The morning of 18 June 1815 dawned cold and overcast, but the constant rain of the preceding day and night had finally stopped. The gray sky still threatened, but to the soldiers who had bivouacked in the muddy open fields of wheat and rye, the break in the weather was still a welcome relief from the miseries of their earlier condition. With first light, thousands of men, still stiff from the cold, stirred and stoked their campfires; those few who had found food — often no more than a potato — ate, and were happy to have anything at all. Two armies, only a mile or two apart, began the mundane business of preparing for battle. The shambling disorder of milling men and snorting horses gradually gave way to the discipline of the military camp. And, on the orders of their officers and other ranks, men began to assemble: noisy chaos gave way to order; companies came together to become battalions, and then battalions assembled and became regiments. With surprising speed, the regiments formed into columns and, on the shouted orders of their officers, the tired, grim-faced soldiers gradually arrayed themselves across the valley from each other; each in their own ordered lines. On the southern side of the field, the regiments of the Armée du Nord marched past their Emperor. Napoleon, astride his Arabian stallion Marengo, reviewed and acknowledged 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 initial disposition of his men, dismounted from his horse and reclined in the shade of a tree. Relative quiet again settled over the mud and beaten-down grass.
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 peacock-colored ranks facing each other across a shallow valley cloaked with rye grass. Neither army moved; after all of the early morning’s hurried activity: no one, except for couriers and dispatch riders, on either side of the valley, stirred. Hours seemed to pass. Both splendidly uniformed hosts seemed fixed in place, like insects in amber. Then, without warning, the stillness ended. Suddenly, soldiers in the ranks of both armies were startled 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 canon 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, cruel, and bloody business of war.
1815 is an operational (regiment/brigade/division) level of the most critical three days of Napoleon’s campaign against the Prussian and Anglo-Allied armies that, in June of 1815, were dispersed in encampments along the French-Belgian frontier waiting to be joined by the armies of Russia and Austria. Once these four hostile Coalition armies had united and begun their march on France, Napoleon’s troops would be outnumbered almost four to one. Given the strategic precariousness of his situation, Napoleon decided to act. On 15 June, 1815 he crossed the French border into Belgium at Thuin, near Charleroi, in search of the enemy. On the afternoon of 16 June he found one of his foes near the small village of Ligny. There the Prussian commander, Marshal Prince Blücher von Wahlstadt, had drawn up his army to give battle. Even as the Armée du Nord prepared to smash the Prussians arrayed before him, Napoleon dispatched Ney and a sizeable force to seize a crucial crossroads to the west called Quatre Bras. Ney’s mission was to prevent the Anglo-Allied army of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, from moving to Blücher’s aid. This is roughly the point at which the game begins.
In 1815, one player commands the French; the other controls the Prussians and Anglo-Allies. The game follows a simple game turn sequence: the first player (the French) makes his move, next attempts to rally disrupted units, and finally initiates combat; the second player (the Prussian Anglo-Allied commander) repeats the same sequence, after which the game turn ends. Each daylight game turn represents one hour of real time. The French player wins by accumulating more victory points than his Allied opponent by the end of the 18 June 'night' game turn. The highly detailed game map covers the entire area in Belgium over which the contesting armies maneuvered and fought during the three days covered by the game. Each map hex is 600 meters from side to side. Terrain effects are traditional, with different types of terrain incurring different entry costs and, in certain cases, conferring advantages to the combat strength of defending units. The multi-colored game counters are back-printed and most combat units must lose at least two steps before they are eliminated completely from play. Combat is resolved using a standard "odds differential" CRT, but losses are prescribed in terms of retreat and step losses. Artillery may bombard non-adjacent as well as adjacent enemy units. In addition, cavalry and certain elite infantry units also receive a "shock" bonus in attack. To add historical texture and nuance to the game, the designer has incorporated simple but clever rules governing supply, leaders, stacking, shock combat, cavalry charges, mud, night movement, off-road movement, and artillery. There is even a rule covering a possible Netherlands Defection if Napoleon manages, at some point in the game, to exit a sizeable contingent of French troops off the north map edge towards Brussels.
1815: The Waterloo Campaign offers only the Historical Campaign game which is forty-three turns long. It begins at 11am on 16 June, and ends at the conclusion of the night 18 June game turn. There are no shorter scenarios; so barring an early French breakthrough and decisive victory, players should be prepared to slug it out to the bitter end. To add a little variety and also to modestly adjust play-balance, the designer has included the following Optional Rules for players to try. These add-on rules include: the KGL Dragoons rule, in which the counters for the KGL Dragoons are replaced with upgraded, stronger counters; the Anglo-Allied Reserves rule, which posits that Anglo-Allied rear-area garrisons had been brought forward to reinforce the forces at the front; and the Hal Detachment rule, which assumes that the troops left behind in Hal had been ordered to join Wellington’s main army.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONAt one point in my earlier, game collecting days, I owned as many as twenty-five different titles that, to one degree or another, all dealt either with the Waterloo Campaign, or with the battle itself. In the last three years or so, I have managed to whittle that number down to only ten or so. In spite of all that “whittling” I still have this copy and the earlier (1975) version 1815. As time passes, I will probably auction off a few more of my Waterloo games, but I suspect that I will keep the old version of 1815. It is just too good a game to completely let go of. Certainly other titles have covered the same ground as this title, and done it well; SPI’s NAPOLEON’S LAST BATTLES, for example, but none have offered the particular mix of interesting historical challenges presented during the play of this game. It is also, curiously enough, one of the few really traditional games that Frank Chadwick ever designed
To start with, the maps and counters for 1815 are colorful and very well done. In addition, the importance of leadership is neatly simulated in the game. Commanders play a crucial role in 1815, and command and control are always central to both sides’ deliberations. The players are also confronted with the same problems of weather that plagued the original commanders. During the night and on the day following the Battle of Ligny it rained steadily. The rain turned the Belgian countryside into a virtual bog, and the different armies were slowed significantly and forced onto the local roads as a consequence. In 1815, because all of the game turns of 17 June, as well as the morning turns of 18 June are “mud” turns, both players will find their armies seriously limited in their mobility, and their artillery completely road-bound. Cavalry is also nicely handled in 1815: powerful, even devastating on the attack, but brittle and vulnerable after a charge. All in all, it is an interesting and exciting treatment of Napoleon’s final battles, and one of my favorite games on the Waterloo Campaign.
- Time Scale: 1 hour per game turn (day turns); 5 hours per game turn (night turns)
- Map Scale: 600 meters per hex
- Unit Size: battery/battalion/regiment/brigade/division
- Unit Types: leaders, infantry, cavalry, foot artillery, horse artillery, and information counters
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 4-6+ hours
- Two 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Terrain Key and Turn Record Track incorporated)
- 240 back-printed ½” cardboard Counters
- One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Unit Identification Chart incorporated)
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed French Order of Battle and Reinforcement Chart
- Two 8½” x 11” back-printed Prussian Anglo-Allied Order of Battle and Reinforcement Charts
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Terrain Effects Chart and various Combat Results Tables
- One 4” x 6” GDW Customer Survey Card
- One six-sided Dice
- One 9¼” x 11½” x 2” bookcase-style Game Box
See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles, which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.
For decorating the game room with a Napoleonic theme: