Austerlitz: Napoleon’s Greatest Victory

Sounding a bit like a brand of German lager, Austerlitz was in fact one of Napoleon’s finest battles. Shrapnel Games attempts to capture that victory with this game, which attempts to blend real-time combat with the more mindful sensibilities of a turn-based game.

snap2908Austerlitz aims to simulate the battle between Napoleon and the allied Austria and Russia. Although set in real-time, the pacing in Austerlitz is one that C&C fans will find extremely slow – the game is primarily aimed towards the adventurous hex wargamer. Even with the speed set to turbo and ordering my troops to move double-quick it seems like forever until they engage the enemy or reach their tactical destination. For better or worse, in Austerlitz everyone realistically marches on foot (some dragging heavy artillery pieces) and only cavalry have any kind of speed advantage.

The manual states that anyone familiar with Waterloo: Napoleon’s Last Battle should be able to jump right in, but having never played Waterloo I started from scratch. Thankfully, the included tutorials break things down in a logical manner and the basics are easy to pick up. The interface is easy to grasp but I was annoyed with two formations that can’t be used but are included as icons anyway. If I can’t use them, they shouldn’t be there!

Reading the information on the battlefield can be difficult, especially during some of the bigger battles. There are so many units to manage through the Army, Corps, Division, and Brigade Commanders that it’s easy to lose track of the infantry, artillery and cavalry that they each control. Then there’s the worry of morale and consequently being routed. Being able to issue commands (or consult the map in grid mode to make sure of a height advantage and note any terrain benefits to morale) during Pause mode comes in very handy but once again the pace is slowed further even though it adds to the tactical aspect.

snap2910The key to winning is acquiring Victory Points (VP) through the completion of specific tasks such as capturing artillery pieces and demoralizing the enemy troops; and by controlling certain areas on the map that have a VP value. There’s a time limit but only a few times did I hit it. To claim victory your VP total must be greater than your opponents but how many points determines how that victory ranks (i.e. how decisive it actually is). The VP are also important in their ability to be ‘cashed in’ for reserves in case you really start to founder.

To restate again the obvious, this isn’t a game for the Command & Conquer or Age of Empires crowd. It’s a niche product, and it takes more time than most casual gamers looking for quick skirmishes are willing to invest. But if you feel like playing Napoleon and think you might have the strategic fortitude to pull off your own historical victories, then by all means give this obscure game a go.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, Win95

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