Thursday, February 12, 2009

Perfidious Albion review

Every so often a wargame design heads down the wrong road from the start, resulting in a game that doesn’t quite work. Perfidious Albion is one of those games. While not ‘broken’ in the normal meaning of the word, it’s also not quite 'right.'

The game is one of XTR’s signature ‘Alternative History’ wargames, exploring a what-if situation, in this case, an invasion of Britain by Napoleon. When done well, this kind of game can provide insight into the consequences of human choice in historical affairs and provide a tool for evaluating debate over those choices.Did the allies make a mistake by not invading Europe in 1943? Second Front Now, for example, suggests that an invasion might have succeeded, but with a significant risk of disastrous failure. Even when not tied closely to a historical what-if, alternative history games can provide unusual game situations, such as the four-army, three-river melee in Hoorah.

Unfortunately, Perfidious Albion doesn’t manage either. It isn’t set in 1805, when Napoleon actually had an army ready for an invasion of Britain, but in 1814, based on a fanciful alternative history involving Robert Fulton, steamboats and a successful Russian campaign by Napoleon. So it provides little insight into the actual historical what-ifs. Yet it also fails to deliver an interesting game situation, ending up being a fairly conventional invasion of Britain game that feels more like it’s set in 1914 than 1814.

The game includes stacking rules that essentially limit stacking to two corps per 5-mile hex. This creates a more 20th-century style battle of opposing lines instead of the Napoleonic practice of moving dispersed and then concentrating for battle. Turns are a week, which creates multi-week battles, as opposed to the actual Napoleonic experience where many battles were fought in a single day and only a notable few lasted up to three days (Borodino, Leipzig). Fairly restrictive supply rules tie the armies to the road net, despite the fact that southern England was easily rich enough to support armies living off the land, as was Napoleon’s common practice.

The end result is a game that simply does not ‘feel’ Napoleonic at all. Instead it feels more like an early 20th Century wargame, complete with the move/fight or fight/move turn sequence seen in a number of other XTR wargames and an odds-based CRT.

Altogether one of the most disappointing XTR designs.


(No) For wargamers. It does not successfully convey the illusion of Napoleonic warfare nor provide a convincing ‘what-if.’

(No) For collectors.

(No) For eurogamers. Just a typical fiddly wargame from that perspective.

No comments:

Post a Comment