Review – Field Commander: Napoleon from Dan Verssen Games
Designer – Dan Verssen
Art – Aaron Anderson, Wan Chiu, Jacques Louis-David, Miguel Santos, Dan Verssen
Sometimes words simply fail to express just how good game is for me but I will give it a go. This is one of those rare times when I feel compelled right up front to tell you that I LOVE Field Commander: Napoleon.
As a long standing war gamer, I’ve played loads of great games over the years and some not so great. I have never lost my love for war gaming and will probably always have it as my first love so of course I am biased here. Nevertheless, I only have so much time and space and war games being what they usually are, rather complex and time consuming beasts, I have to be selective as to which games I want to keep and come back to rather than trade, sell or otherwise. An even rarer war game, although not as rare as in previous years is the solitaire war game and I’m always interested in these as my face to face time is limited.
So Dan Verssen graciously sent me a copy of his newest game so I could do a review and boy am I glad he did and excited to spread the word!
I was quite late in the day in registering Dan Verssen Games on my radar as Dan has published a number of other games and this is the 3rd in his Field Commander solitaire series, the earlier games being, Field Commander: Alexander and Field Commander: Rommel.
Field Commander: Napoleon is a game covering Napoleon’s campaigns and grand is it’s scope. The first thing you notice is that the game box is pretty heavy. It comes with a bunch of stuff including –
7 (count-em…) 11″x17″ full color mounted maps!
6 Counter sheets with gorgeous full color , double-sized thick counters representing mostly military formations and information chits – all double sided
1 10-sided die
1 Battlefield sheet
1 Player help sheet (probably a good idea to laminate this as it gets a lot of use)
1 Player log sheet
A full color rule book 23 pages
The artwork is simply gorgeous. The information clear and nicely set-out. A feast of color and lush quality. This is a beautiful game. It oozes quality and as you handle and see the components, you will see that Dan has raised the bar for quality in war game production. The rulebook is nicely laid out, clearly written and interestingly, much easier to digest than I expected. Solitaire games can sometimes be onerous to digest as you are playing through a system but Dan seems to me to have just enough detail, without overkill. The material is a pleasure to read.
In the game you can play any of 11 Napoleonic campaigns, each one using the core system but unique in the problems Napoleon is faced with, the objectives to be achieved and the forces engaged. Loads of playability value comes in the package.
The lovely maps are set out with area movement regions clearly indicating the key cities or named after key battles. Key information charts on the maps lay out the relevant forces engaged, objectives, supplies and Battle Plans as well as standard charts for Special rules, Resupply and Sequence of play. All very nicely laid out with effective use of space. Great graphics design here.
The counters for the Mobile Forces include Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery for each individual campaign. There are Static Forces as well including Garrisons and Fortifications. The double-sized counters are nicely laid out, look great and have all the necessary information as follows:
Commander’s name, Nationality and Campaign year – campaign specific units are in the game!
Activation value – if you don’t activate a Force by a die roll, they don’t do anything
Combat value/Buy cost – You roll the die to hit in combat/ also you can buy reinforcements from your destroyed units
Superior Combat Capability – Certain units can cause greater damage to the enemy
Skill Level – Each Force has a specific level of combat capability
You start out by choosing a campaign and collecting the relevant map and counters. Review the objectives, set up the pieces, organize the Battle Plan counters for both sides and the Napoleon Insight counters and then follow the game process (yes, there are a lot of steps but they move along very well each turn:
Advance the Turn counter to the new turn space
Moves – Forces with or without the Napoleon counter can move to an adjacent space on the campaign map at no cost. If in a space with enemy Forces, they cannot move.
Resolve Battles – You must resolve battles when in the same area as an enemy Force
Roll Fog of War – Roll a die, refer to the Fog of War chart and apply results – pretty much a random events chart
Envelopment Check – If your Forces are at least 3x the strength of the enemy, you Envelop and destroy them
Determine Battle Plan Quantities – Each army can be allocated special Battle Plan counters that can be used each battle turn
Buy additional French Battle Plans – You can use supplies to buy extra Battle Plans for the French
Select Insights – Napoleon has Insight counters that can replace Battle Plans but they can only be used if Napoleon is activated
Place French Forces – on the Battlefield sheet in the starting areas
Place Enemy Forces – Same
– Battle Turns
Insight Activation – You can try and Activate Napoleon to use the very useful Insight counters
Select and Place French Battle Plans – you can allocate the special Battle Plan counters to specific units (standard Battle plans are also assigned)
Draw and Assign Enemy Battle Plans – Enemy Battle Plan counters are randomly chosen and then assigned (standard Battle plans are also assigned)
Resolve Enemy Battle Plans – All battle movement and combat is resolved (subject to an Activation roll for each unit in most cases)
Resolve French Battle Plans – All battle movement and combat is resolved (subject to an Activation roll for each unit in most cases)
Rout Check – Force’s can be routed
Advance Battle Turn counter – if the battle has not concluded, do it all over again…
– Post Battle
Forced March – Mobile Forces can force march at a cost in supplies
French Resupply – You can refit damaged forces and Purchase new ones
Enemy Turn –
Enemy orders – Roll a die and see what the enemy Forces do
Seems like a lot? Well actually, if you follow the step by step instructions (you will refer to the rulebook for the first few strategic and battle turns at least until you get used to it), you will be fine. The nature of solitaire games is the there needs to be an AI approach for managing the opposing Force and this is described and handled very well with in-game example illustrations. This is not a game where the AI runs on rails as there is plenty of scope and challenge each time you play. The historical options and results of all this work well and are sensible. You are playing against an AI but there is no guarantees as there are certain random factors which allow for the fortunes of war.
Added to this is that each campaign is like a puzzle waiting to be solved and the random features are such that you will come back to each and find different decisions to make. Very interesting, very playable, and great fun. Yes, you have to work at it as you need to follow a detailed process but it moves and connects nicely and is very satisfying.
The strategic level game gives you a sense of the big picture and the key objectives and constraints so you can get a sense of the grand Napoleonic challenge. The Battle turns are addressed in a simple way, and give you a feel for the Napoleonic battlefield fighting tactics and challenges without getting bogged down in deep detail. Just right for what is ultimately a strategic game. If you are looking for a detailed battlefield simulation, look elsewhere.
Have a look at the game’s BGG page where you will find a listing of Marco Arnaudo’s excellent video reviews of each campaign
Did it work for me?
As stated earlier, I love Field Commander: Napoleon and can’t say enough about it. It works for me on every level and does this old war gamer’s heart a lot of good. The strategic scope is there. You can play each campaign as a manageable chunk of the whole of Napoleon’s career. The production is absolutely top class, the mechanics and AI are superb. It is all great and interesting fun. I leave it to you to discover the delights of this excellent game. How Dan Verssen will top it, is the next great question. If you have any interest in Napoleonic war games, you must buy it!
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 10 out of 10 (I don’t give this rating out lightly btw…)
Nope, that’s not the audience for this game
For more information, got to – http://www.dvg.com/who.htm