Napoleon at War - Eylau is the latest in a long line of interesting wargames from CCS.
The company's last two Arnhem and Desert Rats - are two of the best strategy games that I've ever seen on the Spectrum, so I approached this one with high hopes.
After playing it a couple of times through, my feelings towards the game are a trifle ambivalent. It's enjoyable. It plays very well. But it's very complex - perhaps too complex.
You are Napoleon. So far so good. Now defeat the combined Russian and Prussian forces facing you across a landscape of streams, woods and frozen lakes. Your forces are concentrated about the village of Eylau, from which the battle takes it's name.
You command infantry, cavalry and artillery forcess, and the enemy has the same types of troops at their disposal, but seem to outnumber you somewhat. The map is divided into squares showing terrain features. Type of terrain effects your troop movement: woods, frozen lakes, buildings etc slow them down. Cavalry move faster than infantry, which move faster than artillery. Artillery, however, can fire at the enemy, while the other arms have to move next to an enemy unit to attack it.
Your troops are divided into corps. In game terms, what this means is that they can be given orders as corps, or as separate units. Each corps is composed of three units, and usually it is marked with a corps number.
Give a corps an order and all the units in that corps will try to carry those instructions out. If you wish you can detach units from the command of a corps and give them separate orders though.
Ordering troops about is a bit of a puzzle at first. Basically, you page through a set of menus and choose what instructions a corps or unit has from these. Tell a corps to move to a certain place. Or tell it to attack the enemy, to hold a position or to regroup. You can only tell a unit, it seems to move somewhere.
Artillery are different, and have their own menu. Cannon can move, or they can fire. If they fire, you have to specify whether they are to fire against infantry or artillery. They have a range of five squares, and cannot fire over any of your other units.
To tactics. Effectively, you have to try to hold on to the centre and defend Eylau, while your right flank destroys the forces facing it and then rolls up the enemy. You also have a corps under Ney, which enters on Game Turn 3 and acts as your left flank.
At the beginning you can see where the Russian and Prussian forces are - this information comes from intelligence reports. As they move, however, they have a habit of disappearing. You only get shown where they are if one of your corps commanders tells you. This is an important point to remember - your troops will react to units which are not on the game board as far as you can see. Enemy forces may not be shown on the map, even if they fire on your troops, or engage in melee against them. I lost two artillery units in one game which ran away from Russians I couldn't see!
Artillery, in fact, can be very vulnerable, and you'll probably lose a lot of guns before you work out how best to protect them.
One way, as far as I can see, is to arrange units in a sort of draughts formation with the artillery stepped back and a couple of units of infantry in front and to each side.
When you first start playing, don't try any fancy work - I did and I got wiped out. just sit back, hold on to Eylau, and watch what the enemy does.
Napoleon is certainly a challenging game, but I found some of the mechanics a little tedious. I couldn't help feeling also that a bit more thought at the design stage could have ironed most of them out. The cursor, for example, has a habit of disappearing when it moves on to a square containing either a terrain marker or a unit, so it's easy to forget where it is.
Another problem is that units sometimes do some very odd things when they are trying to obey a corps order - including performing a little dance around their headquarters unit. It appears to be because they always try to get into the position relative to the headquarters unit which they held at the beginning of the game, so a unit which started to the right of its HQ will always try to be on the right.
These few mechanical problems mar for me what is otherwise an excellent, one-player wargame.
Even with them, I think it's well worth buying if you like strategy games.
If you haven't played this sort of game before, but are looking for a good one to try out, though, I'd advise you started somewhere else and worked up to this one.
Author: K Wright
Reviewer: Gary Rook
Challenging war game with some unfortunate mechanical flaws. Good for the dedicated wargamer but not for the beginner.