My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Is anyone still playing Command and Colors Napoleonics?

I wonder if anyone is still playing Command and Colors: Napoleonics (CCN)? I know I could post this on some forum, but to be honest, I don't want to appear like a troll. I am sure someone really likes it, but for me, this is the title in Borg's series that does not really work.

So, why doesn't it work? The basic problem is that melee trumps firepower and the turns are not granular enough. What do I mean by that?

Melee combat trumps firepower in that moving and fighting is not penalized for melee, but it is for firing. So, if a unit moves into melee range and fights, its fighting is not penalized while someone who moves and shoots is penalized. Once a unit enters melee range and engages a unit, the opposing unit cannot easily disengage and turn the contest back to firepower.

This has a severe impact in British versus French games. The British want to stay at range and fire away, while the French want to close and turn the contest into one of melee. In this regard, the French will almost always win (dice and card play being equal). As the French advance, they will get moving fire (2 dice) while the British will return with 5 dice (assuming no casualties). Following that, the French melee with 5 dice and the British with 4 (again, assuming no casualties as of yet).

All theoretical, of course, but the basic problem is that when the unit gets within melee range, the enemy cannot easily get back out. As the British, you can stand there and melee at 1D per block or back up and fire at 1/2D per block. If you succeed in backing away, you get an advantage in firing, but that is assuming that the French cannot simply counter by advancing and meleeing you at 1D per block +1.

And that is the crux of the matter. The French can advance at 1D6 per block +1 while the British retreat at 1/2D6 per block or stand there at 1D6 per block. Either way, the French have the upper hand.

Add in factors like using terrain or other units to shield your units when advancing under British fire, or the numerous cards that allow your infantry to move two and bypass the British fire completely.

The second part is that the combat sequence is not granular enough. The basic British tactic – the one that won them battles in the Peninsula and at Waterloo – was defending the reverse slope. This does not work in CCN largely because the hexes cover too large an area. You are either on the hill or off; you cano never be on the hill, but behind the crest line and thus out of line of fire.

If you play this tactic as the British are off the hill and behind, the British need a card at a critical moment, when the French advance to three hexes away, by advancing onto the hill and firing at the French. However, as noted above, this is ineffective as the British are moving and firing, so do so at 1/2 dice and with no British bonus. Forget the timing issues of needing the right card in response to the French card play. And if the French play a tactics card that allows them to advance two or more hexes, the tactic does not work at all.

One way to handle this is to simulate the British "fire and charge" tactic, whereby they held off behind the crest and while the French advanced up the slope, they came over the crest, fired a volley at 30-50 yards, then charged into the French before they could recover. From the aspect of modifying the game without adding new mechanics, that would mean that the British are +1 in melee and the French not. However, that does not sit very well with the Anglophiles that believe all Napoleonics rules have to have the British better at firing and the French better at melee.

A better option is to allow a British infantry unit (or a Cavalry unit of any nation) on a hill to declare itself "behind the crest" (use a marker or some such to denote it) thus rendering it invulnerable to musket fire and -1 to artillery fire. The unit may crest when ordered or when charged. Rather than allowing the unit to battle back, it should instead get to fire before the charging unit. Whether it does so at normal values or a minus would have to be playtested. Nonetheless, this should produce the proper result, which is that the British fire would often break up the French attack, but if it did not, the French might be able to carry the hill on the point of a bayonet. As it stands now, the French frequently roll over the hills.

Well, I don't play CCN anymore (can't get anyone to give it a go, now that they found the British don't really work). That said, I still have the Spanish pre-ordered. :^)


  1. There arent enough scenarios to keep it going. I know a lot of people who like to play it, and I think it will be back on the table for most people once the Russian expansion comes out. Seems the Penensiula war didnt really connect for a lot of people

  2. Just got it a couple of days ago--my review thus far is, "the box is shiny, and there's stuff in it". Hopefully we'll get a little further than that by the weekend.

  3. AARs for our first few games at


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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").