| Napoleon addresses his Guard,|
Battle of Waterloo
|Field Marshal Prince |
Blücher von Wahlstadt
Confronted by an alliance that, when fully assembled, would outnumber his own forces by more than four-to-one, Napoleon decided to strike first. Gathering what available troops could be spared from other fronts, some 123,000 men in all, Napoleon force marched his newly-raised Armée du Nord towards the enemy encampments near the French border and, on the 15th of June, stole across the Sambre River into Belgium. Once his army had advanced within striking-distance of his enemies, Bonaparte’s plan of campaign, based on his theory of the “central position,” was simple: he would drive the Armée du Nord between the dispersed bivouacs of Wellington and Blücher, and then defeat each enemy army in turn before they could combine their forces against him.
Players win in NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLES by inflicting a certain level of casualties on the opposing force or forces. This casualty requirement will vary from scenario to scenario, and from army to army. Moreover, it can take one of two forms: Demoralization, which, in the case of the French, results in their immediate defeat, but in the case of both the Anglo-Allies and the Prussians merely eliminates their ability to advance after combat; and Disintegration (requiring a higher number of casualties than that of Demoralization) which immediately signals the defeat of the P.A.A. force or forces involved in the action.
THE INDIVIDUAL GAMES
is a simulation of the first major battle of Napoleon's 1815 campaign. The Prussian commander, Field Marshal Prince Blücher von Wahlstadt — instead of retiring in the face of the unexpected French advance — chose to offer battle near the town of Ligny. The Prussian positions were generally strong with the main part of the Prussian army deployed around the village of Ligny and on the high ground to the northwest of the town. As a further barrier to enemy movements, a series of shallow streams wove through and around the town; collectively these were known as Ligny Brook. In addition to favorable terrain, Blücher's command, which totaled about 84,000 men and 224 guns, actually outnumbered the opposing French forces, which numbered only 75,000 men and 212 guns. Nonetheless, the French — under the personal direction of Napoleon and undeterred by their foe's numerical advantage — commenced an assault against the Prussian line at about two o'clock in the afternoon. For much of the day, the Prussians held their attackers at bay; however, because of the exposed positions of many of the Prussian units, the French artillery was able to exact a terrible toll on Blücher's troops. By evening, the Prussians had committed the last of their reserves and the entire army was nearing the limit of its endurance; at this point, and with the light rapidly fading, Napoleon ordered the elite infantry of the Imperial Guard forward supported by a division of heavy cavalry. The Prussian line bent and then buckled in the face of this last ferocious assault. Fortunately for Blücher, who had been injured when his horse fell on him late in the action, darkness allowed the beaten Prussians to withdraw unmolested and in relatively good order: the victorious French were too exhausted to organize a pursuit until the next morning. Prussian losses were heavy with probably somewhere between 12-20,000 killed, wounded, and captured, while another 8-10,000 abandoned the fight completely and deserted for home. French casualties were considerably lower, with most estimates placing Napoleon's losses at around 6,500-7,000 men killed and wounded. Ligny, there can no doubt, was a significant French tactical success; unfortunately, it had not been the decisive victory that Napoleon had needed. The Prussian army had been badly mauled; but its escape under cover of darkness guaranteed that it would survive to fight another day, and that day would come much sooner than Napoleon expected.
depicts the action at Quatre Bras between the advanced guard of Wellington's Anglo-Allied army (ultimately reinforced to about 36,000 men) and the left wing of the Armée du Nord (approximately 25,000 men) under Marshal Ney. Napoleon had instructed Ney to take possession of the vital crossroads at Quatre Bras to prevent Wellington from coming to the aid of his Prussian ally at Ligny. Unfortunately for the French, Marshal Ney, unsure as to the local strength of the Coalition forces to his front and awaiting reinforcements, postponed action for several critical hours. Finally, with no sign of the additional troops he had been promised (they were marching and counter-marching back and forth between Ligny and Quatre bras and would end up taking part in neither battle), Ney opened his assault at about 3:00 pm with a series of tentative and piecemeal attacks against what was, in the beginning, an out-numbered British (and Dutch-Belgian) detachment. The initial French advantage in rifle strength did not last, however, and although Ney's attacks were gradually able to push the enemy line back during the afternoon, the arrival on the scene both of the Duke of Wellington and of substantial Anglo-Allied reinforcements finally allowed the British, as evening approached, to counterattack the French all along the front. This assault, coming as a surprise to the tiring French troops, quickly succeeded both in wresting the initiative away from Ney, and in throwing the French back from all of the hard-won positions that they had gained earlier in the day. Ney's troops had had enough for the day, and fighting finally sputtered to an end at nightfall.
|Battle of Quatre Bras|
is a simulation of the battle between the right wing of the Armée du Nord, under Marshal Grouchy, and the Prussian rear guard, under General Baron von Thielmann. The troops under Thielmann, which numbered somewhere between 17,000 and 27,000 men (estimates vary widely), were tasked by Theilmann's commander, Marshal Blücher, with tying up the 33,000 men under Grouchy while the rest of the Prussian army marched to the aid of the Anglo-Allies at Waterloo. In this, the Prussian commander was successful. Grouchy, in one of the most controversial (if not incomprehensible) decisions of the entire campaign, chose — instead of immediately marching to the sound of the guns at Waterloo — to attack the Prussians to his immediate front. The casualties of the two armies were comparatively light; both the French and Prussians each losing only about 2,500 men killed and wounded. The battle of Wavre ended with a modest French victory, but Grouchy's chance to change history had slipped away. Instead, while his troops fought a largely pointless action against Thielmann's delaying forces at Wavre, the fate of the entire campaign was being decided on another battlefield only a few miles away.
depicts what is, perhaps, the most famous military engagement in European history, the Battle of Waterloo. The site at which the battle was fought, interestingly enough, had actually been pre-selected by Wellington during a tour of the Belgian countryside in the weeks leading up to the battle. The presence of several walled chateaux and the gently undulating lay of the ground had convinced the British commander that this patch of terrain offered excellent defensive advantages to the British and their Dutch-Belgian allies if they should ever be obliged to mount a defense of the Brussels Road. The site had only one worrisome defect: the forests that would likely be at the backs of a defender's lines would make the orderly retreat of an army from the battlefield, if it were defeated, next to impossible.
On the morning of 18 June 1815, the two opposing hosts, after having spent a rain-soaked night within earshot of each other, formed for battle. Wellington's polyglot army — which was composed of British regulars, Belgians, Dutch, and Nassauers — deployed along a low-lying set of ridges and in two walled chateaux (known locally as Hougomont and La Haye-Sainte) on the north side of the battlefield, while the French army took up positions along the high ground to the south. A shallow valley, cloaked with sodden rye grass, separated the two forces. In total numbers, the two belligerents were not that unevenly matched. Wellington commanded a force of some 24,000 British and 43,500 allied troops (approximately 67,700 men, in total) along with 156 guns; Napoleon's army was slightly larger, numbering roughly 72,000 Frenchmen with 246 guns. Although estimates of times vary, the two armies had probably largely completed their dispositions sometime around 9:00 am. Then, having taken their respective places on each side of the battlefield, an unexpected quiet settled over the massed ranks of both armies. Everyone stood stoically by and waited.
|Wellington directs deployment from his|
famous position under the tree
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONThe NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System, as I have noted a number of times before, is probably one of the most successful conflict simulation design platforms ever created. Besides being used in numerous SPI (and other publishers’) Napoleonic games, it has also been the foundation for the SPI BLUE & GRAY Civil War Quadrigames; in addition, it has showed up in at least one WWII title, BATTLE FOR GERMANY, and it has even appeared in a modern naval game, SPI’s 6th FLEET. These games, whatever their differences, all share many of the same characteristics: they are easy and comparatively quick to play, full of action, and they usually model interesting and historically significant conflict situations.
|British guards defending Hougomont, Battle of Waterloo|
|French cavalry attack|
|Marshal Ney at Waterloo|
- Time Scale: 1 hour per game turn (daylight turns); 3 hours per game turn (night turns)
- Map Scale: 480 meters per hex
- Unit Size: Each strength point represents 350-750 men or 1 battery of artillery (6 to 14 guns)
- Unit Types: army commanders (e.g., Napoleon, Wellington, and Blücher), officers (mainly corps commanders), infantry, cavalry, foot artillery, and horse artillery
- Number of Players: two (the Campaign Game, however, is a possible candidate for team play)
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 2-3 hours (depending on scenario); 15+ hours for the Campaign Game
Game Components (for all four Games):
- Four 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Unit Starting Positions, Turn Record Chart and Terrain Key incorporated)
- 400 ½” back-printed cardboard Counters
- Two 8½” x 11” Standard Rules Booklets (with Individual Scenario Instructions and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
- Two 8½” x 11” Campaign Rules Booklets (with Additional Campaign Instructions and Unit Manifest incorporated)
- One small six-sided Die
- One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic box cover with Title Sheet
Recommended ReadingSee my blog post Book Reviews of Waterloo, Day of Battle, and The Campaigns of Napoleon and The Face of Battle; books that I recommend as highly-readable sources for those visitors who are interested in further historical background.
For decorating the game room with a Napoleonic theme: