Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: Command & Colours Napoleonics: The Spanish Army - Part One

The 1808 Spring Season Look - We're calling it straw for socks

I must say I was very happy to finally get my copy after what felt like a very long wait. My credit card was charged in early December, but a call to GMT confirmed that it was unlikely to arrive in time for the big day.

It was around that time that Gorman started referring to the designer as "The Borg that stole Christmas."

This may not be a portrait of Richard Borg

But it turns out it was worth waiting for.

What you get in the box is a bag of blocks familiar to owners of the basic game. These are unstickered and I remember the purgatory of having to sticker the chaps from the first game. I think I might ask cousin Basil and Mrs Kinch to lend a hand on this one. One change that has been made regarding the stickers is that additional markings have been put there to help distinguish between troop types, light infantry units are marked with a hunting horn for example. It is unlikely that I'll be using the blocks very much, but they are perfectly serviceable if you like that sort of thing.

The terrain tiles are flimsy enough, though this is not a major concern for me as I will not be using them. In a normal board game they wouldn't be an issue, because most boardgames only
see a dozen plays or so. However, Command & Colours games see a lot of use, the number of Memoir 44 games I've played certainly numbers in the thousands. I think the poor quality of the hex counters will be an issue for players who use the game out of the box.

The guts of the game is the rulebook and scenarios, but first of all the Spanish army.

Manuel was considered one of the better dragoons in the Spanish service

The Spanish army as depicted in Command & Colours Napoleonics are a pretty rum lot. They are equal to British troops in melee, but their shooting is poorer than the Portuguese, which is saying something. Also when are forced to retreat they have to retreat twice as far. This can have devastating consequences as it makes it easier to break formations of Spanish troops apart and means that when they are unable to retreat they will take casualties.

There isn't much good to be said about the Spanish army, except that there are a lot of them.

So, poor infantry, skittish cavalry and so so guns. What do the Spanish have going for them?

Leave my country. I'm axing you nicely.

Well, the Spanish Guerrilla rule for one thing.

The Spanish Guerrilla rule revolves around Guerrilla Action tokens. The Spanish player begins with a number depending on the scenario and will most likely pick up another one or two during play. The Spanish player may spend one of these token to negate one card played by the French player. There is a one in six chance that this will fail, but if it does not the French player discards the card that he just played and draws a new one, which ends his turn.

This may not sound like much, but bear in mind that only nineteen cards are played in the average Command & Colours Napoleonics game. With such a low number of card plays, a single card be jolly important. Not only that but the Spanish player is allowed to cull that card from his opponents and then immediately take another turn of his own, effectively two turns in a row.

And as any Command & Colours Napoleonics player can tell you, two turns can be a long time to stand in front of even poor musketry or guns. In addition players frequently build plans around certain powerful cards, the Spanish player can monkey wrench that very effectively.

It is also important to note that in certain of the scenarios, the Spanish players has access to more effective Swiss or British infantry. God have mercy on any French infantry that are held immobile in front of them.

Spanish Generals will have to learn
to pick their moment and their opponents well

In conclusion, I would argue that the addition of the Spanish Geurilla rule makes the Spanish army an extremely interesting one to play. The player is going to be able to count on frustrating one and possibly more of his opponents moves, ideally at a key point in the game. This advantage is significant, but fleeting and a skillful player will have to pick his moment well because his unreliable army will have only a very short time to make use of it. It will also make playing the Spanish a death or glory matter, suited to gamblers or the opportunist.

Will you be able to pick the right moment to paralyse your opponent and will you have the right cards in hand to make best use of that paralysis?

Intriguing stuff. I look forward to playing it.

The second half of this review will cover the scenarios included in the expansion.

Intriguing stuff.


  1. Looking forward to the scenario review. Good job on the analysis of the Spanish.

  2. That is one corking pair of shoes!

  3. Sounds very interesting! I'll keep my eyes open for more posts about the game!