Commands and Colors Napoleonics: The Prussian Army Expansion – Boardgame Review
Passed Inspection: Iron Will rules can swing battles; with this release all of the major combatants are now in the game
Failed Basic: Box needed to include more Prussian units and fewer French reinforcements; all of the scenarios are set late in the French Empire period
Commands And Colors: Napoleonics by GMT has undergone a progressive evolution. The core release back in 2010 featured the French, British, and Portugese mixing it up in both the Peninsula War and during The Hundred Days. The Spanish Army Expansion gave us more fighting in Spain. The second expansion gave us The Russian Army and battles in the east of Europe. The third expansion, The Austrian Army, led us to fighting across several nations. And now the fourth boxed sequel, The Prussian Army, leads us literally into the heart of Europe and tough close-in battles between neighbors. This expansion requires at least the Core Set to play; other expansions are not necessary.
The Prussians were the most mercurial of Napoleon’s adversaries. Sometimes allies, sometimes adversaries, always dangerous, it was the arrival of the Prussians that sealed Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo (which Wellington himself declared “a near-run thing” before Blucher showed). The Prussian Army expansion provides us troops of the army forged by Frederick The Great.
The box contains 244 blocks, dark grey for the Prussians and dark blue for the French that GMT keeps providing reinforcements for. Nearly 500 full-color stickers, with lovingly rendered artwork by illustrator Pascal Da Silva, are applied to the blocks. The Prussians get Leaders and a dose of Foot and Horse Artillery. Their cavalry arm consists of Light and Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Cuirassier Cavalry, and two versions of Lancers, Light and Militia. Their infantry troops are Line Infantry, Light Infantry, Militia, Reserve (sort of an in-between of Line and Militia, retreats two hexes per flag result), Grenadier Infantry, and Guard Grenadiers. Line and Grenadier Infantry get one extra die to roll in melee, but Line Infantry will retreat two hexes per flag after the first (so the first retreat result is one hex, any additional flags force them back two hexes each).
As with previous expansions, the Prussians get their own In Square card and markers for use against the too-numerous French cavalry, as well as nine Victory Banner chits. There is one new terrain type, a four-sided fieldworks / redoubt, and this expansion adds a number of marsh tiles to the game mixed in with the thirty-three terrain tiles. The game box also contains two full-color player aid folios and two full-color terrain cards (all with completely up-to-date game information).
The Prussians gain one benefit over other forces in the game, their rigid discipline and obedience to command being reflected in the Iron Will rules. Each scenario, the Prussian player gets as many as five Iron Will tokens. He can spend these tokens to cancel any flag (retreat) result at any point in the game, one Iron Will token canceling one flag. Anyone who has played this series before can immediately think of a dozen times when being able to slap down a retreat result would have changed a battle, and the Prussians get to do that an average of three times per battle (the number of Iron Will counters available vary from scenario to scenario). That is a huge advantage for their army.
The scenarios are a good mix of battles, beginning with the Fourth Coalition in 1806 (of course including Jena) all the way to the Prussians’ dramatic entrance from stage right at Waterloo (Plancenoit and Wavre). The battles are well-balanced, and the French player will suffer some nasty shocks in scenarios in which the Prussians have Iron Will tokens to use.
The Prussians were a small but professional force, so they get the fewest number of units of any of the Coalition armies; even the British have more Line Infantry than the Prussians! Nearly one-third of the units included in the game are bonus French units, a smattering of various units from French Line Infantry and Young Guards to four more units of Heavy Cavalry and another Leader. That “French Army versus the Mirror Universe French Army” game I’m planning on playing is shaping up nicely …
With The Prussian Army Expansion, we now have all of the major powers necessary to fight the Napoleonic campaigns. GMT has given us enough French units for their much-discussed “Le Grande Armee” multi-player game, announced in the first game over four years ago, and I’m looking forward to gaming The Battle Of Three Emperors with some friends or having a wide-screen version of Waterloo showing both the British and Prussian “fronts” of that fight. I’m hoping GMT won’t forget the other powers, especially Sweden, the Italian states, and the Swiss; give us a Minor Powers release in the future.
With the Iron Will mechanism, the Prussians really have an impact at key moments in the game. The Command And Colors: Napoleonics system remains one of the best games systems on the market, and each expansion simply continues to build excellently on it. The Prussian Army is a worthy addition to the game.
Armchair General Rating: 91
Solitaire Suitability: 2 out of 5 (knowing the command cards of both sides provides the player too much omnipotence)
About the Author
Sean Michael Stevenson has been gaming since the days of SPI, and some of his happiest gaming memories involve Avalon Hill’s War And Peace. He has written the Armchair General game reviews for all of the previous Commands And Colors: Napoleonics releases since the core set.