Back to Waterloo

Thus begins the French assault...

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…

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Adventures in Arizona – Tuesday

To cut to the chase, at the end of several days of gaming, the Allied forces conceded to Napoleon at Waterloo. For all that commentators criticize the Sicilian Ogre for his mishandling of the battle, his gaming counterparts put that right.

Their approach was as follows:

  • To cancel the all out assault on Hougomont, and replace it with a careful, cautious approach from a safer angle.
  • To send out substantial blocking forces so as to prevent the Prussians from doing very much.
  • To hammer the left side of the Allied line using a combination of Guard and regular infantry, preceded by an almighty Grand Battery of artillery.
  • Once they had driven the Allies back, they kept up the pressure until, eventually, there was nowhere left to fall back to.

So, before I forget, a thank you to Clark Daggs, Chris Fasulo, Vinnie Fasulo, and John Foy for their part in making this an awesome gaming experience. It was a pleasure, gentlemen.

The end

The end

Next up, some comments about the game system:

  • Chris Fasulo designs games by reading the history, and working from there. He is not a great believer – and may be unique in this – in seeing what other designers have done.
  • When I first read the rules, I thought the combat model would not work.
  • In essence, troops have a cohesion rating (called “Level of Order”) as well as a combat strength. Combat results affect the cohesion. Units can be badly beaten up, but can also recover.
  • To kill units, you have to hound them to destruction: grind down their cohesion, and keep at them.
  • The combat model does work. It is not perfect. For example, I question whether units could truly recover 100% of their cohesion. But, every combat model has its shortcomings, and so should not be discounted for that reason alone.
  • The game has big stacks of counters at times. This either bothers you, or it doesn’t. That apart, it is very playable. There is some fiddly reference to charts, but that is nothing. It is way, way faster than the other tactical games at this level of this era that I have seen.
  • The counters badly need some way of showing an obvious divisional affiliation – because you move by divisional formations, in the main.
The Prussians were really up against it

The Prussians were really up against it

The gamer in me wants to go away and think of ways of cutting down the stacks, and maybe – dare I say it – tweaking the Levels of Order system. But first I have to work out how to get hold of a copy without being clobbered for import tax. The game has just been released, and there were no copies for sale. (Boo!) On the other hand, it meant that those of us who played it were having a ┬átruly unique gaming experience.

In the top right, you can see the Allies pushed against the map edge

In the top right, you can see the Allies pushed against the map edge

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Adventures in Arizona – Monday

Part of setup materials from Grognard Simulations' game called Incredible Courage: Waterloo

Part of setup materials from Grognard Simulations’ game called Incredible Courage: Waterloo

Day two of the Incredible Courage: Waterloo game saw some surprising developments.

The French had clearly decided they were going to take their time so far as Hougomont was concerned, and were content to nibble away at the defenses, hex by hex. However, in the center, bursting through their won artillery batteries, came the Old Guard. These legendary fighters plowed right through the first line of Allied defenders, only to be beaten back by a combination of top quality British Guard Infantry and heavy cavalry. Normally, the Guard are retained for later in the day. But Napoleon in our game was throwing caution to the wind.

On the Allied front, we thought that repulse would force the French to stop and think. Instead, the Guard licked their wounds and came back for more. And, at the same time, were supported by major offenses on either side of them. Suddenly the whole Allied line of defense east of La Haye Sainte was crumbling. Wellington and company raced to try and reform a cohesive line.

The Prussians, meantime, had arrived. Unfortunately for Wellington, the early arrivals are not the best of troops and Napoleon had sent out a considerable high quality force to keep them from doing any mischief while the rest of the French forces battered the Allied defenders. It rather looked as if the Prussians were going to be forced to wait for more troops to arrive before they can even attempt a serious thrust to help Wellington.

That’s where we are at the end of play today, for which the following picture hopefully gives you some further idea.

awpic2

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Adventures in Arizona – Sunday

waterloo2

And so, to battle. My game to start the con is Grognard Simulations’ Incredible Courage: Waterloo. It is a game done with 100 yard hexes, 10 minute turns, and company/battalion and squadron/regiment sized units.

On the Allied side, Chris Fasulo (left flank), Vinnie Fasulo (Prussians) and me (right flank). On the French side, John Foy (right flank) and Clark Daggs (left flank).

The first action consisted of the French hastily sending out couriers to cancel the orders to assault Hougomont. They wanted to take a different approach. Then they sent out a couple of cavalry divisions towards the Allied left flank (and the entry zone for the Prussians). The French First Corps joined the action with a drive at Smohain, then northwards. In addition, the French formed a huge artillery mass south of La Haye Sainte. They cleared that outpost with a deadly fire, and kept the Allied guns quiet.

waterloo1

The Allied response was to shift some cavalry to the left flank, but not to engage, while pulling the main infantry line of defense off the ridge and away from the deadly French artillery. At the same time, the French reignited their desire to take Hougomont, and so it looks like we (the Allies) will be facing a three pronged assault.

Time is on our side, but we will need the Prussians to make an impact pretty much as soon as they arrive.

The game is easy to play, even if the mechanisms are a little unusual. The main practical handicap was that Chris forgot to bring the Order of Battle charts, so it took a bit longer to separate out the troops. I’m having a ball.

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