I got to play a couple of games of Commands & Colors Napoleonic's with Lee a couple of weeks ago, more on that in a following post though. Today's post is about the system and my thoughts on the game since starting to collect the sets just after Christmas.
It's not an inexpensive game to get into, though much cheaper than ASL tends to be. Fortunately the £50+ price tag is reserved for the core module that supplies not only the board and cards but also the largest stack of wooden blocks you will get in any of the modules. Indeed as each expansion has been designed to be playable with just the core set needed you end up with rather a lot of French line infantry and so many terrain tiles you won't struggle to find that extra town hex.
The expansions actually work out (in my mind) quite a bit better value than the core set often in the £30-40 bracket, even the newly released Prussian module. There is now four expansions available supplying the Spanish, Russians (recently reprinted), Austrians and the just mentioned Prussians. A fifth expansion is due out soon that breaks tradition and rather than introducing a new nation brings a few new troop types such as British Rocket Troops and the biggest change a new deck of cards that are set to change gameplay quite a bit. Indeed I will wait for news of the new mod before making a move on it as it could be one step too far but equally possible a big step forward. A nice touch is that all the previously released scenarios will have details for how to incorporate the cards into revised versions of the scenarios. What possibly makes it most worth buying though is the extra scenarios that come with the expansion.
The twin facts that I am talking about this fifth expansion and have bought the four already available give you a clue that I think the games worth buying. One major factor is that The Boy really likes to play the game and we have clocked up a fairly impressive tally of games played. Currently the Austrians are his favourite nation though he is experimenting with the Russians since I bought the re-released module. Lee also rather likes the Russians with us getting two games in recently. Indeed he liked the system enough to buy the Ancients franchise the week after our games.
So I have plenty of reason to buy the game but how does it stack up as a Napoleonic game? Well if your looking for depth and realism then you need to look elsewhere, somewhere far far away from planet C&C N. Regardless of that it's not only a fun game it does feel like Napoleonic's, the strength or weakness of the game (based on your angle of thought) is the card driven movement and combat. The idea that you rely on getting cards to allow you to move in the left, centre or right areas of the board can be a real turn off. I have owned and enjoyed Battle Cry and played Memoir 44 show I am used to the system and can take enjoyment from it. For me it's just part of the game and it's manageable to a point. However the rules get the theme across through well written wrinkles that set the various nations apart such as the British superior standing fire, the French infantry's powerful attacks and the Russian staunchness under fire. Austrian infantry units are not only larger than other nations but can form a type of square that has advantages over a typical square. The Spanish seem more of the odd ones out with a special rule that brings the partisans into play (not represented by units) that effect the tactical situation on the board but represent events prior to the battle. This gives them a flavour of their own but not quite fitting with the other nations. The Prussians have the ability to ignore a set amount of retreats, something that can be very useful.
The components are of high quality, the special cards add more than just move x units to your options and it's play is fast and interactive. The rule that forces you to loose one of your command cards for each unit in square is a really good wrinkle that really adds to the game. Do you risk the unit to the cavalry charge or do you risk one of your killer cards being taken at random from your hand until the unit can come out of square? All the flavour rules are not cumbersome or add too much complexity allowing players to move between modules without needing to read up lots of fluff. Indeed I think the rules are so well written that it would be hard to improve without losing some of it's playability. It strikes the right balance between historical feel and a nights fun gaming.