Review – Grossbeeren 20 from Victory Point Games, designed by Lance McMillan
Grossbeeren 20 is another game from Victory Point Games in their line of wargames for ages 12+. This is the 11th in a series of Napoleonic era wargames and part of the “20” series of games which have a core set of rules common to the entire series based around having a limit of no more than 20 pieces to play the game. Along with the series core rules, each game also includes a set of rules specific to the individual game.
For those unfamiliar with Victory Point Games, their publishing philosophy is centered on producing small, affordable, well-designed, relatively simple yet elegant games. The main selling point is the gameplay. To keep costs down, the game components are card based, without mounted maps and lots of bits or minis.
Grossbeeren 20 is a game based on Napoleon’s drive to Berlin led by Marshall Oudinot during August 21-23, 1813. Facing him are Allied forces led by Crown Prince Carl Johan of Sweden and the weather! The components include an 11×17″ game map covering the region where the campaign was fought, 15 military units (infantry and cavalry), 6 Cadre units, which are used when broken units are returned to play plus dummy units for the fog of war rules and assorted book keeping counters. Along with the rules come player aids with the charts needed for movement, morale, retreats, rally and morale. Lastly, and here is the charm, a small set of Random Event cards which bring into play specific events which add to the theme and provide options for the players, some helpful, some not so.
This game system is very similar to that which was used back in the day in games by SPI in the sense that it is a logical extension and sharpening of their Napoleon at War and Napoleon’s Last Battles systems. Having been b a big fan of the earlier systems, I was very pleased to see the modern take. The Game turn is as follows –
First Player Random Events Phase – choose an event card and you will receive information relating to your specific army or at times, an event that effects both armies. These cards add a nice variety and randomness that is very common in warfare and keeps you on your toes.
First Player Movement Phase – movement is regulated via a hexagonal grid laid over the battlefield map which is very colorful, nice and clear showing the relevant terrain that impacts movement and combat.
Second Player Reaction Phase – The second player can react to the first player’s movement with Cavalry. A nice feature where you can use Cavalry in its proper role of throwing the enemy momentum off balance.
First Player Combat Phase – compare combat strengths, add in terrain effects and come up with a strength differential. Roll a die on the combat table and get a result ranging from units breaking, units routing, withdrawal, exchange of casualties, and engaged in a battle.
Then the steps are reversed for the second player.
Very straightforward for experienced wargamers, but will take a bit of getting used to for those new to wargames but not difficult at all. This is not a game that provides a detailed simulation of Napoleonic warfare down to the detailed formations, etc. This is a high level game which gives you a feel for the overall operational problem or puzzle to be solved, simple mechanics which allow for maneuver and combat and great components and artwork to help the visual element. You won’t get bogged down in the detail of individual units. There are only a handful anyway. It is more akin to a more abstract game but dressed up with tailored to the era mechanics and events.
Did it work for me?
This level of game is ideal for gamers like me on a budget, who don’t have a lot of time to invest nor interest in brain burning detail. This is much more a game than a military simulation which can be found elsewhere. For me, it is a nice step up from the old SPI games. The limited amount of units and map size is a little bit of a down side as your options are more limited but then that’s the puzzle you are handed. Compared to the old SPI system, I preferred the higher unit count and larger maps which gave more of a grand sweep to the battlefield. Having said that, Grossbeeren 20 works well within its limitations. Played in isolation, I also think that it suffers from not being as grand a topic as the more well known campaigns but it is important to remember that this is a small battle connecting to a larger series of the Germany 1813 campaign. Other battles in this series include the “bigger” ones including the Dresden 20 game and VPG’s upcoming Leipzig 20 game. I would be interested in playing the other games in the series and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Napoleonic gaming and particularly the Napoleonic “20” series.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6.5 out of 10
Family Friendly? Only if they are wargamers or interested in military history