Command & Colors
In 1807, after subduing most of continental Europe, Napoleon, Emperor of France, decided to solidify his hold on the continent. Under the pretext of invading Portugal, he sent an army into Spain. This army was to invade Portugal so that the British would have no place on the continent to send their goods and break the Napoleonic embargo. It was during this time that the French imposed a strict import embargo, known as the Continental System, to attempt to strangle Britain’s economy and thereby limit their support to the Continental Monarchies.
The Spanish monarchy objected to this invasion. Napoleon took the decision to eliminate the Spanish monarchy by supporting the Crown Prince against the King and Queen. After a short period of time Napoleon “invited” both parties to a meeting. He browbeat both parties into abdicating the Spanish throne in favor of his older brother Joseph. While the monarchy had not endeared itself to the Spanish people, they rose against the new monarch and started attacking lone French troops and small units. At this time, the Portuguese royals left Lisbon for the Western hemisphere and the British landed a force under Lt-General Arthur Wellesley. His first encounter with the French was at Rolica. By this time, Napoleon had poured 100,000 troops into the Iberian Peninsula.
The Game Components
This game is a block game in the spirit of Commands & Colors Ancients, also designed by Richard Borg. The blocks represent Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery. The blocks are provided in Dark Blue, Red and Brown. There are a total of 340 blocks in the game box. The Dark Blue blocks represent the French forces in Iberia. The Red blocks represent the British forces, and the Brown blocks represent the Portuguese.
Additionally in the box is a 13×9 hex game board divided into three sections, and a Command deck, consisting of 70 cards. There are eight battle dice with the necessary labels for the sides and the labels for the blocks. There are six Player Aid cards, two for the French forces, two for the British and Portuguese, Terrain Overlays, two Terrain effects, and one set of Command Cards. Also in the box is a 24-page Rulebook and a Scenario Book containing 15 battles of the Napoleonic era between British, French and Portuguese armies.
Those gamers familiar with the mechanics of Commands & Colors Ancients will have a short learning curve with this game. The biggest differences between the two game systems are the upgraded weaponry of the 19th Century and some of the tactics are different, for instance, the tactic of Infantry units forming a Square during Cavalry attacks.
Sequence of Play
The standard Game Turn consists of five phases in this order:
- Command Phase
- Order Phase
- Movement Phase
- Combat Phase
- Draw Phase
During the Command Phase the attacking player plays a Command Card from his hand. This card has an instruction that the commander may activate certain units on a particular section of the game board. The commander now proceeds to select and order his units under the terms of what is written on the played card.
Next is the Movement Phase. Activated units are moved in accordance with the allowances and restrictions noted in the National Unit Reference Card and subject to Terrain Effects penalties. Some units can move and engage in Ranged Fire combat, others are restricted to either movement or combat, but not both in the same turn.
After all the activated units that are ordered to move have completed those moves, the turn sequence passes on to the Combat Phase. Combat consists of either ranged Combat or Melee Combat. Ranged Combat is the firing of weapons over a distance of at least one intervening hex. Ranged Combat cannot be used against an opponent in an adjacent hex. The National Unit Reference Card specifies the maximum range of the combat. As a unit loses blocks due to combat, the number of Battle Dice it may use in Ranged Combat is reduced, thereby degrading the effectiveness of that unit. Artillery units use a number of battle Dice corresponding with the distance to their target. Foot artillery units may either move or fire in a turn, Horse artillery units may move one hex and engage in combat. All units may engage in Melee Combat.
Once Melee Combat is announced by the attacking player, Cavalry attacked by Infantry may retire from the attacked hex and reform away from the attacker nullifying the attack. If Infantry is attacked by a Cavalry unit they may form square before the combat is executed. In melee combat an attacked unit is permitted to battle back. That is, after hits are registered and casualties deducted the remaining blocks may attack the attackers providing they have not been forced to retreat. This attack is conducted at the lower total of Battle Dice. Activated artillery units may add their Battle Dice to a Melee attack in a Combined Arms Attack. Infantry Melee Attacks are conducted at the base rate of one Battle Die per block in the attacking unit, with exceptions for elite units.
There are other rule changes which bring the gamer the flavor of Napoleonic Era warfare.
I have specifically not covered Leaders and the Elite formations on either side, plus Militia units have their own considerations during the game.
After all combats are resolved a Command card is drawn to replenish the card hand of its commander back to its original size as outlined in the specific scenario. As in Ancients, victory is assessed by receiving a Victory Banner for each unit destroyed, there are also Victory Banners awarded for occupying certain terrain features as outlined in the scenario.
The scenarios begin with the battle of Rolica and end with the Battle of Waterloo, covering the period from 1808 to 1815. The first twelve scenarios cover the battles of the Peninsula War, from 1808 until 1812, with the last three battles occurring on the main continent of Europe.
Each scenario provides a color illustration showing the disposition of the opening forces, and any Terrain overlays. On the scenario page is a short historical background for the scenario being played. Under Battle Notes, the two sides are given the names of the commander, how many command cards are to be dealt and who moves first. Additionally, Victory conditions (number of banners) are provided as well as any special rules in effect. The Scenarios included with the game are:
- Battle of Rolica (French First Position) 17 August 1808
- Battle of Rolica (French Second Position) 17 August 1808
- Vimiero 21 August 1808
- Corunna 16 January 1809
- Talavera (French Attack on British) 20 July 1809
- The River Coa 24 July 1810
- Bussaco (Reynier’s Assault) 27 September 1810
- Bussaco (Ney’s Assault) 27 September 1810
- Combat at Redinha 12 March 1811
- Salamanca (Attack on the French Left) 22 July 1812
- Salamanca (British Attack on French Right) 22 July 1812
- Garcia Hernandez 23 July 1812
- Aire 2 March 1814
- Quatre Bras 16 June 1815
- Waterloo 18 June 1815 (11am to 3pm)
While I have only touched upon some of the changes incorporated in Commands & Colors Napoleonics, I believe that the appetite of the gamer has been whetted to the extent he, or she, cannot wait to get their hands on the game and start playing. It must be kept in mind that proper Napoleonic tactics should be observed if players want to be successful. Having been a wargamer for some years I find this game a most refreshing approach to the period and recommend it most heartily to my fellow gamers. Can you change history? Will Napoleon triumph over the coalitions against him or will his ego be his (your) undoing? Grognards we march! Happy Gaming.
Available from GMT Games at http://www.gmtgames.com