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Subject: Waterloo review by a old, grumpy wargamer rss

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Cezary Domalski
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Szczecin
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Inspired by review by non-wargamer i try to look at Waterloo from a different point of view. This an small review from an old grumpy grognard and almost pure wargamer
Enjoy reading !
Waterloo – much famous battle in history ? Probably. Much famous theme in wargaming ? Definately. Dozens of games about Waterloo – games with 20 pieces:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/34334
and Waterloo with zillion pieces:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/5508
Art and media? Sure !
You may watch Waterloo by Sergei Bondarchuk:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coanKVGuxtg
Or hear Waterloo by ABBA :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu1q17rUkVU

The phrase to "meet one's Waterloo" (or similar) has entered the English language as a word signifying a great test with a final and decisive outcome - usually a negative one, in recognition of Napoleon's defeat.
And now we may try figure that Martin Wallace, proud designer of many very good titles (for example Struggle of Empires, Perikles, After the Flood and many more) will meet his own Waterloo or not? Let’s see.
Design – lots of discussion about soldiers figures divided geeks. One says that is a eurowargame, because a true wargame is characterised by raw design, counters (or blocks) and nothing more. I asked why? Why don’t let put a wargame to a new dimension? And thay way went game designer.
I like game pieces – they put Waterloo into a 3D view, they are solid and transparent, easy to play. And gaves you an additional flavour – Napoleonic battlefields was the last battlefields, that was characterised by whole range of uniforms colors. Victor Hugo give to us in his “Miserables” most beautiful description of a Waterloo color armies – red British infantry, green jackets of German troops, blue line of French infantry, black and gray coats of Prussian troops. You will find this in a Wallace’s Waterloo. I love it, i enjoy it. Design build an universal climate of battle and gives us an breathe of history.
Beautiful map, divided into areas, portrays all important aspects and places of battle. We have three strongpoints – Hougoumont, La Haie Sainte, Papelotte/Smohain and other villages. Two rigde lines – most important one on Allies side, where Wellington deploys his troops to avoid brutal fire of French artillery. We have woods and streams on area that Prussian troops enters the battle.
Rules – easy to read, easy to learn. No doubts, no clarifications needed. In my cause, after first play i use only aid card in next plays.
Gameplay – Napoleonic battlefield in Wallace’s product divide troops into three service arms – infantry, cavalry and artillery. All have his own advantages and disadvantages. Infantry is irreplacable in assaults and defending of areas, is core of battle. On the other side infantry is vulnerable to cavalry charge and artillery fire. To avoid smashing by charging cavalryman infantry must try to form a square.
Cavalry – vulnerable to fire, devastating when charging infantry in moblie formation, useless against squares. Sometimes cavalry gets out of control through a cavalry control check. Especially Allied player must use cavalry wisely (which was showed historically in Somerset and Ponsonby charge).
Artillery – much advantages lies in their apropriate use. French player must challenge and choice between two solutions – soften enemy line and assault or assault and finish it with artillery fire and cavalry charges. Allied artillery – distributed between battalions and regiments don’t have same firepower as French, which is portrays by a negative modifier to fire. Waterloo battlefield was specific in terms of use artillery – French superior in guns was not used, that Wellington’s troop lies behind the ridge and sunken lane. And that we may find in game.
Activations tiles – creates unpredictability. We don’t now what number of activations we have (2 to 5), and we must plan our moves carefully, but often pays to take risks.
Action disks – simulates orders given to our troops. Brilliant solution. We activate area with use of coloured discs and make an action. This two aspects bring us liquidity of the game. We don’t sit and watch – we act in every turn, sequence and phase of the game.
Morale checks - another superb solution soved in simply way. Our losses, training, formation affects our possibility to stand ground or run away, or when we assault to success or failure of an attack. Cavalry vs cavalry fight little chaotic i think, but this is an simplifying that i adopt.
Damage cubes - simulates our losses. We may reinforce exhausted troops in a front line, but we must consider to keep an reserves behind first line troops.
Game in simply way shows all problems, that Army Commander has. Which kind of arm use? When? Where? What do our opponent? What he plans? A beautiful puzzle.
French troops has superior in numbers, but Allies has strong defensive position. Prussian reinforcements are on its way. Words of Wellington: “Night or Blucher” become a genuine expression. Battlefield is packed with guns, mens and horses (historical sources said, that Waterloo battlefield has twice more troop density that any other battle in Napoleonic era – over eight thousand men on a square kilometer). How to win, how to survive? Answer to this questions you will find in Martin Wallace “Waterloo”. Highly recommended.

Suggested reading:
Mark Adkin “Waterloo Companion” – most comprehensive book about Waterloo – when you have this, you will know everything about battle.
Phillip Haythornthwaite “Waterloo armies” – brings interresting look to tactics, equipment and uniforms of Waterloo armies.
Alessandro Barbero “The Battle” – well written monograph of Waterloo.
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Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
Pennsylvania
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Cezary, I appreciate the Grognard's view. My copy's in hand but work has prevented me from playing more than a few learning turns.

I agree wholeheartedly that a worthwhile wargame doesn't have to fit the traditional counters-or-blocks mold. Old biases sometimes hinder creative thinking and fresh experiences.

Also agree that "Waterloo Companion" is brilliant. I recently saw a "Gettysburg" book that looks to be done at the same level of detail.

Martin's 2010 two-player wargame will be on Gettysburg. It will not use the same system as "Waterloo" but I'm sure it, too, will be innovative and well worth playing.
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