Inside the Box: Commands & Colors: Napoleonics: The Russian Army

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

Commands & Colors: Napoloenics: The Russian Army is the second expansion in the latest iteration of Richard Borg‘s C & C system. Published by GMT Games, it retails for $55, but can often be found between $30-35 through the usual online sellers. It was shipped out to P500 subscribers just last week, and mine arrived in the mail on about three days ago.

I don’t want to sound like an mp3 on repeat (broken record?), but the first thing that catches the eye is the box itself. It is incredibly sturdy and bright with an evocative painting of Napoleonic troops charging. The strip at the bottom of the box is a nice dark green, which matches the colors of the Russians. (I was surprised to see in the last expansion that the strip there was brown, which did not match the yellow of the Spanish troops contained within.) However, if you are collecting all expansions in this game set, you’ll quickly realize the mistake seen below:

Notice what I've highlighted in red.

Notice what I’ve highlighted in red.

Yup, that’s right folks, even though the Spanish expansion is clearly marked “Expansion Nr. 1” on the box, and this expansion says “#2” on the rulebook…the cover remains blank. The same goes for the box spine, which means if you store your games on a bookshelf like me, you’ll see “Expansion Nr. 1” next to “Expansion”. Whoops.

Flipping the box over, you get the usual information about playing time, etc. It’s a bummer that Napoleon still is wearing Le Bicorn Invisible. For those keeping score, this is the third time this has happened. Someone nudge their production coordinator; I think he’s asleep at the switch.

Nice hat, Emperor.

Nice hat, Emperor.

Thankfully, once the box is opened, these problems seem to dissipate somewhat. Again we’ve got 220 wooden blocks, some charts, cardboard bits for the Russians, a scenario booklet, and lots and lots of stickers. Again I was hoping for a fix for “Give them the Cold Steal” from the first edition, but no dice.

Get stickering!

Get stickering!

While I’ve already explored at length how the Spanish expansion was a step down in terms of production quality, I think GMT has upped their game once again. The terrain hexes are back to the original thickness, so there’s no cheap feel there, and the same goes for the other cardboard chits:

Ah, back to what we love!

Ah, back to what we love!

Speaking of cardboard bits, you get some new terrain including frozen lakes and redoubts in woods:

Almost siegeworks.

Almost siege works.

The decision was made to continue including the little heavy, light, and cavalry symbols on the unit stickers. From a distance they still look like smudges, but I’ll deal with it. The blocks themselves are gorgeous, with the Russians being a rich, vibrant green:

Ooh!

Ooh!

I also like that the decision was made to stick with the new style of unit reference chart, which is easy to read in the heat of battle. In addition, the scenario book (20 scenarios!) with the new rules about the Mother Russia roll is well-written and the images are sharp. The Russians look like a sturdy bunch who will give the French a run for their money, especially in the larger scenarios, some of which go to 10 victory banners.

One thing that others have noticed is the quality of the paper used. There’s something a bit rough about it; when I handled the scenario book and the sticker sheet, it felt like very fine sandpaper. It’s not overly unpleasant, but it is noticeable and some won’t like it.

Overall, I would consider this a step up from the first expansion, but one step down from the base game in terms of components. Maybe when the Prussians and Austrians come out, we’ll get some of these final wrinkles ironed out.

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