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.
Vikings 878 is an entertaining game like the other Academy wargames. Simple to understand, the cards switch things around enough during the first few playings until you learn how many cards of each type are in a deck, and the little minis are a step up from the cubes.
Therefore, what you will not get in Trafalgar, with sixty ships in the combat area, is a lot of overly detailed fiddling around with rigging and sail arrays – that part of the ship’s handling is now simply defined by one of three modes of sail deployment: low, medium and full. There is rather more detail assigned to combat, because, if we are honest about it, that is why we are playing the game in the first place – to experience a battle, not a regatta.