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Subject: A Duel to the Death rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Age of Napoleon was a major hit in 2003, a Charles S. Roberts award and acclaim. I first got into the hobby in 2005 and I was instantly interested in the game. By the the time I got a copy in 2007 it was still popular. Today that is no longer the case. It has fallen far in the ratings, and now the hype has died down. I’m not sure why, because I think this is among the very best games I have ever played.

Gameplay (68/70): Age of Napoleon is a strategic wargame about the Napoleonic Wars, featuring scenarios from Ulm to Leipzig. It is not a multi-player like the superb The Napoleonic Wars (Second Edition). Instead, the war is featured as a titanic duel to the death between Britain and France, a contest of asymmetrical forces, as I'll explain later. The units represented are corps, featuring the name of their commander along with their ratings for battle, movement, and seniority. Some represent minor nations that, if allied or conquered by you, will lend their forces.

Some Sample Units


The game is driven by cards in the tradition of We the People, only here each card either only activates one army or it may be played for the text. This, combined with large hands sizes, takes some of the tension out of decision making. That is pretty much my only criticism.

The duel between Britain and France may at first seem uneven. Although Britain has control of the sea after a card is played (usually in the first 3 turns), and thus may land anywhere, their army is small but elite, and cannot take heavy losses. The French army is large and superb. Napoleon has an 8 battle rating in a game where the average rating is 3-4. However, the British have more cards that influence diplomacy, for much of the game is about attracting allies or at least neutralizing opponents. While the French can draw on a bevy of minor allies, they can only ever get 1 corps from Austria, Russia, and Prussia. The British can mobilize how ever many they want from these nations, within the limits of mobilization. The other nations are also quite different from each other. Austria’s army is weak, its only real benefits coming from the units for Karl and Schwarzenberg, who has a seniority equal to Napoleon and can therefore lead large masses of men. The Prussians are pathetic at first, but once defeated they can reform and become superb. The Russians have the third best army, and if invaded they receive an injection of weak but numerous forces. Spain has the smallest and weakest army, but if there is ever an insurrection they receive more corps. Insurrection is another way the British can undermine Napoleon. A nation that is conquered may revolt, and if it does it is almost impossible to conquer it. If you don’t believe me consider what happened to me in Austria:

The Agony


All turns except the first begin with diplomacy and insurrection cards. Diplomacy may only effect allies and neutrals, while insurrection targets French dominions (conquests). This is followed by the drawing of new cards and new corps. The campaign phase is played as a series of six rounds, two of those being winter. During a campaign phase armies move and fight, with more nimble generals being able to withdraw or intercept. Battle is based upon a tally of each side’s combat strength, the play of battle cards, and then followed by a roll for losses. Whoever takes the most losses loses the battle. Losses are divided between permanent and temporary, and both armies are spent (weakened), although the winner can use a card to keep his armies fresh.

Lastly there is a surrender phase and then attrition, which is murder on large armies and forces caught in hostile lands. That in a nutshell is the game. The cards provide the events and flavor while the base mechanics are rather simple.

Victory conditions are a bit involved but suitable. France wins if they survive the game, conquer Europe, or by 1811 they have achieved superiority in Europe. Britain has to force a French surrender, eliminate Napoleon, or by 1815 limit France to controlling only one minor nation. Even then, Napoleon can return for a last roll of the dice, for what is a Napoleonic game without the pointless battle of Waterloo?

Accessibility (9/10): One thing that made me wary of this game were reports that the rulebook was difficult. These reports now surprise me. I found it easy to read and use. I have had few agonizing rules questions pop up during play. It may not be to everyone’s liking, but the game sails smoothly. While there are undoubtedly tough rulebooks out there, I find that rules that read well for some may mystify others. For instance, the rules for Here I Stand and EastFront still baffle me.

Components (10/10): The game is gorgeous and makes me wish that Franz Vohwinkel would work on some more wargames. Lord knows MMP and Decision could use a graphical boost. Also, the cards are made of sturdy stock, the board is hard-mounted, and the units are big and colorful. At this point I’ll let the images do the talking.

Big Counters


Gorgeous!


Historical Quality (9/10): Some accuse Age of Napoleon of being light on history, and while there are issues, the game gets so much right on the grand level. For one Napoleon's piece is appriately powerful. Too many wargames fail to simulate just how dominate he was in battle. The rules for battle losses simulate wear and tear, and one can literally feel the French army losing power as time goes on and the permanent losses mount. Add to that the Coalition’s ability to start rebellions, the military reforms of Prussia and Austria, and worst of all Britain’s ability to make friends. Even if France does make Prussia, Russia, or Austria an ally, they will get little in the way of compensation. The later is important, because many Napoleonic grand strategy games fail to convey the revulsion most Europeans had for Napoleon. I love The Napoleonic Wars (Second Edition), but it seems that the player powers can be a little too cozy with Bonaparte.

Many games follow a historical path: France wins early on, then the tide turns and a desperate campaign is waged. As the war goes on the Coalition learns from their mistakes, Britain gathers allies, and insurrections swamp the empire. It is a race against time. This is not always the case. I’ve seen France conquer all and Britain occupy Paris while Boney is in Moscow. However, I am impressed by Renaud Verlaque’s ability to bring together so many historical elements.

I must add my quibbles though. It is too easy for both sides to create perfect stacks, which fails to consider the politics of command, particularly if Napoleon returns. Historically, Bonaparte was shunned by many of his old marshals. Some officer stats are off. The designer is perhaps too mean to Brune, Miladrovich, Guylai, and Castanos and too kind to Jerome. The mobilization rules mean you won’t pull off Jena because the Prussian army will never be that large. Still, these are quibbles I feel obliged to mention for the sake of fairness. All told, I think this game does justice to the history. It gives you realistic options while allowing for reasonable changes in history.

Napoleon Finally Gets Around to Taking Care of Wellington


Overall (96/100): Age of Napoleon seems to have fallen by the wayside, which is really a shame. The game offers an evening of Napoleonic wargaming. the mechanics are solid, the graphics are beautiful, and it gives you an insight into history. Give it a shot if you can, for the game goes for a reasonable price and offers a wealth of opportunities.

Still, in some ways I am still waiting for the ultimate Napoleonic strategy game. Age of Napoleon is my favorite, but it lacks the multiplayer element that makes The Napoleonic Wars (Second Edition) a close second. However, that game has some peculiar historical issues. La Guerre de l'Empereur was a disappointment. Empires in Arms scares me. Soldier Emperor looks intriguing, and Worthington seems intent on make a Napoleonic strategy game. I'm very hopeful about Nations in Arms: Valmy to Waterloo, since it will cover the Wars of the First and Second Coalition. Regardless, I'll always come back to Age of Napoleon. It can be finished in an evening, it does justice to history, and best of all there is rarely a dull turn. The game truly feels like a duel, and most sessions have that rare breathless quality that I crave.
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John McKendrick
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Well done Sean you just sold a game

I'm a big fan of Paths of Glory (I believe it the best wargame ever made) and Hannibal: RvC. How does AoN compare to these to two?

(If you have played them whistle)

-John
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Pablo Klinkisch
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Great review!
I must say, I was really impressed with this game: it is no small feat to design a 2-player game about the whole Napoleonic adventure that _works_ (and this under 4 hours, I think!).
And this is probably the only CDG I really like
There is one small quibble I have with the game is the effect of an early insurrection in a "big" country (Austria comes to mind). But I haven't played the game enough to be sure if that is a problem.

Have you tried Price of Freedom? How does it compares to AoN for you? (I bought it just because it was from the same designer)

Quote:
I'm a big fan of Paths of Glory (I believe it the best wargame ever made) and Hannibal: RvC. How does AoN compare to these to two?


I'd say they have a very different feel: all AoN cards have an ops value of 1, so the tense/annoying (take your pick) choice about what to do with a card is not _that_ tense/annoying. Which, for me, is a positive thing (can't stand CDGs). But don't get me wrong: there are still a lot of choices that aren't that easy, in a classic CDG way
I would also say that AoN is easier than both Hannibal and Paths of Glory (the former I'm sure of, the later I presume)
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John McKendrick
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Ah well Pablo, if we can't play Paths of Glory together whistle, we can always dig out High Frontier (which is the best Space game ever made)

-John
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Rauli Kettunen
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Sancherib wrote:
Have you tried Price of Freedom? How does it compares to AoN for you? (I bought it just because it was from the same designer)


OP wrote a review on PoF month or two back.
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Pablo Klinkisch
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JohnMcKendrick wrote:
Ah well Pablo, if we can't play Paths of Glory together whistle, we can always dig out High Frontier (which is the best Space game ever made)


Well, I'm still open to _try_ PoG, maybe I'll find a CDG I like besides AoN
AoN is always a possibility, in case you want to give it a (vassal) try.

HF is a blast! I'm eager to see what Phil comes up with for the new expansion (and hope to utterly crush you in our game )

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Pablo Klinkisch
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Dam the Man wrote:
OP wrote a review on PoF month or two back.


Doh! I thought I had read something but was just too lazy to check...
 
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Jean Lannes
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Great report and pictures.

Like it.
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John McKendrick
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Sancherib wrote:
JohnMcKendrick wrote:
Ah well Pablo, if we can't play Paths of Glory together whistle, we can always dig out High Frontier (which is the best Space game ever made)


Well, I'm still open to _try_ PoG, maybe I'll find a CDG I like besides AoN
AoN is always a possibility, in case you want to give it a (vassal) try.

HF is a blast! I'm eager to see what Phil comes up with for the new expansion (and hope to utterly crush you in our game )



Mars will be mine mwahaahaaa!

-John
 
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Ph’nglui mglw’nfah Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
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Great review. I whole-heartily agree, this is a magnificent game.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Sancherib wrote:
Have you tried Price of Freedom? How does it compares to AoN for you? (I bought it just because it was from the same designer)


I wish I could praise it more highly: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/738451/almost-there
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
mbmbmbmbmb
JohnMcKendrick wrote:
Well done Sean you just sold a game

I'm a big fan of Paths of Glory (I believe it the best wargame ever made) and Hannibal: RvC. How does AoN compare to these to two?

(If you have played them whistle)

-John


Mission accomplished!

I am a big fan of both games and I wrote reviews for each. Paths of Glory is far more involved, and unlike AoN, it can be adapted to 4 players.

AoN reminds me of the "duel to the death" aspect I love about Hannibal, where you also feel that time is on Rome's side. The biggest difference is battle. Here you just roll a die. In Hannibal the cards are used(and I like the cards).
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Daniel Berger
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gittes wrote:
For instance, the rules for [gameid=] and [gameid=] still baffle me.

Something got lost there.

In any case, Age of Napoleon is hands down the absolute worst rulebook I have ever suffered. I mean, even figuring out basic game play was tortuous. My friend and I gave up on it, and we're pretty hardcore wargamers. This was the 2003 version. Did Mayfair update the rules?
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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djberg96 wrote:
gittes wrote:
For instance, the rules for [gameid=] and [gameid=] still baffle me.

Something got lost there.

In any case, Age fo Napoleon is hands down the absolute worst rulebook I have ever suffered. I mean, even figuring out basic game play was tortuous. My friend and I gave up on it, and we're pretty hardcore wargamers. This was the 2003 version. Did Mayfair update the rules?


Fixed, thanks for pointing it out.

I believe they did, although I think my copy has the 2003 rules and I had few problems. This was also among the first wargames I owned (it was a birthday present).

I find rules are a strange beast. I know some people kind Zucker dense, but I find his rulebooks to be clear and concise (well except when you get to his latest entries in the CON system).
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Carl Paradis
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> Overall (97/100):

I agree 100%, this game is just SO GREAT!!!

And just imagine: my copy has double-thick counters (I glued two sheets toghether to get extra-thick game pieces). devil
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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licinius wrote:
> Overall (97/100):

I agree 100%, this game is just SO GREAT!!!

And just imagine: my copy has double-thick counters (I glued two sheets toghether to get extra-thick game pieces). devil


I may do that, as some of my pieces are starting to get worn down.
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Carl Paradis
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gittes wrote:
licinius wrote:
> Overall (97/100):

I agree 100%, this game is just SO GREAT!!!

And just imagine: my copy has double-thick counters (I glued two sheets toghether to get extra-thick game pieces). devil


I may do that, as some of my pieces are starting to get worn down.


YESSSSS!!! Good for you!

Again: this game is a gem.
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The only game I have given a permanent 10 so far.
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Roger Hobden
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Very good game, very clear rules.

My daughter beat me decisively the last time we played.
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Derek Green
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I really love the pace in this game since the circumstances change constantly. The permanent losses also amuse me in a way since by the end a whole lot more men will be dead rather than alive. This is definitely one of the best board games that I have ever played.
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Andrew C
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Great review. Owned this game for years but yet to play. Paul lets queue. This up soon!
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john f stup
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i will be willing to sell mine(used) for $20 and some postage.
 
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Brian Lucid
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Great review! My version of AoN has been on the shelf because I had a hard time with the rules. I am motivated to try and figure it out again.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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zaphod b wrote:
Great review! My version of AoN has been on the shelf because I had a hard time with the rules. I am motivated to try and figure it out again.


Glad to hear that you'll be trying the game again. Let us know how it goes Brian with a session report.
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Tom Willcockson
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Likewise this one has been gathering dust on my shelf for some time. I also found the rules very difficult and I was never sure how good this game was so your review really helps. Love TNW but am a bit bothered by the universal criticism of it as not very historical. Wish someone would come up with a historical variant version like was done for PoG. However I'll really have to give AoN a try on the strength of this excellent review. Nations in Arms: Valmy to Waterloo looks interesting, but like most Compass games it is just too darned expensive for me.
 
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