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Board Game: Napoleon at Waterloo
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Subject: N@W - A Gateway Wargame And A Comparitive Review rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
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Napoleon At Waterloo

Board Game: Napoleon at Waterloo

Two-player Simulation of The Battle of Waterloo, July 1815.
Introductory Level Wargame
Designed by James F. Dunnigan
Published by Simulations Publications, Inc. (1971)


This review looks at one of the grand-daddies of wargaming, Jim Dunnigan's Napoleon At Waterloo. It was originally published with a flat tray and later reprinted with more colour and a smaller map as part of a giveaway introductory package. The two editions are basically identical - the larger map had a lot of hexes where nothing was ever going to happen apart from tourists sitting down to a picnic to watch the battle. As it is a introductory-style game I have made the decision to make comparisons between Napoleon At Waterloo (S.P.I.), Basic Training (Jedko), The Drive on Metz (GMT) and Target Arnhem (MMP).

Napoleon At Waterloo is a ‘Gateway’ Simulation Wargame

What is a ‘Gateway’ Game? – in simple terms, it is a game that is suitable for introducing people who are unfamiliar with games to the hobby. It should, in a perfect world, be simple enough to learn quickly and easily. At the same time it should have sufficient complexity to be interesting. It should be fun. Personally, I think that it should also look attractive. They are often small games that are given away as a means of promoting the wargame hobby.

What is a Simulation Wargame? – Simulation wargames differ from many other types of games because they are trying to recreate a historical situation in some way or to create a situation that could occur sometime in the future. They normally have a military focus that involves direct conflict between opposing forces.

Board Game: Napoleon at Waterloo

Napoleon At Waterloo (1971): originally published in 1971 with a drab monochrome map, it also had a second set of counters and rules to make the basic game more complex. It was republished by S.P.I. in 1981 with a smaller, more-colourful map. I personally have played it many times and would be unlikely, at any time, to turn down a game. It is a superb game that has simple rules without being overly simplistic. It has excellent production quality.

Size of Map: 28cm x 43 cm (23 hexes x 17 hexes).
Number of Counters: 18 Anglo-Allied and 16 Prussian against 39 French counters – no stacking of units.
Pages of Rules: 4 pages of rules plus heaps of pages of information.
Number of Turns: 10 turns.
Time to Play: no longer than 60 minutes.

Board Game: Basic Training

Basic Training (1975): originally published by S.P.I. as Strike Force One, it was later reprinted by Jedko under the name Basic Training. The game is overly simple and would not warrant repeated plays. It does a good job of introducing the basic concepts of wargaming. The production values are extremely cheap.

Size of Map: 21 cm x 30 cm (9 hexes x 8 hexes) – half of the space is map and the other half is charts.
Number of Counters: 6 Japanese against 4 Australians – thin cardboard that you cut out using scissors – I use plastic soldiers from Risk.
Pages of Rules: 3 pages of rules and 2 illustrated pages of examples.
Number of Turns: 4 turns.
Time to Play: 10 minutes tops.

Board Game: Target Arnhem: Across 6 Bridges

Target Arnhem (2005)
This is actually quite a sohpisticated wargame that just happens to have a small map and a small number of units. The use of supply rules, stacking and multiple impulses where some units can't move make this more than an introductory game in my opinion.

Size of Map: 28 cm x 43 cm (16 hexes x 6).
Number of Counters: 32 German counters against 17 Allied counters (the counters are 5/8” – larger than in the other games mentioned in this review) – stacking is allowed.
Pages of Rules: 2 pages.
Number of Turns: 9 turns.
Time to Play: 90 minutes.

Board Game: The Drive On Metz (second edition)

Drive On Metz (2008)
It looks, feels and smells just like a real wargame. There is no chrome but there are some interesting choices to be made as you play.

Size of Map: 28 cm x 43 cm (12 hexes by 11) – half of the space is map and the other half is charts.
Number of Counters: 11 German counters against 10 American counters – no stacking of units.
Pages of Rules: 5 pages of S.P.I. style rules.
Number of Turns: 7
Time to Play: 30 minutes.

Complexity & Gateways

There are several ways that a wargame can be complex. It can have a lot of rules OR it can have lots of counters OR units can have high movement rates OR the map can be quite large – any of these can cause a person playing a game to have a lot of data to process and this makes the decision making process complicated. The more things you have to think about before moving a piece (and the more pieces that you have to move) the more complicated the game is. Ideally, ‘Gateway’ games don’t give the players as many decisions to make as other simulation wargames. The problem for the designer is that while making the decision making process easier, the decisions should still have a bearing on the outcome of the game and should contribute to the interest and fun of the game.


Basic Training – least complex due to the smallest number of turns, smallest number of counters, standard movement rates and combat strengths for all units, differential combat result table and no combat modifiers.

The Drive on Metz – move complex as there are more units. Terrain will impact upon movement and combat. There are multiple ways to achieve victory. The Germans gain points for eliminating enemy units, for exiting units off the western map edge, for withdrawing SS units on the eastern edge and for keeping U.S. units west of the River Moselle. The U.S. achieve points for exiting units off the eastern edge, for occupying towns and for being on the eastern side of the River Moselle.

Napoleon At War – more complex due to a larger map giving more movement options. Artillery units are allowed to bombard and combat modifiers. There are many options regarding how to arrange attacks. On the simplistic side, there is no stacking which makes things easier. Also, units in contact with enemy units are held in place until someone is eliminated or retreats. This certainly reduces a lot of movement options once units engage.

Target Arnhem – very complex due to stacking, supply rules, multiple tactical impulses (mechanize units are the only ones allowed to move during the third impulse) and combat modifiers. Personally, I don’t really see Target Arnhem as a ‘gateway’ game at all – there is just too much in the game.


Basic Training – least attractive – it looks and feels cheap.

Napoleon At War – the game shows its age. The counters are fairly basic, although much better than Basic Training. The map is attractive but looks a touch cluttered.

TDOM – it has been released in 2008 and it looks modern – nice counters and a nice map. It is graphically very appealing.

Target Arnhem – this is one good looking game – if she was a women I would certainly ask her out on a date. There is plenty of colour artistically used and the larger hexes and counters give the game a really clean look.


Basic Training – it is okay. I would play it if asked but would not suggest it unless to teach a raw recruit the very basics of wargaming.

Target Arnhem – this is a good games. There are interesting decisions to be made and the game flows quickly and has a degree of excitement. It feels to have real meat on its bones, despite its small size. I recommend it.

TDOM – this game doesn't take much time. This is due to terrain costs and a small map limiting movement options much of the time. The game focuses on putting in attacks in such a way as to minimise the chance of bad luck and to maximise the opportunity to surround enemy units. Luck can be a factor in the final outcome of the game - your challenge is to make decisions that remove the luck factor from the game. The CRT is bloodless and requires you to surround enemy units if you wish to destroy them. The decision making process is moderately interesting for a fairly simple system.

Napoleon At War – Everything I said about Target Arnhem applies equally to Napoleon At War. The game has a feeling of manouvre, the British line feels stretched and the French have several options regarding how to move troops and reposition their attack. The fact that the Battle of Waterloo has attained epic proportions and is a household word probably gives it more appeal to the general public. Both Napoleon At War and Target Arnhem are absolute gems.


N@W Under The Magnifying Glass

Napoleon At Waterloo is long out of print but is often available on eBay for around $20 - I believe that this actually represents good value for money as the game is fast, fun and has a lot of replay value. It has been designed by Jim Dunnigan and is a simulation of Napoleon's ham-fisted attempt to reinstall his regime on Europe.

It is a small game designed to be suitable as an introductory-style game for people unfamiliar with simulation wargaming.

It has a small map, a small number of playing pieces and fairly straight-forward rules (with some optional rules). It should take less than an hour to complete the game.

For those used to this type of games, the rules are easy to assimilate:
1. There is no stacking.
2. The Cobat Results Table is odds-based.
3. No exiting of ZOCs.
4. Combat is mandatory - diversionary attacks are an integral part of the tactics of the game.

To win the French must exit units off the northern edge of the map AND eliminate sufficient enemy units to demoralize them while not becoming demoralized themselves. The Allies need to demoralize the French force. Drawn results are possible.

There are a small number of optional rules that I have never used.

The game has a high replay value and the Prussian reinforcements mean that both players are working to a tight schedule.

Board Game: Napoleon at Waterloo

The French Player – attack the Anglo-Dutch to break through the line - exit small units off the northern edge - move to your left flank OR hold a line against the Prussians.

Board Game: Napoleon at Waterloo

The Allied Player – hold the French with your thin red line - don't let them break through - get the Prussians into battle as quickly as possible.

The game has some quite tense moments..

While designed as an introductory game, I feel that there is enough here to make an interesting game for experienced gamers looking for a game that can be completed in a short time-frame. Having said that, the movement at times is limited due to ZOCs locking pieces into position. To acheive success you need a series of successful combats. Often times subtle use of diversionary attacks is the way to go. The focus of the game revolves around managaging combat.

Board Game: Napoleon at Waterloo

arrrh "Dead Men Tell No Tales!"

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I'm a fan of both games. I have to say I prefer your old review style - this one looks like pop music.
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David McKenna
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Nice review.

I've since moved on to VPGs Waterloo 20 as a successor, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for this one
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A nice review. I think both Dunnigan games, Drive on Metz and Napoloean at Waterloo are greate Gateway games and not bad of rus old timers to pull out now and again.

It's also worth mentioning that Napoleon at Waterloo can be played online for free at site.
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I'm enjoying the reviews on "old games"

Keep up the great work.
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