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25 July 2006

 Products Napoleon’s Triumph Design Diary Less is More & More is More

Napoleon’s Triumph Design Diary: Less is More & More is More

Rules
Click on the image above for the latest rules draft

If you download the above rules, you will see some interesting changes. First, in this draft, rules clarifications are in blue (a clarification is defined as a change in the wording of a rule where the actual substance of the rule is not changed). Actual rules changes, where not just the wording, but the substance of the rule itself has been changed, are in red.

Although the first few pages of the rules will reveal no changes and few clarifications, that is not the case as you get further in. There have been some really important changes in the combat rules, aimed at simplifying them and improving their presentation. The simplifications were driven by the blindtesting results. In blindtesting, the rules for offensive artillery support proved far more difficult for the testers to grasp than I had expected. This may in part have been due to intrinsic difficulty, in part because they were so unlike Bonaparte at Marengo (both testers are experienced Bonaparte at Marengo players), and in part because of issues with their presentation. I found the difficulties with these rules worrying, and so I decided that my safest course of action was to drop offensive artillery support from the game. “Safest”, here, is a relative term. There isn’t really anything very safe about making significant rules changes late in a game’s development, but sometimes you have to make tough choices.

In the case of the artillery support rules, deleting them had multiple negative consequences affecting the balance between artillery and the other arms, the balance between offense and defense, and the balance between the French and Allies, all of which could be corrected, but which would require additional changes. Restoring the balance between offense and defense was the easiest, because it could largely be done by deleting the corresponding artillery defensive support rules. Correcting the balance between artillery and the other arms meant introducing several small, but important rules changes that had the general effect of strengthening artillery (the rules now allow a single approach to be attacked twice in one turn if the first attack was by artillery and contain a package of changes that allow artillery to effectively be used as leading units on the defensive, a tactic that was suicide for artillery under the old rules). A non-rules change was to reduce the number of guns represented by an artillery unit (always a very “soft” design decision – meaning that it was a decision that had no obvious right or wrong answer apart from the way the game as a whole seemed to work), resulting in the addition of a fourth Allied artillery unit. The new rules are certainly much simpler without being (in my opinion) significantly worse than the old rules from a simulation or game play perspective, and for me, anytime you make the game simpler without any significant cost elsewhere, you’ve made a good design decision.

Another change related to making the game easier to learn was a decision on my part to increase the number of attack examples in the rules. The previous drafts had one attack example, but that one example necessarily couldn’t show a lot of the attack rules in operation, which is something I generally strive to do in my game rules. And so, I decided to increase the number of examples from one to four. There are now examples showing a retreat before combat, a feint, and an artillery attack, as well as an example showing an infantry/cavalry attack/counter-attack combination. To make this fit in the same number of pages of rules (I’m already collecting manufacturing quotes, and it would mean a re-do of some of that work if the number of rules pages change), I tightened up the wording of some of the optional rules and also that of the example text itself (which accounts for the large amount of blue text towards the end of the rules book) and made the example images somewhat smaller, so I could fit two of them side-by-side in a column.

There are a couple other noteworthy changes in this draft that are unrelated to the artillery rules. I decided to change the morale auction so that you only bid the penalty, and didn’t have to choose the side until the end of the auction rather than when you make your bid. The major benefit of this change was that I thought it made the auction rules a little clearer. The other change was a rule explicitly leaving it as a matter of mutual agreement in team play as to whether or not note taking would be allowed in conferences (the rules previously were silent on this point) as I decided it might lead to hard feelings if players on one team did not take notes and found that players on the other team had done so, and that a rule mentioning this could eliminate the problem.

As always, your feedback is welcome (comments can be sent by email to or posted to the Simmons Games thread at talk.consimworld.com).