Napoleon Returns keeps itself on the right side of the line between being a proper wargame as opposed to a game with some war in it, and in doing so delivers a rather spiffy and valid experience.
Six Empires is a 2-6 player game of military and diplomatic strategy set in Europe, North Africa, and the New World in the year 1714. Each player controls of one of six empires, each with its unique flavor and play style. In addition to the playable empires, there are 17 independent nations, and any empire which is not controlled by a player remains in the game as a non-player empire.
Some readers may recall an article I wrote for this site around fifteen months ago featuring another game by the same company, Festung Breslau. That design covered the 1945 siege of the German city, in which Polish forces under Red Army command played a far from insignificant role. My review was very largely positive, given the character of a relatively simple system in relation to the nature of a bitter street fight that lasted throughout the last months of the war in Europe.
Now, the same designer, Adam Niechwiej, has approached a very different subject, one that presents Polish forces fighting alongside the Western Allies in the struggle to close the Falaise Pocket. This is, arguably, one of the most controversial episodes from the 1944 campaign – many believe that no German forces should never have been allowed to leach out the pocket and thus live to fight another day.
Stalingrad-inferno on the Volga is a solitaire blocking depicting the that culminated in an historic defeat for the German army due to the tenacity of the Russian defenders. While predominantly a solitaire game, it can be played with two players and in this video we give you a replay of the game.
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.
Trafalgar 1805 certainly has plenty of colour – sixty minis (supplied painted if that is your purchase option, and flaunting their national ensigns from the stern) will deploy on ten sea-effect tiles, whilst their crews will bustle around on ship logs dedicated to each of those sixty ships, loading different types of ammunition (advanced game), fighting fires, fighting enemy crews, and taking axes to fallen masts, canvas and rope in order to clear the broadsides and ready the ship once more.