Hundred Days 20 is the latest release from Victory Point Games in their Napoleonic 20 series. The 20 represents the maximum number of counters on the field. This is no Great War in Europe. Hundred Days 20 is meant to be played in a single sitting. This game features two battles: Waterloo and Tolentino.
I have no idea how Victory Point makes their counters, but they remain one of my favorites from any company. They are really thick and have great color. The game does include one of the most unique additions to a war game, a napkin. That’s because the counters do have some soot that will wear off them. The counters don’t seem to be effected by this, but the first play through may get some soot on your fingers. As for those counters, they are well illustrated and simplistic. Each unit has just two ratings: strength and movement. The maps are in two sections, but they take up very little table space. Yet, the hexes themselves are pretty good size. This is nice because the game doesn’t feel cluttered when battle fronts start forming. The rulebook is one of the best I’ve read. It’s full of examples and illustrations. It took me just one play through to feel comfortable with this system. Nearly everything you’ll need for the game is included either on the battle map or the chart. The game also comes with a sturdy set of event cards and various counters. Overall, it’s a pretty impressive package.
The Iron Duke is ready to be a thorn in Napoleon’s side again.
Like most war games, Hundred Days is played in alternating turns. In the Waterloo campaign, Napoleon must race across the map to capture Wavre and Waterloo by the end of June 18. Standing in his way is a maze of rivers and forests that hinder his armies ability to move or give bonuses to the defenders. Add in the armies of Wellington and Blocher, and Napoleon’s task is daunting to say the least. The Little Emperor has a lot to think about as the French make their push. Units that come into the enemy’s zone of control must fight. Even if that unit is touching three enemies, he must fight each of them simultaneously. Attacking with more units allows you to disperse the attack. This means you really have to set your battle lines and attack in masse. It also will require you to make some interesting decisions. Instead of fighting two battles at 1:1, do you sacrifice one confrontation at 1:2 odds to gain 3:1 somewhere else on the line? Event cards add to the tension at the beginning of each player’s turn. Event cards can be a double edged sword, giving bonuses or causing attack penalties. Nothing ruins an offensive more than pulling the card that requires you to roll two dice and take the worst result, but it’s a neat feature that helps simulate some of the problems the French had in this campaign.
The meat of the game centers around morale. You may find the game ending before Napoleon meets his Waterloo because the game ends immediately if either side hits zero morale. Morale can be gained during night’s rest of by routing the enemy (or lost by the opponent in the same battle!). However, morale is also used to boost the effectiveness of a unit in battle, gain die roll modifiers when rallying troops, or force march units to the front line. I really like this as it adds to the anxiety of whether to use your waning morale to make that last push into a key objective. Tolentino uses morale equally effectively as the Neapolitan player has to contend with wavering troops.
Once the basic game is mastered (which won’t be long), there are some great optional rules that can be implemented. The leaders are optional, but add a command radius to the game. Units out of range suffer attack penalties. Fatigue markers can be used to show the wear of troops as the battle progresses. Finally, weather can also play a part in the game if you wish. Players can use the historical weather chart on the map or roll for random weather. My only true gripe of the game is that the weather chart wasn’t included with the other charts.
Blocher’s slowing of Napoleon at Ligny helped the Coalition when my first play through.
Unlike previous editions of Waterloo, this 3rd edition starts on June 15, allowing players to play the entire campaign. Maybe you want Napoleon to cut north to help Ney capture Quatre-Bras. Maybe the Coalition meets up earlier in an effort to counter the French advance. I like games where you can play out some “what-ifs’ and this game does that. Tolentino also has some similar options.
Wellington’s rout of Ney pushed French morale to zero. Napoleon never made it to 100 days.
There’s no denying that the aggressors (France in Waterloo, Napoli in Tolentino) are on an uphill climb, but there loss is hardly preordained. The earlier starts and ability of the French to pull in the guards allow a French victory to be plausible. His brother-in-law has a massive force that could also end victorious if their resolve is not broken.
This is my first game in any 20 series, and I must admit I’m quite impressed. The system is easy to learn, plays smoothly, and provides a nice tactical challenge. The quality components and fantastic rulebook just add to the value. There’s no shortage of Napoleonic games out there, but this is one that’s worth a spot on your shelf.