This is a how to play guide for Commands and Colors Napoleonics, focusing on scenario setup and turn structure. For an overall review of the game, see our review.
Before we proceed, it's worth noting that an assembly (of sorts) will be required before battle can commence. The combat units in Napoleonics are represented by wooden blocks of varying sizes and colours. To these you will need to affix stickers depicting the different types of unit. You will also need to affix another set of stickers to the battle dice. There's no denying that this is a tedious task, but the game is worth it! Pages three and four of the rulebook will help you ensure that you apply the stickers to the correct blocks.
- Choose a scenario to play.
The game designers recommend new players start with Rolica (First French Position). I also favour starting with Rolica and working through the scenarios in order, effectively playing through a campaign.
Each scenario includes a historical background and a battlefield map. The background will provide the context in which the actual battle was fought. The map will show you how to set up the battlefield. Also noted will be any special rules applicable to the scenario, the victory condition, and battle notes.
- Determine who will play the British and who will play the French.
Each player takes an infantry in square track and infantry square counters in the correct colours. Each player should also take a National Unit Reference Card and a Terrain Effect Card.
- Set up the battlefield as shown on the scenario map.
Each Unit shown on the map represents a complete unit, comprised of multiple blocks. Use the National Unit Reference Cards to confirm how many blocks each unit begins with (usually three or four).
- Shuffle the Command Cards then place the cards, battle dice, and Victory Banners within reach of both players.
- Refer to the Battle Notes to determine which player will move first. Deal each player the number of Command Cards stated.
The aim in Napoleonics is to acquire Victory Banners; the exact number will vary from scenario to scenario. The scenario will end immediately upon one player acquiring the minimum number of Victory Banners required.
A player will gain a Victory Banner for each enemy unit and leader eliminated. A unit is eliminated when the last of its blocks are removed from the battlefield (depleted Units can never be merged).
Victory Banners are gained by holding specific positions on the battlefield.
A Game Turn
A turn is divided into five phases: Command, Order, Movement, Combat, and Draw. Phases must be completed in order, but you can opt to do nothing in a phase and move to the next.
Play a Command Card from your hand. There are two types of Command card: Section cards and Tactic cards.
Section cards allow the player to activate one or more units in a specific section (or sections) of the battlefield. Tactic cards allow the player to take a special action or activate units from any section(s) of the battlefield.
Nominate which units you will activate with the Command Card. A unit bridging two sections can be ordered as if it were in either section.
You may move nominated units, paying attention to the units movement attributes and any relevant terrain effects. Refer to the National Unit Reference and Terrain Effects Cards as required.
You must complete all desired movement before initiating combat.
Combat is the most complex phase of the turn, the rulebook devotes eight pages to it. I'll stick to the basics principles here to help give you a general understanding:
- Each activated unit may conduct battle against one enemy unit within range.
- You can target the same enemy unit more than once.
- Combat is resolved one unit at a time.
- Depending on the unit and distance from the target, you may conduct Ranged or Melee combat.
- Only Infantry and Artillery can engage in ranged combat.
- The attacking unit must be more than one hex away from the target unit.
- A line of sight must be established (Hills, Forests and Towns hinder visibility).
- The enemy unit will not have a chance to return fire.
- All units may engage in melee combat.
- The attacking unit must be adjacent to the target unit.
- The enemy unit will fight back in melee combat.
To resolve combat you will be rolling battle dice. Each unit will have combat attributes to determine how many dice may be rolled. However, that number may be modified by a number of factors:
- If the attacking unit moved during the turn.
- The distance (for ranged combat) to the target unit.
- The terrain the attacking and defending units are on.
Use the National Unit Reference and Terrain Effects cards to determine the number of dice needed, then roll them.
For range combat, a hit is registered when you roll a symbol matching the target unit type (Infantry, Cavalry or Artillery). In Melee combat, rolling a Sabre will also register a hit. For each hit, remove a block from the target unit. If the last block is removed, claim a Victory Banner.
Rolling one or more flags will force the target unit to retreat backwards. The retreating unit must move the number of spaces equal to the number of flags rolled. For each space the unit cannot move, a block is removed from the battlefield. Some units can ignore flags (See the National unit Reference Card). A unit may also ignore flags if they are attached to a Leader, or flanked by friendly units.
I hope that provides enough information to give you a general feel for combat. You can explore additional rules concerning Leader Units, Infantry forming square, Infantry taking ground, and Cavalry breakthroughs in the rulebook.
Once all combat has been resolved you will move into the last phase of the turn.
Draw a new Command Card and pass the turn to your opponent.
As already highlighted, the scenario ends immediately when a player acquires the last Victory Banner needed to satisfy the win condition.
There you have it. Players take turns in the manner described until one can satisfy the win condition. I like to play a scenario twice with the same opponent, alternating sides for the second battle. It gives players a chance to try out different strategies and learn the capabilities of all the units.
A parting tip for new players. Don't feel the need to rush units in. If you're holding a good position try and make your opponent come t you.