Are There Any *Good* Waterloo Games? Any at All?
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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On the face of it the question seems absurd: Waterloo is one of the Big Three, along with Gettysburg and the Bulge. Seems like everyone's got a couple of Waterloo games stuck in their closet, going all the way back to WATERLOO (TAHGC) and NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO (SPI's original give-away). But are there any *good* Waterloos? Games that are both faithful to the historical situation and a blast to play? Games that capture the subtleties of command and combined arms, games that have the potential to generate drama as rich as what actually happened? In short, a game befitting what may be history's most iconic battle? The list is waiting.
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1. Board Game: Waterloo [Average Rating:5.82 Overall Rank:7694]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
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Classic, but hardly a serious study of the battle.
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2. Board Game: Napoleon at Waterloo [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:3334]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
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Like the above, an intensely competitive *game* but any resemblance to the battle is purely coincidental.
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3. Board Game: Napoleon's Last Battles [Average Rating:7.16 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.16 Unranked]
M. Kirschenbaum
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Kevin Zucker's classic brigade-level treatment of the battle and campaign, using a modified system based on NaW. Let's put aside the campaign for a moment and focus solely on the action on June 18, 1815, between Mont Saint Jean and La Belle Alliance. Here's the problem as I see it: depicted at the brigade level, Waterloo itself--the two armies facing off across that shallow valley--becomes a bore. The British, historically, didn't do much of anything except hold their position and wait for Blucher. Yes, I know about the charge of the heavy cavalry, the fearsome struggles for Hougoumont (see below) and La Haye Sainte. But those events don't stand out very well at this scale. So the battle becomes a slugfest, much like Borodino but on a more compact front. The terrible pressure on the British line that increased as the day wore on until the whole army was near its breaking point becomes reduced to a series of inconclusive die rolls. Not exactly the stuff of great gaming.
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4. Board Game: The Thin Red Line [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:8232]
M. Kirschenbaum
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College Park
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Brigade level. Haven't played it, appears to garner mixed comments.
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5. Board Game: The Battles of Waterloo [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:5279]
M. Kirschenbaum
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College Park
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A more recent brigade/regimental level treatment by Richard Berg. The system evolvled into Triumph and Glory. I haven't played this one either, but I've heard the rules are muddled. In any case, see my comments on brigade-level games above.
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6. Board Game: Wellington's Victory: Battle of Waterloo Game – June 18th, 1815 [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:3212]
M. Kirschenbaum
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The next two systems get you in closer: WELLINGTON'S VICTORY and LA BATAILLE. Both are battalion level. This one, however, is almost thirty years old, and while it certainly has its devotees I think it is generally thought not worth the effort without a clutch of house rules. Skirmishers, in particular, are out of kilter. On top of that, the LOS algorithm is frightful, and the map and counter graphics pretty lifeless, at least by current standards.
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7. Board Game: La Bataille de Mont Saint Jean [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked]
M. Kirschenbaum
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Maryland
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La Bataille is, well, La Bataille; in order to actually play Waterloo you also need to own Ligney and Quatre Bras (both currently out of print, though that's set to change) as well as the Mont Saint Jean expansion pack (currently listed as "endangered" on the COA Web site). Plus the Wavre game if you like, also out of print. I don't want to argue the merits or demerits of La Bataille as a simulation here, but much like ASL it's a lifestyle choice as much as a game system. So neither of these two battalion-level systems is ultimately attractive or satisfying, at least to the more casual gamer.
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8. Board Game: The Last Days of the Grande Armee [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:7184]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
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Then there's the other end of the spectrum. The campaign-oriented games. Division and corps-level. NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLES (see above) and LAST DAYS OF THE GRANDE ARMEE (also by Kevin Zucker). Columbia's block classic NAPOLEON. L2's forthcoming FATE OF FRANCE. The focus here is on the French invasion of Belgium, and the games usually turn on supply, maneuver, and strategic objectives; while this has its attractions--the real significance of Waterloo is arguably made manifest at this level more clearly than any game focusing on just the battle--none offers any guarantee of giving you a confrontation even remotely resembling the tactical situation of June 18th, 1815.
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9. Board Game: Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815 [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:1015]
M. Kirschenbaum
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Also what I'd call "campaign scale." A block classic that's gone through several different publishers and editions. Hits the sweet spot.
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10. Board Game: Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:4924]
M. Kirschenbaum
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Finally, Waterloo is a popular theme for "lite" wargames. While these may be good games, the battle is precisely that . . . a theme, and not an object of study or exploration.
 
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11. Board Game: Hougoumont [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:6748]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
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From Command Magazine. This one is a personal favorite because the approach--micro-tactical--is so unique, but it's hardly a comprehensive Waterloo game. Incidentally, there's a new version just out in the Japanese edition of the magazine; the graphics are much improved, especially the map.
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12. Board Game: 1815: The Waterloo Campaign [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:7750]
 
Alan Richbourg
United States
Arlington
Texas
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This old dog is division level, but with a more limited map area than say Columbia's Napoleon. It's no better than the games listed above, although with some cleaned up rules it's actually kind of fun to play. I have the 1975 version (shown in this picture), which was the first Napoleonic game in my collection. Btw I've never seen a truly good (in the sense you mean) Waterloo computer game either, though I've played several, and one many times.
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13. Board Game: Hundred Days Battles [Average Rating:5.91 Overall Rank:8559]
Eric Feifer
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
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Here's another division-level game.
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14. Board Game: The Emperor Returns [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:4604]
Dave Rubin
United States
Trenton
New Jersey
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"It may be doubted whether so small a number of men ever employed so short a space of time with greater or more lasting effects upon the history of the world.” — Sir George Otto Trevelyan on the Battles of Trenton and Princeton
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Best game of the campaign. The French hold the initiative and have viable alternatives to the historical approach up the Charleroi-Brussels road, while the Coalition must identify the French axis of attack before either the Prussians (or more likely) the Anglo-Allied army is overwhelmed. "Battles of the 100 Days" is a introductory and simplified excerpt from this game.
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15. Board Game: Eagles: Waterloo [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:4062]
 
Seth Owen
United States
Norwich
Connecticut
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This Columbia game on the campaign is merely suggestive, rather than comprehensive. The cards are nice for the uniform depictions and the rules and cards include various aspects of the campaign in a highly stylized way. Not what you're looking for at all, but for the sake of completeness here it is.
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16. Board Game: Victory at Waterloo [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:7726]
David Coutts
Australia
Melbourne
Victoria
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I would say this is a *good* introductory game on Waterloo.

Easy to teach beginners, and easily playable in an evening. As an historical simulation it's pretty light on. No unit morale, just army morale for French, Prussians and British/Allies. No formations. Only 4 types of unit - infantry, cavalry, artillery and horse-artillery. Simple special rules for the farm house La Haye Sainte and Hougomont that often see at least one of them change hands more than once in a game. Special rules (with possible morale penalty) for committing "The Old Guard."
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17. Board Game: L'Armée du Nord [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:5155]
Rick Fehrenbacher
United States
Unspecified
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s'OK. Not *good*,though. Rather play Columbia Games' Napoleon for a one-sitting game of the whole campaign.
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18. Board Game: Waterloo [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:11323]
Davide Bacchiega
France
Savigny sur Orge
Essonne
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This title by International Team is not the best one of the Editor, but I guess it can be played with pleasure. In my opinion, Chavalry movement and attacking system is rather weak, but maybe a variation could be studied to improve it with not so much effort...
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Daryl Anderson
United States
Trumansburg
New York
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Here's another existing geeklist with Waterloo games.

This one is part of the huge "Timeline of War" geeklist tree.

Be careful about "looping" since I have added an entry to THIS geeklist onto THAT one.
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20. Board Game: Waterloo 1815 [Average Rating:7.04 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.04 Unranked]
Don't argue, just play!
Poland
Warsaw
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Another game about one of most famous battles in world's history, this time from Poland.

This game is very controversial and has it's fans and (much more) critics because of length of play and some unhistorical rules and simplifications (despite it's great complexity). But this can be explained by ignorance of some wise rules' solutions used in so-called "West" (non-Polish) games at this time (1996).
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21. Board Game: Waterloo [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:2678]
United States
San Clemente
California
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Here the truceless armies yet / Trample, rolled in blood and sweat; / They kill and kill and never die; / And I think that each is I. // None will part us, none undo / The knot that makes one flesh of two, /
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Sick with hatred, sick with pain, / Strangling -- When shall we be slain? // When shall I be dead and rid / Of the wrong my father did? / How long, how long, till spade and hearse / Puts to sleep my mother's curse?
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Don't forget this one - brand new and full of clever ideas to give it a fresh look at this oft' gamed campaign. Give it a try!
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22. Board Game: Waterloo 20 [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:3780]
Andreas E. Gebhardt
Germany
Birkenwerder
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Innovative small format, quick playing, wargame system from Joe Miranda, developed and edited by Lance McMillan and published by Victory Point Games.

The games feature low unit density on the map (20 pieces or less), modest complexity and dramatic, fast playing turns. This system provides for interesting operational level maneuvers that set up dramatic battles and cavalry engagements. It also has random event cards and night game turns which provide the "friction of war" that affected both sides greatly during the campaign.

There are also more Napoleonic battles designed with this system...
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