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Dan Poole
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Waterloo is a Martin Wallace wargame, apparently his first. As everyone knows, he is best known for his heavier playing eurogames with relatively complex mechanics. Though I certainly have not played all of his games, I really enjoy Age of Steam (second edition, the only edition that matters). I also enjoy Tempus too, which seems to be one of his less loved games albeit more simple. I have a few others too. When I stumbled across Waterloo, I immediately became intrigued. Being a fan of Wallace games plus being a hybrid gamer, loving both wargames and euros, I had to get it immediately (impulse buying as usual).

Game Summary
Waterloo is a 9 turn game recreating the 1 day battle of Waterloo. Each game turn represents 1 hour. One player plays Napoleon’s French army. The other player plays the allies comprising mainly of the British. There are a few German units and a smattering of Dutch. As the game progresses, the Prussians will become available to the allies. The game starts off with a standard set up. In general the French start with more units and are on the offensive. The allies are mainly defensive though as the game progresses, the allies become stronger (thanks to extra available actions and the arrival of the Prussians) hence they will become more aggressive.

The Map

(image Ambrose)

The map is divided into areas; there are no hexes and no point-to-point movement boxes. There are various terrains which affect artillery fire LOS (line of sight) as well as impede cavalry charges. Certain terrain also helps/hinders unit defense and Morale Checks. Such terrain includes Woods, Towns, Strongholds, Rivers, Ridge Line, Sunken Road, Low Ground. Though there are roads on the map, these are not part of the game (except for the sunken road affecting artillery fire).

The Units

(image mr-mrholmes)
Infantry: Good for defense and good for protecting other units. Can soak up a lot of hits.
Upright: Mobile; may move/ assault.
On Side: Defensive bonuses apply; cannot move.
Cavalry: Good for Assaults. More mobile than infantry. More prone to damage.
Upright: Good order
On side: Tired (may never be placed upright again)
Artillery: Good for “softening up” assaults and other spaces in general. Can fore over distances.
Upright: Ready to fire
On side: May move, but cannot fire (exception: may fire defensively if area is assaulted)
Leaders: Allows 2 spaces rather than 1 to be activated.
Upright: ready to be activated.
On Side: cannot be used anymore this Action Round.

Game Components
This is a major plus for the game. The board is rock solid and is a huge reminder why I really don't love paper maps. The artwork on the board tastefully depicts the surrounding countryside.

The pieces are almost a selling point alone. The chunky wooden units look fantastic. In fact, all pieces are wood, even the off-board components. The dice are wood, though I actually prefer heavier dice.

Two player aids come with game, which summarize almost everything in the game. This is really really helpful to say the least.

The rule book is mostly clear, though I will say there are a few points that could have been explained a little better.

Game Play
Waterloo plays like a wargame for sure, though there are some "euro mechanics" tucked away under the hood for sure. Rather than tediously recreate the entire rule book in this review, I will summarize a game turn and summarize the Actions and key points only.

This is the outline of a game turn:
1. Retrieve Action Discs
2. Prussians
3. Skirmish Fire
4. Player Action Rounds
5. Formation Changes
6. Check for Victory
7. End of Turn


In summary most of the game play takes place in step 4. During the Action Rounds, a player gets to do a certain number of actions. Here’s the catch (euro mechanic #1): There is a bag of (nice wooden) tiles numbered 2 to 5 (2 of each number). Your opponent draws your tile and looks at it secretly. Then you start taking actions; when you reach your limit, your opponent will reveal the tile and let you know. So in essence you have to be careful because you don’t want to be left in a vulnerable position or be over-stacked at the end of your actions. This really makes grand tactical planning very risky because just as you are maneuvering for that huge assault, your actions may be cut short.

Here’s a brief overview of each of the above mentioned steps (steps 5-7 are self-evident and are thusly omitted):

1. Retrieve Action Discs: These Action disks all become available (see below). Note the allies start out with less Action Discs than the French. However about half way through the game (4 pm), the allies get a number of extra disks that will then equal the French.

2. Prussians: A line of Prussians are set up off map along the edge of the board. Starting at 3pm, the allies will roll and an allotted number of Prussians will come into play. Note these Prussians come in depending on their place in the line. So if you roll a "4", the first 4 Prussians in the line come into their entry zone. Note: Prussians are really, really bad for the French. Due to their entry zones, they can easily flank the French if they are not careful.

3. Skirmish Fire: This is quick and easy. All allied then all French infantry units adjacent to enemy spaces will roll a d6. Any "6" will cause damage. Note there are no modifiers.

4. Player Action Rounds: As mentioned above, a player has between 2-5 sequential Actions available depending on the value of the tile drawn by the opponent (this is known as an Action Round). Artillery and Infantry may change positions for free prior to the onset an Action Round. To perform an Action, you "pay" a green disc. You quit taking actions when the limit is reached or if there are no discs left. At that point, you draw a tile for your opponent who then takes his allotted actions. When he is done, he will draw another tile and then you start another Action Round, assuming there are discs remaining to pay for the actions. This goes back and forth until all the discs are spent. Note that the tiles are immediately put back into the bag as soon as they are used, so all tiles are in the bag every time a tile is drawn.

Also note that when you get to do another Action Round (i.e., your opponent pulls a tile out of the bag), all your spent leaders are turned upright and can thus be used again.

The Disks: Most disks are green, which can be used to performed any action. There are a few red and purple disks too. These must be used exclusively for the Assault and Reserve Movement actions respectively. So for an Assault, you can use either a green or red disc for example.

The Player Actions

I. Close Contact Movement: Activate 1 space. All units in the space may move. They do not have to move together. They cannot end turn in an enemy space. Infantry and artillery move 1, Cavalry may move 2, Leaders may move3. Note infantry must be upright (mobile) and artillery must be on side (limbered) to move.

II. Reserve Movement: Same as above but movement rate is doubled. However, units may not end turn in or adjacent to enemy spaces.

Note Stacking limits: At the end of an Action Round, a space is over-stacked if it has more than 3 units. Leaders don’t count, but same colored leaders cannot occupy the same space. A space can remain over-stacked, but damage to the units will occur.

III. Fire Artillery: All upright artillery in one area will fire. Usually you roll 1 d6 per cannon, though 6 times during the game the French may use the Grand Battery, which is 2d6 per cannon. Target preference is infantry, then cavalry then Artillery. Note artillery can fire up to 3 spaces away and modifiers may apply.

IV. Assault: This occurs when units enter an enemy area. Note artillery may not be part of an assault, though the defender may fire his artillery if present. This is a relatively complex process which at first may seem a little confusing. However, it is played out step by step which makes it easy to follow:

a) Defensive artillery fire: Target preference: Infantry then cavalry.
b) Cavalry vs. Cavalry: This will result in only one side having any cavalry left in the space
c) Infantry vs. Infantry: This is 2 rounds. If there are still infantry units of both sides remaining, then all attacking infantry units must withdraw.
d) Cavalry vs Infantry: Note this can mean the either attacking cavalry vs. defender infantry OR defender cavalry vs. the attacker’s infantry depending on how things turned out. After this step, there will either be one side’s cavalry OR one side’s infantry remaining in the space (plus or minus defender’s artillery).
e) Cavalry vs. Artillery: If Assaulting cavalry present, defender artillery must place 1 Damage Cube on each artillery (more on Damage Cubes later).
f) Infantry vs Artillery: If Assaulting infantry present, defender must eliminate all his artillery (ouch!).
g) Cavalry Control Check: Any cavalry in the space must roll to see if their cavalry units assault an adjacent space.

Notes:
- Cavalry cannot Assault into certain terrains: woods, towns, rivers, strongholds
- Cavalry will decimate infantry if they are not in a defensive position. Defensive infantry automatically go into a square formation, which does significantly help.
- Never leave leaders or artillery unprotected.
- It is generally good to have a combined force to assault or defend with; Infantry can soak up hits, cavalry are tired after their first hit and eliminated after their second hit.
- Use terrain wisely!!

V. Change Formation: Pay a green action disc to change formations of any infantry and/or artillery. Note: Units (not leaders) CAN perform actions more than once per Action Round.

VI. Reinforce: Move a single Damage Cube to an adjacent space containing friendly infantry unit(s).

VII. Do Nothing: To pass, you must pay an Action disc. Green if available; red/purple if all greens are spent.


Other Important Concepts:

Leaders
Activating a leader allows a player to activate either 2 spaces or the same space twice. The activated spaces must either be adjacent to the leader or contain the leader. Each activation can be for a different action if a geen disc is used. The leader will then be placed on its side to denote that it cannot be used further that Action Round. They will howver become available at the beginning of every subsuequent Action Round, even within the same turn.

Damage Cubes:
This is euro mechanic #2 (it does involve cubes after all!!). Damage cubes are applied to spaces with infantry and possibly artillery. Cavalry never are assigned Damage Cubes. These Damage Cubes are only assigned to infantry when they attack, make a Morale Check or Move/Retreat. After they perform one of the above, they are then "unassigned" though will be reassigned when one of the above is performed again. An infantry can hold up to 5 Damage Cubes; a sixth will eliminate it. Thus a space with 2 infantry units can hold up to 10 Damage Cubes. The eleventh will eliminate one of them (since it is implied one has to have 6 cubes). When an infantry unit is eliminated (for whatever reason), all its assigned Damage Cubes are removed from the area. Assigning Damage cubes to an infantry unit will make it less effective in combat and will make it more prone to retreat/elimination during Morale Checks.

Morale Checks
Infantry units must make Morale Checks during Assaults during steps c) and/or d). Results of a Morale Check are no effect, retreat or elimination. The more Damage Cubes an infantry has assigned to it, the worse it will do with a Morale Check.

Victory
- The French win if they occupy Mont St. Jean or if inflicted 13 allied non-Prussian casualties.
- The Allies win if they occupy Rossomme or if inflicted 16 or more French casualties.
- If the last turn ends before any of the above conditions are met, then the player who inflicted the most casualties wins (note: the French must inflict at least 13 non Prussian casualties.

My Overall Ratings

Theme 9: I definitely feel like the theme is well-represented in this game. Despite some abstract concepts, this is definitely not a "pasted-on" theme.

Mechanics 9.5: I really like how all the abilities of the pieces come together. I like the Action Tiles, making it unclear how many actions each player gets. I like the concept of the Damage Cubes. Overall, the game play is very smooth once things start making sense.

Strategy 8.5: There is definitely much strategy and tactics, but luck plays a factor due to dice rolls as well as the action tile draw. However, this luck factor is what makes this game very exciting to me.

Rulebook 8.5: Mostly well-written, but a few points were a little unclear.

Aesthetics/Components 10: I love everything from the board to the bits and even the box. The player aids are very well organized.

Overall Fun Factor: 9
I really like this game a lot. The mechanics are quite novel. I really like the uncertainty of not knowing how many actions you get each action round. There are fairly complex interactions between units, which allows for a more interesting, rich gaming experience ( Memoir '44 for example being the anathema of this concept). Though the game is seemingly complex at first, it flows remarkably well. The player aids really do help. As the game is played, concepts will start making more sense. In comparison to most euro games, this is complex, though compared to most wargames, I would put the complexity somewhere above Hammer of the Scots and below Combat Commander: Europe. In case anyone is wondering, it is more complex than Bonaparte at Marengo (another great game) and plays completely differently. I also really like the components as well as the board and box. It is all tastefully done. I can’t wait to see the next one in the line up, Gettysburg.

Who would like this game?- Wargamers (though perhaps not hard-core grognards)
- Gamers who love games with complex interactions (and don’t mind wargames or games with a moderate amount of rules)
- This makes a great husband and wife game, if each like cutthroat games

Who would not this game?
- Those who don’t like:
- wargames
- 2-player only games
- more complex games
- nasty, confrontational games
- longer lasting games (takes 2-3 hours, but this I think this will shorten as familiarity with the game grows.


My final word is: I love it and hopefully it will hit the table fairly often. It is truly a unique game. Thanks for reading my humble review.

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Barry Kendall
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Good clear review. One of my regular gaming friends and I finally got this one going this past Saturday--first non-solo run.

Ran out of time before concluding, but the available playing time was enough to convince us that this is one of the best Waterloo games ever published. While you won't be able to follow the Black Watch around the field or see whether Sgt. Ewart captures the colors of the Forty-fifth of the Ligne, you'll have a very good feel for the ebb and flow, the exhausting grind, the pressure of Prussian buildup, the careful timing required for combined-arms attacks and counterattacks, and the tense struggles for La Haye Saint and Chateau Hougoumont.

You'll learn to manage reserves, juggle your Guard assets, and yes, launch the Union Brigade (and probably watch them ride on into the French guns and ultimate oblivion). Well, it's not the Union Brigade per se, but it is red cavalry and they can run over people if the circumstances are right.

The uncertain number of impulses available (only your opponent knows when you'll have to "stop") insures that you'll be constantly prioritizing efforts and wrestling with the question of how much to gamble.

I can see us wearing the paint off the pieces with this one. Simply brilliant. My only reservation has to do with the benefit bestowed by the Sunken Lane--Napoleonic infantry (except for Rifles and other skirmishers) tended to form BEHIND, not IN, such features; perhaps the benefit represents solid shot rolling into, rather than sailing over, the Lane).

One thing--it's my understanding from something Martin wrote that the Gettysburg game will not use the same system. It appears that a prominent feature of the G'burg game will be "Orders" pieces which might serve to commit formations (Divisions? Corps?) to certain courses of action.

That sounds a lot like Gettysburg to me. If Martin does anything like as well as he has with Waterloo, it will be another Essential Preorder for me.

Thanks for the solid review and Hats Off to Martin Wallace.
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Jacob Lee
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Thanks for the review. I'm not someone who "doesn't like" wargames - I just haven't played them. Would you say this is a good one to start with?
 
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Dan Poole
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Quote:
Would you say this is a good one to start with?


Hmmmm, its not terribly complex, especially compared to other wargames. Nonetheless, there is a learning curve, especially when not familiar with typical wargame concepts, such as Line of Sight, Morale Checks etc. I personally think it is a good starter wargame because anything much simpler becomes too watered down. As I mentioned above. Hammer of the Scots is probably a littler easier, yet it is also a really wonderful game. It also depends on what era you are interested (Pre-gunpowder, WWII, Civil War, Napoleonic etc.) and what level. By this I mean the scale of the game....Strategic level means the whole world is involved (or at least a sizeable chunk of it), such as Axis & Allies verses Tactical level where everything is on a smaller level (i.e., you actually move things in the woods or in a building) such as Combat Commander: Europe. Operational level is somewhere in between, like Rommel in the Desert.

Anyways, if you are interested in the theme, era and scale....i.e, Napoleon, Early Gunpowder, and Tactical and you are willing to dive into the rules, and of course if you have an equally interested opponent, then I would say give it a go
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David G. Cox Esq.
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EmperorJacob wrote:
Thanks for the review. I'm not someone who "doesn't like" wargames - I just haven't played them. Would you say this is a good one to start with?


While it is a good game, I would not recommend it as an introductory game. There is a lot of subtlety to the game and if it is the first wargame you play you may just sit and look at it and think, "now what do I do?"

If you are looking for a good introductory game I would be more inclined to recommend either A House Divided or War of 1812. Both are more intuitive than Waterloo, in my opinion.
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David Witzany
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voynix wrote:
In summary most of the game play takes place in step 4. During the Action Rounds, a player gets to do a certain number of actions. Here’s the catch (euro mechanic #1): There is a bag of (nice wooden) tiles numbered 2 to 5 (2 of each number).
...
4. Player Action Rounds:...Note that the tiles are immediately put back into the bag as soon as they are used, so all tiles are in the bag every time a tile is drawn.

If you put the tile back in the bag each time, why do you need more than one of each tile value?
 
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Jacob Lee
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Thanks for your opinions. Unless it's considered one of the best war games of all time as well as being a good introduction to war games, I probably won't venture paying $60 to try it out. But I'll have to keep it on my radar for now.
 
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Dan Poole
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Quote:
If you put the tile back in the bag each time, why do you need more than one of each tile value?


Another post addressed this very question. The response was that it helped keep things a bit mixed up in case there are some irregularities on the tiles.
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Peter Asimakis
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Dear voynix,

Thank you for your fantastic review. It is a really good summary of the game.
One hopefully helpful correction, artillery can move during Close Contact Movement whether upright or on their side.

Irini Pasi,

PLB.
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Dan Poole
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Quote:
Thank you for your fantastic review. It is a really good summary of the game.
One hopefully helpful correction, artillery can move during Close Contact Movement whether upright or on their side.


Thank you for your kind words. I meant artillery must be turned on its side after it moves. I should have been more clear.
 
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Mary Weisbeck
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Thanks, Dan. Great summation of the rules, and it was helpful to hear your opinion as a fan of both Euros and war games. You've convinced me to put this on my want list.
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Michael Ornelles
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The area where the sunken lane was located was thick with mud during the battle. Round shot fired into that area would not bounce or roll causing additional casualities as it would on dry ground. Perhaps this defensive feature is why the bonus exists there.
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Craig Hebert
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The prices I'm seeing are very high for this game and seem to only get higher. Of course, its a limited and signed game .
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Coen Velden
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JacquesDeMolay wrote:
The prices I'm seeing are very high for this game and seem to only get higher. Of course, its a limited and signed game .


Does that mean this isn't going to be reprinted?
I wanted to order it, but it seems to be out of stock....everywhere!
I'm a "Eurogamer", and have never ever played a wargame before.
(Unless you count Memoir '44 as a wargame).
Hex & counters never really appealed to me, but the wooden units look great.
Yesterday I ordered "A house divided", and I wanted to order "Waterloo" also, but I just can't find it anywhere.

Tips, anyone?

 
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Mats Blohmé
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Coenst wrote:
JacquesDeMolay wrote:
The prices I'm seeing are very high for this game and seem to only get higher. Of course, its a limited and signed game .


Does that mean this isn't going to be reprinted?
I wanted to order it, but it seems to be out of stock....everywhere!
I'm a "Eurogamer", and have never ever played a wargame before.
(Unless you count Memoir '44 as a wargame).
Hex & counters never really appealed to me, but the wooden units look great.
Yesterday I ordered "A house divided", and I wanted to order "Waterloo" also, but I just can't find it anywhere.

Tips, anyone?



You could try to get hold of Wallace's Gettysburg which should appear any day now. They will be similar but unless I've misunderstood this game will be a little bit easier than Waterloo.
 
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Coen Velden
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Dubbelnisse wrote:
Coenst wrote:
JacquesDeMolay wrote:
The prices I'm seeing are very high for this game and seem to only get higher. Of course, its a limited and signed game .


Does that mean this isn't going to be reprinted?
I wanted to order it, but it seems to be out of stock....everywhere!
I'm a "Eurogamer", and have never ever played a wargame before.
(Unless you count Memoir '44 as a wargame).
Hex & counters never really appealed to me, but the wooden units look great.
Yesterday I ordered "A house divided", and I wanted to order "Waterloo" also, but I just can't find it anywhere.

Tips, anyone?



You could try to get hold of Wallace's Gettysburg which should appear any day now. They will be similar but unless I've misunderstood this game will be a little bit easier than Waterloo.


Thanks for your tip, Last month I contacted Martin Wallace personally (Warfrog/Treefrog email), asked them if they're gonna reprint Waterloo.
Then Julia (Wallace) told me they still had two (yes, 2!) copies of it hidden somewhere in their warehouse (These were HER own words ). So I ordered one immediately, and while I was waiting for it, I preordered Gettysburg in Germany.
I didn't play Waterloo yet, because like I said before, I'm not a wargamer....yet, and have some trouble with the rules. Soon I'll have more time to concentrate fully on this Napoleonic game, and after that, I'm willing to try to change the American Civil War whistle.
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