Waterloo report

Waterloo (from the Le Retour de l’Empereur package by Pratzen) is the game. Here’s my recollection of how this went.

Initial Plans

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11:00 and all’s well. The skirmishers have not yet reported for duty, though.

The Allies had holding orders, with the cavalry and other reserves primed to be released on Wellington’s command.

The French plan was to get the artillery up and batter the hell out of the Allied line. At the same time, there were to be direct assaults on Hougoumont, Papellote, and Fichermont – but not La Haye Sainte – while I Corps was to make a focused, narrow front attack between La Haye Sainte and Papelotte, supported as required by VI Corps. Continue reading

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At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender

1,001 things to achieve with a time machine...

1,001 things to achieve with a time machine…

I have now finished my run through of Waterloo (from the Le Retour de l’Empereur package by Pratzen).  Who won? Check the post headline.

I will try and write a post later with more detail, but am slightly worried I won’t be able to read my hand written notes. The action at times was fast and furious, and I often opted to continue the game action to see what happened next, when I should have stopped to take notes. I also need to round up the shots from my phone. (One day, I am going to properly set up a camera and record every end of turn position for a game.)

It was terrific fun. Not a perfect game – I have some ideas for house rules, of course – but overall I was highly impressed.

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Waterloo

After having thrashed out several enjoyable sessions of Quatre Bras, from Didier Rouy‘s Le Retour de l’Empereur boxed set (from Pratzen Editions), it’s time to move on to the main event: Waterloo.

Setup and ready to go. Now what do I do?

Setup and ready to go. Now what do I do?

The game is set up, and all ready to go. I do, however, need to have another read through the optional rules (to decide what ones I want to use) and the special rules for the Waterloo battle.

I was glad to see a specific restriction on the French use of the guard, as my last outing as an Allied player in this battle (Grognard SimulationsWaterloo at ConsimWorld) might have been more successful had this or something like it been in place.

So far as the optional rules are concerned, I really like those for Voltigeurs. (I just wish there were more skirmish counters available.) I want to impose some form of command and control, and will probably use a bastardized and simplified version of the most complex optional rules for this. Part of me wishes I had the space to run Wavre at the same time, but the realist in me knows it would be too much.

Close up of the front lines

Close up of the front lines

The more I have played this system, the more I have grown to like it. Getting the combined arms effect is a joy when it works out, but sometimes fate and enemy action intervene. I use the log sheets, partly because I find it quicker, and partly because I want to avoid as many markers as I can. Besides, I really like the counters.

I recently read Alessandro Barbero‘s book on the topic, and there might be a slight delay in the game start while I top that up with some further reading.

 

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Still cross at the crossroads

My second attempt at getting a French win at Quatre Bras failed. (See here.) Too many attacks stalled, and the French therefore lost too much time recovering. I need to sharpen that aspect of my play.

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Night falls, and the Allied line holds at Quatre Bras. At the top middle of the picture, the French cavalry are threatening, but previous attacks by the infantry on the line were unsuccessful, and their charges were similarly beaten back. At times it was close, but the French need a better commander!

There were some negative comments on Consimworld by gamers whose opinion was worth noting, but I am glad I didn’t let that stop me buying and playing the game. I have found it enjoyable – if somewhat quirky in places – and evocative.

I’m probably going to have yet another bash at Quatre Bras before I think about tackling the bigger stuff in the box.

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Battle at the crossroads

I am playing, and enjoying, the Quatre Bras battle from Didier Rouy‘s Le Retour de l’Empereur game. It has taken me a while to work out some of the kinks, but I think I now have a reasonable understanding of the rules and procedures.

The last of the French artillery joins the line, read to help the coming assault.

The last of the French artillery joins the line, ready to help the coming assault. Note the disorganized French units marked with the turn of their reversal, awaiting the time when they can try and rally.

I made a couple of run throughs of just the opening turns to get more comfortable with the situation, before trying to complete the main scenario. It ended badly for the French, due to a combination of bad choices and bad luck. I am now trying that scenario out again, and am about halfway through.

Cavalry and artillery are the killers, but you need infantry – especially to weed out defenders from fortified farm positions. Failure in combat (melee) takes some time to recover, because you cannot even attempt to rally disorganized units until after a two turn delay. I do like the simple but effective idea of marking the disorganized units with a marker showing the game turn of their disorganization. This makes it easy to track which ones are eligible for rally.

Help for the Allies is on its way.

Help for the Allies is on its way.

I dithered about command and control rules, and in the end decided to stick with basic command control ranges and some self imposed battle plans. For example, when the attacking French forces finally – and I mean finally, after a couple of failed assaults with the attendant delay – overcame an outlying fortified Allied position (Grand Pierrepont), I imposed a one turn delay in them regrouping and heading north to the main battle.

From my perspective, this is good fun, and I am happy to spend more time with the system.

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Quatre Bras is that way!

LRDE

On the table is Le Retour de l’Empereur, a tactical level game about the June 16-18 battles of the Waterloo Campaign. The designer is Didier Rouy, and the publisher is Pratzen Editions.

The game scale is 200 meter (or maybe 250 meter) hexes, with regiment (multi-battalion) sized units, and one hour turns. The package includes six maps, 600 counters, a rule book, scenario book, charts and rosters.

Physically, the production is generally attractive. The maps have no hex numbers, and are drawn in a restrained old-fashioned way, using big hexes and lots of light coloring. With the big hexes come bigger – oblong – counters. For infantry and cavalry, this allows easy portrayal of line and column formations. For artillery, it’s limbered and unlimbered. You can use step loss markers or rosters to track casualties.

One commendable innovation is that each counter has a unique (ahistorical) identifier. For example, there are units 001, 002, 003, and so on. This makes it much easier to find units than trying to hunt them down using the inevitably abbreviated historical designation.

The system out-of-the-box, is pretty classic “I go, you go” with a distinct cavalry charge segment. The optional rules, however, do include a system of having a corps at a time activate by alternate. Indeed, the optional rules give you all sorts of detail that – surprisingly – do not seem too overwhelming. If there’s an exception, it may be the command rules which come in five levels of choice. These range from basic, all the way up to written orders.

I am trying out the system using the one map Quatre Bras battle. I am hoping it is as easy to play as it seems from the rules. That having been said, the rules are not my favorite part of the package. It’s not that there are gaps, because most of the information is there; you just have to pay careful attention to the content. And that is more challenging than it should be, because of the structure and layout. Any rules set that uses roman numerals is not exactly going out of its way to help its readership.

Meantime, let’s see how Marshall Ney does with the situation at hand.

 

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