SPI, WELLINGTON’S VICTORY (1976)

WELLINGTON’S VICTORY: The Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815 is a tactical-level simulation of the legendary battle that ended Napoleon's final 100 Days as Emperor of France. WELLINGTON’S VICTORY was designed by Frank Davis and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1976.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND


Wellington at Waterloo painting by
Ernest Crofts directing deployment of
reserves from his famous position
under the tree
The morning of 18 June 1815 dawned overcast but without rain, a welcome relief to the tens of thousands of men forced to bivouack in open fields after the constant rain of the preceding day and night. With the first light of dawn, uniformed men stirred from their bed rolls and stoked their campfires; those who had been lucky enough to find food, often no more than a potato, ate. There was, however, little time for these men to loiter around their campfires; enemy soldiers were stirring within eyeshot of their own encampment, and it seemed obvious that after the difficult marches of the previous two rain-soaked days, a major battle was in the offing.

As the morning wore on and the sky steadily brightened in the east, shambling disorder gradually gave way to disciplined motion and, on the orders of their officers and other ranks, men formed up: companies came together to become battalions, and then regiments. The regiments formed columns and gradually arrayed themselves across the valley from each other; each in their own ordered lines. On the southern side of the field, the regiments marched past their Emperor. Napoleon, astride his Arabian stallion Marengo, reviewed the passing, cheering ranks of French troops as if they were on parade. Across a still muddy field, on a low ridge, Wellington, having seen to the disposition of his men, dismounted from his horse and reclined in the shade of a tree. Relative quiet again settled over the field.

Once formed for battle, the soldiers of the two armies: 67,000 men under the Duke of Wellington, and 72,000 commanded by Napoleon, stood in multicolored ranks facing each other across a shallow valley of rye grass. Both splendidly uniformed hosts seemed fixed in place, like insects in amber. Hours seemed to pass. Suddenly, soldiers in the ranks were shocked from their lazy torpor by the sound of canon fire somewhere on the French left. The Battle of Waterloo had finally begun with a French bombardment of the Anglo-Allied outpost that occupied the château of Hougoumont. No one then, or now, can be sure of the exact time of these first shots, but the cannonade probably began around 11:30 am. The peaceful lethargy of the morning had ended for the men warily watching each other across the small stretch of Belgian rye fields. At last, it had become a battlefield. The morning’s unexpected quiet would now, on a patch of sodden ground no more than two miles wide and two-thirds of a mile across, give way to the noisy, harsh, and bloody business of war.

DESCRIPTION



WELLINGTON’S VICTORY is a tactical simulation of the day-long battle that pitted the major part of the French Armée du Nord, commanded by Napoleon, against the Anglo-Dutch Army, under the Duke of Wellington, and a part of the Prussian Army, led by Marshal Prince Blücher von Wahlstadt. This decisive action took place near a small Belgian hamlet named Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

It is an understatement to say that the day-long struggle near Waterloo is one of the most famous battles in European history. The reasons for this notoriety are both numerous and well deserved. To begin with, it presented two of the greatest generals of their or any age, Napoleon and Wellington, in their one and only battlefield confrontation; then there is the comparatively even balance of forces and the closeness of the battle's outcome; and finally, there are the many tantalizing questions that still dominate discussions of the battle to this day.


What if, for example, Napoleon had begun the French assault earlier, or Blücher had continued his retreat and had not gone to Wellington’s aid? Would it have made any difference if Napoleon had employed Marshal Davout instead of Ney as his second in command, or Grouchy had diverted his force west and had marched to the sound of the guns? What if the French Imperial Guard had been committed earlier, when the Anglo-Dutch line was wavering; or Ney had not thrown away the French cavalry in a futile attack on Wellington’s center? The questions and might have beens are virtually endless. WELLINGTON’S VICTORY, better than any other Waterloo simulation I have ever seen, allows players to test most, if not all, of these questions using the game as a paper and cardboard time machine.

Napoleon addresses his guard
during the Battle of Waterloo.
Even a cursory examination of the rules shows that WELLINGTON’S VICTORY is extraordinarily rich in historical color. Thus, it is not surprising that the game system is both complex and highly detailed: a fact that is readily apparent in the many operations that each player must perform in the course of a single game turn. The sequence of play proceeds as follows: French Command Phase; French Rally Phase; Allied Facing/Formation Phase; Allied March Phase; French Shock Phase; Reciprocal Artillery Fire Phase; Reciprocal Infantry Fire Phase;Allied Command Phase; Allied Rally Phase; French Facing/Formation Phase; French March Phase; Allied Shock Phase; and Game-Turn (end) Phase. The interwoven structure of each game turn gives players a real sense of simultaneity of action and reaction; and the rules governing the use of cavalry, unit formations, and morale, almost always a problem in tactical games, are both logical and surprisingly realistic.

WELLINGTON’S VICTORY offers three limited scenarios, and two versions of the complete battle. The shorter, limited scenarios each focus on an important action during the battle and require only the portion of the total available forces directly involved on that section of the front. The three limited scenarios are: Hougomont, which uses map sections A and C and lasts 20 game turns; La Haye Sainte, which uses all four map sections and lasts 20 game turns; and Plancenoit,which uses map sections B and D and also lasts 20 game turns. The historical version of the complete battle uses all four of the map sections, and all available forces. The Battle of Waterloo begins on game turn eleven,and ends after 40 complete game turns (turn 50). The delayed start time for the historical Battle of Waterloo game takes into account the fact that Napoleon postponed the opening of the battle while he waited for the ground to dry. The alternative full battle game assumes that the French attacked as soon as their offensive preparations were completed, and did not stand idly by through much of the morning. This alternative Early French Assault version begins on turn one and ends at the conclusion of game turn fifty (50 game turns). In addition to the various scenarios included with the game, the designer has also offered a number of optional rules that players probably should incorporate as soon as they are comfortable with the game system. Most of these rules are relatively minor and involve small adjustments to the Facing, Stacking, Combat, and Morale rules. One optional rule, however, represents a significant change in the flow of the battle: the rule to allow for the Early Arrival of the Prussians on the field. With this rule, the Prussian Army will begin to arrive four full turns earlier than it did historically. Needless-to-say, this last rule significantly tips play-balance in favor of the Allied player.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION

WELLINGTON'S VICTORY, as should be obvious from the preceding description, is not for everyone. It requires a very large game surface (4' by 8') to set up the game, and even the 'short' (20 turn)scenarios require a major time commitment on the part of the game's participants. And then, of course, there is the oddly-colored game map which, although unambiguous so far as terrain features and elevation are concerned, still manages (with its abundant use of yellows) to be both unexpected and even off-puting to some gamers, myself included. Nonetheless, for those dedicated players with a genuine interest in tactical-level Napoleonic warfare and particularly for those gamers who want an accurate and richly-textured treatment of the Battle of Waterloo, I can think of no better simulation. Its various game subroutines are intuitively logical, and, more importantly, all combine to produce historically satisfying outcomes on the game map. Thus, while this game is really only suitable for experienced players, I still give it my strongest recommendation. Among the many monster games dealing with Napoleonic battles that I have tried, over the years, I can really think of no title that does a better job, either as a simulation or as a game.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 15 minutes per game turn
  • Map Scale: 100 yards per hex
  • Unit Size: company/battalion (infantry), regiment (cavalry), and battery (artillery)
  • Unit Types: command, infantry, cavalry, artillery and information markers
  • Number of Players: two or three (teams highly recommended)
  • Complexity: above average/high
  • Solitaire Suitability: medium (if pushing around 2,000 unit counters doesnt bother you)
  • Average Playing Time: 6 -18+ hours (depending on scenario)

Game Components:

  • Four 22" x 34" hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, Terrain Effects Key, Terrain Effects Chart, Two Shock Combat Tables, Two Relative Firepower Tables, French Army Morale Record, Anglo-Allied Army Morale Record, Record of French Unit Commitment, Record of Anglo-Allied Unit Commitment, Observation Procedure, and Abbreviated Sequence of Play incorporated)
  • 2,000 back-printed ½" cardboard Counters
  • One 8½" x 11" Rules Booklet (with Initial French and Anglo-Allied Deployments and Scenario Instructions incorporated)
  • Three 11" x 14" Combined Shock Combat Results and Relative Firepower (Fire Combat Results) Tables
  • Two small six-sided Dice
  • Two SPI 12" x 15" x 1" flat 24" compartment plastic Game Boxes (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic Box Covers with Title Sheets


Recommended Reading


See my blog post Book Review of this title which I strongly recommend for those visitors interested in additional historical background information.



For decorating the game room with a Napoleonic theme:

5 comments:

  • One of my favorites, this is a challenging game as monster's go, due to that detailed Turn Sequence that you mentioned.

    However, I did find once you are 'into' the game, the somewhat asynchroneous nature of the sequence grows on you. I think it worked VERY well with the detailed formation change restrictions, and it is one of the few large games that truly approaches at least one aspect of the proper use of cavalry - the charge. This allows the player to get a different look at the realities of historic warfare when games approach this level of tactical integration, IMHO.

    All that said, this is a big game if you tackle the monster game. I strongly urge you to do so, but Ney vs. Wellington can give you a good feel for some pieces of the game first, much like the GBACW games can prep you for Terrible Swift Sword.

    This is one of the fun ones, so don't overlook it!

    Also, I strongly suggest SPI's Battle of Monmouth, covering the American Revolutionary War battle. It streamlines the WV rules even more, and the asynchroneous turn is no longer in use (since cavalry was not using tactical charges as much at Monmouth. But makes a VERY enjoyable and highly tactical game to give you a feel of where you are heading with WV.

    PS: My memory of it all is that Wellington's Victory is the game where SPI finally solved the problems with multi-level Line of Sight issues!

  • At first I thought how difficult WV was compared to TSS but it grew on me. I found I enjoyed it even better after Ney vs Wellington and Monmouth came out-And I sure wished SPI had done more in those simpler versions

    WV is still so stunning to look at when all the colorful units are deployed on the map.

    It seems every game Joe has done a review on I also have so it's sure been great reading all hie game profiles. a nice trip down memeory lane even when the games are sitting a few feet away

  • Greetings Kim:

    WELLINGTON'S VICTORY -- in my opinion, at least -- is still the best tactical treatment of Napoleonic warfare that I have ever seen. I particularly like the way that the player operations are interwoven to give the game very much a "simov" feel. I loved the look of the unit counters when they were arrayed on the game map; although I have to confess that I wasn't exactly thrilled when I first saw the game map. All that yellow took a little getting used to.

    And you're absolutely right that NEY vs. WELLINGTON was a great tool for introducing the game system to new players. My subscription copy of MONMOUTH, unfortunately, arrived with a defective map and, for that reason, I barely looked at it after I opened the mailer. Probably, too bad ...

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I really need a copy of the rules for wellintons victory. Mine were lost in a move and really like the game. If anyone can help email me at philbrin@gorhamtel.com. Thanks, Philip Briney

  • Greetings Philip:

    Thank you for visiting; I appreciate your interest.

    When it comes to your "rules problem," probably the easiest approach would be for you to visit the "WELLINGTON'S VICTORY" game folders at Consimworld.com and/or Boardgamegeek.com and appeal to the generosity of the other visitors to these sites to provide you with a "pdf" of the rules. One thing that you should be careful of is that Decision Games has produced a new version of this design, so you probably will want to specify that you want the original rules.

    Also, be aware that a fairly extensive body of "errata" has been published on "WELLINGTON'S VICTORY" which you can most easily access by visting the appropriate game folder at grognard.com.

    Good luck with your quest and Happy Holidays,
    Joe

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