I played my first introductory game of Commands & Colors Napoleonics a few months ago and although I’ve never collected armies for the period, I was excited to have the chance to play a larger game at my local club (Western Suburbs Wargames Association) recently.
Commands & Colors is a hex-based wargame with an elegant card driven command and control mechanism and simple dice system for combat resolution. It’s published by GMT Games and you can find out more information on the game’s website, where the PDF for the 3rd edition rules are also available as a free download. Although originally intended for playing on board with plastic blocks to represent units , it also works perfectly on a cloth marked out with hexagons and miniatures for the armies.
For this game Rohan provided his beautifully painted 6mm figures and scenery and ran the game for four players. The scenario was Day 2 of Eggmühl (22nd April 1809) and this version was based on the “Epic” expansion to the basic game which is designed for larger battles with multiple players on each side. You can read about the historical context and scenario details on the game’s website where hundreds of scenarios are available free.
Since I was still getting to grips with the rules (not that they are overly complicated) Steve took overall command of the Austrian army while I managed the left flank. Tony and Nick were also both experienced players and would command the French army between them. The scenario map shows the initial deployments with the Austrian army on the top of the map and the French at the bottom. All the photos are taken from my position on the Austrian left flank, which is the top right of the map.
The victory conditions for the scenario was that the first army to accumulate 17 victory points (called banners) would win. Both armies could get banners for destroying enemy units and generals. Banners were also available for holding the majority of the ridge line (centre of the map), occupying several of the towns and for French units exciting the Austrian side of the table (top edge of the map)
At the start of the game almost all of the action was on the Austrian left flank I was controlling with the French pushing forward hard and the Austrians initially giving ground and falling back through the sparse woods. Later in the game the Austrians on that flank (who have a higher capacity to absorb causalities) rallied considerably and pushed the French right back to their initial deployment positions.
While the Austrian right / French left was static for most of the game, the central ridge line was hotly contested. The Austrians moved a lot of artillery on the ridge early in the game but their fire into the advancing French was largely ineffective. A large French cavalry charge made short work of the Austrian artillery and cavalry but was eventually repulsed by counter-attacking infantry, resulting in a stand off between the French infantry and artillery and the surviving Austrians facing them.
The game was hanging in the balance at this point with both armies on 13 banners. The Austrian right / French left was quite densely wooded and had been a stalemate for most of the battle with neither side wanting to break from cover to advance on the other but with the other parts of the battle now largely static, attention turned to this area and both sides began to cautiously advance and fight in an even contest.
Meanwhile, the French had brought up artillery in the centre and began to bombard the Austrian infantry on the ridge. With no surviving artillery of their own to reply, the Austrian’s were getting slowly but steadily worn down. With limited opportunity for a decisive blow on the right flank, the Austrian centre had no choice but to advance in the face of the French guns in a last gasp bid for victory. In the final analysis, this counter-attack came within a dice roll of working but the French pulled off the narrowest of victories with 17-16 banners.
The scenario website shows the results for the game being split 50 : 50 between the two armies and the careful balance of the scenario was evident from the closeness of the game.
The rules allow for even the largest battles to be fought to conclusion in a relatively short period of time and give a realistic outcome without being bogged down in the minutia of complex rules in the name of providing a more detailed ‘simulation’ It was a very enjoyable game and we’ll be following it up with the big one at the club’s next meeting – Waterloo!