|Wellington at Waterloo painting by |
Ernest Crofts directing deployment of
reserves from his famous position
under the tree
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.
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.
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 OBSERVATIONWELLINGTON'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.
- 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)
- 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
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: