Normally, Ted Raicer designs hard core hex and counter wargames such as The Dark Valley: East Front Campaign, 1941-45, The Dark Sands: War in North Africa, 1940-42 and The Dark Summer: Normandy ,1944. These games are fantastic experiences that are true wargames. But, he also has an eclectic side to him and has been designing a game that is described as a historical role-playing card game called I, Napoleon. We reached out to Ted and he was very fast in responding to our request for an interview on the design.

*Note: The pictures and game art used in this interview, and pictures showing any of the various components and cards, are still in design and are intended to be illustrative at this point. Also remember that rules might still change prior to final development and publication.

Grant: What is your new design I, Napoleon about?

Ted: The game puts you in the footsteps of Napoleon Bonaparte starting in 1793 and allows you to recreate his astounding career, better it, or fail miserably, perhaps dying by a stray shell in your first campaign.

Grant: What is your definition of a historical role-playing card game?

Ted: Ardwulf has said I, Napoleon isn’t a role-playing game and I’ll defer to him on that, but it is certainly a game where you are cast in the role of a single historical individual rather than say, France.

Grant: This is a very different game from your other hex and counter or card driven chit pull games. What challenges did you have in changing your paradigm to design this one?

Ted: The hardest part of the design was simply deciding how far outside his biography I would allow the player as Bonaparte to wander. And the answer-in part dictated by having “only” 220 cards, was not that far. Napoleon will not become a scientist or a gardener (both of which he had both interest and aptitude). Nor will he escape to the United States to start a new career there. Your goal is to become Emperor of France. But how you get there-if you get there-and exactly what transpires then are up for grabs.

Grant: What was your inspiration for the game?

Ted: I was mainly inspired by Clash of Arms Games’ Legion of Honor, which is a card game that followed an ordinary soldier starting out as a young sergeant or sous-lieutenant trying to make it in life beginning in 1792 and leading through the period of the Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars. I asked myself, But what if that soldier was Napoleon?

Grant: What is your design goal with the game?

Ted: Well first of all for the players to have fun. Beyond that, I wanted the player to see how improbable Napoleon’s story was, and how easily it could have progressed and ended differently.

Grant: What has the experience of working with Ken Kuhn as developer been? What talents has he brought to the table?

Ted: Ken has been an excellent Developer on the project, keeping me in the loop while not being afraid to suggest changes to the game. Most of all he has known how to filter out what is useful from what is not in playtesting.

Grant: How are cards used in the design to move the story of a young Napoleon along?

Ted: Cards ARE the game. Some cards are skills you can use in Battle or otherwise, some are decisions you have to make, and some are things that just happen to you that you have to deal with. I, Napoleon is in the end a card game, not a card-driven game. The cards are used to directly affect the course of the game or to affect the play of other cards, not to move, fight, or rebuild units as in say, Paths of Glory. (Which, as an aside, I have heard good things about.) The cards aren’t the engine, they are the game. 

Grant: I understand players can start as Commander, as First Consul, or as Emperor. What is the advantage of this choice and does it change the length of the game?

Ted: Yes, the length of the game varies: if you start as Commander you start in 1793, as First Consul in 1800, and as Emperor in 1805. The starting points allow you to experience Napoleon’s life from various positions of power (or otherwise in 1793). But you could also play just as Commander or First Consul for very short games. This game is very modular and can be played in any of several ways.

Grant: What are the challenges with each of the starting situations?

Ted: Well if you start in 1793 you are just a junior officer, with a long way to climb and many more chances to fall. As First Consul you are plunged immediately into an ongoing war that started while you were in Egypt. As Emperor you have more or less absolute power but almost all of Europe is against you.

Grant: What are the three types of cards used in the game?

Ted: Oh there are more than three types, though each of the three “ranks” (Commander, First Consul, Emperor) has its own deck of cards. In those decks there are cards for Campaigns, political events, Napoleon’s personal life, diplomacy, strategy and tactics, Napoleon’s generals, the actions of foreign powers, and just plain random events.

Grant: What is the anatomy of these cards?

Ted: Cards tell you whether they start the scenario already in play (and are usually assigned to an appropriate box on the map), any cost in Glory, Political, or Administrative costs to use them, any gain in Glory, etc. from their use, and then either a completely random event (generally resolved with a die roll) or some decision the player has to make.

Besides its title, illustration, and number, each card includes a section at the bottom left indicating when it is added to the game (usually, but not always when its Deck enters play) and one on the bottom right indicating if and under what circumstances the card is removed from the game. Cards can be removed When Played (WP) or when the next Deck enters play, or at certain dates, or as a result of the play of other cards. Many cards list a name  (for example Current Campaign or Austria or Napoleon’s Bed) which indicates what type of card it is and where the card is placed on the game board when drawn. Some cards note that the card is automatically placed and available when it enters play, rather than shuffled into the current cards available to be drawn. Some cards are never placed but simply played and discarded (to be reshuffled into play later). Some cards are removed from the game but others will recycle through the game indefinitely. 

Grant: Can you share with us a few examples of each type of card and tell us how they are used?

Ted: Well there are too many card types to go through them all here, but for example, Napoleon may draw a Campaign against foreign power or powers which will be placed in the Current Campaign box and resolved at the end of the (mostly) yearly turn. During the turn he may draw other cards that will affect the resolution of that campaign, and then during Campaign resolution he will choose from among his available commanders (people like Davout or Murat) and add in any relevant Strategy and Tactics cards to add DRM’s to the Campaign resolution die roll. The result may be a defeat, a bloody defeat, a stalemate, a bloody stalemate, a victory or a blood victory. If the result is a stalemate the Campaign continues into another round. A defeat will generally force Napoleon to defend France, while a victory will usually allow him to impose a Peace Treaty. Defeats and Bloody battles hurt Napoleon’s popularity at home, which if it gets too low will lead to him being toppled.

Grant: What does the board show?

Ted: The game board consists of a map of Revolutionary and Napoleonic Europe (a map redrawn many times between 1793 and 1815, so representative only). The map is frankly background historical color. What matters are the various Card Boxes overlaid on (or adjacent to) the map, where cards are kept and sorted. For example, the Polish Question Box holds cards from the Emperor Deck related to the fate of Poland (and a potential Imperial mistress) while the Austria Box holds Austrian generals and events. Most importantly the Current Campaign Box holds any major military campaign to be resolved at the end of the turn, as well as all the cards that can affect its outcome (Oh no-the enemy has an advantage in artillery and is defending behind a river!). 

Grant: What are the Potential sections (Potential Treaties and Potential Campaigns) on the right side of the board for?

Ted: For card placement-we couldn’t fit everything on the board without totally covering the map.

Grant: How does diplomacy work in the game? What advantages to players gain from building alliances?

Ted: Other nations are either enemies of France, neutral, or allied to France. Diplomacy points are used to affect die rolls that move nations towards being enemies. The more enemies you have at one time, the harder it is to win a campaign, but sometimes in pursuit of Glory you will want an enemy to fight, and you can tear up treaties to do so.

Grant: How can these alliances change?

Ted: By die roll or card effect or by winning campaigns and playing treaties.

Grant: What are Treaties and how do they effect the game?

Ted: Treaties generally get you points of various kind, as well as remove an enemy nation. There are only a limited number, so for example if you have no treaty that allows you to make Peace with, say, Prussia, you must conquer it instead, which will cost you unrest at home because conquests require garrisons. (The actual garrisons-indeed the armies-are not directly represented by counters in the game.)

Grant: What are you most pleased about with the design?

Ted: I think it has a lot of re-playability. Arrested and executed by Robespierre? Start again. Your coup attempt fail? Better luck next time. Assassinated by British agents? Oh well. Defeat Russia-no exile for you!

Grant: What has been the response of playtesters?

Ted: Generally very favorable, especially as rules changes gave players more decisions and trade-offs to make.

Grant: What other designs are you working on?

Ted: Three Dark/Deadly games, covering the East Front at one-map corps/army level, the Northwest Europe campaign of 44-45 from Cobra to the Ruhr, and the Pacific Theater in WWII. But if I, Napoleon is a hit  there will be a follow-up design. I, George Washington? ,I FDR? I, Elizabeth I? I’m pondering.

Thanks Ted for your time in answering our questions. This one was a bit more challenging to put questions together for, as I just don’t fully get the concept or execution but after your answers I feel like this one is going to one that I truly enjoy.

If you are interested in I, Napoleon, you can pre-order a copy for $49.00 from the GMT Games website at the following link: