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Subject: A Rookie Wargamer's Review: Waterloo 20 rss

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Jonathan Holen
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Introduction

If you have read any of my previous reviews, you will know that I'm fairly new to war gaming and as such have been enjoying the games published by Victory Point Games. My two previous reviews covered solitaire only games from Victory Point Games, one from the Battlelesson series, Toe-to-Toe Nu'klr Combat with the Rooskies, and another from the State of Siege series, Ottoman Sunset. Both were enjoyable, and because of that I wanted to try out some other offerings available from Victory Point Games. Let’s talk briefly about Victory Point Games for those not familiar with them. Victory Point Games is a small company that specializes in printing games on demand, which thereby allows games to be made available to us gamers that otherwise might not see the light of day. This is not to say the games are bad or not quality games - in contrast every game I've played from Victory Point Games has been thoroughly thought out and quite polished in concerns to rules, components, overall presentation, and most importantly the game play. The difference is that Victory Point Games has the ability to try more game designs, from different designers, because they only have to worry about printing and producing games as they are ordered. I should note, this review is from a solitaire point of view - with that said, let us dive into it.

The game I'm reviewing is Waterloo 20, which is the first entry in the Napoleonic 20 series from Victory Point Games. The history of the series is actually quite interesting, though I will not get into it in any great detail in the review; if you are interested, be sure to check out the Desinger/Developer notes found Here (note: this is a pdf article}. The series originated from Joseph Miranda, and in short the Napoleonic 20 series is coined "20" due to the counter density, as there are 20 counters or less on the game map at any given time. This in my opinion still allows for a number of different strategies; however you never have to worry about a multitude of counters spread across the map. In addition, there is no stacking in the series - again aiding in the availability of the series to those new to war gaming, however there are a number of fairly complex games found in the series. It should also be noted that even though the system is only limited to 20 counters or less, I am still confident that someone who has been into war gaming for a long time could still have fun with games from the series. Enough about the series and company, let’s get back to the game at hand…



Waterloo 20 covers the battle between Napoleon marching against the Anglo-Dutch/Prussian forces who are working together at the Battle of Waterloo. For those interested, each counter or unit is 1 corps, and each hex on the map is about 1000 meters. Each game turn is approximately 3.5 hours during the day, and approximately 10 hours during the night, as there are both day and night turns in the series. We will cover that more in depth later on in the review. Before we get into the game play however, let’s take a look at the components.


Components

As I had talked about previously, VPG specializes in printing games on demand. What that means is that when you place your order, they print your games and then mail them out. They don't have a large warehouse where they can store three thousand copies of games printed in one big batch. That also means they aren't going to the same printers that companies like FFG or GMT might use. With that said, the components in my opinion are very good quality for how small the company is. I personally have been satisfied with each purchase I have made, however let’s take a closer look as I am aware that some people might not be as satisfied. I hope to give you a practical view of what you get, and you can make the determination if they will be high enough quality.



The game arrives packaged in a plastic zip lock bag (yes that means that you do not receive the game in a box) with the front and back cover, printed heavy cardstock, displaying the game title and the back with your typical information about the game. Sandwiched in between the front and back cover are the rules, counter sheets, and the map, as well as some advertisements and other inserts depending on what game you ordered. Opening the package up the first thing that I noticed was the game map. This map is in my opinion beautiful. The artwork by John Cooper is to say the least very impressive. Below you can see some examples of the game map.



The counters included in the game are nicely die-cut, and are easy to punch out. Some have mentioned that they appear flat, however I found them to be quite enjoyable. The font for the unit indication might be a bit small for those with diminishing eye-sight, however for me works as needed. I typically use a small hobby knife to get them out, however it isn't necessary. The counters in the Napoleonic 20 series, Waterloo included, are double sided; one side depicts the unit, while the other side is blank which is used for the option Fog of War rule (more on that later). The counters fit nicely in the hexes on the map, and don't bunch up when moving them. Overall, I am happy with the counters.



Waterloo 20's rules are also quite nice. Inside the game you receive the series rulebook which is eight pages in length, as well as the specific game rulebook, which in the case of Waterloo 20 is 1 page. Both rulebooks are quite easy to read, and feature color where needed. This color is used to show you when new topics/rules are introduced, as well as to allow the game designer to add notes throughout the rules to give some more clarifying information where needed. In addition, examples of certain situations are easily found in the rules due to how they are laid out. I will be the first to admit that I still had some questions after reading them, and played a few things wrong in my games, but the rules themselves were easy to get through, and easy to get into the game, which is important. After all, who gets all the rules correct in your first go around of a new game? I’m sure some of you are out there, but I am not one of them. The main take-away that I’d like you to get is that the rules are approachable and easy to digest, which in turn makes the game easy to get to your table. Also, I should note that the designer/developer notes are also a nice touch.



The other components found in the game are the various player aids and tables, which have the information needed to play the game. This includes the battle results table, which also contains other information, as well as terrain effects chart. These are on nice cardstock, and they work all right on a plain table, however I would really recommend investing in a nice sheet of plexiglass. The majority of my games were played on a plain table, however I just recently got a sheet of plexiglass and it really improved the game play experience for me. The counters are easier to move, the map doesn't move, and most importantly the player aids/tables don't move. Everything stays put and it is just really nice. Something to consider, though I would wager to say that having a sheet of plexiglass for most war games is probably something that you will find yourself using quite a bit. Is it necessary to play Waterloo 20? Nope. Have I found it enjoyable to have? Most definitely, yes! Here are some shots of the player aids, and below it some shots of my setup with plexiglass (the only negative to plexiglass is the glare when taking pictures, which could be a bit of a problem if wanting to do a pictorial session report).





I hope these pictures and explanation of the components has given you a good idea of what to expect from the game, and really leave the decision up to you. Obviously I’m a fan of VPG which is evident in my reviews and session reports of their games that I own, as well as the fact that I just can’t stop buying their games. However, I do understand that there are those out there who aren’t huge fans of VPG and their games, and I’m sure one of the major reasons is that the components are not the same quality as other companies. Again, I don’t fault anyone for feeling that way – after all, games are made for us to have fun. If components are a big issue for you, I’d heartily suggest that you give one VPG game a chance, and see what you think. Either way, I'll leave you with VPG's motto, as I feel it stands true in all the games I've purchased from them; "The Gameplay’s the Thing"


Gameplay

So how does this game play? And more importantly, how does this game series play? I think I can kill two birds with one stone in this section of the review, as the bulk of the rules found in the game are the series rules, which are eight pages long, two of which primarily cover optional rules not needed to play the game. The specific game rules are not very long, one page in the case of Waterloo 20, and only cover specifics that apply to the battle at hand. This allows for a nice transition from one game to another, and just so you know I already have more games in this series on order. Let’s take a big picture look at the game play.



The battle is fought over a series of turns, which are either during the day or during the night. Day turns are what make up the bulk of the game, while night turns allow for each side to recover some of their losses and re-establish their position on the field. At the heart of the game is the morale. Morale is what drives this game, and is what determines ultimately who wins the battle. Morale can be gained, lost, and spent. If a side’s Morale points were ever to be reduced to zero, they were immediately lose the game. Morale can be gained from being victorious in battle against the enemy, as well as having a break in battle, and during night turns. Morale can be spent in forcing your troops to march hard to gain desirable positions on the field, to commit reserves in battle in hopes to emerge victorious, and to convince fallen corps to rally and rejoin the battle. In addition to the Morale system, there are also random events, which are determined by event cards which are drawn at the beginning of each sides turn. These events are simply in effect for the specific turn and are not kept in your hand, and apply only to the side which draws them. Some cards are split and color coded to determine either a French or Allied event. Others are multi-colored and are used for both sides. Here are some pictures of the cards (courtesy of Alan Emrich)



In the game specific rule set you will find the starting setup for each side’s units. In addition to those units that you start with, there are also units that are placed on the game turn tracker that come in as reinforcements as the game progresses. The amount of morale that each side starts with is also determined by the game specific rule set, and this is tracked on the morale track. In Waterloo 20, the French side goes first - with the Allied side going after. Each side then takes turns going back and forth until either side drops to zero morale, or the game ends due to reaching and completing the final turn. If this condition is met, the morale points of each side are compared and this determines the results of the battle.



All this speak of battle, I’m sure you’re wondering how it actually works? On the main player aid, you will find the combat results table (CRT) which displays the results of combat. Combat works by comparing the strength of the attacker against the defense rating of the defense plus any terrain bonuses for the hex in which the defender is in. This number will determine which column on the CRT you look at, which will then in turn determine the outcome of the battle. If you look at the CRT, you’ll notice that it is fairly hard to break a unit, and once you start playing you’ll come to find out that the primary way to break units is to force them into a hazardous retreat. A hazardous retreat is where the enemy unit routs, and must retreat through an enemy Zone of Control (ZOC/EZOC). If any of these terms don’t sound familiar, rather than explain them in this review I would highly suggest you check out this amazing GeekList which will cover the basic terminology in war games. You can find that Here.

Waterloo 20 doesn’t claim to be an overly complex game, yet that is what I find so enjoyable about the game play. It is quick and doesn’t require much time, yet offers enough challenges and depth to make it quite enjoyable. How does it work as a solitaire game? I think it works great – there is no hidden information when not using the Fog of War rules, and the random events are simply a way to mix things up. Moving from one side to the other comes natural, and it’s fun to see yourself change sides as the battles shift. I could go into more depth on the game play aspect, but I would rather steer you to my recent session report for the game. It should give you a more in depth look at the game, and hopefully you’ll get a more clear view of how the game plays out. You can find the session report Here


Can you wrap this up? Conclusion below!

So what does this all mean? I’m sure some of you have skipped down to this section, and hey I don’t blame you! I do the same thing in reviews, so hang in there and let me try and paraphrase everything I’ve written above. Waterloo 20 is a very accessible game, in an accessible game series, that comes at a reasonable price with components that in the end get the job done and do not take away from your gaming experience. The game play found in Waterloo 20 is action packed, while not bogging you down in complex rules consuming all your wee hours of the night, while still presenting enough of a challenge to keep you coming back to this classic game. Considering the reasonable price, I feel that anyone new to war gaming or new to VPG owes it to themselves to pick this game up. If you enjoy the game, the whole Napoleonic 20 series opens up to you, and if you aren’t a huge fan save the game for your kids or friends and introduce them to the wonderful hobby of war gaming with this accessible game. There after all is a reason that this is Victory Point Game’s number one top sellers of all time. Check it out!

Most importantly, thanks for reading and if you are interested in my previous reviews or reviews to come, feel free to head over to my GeekList - I'm mainly trying to keep track of all my stuff for myself, but am happy if you want to subscribe.

Thanks again,
Jonathan
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Steve Carey
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W20 is my personal favorite game in one of my all-time favorite series (Nappy20), and it's great to see this particular title put into the spotlight again.

Also, it's good to see that you gave graphic artist John Cooper a tip of the hat - his wonderful work set the trademark tone for the enire series, and to this day I still admire his efforts.

Anyway, great job as always Jonathan and we'll look forward to your next review.
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jus ren
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Love the shot ot presumably a normal size die (black) in contrast to the freebie die included in every Victory Point game, makes it look giant. Great review, watched your video & have posted a comment there. Big thumbs up from me
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Jonathan Holen
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Thanks for the feedback. jus, that video isn't mine however I sure thought it was rather funny when I submitted the review to GeekMod as I approved Joel's video on the game at the same time mine was submitted. Too funny.

Yeah this game really opened up the possibility of playing 2 player games solitaire for me. Before it I was primarily sticking to solitaire only games, which are fun, but something about playing both sides in this game is just very entertaining, and pulls you into the game.
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Luke Morris
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Excellent review.
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jus ren
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You're more than welcome Joel Apologies for my confusion, down as you say to your review & the video coming out at the same time. Know what you mean re. solitaire, as it's all I'm playing at the mo. Have you played any States of Siege games. I've enjoyed playing Levee en Mass twice, and will get the Napoleon expansion when available in UK, and paly it more.
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Jonathan Holen
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Playingup wrote:
Have you played any States of Siege games. I've enjoyed playing Levee en Mass twice, and will get the Napoleon expansion when available in UK, and paly it more.
I've played Ottoman Sunset, which I have a review of, and also have played We Must Tell the Emperor.

I also just ordered Zulus on the Ramparts! w/ the expansion as well as the WMTtE expansion.

There is a difference between the SoS lineup of games, however playing the Nappy20 series games solitaire provides a different experience. I quite enjoy both.
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Everett Hathaway
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Another great review, Jonathan!

I have been waiting for your review of this game cool .

...you will probably now lead me down THIS path of VPG games!!!
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Jonathan Holen
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everhat wrote:
Another great review, Jonathan!

I have been waiting for your review of this game cool .

...you will probably now lead me down THIS path of VPG games!!!
They are different from the SoS lineup, but in a really good way.

When I sit down and play, it's nice to have that choice of whether or not I want to play both sides of the game, w20 in that case, or if I want to take my chances against the SoS lineup. Nice thing about the Nappy20 series is you always win! laugh
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Steve Carey
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everhat wrote:
...you will probably now lead me down THIS path of VPG games!!!


Resistance is futile...
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donald rhyne
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Great review.just pre -ordered fading glory by gmt+victory point.I Watchd the video of waterloo 20 on you tube.
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Jonathan Holen
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jrdr89 wrote:
Great review.just pre -ordered fading glory by gmt+victory point.I Watchd the video of waterloo 20 on you tube.
Nice!

I've been a bit out of the loop here on BGG, but still holding onto my copies of VPG games. Great fun! My wife and I are going on another trip, and you can get they are coming with me.
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