Thursday, May 26, 2016

Some Napoleonic Kindness and Some Classic Rules

Last month and a bit ago I entered Max Foy’s photo competition and was delighted to win my choice of some lovely prizes.   Being late to the whole Napoleonics scene, I opted for a copy of one of the classic rules sets, Empire by Jim Getz and Scott Bowden.   

I have only heard of these rules over the years, never played them.   My understanding was that Empire was famous in its days, and still has some grognard cred.  There’s a good discussion of Empire’s pro and cons by what seems to be a pretty knowledgeable fellow here.  Empire is a gorgeously produced artifact, with the print rules contained in a “Gold Hot-Stamped Imperial Green Leatherette 3-Ring Binder”. and some impressive charts and (gulp) counters.  The level of detail appears to be Grand Tactical, with Maneuver Elements (brigades) forming divisions and even 1 or 2 Corps represented on the table.

I have a bit of a soft spot for the Emperor’s Press logo printed on the box.   My own grognard cred, such as it is, includes a visit to this fabled wargames store in Chicago back in the late 1990s.   I remember driving for quote some time through semi-suburban neighbourhoods that looked like the opening minutes of The Sopranos, to find a store that was large but, even then, appeared to have seen somewhat better days.   I wasn’t touched by the Napoleonic bug then, I wish I had been because I am sure I would have enjoyed the visit more. 

 The other thing that Max Foy kindly included in the gift was an ancillary product, the Empire Campaign system.   This product was released in 1984 and includes a hexmap of Germany and a set of counters for Prussians, Austrians, Russians and French.  The rules include details for supplies, ammunition, sick and wounded, hospitals, and a myriad of other wonky stuff that would make a staff officer happy.   It is certainly a step up from the Scharnhorst system in the Sam Mustafa Blucher rules, that I was experimenting with recently.  It’s a beautifully produced map and counter sets.

I can also see some uses for this system in transposing it to the American Civil War.  That would be fun.


My thanks to Monsieur Max Foy for his generous present.  I will give these rules a good home and may even try them in the near future - I certainly hope so.

Anyone have any experience with these rules?



  1. That looks great, I've been putting off napoleonic until I was a grown up, but as that hasn't happened I've just decided to plunge in, a lovely prize.
    Best Iain

  2. I have.
    It wasn't good.
    I found Empire headache inducing.
    It suffers from a bit of "French are supermen, and the British are better" syndrome

  3. What a box of delights, thats the way to do Napoleonics

  4. "Empire" Grump, Grump, Grump. I thought I had seen the last of that museum piece. I played it for a number of years and found some value in it's unit ratings, but I found the play mechanics too "flow-chart-y" with all the flow charts. I suppose at my advanced age I prefer games to "simulations."

  5. Not familiar with Empire at all. But it does seem to ignite some fun caked barrels of discussion.

    1. "Fun caked barrels of discussion?" That is a good one!

  6. Very generous of your benefactor. Did Tony say exactly "why" he was parting with Empire? Yes, I have played it but that has been more than a decade ago. Empire ranks up there with Column, Line, and Square in my memory of mind-numbing games. Despite that, it has produced its share of hilarious gaming anecdotes.

  7. My first introduction to Napoleonic wargaming was with Empire. I remember it being rather complicated and ran better with an umpire you knew the rules well. My old flat mate had loads and loads of Spanish painted up for it.



  8. I was quite open about the fact that I was having a clear-out! The Empire rules are (for me) more a source of reference than a game I would wish to play in their full glory. There is also some strange legend about how stones will fall on your house if you criticise them. Empire is undoubtedly good stuff, but not necessarily to my taste - there is also something in there about a variable approach to bound lengths which is worth a read. The campaign add-on is thorough and educational, but - like the magnificent (but unplayable) War to the Death - is a debatable amount of fun. The Scharnhorst part of Blücher is maybe less thorough but more practicable.

    I have a large(ish) collection of vintage rules, and I think there are few of them I would choose to play, but they are interesting in their way.


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