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Game review: Age of Napoleon is a grand war game adventure

Age of Napoleon, from Mayfair Games, is a two-player war game in which one player takes on the role of Napoleonic France while the other takes on the role of the various coalitions arrayed against him, always led by Great Britain.

Over a beautiful map game board detailing early 19th century Europe, this card-driven war game plays out in several phases, including a diplomacy phase where players can play cards to influence the various states of Europe. The heart of Age of Napoleon, however, is the campaign phase, where players maneuver their armies and engage in battles.

The basic unit of the game is the corps, representing roughly 40,000 men and each representing the command of an actual historical general such as the Duke of Wellington, Field Marshal Blucher, or Napoleon himself. Each corps has a battle rating representing its strength in battle, a movement rating, which details how many spaces it can move on the board, and a seniority rating. When corps are stacked, the corps with the highest seniority rating sits on top and forms an army with the stack.

Players can move armies to attack during the campaign phase, though often they will require the proper cards to move more than one. Combat is resolved by adding up all of the corps' battle ratings for each army and both players rolling a dice. A chart is consulted to see who takes permanent or temporary losses. Temporary losses are essentially prisoners, and may be returned to the player later in the game.

Further creating a historical simulation, the game simulates things like winter attrition and movement attrition, the natural wear and tear on an army, (what Napoleonic era Prussian Gen. Carl von Clausewitz called “Friction”). These kinds of attrition can result in loss of strength to armies, and so campaign movement and battles must be properly timed for maximum effect.

There are three basic scenarios included: campaigns for 1805, 1809 and 1813. A player wins when specific conditions are met, such as the capture of Paris for the coalition player or the capture of various objectives by the French player.

Age of Napoleon is a mid-level war game, fairly complex but not overly so. It wonderfully creates a balance between its re-creation of historical circumstances and its playability. Lovers of great historical war games will have a field day with Age of Napoleon, and players new to historical war games will find a fun and engaging challenge as they attempt to dominate the continent of Europe.

Age of Napoleon is recommended for ages 12 and up, and plays in about one to two hours.

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at Email: