June 18th is an auspicious day for those lovers of all things Napoleonic. The last battle of the Napoleonic wars, Waterloo, was fought 206 years ago on that day. Like most famous British victories, it was a near run thing. If Blucher and his Prussians hadn’t arrived when they did, Wellington might have been the one who lost that day. But would it have meant Napoleon rode on to another sweep through Europe? Probably not. There was an Austrian and Russian army prowling around that probably would have brought Napoleon to battle and defeated him just as decisively. But Wellington had always gotten the measure of French commanders in the Peninsula, and this battle would be no different.
Wargamers have debated and refought this battle again and again, and though I am not a big Napoleonic gamer, I have played a few games on the topic, but certainly not all of them. I thought I would recommend what might be fun to try on this auspicious day to mark the anniversary.
This was one of my first games on the battle, as it was part of a subscription to Command Magazine I had when I was in High School. And I have to say, I really enjoyed this game. It had a little of everything. The fight is well reflected and plays very historically. I do like the scale of the game, as it’s a tactical game with high stakes, and even though it has some odd mechanics (the artillery and the melee come to mind), the game plays “right” to me and I rather enjoyed the hell out of it.
This was an early GMT effort, and it set the stage for a lot of the quality offerings from GMT. Richard Berg may have written one of his lesser-known masterpieces in this one. I played this game in the early 2000s, and it deserved the accolades it got. I really liked the game because it offered not just Waterloo but the other battles that made up the “Hundred Days.” I loved this game, and I wish I’d bought a copy when I could, but in one of those decisions only a wargamer could understand, I declined on the basis of “it’s not my period.” Oh well. While the game is very crunchy, the rules are solid, and to me, this is the best effort for the Waterloo campaign ever done for board gaming. The components are well designed, and in short, it deserved the award it got in 1994. Sadly, the game is out of print, and you’re going to pay a pretty penny for this one, but if you get a chance to get it for a reasonable price, grab it!
I have to confess; I am not always a fan of Columbia’s block games. I don’t know why really. I mean there’s a lot going for it. It’s easy to model “fog of war” with block games, and step loss modeling is a snap. That said, call me an old stick in the mud? But I love my counters. I am not saying I won’t play a block game. I’d certainly play this one as it works well for the 19th-century subject matter. And I will say the components look great. And Columbia’s rules are usually solid and simple, which is a rare combination in wargaming. Heck, you can play a game in 90 minutes, which is a huge selling point with many wargamers.
The game itself is in its fourth edition and has sold reasonably well for Columbia. I also like the “play for thirty days” guarantee, which is a nice surprise. I’d say for the price, you could do a heck of a lot worse for a game to fight the campaign with.
This entry from Companion Wargames, a company I hadn’t heard of, seems quite promising. It has area movement instead of hexes, which is an interesting design choice. I cannot deny how pretty the map is!
The counters and other components are nice to look at too, and the rules seem to play quite well. In short, it’s a nice package for a game about Waterloo. The game is still in print and is for sale via Companion War Games.
Well, I hope this little slice of available games on the topic of Waterloo has inspired you to perhaps give a try to gaming out this pivotal battle. Perhaps you can succeed where Napoleon failed. And, as always, Good Gaming, Everyone.
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(This article is credited to Jason Weiser. Jason is a long-time wargamer with published works in the Journal of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers; Miniature Wargames Magazine; and Wargames, Strategy, and Soldier.)