Commands & Colors: Napoleonics: Russian Expansion Preview

After the awesome game-giving generosity of my family at Christmas, I am eagerly awaiting the next few expansions to C&C: Napoleonics. Word just came out today that GMT Games is charging the credit cards of those who preordered the Russian expansion and games will be shipping toward the end of this week. Getting this sort of news causes me to obsess more than a little about what might be in the box, but luckily C&C:N dot net spilled the beans today. You can now go here to check out the rules pertaining to the new army.

(From what I can gather, GMT Games sent advance information about this expansion to Michael Dippel, who creates the Napoleonics VASSAL modules free of charge so folks can play it online. Then on the day the credit cards were charged, Alesandro Crespi, who runs C&C:N dot net, was allowed to release this info. What an awesome sign of a board game publisher trying to strengthen the community people who play its games!)

So, how do these forest green fighters stack up against their opponents?

The Russians will field 15 different types of units: 6 infantry, 6 cavalry, and 3 artillery. I’m most impressed by the infantry, most of whom can ignore one retreat result in combat. So if you pit them against the other major nations, this is what you get:

British: Excellent at ranged fire.
French: Excellent at melee v.s. other infantry.
Spanish: Awful at everything (but hey, they’ve got guerillas)
Russian: Excellent at ignoring retreat results (to a point)
Austrians: Still unknown
Prussians: Still unknown

At the same time, Russian cavalry aren’t bad either, and in fact I’d say that they just squeak past the French in terms of ability, though I would guess they’ll be rare in the scenarios. Most cavalry field 4 blocks, and the elite units can often ignore two retreat flags.

The other thing that makes the Russians unique is unfortunately-named “Pre-Battle Mother Russia Roll.” (Say it ten times fast!) Some infantry units will be set up at partial strength (3 blocks), and then after a pre-battle roll of the dice is made, a few of those infantry can be beefed up to their “on paper” strength of 4 blocks. If one gets a different result, he or she can place fieldworks hexes or Cossacks. I’m particularly interested to see how the latter play out, as they are 2-block cavalry units that will not hit on saber results (making them weak in melee) and retreat 3 hexes per flag rolled against them (making them very apt to run away). At the same time, killing them off doesn’t net the French player any victory points, so you really can just send them at Napoleon’s columns in an attempt to break them up.

All in all, this looks like a strong addition to the Napoleonics line, and I may alter my routine, skip over the Spanish for a bit, and get the Russians to the table!

Expect an “Inside the Box” review soon. I’m interested to see if the disappointing drop in quality we saw in the Spanish expansion has been corrected.

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