Hundred Days 20 does this by offering an elegant system of play. What do I mean by elegant? Victory Point Games has designed and advanced the “Napoleonic 20” game system to be streamlined, which makes it is both easy to learn and teach, while still being quick and fun to play.
Hundred Days 20 includes Waterloo 20 and Tolentino 20. Waterloo 20 has evolved from the original game that started the Napoleonic series of wargames by Victory Point Games. Tolentino 20 portrays the battle that occurred in central Italy during the “Hundred Days” of Napoleon’s restoration to the throne of France.
Hundred Days 20 is a 2 player war game that takes about 60 minutes to play.
In Hundred Days 20, players decide which scenario variant they will play. Each scenario is based on historical facts regarding the battles of Waterloo or Tolentino, but is abstracted to an operational-level of play so that each player is fully engaged commanding either the French or Anti-French forces from turn to turn.
Players take turns performing movement and combat, until either side has obtained a decisive victory, a sudden death turn has concluded the game early, or the last game turn has been completed. Players win immediately with a decisive victory. If the Anti-French player has not won when sudden death has concluded the game or last game turn has concluded, a draw is declared.
I am impressed by the game components in Hundred Days 20. I feel that all of the game pieces are well crafted by Victory Point Games. Each battlefield map comes in two pieces, but when fit together, they match up very well. The map’s art and graphics are vivid, colorful, and inviting. It is very easy to discern the type of location and/or terrain that each map hex represents. Each map contains the weather and turn tracks which match the map’s style.
The player aid mat contains a summary of the most important rules for reference purposes including descriptions of terrain effects, player’s turn, combat tables, combat modifiers, etc. It contains the all-important morale track used to signify the state of each player’s morale during the game. While the player aid mat contains all of these items, it pleasantly does not take up too much real estate on the table and can be placed next to the battlefield map with ease.
The art depicted on the event cards and the unit and leader counters is in the Napoleonic style. Each card includes a unique portrait for each leader. They certainly heighten the game’s table presence. The unit and leader counters are also very functional with easy to read combat strength and movement allowance stats and special type/ability iconography. All of the other game markers do not clutter the unit counters or map when placed onto them. They are color-coded and easy-to-read matching their description in the rulebook.
How to Play
If you have new war gamers at the table, the Hundred Days 20 basic scenarios can be taught to a non war gamer to easily introduce them into the genre. I effectively did this for my first play of the Waterloo 20 basic scenario. Each unit’s type, stats, and abilities are straight-forward and easy to understand. The sequence of play is not complex and easy to follow.
In the Napoleonic 20 game system, a Day Turn consists of:
- Random Events Phase: The top Event card is drawn from the deck specifically constructed for the scenario. The Event may be directed towards a particular side, either French or Anti-French, or may pertain to whomever draws the Event.
- The next turn phases are conducted in sequence:
- Movement Phase – The 1st player may move any number of units within their movement allowance and restrictions.
- Reaction Phase – The 2nd player may conduct special Reaction Maneuvers with their eligible cavalry.
- Combat Phase – The 1st player must attack units that are within the enemy’s Zone of Control. They can resolve the battles in any order, but must declare all battles in advance. After all battles are finished, then eligible units recover from the effects of Route and Fatigue (optional rule).
- Lull – If the 1st player did not conduct a Forced March during the Movement Phase and was not involved in combat during either the Reaction or Combat phases, then they can increase their Morale by one point.
- After the 1st player has completed their half of the turn, then the 2nd player conducts their half and repeats the same turn phases.
A Night Turn consists of:
- Just like a Day Game Turn, the 1st player begins the turn with the Random Events Phase.
- Movement Phase – The 1st player may move any number of units within their movement allowance and restrictions.
- The next steps are conducted in sequence part by the 1st Player constituting the Night Operations Phase:
- Rally Step – The 1st player may attempt to rally broken units.
- Morale Loss Step – The 1st player adjusts the Morale Track based on what objective and Lines of Communication hexes have been captured by the enemy.
- Morale Recovery Step – The 1st player recovers one Morale point.
- Reconcealment Step – The 1st player may re-conceal units when using the Fog of War optional rule.
- After the 1st player has completed their half of the turn, then the 2nd player conducts their half of the turn and repeats the same turn phases. The 2nd player also shuffles the Draw and Discard piles of the Event cards together to form a new Draw pile.
Once both players have completed a turn (Day or Night), the Turn Marker is moved to the next day on the Turn Track. The turns continue until either the French and Anti-French players have obtained a decisive victory or when the last game turn has concluded.
I played my first game with the standard rules and then added some of the optional rules in subsequent games. In general, war game rules can be daunting to sift through. Thankfully, the Napoleonic 20 and Hundred Days 20 rule books are well-organized and easy to understand and reference. The setup of each scenario is quick and I was able to get a game rolling in about 10 minutes. Each scenario has some unique rules to follow during play, but are very easy to reference back to if that is required.
The Napoleonic 20 game system allows for no more than 20 units per player (corps and battery) to be on the battlefield map at any one time. I enjoyed that I only have to focus on a relative handful of units during my turns. Even though the force sizes have been abstracted down to the maximum of 20 units, I was surprised by the depth of the tactical decisions that I could make throughout the game. The abstraction also does not minimize the historical composition and nature of either side’s forces during gameplay.
There are several game mechanisms offered by the Napoleonic 20 game system that heightened the level of tactical decision-making in Hundred Days 20. The event cards that are drawn before each player’s turn are not only thematic, but may trigger an immediate benefit or detriment to the player who drew the card. For the active player, the benefits are not trivial and should be taken advantage of in order to enhance their effectiveness in movement and combat during their turn. But wait… there are events that may adversely effect the active player. In that case, when they showed up they made me feel like I was the field commander and hoping for best. Sacrebleu!
Combat is resolved by referencing the combat table and finding the column where a die-roll result determines the battle outcome. The column is found by subtracting the defender’s combat strength from the attacker’s combat strength which is called the differential. There is nothing special about this manner of outcome determination. What is special are the ways the players can manipulate the differential by:
- Spending morale to commit reserve troops to boost their combat strength by one.
- Deciding as the attacker to use a lower combat differential if they are concerned that an unlucky low roll may break an elite or strong unit they’ve committed to a battle.
- Committing artillery to the battle as the attacker to add double its combat strength to the overall combat strength.
- Having artillery support, boosting the defender’s combat strength by one.
- Committing elite units to the battle as the attacker for their possible élan bonus.
To account for the importance of cavalry in the Napoleonic period, the Napoleonic 20 game system inserts a reaction phase (for the non-active player) between the active player’s movement and combat phases. I found that it pleasantly reduces the downtime in the game. It’s a great way to keep the players fully engaged even when it’s not their turn and I enjoyed the degree of tactical-decision making it adds to gameplay. It allows the non-active player to bolster their cavalry’s posture and effectiveness on the battlefield before their opponent’s combat occurs and sets them up for maneuvering their cavalry during their next turn.
In many war games, capturing and controlling their objective hexes normally allows the combatants to satisfy their victory conditions. I thought it was intriguing that Napoleonic 20 game system implements this in an interesting way; controlling your opponent objectives and LOCs (Lines of Communication) detracts from satisfying their victory conditions by reducing their morale. Since the morale is effected during night turns, this means that each player needs to decide when and how much to commit to either protecting or capturing the objective/LOC hexes during the preceding day turns. The loses are subtle, but considering a negative change in 1 or 2 morale points can hamper one’s combat and movement boosting during the following day turns, these losses can be game-changing if one’s overall morale is relatively low compared to their opponent’s.
Earlier I stated that Hundred Days 20 was elegant. To bolster this opinion, I found that several of the optional rules were very easy to add and enhanced my overall playing experience. This list includes:
Leaders – Added during scenario setup and offer command during battle. Out-of-command battles lower combat table differential. Players must decide positioning of leaders on the battlefield and protect them from retreat and being broken (removed from play).
- Fatigue – Adds to the overall realism regarding the negative effects of prolonged battle. Signified by markers placed on the effected units that are neither fiddly nor hard to manage.
- Variable Weather – Changed by a dice-roll and tracked on the battlefield map. Adds what-if weather conditions to the scenario rather than using the normal weather conditions displayed in the Turn Track.
If you are looking for a great starter war game that can be advanced in complexity and variability by adding optional game rules and scenario variants, then this is the game you should not pass by. If you are into Napoleonic history and are a war gamer, then this is the game you should not pass by.
The beauty of learning the Napoleonic 20 game system is that once you and your gaming partners have played your fill of Hundred Days 20 (which may take a long while to accomplish) you can easily carry that experience over to playing the other Napoleonic 20 series games and add them to your play-list.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of Hundred Days 20, you pick it up for about $45.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A great starter set of Napoleonic battle scenarios supported by an appealing game system where players truly feel like commanders on the battlegrounds of Waterloo and Tolentino.
• Theme enhanced by the event cards and game system
• Easy to learn and teach standard rule set; may be an entry-point candidate for non-war gamers
• Rich tactical-decision making
• Add-on optional rules and variant scenarios that enrich the replay value
• A few ambiguities in the rules and the event cards.