Saturday, January 4, 2014

HistWar: Napoleon

I have owned a copy of HistWar: Les Grognards for a few years. The Publisher & Developer, JM Mathé, of HistWar Games, has continued to improve upon the interface and game-play. Just before Christmas, he released the much-anticipated HistWar: Napoleon. 

An overview of the game can be found here:

I have had a chance to play with it for a few days now. Here is a brief review.

1. Much improved graphics and interface. The 3D screens are very nice indeed with lush vegetation and amazing skies. The buildings need some work still. The figures themselves, which can be set to a scale of an amazing 1:2 are very nice at a distance, the formations looking like they should and the moving units looking quite good. However, the closer you get, the less 3-D the figures become. They are not the animated sprites of Napoleon: Total War, and especially not the mod NTW3.4. The Creative Assembly programmers have done a more sophisticated job of animating the individual figures in NTW. However, JM has done a remarkable job with a much more limited budget and resources and the result, in this iteration, is a very nice viewing experience. Hopefully the animation will continue to improve.

2. What HistWar: Napoleon does very well, as did Les Grognards, is to model command-and-control in far more detail. It is necessary to plan well to do well in this game and you are given all the tools to do so.

3. The rules require some effort to understand and master. The English translation of this French product is very acceptable, with occasional misspellings. The concepts however are quite complex and it took me several days of study of both the on-line manual and the tutorial scenarios to begin to understand everything.

4. The effort is certainly worth while. As various elements clicked in my head, I began to understand what a deep and sophisticated game JMM has created. I have heard it described as a battle simulator. It is certainly no arcade game.

5. The original Napoleon Total War was certainly arcade-like. It was improved beyond  recognition by the modders at the Lordz Modding Collective:

I consider NTW a very fine game now, particularly the Historical Battles (HB) created by the Lordz.

6. What we now have are two very good Napoleonic games/simulations, each with a different flavour, but both very worthwhile. It will take more effort to get into HistWar but I warmly recommend it all the same.

And now, some screen shots from one of the Tutorials I just studied:

HistWar Games has taken an interesting approach to the further development of Napoleon. They have announced a series of planned developments of the game engine and the release of many new battles over the next year. I hope they are able to achieve this. It does mean that initially the gamer will need to be content with Austerlitz, a huge game, Elchingen, the game I'm currently using as a learning tool, and just a few others. It will be a while before the publishers release Borodino and Waterloo.

However, I should point out that many of the user-created scenarios (i.e. not official publisher-version) for Grognards will run perfectly well in Napoleon. I did find that the new game does not seem to have the British uniform/doctrine files loaded so I was unable to run Waterloo. All these old scenarios that didi run looked wonderful with the new graphics. 

The new HistWar GUI is much superior to the "classique". I suggest you start using it right away. And be sure the mouse icon is positioned over the counters, words, etc you are trying to highlight  before clicking the mouse button in such a way as to turn red, which happens when the item is properly captured. On my computer this required it to be just offset a little from the centre of the icon or word being highlighted. Once I figured that out, my learning curve steepened rapidly.

I wish JMM and his colleagues much success and a big Thank You for a Herculean effort.

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