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Posted on Sep 30, 2008 in Boardgames

Jena 20 – Boardgame Review

By Larry Levandowski

Jena 20. Victory Point Games. Designed by Alan Emrich. $19.95

Passed Inspection: Fun, fast game play in a small package.

Failed Basic: High level focus sometimes obscures history.

Along with World War II and the American Civil War, Napoleonics inspire one of the most popular periods for wargames.

In late 1806, the Prussians decided to try their hand at toppling Napoleon from the throne of France. The result was a massive clash of the French and Prussian armies near two German towns, Jena and Auerstadt. In the course of a few days, the Little Corporal repeated his string of successes, and effectively destroyed the Prussian army.


This historic brawl over the Saale river is the theme for Jena 20, a board game published by Victory Point Games. Jena is the second offering built around Joe Miranda’s Napoleonic 20 system. The rule set features fast play, period flavor, and around 20 counters on the board. In Jena‘s case, each counter represents a corps, and each hex is around a 1000 meters. The board covers both battles of Jena and Auerstadt.

Like many Victory Point games, Jena comes in a compact zip-lock bag. The components themselves are colorful, of high quality, and the game is priced under $20. The eight-page system rules, and one page game rules, are well written, well organized and an easy read. The game system is between low and medium on the complexity scale. Players new to board gaming should have no problem picking up the concepts.

With only a handful of counters on the board, play moves quickly, and a full game can easily be finished in an hour or two. Jena is also a very portable game, well suited for taking along on a trip or for filling in time between classes.  The game’s footprint is small; a two-by-three-foot area is enough to satisfy even the expansive needs of the Little Corporal.

But just because it moves fast, Jena is not light in the game-play department. The rules bring in plenty of period flavor to keep a historic flow to combat, and include rules for cavalry countercharges, committing reserves, weather effects, rally after breaking, etc.

One rule with plenty of black-powder feel is morale. Each side’s morale rises and falls with events on the field. Break an enemy corps, your morale rises and the enemy’s falls. Commit your reserves and your morale falls. Go a turn without enemy contact and morale recovers. There are plenty of events that affect how your troops feel. In fact, one way to win in Jena is to drive the enemy’s morale to zero.

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  1. There are other games in this, the Napoleonic 20 series. If you have any questions that you’d like to ask the designer, you can reach me at:

    Alan Emrich

  2. The reviewer seemed to really know his stuff, both regarding great game mechanics and history. This is the type of balanced and fair reviews we haven’t seen since the days of Computer Gaming World in its heydey.