Napoleonic Wars (GMT)
Playings; 1 - 5 player at BROGfest, (3 1/2 hours), French win
I went up to BROGFEST in April and had the chance to play a 5-player Napoleonic Wars. The convention was a pretty small affair with perhaps 15 gamers. Richard Berg was there (naturally) as was Ben Hull with a prototype of Sweden Fights On. This is the Accursed Civil War system but includes rules to convert the Lion of the North battles to the system. I have the latter game and might be tempted to buy the system for the conversion possibilities. The GMT block WW2 game was also being played in pre-issue. I have enough WW2 in Europe games and will stick to Totaler Kreig for special occasions and Barbarossa to Berlin for quick fixes.
As for Napoleonic Wars the system is another grandchild of We the People. A key fact of this game is that if you play a card as points rather than as an event you have complete choice as to how to spend those points. For example you could spend some for land moves, some for naval moves or go for recruiting or diplomacy. Of course you are most likely to spend all the points on doing 1 thing well but you are not having to wait around for a particular card to say move the navy. A few cards are + cards that can be played at the same time as another card giving a pretty good pool of points to play. The players play cards until only 1 can play so playing 2 cards using a + will reduce how long you can keep going. All players have a minimum and maximum hand in a turn plus can replace certain home cards from turn to turn. The exact hand size depends on how many key map boxes you control.
Of the 5 of us 3 had played before and the other 2 were clueless. I had only played the game solitaire and I believe that the other 2 had only played through ACTS rather than face to face. Even though the rules booklet is tight rather than filled with examples we had few rules problems. We had 2 copies of the game and quickly found the answer to points of contention within the rules. We pulled the game out of the box about 9.30, had it set up and all 5 players by 10.00 and finished about 13.30. You do need a lot of dice, more than you get in the box. In some battles a player had to roll more than 20 dice.
The game plays quite differently solitaire or 2-player compared to a multi-player. This is due to the nature of how the major powers are divided into camps. In a 2-player game there is France against Austria, Russia and Britain. Other nations may be allied or neutral due to game play. They become allied through card point or event play. Once a nation becomes a firm ally only certain cards can break the alliance. There are 2 cards that can break any pact plus special cards that will only break the pacts of Spain, Turkey or Sweden, one card for each nation. This makes is pretty hard to break an alliance short of conquest. The card was played to break the Franco-Spanish pact in our game but France had enough cards in hand to counter the play. If you have the pact breaking cards they have to be played late in the turn when your opponent does not have enough points (9, requiring 2 cards so 1 must be a +) to counter.
The main nations cannot switch camps. The implication of this is that Austria may be defeated by France and become neutral. The nation must remain neutral for 1 year after that it may be kept neutral by the coalition player or my declare war on France again. The same goes for Russia and Britain. In a 5-player game we all had a nation each. Only France and Britain could not swap camps, Austria, Prussia and Russia can swap sides. This can be between turns or (at a high cost) within a turn.
Richard Berg commented that France tended to win in multi-player games. In our game I played France and won or to be modest the others lost. If only 1 of the 5 players can win there is an incentive for each player to concentrate on having most points rather than for the coalition to gang together and take out France. In our game Britain did rather well at 1st an could have won on turn 2 or 3. Austria held out for turn 1 but went down badly on turn 2. After some shuffling on turn 3 Russia switched sides, France and Russia carved up Prussia. Britainís lead was taken down by some combined card event play of France and Russia. The war ended on turn 4 with a French win. We never got to turn 5 as the game can end on any turn with a base die roll of 6. This can be modified by the Europe Exhausted card (we saw this on turn 1) or by nations discarding a card from those they are allowed on the next turn. Each time we rolled the die the game would have ended on a 6 or 5 or 6 depending on the turn. I like this idea of a random game length, the game can come down to a single die roll but you cannot win by long term planning.