Meeting at Waterloo

On the table, 1815: The Waterloo Campaign, designed by John Astell and Frank Chadwick, and published by Game Designer’s Workshop in 1975, and republished in 1982. It’s a traditional wargame on the campaign, done at 600 yards per hex, with hourly turns and divisional and brigade sized combat units, plus leaders.


The map (which comes in two pieces in the 1982 version) is standard sized with a restrained (not to say, restricted) color palette, but is functional and clear. Sometimes I was too quick to bemoan the lack of detail in the Terrain Effects Chart, when the answer was clearly stated in the rules. The counters are half-inch in size, clear, and do the job. The rules booklet is short, but pretty well done and surprisingly comprehensive. I think my only unanswered query was about the queuing (or not) of reinforcements.

It uses an ‘I go, you go’ system with a couple of added quirks.

The first quirk is the command system. Essentially, units out of command are restricted as to what they can do (forget attacking with them), and command flows from the army leader. So, if Wellington can keep his forces not too spread out, he is OK. The same for Blucher. Napoleon, however, needs to fight on two fronts (or axis) and so has to rely – at least part of the time – on Grouchy and Ney. Their command status depends on a die roll. For example, in the first game I reintroduced my self to this game, Ney made every command roll bar one, and led a blitzkrieg through Quatre Bras right on up the Allied left flank, and tore it to bits. The only thing that slowed him down was the time needed for his cavalry force to recover.  (See the next quirk.) However, in the current game, Ney has done less well, and Quatre Bras is untroubled.

Napoleon looking north to Ligny

Napoleon looking north to Ligny

The second quirk is the fragility of cavalry. They can become blown in combat, and need two full turns to recover. Simple, and effective.

The third quirk is that, separate from blown status, units can become disrupted. Such units may recover in the morning, but that can often be a long way a way, and you need your army leader to be about.

Once there was a defense line here: Quatre Bras falls.

Once there was a defense line here: Quatre Bras falls.

The artillery rules are the weakest part, being odds based and so making bigger units tougher targets, instead of more vulnerable.

On the plus side, the game plays fast, and is a challenge to play well. But, it still rewards the dreaded alternate hex defensive line, and with the daft artillery rules and without fog of war, is not going to be a contender for a simulation.

When I compare this to Friedland, I can see that it would not take anywhere near as much work in this game to bring it up to scratch. It’s less complex, and more accessible. If I stay on a Napoleonic theme, maybe I’ll come back to it. On the other hand, I think I have an OSG game on the same campaign lurking around…