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Posted on Feb 17, 2014 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Command & Colors Napoleonics: Austrian Army – Boardgame Review

Command & Colors Napoleonics: Austrian Army – Boardgame Review

By Sean Stevenson

coverCommands & Colors Napoleonics: Austrian Army Expansion. Boardgame review. Publisher, GMT Games. Designer, Richard Borg. $59.95

Passed Inspection: Austrians finally take the Napoleonic battlefield; powerful line infantry to oppose French cavalry.

Failed Basic: Scenarios are very restricted in scope.

A new year, a new expansion to the Commands & Colors: Napoleonics series. Actually released at the end of 2013, this third expansion to the core system features the Austrians. They are the Rodney Dangerfields of Napoleonic history, garnering no respect because of the continued beatings they took at the hands of the French Empire. But they stood against the French for over two decades, and at the end of all the fighting it was Napoleon who was sent packing (twice) while the Austrian Empire would remain standing for another hundred years. Not a bland achievement after all.

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So what’s in here? Well, if you purchased either of the prior expansions (reviews of Expansion 1: The Spanish Army and Expansion 2: The Russian Army are available here) you know what’s coming. You get a Square Formation card and In Square markers for the Austrians to use against cavalry charges; two updated Terrain Effects Cards, two Player Aid folders showing Austrian and French units (their combat strengths, movement, special abilities, etc.), nine Austrian Victory Flag markers, eighteen more terrain tiles, and over two hundred blocks and stickers.

Remaining loyal to the uniforms of the period, the Austrian unit stickers are placed on white blocks. In addition to the usual suspects—Line Infantry, Light Infantry, Grenadiers, Militia, Foot Artillery, Horse Artillery, Light Cavalry, Heavy Cavalry, Lancers, and Heavy Cuirassier—the Austrians also get Grenzer Infantry, which are identical to the regular Austrian Light Infantry except they are prone to run (2 hexes of retreat per banner symbol).

The French also get reinforced with a few more infantry, extra leaders, and two dozen more cavalry pieces—about nine more units worth of blocks in total, all placed on their dark blue blocks.

Beyond the Austrian army itself, not much is added to the game, which is unsurprising since the system already runs so smoothly. The Austrians get a benefit with their Battalion Mass rules; their Line Infantry can automatically form a square against cavalry charges without losing a command card or using up a Square Formation marker. Seeing as how their Line Infantry already begins with five blocks per unit, this is a big help against the horse-happy French army. Of course, the fact that most Austrian units are as slow as molasses makes it necessary to have that sort of defense against cavalry!

There are three new terrain tiles; Tower, Walled Garden, and Castle. All of them have the same terrain effects as Town hexes, though units in the Castle can ignore two retreat results. We also get an update to the rules on Walled Farm hexes (introduced in the Spanish expansion): units inside a Walled Farm can ignore one retreat result, and the designers suggest adding two Walled Farm hexes to the Waterloo scenario from the original boxed set.

We could have used one additional hex, a Church terrain tile. The Church terrain was introduced in the Russian Army boxed set last year, and since at least two of the battles contained here include a Church in their set-up it would have been nice to include one for those players who don’t have the Russian expansion yet.

The twenty battles all date from end of 1805 (Wertingen) to three scenarios on Wagram in July 1809. Nothing earlier. Nothing from the very end of the war. What, the Sixth Coalition never happened? No Dresden or Leipzig? Not even Tolentino? For the larger battles, we don’t need to wait for the Prussian Expansion to game the Austrians at those battles—just isolate a few fights from the Austrian sectors. The Austrians taking Dolitz in 1813 would be a great simulation.

But I’m afraid that since the Austrians fought Saxons and Poles, not French, at Dolitz, GMT is going to make us wait until they give us the Saxon and Polish Army Expansions some time in 2020 … GMT is being overly rigid in their approach to game authenticity. Players don’t need (or necessarily want) exact illustrations of uniform details for every regiment that ever fought in the Napoleonic Wars. Just tell us to use British or Russian blocks for the Saxons and the Poles, maybe give them a few tactical adjustments (lower combat, better morale, etc.), and voila! players can game out almost every major battle of the war. A couple of lines in the Scenarios book giving us stats for Italian units is better than waiting three years until the artists complete their research into Papal State uniforms.

On that same score, why not give us some of the minor powers (Saxons, Poles, Italians, etc.) in these expansions instead of more French? With the core set and the three expansions, I have enough French units that I can re-enact the French Empire fighting the Mirror Universe French Empire. Instead of blue blocks and redundant French cavalry stickers, give us light brown blocks with some stickers of Swedish or Italian units. Might as well start introducing the minor powers now if you intend to include them, GMT, as there were about twenty countries and factions beyond the big guys who participated in these wars.

Overall, this is a needed expansion to the game; the Austrians were at war with the French almost continuously from 1789 through 1815, so it is good to see their units finally able to take the field. The scenarios given are too narrow in their scope. I would have preferred to see some battles against Napoleon in his days as First Consul along with the hellacious 1813 fights, but what battles designer Richard Borg provides are well-researched and balanced. A good addition to an excellent system. But please, call a moratorium on French blocks and stickers, give us some minor powers to game with, and you’ll make the next sequel almost as good as the original game!

Armchair General Rating: 92%

Solitaire Suitability (1 is low, 5 is high): 2

About the Author
Sean Michael Stevenson is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  A long-time gamer since the SPI days, his interests also include Colonial American history and bad movies.

3 Comments

  1. Great article, Sean. I put a link to it on my site, grognard.com. Love the “Rodney Dangerfields of Napoleonic History” quip!

    • Thanks for the compliment and the link. I’ll check out your website and support it. I really enjoy the C&C system, think it works best for this period.

  2. Definitely agree about including someone other than the French in a box. Since you need the core game to play any of the expansions, you’re going to have the blocks you need by default. And my willingness to pay for a new expansion would be much higher.

    Disagree about the scenario balance; a lot of them seem to work pretty much the same way every time, and to do so in favor of the French. It’s not really a new problem, but the one that’s been present since the base game. French Line infantry are studs, and an early bayonet charge or similar can effectively end the game in the first couple of turns in many battles. Combine this with the Austrians generally not having leaders attached, weird cavalry and artillery placement, and other minor issues and it’s frustrating to have one hand tied behind your back for arbitrary reasons while the Frenchies run rampant with a lucky card draw.

    That being said, the scenarios that are well balanced are a joy – my favorite would be Essling, where both sides can really go at it hammer and tongs and the balance is quite close.

    http://www.ccnapoleonics.net/Maps/Fifth-Coalition-1809/316-aspern-essling-day-1-essling-21-may-1809.html

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