Quatre Bras is that way!


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.