Sunday, February 24, 2013

It's a plot to take my money, I say!

Oh, My, yet another Kickstarter project that I feel compelled to take part in!

Yep, Columbia Games is joining the fun and has announced a Kickstarter project for a new, 4th Edition of their classic Napoleon game.

Now the Avalon Hill edition of this game was my favorite game for many years, and while it finally got knocked out of the No. 1 slot, it's always remained highly regarded by me, being one of the game I liked well enough to have gotten several copies of over the years.

I also picked up the Third Edition, which increased the number of blocks by almost double, and changed the map a bit and some rules. While I really wanted to like the new version -- because I liked the idea of the blocks representing specific units, mostly -- after playing it  a few times I reluctantly concluded that Columbia had erred and the new edition really wasn't better than the Avalon Hill version.

In my opinion the old AH version was one of the very best three-player wargames ever done and it enjoyed a very fine balance and tight timing that really ended up being quite elegant. The way the new edition changed things the exquisite timing and balance of the original game was upset. It wasn't ruined -- so long as you played with the Historica setup you still got  a worthwhile game-- but it was no longer the classic the Avalon Hill edition was. Basically the number of units was increased without making comparable changes to the map and rules which resulted in overcrowding, more ponderous movement and an imbalance against Napoleon compared to the original game.

Wisely, it appears that the AH edition forms the basis for the new, 4th edition of the game which will start a Kickstarter campaign tomorrow, Monday Feb. 25th.

The rules are available online but they clearly are an outgrowth of the Avalon Hill edition, not the Third Edition. There has been some expansion in the number of units -- from 48 in the AH edition to 55 now, but three of those are the three commanders (Napoleon, Wellington and Blucher)  so the real increase in units is about 4. There's no listing of units on the site yet, but apparently the order of battle has also been tweaked a bit.

The leaders represent the most obvious carry-over from the Third Edition game, where they were introduced. This seems to be something the designer has decided he wants to backfit to all his older designs. Leaders showed up in the latest version of Quebec 1759, too.

The horse artillery is back by popular demand. While one could argue about the historicity of representing them at this level, they were a popular game piece and I'm already seeing positive comments.
The other thing which is changed is a simplification and clarification of the battle board rules. This was always the weakest part of the Avalon Hill game -- it really wasn't explained well and it made what is essentially a simple system seem complex.

The other major change I noticed, and this is also in line with the Third edition, is the change in the Allied supply cities. In the AH edition, Ghent and Liege are each worth 1 lost Allied unit per turn if held by the French -- with Liege costing a Prussian unit and Ghent a British unit. Brussels costs one of each.  Now Brussels and Ghent are one British unit each while Liege costs TWO Prussian units each turn it is held by the French. I assume the intent of this change is to introduce a little divergence of interests between the two Allies. In addition, the French can now win if they hold all three cities on the last turn, which negates the previous Allied strategy of just running away during the last few turns if they haven't suffered enough losses. This seems designed to make sure there is some fighting.

So it looks like Napoleon will join Ogre, Up Front and The Guns of Gettysburg in my Kickstarter queue. Interestingly, while Ogre is the oldest of the group, there's every reason to believe that both Gettysburg and Napoleon will beat it into my mailbox.

In nay case, I am looking forward to seeing the new Napoleon. While I was dissatisfied with the Third Edition, I was also unsure whether it was worth still playing the Avalon Hill version. This new edition seems to combine the best of both.

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