A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 21 January 2011

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics - Observations #3

Getting serious now. This evening, I had a bash at one of the published scenarios using miniatures, or at least something very similar to one of the published scenarios. I fought a battle which was strangely similar to Vimiero, though all thoughts of Vimiero vanished as soon as the table was set up.

I'm not going to relate the progress of the battle, this will just be impressions gained during the action. In fact, I called an intermission after about 8 turns, and will resume tomorrow. Bear in mind that these are all aspects of the game as seen by a novice. Tomorrow I'll be less of a novice...

Observation 8 - the battlefield was worryingly busy, from a scenic point of view - since hills have no effect on movement in CCN, this turned out not to be a problem, but I'm not used to having that much terrain on a tabletop. The game mechanisms, the lack of fussiness in the rules and the combat dice system all work quickly and give fast, bloody action, but, because of the command cards, at any moment this action is restricted to small numbers of units and specific areas of the field. The build-up appears slow, but the turns alternate quickly, enabling your hand of cards to change quickly (though, naturally, you seem to collect a lot of cards allowing you to issue orders on the flank which isn't supposed to be doing anything).

Observation 9 - the game is not complicated, but there is a lot to remember. I think I'll make up a one-page crib sheet which covers movement, combat and terrain effects - if it's any good, I might make it available on this blog. The rules should produce a battle which develops quickly and smoothly but, as a rookie, I spent huge amounts of time checking odd situations - can you carry out a Combined Arms attack on a square? (yes - well you can try) - can you do a Combined Arms defence? (no) - what exactly happens when a general is left on his own after a bad melee result? (if he isn't dead, he retreats) - and so on. I read and re-read the rule book so many times that I was starting to flag after a while. All the odd bits in the rules that I glossed over on the first reading - you know the sort of thing? - well, as far as I could see, they all came up! The rule book appears well enough structured, and there is a pleasing lack of ambiguity if you can find the right sections, but finding things when it matters is not always easy. I learned a great deal, but I learned, by and large, by arriving at each situation and playing it through, rather than by remembering details from my preliminary reading. I think a couple of trial actions will be needed before I get anything like up to speed, but what I saw thus far looks very promising. All you guys out there who try a new game every week have my wholehearted admiration - I don't think my brain does that any more. I'll take the rules to bed with me and read them over again, and this time I expect a few more lightbulbs to go on. Ah - yes - so that's what that means....

Observation 10 - the command arrangements are very relaxed – almost casual. Each army is allocated a number of general officers, but there is no implied structure - any general can join or assist any unit. I'm not used to that, but it works OK. Unless the scenario enforces one, there is no higher organisation beyond the unit. You can, of course, be like me and place all battalions from a single brigade together and so on, but there is no need. In fact, a unit does not really have an identity in CCN - only a classification. This is closer to Joe Morschauser than I expected.

Good fun so far - I'll be back to the table tomorrow, I'll know more and I'll be quicker (and make less daft mistakes). The huge advantage of buying a commercial game is that knowledgeable people have put many hours into making sure it works and produces reasonable results, but you do have to trust the system!


  1. Hello, this is probably one of the best 3D versions of the C&C nap system I ever saw. A really fantastic job and very inspiring. Do you mind to give us some more info on your table? Scale, measures, dimension of the hex grid... and wich figures are you using? They look like 15mm, but I can't be sure, wich manufacturer? Thanks in advance

    Mauro Ortolani

    1. That's very kind, Mauro.

      This is all an accident. I have used a hex table since 1978, and it just happens to be the right size (13 hexes x 9?) for C&CN. I use 20mm or small 25mm figures, and my unit sizes made a hex size of 7 inches across the flats convenient. My ground scale is about 1 mm = 1 pace, which is 20 yards to the inch, and the basic figure scale is 33:1. The table is 8 feet wide by 5 feet across - as I say, it is just a coincidence that this fits with C&CN, which came along more than 30 years later!

      The only thing I didn't guess correctly was the direction of the hexes - mine are 90 degrees out compared with C&CN - flat sides advance across the table - so I have a tweak in the rules where units may retreat in one of THREE directions.

      It would be much better if the board was correct in this respect too, so I am intending to replace my tabletop with one the same size, with the hexes running the right way. Nothing else will change.

      Figures? - I use Les Higgins, NapoleoN, Hinton Hunt, MiniFigs S-range, Falcata, Art Miniaturen, Kennington, some of the early (smaller) Lammings, Hinchliffe 20mm artillery pieces, etc etc. I also use 15mm scale buildings, since they give a better fit on the battlefield, and they look OK with 20mm figures.

      This blog has lots and lots of posts about my figures and about battles with C&CN - I've now started working with the ECW, and have derived a game for that based on C&CN, too!

      Best wishes - Tony

  2. Hi Tony,
    thanks for your answer. Now I understand why I liked your table so much, it's because of the "old school" feeling, so simple and elegant. The town hexes are exactly what I was aiming for and I really like the "look" of your units. I bought a lot of Spencer Smith franco prussian war 30mm, a joy to paint. My personal take with C&CN, however, has been with 28mm, but my gaming table is much smaller then yours, so the result is fine, but someway cramped. If you wish, you can have a look at it here http://boardgamegeek.com/image/612200/commands-colors-napoleonics

    Thanks again. Your blog is now in my favourites :)


    1. Cheers, Mauro - I had a look at your pictures on BGG - very nice indeed - I like them.