REVIEWS COURTESY OF ZXSR

Napoleon at War
by Ken Wright
CCS
1986
Crash Issue 34, November 1986   (1986-10-23)   page(s) 91,92

This new game from CCS, the first since Desert Rats, is written by Ken Wright, author of some of LOTHLORIEN's most successful titles including Waterloo and Austerlitz. Presumably, Mr Wright retained the copyright on the format of those games because this one works in exactly the same fashion. More of that later.

The game is a reconstruction of Napoleon's confrontation with the Russian army under Bennigsen in a solitaire game that casts you as Napoleon. The game gives you control over five infantry corps and one cavalry corps - each with three divisions. At last, artillery is included in the scenario and it's good to see that Mr Wright has acted on the constructive criticism from the public and given the player three units in this game.

Presentation is neat. After a passable loading screen, the player is presented with a scrolling map containing terrain symbols and unit markers which are uncluttered but obvious. Units are displayed as single character blocks annotated for unit type, Corps ID and Command ID if any. Cursor keys allow observation of the whale play area, and a menu at the base of the screen displays possible options as keypresses. The French are coloured blue, Russians are black on yellow and a single Prussian Corps (commanded by Lestocq) is displayed as black on white. You can analyse the strength and morale of your own units by asking for details when the cursor is above a unit. The marker then doubles in length to display the required information.

As in the previous games of this format, units may be ordered as an entire corps by directly ordering the lead unit of that corps, or as individual divisions - though as Mr Wright points out in the notes, such detailed command was unheard of at the time of the original conflict. If the orders you give are suspect, a corps commander may send a message to suggest an alternative course of action. Original orders will still be followed if you insist, but it's advisable to take note of the suggestions to begin with.

The game's three difficulty settings reflect the adaptability of the computer opponent. In a solitaire game, this has to be good. In Napoleon at War the opponent is nicknamed Charlie Oscar and the designer is evidently proud of his creation. Charlie O boasts unpredictability and sophisticated intelligence. Immediately the enemy forces start to move, hidden movement comes into play and opposing units begin to disappear from view. In fact the intelligence is a definite improvement on the earlier games and the advantages of this are manifold. If the enemy played in a similar fashion to Waterloo, my guess is that your artillery would hack most of them to pieces before they ever got close enough for melee. But it's good to see such a quality piece of programming.

In the original battle, both Napoleon and Bennigsen were left claiming victory. One thing was obvious, the battle had gone in a way neither had anticipated or desired. The game does well in recreating this confused and unsatisfying flow, and victory conditions are correspondingly difficult for both sides to fulfill. Again, it's good to see such demanding restrictions in a solitaire game.
The rules are straightforward and arrive on a glossy, fold out sheet. Apart from designer's and historical notes, the game includes a couple of useful battle maps and some new features such as the reorganisation of depleted units to maintain a coherent fighting force.

Moans? Well, there are a few. Marshal Ney's 6th Corps and Lestocq's Prussians come into the game as reserves for both sides on Turn Four. Unfortunately, they are displayed on the map at their relevant entry points right at the start of the game. The result is a slightly annoying distraction but one that can be lived with. My copy of the game also appeared to be slightly bugged, preventing me on certain occasions from offering orders to divisional sized units. Hopefully, this was just a fault in my copy as the bug seemed intermittent and random. Finally, the game's now obligatory double cassette housing boasts compatibility with 128K machines. Try as we might, we could only get the program to load on a 48K or 48K Plus model. There is no joystick option for control - only an aesthetic omission but it would have been nice.

Nearly a year after the appearance of Mr Wright's first Napoleonic games, he has entered the fray once more with a host of improvements on his original system. These are not necessarily dramatic or immediately obvious but, as I keep reminding people, the best parts of a strategy game are the bits you can't see. What choice do I have then, but to present this game with a well deserved CRASH Smash?


Presentation90%
Rules90%
Playability92%
Graphics89%
Authenticity93%
Opponent93%
Value For Money96%
Overall95%
Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 14, February 1987   page(s) 77

I knew when I grew up I'd want to play strategy simulation war games like this one from CCS. I spent hours as a wee 'un setting out me little Airfix men on the kitchen lino only for my mum to play Gulliver and tread on all their heads or wash them away in a tidal wave of Flash.

No such problems here for a game in the collectable series that brought you Austerlitz. I say collectable with qualification. Shorties with no braces on their strides and proper war game freaks should find this a sound bet. Those new to square bashing may feel this not only looks like, but plays like, Austerlitz, so you're just getting more of the same.

Eylau is not exactly the most well known and therefore the most marketable of Napoleonic nefariousness, but as a battle it's interesting since the various unit commanders had to take decisions even when they didn't know their colleagues, let alone their enemies' positions. And it's this element that the games tries to expand. You can control your own (ze French) forces totally, quite easy when the whole battlefield isn't much bigger than a single screen.

However, this situation is most unlike a real battle with its lousy lines of communication. So you can choose to order around only certain elements - units of cavalry, artillery and foot solders - leaving the other units to move on their own initiative. Sometimes they'll stumble into disaster, or turn up like the US Cavalry, just in the nick of time! Ultimately, you'll have to take the crucial decisions if you want to force a result, or the simulation, like the actual battle, will veer towards stalemate.

Otherwise everything is fine, and technically very smooth, though I'm sure CCS could've smartened up the graphics. All the keying in of orders will give you a throbbing finger, but somehow this is all part of a strategy's compulsion. One final quibble - how about getting some women into this male-dominated militarism? There's nothing some of us would like better than a good thrashing from Boadicea!


Graphics6/10
Playability7/10
Value For Money8/10
Addictiveness9/10
Overall8/10
Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 57, December 1986   page(s) 97

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.

Label: CCS
Author: K Wright
Price: £8.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Gary Rook

****


Overall4/5
Summary: Challenging war game with some unfortunate mechanical flaws. Good for the dedicated wargamer but not for the beginner.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 3, December 1987   page(s) 90

Spectrum, £8.95cs

A one player wargame based on the Napoleonic battle of Eylau. The player takes charge of the French forces while the computer plays the part of the Russians and Prussians.

The player controls the battle by issuing orders either directly to the units individually or to the Corp Commanders, who will either carry out your orders to the letter or will act on their own initiative. Each game turn is divided into two - the issuing of orders and the movement and combat that is a result of those orders. If you're a fan of this period of wargaming then Napoleon at War is a must, and even if you're not then it's still well worth a good hard look.


Opposition5/7
Display6/7
Ease of Use4/7
Game Depth4/7
Ace Rating920/1000
Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 63, January 1987   page(s) 120

MACHINE: Spectrum
SUPPLIER: CCS
PRICE: £8.95

Ken Wright, author of Waterloo and Austerlitz, has moved from Lothlorien to CCS for his latest Napoleonic battle, the little-known draw against the Russians at Eylau on 8th February 1807.

It uses similar mechanisms to his two previous games, but is improved by a few extra features. Artillery is represented separately this time, and on the big battlefield of Eylau the devolved command system, by which the player leaves Corps commanders in charge of their own forces, works rather better than in previous games. At least, the Marshals of France do fewer stupid things.

But the game is still very limited, and rather poor value. You get no choice of scenario, no choice of terrain, no choice of side, no choice of starting position, and no re-run facility.

All you have left is the chance to give the French side orders. Unfortunately, the combat mechanism seems to involve such a large random factor that whether they win or lose has almost nothing to do with the orders you do give them.

One result of this is, oddly, to make Napoleon at War slightly more playable.

Eylau was a confused battle, with re-inforcements for both sides arriving at odd moments throughout the day (this is not represented in the game, by the way). At the end it was a messy and hard-fought draw, which amounted to a strategic defeat for Napoleon, who needed to keep on advancing. The arbitrary nature of the combat system means that while Austerlitz, Napoleon's greatest victory, is virtually unwinable, Eylau, a battle he virtually lost, stands quite a good chance of being won.


Graphics5/10
Playability3/10
Realism3/10
Value2/10
Transcript by Chris Bourne

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