Saturday. Savage and I spent a very pleasent afternoon in the pub playing and replaying the Maida scenario that I posted about earlier. We were later joined by Gorman, who with his usual flair led both sides to victory in successive games. Gorman was also a first time player and was glad of the opportunity to finally try out his new toy.

First impressions were not overwhelming as the first forty minutes of game time were taken up sorting blocks and setting up. If I'd been thinking I would have sorted the units in advance which Gorman has done with his C&C: Ancients set, but as it happened this was no great hardship as I had good company. On the other hand it did mean that we played the same scenario five times as we had little desire to fumble with blocks again. Savage did suggest that Risk style figures with card tokens would have been a better way of solving the problem.

Thank the Lord, I'll be replacing the blocks with figures shortly. They really irked me.

We found ourselves having some difficulties with the rules, but nothing that wasn't resolved after a brief consultation. We over-rated musketry rather spectacularly at first, forgetting that Crossed Swords do not count in ranged combat - but fixed that once we re-read the rules. Artillery is very much a supporting arm and will not be a battle winner on its own, but properly supported and put in a position where the opponent can be made to dawdle under the guns, they can be lethal.

Cavalry didn't get much of an outing as there was only a squadron on the field, but we did use the square, flight and other special rules and they seemed to work. I'll withold judgement until we manage more cavalry heavy scenarios.

The main fight of all five battles was the infantry battle and we gave these rules a thorough work out. While French and British infantry are rated much the same, British troops have a bonus in firing while French troops have a bonus in melee. This is not to say that British troops didn't charge and French troops didn't shoot, but that a smart player could do very well by playing to his strengths. Most of the French victories involved a flank attack or cannonade to disrupt the British line followed by a brigade strength assault led by a General. One British victory came about during an unsightly scrum that developed in the first game and the second when an unsupported French assault force attacked the centre of an unbroken British line and were shot down and then counter-attacked by the redcoats.

Savage did have some choice words to say about the art in the game, but I'll save those for another day.

So far every Richard Borg game that we've played goes through this process -

Step 1. The rules are read.
Step 2. ...and are pronounced as unplayable. Heads are sadly shaken and there are sorrowful mutterings about how "Borg has really gone off his rocker this time".
Step 3. The rules are read.
Step 4. The game is played. All the rules that seemed inexplicable suddenly begin to make sense.
Step 5. More games are played. The subtlety and simplicity of the game design become apparent.
Step 6. The game is hailed as a triumph, as we knew all along that it was.

I recall the Pacific Theatre expansion for Memoir '44 coming in for particular stick when the rules came out, but before we got to play it.

In other news, there is now a website supporting the game similar to the fantastic site support for Command & Colours: Ancients. There isn't a huge amount there at present, but I'm sure that will change with time.

I forsee a long and happy life for this game amongst my circle.


  1. Conrad Kinch,

    Although I am not a great lover of Napoleonics (even though I have a reasonable selection of 25/28mm figures), this sounds like it could entice me into trying the rules out with figures on my Hexon II terrain (just like Tim Gow has done).

    I look forward to reading more about your battles with both the rules and the scenarios in due course.

    All the best,


  2. Good, timely post - thanks for publishing it. I've suspended further CCN trials until I have an opponent - the Command Cards make a nonsense of solo play, and though it would be possible to tweak the rules to suit, it seems wrong to test the game in a mutant form.

    Apart from the strange sprinkling of random generals in an army which has a strength but no structure, I am also a bit phased by the fact that units have no front, and can happily fire in any direction - this probably seems rather more bizarre when using miniatures. All fine, I am sure - just unfamiliar.

    I hate the blocks, too - not necessarily the look of them, but the hassle of storing and sorting them. No doubt more hardened boardgamers will laugh at this.



  3. Bob,

    I'm sure my battles with and using the rules will continue for quite some time. If Napoleonics isn't really your thing, well this might be the game that changes your mind, Battlecry sparked my interest in the American Civil War.

  4. Foy,

    I trust Richard Borgs judgement sufficiently at this stage to give rules that do not immediately make sense to me a fair hearing before trying anything drastic.

    The lack of facing and formations gave me pause at first. However, after playing the game I began to appreciate the retreat rules and the "supports" rule makes units in line of battle more effective as well as making as penalising units that are attacked in the rear. These a simple rules with a great deal of subtlety built in - it's often hard to determine exactly what the effects of a rule are going to be in play until you've seen it in a live environment.

  5. Conrad - agree, absolutely - I wish to try this all out properly in published form, but in the longer run I shall be very interested in tweaks to the use of command cards to enable solo play. There are some notes on this (on I think), but I am carefully averting the eyes until I have played the proper rules (as writ) with an opponent.

    Support and retreat works very crisply - my main source of confusion at present is the array of rules that don't apply if you are battling back, or if a square is involved. I spent a lot of time trying out squares, but have not yet tried repelling cavalry with infantry who have not formed square. All excellent fun.

    Once again, this highlights to me that a simplified game which can actually be played is far, far better than a super-detailed one which cannot. I recently drafted a blog post on those wargames rules which I have promised myself I will never use again, but realised I would just get abuse, so left it!


  6. I was quite satisfied with my plays of this (a late pre-publication version only) a couple of years ago.
    Certainly I think that the absence of flanks/facing is less of an issue that a simple reading of the rules might suggest.
    My experience with Vive L'Empereur would suggest that those rules aren't worth the hassle (on a hex system) or added complications