Posted: June 23
The early vanilla version of this game was pretty good, but limited in many ways: a very predictable AI opponent, limited number of playable factions, minimal battlefield music and sounds, relatively small field 'armies' (max 20 units, usually with a few thousand men total); this is barely a brigade in the actual Napoleonic Wars. Yes, the initial version of this game showed a game with a solid foundation, but unrealized potential for such a fascinating period in history; full of pagentry and spectical, when hundreds of thousands of men clashed on huge battlefields dressed in colorful uniforms with gloriously ornate flags, batteries of thundering cannon and thousands upon thousands of clattering muskets. The designers missed an opportunity to really do something great. Then they failed to developed the uniform editor they had promised for the game and that didn't help. They just didn't seem to want to go the extra mile. I liked the game but was a little dissapointed, even with the DLC they added later.
Then I discovered a mod for this game called 'DARTHMOD NAPOLEON v2.6 Epic Edition' and quickly realized this game's potential. Darth Vader (the mod's author), teamed up with a group of similarly talented modders and buffed this game up into something special. They vastly improved the battle sounds, music, unit flag details, battle smoke, etc. They added so much detail that it was like a new game altogether. You can also play the game now as almost any nation state of the Napoleonic Age, which enhances replayability enormously. Want to try building an empire with Ireland, do it. Like to try conquering Europe with little Portugal or the Duchy of Warsaw (Poland), sure. It's harder with these small factions, but it can be done; and with a smaller faction it's a real challenge. This mod also allows 40 unit max armies and 30 unit max fleets for many of the major nations, making for huge battles on land and at sea, and the units can have as many as 500 men in them; so a land army with this mod can often contain 12,000 to 15,000 men. On the new scale, with all the aforementioned visual and audial improvements, the battles become like interactive movies; they are a joy to simply watch, let alone get actively involved in. One warning though: you will be very busy trying to control such a large army. After a big battle you will likely feel a bit worn out, and you will be wearing out the pause button during the battles, both for your army's survival and a means of taking a break from the action just to appreciate the amazing beauty of whats going on before your eyes. It's really quite astounding. You pan in and hear men muttering in the ranks, horses neighing, orders being given in the units and so on. The sea battles are just a spectacular and just as labor intensive (but worth it).
Yes, even with DARTHMOD NAPOLEON, the AI could be better, but the rock-paper-scisors tactics of Napoleonic warfare are alive and well. Charge a well formed infantry square with cavalry, bad idea. Let your infantry stay in line when cavalry charges, bad idea. Form infantry square within range of artillery (especially cannister), bad idea. Leave your cannon batteries without infantry or cavalry support to protect them, especially from enemy cavalry, bad idea, and so on... The one main problem I have with game play is the morale model, especially for the French and for cavalry units in particular. I often see units almost die to the last man that should have long ago fled the field. A batallion of 360 men with 20 or 30 left should be long gone, and certainly should not have 'steady' morale. Still, I can overlook this issue and the others that are less severe, because they are so greatly outweighed by the good points of the game.
I have come back to this game over and over for the last few years (8,000 hours plus listed but probably about 1,200 to 1,500 or so actual, when you exclude the time the game was in the Strategy Map planning mode or paused in tactical mode). There is really no other game like it for the Napoleonic era, and the entertainment value and unbelievable replayability (with Darthmod installed) are amazing.
If you like Napoleonic Wargames with spectacular, realistic battles, rolling drums, booming cannon, thundering cavalry charges, shattering musketry, beautiful, fluttering flags and a smoke enshrouded battlefield, you'll love this game.