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Tag Archives: Cyrano

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics – EPIC!

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Jim descends further into his Napoleonic madness with massive-scale gaming ~

Jim Owczarski, 18 March 2017

I have been waiting for this one for a long time.

It’s almost unreal to me that Battle Cry, the first of Richard Borg’s “Commands and Colors” series, was released in 2000.  I like the American Civil War well enough, but, from the beginning, I hoped that the simple, elegant system evident in the game could be elaborated into the best of all periods, Napoleonics.

In the years since, I’ve bought and happily played Memoir ’44 (2004), Commands and Colors: Ancients (2006), Battlelore (also 2006), not to mention the remarkable array of expansions, special editions, and the like for all these systems.  I gave Zvezda’s Samurai Battles a miss if only because it’s the only era covered that doesn’t appeal to me.

True Napoleonic wargamers are obsessed with scope, spectacle, and sweep.

And then it came out.  In 2010, GMT Games gave the waiting world Commands and Colors: Napoleonics.  Sure, it was wooden blocks not lovely figures.  Yes, it was the British, Spanish, and Portuguese versus the French.  And, yes, for reasons known only to the grim gods of game production, the Prussians were excluded from the included Waterloo scenario.  But it was Napoleonics and that, at first, was enough.

This was no longer the simplified rule set found in Battle Cry.  There was the forming of square; different grades of horse, foot, and guns; and even elegant rules to differentiate leaders and national troop characteristics.  In the latter case, French troops, and their famous columns, fight better in melee, while the British lines do real damage with ranged fire, &c.

After much fun was had, though, it was ultimately not enough.  True Napoleonic wargamers are obsessed with scope, spectacle, and sweep.  It is this that leads us to do really, really dumb things like this: Historicon 2010 Part V Wagram (Shako II) and Outro

For the record this is my shaky-cam — I’ve become better — but this game had run 14 hours before I had to leave with it far from finished.

GrogHeads Reviews High Treason!

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See you in court! ~

Jim Owczarski, 18 February 2017

Function before form!

Function before form!

My love of the Napoleonic era is high, wide, and deep, but I’ve always taken the age of empire to be my second true love, if such a thing can be countenanced.  Much of my early study of the era came from Jan Morris’ Pax Britannica trilogy, particularly the first volume, Heaven’s Command.  Far from an academic exercise, it’s an evocative series of sketches of the men and women who peopled the British empire, giving more weight, it has always seemed to me, to the interesting as opposed to the more objectively significant, although one can certainly be both.

TANKSgiving! – The Great War “Tanks” expansion

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tanksgivingheaderCyrano goes back to the trenches for the earliest days of tank warfare with a look at the “Tanks” expansion for The Great War ~

Jim Owczarski, 19 November 2016

Since the powers-that-be hereabout have imprudently given me another platform, I’ll make this particular teapot just a bit more tempestuous:  Memoir ’44 is a war game.

The best-selling installment of Richard Borg’s Command and Colors system — and one of the best-selling war games of all time — is criticized for its abstractions, its toy factor, its simplicity, its lack of tactical granularity, and, for all I know, the devaluation of the dollar against the yuan.  I for one, while acknowledging its limitations, love the toys, the card-play that creates uncertainty, the straight-forward rules, and the ability to fight the entirety of the D-Day landings in an afternoon.

It shouldn’t, then, be too great a surprise that I was looking forward to the Plastic Soldier Company’s release of The Great War, Mr. Borg’s take on World War I, and particularly the tank expansion. The bicentennial of the war is upon us and I wanted to see what tweaks would be brought to the system to make it more than just World War II with less elegant tanks.

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GrogHeads Previews Platoon Command

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LNLP’s forthcoming game gets the once-over from our preview crew ~

Jim Owczarski, 09 November 2016

Let’s get this out of the way, shall we?

Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s forthcoming Platoon Command is not an attempt to reboot Up Front.  It is neither Up Front 2.0 nor is it Up Front Lite.  It is not Up Front Redux featuring behind-the-scenes footage of how a scoundrel and his shadow company absconded with more than 300,000 Kickstarter dollars and left a trail of litigation and rage.  Not that I’m bitter, of course.

No, courtesy of a rare bit of wisdom from corporate gameocracy, Up Front, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, is now available from the Wargame Vault and everyone interested can play this classic for a reasonable sum. Even more gratifying, the going rate for second-hand copies has now plummeted accordingly.  And besides, Platoon Command, though a card-driven game of World War 2 squad-level combat, bears little resemblance to its far more complex, some have even dared to say obtuse, ancestor.

Not. Up. Front.

Not. Up. Front.

Modern-Day Napoleonic Battles & Travels, Part the First

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Cyrano delves deep into the world of Napoleonic battlefields in preparation for an eventual visit, and more ~

Jim Owczarski, 08 September 2016

Most images click to enlarge

People are incessantly telling me I’m missing the point.  (ed note – he frequently is, but usually about other things)

They wonder how someone can visit Paris and prefer the Army Museum to the Louvre — pace those areas given over to David — or would rather spend time crawling over an Old Vineyard in Bohemia rather than sitting in a coffee house in Vienna two hours to the south.

They even have a word for what I love to do, viz., “dark tourism”.  I suspect it’s not intended as a compliment.

But I, and I am assuredly not alone, am obsessed with Napoleonic battlefields.  I read about them, watch movies about them, play as many games about them as I can lay my hands on, and, far less frequently than I would like, visit them.  I’ve been to Waterloo twice, Austerlitz once, and, having spent this Summer taking my son to middle-American water parks, am determined that next Summer will bring a visit to Jena-Austerstadt.  The management has asked me to share my own journey to Jena as well as talk about those conflict simulations that take up the campaign and its battles.

The Battle of Waterloo: A Comparative Exercise, Part 3

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In the finale of our Waterloo comparisons, our resident Napoleonicist continues his side-by-side comparisons with the groggiest of the grog games ~

Jim Owczarski, 23 July 2016

The 201st anniversary of the Great Battle has passed, Spring has turned to the heat of Summer, and, for those who have come this far, it’s time to explore the rarefied air breathed by the more complex simulations of the Battle of Waterloo.  (ed note, links to read part 1 and part 2)

I begin with a game to which I react much like that famous speech from the end of so many relationships, viz.: “it’s not you, it’s me.”  Martin Wallace is one of the great Euro-game designers of our time and there’s much conceptually to admire in his “Waterloo”, but, despite my best efforts, I’ve never been able to bring myself to love it the way some do.

You can keep your Mona Lisa.

You can keep your Mona Lisa.

The Battle of Waterloo: A Comparative Exercise, Part 2

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Our resident Napoleonicist continues to compare all things Waterloo side-by-side, and ratcheting up the difficulty level on the games ~

Jim Owczarski, 21 May 2016

The nice part about doing a series is one can leave aside the preliminary pleasantries and leap to the business at hand.  For those who missed the first journey into the world of wargaming Waterloo (I may need to trademark alliteration that strong), it’s here.

For those already up to speed, what follows is a discussion of some of the medium-weight games to take up this greatest of battles.

It may surprise some that I do not find Richard Borg’s Command and Colors: Napoleonics to be a light wargame.  It is, after all, the direct descendant of Memoir ’44, likely the greatest gateway wargame ever made.  It borrows its predecessor’s left-center-right battlefield construction; units, though blocks and not little plastic man, are still formed of a few markers each; a hand of cards drawn from a common deck that shares many similarities with Memoir drives the action; and combat is resolved with dice that have symbols rather than pips.

They were on sale.  How could I say no?

They were on sale.  How could I say no?

The Battle of Waterloo: A Comparative Exercise

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What happens when our resident Napoleonicist compares all things Waterloo side-by-side(-by-side-by-side-by-side)? ~

Jim Owczarski, 23 April 2016

With respect to E.S. Creasy, lists of “greatest” or “most significant” battles are best left as the stuff of coffee shop debate or oversized, remaindered tomes available at your local discount book store.  There’s just too much that goes into defining sprawling words like “greatest” that prevents the conversation from being useful much less dispositive.

That said, Waterloo is the greatest battle ever.  Ever.  I will not subject this to further debate.

Let us instead, at the request of the editorial staff hereabouts, visit some of the many consims to take up the battle, and, along the way, talk about how approaches to the battle have changed over the years.  This is not a complete list and it is a subjective one, but I hope it gives you a small window into the world of Waterloo gaming — a place where I have spent an awful lot of time.  Lest the tyro turn away at first glance, let the story begin with the simpler games that offer to take the player back to mid-June 1815.

I must here confess that I don’t think over-much of the Avalon Hill classic “Waterloo”.  It’s not that both the board and the counters are, putting the matter generously, merely serviceable.

Yep, 1962.

Yep, 1962.