CSL’s new treatment of the battle certainly does have a philosophy, and it is a philosophy that is worth becoming acquainted with if you have any sort of interest in the battle. Part of that philosophy has to do with the designer’s (Ray Weiss) intention to create a series of games (called 2140) whereby players can enjoy the sort of unfussy simulation models that belonged to the vintage era of SPI as well as GDW’s Series 120 titles.
Usually when one thinks of Napoleonic battles, what comes to mind is a combined arms battle that involves climactic cavalry charges, artillery bombardments, large formations of infantry marching into position for the assault, and a battle of maneuver. There is none of that in Toulon. This is siege warfare. Battle is methodical and development slow. There are no hugely bloody clashes. Playing this game is an exercise in planning and patience. Grab a cup of Earl Grey, hot (thank you, Captain Picard, for that enduring memory), and enjoy the experience for victory is the reward of careful resource management and thoughtful development of position. But, time is not eternal. Each player, especially the French, will be up against the clock and limited resources as they strive to defeat the Allied forces.
While this design, to my eye, offers the occasional mild suggestion of a concept hailing from a range of other models, ultimately it is very much set within its own identity. The components, as one often sees in European designs (this one hails from France) are first rate, with a pleasing aesthetic running through the entire inventory. The game works at corps level, with the current strength and fatigue levels of individual corps depicted via an assortment of wooden cubes (strength) and cylinders (fatigue) placed on the off-board tracks assigned to each corps. There is a distinction between infantry and cavalry strength (different colored cubes whose relevance kicks in during combat), while one might assume that artillery is factored into the range of combat results as well as some events that can come into play.
Napoleon’s Resurgence, the latest offering in OSG’s Library of Napoleonic Battles, presents the spring chapter of the second year of Napoleon’s ill-fated Russian War. Including several battle scenarios as well as a small selection of mini campaigns, the game essentially covers the last best chance Napoleon had to bludgeon a nascent coalition of enemies into submission and to follow that with the signing of a favorable peace treaty.
This fantastic four-player game — admittedly a little long in the tooth now, but entertaining as ever — pits English and Spanish players against two French players (north and south, or as the counters are colored, blue and green).
It’s a point-to-point map. Markers and unit counters cover the Iberian peninsula showing who owns what space (regular, key, and fortress). Cards drive the system — you can either play a card for its action point value: move a stack for 1 point, recruit a strength point for 2 points, and so on; or, play it for its stratagem: swap strength points, get reinforcements, lose strength points for outside the playing area deployments, change political ownership of a space, gain a battle advantage, cancel a battle advantage, etc., etc., etc. — if you can think of an effect, there’s likely a card in there somewhere. Some cards are events: They take effect immediately and contain a similar variety of strength point effects.
For me, one outstanding aspect of this design is the way its author has modeled two rather different armies fighting over a large expanse of city. This was, of course, something John Hill sought to do in his Stalingrad design from 1980 – units from two forces that have much the same sort of information on them, but behave differently once they start moving and fighting on the game map. In a very deft way, I believe Adam Niechwiej has bedded both forces into the battle environment, creating a distinct character for each of them in a relatively brief set of rules. In play, the experience of commanding either the Soviets or the Germans will feel very different, and for reasons beyond the Soviets having this or that number of units or the Germans simply (one might erroneously assume) being outnumbered.