I’ve been trying to get C & C: Napoleonics back to the table lately, as it falls has several characteristics that I find appealing, including quick playing time, simple rules, and a familiar system. (If you’re interested in playing, let me know!) After ten or so plays in the past year, I’ve built up a set of basic tactics and ideas that I think everyone should know when sitting down to play this game for the first time.
Hand Management: This is critically important in Napoleonics, more so, I believe, than in any other Richard Borg game I’m familiar with. Why? Because this game is brutal; your little block men will get murdered by enemy fire if you don’t know what you’re doing. Spend some time building up a strong hand, by which I mean 3-4 cards that will let you activate a decisive number of troops in a given section of the map. Then you’re free to push for an objective for two or three consecutive turns. On a related note, try to keep as many units as possible on hexes that “straddle” two sections so you can activate them more often. No more of this “ah heck, let’s just rush ’em” mentality you picked up from playing Ancients.
Beneficial Terrain: Again, this game is brutal. Ranged fire has the potential to seriously disrupt any attack you launch, so use whatever terrain you can. It may not seem like the -1 die modifier you get from sitting in a forest hex is all that useful, but it’s often the difference between losing two blocks or one. Also learn which terrain types block line of sight, and marshal forces behind these barriers to stop artillery and other ranged fire.
The Hammer and Anvil: This is an ancient concept in warfare, but a useful one. Whenever possible, attack the enemy with both cavalry and infantry, using the infantry to pin an enemy unit (anvil) and the cavalry to maneuver for the kill (hammer). Light cavalry works especially well, as these units are speedy and can cover ground quickly. Imagine you have one enemy infantry unit stranded in a hex. Just a “probe” card might let you activate one of your own infantry currently two hexes away from the enemy, and one light cavalry unit three hexes away from them. Close to melee range with both, and declare the cavalry attack first. This forces your opponent to make a terrible choice: form square and likely stave off the cavalry attack but be punished by the infantry, or stay in line and get decimated by the cavalry? I would argue the risk to you is quite low either way, while the chances of eliminating the enemy unit are quite high. If your opponent forms square, he’ll be powerless in the face of your infantry. If he doesn’t, chances are your cavalry will score a retreat flag and get a bonus attack.
These probably seem like basic tips for most experienced wargamers, but Napoleonics is a gateway game, and I think there are plenty of newcomers to wargaming who need to hear this. (And if you want to have me teach you the game, I’ll always mention these three things before we play!)
And now, please be sure to watch the first 56 seconds of this movie (Scots at Waterloo) to enjoy the Black Watch advancing with kilts, guns, and pipes at Waterloo. Magnificent!