Thursday, February 3, 2011

A gentle criticism of Command & Colours: Napoleonics

The offending cover
(with explanatory notes)

Explanatory note -

I was playing Command & Colours: Napoleonics the other day with Savage - or more precisely was engaged in the labourious process of sorting blocks prior to play when Savage began pouring forth wrath in a manner rarely heard from so amiable a soul. I should point out that Savage is a graphic designer by vocation and quite devoted to his craft.

He did not think very much of the artwork on the box cover. I found this funnier and funnier as he got angrier and angrier, until the other drinkers in the pub began to think there was something wrong with us.

I mentioned it to him later in an email. This was his response. It lacks some of the vehemence of the original, but I think the spirit is there.

Rant??? RANT!!! It's the truth, as handed down by the Gods themselves, inviolate and as obvious as the fact that the bugger's missing his sword!!!!

Right, first thing; the box design is a bit shit, innit? But that's okay. Napoleonic game, red, white, blue. Obvious but forgivable. Expected even. Grognard game box design is a bit like an old pair of shoes. They look crap, they smell a bit, but they are comfortable. If a grognard game looked cool and current and fun, the sort of people who like them would just walk by it, unaware that the lush and exciting box they just passed contains the sorts of hexes and small counters that makes their beardy little hearts sing.

So fine, the box design is a bit rubbish. Actually no, it's alright, it's perfectly forgettable, it's a box. However. HOWEVER!!!! This is the part where I need to get a stick to clamp down on so I don't bite my own tongue off in rage.

There is a picture on the box, where the white part would be if the designer had just gone with the safe plan of 'slap a French tri-colour on it and go to lunch'. There is a picture, or there would be a picture, if there was not instead the ruins of a picture, the remains of a picture, the empty husk of a picture that if it was a body would be arse up in a ditch with a couple of police detectives standing around it, tutting into their take-out coffees and vowing to find the monster who did this.

It's not a great picture.

It was once a grand picture. There's some fancy blokes with big hats, and some swords, and the odd horse. Actually I'm not sure about the horses, I can't recall the minor detail of whether there are horses or not, because even now, days after the event, all I can see are the mistakes. The monster...

There is a tool, called the magic wand. It's in Photoshop. You can use it to select pixels that share similar characteristics over large areas and then do things to them. Change the colours, tweak other values, disappear them. Or you can use it to destroy dreams. It's versatile like that.

In this case it's been used to play a version of Operation, plucking out random parts of the characters. That fellow at the back is missing the blade of his sword! The guy at the front is missing half of his neck, and the top of his sword! Even worse, the other guy at the back has had his head bisected by an invisible sabre! Where is it?! In fact, fuck that. Where is the dread shade that wields the terrible Nega-Sabre??? He's just not fucking there! There's another bloke missing the top of his hat. The horror.

Oh wait, there are horses. One of them gazes out at the viewer, his eyes wild with fear as he witnesses this pictorial Apocalypse. It's fucking carnage. There are bits of sky hanging off arms, there are weird outlines hinting at where pixels cling to the shapes that are no longer there. No wonder these chaps are crying ballyhoo and charging about! Some mad sky god has descended to measure out disaster upon them, one clumsy sweep of his mouse at a time.

War is already ugly, there was no need for this. Those poor bastards.

And now that the background (and bits of the foreground, and some ears, and a hat, and a bit of sword) has been erased, what has the perpetrator of this felony decide to replace it with? I honestly don't know, but it looks like a pink cloud. After exhaustive hours of research I cannot confirm if any Napoleonic battles ever took place under the shadow of Candyfloss Mountain, but I FUCKING DOUBT IT!!!!!

Did I mention that when I spoke to Richard Borg in Febuary of 2009, this games release was being delayed? The reason? They were waiting to finalise the artwork.


Whoever you are, you goddamned son of a bitch, I hope you rot in French hell.

Epilogue - Savage was later found, naked and covered in woad, burning the box cover artist in effigy. His thoughts on the subject have been published with his blessing.


  1. Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

    Thank you for a good laugh. I enjoyed the rant and the "enhanced" cover artwork that you did. :)


  2. I have much sympathy for Savage's views - even leaving aside the errors, for a relatively expensive game the box art is rather lacklustre. For me, though the real howler is on one of the order cards - the one dealing with bayonet - charges which refers to "Cold steal". Oh dear. Mind you proof reading seems to be a dead art - the current issue of the Battlefields Trust mag contains a load of typos. Ask Savage if he has some spare woad and a match...

  3. Too funny.

    Really though, it's not so bad... look at some of the old AH titles like Blitzkrieg and Guadalcanal.