Napoleon's Imperium unleashed Posted on 5 Aug 20:38 , 0 comments

Our latest joint project with Compass Games is Napoleon's Imperium, a grand strategic game of the Napoleonic Wars. The designer, Andrew Rowland (no relation...I think), tells us a bit about it.


Napoleon's Imperium is an introductory wargame for 2-8 players set in the Napoleonic era. Its rules are simple, and its mechanics abstract to ensure a fun, easy-to-play experience. At its heart, it is a game -- not a textbook-perfect simulation on the Napoleonic Wars.


Napoleon's Imperium comes with a base alliance of eight empires. The Alliance has been designed for a North vs. South scenario, and it allows each player to be conveniently located next to an allied player. This alliance is also designed so that players can potentially play all 18 years that Napoleon's Imperium covers, from 1798 to 1815.

The game incorporates historical elements through the use of 160 battle cards. These cards, which are based on historical occurrences, introduce random events and bring the element of chance into the game. Battle cards can have positive (34%), negative (45%) or neutral (10%) effects.

There are 780 counters to play with divided up into units of Artillery, Infantry, Cavalry, Fleets, Spy’s, Commanders, and some special units such as Rifles and Camels. These are complimented by 8 Empire Reference Charts, 60 Battle Point Cards, player aids and a 40-page full colour Rule Book.


The huge paper map of 34 x 44 Inches is a magnificent spectacle but is not overly detailed in its layout of borders and territory names. As there were so many territorial changes via battles and treaties over the course of the Napoleonic Wars, it is impossible to have one set map representing all years. But it is very recognizably Napoleonic. 


Future expansions will include historical scenarios that involve each of the seven coalitions of the Napoleonic Wars, so players will experience different alliances. I have been working on these for over twelve months, and they will be easy add-on supplements that will expand the game and may help satisfy those looking for stricter adherence to Napoleonic history.

For instance, Napoleon's Imperium starts with an alliance of France, Spain, Austria and the Ottoman Empire versus the British, Prussian, Russian and the Nordic Nations. This will change with the first of the supplements: The War of the Second Coalition. This first supplement will pit France, Spain and the Nordic Nations (excluding Sweden) against the British, Austrian, Russian and Ottoman empires. (Prussia was excluded from the Second Coalition Alliance as they stayed neutral.) The scenario is limited to the actual years of the alliance, and the game uses only those battle cards and combat modifiers that pertain to those years. 

Origin of the game

Napoleon's Imperium has walked a vastly different development path than other traditional wargames: It started its life in New South Wales, Australia, in the 1990s as a corporate team-building tool.

It was a large game with over a thousand individual hand-painted and handmade playing pieces sourced from all over Europe. A custom-made table was designed specifically for the game. It measured 2.5 metres round and was beautifully constructed using Tasmanian oak with hundreds of brass inlays and wooden teak counters.

The table seated eight players and two umpires, each of whom had a custom-made wooden playing console with a built-in, brass-handled drawer to accommodate the playing pieces.

The game and its table travelled by truck to various conference venues and business houses in the state.

I kept the mechanics of the game simple because I wanted participants – most of whom were corporate executives who had never played a wargame before – to focus their energy on teamwork and strategy instead of on rules. Even as the game evolved over the years, the mechanics remained simple so that Napoleon’s Imperium would appeal to a wider audience.

Why the Napoleonic Period?

I have always had a love for history. But it was a holiday in the USA in 1981 that sparked my interest in the “Age of Musket and Sail.” My parents took me, a teenager at the time, to visit Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, where I purchased a replica of the Declaration of Independence. For the next five years, I would concentrate all of my history studies on the American War of Independence.

It wasn't until I was in my early 20s that my love for the Napoleonic period really ignited. In Brisbane, Australia, I met Peter Cross, a gentleman who hosted Napoleonic war games involving thousands of magnificently painted 28mm metal soldiers. I soon got hooked, painting models and researching everything about the era.

The Napoleonic period fascinates me because it was a time of revolutionary change -- militarily, economically, and politically. And it was a time that provided some of the most spectacular examples of battle tactics, leadership, and governmental innovation. That made it a perfect period from which to draw examples and inspiration for corporate training. And what can beat the sheer spectacle of magnificently uniformed armies facing off under the thunder of cavalry and the smoke of muskets and cannons?

Fast forward to today

Today I work in local government, managing community centres and community buildings. I work with diverse people and cultures, and I am passionate about connecting people. Napoleon’s Imperium and its game table have always been an excellent tool for this, attracting crowds and promoting fascination and conversation around war games and the age of Napoleon in general. 

So, consider Napoleon's Imperium an "appetizer" to the Napoleonic era – and the perfect way to introduce your regular nongaming mates to the genre of historical wargames. It won't bog you down in complexity, and it will whet your appetite for Napoleonic history and gaming! 

Andrew Rowland - Designer

Game History and unboxing:
Napoleon’s Imperium game playthrough: