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AUSTERLITZ:1805 from TRAFALGAR EDITIONS Having had the pleasure of playing and reviewing Waterloo 1815 , the first game in this s...


For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



Having had the pleasure of playing and reviewing Waterloo 1815, the first game in this system from Trafalgar Editions, I've been waiting with anticipation for this second game to appear.  Apart from Austerlitz being regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest of Napoleon's victories, it's a battle I find particularly fascinating for gaming.

Though for the Napoleonic period, Waterloo inevitably has had prime place in history and on the gaming table, for me the close geographical confines have always been a restriction to manoeuvre and above all fog of war when it comes to the gaming table.  The combination of kriegspiel style blocks and the marriage of miniature style elements to boardgame ones in Trafalgar Editions' system was one I relished seeing get its full go-ahead in the much more expansive battle of Austerlitz.

Rather than repeat ground that I covered in my review of Waterloo:1815, I will concentrate on what I consider the differences and changes.  To help with this I've reposted my original review so that you can make easy comparison.

In all respects it's a fine follow-up, though the small wooden units have given way to more traditional cardboard ones -a feature that may disappoint some gamers.  However, I do find that the cardboard pieces are easier to read. Nor do they have the problem of balancing markers on them that was a difficulty with the wooden blocks and, best of all, there's none of the problem of applying very small stickers to wooden blocks that barely fit them. 

The next difference is that the map is even easier to deal with as you have little more than contours to take account of and small villages, especially as the significantly wooded north edge of the map is likely to see little game play occurring there.  Once again it is a solidly mounted board of several panels in two sections.  Though the joins are obvious in the photo below, they soon settle into place very tightly.

The bare map contrasts with the colour of the units that you can see below
I really like the format that they have gone for here and, I believe that they have also introduced them into new editions of Waterloo: 1815.  If this change from wooden blocks is not to your favoured taste, I think that the several other changes in Austerlitz will meet with nothing but applause. 

For me, nowhere is this more true than the rule book which is a major step up in quality., despite the slight hiccup in forgetting to change the year from 1815 to 1805!
 It is a substantial glossy production from the striking battle scene on the cover to the huge improvement in layout inside.  Instead of the very cramped small print which was one of the few problems that I had with Waterloo, these are laid out in two columns of very well spaced text that make reading so easy.  All illustrated examples are now in full colour to add to the quality and the standard case numbering for rules stands out in a clear, bold font.  
As a result, the whole process of learning the rules is much enhanced and the organisation steps you through the sequence of play very smoothly and is augmented with four full pages of additional examples. 

Though divided into separate igo-ugo Attacker and then Defender player turns, there is a strong element of interaction.  In the Rally Phase, only the active player attempts typical rally actions along with removing certain types of markers.  Then Defender Artillery fire is followed by the same for the Attacker.  The Attacker next conducts movement followed by Defender then Attacker Musketry Fire and a player's turn concludes with Close Combat.

The main rules remain virtually unchanged from those in Waterloo but have a much greater succinctness and fluency in the English translation.  Combat, which covers fire and close combat, has been streamlined into a single table with separate modifiers for each type. This is another change that I heartily go along with and its execution is carried out using one of the handy play aids [one for each player] that lays everything out in a large, capitalised font.  Having wilted in the past under one or two of my games that have a slew of tables printed in microscopic print, this gets a big thumbs up!  Though print on the terrain chart is, on the other hand, very small, it is still very easy to read and even easier to remember.  So, no complaints there.
The easy to read, easy to use all-in-one Fire & Combat Table

What Austerlitz 1805 introduces that is wholly new to the system is Fog and Fog of War.  With the battle being shrouded in fog in the early hours and played out on a much vaster geographical canvas, these were the factors I was most looking forward to exploring and the design here is very successful.  The fog itself is handled in a familiar manner - guaranteed to cloak the battle for the first 3 turns, a die roll may cause it to begin to lift on any of the next 3 turns and finally its dispersing will begin on turn 7, if a roll hasn't succeeded earlier.  

As to Fog of War, there's a very simple, but effective set of mechanics.  First of all, each player has a very nice A4 card strategic map for hidden movement of each side's Corps HQ markers.  The French have no restrictions on the number of Corps they can move, unlike the Allied army which has significant restrictions.  At the same time, both players have up to 18 numbered chits for movement on the game map, while the actual units these chits represent are placed in corresponding numbered holding boxes on the Strategic map.  As you might expect some of these chits may well be decoys!  While the actual fog endures, both players are severely limited as to how many chits they may move.
The French Strategic map on the left
The Allied Strategic map on the right
Consequently there is a slow build up that helps get you into the movement rules, before having to deal with combat, while introducing a nice element of bluff and uncertainty.  Little details like all chits having the same maximum movement rate neatly make sure you don't accidentally give away the presence of faster units such as cavalry.

One point that isn't wholly clear is what happens when the fog has totally cleared.  Wording seems to imply that Fog of War rules only apply until the fog has dispersed and this is supported by the lack of FoW in the last of the three shorter Scenarios.  However, in playing the whole campaign, I've chosen to continue to employ both chits and the hidden Corps HQ markers until either an enemy unit/chit comes into line of sight or a player chooses to deploy units on the map.
The Allied Strategic Map with Corps HQs in place
The full campaign can be played in an Historical scenario where both sides have designated Corps HQ set up and specific objectives.  For those who like even more uncertainty, there is what has become the customary choice of a Free set up scenario.  My preference tends to be for historical play, but each to their own choice.

In terms of new elements, the last one is the set of rules for solo play.  These add 4 more pages to the 15 pages of rules and do a good job of guiding you through the actions of your NP [non-player] opponent, with a healthy dash of allowing you to use common sense when the acuteness of an enemy threat should override a mechanistic approach.  For those who like BOTS that must be rigidly stuck to, this may be slightly disconcerting.  Having cut my wargaming teeth in the period when playing solo meant playing each side to the best of your ability, this common sense approach is very welcome.

To round off the package, there is the familiar set of shorter Scenarios, in this case three.  The first is a very small engagement both in number of units and geographical area - an excellent choice for learning the basic rules of movement and combat.
The next takes you north for Lannes against Bagration in a modestly sized encounter.
While the last Scenario, employing only marginally more units, covers the major French attack in the centre assaulting the Pratzenberg Heights.
Altogether, a good system has been built on to provide additional improvements in physical quality and a presentation of the rules that enhances their understanding while introducing strong new elements.  

On my wishlist for their next choice of Napoleonic battle would be Eylau - another climatic clash with opportunity for some really nasty weather rules!  I can only hope.

Once again many thanks to Trafalgar Games for providing this review copy of the game

Campaign of Nations by   Hollandspiele    It is the second half of the year 1813. Napoleon had won two battles ...

Campaign of Nations by Hollandspiele Campaign of Nations by Hollandspiele

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  It is the second half of the year 1813. Napoleon had won two battles earlier in the year, Lutzen and Bautzen. Both were empty victories for the French, having almost no cavalry. What cavalry they did have was mounted on any nag the French could find. The Allied had a large amount cavalry and they were well trained and mounted. Napoleon had agreed to armistice after Bautzen was fought. During that time the Prussians and Russians, with English money, had brought Austria and Sweden into the war. The Allies had also come up with a new plan: to run away like Monty Python from a battle with Napoleon, but to always keep moving forward in other areas and attack his Marshals. That is enough of the history. What about the game?


Rule Book

  I must admit up front that I am a fanatic about the 1813 campaign. Napoleon in Italy or Austerlitz, ho hum, but give me Lutzen, Bautzen, or Dresden and I am in wargaming heaven. So this game had better be good.


 Hollandspiele as a company has a policy of minimalism with its games. Not for lack of resources, it just seems to be their modus operandi. Designer John Theissen fits right into this way of thinking. I have played and reviewed his 'More Aggressive Attitudes', and it is a study in minimalism. To be a good wargame, you do not need to have a monster map and a thousand counters. What you need is a good background in the history of the campaign/battle and a rule book that reads well and makes sense. 

Victory Point Cards

 The game comes with:

  • 22" x 17" map
  • 88 counters
  • 27 Event Cards
  • 8-page rulebook
  • 1 six-sided die

 This is the sequence of play is:

1. Movement
2. Combat
3. Disruption Recovery
4. VP Check
 The French player always goes first.

 The Combat Phases are these:

1. Retreat Before Combat
2. Concentrate Forces
3. Reveal Combat Units
4. Coordination Check
5. Combat Odds Ratio
6. Combat Results Table Die Roll
7. Casualty Table Die Roll
8. Defensive Works Table Die Roll
9. Apply Results


CRT Etc.

 The Event Cards add some great flavor and turning points in the game. These events include:

Safe March 
Turns of Rest
Austrian Reorganization

 The game is won by winning battles, and by taking victory cities/hexes.

 The minimalism of Hollandspiele is noticeable in the map also. It is highly functional and easy to read, but is simple. The counters follow in the same vein. They are easy to read with NATO symbols, so the player has no trouble distinguishing them from one another.

Main Part Of The Map

 If the game is missing anything, it would be the first part of the 1813 campaign. The slightly different rules from the earlier game are to simulate Napoleonic Warfare. I believe that they work very well.  Playing as the French, you have to try and catch one of the enemy armies and destroy it and then the others. Playing as the Allies, stick and move until you can bring the French bear to tree. I have reviewed several Hollandspiele games, and to be truthful it is hard for me to pick a favorite. Going only by the content I think it might be this game, although Horse and Musket also grabs me because of the content. Thank you Hollandspiele for the chance to review another great game.

 This is the link to the Horse and Musket: Dawn of an Era review:

 This is a link to the 'More Aggressive Attitudes' review:

 These are both excellent games. More Aggressive Attitudes is about the campaign of Second Bull Run. Horse and Musket: Dawn of an Era is a compilation of European battles from roughly 1690-1720. All of the favorites are here: Poltava (BOO), Narva (YAY), Malplaquet, Blenheim, and many others. Hollandspiele is a small company whose games are very good and they are also priced well. So, do yourself a favor and look them up. Their catalog is growing all the time.


Napoleon and his Marshals by Two Generals Games  I have been looking for a game to replace or better Avalon Hills &...

Napoleon and his Marshals by Two Generals Games Napoleon and his Marshals by Two Generals Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



 I have been looking for a game to replace or better Avalon Hills 'War and Peace'. I believe I might have found it. This game has incredible detail, and seems so far to play out historically. By that I mean that it wouldn't play the same if you were using tank units or foot soldiers.  

 The first thing you should know about this game is the packaging. You get a rolled up map in a circular tube. Then you get the counters in a small plastic wrapped bag. The next thing you receive is a small plastic case that you would usually keep washers or small screws in. So after separating the counters it has its own little case for them. What you do not get is the rules or scenarios. These are downloaded from the company's website. This is also nice, and is something a lot of companies are doing now so you can peruse the rules and scenarios before you buy the game. 

 We will look at the actual physical pieces you get now. The counters are 5/8 of an inch square. They are mostly your typical strategic game counters with just strength and their movement factor listed. The counters are physically different than any I have ever seen. They seem to have some plastic or something added to them to make them almost pliable. It also seems to make them more durable than the usual cardboard ones. The map is also different than normal. It almost feels and rolls up like it is made of leather. I assume it has gotten the same treatment as the counters. Whatever it is, I love it. When you spread it out it flattens immediately so there are no folds etc. It almost seems like you are unfolding a map from the period. I have not tested it, nor will I, but I believe the map would survive a drink being poured across it. As far as looks, the map is a standard hex map of Europe. This map goes from the French Atlantic coast to the border of Russia, and from the top of Italy to Denmark. The map's size is 23" x 30". The colors of the map are so much more vibrant than any other I have seen. There are maps just as beautiful out there, but none that pop out at you like this one. I assume this also has to do with the manufacturing process. 

 The rules are long at seventy-nine pages. This might make some people pause. However I believe most of us have tablets or phones that it can be downloaded to. As mentioned, you do not get the rules or scenario booklet with the game. If this was to save money to make the counters and map better, then it worked.

  The unit counter types in the games are as follows:


 Forts are also in the game, but they are shown on the map.

The map

 The games turn mechanics are a bit different from the norm. There are six two month strategic turns (Jan-Feb). Within the six strategic turns are six operational turns for each strategic one. This is not just an operational game, but a strategic one. So in effect you are running your entire country or countries' war and peace efforts (in the campaign game). As a king or emperor you have to decide your country's production, replacements, and policy, and also mobilization and demobilization. Each strategic turn, the phasing player may purchase 'Command Points' which are used to activate leaders, units, or other actions. Movement and combat take place during the operational turns.

The outside of the counter box/tray

 Supply and lines of communication are important in the game. As a matter of fact, they take up four pages of the rule book. Lack of supply and attrition can kill your armies much quicker than losing battles.

 Leaders and their various abilities, and the rules of what they can do is another important part of the game and rule-book. Leaders affect activation, movement, combat, reinforcement, and also have special abilities. Napoleon has the ability to 'split' the coalition armies that he is fighting into their separate national units. Wellington can remove disruption on British units that suffer it during battle.

The inside of the counter box/tray

 As I mentioned, the rules and scenarios are a download only, but that means anyone interested in looking at them can peruse them at their leisure.The rules for combat are unique and quite involved. There is a CRT, but there are no dice rolls. First the attacker figures out the defender's losses and then the defender checks on the attacker's losses. They both take place at the instance of combat. Meaning that the defender doesn't take casualties, and then checks on the attacker's losses after his losses are deducted. So if both the attackers have a combat number of twenty, twenty would be where on the CRT you would check for casualties to both (terrain etc. are also added in). The leader with a stack can 'protect' or absorb losses. So the higher the number of the leader the easier to absorb losses. In this, the French have an ace up their sleeve until the latter years of the Napoleonic conflict. I am making it seem more involved then it really is. I will include a link to both the scenario rules and the rule-book at the bottom.

 So what we are looking at is a game that tries to recreate the Napoleonic years in a game format. The following is a list of the scenarios and the 'game set' you need to play them:

1805 Introductory Scenario - (solo, or two players; requires only basic set) Napoleon attacks Austria in 1805, culminating in the Battle of Austerlitz in which he decisively defeated Austria and Russia.The French can follow the Danube(historical), attack through Bohemia, or come from Italy. Will Austria fall back to join the slow Russians and risk losing
most of its production, or stay forward and risk losing most of its army?
1805 - 1807 Campaign Game - (requires only basic set)
France must be prepared to take on three opponents at once (Russia, Austria and Prussia), plus a fourth one (Britain) that finances the others. Napoleon must nimbly defeat each one at a time, or risk facing them all together.
 2-France, All other nations
3-France, Austria/Britain, Russia/Prussia
4-France, Britain/Russia, Austria, Prussia
5-France, Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia
1809 Scenario - (requires only basic set)
Austria has completed Army Reform and increased the size of its army and is ready to take on Napoleon again, but without Prussia or Russia to help.
2-Franceand Russia, All other nations
     3-France, Britain/Austria, Russia(only recommended if the optional       rule for full Russian participation is included)
1807-1810 Scenario - (requires basic set plus Peninsular War set
and expansion maps are optional) Napoleon must deal with the "Spanish ulcer" and a resurgent Austria at once.
2-France, All other nations
3-France, Britain/Prussia, Austria/Russia
4-France, Britain/Prussia, Austria, Russia
5-France, Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia
1811-1814 Scenario - Zenith and Nadir(requires all games in set)
France is victorious everywhere but Spain, and that is encouraging Russia to resist once again. Can Napoleon defeat the Russians once and for all while handcuffed in Spain, or will he try to defeat Spain before Russia can liberate Germany and get Prussia and Austria as allies?
2-France, All other nations
3-France, Austria/Britain, Russia/Prussia
4-France, Britain/Russia, Austria, Prussia
5-France, Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia
1812 Scenario -The Patriotic War
(requires basic set plus expanded maps)
Napoleon puts together his largest army ever to defeat his biggest continental rival. But can LaGrande Armee repeat its successes in such a large nation against a foe that is prepared to fight it?
    1813-1814 Scenario - German and French Campaigns  (requires basic       set or add on Peninsular War)
Following the loss of most of his army, Napoleon must scramble to retain his client states, and rebuild his army. Can he hold the now united Coalition off long enough to achieve the impossible yet again?
1815 Scenario (requires basic set and Peninsular War set)
Can Napoleon retake France and return it to glory? Or will he face another Waterloo?
2-France, All other nations
1807/1809-1814 Peninsular War Scenarios (requires basic set plus Peninsular War set) A long scenario, starting in either 1807 or 1809, with a small number of units, the players will have to face the limitations of a small war in a poor nation with terrible terrain for campaigning and a long sea coast that favors Britain's best asset-the Royal Navy.
2-France, Britain & allies
1805-1815 Campaign Game (requires basic game and all expansions)
The entire French Napoleonic Wars, from 1805 to 1815. Up to 396 operation turns and 66 Strategic Turns. Expect to play
for 130 hours or so. That's about 32 weeks if you play 4 hours once a week. Play tests averaged about 4 months.
2-France, All other nations (the Coalition)
3- France, Russia, Britain/Prussia/Austria.
Alternatively, Russia with either Prussia or Austria, Britain with either Prussia or Austria
4-France, Britain, Russia, Austria/Prussia

The counter setup for the 1805 scenario

 As you can tell, I am very impressed by the game's components. As far as the game play I am somewhat impressed. This might be because as a person who has rolled a die for most of the last fifty years on a CRT, new things are hard to learn. I have played other games that do not use die rolls for the CRT, but those have made the function of combat in these games relatively easy. Combat in this game was a bit hard to get a grasp on until I worked through a few examples for myself. The rule-book does have examples and I probably just needed hands on to get the gist of it. As I mentioned at the beginning, I was looking for a replacement for a tried and  true friend. I am not sure I have met the replacement as added another good friend to my table. The game has so much more to offer (marching to the guns etc.), than I can mention in this small space. Please take a look at the link below.


Box front Sovereign of the Seas is a strategic 2 player naval wargame set during a 50+ year period of almost continual European and ...

Sovereign of the Seas Sovereign of the Seas

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


Box front
Sovereign of the Seas is a strategic 2 player naval wargame set during a 50+ year period of almost continual European and British conflict. Naval power was the ultimate weapon and a large slice of British pride and its' maritime tradition was laid down during this era. I have never tackled the age of sail in a boardgame and I was very much looking forward to reviewing Sovereign of the Seas.

The first thing that struck me upon receiving Sovereign of the Seas was the weight of the box, or lack thereof. It retails for £124.99 and it would be remiss of me not to say up-front that this game, the components, their quality do not make up a 125 pound game. I think I appreciate the fact that Compass Games - the publisher, serves a niche market within a niche hobby, which serves to make their per-unit costs much more expensive than other publishers. However, I cannot justify the RRP they're asking for it in Britain. Apparently it's ~ $85 across the pond and even then it's a tough sell.

For your money you get 1 rule book, 1 paper map (split into 2 tri-fold sheets), 6 sheets of counters, 7 sheets of card and 2 five millimetre dice. I am no stranger to paper maps or counter sheets but at this price I would expect mounted maps that butt up against each other and counters that come out cleanly. What you get instead, is two overlapping maps that need to be laid just right, and some pretty tough counters to push out cleanly. After the first counter sheet with a few tears, (that's tears of paper, not tears of anguish) I decided to pull out my rotary cutter.  No more chit tags for me (^_^)

I never thought I would comment on the colour of a games dice but here they're red and purple and to me they clash badly - white and red dice would have been a much better (and nearly thematic) choice. You'll also quickly realise that you'll need about 12 d6 extra to play this game. Why they couldn't have included an extra 10 5mm d6 at this price is beyond me.

Prior to punching out the game I would recommend reading the rules and just punching out those necessary for whichever scenario you choose first. The rule book has 3 scenarios whose counter mix will be different per scenario. I made the error of initially sorting the counters according to nationality, I think a more efficient method would be by scenario, then nationality, YMMV. I've ended up completely filling the box up with plastic bags trying to come up with some sort of sensible mix of counters to ease the set up time; which could easily be upwards of 30 minutes.
First scenario. Setup, finally!
The game, like all Compass Games I have played, strives for historical accuracy. The counters are all, as far as I could tell using Wikipedia and my general knowledge, historical leaders and ships. I don't doubt that the relative strengths of the units are historically accurate as well. This was a nice touch and the scenarios themselves have specific rules (the scenarios call them conditions) that slightly tweak the game to reflect the historic situation. This attention to history helps to immerse the player in the game and the period, but unfortunately you're pretty cruelly ripped out of that immersion by the amount of counter handling, you need to do. 

Your starting count of anywhere between 20 and 60 ships, not to mention leaders and control markers, are divided amongst up to 6 squadrons. When those squadrons enter the same sea space they combine on the Squadron Disposition chart - a feat that requires you to move and reassemble your affected ships into the new Squadron and reassemble the stacks. When a squadron enters a sea space with an opposing force and successfully engages the enemy, you form a line of battle with your units opposite to the opponents line. This occurs off map and off any provided board. The scope for accidentally dropping or mis-stacking the units is, from personal sausage-finger experience, very large.

British and French line of battle
That re-stacking of counters doesn't include the amount of counter flipping you need to do. The game recreates the fog of war by allowing dummy squadrons and a hidden-until-successfully-found mechanism which means that during the course of your turn, if you're like me, you're going to forget which Squadrons have moved already and what Squadrons are where. I was constantly picking the counters up to inspect the Squadron name then its' stacks, at times it felt more like a memory game.

The rule book suggest sitting at opposite ends of the short length of the map. The distance between players doing this was large enough that my playing partners all agreed to not bother keeping our Squadron Composition stacks face down. There was no way we could have read the details on them at that distance; although we did sacrifice some intelligence of the possible size of your force; given away by the sheer number of units in a stack and the amount of stacks in your squadron.

The designer has kept most of the bigger ship counters off the map during play but there is still the potential for the sea spaces, particularly around the home ports to get very congested with counters. After three long plays of the game I still haven't found a suitable way to squeeze the necessary counters into the coastal sea spaces. Especially at the beginning of the scenarios when you purposely are starting in your home ports.

Average counter density
When you have the additional Force-pool and Squadron Disposition cards all laid out it starts to take up a tremendous amount of table space. Your arms will be flailing over the table reaching for counters a lot ... a war-gamers best friend, the trusty sheet of Plexiglas is, I'd go far to say, an essential bit of kit to play this game.

With all that said, I found myself impressed with the elegance of the core mechanics. This may not sound like an elegant game at all, but the core of it is very simple. Move, Search, Fight, Resupply, repeat. And yet in this simplicity it does feel like a grand strategic naval ship of the line game. (Over-stacking your line of battle against the enemy is a beautiful feeling) The rule set for all of these actions can be learnt in about 15 minutes and during the course of a game you follow the very good player-aids' flow chart so often it is quickly burnt into your brain. If only someone had taught it to me instead of trying to understand the rule book. 

Dice not included...Cdre Rodney aboard HMS Royal George is seriously injured but claims a resounding victory for British naval power.
The rule book attempts to follow the traditional wargame rule-book layout with numbered and nested paragraphs that we're usually so fond of. This rule-book sometimes leaves the reader with entire columns of text to explain a simple rule and it left me exasperated on several occasions when playing through solo. I'm sure there are much more simple ways to explain these rules. The 2 people I have taught this game too had no such difficulty with the rules (maybe it's just me), but I found the rule-book to be incredibly opaque for what is a simple and elegant game mechanic, despite the counter management issues.

You may think that I hate this game, but that is not the case. I really want to like it more and I did enjoy my time with it, but it feels more like a prototype than a fully fleshed out and honed design. I will play it and teach it to anyone who asks and I would suggest it to a Napoleonic wargamer who wants to try strategic sail ... but that's about as far as I can go. 

I don't think that a board game is the best medium for the designer's vision to shine. A computer version for example, would automate counter management and help with several graphic design issues. Around the map are Port Control Boxes, they are broadly adjacent to their geographic location but I found myself searching for the Port Control Box on the wrong side of the map on many occasions. Also, the French and Dutch flags are so similar yet the artist has decided to vertically align text on some of the games control markers that make distinguishing the two nationalities tiresome.

If you're curious and have a pocket that is no longer effective at holding money Sovereign of the Seas is available in the UK now. Online will be the easiest place to buy this game as it will not receive a large distribution... 

store locator to find your nearest board game retailer.

Tradition of London: French Grenadiers of the Guard, Head of Column Napoleonic Wars Review       This is the first set sent to...

Tradition of London: French Grenadier Napoleonic Review Tradition of London: French Grenadier Napoleonic Review

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


Tradition of London: French Grenadiers of the Guard, Head of Column Napoleonic Wars Review

This is the first set sent to me for review by Tradition of London. Tradition of London have been trading for over 50 years and though there have been ups and downs including in 2012 the closing of the London shop they are still going strong. Their soldiers are still made in Nottingham, England but they have a base in Stockholm, Sweden where all the soldiers are dispatched from.
Over the years Tradition have supplied many museums as well as special editions including Carlton Television for the Sharpe Series. Other notable customers have been The Tower of London, Mary Rose and the National Army Museum.  
Tradition of London sell a wide range of Toy Soldiers in various scales. They also sell white metal kits for those brave enough to build and paint their own. The Kits come at a very reasonable price, for those with the skills (or those wanted to gain the skills) they excellent value for money. They also sell Del Prado, King and Country, Steadfast, W Britain, Bravo Delta and CBG mignot figures plus miniatures for wargames and other items like paint and books\magazines. They also have the envious claim to the largest stock of Toy Soldiers you'll find. So pretty much something for everyone.

The set I received for review I couldn't have chosen better myself. They show off the different styles of Toy Soldier on the market when you compare them to my previous Thomas Gunn reviews. Thomas Gunn soldiers are your perfect example of the modern toy soldier, where as the set I received from Tradition of London show of the high gloss traditional toy soldier, little changed since Victorian times. Which considering they are Napoleonic suits them perfectly. The set is 54mm French Grenadiers of the Guard, Head of Column.

Example of presentation box. Not this actual set though.

The set comes in a lovely red presentation box with Tradition of London's motif in gold on the front. Straight away it struck me as the perfect present for anyone into Toy Soldier or the Napoleonic Wars. On the side of the box is a label saying "Hand Made Traditional Style Toy Soldiers Made in England. French Grenadiers of the Guard. Napoleonic Wars - Toy Set 768". Lifting the lid and then removing a layer of padding you then finally lay eyes on your collection. Quality hits you instantly. You know you have a special set here and something to show off as often as possible. Set into a layer of padding are eight soldiers, their gloss paint shining out. You instantly have a fantastic set to create a diorama of marching French grenadiers.  The set consists of one Officer with sword drawn, one Standard bearer, two Sapeurs, two Sergeants and finally two Drummers. Only the most physically powerful soldiers were chosen to become a Grenadier and would lead assaults on the field of battle, even leading the way through breaches during siege warfare. So you are looking at the best France can offer and all kitted out they do look like fine specimens!
This set in all it's finery

The Officer  is leading the troops with his Infantry Saber (Briquetes) drawn and held upright. The Grenadiers had be a formidable sight so they wore tall bearskin helmets with a red plume to give them a taller appearance. Though the Officer here is clean shaven many wore moustaches or beards, again to give them a more war like appearance. The Officer doesn't carry any back pack. He does appear to be wearing some sort of medal. He is wearing black boots, white breaches, white vest, white gloves, blue coat with dark blue collar, white lapels, red cuffs with white cuff flaps, red  turnbacks and pocket piping. He is also wearing white gloves. He is marching and stands on a green base. He is painted in Gloss and really does have an authentic Toy Soldier appearance, perfect for the era he represents.
The Standard bearer again is marching and stands on a green base. He is wearing a similar uniform to the Officer expect this time he isn't wearing black boots with tan tops. Wears bearksin cap with red plume. His coat is dark blue with dark blue collar, white lapels and red turnbacks and pocket piping. He is wearing black boots and white gaiters. He also has a red shoulder belt designed for the end of the standard pole to fit into so he can march with just one hand holding onto the Standard. The standard has a bronze eagle on the top and a blue pole. Cravet Red, white and blue with gold embroidery and fringe. Like the Officer he has gold epaulettes. Again he is clean shave, however you can see the end of some glorious side burns sticking out the bottom of his bearskin helmet. The actual standard has been hand painted it looks fantastic.  Again he really oozes the era he is from. The Gloss finish is perfect for this line.
Next come the two Sapeurs (Sappers). First thing you notice is that these two sport a fine beard. It was compulsory for all Sappers to grow a beard in the French Army (for a long time you had to have a moustache in the British Army). Plus Sappers wore the grenadier uniform. On both upper sleeves they have the crossed axe and grenade badge, the symbol of the Sapeur. These strong men with fine facial hair marched together and close to the band and Standard bearer. A corporal and four privates where chosen from a Grenadier battalion to become Sapeurs. Here they are marching with their Axe (issued to all Sapeurs) over their right shoulder and their Charleville Musket over their left shoulder. Wear bearskin cap with red plume.  The coat is dark blue with dark blue collar, white lapels and red turnbacks. They also wear white gauntlets that reach their elbows plus a long white apron that goes from their waist to half way down their shins. They wear red and gold epaulettes. On their backs they carry a calfskin knapsack with a rolled great coat on the top. They also carry an ammunition pouch as well as their infantry Saber and bayonet scabbard. A Bicorn is folded and tied to the Knapsack. They have white cross belts with brass grenades and buckles. They also wear black boots with white gaiters. Again the gloss finish is perfect and look very authentic.

The two Sergeants wear a very similar uniform as the Standard bearer. However they sport a fine moustache. They also carry their Charleville musket but this time they have their left arm folded across it and it is in an upright position with bayonet attached. They have their Sergeant stripes on their left upper sleeve. They wear red and gold epaulettes. Wear bearskin cap with red plume. They are wearing dark blue coat with dark blue collar, white lapels, red cuffs with white flaps, red turnbacks and pocket piping. White waist coat with brass buttons and white breaches. White crossbelts. On their backs is the standard issue calfskin Knapsack with a rolled up great coat on top. Below the Knapsack is an ammunition pouch\box. Their Bicorn het is also folded flat against the Knapsack. Again they have the Infantry Saber and bayonet scabbard attached to their belt. Black boots and white gaiters. Two fine French grenadier sergeants you'll be proud to own.

Finally we have the two drummers. These two wear the standard Bearskin cap with red plume. They also sport a well groomed moustache. The coat is dark blue with dark blue collar, white lapels, red cuffs with white cuff flaps, red turnbacks. Mixed red and gold epaulettes. White waistcoat with gilt buttons. They have black boots and white gaiters. On their backs is a calf skin Knapsack with rolled great coat on top, white straps. Bicorn folded and tied to knapsack. White crossbelt. Infantry Saber scabbard attached to belt. The drum is brass with blue hoops bearing white grenades. White cords and sling. White drum carriage with brass stick holder and grenade. White apron.  Black boots with white gaiters. Black drum sticks. Two fine drummers and round of this set beautifully.

More examples of superb sets.

I'll admit that I'd probably never have bought this set as old style gloss finish soldiers didn't appeal to me. However I'm now a convert. They appeal in a different way to the modern looking matt finish soldiers out there. They arouse a nostalgic feeling the others don't and in away when in their presentation box give them an authentic look, like you're looking at a set of toy soldiers from a hundred years ago or more. This makes them special and as I said appeal in a different way to the highly detailed, perfectly sculptured modern figures. That's not to say these don't look great and they are very well sculpted. Never thought I'd feel this way to be honest. So this set has added a whole new area for me to get excited about! I said at the start I couldn't have picked a better set to review after the two Thomas Gunn reviews. A set that shows off the brilliance of the gloss finish toy soldiers, in all their old fashioned glory. I can't think of any Toy Soldier collector or anyone interested in the Napoleonic Wars that wouldn't beam from ear to ear if they received this set as a birthday or Christmas present! The set retails at £129.76. Worth every penny!

I hope we can continue to review Tradition of London excellent range in the future. If so I can't wait for the next parcel to arrive from Tradition of London!

Sailing to Victory on the Seas of Glory First from Ares , there was Wings of War which later became Wings of Glory .  If you know eit...

Sails of Glory by Ares Games: Review Sails of Glory by Ares Games: Review

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Sailing to Victory on the Seas of Glory

First from Ares, there was Wings of War which later became Wings of Glory.  If you know either previous incarnation of this game, you will have some idea of what to expect in Sails of Glory.  Moving from aerial dogfights in WWI, this game's subtitle spells out the shift back in time to the Napoleonic Wars and that time of British naval supremacy typified by the phrase "the Nelson touch".

So, it's lashings of rum and lashings with the cat o' nine tails,
hard 'a starboard, avast ye lubbers and "Every man expects!"
- sorry, got carried away there!

With Sails of Glory, Glory's the key word for me, as this is truly a glorious production from first catching sight of the evocative box artwork of a naval engagement at its climax: ships with billowing sails, wreathed in the smoke of thundering close-range broadsides.  Unlike its WWI counterpart, which began purely with cards representing the planes and only later did exquisitely painted models follow, Sails of Glory lures us immediately with four detailed and superbly painted warships.  These are on display through the clear protective cover, as they nestle in their moulded hollows that form part of the large plastic insert that holds all the game contents.

The box in all its Glory

Delving further into the box, you encounter a host of other quality components.  First of all, each ship comes with its own ship card with a full colour picture of the ship and its stats and an oblong plastic base into which fits a deep blue base card with bow, stern and full broadside firing arcs marked in grey, over which fits a plastic overlay that both protects the card and contains a hole into which the ship's locating peg fits.  It is simple, elegant, practical details like this that give the game its finished look of polished quality.

Having said that, there have been a few complaints that, though the ships' hulls, decks and masts [the latter a curious yellow] are beautifully painted, the spars [like the sails themselves] are left a plain white.  For me this was a minor detail, but if you're a miniatures aficionado it may irritate more and you may wish to paint those details.  Not being a dab hand with any sort of brush, I have been happy to let mine remain as received.

 Each ship also comes with its own individual deck of manoeuvre cards, a Ship Mat and its own Ships Log, both in very sturdy cardboard and attractively designed and coloured - more about these later.  Rounding out the package are a Wind Gauge, two separate Wind Indicators, one for each player, some terrain in the form of four full-colour islands and six reefs, two cardstock measuring sticks and shed-loads of damage markers and action markers.

The final essential item to mention is the rule book.  At approximately 27 cm x 15 cm, it is a curious size, with just over 60 pages that at first sight might seem surprisingly long.  However, DO NOT BE PUT OFF - these rules cater for both the absolute beginner to the player wanting a fairly detailed and accurate depiction of naval warfare in the Age of Sail with miniatures. Consequently they are divided into 4 sections:- Basic, Standard, Advanced and Optional.  Basic really couldn't get more ... er, well basic!  Despite taking up 16 pages of the rules, they are very simple, introducing four Phases : Planning, Movement, Combat, Damage and Reloading. 

So, why such length? Mainly because of the wealth of illustrative photographs to make each simple point abundantly clear. 



Though the terminology is suitably nautical, with words like Running, Reaching, Beating and Taken Aback introduced, understanding and determining which applies to your ship at that particular moment couldn't be easier. As mentioned earlier, each ship sits on a base card that indicates firing arcs, but the card is also edged in three different colours: red, orange and green.  Just line up the Attitude indicator with the central mast of your ship and look at which colour the indicator crosses.  In the Basic rules, you then choose a Manoeuvre card from the ship's individual deck of cards depending on what colour the Attitude Indicator passed through on the edge of the card.


Generally, you will place the Manoeuvre card in front of the ship and advance your ship until its stern touches the tip of the movement line on the card.  Sometimes [when your ship is Taken Aback], you will have to align the card with the stern of the ship and then follow the same procedure.  The only other thing to consider is whether two ships might collide.  If there is that potential, then a simple rule determines which ship moves first and then the other ship is moved until its base is in contact with the first ship.  Surprisingly neither ship takes any damage for colliding!  That really is it for Movement and Combat is even easier. 


Each side of the ship has a Loaded marker face down in its Broadside box and can fire once after Movement, if there is an enemy ship in range.  Use the measuring stick, which for this simplest level of the game refers purely to short or long range. Make sure there's nothing in the way - sorry you can't fire through your own ships or islands [what a surprise!].  Choose randomly from the appropriate lettered pile of damage markers [either A or B in the Basic game - they are also distinguished by colour, so it's really easy when setting up the game and the current strength of the ship firing tells you how many markers to draw. Allocate the damage to the enemy and, if the ships are close enough, there will be a round of Musketry fire following exactly the same process, but drawing from the pile of E markers.                     And REMEMBER  - all firing is simultaneous. 

Finally, turn the Loaded marker face up to show that you have fired this turn.


The last action of each turn is first to take any facedown Loaded marker from the Reloading box and move it back into its Broadside box.

Then move any face-up Loaded marker from the Broadside box, turn it face down and move it into the Reloading box.

You now know all that is necessary for playing the game at its simplest level and frankly the next stage Standard Rules add so little more that I would be tempted to say that most players will add these in immediately.

But, before moving on to this next stage, there is probably one question those of you reading this review are asking.  Where are these different markers for each ship placed?  Well that's where each ship's combined Ship Mat and Ship Log come in.

Below is a photo of such a combined display set up for the first turn of a Standard level game to begin.

The Ship Log seen here is for HMS Terpsichore and is made up of the three interlocking sections which sit inside the Ship Mat frame.  The top row is where you place damage markers allocated to the hull of your ship and the bottom row is for damage markers allocated to crew of your ship.  When either of those rows is full of damage markers, a ship surrenders and is removed from game play.  When one side has lost all its ships, the other side has won.  To quote that ubiquitous meerkat :


So, what does this next level add.  Instead of planning one Manoeuvre card each turn, you start the game by planning Turn 1 and Turn 2's Manoeuvre cards putting them into the slots on the Ship Mat.  On Turn 1, turn up the first planned  Manoeuvre card, carry it out. move the 2nd card into its slot still face down and plan your next  Manoeuvre card to go into the second slot.

Which Manoeuvre card can be chosen will depend on the ship's Veer capacity [the number in the photo next to the wheel symbol].

Remember collisions , well now two friendly ships colliding do damage to each other.  Strangely an enemy ship and a friendly ship colliding don't do any damage.  Weird, that's one minor point I don't understand.  For me, it's House Rule time - an enemy ship and a friendly ship colliding do damage each other.

In Combat, ship's can now choose between three different types of ammunition: Ball, Chain and Grape.  If you know your Hornblower novels [or more youthful players may know the TV series], one type's for the hull, one's for the sails and one's for the crew.  Each time you reload you can choose whichever of the three you like.  The final addition is that if your cannons fire directly through the bow or the stern of the enemy ship, then additional damage tokens are drawn.

Again, that's it!  I think you can see why my advice is just jump straight in with the Standard rules.

And so we come to the real meat of the rules...


Even here the physical length of the rules is only 6 more pages!  The most significant area of change is in Planning.  To the simple plotting of two manoeuvre cards is added the planning of crew actions and this is where the other 210 markers start to make an appearance in the game..  On the Ship Mat there are 4 spaces for placing concealed action markers.  As your ship takes hits on the Crew that number of actions will decrease.  A list of some of those actions will give you a flavour of what is introduced.  Raise/Lower sails, Pump Water, Load Left/Right Broadside, Reload Left/Right Broadside, Musketry Fire, Repair Damaged Rudder, Extinguish Fire etc.

All of these introduce new elements.  First of all the icons on the Damage markers at last play a part and, as you can imagine from some of the actions mentioned in the previous paragraph, damage now can be very specific: the mast may be broken, the rudder shot away, fire breaks out or the ship begins to let in water.  As the situation becomes tense, can you afford to load the guns or must you concentrate on putting out the fire first.

Next sailing your ship becomes more complex, as the Raise or Lower Sail actions introduce the fact that on the Manoeuvre card you choose, there are three different possible lengths of movement for your ship depending on whether your sails are set at Full, Battle or Backing.  On your Ship Mat you will now have a Sail Status marker to move along to show just how your sails are set.

That brief description gives you the gist of the these Advanced rules, but how you put them into effect does take considerable careful reading of these very compact additional rules.  For some, they may be a step too far and, if so, just go back happily to the Standard level of rules.  For others they will be just the extra depth required and hugely enhance the feel of this game.

If, like me, they are what you want, then a worthwhile bit of pimping your game is worth the time and effort.  At this level of the game your Ship Mat and Log can get fairly crowded and I'd strongly recommend making individual plywood templates to glue each Ship mat onto.  That way you can easily pick them up and put them on one side when you've completed your planning or added current new damage markers and not risk disastrous dislocation of the layout.

As you can see in the picture below a simple oblong of plywood, sanded and varnished is all you need to glue your display onto.

The final section of the rules are the Optional ones.  What I like about these are that they aren't just a final level of complexity.  Some can be used in conjunction with all three levels of rules.  Indeed, the very first Optional rule is just such a one: Let The Men Drink, this uses the Grog counter.  All it does is let you cancel a damage marker once in the game.  I'm sure those of you so inclined can make up an addition to this rule that forces you to swig something appropriate! [Do I hear some of you wanting this to be allowed to happen more than once in the game?  Or is it just my wishful thinking!]

Similarly, an Entanglement rule can replace the collision rule at any level of the game, as do Continuous Fire and First Broadside, with virtually no cost in effort.  However, a few provide substantial and significant new additions;  among these are Boarding and the use of Terrain.  The latter will allow you to use the reefs and shoals that come with the game, but if you want the full benefit which is the introduction of Coastal Batteries, then for a little more money you'll need to buy the Coastal batteries and terrain expansion.

Last but not least are the four generic scenarios [plus one solitaire], perhaps the weakest element in the package, as they are very straightforward.  Nonetheless, they do give you the typical main naval encounters.  Their titles are self-explanatory: In Shallow Waters, Force The Blockade, Against The Outpost and Supplies Are Coming.

Just in case you are left in any doubt, this game totally gets my thumbs up.  It is real value for money whatever your chosen level of play.  Excellent as an introductory level game and engrossing if you do want depth.  I have only one proviso.  As the game comes, you can only play two ships on a side,  so, only small engagements and fairly generic ones.  In one way this is no problem, as there are many additional ships that you can buy, but a single player would still be hard pressed to manage more than three ships, particularly if you are using the Advanced rules. 

For larger battles, I think the cardboard world of say Flying Colours has to be turned to, but for accessibility, feel and atmosphere and detail too, if you want it, this is my choice. 

[Voices echo eerily:  Now where's that Grog counter?.......Can't find a cat o' nine tails anywhere.....Where's that little guy with an eye-patch?...........Mind the - SPLASH!]