Thus begins the French assault…
The game that has been on the table over the last few weeks is Fallen Eagles, a game on the battle of Waterloo designed by Walter Vejdovsky, and published by Hexasim. It uses hexes representing 200 meters, turns of one hour, and strength points equating to 100 infantry or cavalry or a couple of artillery pieces.
The physical production standards are excellent, being two standard sized maps, a color rulebook, color playbook, 400+ nicely done, oversized counters, 16 thin cards for tactical and strategic variations, and various play aids.
Before playing the game, I thoroughly recommend reading David Hughes‘ article on the game published in Battles magazine, issue 11. David’s analysis helped me understand more quickly what was going on in the game. Overall he liked the system but wondered if the combat results were too bloody. I have played all the scenarios other than the full battle all the way through to completion. I only managed to get half way through the full battle (twice) but definitely had fun, and reservations. In the full battle, the French seem to have the tougher task. Perhaps that is as it should be.
On the plus side, I like the design intent to cut out unnecessary detail, so that the rules are easy to assimilate, and the game can be quick to play – unless you let analysis paralysis take over. There is a neat command system which is simple to implement, and adds just the right level of control without too much rules overhead.
On the down side, I wasn’t that taken with the combat system, especially the regular occurrence of units routing before closing with the enemy. That’s not my recollection of the history. I fixed that by applying a house rule so that routs only happened when adjacent to an enemy unit, and tried that out in the second go at the full battle. That seemed to feel better.
Also on the down side, I am not convinced that the paper-scissors-rock interaction of infantry, cavalry, and artillery comes across strongly enough. You will appreciate that on the one hand I compliment the designer for cutting out detail, and now I complain about missing detail! It depends on the detail, of course.
The cards are available to inject some chaos, but are not especially solitaire friendly. I tried them once, didn’t feel it was worth the effort, and put them away. In a face to face encounter, however, they will undoubtedly spice things up, and I would recommend their use.
While I am not convinced this is the perfect Napoleonic game at this scale, it is a damn fine try. There are supposed to be other battles coming along using the same system, and I may well be tempted. For now, there’s going to be one last attempt to see if I can do better for the French…