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3 May, 2005

 Products Napoleon’s Triumph Design Diary The Box Cover

Napoleon’s Triumph Design Diary: The Box Cover

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The name of the game. Before discussing the artwork and design of the game box, which is the main focus of this diary entry, I'd like to make some comments about the game’s name. The obvious choice for the name would have been Napoleon at Austerlitz, following the same convention used in Bonaparte at Marengo. Unfortunately, however, that name has already been used, so I needed a different name. There have been quite a few games on Austerlitz before this one, so even finding an alternative name wasn't as easy as it might appear. In the end, I went with Napoleon’s Triumph for two reasons: first, it allows me to pay yet another compliment to Frank Davis’s Wellington’s Victory, something I never grow tired of, and second, it gets the name Napoleon (as opposed to Bonaparte) in the title, and legitimately so – without the anachronism I would have inflicted on the gaming public had I used it for Marengo).

The box cover art is taken from the painting The Cuirassiers of 1805 by Ernest Meissonier, which is currently on display at the Musée Condé in Chantilly, France. The work was licensed for use in the game through Art Resource.

Meissonier (1805-1891) painted genre and military subjects. His genre works are notable for their meticulous attention to detail. He is one of the best-known painters of Napoleonic subjects; probably his most famous work is French Campaign of 1814 (also sometimes identified as being of the 1812 campaign, and also sometimes just identified as “Napoleon I and His Staff”). The work chosen for this game, “The Cuirassiers of 1805”, is one of his less familiar paintings and shows a French cuirassier regiment awaiting orders at Austerlitz.

The Cuirassiers of 1805 was attractive for use in the game for one obvious reason and that is that it is of a scene from the battle itself. This however, was not the only reason. One thing I look for in cover art is simplicity of composition and a strong geometric character, which is clearly evident in this painting (and also in the cover art selected for Bonaparte at Marengo). One of the challenges in using The Cuirassiers of 1805 is that the original is wider than it is tall (the aspect ration is about 6:9, expressed as height over width) while the box for Napoleon’s Triumph is taller than it is wide (with an aspect ratio of about 4:3). My first effort to address this was just to crop the left and right sides, bringing the nearest figures strongly into the foreground. However, I disliked the effect intensely as it destroyed the very element of the composition that I liked the most: the perspective effect of the line of cuirassiers running towards the horizon. The solution I chose for the problem was to instead extend the sky upwards, which enabled much more of the length of the line of cuirassiers to be shown. Extending the sky also made it tower over the figures, which is an effect I liked and seemed to me to help restore the sense of space in the scene which I had lost through the change in aspect ratio. The width of the work was partly preserved through the same technique I had used with the box of Bonaparte at Marengo, that of wrapping the painting around the left and right sides of the box (as with Marengo, I also had to extend one side of the painting in order to have it reach all the way around the side of the box).

The graphic design is little more than a frame for the cover art. The amount of text and graphics I use on the top is kept to an absolute minimum: the game title, company logo, and copyright notice. The title and logo are done in black, so that they don't alter the color balance of the art, and the title is in Times Roman: a typeface that is clean and easy to read but which is so familiar that it does not attract attention to itself. The lettering on the sides of the box is permitted to be much bolder (and in fact the painting is washed out on the sides to improve the contrast) as a concession to the practical fact that games are often stored spine outwards, and it is desirable for people to be able to easily read the title so that they can find the game. The recognizability of the spine is enhanced by a small thumbnail of the original cover art. The general design of course is the same as was used in Bonaparte at Marengo. This is in part because the design intentions are the same and in part because I wanted there to be a family resemblence between the games. On that subject, it was also pleasing that infantry was the on the cover of the first game and that cavalry should be on the cover of the second. I don't know if I will be able to use artillery in the next game, but it would be neat if it worked out that way.

Overall, I think the box design is what I hoped it would be and I'm very happy with it, although of course the credit is entirely due to Meissonier and not to myself: my only goal was not to preserve as much as possible the effect that he created within the constraints of adapting it to use on a game box.