Marengo

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This is a folio game in the Muskets and Saber series from Decision Games. The designer is Eric Harvey.

I bought it when it first came out in 2010, but after playing another in the series was not that inspired to play this one. However, a neat replay from Norm Smith (here) using the cut down simple version of the rules – “Quick Play” – made me break out the folder, get the map down on the table, cut the counters and get playing.

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The topic is the 1800 battle in Italy, which started with the French staring defeat in the face, and rescuing matters at the death in an amazing turnaround.

The components are a half standard sized map, less than 100 counters, a series rule book and battle rule book. The package comes in a colored cardboard folder (folio?). The physical quality is ok, but does not exactly grab me and demand to be played. The map is restrained. (I nearly said “boring”.) The counters are unimaginative, but clear. (I nearly said “boring”.) The rules are ok. However, while the system is simple enough, it’s noticeable that you need the errata to make the combat results work and get credible results. The play testing did not do Decision any favors.

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It plays quickly enough, and is easily doable solitaire. There were no major rules questions, though I wish I understood the thinking behind the terrain and the terrain effects chart. For a series aimed at accessible gaming, the number of exceptions in the terrain is ridiculous. To add insult to injury, why should the gamer have to look inside the battle rule book for the terrain rules about vineyards, for example? I want all that information easily and readily available. Bad stuff, Decision. Frankly, it looks thoughtless.

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This is the sort of gaming experience that leaves me underwhelmed. I would rate it highly as a bridge game to introduce new potential wargamers. But for this grognard, there was nothing to lift it above “average”.

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