David G. Cox Esq.
Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
Two-player Operational Simulation of the Waterloo Campaign
Designed by Lindsley Schutz & Tom Shaw
Published by The Avalon Hill Game Company (1962)
I started my wargaming with the Avalon Hill ‘classics’. Classics were a small range of Avalon Hill titles that used the same Combat Results Table (Stalingrad, D-Day, Afrika Korps and Waterloo). They had the advantage that the rules were very similar so learning one was very much like learning all of them, and the concepts that worked in one would also work in the others. One of the key aspects of the games was that if you could surround your opponents units and attack at 3:1 odds you would win that combat, every time.
I was not a fan of S.P.I games as I found them too complex for me (at that time) and I felt that the physical components of the Avalon Hill product made them a better purchase.
At the time I felt that Waterloo was probably the most interesting of the Avalon Hill ‘classics’. Nowadays I am unlikely to play it as the art and science of game design has progressed as to make Waterloo more an antique game than a serious simulation.
The map is rather bland but is at the same time quite functional. I have not closely compared the map to actual campaign maps but I suspect that it is not terribly accurate. For example, at the location of Mont St. Jean and Waterloo there are no ridges (despite the fact that the ridges played an important part in the outcome of the battle).
The counters are thickish and clear. Although there are artillery, infantry and cavalry units, apart from movement rates and strength factors there is no difference between units. The French have a total of 63 units and 193 strength points while the Anglo-allied army has 92 units and 237 strength points. All French units start on the board while the Anglo-allied units come on throughout the game. For some reason which I never did understand there are quite a few Head-quarters counters in the counter mix – they serve no purpose in the game and I have never played with them (they are there for historical purposes only).
One of the nice aspects of the game is the victory conditions. The French player wins by eliminating all enemy units – this is done via normal combat or by causing defections (for each French strength point that exits the board between two roads on the northern map-edge the Anglo-allied player must remove two strength points). The Anglo-allied player wins by avoiding the French victory conditions – or by eliminating all French units.
The victory conditions, the size and composition of the two armies and the map configuration all blend together to make a very interesting game with a lot of tension.
The Allied player uses cavalry (and other small units) to delay the French advance. The French player has choices regarding whether to advance units quickly and try to exit the northern map edge or make a slower advance and wipe out the enemies of France in a more concentrated manner.
I have seen games where victory is only one at the very end of the game due to the closeness of the situation. I have a clear recollection of two games of Waterloo I played consecutively against the same opponent. The French won both games – in the first game the French won quickly but had very few troops remaining. In the second game the French won on the last turn but had suffered very few losses. In both instances the Allies had a chance of winning – in the first game they came close to eliminating all the French units and in the second game the French only managed to destroy the last Anglo-allied unit on the last turn of the game (they nearly ran out of time).
The game goes for thirty turns and most turns represent two hours of real time. Between equally skilled and experienced players the game should last for around three and a half hours. The game represents five days of campaigning.
It actually is a quite good game, but it is a game. I find that most people who play wargames are interested in a certain level of simulation in the game and Waterloo no longer meets the needs of people wanting to simulate Waterloo. I doubt that I would ever again suggest a game of Waterloo, but if someone asked me to play my answer would be a resounding yes - or should that be 'oui'?
Just as an aside, I had sold my copy of Waterloo but earlier this year purchased another copy on eBay as part of a 'lot'. It turned out to be an original 1962 edition with really large box and CRT slide-rule. I will probably never play it again but nor will I ever sell it again either.
'The Game is afoot'
- Last edited Fri Oct 9, 2009 2:56 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Oct 9, 2009 12:56 am
Thanks David, for the great review and the flashback! I bought Waterloo and Stalingrad together in 1973. I had kept passing on these two classics for nearly a decade. But when I saw the pair on sale for about $5.00 it was a deal I couldn't pass up.
Before Waterloo, I knew almost nothing about Napoleonic history and had no interest. But Waterloo changed all that. I don't know why because as you point out, the map hardly even resembles the actual battlefield. Luckily, I didn't know enough to know that then! For some unknown reason, the game really grabbed me.
I played that game to death until 1975 when it was replaced by GDW's 1815: The Waterloo Campaign. A year later that game was replaced by SPI's Napoleon's Last Battles. But I owe Waterloo a lot!
Thanks for the REVIEW. I was 9. There were 3 channels on TV.
Soap operas and game shows. ... And then Avalon Hill came along and the day was saved. I always thought this was an interesting game because (1) you used the entire board (2) it was well balanced and (3) the Allies had to fight like heck to hold up the French steam roller without having too many losses and hope to hold out until the Prussians arrive. Not too B.A.D. for those days.
To me the key was for the Allies to make soak off attacks along with a good attack or two just to hold squares, say at Quatre Bras, just to hold up the French and bring the Prussians one turn closer.
I would like to "re-tread" this classic with common "bump and fire" rules and basic command rules. Not hard to do. A little moral, a little chit pull. (I mean you can assault when adjacent or just fire, of course the enemy gets to fires back in your turn, no freebies.)
Then work in as much or as little as you want. Column vs line, no problem. Just keep it simple.
Some small color disks (removable) punched out of "post-it" notes gives you color coded corps affiliation and a convenient place to record step losses and moral level.
Almost any fire table and more current CRT for assaults can be used.
You have as many or a few DRM as you want.
- Last edited Sun Jul 3, 2016 10:31 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sun Jul 3, 2016 10:22 am
I grew up on the "So Called" wargames of the 60's-1863,Combat,Convoy,Battlecry,Hit the Beach,Dog Fight,Broadsides etc.
Then in 1969 my Mother & I were in J.C.Penney of all places (I was 13)and there were sitting AH's Waterloo & Gettysburg. She got both for me and I started out with Gburg first then Waterloo. I was shocked when I saw that the W'loo dead pile for both sides had more counters in them then Gburg had total for the game. Yes those were the days. Right after that I would get 2 more AH games for X-Mas and 2 more for my birthday which was 3 wks later. But alas my Ah classics fell away to the wayside as Guidon,Conflict,SPI,GDW etc took their place for gaming fun.
But every once in awhile here the last few years (I'm 60 now)I dig out an old Ah classic and play it. And yes the W'loo '62 big box edition is a hoot( along with the Sgrad & Bismarck like it) and play again the games that got me truly into wargaming.
I created the board a year ago with the wonderful files of J. Cooper http://www.jrcooper.com/waterloo.htm and I played many times.
This was the first wargame ever played.
As a pure gamer with not much time and memory to learn rules and - moreover - with only a playmate or two who are not so fond of historical accuracy, I have to say that this game fits perfectly to me.
We have never enough of it...and when the final battle happens just at the right time and just near Waterloo wow...suuuuuuper coooool!!!
Definitely a great game, for everyone.