Recommend
28 
 Thumb up
 Hide
9 Posts

Field Commander: Napoleon» Forums » Reviews

Subject: FC Napoleon after 1 scenario - great so far rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Paul S
United Kingdom
Leeds
West Yorks
flag msg tools
DARK IN HERE, ISN'T IT?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I spent the better part of 5 hours on Monday looking at the rules, punching counters and playing the 1796 scenario, so thought I would post some preliminary impressions - with more detail to follow as I play more, get to grips with the rules and have a better overall view of the game. So I admit that, by definition, this is not a complete review of the game, nor one based on great experience. But there aren't many reviews about, so I think another view won't hurt. I've not included a rules summary.

Adopting the same order (rules, counters, game) as I've mentioned:

The Rules


I didn't find them terribly easy to get to grips with.

I own and am a fan of several Leader titles, and the rules here have some similarities - but are not as clear, nor as easy to follow, nor as well laid out.

They beg for an index. I knew, toward the end of the game, that my scouts gave me 2 abilities but I was unable to find the second without a trawl - even a "Scouts" heading was missing - you had to know where to look, or trawl, and that makes getting to grips with this game tricky.

That said, once you have the idea, the rules are not difficult. You have a lot of options, and I'll go on to talk about that, but you might boil the basics down to "move, fight, resupply, enemy move, fight, enemy resupply" - and I found the little tables on the battle sheet and the campaign maps invaluable here - they provide the quick reference that isn't in the fairly dense rulebook, and do make it easier & easier to play with each passing turn.

There's a lot to remember, especially at first. In particular I forgot more than once to keep my Battle Turn counter moving - you might have only a couple of turns to score a result (or as many as 6 or so). The shorter Battles are a clever limitation especially in a solo game where the temptation to game the AI is hard to resist. E.g. I found myself more than once facing only static enemy garrisons/fortresses. Put a few cannons in there and use the right bonuses and you can chip away at the bad guys for turn after turn with no threat (from garrisons - and not much from forts) of retaliation. But you can't, of course, if the limit on turns means the Battle is over and you might find yourself in ignominious defeat after 2 turns with only 1 fort destroyed.

There are some lovely mechanics here. Of course there are loads of abstractions - this isn't meant to be a tabletop miniatures wargame, and if that's what you're after, look elsewhere.

Since playing, I've discovered the rather marvelous turn summary in the Files section here - that makes finding the rule you need much easier, highly recommended.

The counters &c


Lots of information is coded here - the "Battle Orders" (limited bonuses you can apply each turn to certain units - but the bad guys get them too) are set out on the relevant counters and although initially you'll need to refer to the full descriptions for each in the rulebook, I found that by the end of the first scenario I had 80% down pat. You just need to learn the shorthand.

This is made possible in no small part by the size of the counters. They are rectangular, on the whole, and simply great to look at. They are not cluttered - far from it. A cavalry piece might have a picture of the single unit representative, a year (so you use the right counters for the right year - see: post), a status (conscript/vet etc), an activation value ("I want you to advance... what do you mean you're staying there?!") and a combat value (roll less than X to hit; roll less than X2 to score 2 hits - most things are injured in 1, dead in 2 hits).

But, going back to the Orders, the larger size also means that a good bit of rule information can be included on a counter, without resorting to RFtG-style cryptography. You can read what it says, pretty well, especially after a bit of practice.

And the counters are lovingly produced. They are nice to look at but more importantly, sturdy and easy to manipulate. I've so far punched 3 and a bit of the 6 sheets that come with the game. I've been pretty careful, but so far (this is the kiss of death, of course...) not a single tear or defect (cf PL/UBL where I've had the pretty graphics tear off more than once in punching). The FC:N counters feel to me like DVG has gone the extra mile to make them work.

The maps are lovely. Solid, artistically pleasant, practical, usable, folded pieces that set the right tone, for me at least.

Shame about the battle mat - just flimsy cardstock, and I think I need to get it laminated given that it started to look a bit wobbly even after the first session. I've read that the pre-order crowd got nice solid mats, and I covet your ox

Given the premium price level here I think it's a shame that we couldn't have mats as nice as the campaign maps.

There are a LOT of counters. I've filled 2 counter trays and I've still a couple of sheets to punch. I'm thinking the lot will fit in 3 - and if you were tight with it you might get them in 2, but I prefer to have individual sets of units in one tray compartment, rather than packing them all in till they can't be seen or easily pulled out. The idea seems to be, that for any one of the dozen or more scenarios, you just pick the counters that have the appropriate year (e.g. 1814) and that will give you the complete counter-complement for the scenario. Works well.

The box is very deep, with a false bottom that, I think, is designed to come out precisely so that there's room to stick counter trays in there, and still shut the box. Like it.

The gameplay


I can't say a lot about this right now, since I've only played one scenario, and I am sure I got a good bit wrong. I'll try throw in the stuff I think I've learned.

On balance: I liked it a lot.

It is definitely a game that rewards "getting stuck in" as you learn. Reading the short walkthrough at the end of the rulebook is helpful, but better still is just setting the stuff out in front of you and getting on with it. I found that a lot of the initial confusion I had about the game was sorted out as I started to play - seeing the counters on the board(s) makes it altogether easier to see what is needed where, and when.

I decided to split my forces early on. I deliberately avoided the tactic suggested in the walkthrough (to take the city to the north by enveloping it) because I wanted to see how a small scale battle might work. Nearly had my ass kicked, too, as fortress/garrison fire took down my approaching troops. It took me till the end of the game to realise that fortresses can't plant cannonballs in your ranks once you've engaged them in melee combat. O yes. Sometimes a charge up the field (a la "Glory") to whack the bad guy with a bayonet pays huge dividends.

Here's a snap of the campaign map as the second battle was about to start (hence the missing pieces - they're on the Battle mat).



Movement after this was tricky, and there was a general sense of being ground down by the opposition. Deliberate, I'm sure.

Battles varied between touch & go, and over before they'd started - but I loved each one. They felt appropriate, exciting, dangerous and interesting.

There are loads of choices to make here.

In the campaign map the simple-enough (in 1796 anyway - I've read that it gets harder, later) choice is where to move, and whether to split forces, and how.

In the battles - necessarily abstracted - there are all sorts of questions to answer.

Strategically, do I spend support points to allow me to use extra tactics in the coming battle? - but then I lose the chance to resupply/reinforce at the end of my turn, or to spend my SPs on e.g. improving some initial "fog of war" circumstances.

Tactically, the simple and abstract Battle map gives more food for thought than you might imagine.

On a basic level, we need to decide whether our unit is established as a line or column. The rectangular counters come into their own, here - the formation is clearly visible on the map.

And the formation is wholly relevant: certain orders depend on you being in column, or line; squares can tackle oncoming cavalry attacks.

Throw in volleys and you gain significant + to hit; likewise cannon can add grapeshot for + to hit.

Cleverly, you must assign your pieces before the enemy assigns theirs. Likewise your battle order choices must be made before you know what the enemy is up to. Sometimes you'll prepare for an attack that just doesn't happen.

This is inspired (and probably rings bells with the PL/HL crowd who know how tough it is to have the enemy set up and whack you before you get to attack).

Here's a snap of my troops chasing after the sole remaining (routed) opposition force. Note how by playing 2 battle orders on my cav I get a) to move forward and attack (Charge) and, vitally, b) to do so before the enemy gets to move (and possibly escape) (Prepare).



This second battle order ("prepare") lets you loose one force's attack before the other side gets to go - so you can take a strong counter, specify a charge/attack, and ensure you get into the thick of it before your enemy can object - but even then, I've found, leaving one counter in the thick of it can be deadly.

Concluding thoughts

I really like this game.

I am a solo fan, so you should take that into account - if you don't like solos, you won't like this; there's nothing here that makes it a game to win anti-solo-players over onto the dark side.

I feel there is a bunch of interesting short and long term decisions to be made here, that will appeal to the general wargamer or Napoleon fan or serious solo-player.

I am a Napoleon fan. Studied him at school - but with no great emphasis on the battles, so I am learning something new here. That helps, for sure, but I don't think for a minute that you need to be a Nap-fan to enjoy this game.

I recommend also the "Napoleon history" document in Files - a good potted account of the battles, and immediately I recognised some of the names and places I'd been playing with, as I read it.

Let me mention some highlights:

- twice the AI was daft enough to throw woefully inadequate counters into my armies - you can destroy them without even resorting to the battle map - great stuff, and I've read it reflects the disorganisation of the Austrians in 1796, so historically thematic (and as someone else has said in the forums - it's Napoleon - he's meant to beat up the other side sometimes!)

- charging up and down the field with cavalry is impressive - but also very dangerous; whilst most forces can flip over to a "reduced" aspect, your cavalry will be blown apart with a single hit

- the last battles said it all for me; I took the last-but-1 city in a fairly easy larger battle, but had 4 garrisons and 2 forts to kill to finish the 1796 campaign in the final square. Whittled down the resistance with cannons and a cavalry charge that engaged the forts in melee so they stopped shooting - but in the end the battle track ran out; the right roll meant an enemy retreat, and we recovered our final objective to win - on the last roll of the last battle of the game. Love it. Not many games hit the spot so well. I was cheering at the last roll.

I'm looking forward to getting on to 1800.




48 
 Thumb up
0.28
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Adam Parker
Australia
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Great game design makes the complex simple, replayability maximum, and abstraction credible.
badge
It’s not how well you roll that counts but how well the dice suit the game.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Beloch wrote:
Shame about the battle mat - just flimsy cardstock, and I think I need to get it laminated given that it started to look a bit wobbly even after the first session.


The game has been on the retail market for a while now. I'd like to see Dan print some mounted battle boards for those who want them and charge a price. I saw an unmounted battle board today in a store and I fear that it will very quickly become damaged if left as is. It is extremely flimsy - totally out of place in fact, and for a $97 game (on special).

At minimum it needs to go into a plastic sleeve before use.

Thanks for the honest review.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Bedard
United States
Somerville
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Outstanding review of what is, thus-far my favorite game in my small but growing collection.

Beloch wrote:
And the counters are lovingly produced. They are nice to look at but more importantly, sturdy and easy to manipulate. I've so far punched 3 and a bit of the 6 sheets that come with the game. I've been pretty careful, but so far (this is the kiss of death, of course...) not a single tear or defect (cf PL/UBL where I've had the pretty graphics tear off more than once in punching). The FC:N counters feel to me like DVG has gone the extra mile to make them work.

The maps are lovely. Solid, artistically pleasant, practical, usable, folded pieces that set the right tone, for me at least.


I don't have a good sampling size for this game versus other solitaire games. Yes, FC:N is great fun, immersive and leaves me feeling psyched when I eek out a victory..But for me what really vaults this game over the rest is the breathtaking presentation. The game, quite literally, shines when it is all on the table, the pieces are great to feel, look at and move about the map. I can not say the same for Ambush or Dawn of the Zeds and it is exactly that attempt at going the extra mile that has me frothing at the mouth for DVG's next Field Commander entry Fleet Commander: Nimitz

I will not be missing out on the mounted battle map this time around.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Verssen
United States
Glendora
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmb
Awesome review!

Thank you very much for taking the time to write-up your adventure!
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul S
United Kingdom
Leeds
West Yorks
flag msg tools
DARK IN HERE, ISN'T IT?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks all for the feedback. And Dan for a great game

As for the battle map: you can download a .jpg of it from the DVG site; I did that at work the other day, printed it and laminated it and the result looks just the job. I will see if I can take a comparison pic (once I remember to bring it back from work!) - might give an idea of the improvement, even if the proof is really in the handling/longevity. Anyway, I'm much happier with this version.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Edward Pundyk
Canada
Ontario
flag msg tools
I share your enthusiasm for this game, Beloch, and I've played it a lot. Great review. I was one of the prescient ones who pre-ordered, got my name on the box and a mounted battle board. I've even managed to play through Nappy's entire career without getting knocked out of the game. Now THAT was satisfying (and fun!).

I agree that the rulebook leaves something to be desired in the clarity and organization department. My solution to the lack of an index is to use the PDF version of the rules on my iPad and the "search" function. Voila - problem solved!

I look forward to reading your review/AAR of the next scenario. You mentioned the 1800 scenario. Are you skipping the Egyptian adventure? That's one of my favourite scenarios. It's also one of the most challenging, IMHO.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mats Lintonsson
Sweden
Borås
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Great write-up! Agree with it all.

Just finished my first session yesterday night - I had a blast (although it ended in Defeat)! I have started up a new session this morning. A very good game, probably the best in the Field Commander series... I think...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rod Aguirre
United States
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Maybe Dan will order his troops to make a mounted board for us tardies? Would definitively be worth the extra money. I laminated mine with the super thick plastic, but was somewhat disappointed that the guy at Staples used the reversed side of the thing, and of course it doesn't fit in the box anymore shake.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.