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We had a bit of a go at Napoleon at War last Sunday. Here are my thoughts and a few photos.
I must start by saying that N@W is not a grand tactical set of rules. It is very much aimed at the local level of a Divisional commander, similar to LaSalle in that regard. If you want to play Wagram in a night this is not for you!
The rules appear to be written in Spanish and then translated or alternatively written by Spanish in English. Some things are hard to find but with perseverance and the help of the forum we muddled on! Mind you they are easier to understand that DBX!!
Units break and are removed from the filed when they are reduced to less than half strength - an infantry unit is 6 stands and a cavalry unit four stands.
Another factor is the National characteristics - the firing and combat mechanism is relatively simple (but does have subtleties not initially apparent) but the National Characteristics really brings out the Napoleonic flavour and guides you to deploy to the best advantage of you army.
Movement is quick, with an additional move at the end of the phase for non engaged troops. This makes for the ability to do on table flanking manoeuvres. Cavalry and artillery serve to slow the enemy down, if within 12" of cavalry or in or crossing arty beaten zones counting as engaged. If not engaged movement is a breeze, no problems with facing etc, just do what you like within the movement rates. If engaged then you need to pass a test to so something complicated, if you fail or you are within 6" of the enemy (6" is also musket range) then only simple moves are permitted. A simple move allows for a formation change then a move but you have to face the direction that you move. Think about that. Once you are committed (within 6" of the enemy) and you don't move towards them you face the direction that you do move. None of this namby pamby move to the flank business!
Firing is carried out with a number of dice being rolled, stationary with two dice per base (6 bases per infantry battalion) or one per base if moving. Extra dice can be added (ie for Guards etc) and can also be halved (ie against lights in broken ground etc). For every 4 hits a base is lost with partial 4's having a saving roll. For instance you get 6 hits in firing - that is one base lost and needing a 3+ to save the loss of a second. Nasty stuff with firing in the enemy's turn only occurring if you are fired upon.
In sustained firefights the number of skirmisher bases (which affects the number of enemy firing dice) gradually decreases leading to greater losses but also greater power to any fresh forces introduced to the firefight.
Combat is even deadlier! There are no saving throws! * Each hit is a stand lost.* Did I mention that infantry are 6 stands and cavalry 4 stands? If you fail to close then it may turn into a firefight (a concept which has its merits). After combat there is an opportunity to reorganise which means the commander on the spot can realign with friends or react to the new position of his command.
There is concept of favourable and unfavourable rolls. For instance you need to roll a 4 or more on one dice to close with the enemy, French have the 'Elan' special rule turning this into a favourable roll (roll two dice and pass *on either one*) but if they receive close range fire on the way in (one cause for unfavourable) and then lose a stand (a second cause for an unfavourable roll). One favourable cancels out one unfavourable roll leaving them with an overall unfavourable roll. This means that they need to roll two dice and pass *on both* if they are to close. Sounds complicated? No not really, but it makes a simple Flames of War type roll into something more appropriate! And it feels right!
Units when unengaged (and here is another example of the power of cavalry to project force) can attempt to recover their losses. Like Black Powder these rules have understrength and overstrength units. Those understrength (like French 1813 Cavalry) may never recover losses, regular sized units may recover but never the last loss (consider how this affects a 4 stand cavalry unit) and overstrength units may recover to full strength. You really have to disengage to do this, and at the pace of the game can you afford to do this?
There is much to like about these rules. Light Infantry are excellent in rough and difficult, cavalry can dominate from a distance but cannot guarantee in closing, National characteristics are well thought out and appropriate, the systems are simple but the overlays (favourable / unfavourable and National Characteristics) bring out subtle changes. Sustained firefights appear well thought out, charging into contact can work but is fraught with danger and the command and control together with the movement restrictions when engaged and committed work particularly well.
Richard was there and observed, I'd be interested to hear what his thoughts were!
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