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Commander: Napoleon at War PC review

Submitted by Chris Stavros on October 29, 2008 - 12:11am. Exclusive Game Review

In the late 18th century France had a violent revolution followed by a series of wars that lasted decades. During this period a man of great ability rose to command the armies of France and fought his way across the face of Europe, that man was Napoleon Bonaparte. Commander: Napoleon at war is a game that simulates the Imperial period of Napoleon’s time using the already released Commander system.

Commander: Napoleon at war is a turn based Strategy game covering the entire Imperial period of the Napoleonic Wars. Players control units on the Corps level in battle as either the allied or French nations. A series of scenarios allow players to begin with the invasion of Austria in 1805 as well as other scenarios for key points in the war.

Play revolves around moving formations that represent Cavalry, Infantry and Artillery army corps and fleet units. Each unit type has a realistic movement factor and is rated in unit strength as well as a number of upgradeable areas such as improved weapons. Unit effectiveness is also taken into account and is easily determined by a simple color coded system where units with a white number are fully operational and units with a red number are completely disrupted. There are also yellow and orange levels showing formations that are partially ineffective for combat.

Units lost effectiveness through movement and combat as well as through enemy artillery attack and upgrading. They can recover this through remaining motionless for a number of turns depending on the tech level of the particular formation. The staying power of units and how well they attack and defend is reflected by unit effectiveness.

The overall objective of the two sides is too militarily defeat their enemies by occupying their capitals and several other key cities depending on the particular nation involved. For example you cannot defeat the Russians by taking Moscow or the British by taking London nor will they ever surrender if these cities are not taken.

The game map represents a portion of the United States and Eastern Canada to the Ural Mountains in Asia going from West to East, and from Norway to North Africa going from north to south. The major population centers and production cities are all on the map but there are only a few cities per nation. The game map is subdivided by hexagons and should be quite familiar to any war gamer and easy for any new comer to understand. Terrain in the form of mountains and hills are portrayed and these effect both movement and combat..

The game has an elegant unit production system and a simple research system. Each turn players are given a certain amount of production points based for the French and allies on the cities they hold.

To construct a unit a nation must have enough manpower trained for the unit and the production to construct it. Manpower is trained at a very slow rate and will be a chronic problem for the French as they game advances and losses mount. Depending on the unit type it takes between zero and several turns, a garrison takes no time to construct while a Fleet may take 3 turns or more.

The unit types include battle leaders which are historically rated and can be attached to any formation for increased effectiveness and added historical flavor. Not all leaders are created equal nor do they cost the same in production points, a great leader like D’avout costs more than a fleet to acquire where as a mediocre leader could be a cheap as a garrison.

Each turn research is conducted in four key research tracts and how much depends on the number of labs each power possesses. A power may purchase a lab using production points and the cost is exponential. Each nation also has a limit to the number of labs it may purchase. As each game turn passes a certain amount of research is done in the field you have assigned the purchased lab to. You cannot reassign labs but you can sell them for a fraction of their cost and buy a new one for a new area of study.

Research improves both unit capability as well as the overall production and war potential of your nations. Each power on each side must conduct its own research and this is not shared among the powers. When a new technological innovation is discovered you have the opportunity to upgrade deployed units on the map board. This upgrade costs production points and lowers unit effectiveness as the formations absorb the new weapons systems.

Each turn players may move any and all units in any desired order. Any unit that ends its move adjacent to an enemy has the option of attacking that unit. Attacks can damage both the attacker and defender and may cause the retreat of enemy units. If this happens players have the option of moving into the vacated hex with the attacking unit.

The game has a simple to use interface and a nice soundtrack. Infantry and ships make the appropriate sounds as they move and there are also battle sounds but there is no animation in combat nor are any really needed. This is a war game not a first person shooter and the game is in the planning and maneuver of forces not in excessive bling.

As a Napoleonic simulator this game is a bit lacking. It still needs some graphic improvement and tweaking of force levels and production and these factors are all moldable by game players. But it does simulate the wars somewhat and is fun to easy to play.
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