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Subject: Fallen Eagles: A Review rss

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Brien Martin
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Waterloo 1815: Fallen Eagles is the latest offering from Hexasim, released just in time for the bicentennial of the battle. What follows is my review of the game ...

COMPONENTS
The physical components of the game are very well done. The rulebook and playbook are done on glossy, A4-sized paper (which will throw off anyone from the USA wanting to put their rules or other printed materials into page protectors) with nice type face and spacing. The rules take up 18 of the 20 pages in the rulebook.

The counters are those famed "Euro-style" counters that practically punch themselves. If you need an X-Acto knife to punch these ... you're clearly dealing with some OCD issues. The strategy cards are nice, although I've heard some folks say they were "thin", I found my set to be of nice thickness (I sleeve them, anyway). Many are saying that their cards "self-separated" during shipping ... I think that's a good thing; it shows how well-cut the cards were from the printer.

The map was supposed to be a standard, 22x34 map ... but they blew this one up a bit ... it's roughly 32x40, now (approximately a 130% magnification). But ... it's a thing of beauty. Artwork is crystal clear and there are, so far as I can tell, no ambiguous hexes where you're flipping a coin to decide if it's orchards or it it's open ground.

Two Fire/Melee tables, one terrain chart/unit summary, three org charts (French, Allied, Prussian) ... each one with the setup for one of the three non-campaign scenarios, two Orders Maps ... and a four-page, folded sequence of play ... all on cardstock.

Two dice complete the package.

The box is very nicely done; it stood up to the rigors of shipping from France to the USA.

All-in-all ... a lot of effort and expense was put into the physical product of the game ... I give the components an A+.

RULES
The rules on this one are fairly tight. A second reading of the rules and I was ready to go (I rarely give the first reading the attention it deserves because I'm simply trying to glean what I can about the system without trying to understand all the nuances). I did have one question about the turn sequence, but discovered that the problem was not in the rule, but in my reading of them, and conflating two pieces of the rule into something they were not.

The Example of Play in the Playbook is a valuable insight into actual gameplay. So often, such examples try to cover every possible rules quirk (so you can "see" how they work) and, in the end, those fail because something always gets lost or forgotten in the example, causing all sort of confusion in the aftermath.

I give the rules an A/A-, only because there are some awkward wordings, most likely coming from the translation from the translation into English from the native French.

GAME PLAY
Once you've got the rules down, game play is rather smooth, considering this is a game closer to La Bataille in scope than it is to something like The Six Days Of Glory.

It works like this:

At the start of each turn, units are issued orders. They can be ordered to defend, to move towards an objective, or given no order at all. Depending on the order type, restrictions are imposed on movement. For example, units with a defense order can't move more than one hex and can't melee, but can use normal fire.

Orders are recorded on each player's Order Map, a reduced-size replica of the battlefield, with objectives marked in blue. These are kept secret by each player. Each corps/division has a counter that gets placed on the map (for objective orders) or in the Defense Order box, or the No Order box, to help you remember what orders were given.

At the start of each new turn, each side may change one or more orders (per a die roll), and the commanders also have the ability to change orders during the turn.

The players roll for initiative; the French get a -2 DRM through the 2PM turn, low roll chooses whether they will go first.

At that point, the uniqueness of the game takes over ... the player with initiative chooses which of the leaders/commanders on board they will activate. A DR less than or equal to the leader's Initiative Factor (think leadership morale level in ASL/SL) means his command has been activated. If not, you can pass or you can try to activate another leader. There are counters for activations ... when a leader has been activated twice in a turn (with some exceptions), he's done for the turn. And, with the variable turn length, you may not get two activations, or even one.

During an activation, only those units may fire, move, declare melee, receive opp fire/d-fire, melee, and pursue. As leaders (which are division/corps leaders; commanders are Ney/Nappy and Welly/Orange/Blucher) are color-coded with a stripe behind their name, and also behind the names of the units they command, it's easy to find the right guys for the job.

Once the activation is over, you roll against the end-of-turn "level" ... roll higher, and that "half" of the turn is over. Each turn has two "halves", but the halves don't mean anything in terms of which player's turn it is. Once initial initiative has been determined, players swap activations until the turn ends, or everyone's been activated twice.

If you exceed the "second half" end-of-turn roll (a turn might have EOT rolls of 10/9 ... exceed ten to end the first half, exceed nine to end the second half and, thus, the turn), the turn is over, and you move to the end-of-turn phase (in which all units with activations still remaining all may move under certain restrictions), then rout phase, then determining victory.

Combat is rather straight-forward ... in the Offensive Fire Phase, it doesn't matter how many SPs are attacking, you merely add up the applicable DRMs, and roll the dice as either an infantry attack or an artillery attack. The chart will give results ranging from a simple QFT check (think the MC process in ASL/SL) to a QFT# check and step loss, or something in-between.

The turn is Fire-Move-Declare Melee-Opp Fire/D-Fire-Melee-Cavalry Pursuit ... if a unit fires, it's marked with a +3 MP counter ... it, and any unit(s) that go through that hex pay an additional 3MP to leave the hex. After movement, units declare their assaults/charges. Once announced, then any unengaged, adjacent units can opp fire; followed by normal D-Fire for those units that will shortly be attacked in melee.

Melee is also simple ... add the factors of both sides (not including artillery) to arrive at an odds, used to determine one of the many possible DRMs to apply to the dice roll. Low rolls bad for the defender; high rolls bad for the attacker (I've already rolled four 10s in melee, causing full-stack step-losses, in my current playing).

In short, the rules don't get in the way here. They lead you to decisions, and then they step aside to let the players and the dice decide the rest. Too often, the rules to games at this level tend to "step in" with charts and tables to make decisions for you ... that's not the case here. Fallen Eagles' rules takes you to the war room; the rest is up to you, your ability as a field general, and the dice.

I give game play a solid A ... there are some minor things that prevent the A+ ... and they're mainly a "me" issue, not necessarily a game issue (more like "I'd do it *this* way" ... nothing I think anyone would put much stock into).

Overall, Hexasim has done a wonderful job here ... I give the game a solid, overall, A grade ... and make my personal push here for them to give this similar treatment to other battles of the age ... the simplicity, yet detail, of this game is sure to give the La Bataille series a run for its money, especially amongst those who find La Bataille more involved than they would prefer.

GRADE: A
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Greg S
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Well done!

This is on the "wish" list!
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Vincent GERARD
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Thanks for the review
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A.T. Selvaggio
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I see that there is hidden orders in the game, but it still recommended for solo play. Any thoughts on solo play?

Great review.
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Brien Martin
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atsgamer wrote:
I see that there is hidden orders in the game, but it still recommended for solo play. Any thoughts on solo play?

Great review.


I've had a game on my table for the last week or so, playing solo. Even though you know the orders for each side, it's not a game-killer as you would be making certain assumptions in FTF play about what the orders are that are probably "disclosing" them.

For example, if French units aren't making their IM checks, they're not under No Order; if the inf/art are moving multiple hexes, they're not under a Defense Order. The French really can't afford to be under anything other than an Objective Order, and the Allies are, I would guess, 90% likely to be in Defense Order at least until the Prussians arrive.

Brien
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Raynald Foret
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Brien Martin wrote:
and the Allies are, I would guess, 90% likely to be in Defense Order at least until the Prussians arrive.
Brien


Actually, most Allied formations should be on objectif order too. Defense order is really only for anti cavalry. You should think "square" instead of "defense".

It is definitly solo friendly because the order are here to limit your capacity to react and seize opportunity that could never happen. Fog is a minor plus here. And when you are closing with the enemy, most moves will force you to disclose your order anyway.
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Sam Smith
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I agree with other comments, I'm learning it by soloing and it seems to work fine so far. As the previous poster says, the geographic orders restrict you in a way which is good for solo and quite subtly realistic in the way divisions have to more or less stick to an axis of advance (unless they want to roll for a risky independent move). This is not a game where you can so easily just send a formation whizzing off at right angles to plug a gap at the other end of the line, it takes time to get new orders and redeploy. Possibly if you went for an extreme flanking strategy it might be harder solo, not played enough to say, though sometimes a successful diversionary attack can turn into the real thing..

When I saw it had tactics cards I assumed that aspect would be less solo compatible (as would be the case eg for No Retreat if you know that game). However there are only a small number of cards which in 2-player you chose alternately at the start, so actually you pretty much know what cards he's got (eg you probably know he's got the 'Out of Ammo' card so need to avoid Hougomont or La Haye Sainte getting totally isolated). The big question is when and if he will use them (when it's used the other player gets the card). So actually I think the cards work ok with solo and provide some useful fog of war: you could also maybe enhance that by turning up random cards each turn, I may also try it that way in future.
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Rick Barber
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Excellent review, Brien - that really helped me to grok a few things, as I'm just now working my way through the rules. A lot of very interesting concepts here, and I'm looking forward to trying them out.

I have a few minor issues with the map, but then again I would - a nasty occupational hazard. I just mapped all those fields at 100/hex, and am now working on a couple of games featuring the Prussians in that campaign, scaled at the same 200 per as in Fallen Eagles. My Plancenoit is only an 11 x 17 map, but I may give a try of doing the rest of the Waterloo field just for the fun of it, to see how I would handle the same field as in this game. Probably three 17 x 22 sections, but using smaller, 20mm hexes.

The map in this game is beautiful, but almost too big for a lot of folks' tables.

Ricksauron
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Paul Brown
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Quote:
At that point, the uniqueness of the game takes over ... the player with initiative chooses which of the leaders/commanders on board they will activate. A DR less than or equal to the leader's Initiative Factor (think leadership morale level in ASL/SL) means his command has been activated. If not, you can pass or you can try to activate another leader.


Grat review but not sure this system is unique. For example The activation system reminds me of the one in Brien Millers Eagles of Empire system. And the non-crt fire system pops up elsewhere I think. What IS clear though,from reading the enthusiastic posts about these Eagles games, is that the designer has melded the various systems into a harmonious whole that hits a sweet spot for Napoleonic fans.

Couple that with some super production values and <ouch> is my wallet going to take another wargaming hit?..
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