Age of Napoleon: War & Diplomacy
“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever”
Age of Napoleon: War & Diplomacy is a grand-strategic board game for two players allowing them to reenact the diplomacy and wars in Europe of the Napoleonic period, from 1805, when Napoleon was crowned Emperor of the French, until 1815. The Grand Campaign scenario covers the entire period; other scenarios cover the Wars of the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Coalitions as well as the Russian Campaign of 1812, but also provide later start dates for the Grand Campaign scenario.
In the Grand Campaign scenario, the French player is trying to root the Coalition out of the continent or at least accumulate enough glory that the Napoleonic legend will endure, while the Coalition player is attempting to capture the Corsican Ogre and return France to the Bourbons or at the very least irremediably tarnish Napoleon's glory. In the other scenarios, one player must match or exceed their historical counterpart’s performance in order to win, or else lose.
The game plays in annual turns divided in Preparation, Action and Consolidation phases. In the Preparation phase the players plan their Actions (select their cards) for the four seasonal rounds of the Action phase, and they bid for the strategic initiative, potentially by rushing their preparations (swapping selected cards for random cards). In the Action phase, each player takes one action per season. Each player has four types of actions at their disposal, of which three are similar—but not necessarily identical—for both sides, while one is unique to each player, but directly opposed to the other player's unique action.
The first type of action is diplomacy. Each diplomacy card has a diplomacy value that can be used to influence the alignment of one or more countries, which are tracked on the diplomacy alignment board. Influenceable alignments range from ardent French ally to ardent Coalition member, with several shades of French ally, neutral or Coalition member in between. Special alignments include French dominion, French-occupied, Coalition-occupied and insurgent country. Diplomacy, however, is not the only way to change a country's diplomatic alignment, war is the other way.
First, a player may need to call (more) commanders and troops to arms in the countries under one's control. As the calls add up in a given year, the yield drops. France must be extra careful not to recruit too many troops over the long run, lest it becomes drained, and her yield drops permanently. Commanders are rated from mediocre to exceptional, which reflect their quality as well as that of their troops, and affects both movement and combat. France starts with a significant advantage, but it is reduced as Austria, Prussia and Russia learn from their shortcomings and reform their armies. At this scale, there is no representation of the separate arms.
The second type of military action is Operations. Operations must be planned for a specific season and the number of armies that can be moved depends on the season—summer is best, winter is worst. An Emergency Operations offers flexibility, of a sort. Movement rules are fairly detailed to reflect the challenges and opportunities of Napoleonic times. Fatigue is a consideration; as is supply. Advanced rules include evasion, interception and proportional pinning. Eventually, armies meet and fight. Combat is resolved with a simple custom die roll. The focus is on maximizing advantages, be it tactical posture, numbers, fatigue, or lack thereof, command quality or a composite of the last three. No combat situation is a foregone conclusion.
The last type of action sits between the diplomatic and the military: the Coalition can start or spread insurrections in French Dominions and French-occupied countries, and may even support French unrest to force Napoleon to return to Paris, while France can engage in costly counter-Insurrection efforts and complement them with more traditional military efforts. Insurrections can be quite the thorny issue for France and often help the Coalition catch up.
Because the number of actions per annual turn is small, and actions are generally planned for the year, there is no hiding behind the inherent randomness of a CDG design. You know your options, and you choose your actions. The uncertainty of the outcome is largely a matter of what your opponent chooses to do, being faced with the matching choice of actions. So remember:
“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”
Author: Renaud Verlaque
Number of Players: 2
Game time: 180 mins for the Grand Campaign Scenario going the full course