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Subject: Napoleon, Waterloo, and the fate of France rss

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Pete Belli
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One-Minute Waterloo



This year will mark the 200th anniversary of the Waterloo Campaign. One-Minute Waterloo is a microgame attempting to portray the battle of Waterloo with a small map and a handful of counters.

One-Minute Waterloo is a solitaire challenge. The player represents Napoleon and the game offers a commander most of the tactical choices available to the Emperor in 1815. The entire battle only takes about 60 seconds to play. However, relevant historical factors like defensive terrain, Prussian reinforcements, support from reserve formations, leadership, and the Imperial Guard are contained in the rules.

In 1815 Napoleon said the chances for a successful outcome were 6 in 10. During a typical One-Minute Waterloo session the player faces similar odds.

This companion game to the previously released One-Minute Bulge is a free Print & Play game with a single 8.5" x 11" map and a small assortment of components. The finished version will be posted on BGG when playtesting has been completed at the end of April. This lavishly illustrated Session Report is a preview of the prototype.






There are three phases in a One-Minute Waterloo session. During that first phase a die roll the determines the arrival schedule of Prussian Reinforcements. In the second phase the player conducts Movement and Battle. The final phase allows the player to calculate a Victory Level and compares his or her performance with the historical outcome.

Each playing piece represents an army corps. For example, the French 6th Corps (VI Corps) represent the infantry divisions led by Lobau plus all of the cavalry and artillery formations attached to his command. There is a separate marker representing Napoleon. The map is not exactly to scale but each hex represents approximately a mile of actual terrain.






The scenario begins late in the afternoon. Marshal Ney has weakened the French army with a series of unimaginative frontal assaults. In spite of Ney's failure to coordinate the actions of French infantry, artillery, and cavalry the Anglo-Allied force led by Wellington has taken a pounding. Prussian reinforcements have begun to approach the dangerously exposed French right flank. Napoleon had planned to defeat Wellington before the Prussian troops commanded by Blücher arrived. The action commences at the approximate time Napoleon moved his field headquarters to a more advanced position at La Belle Alliance.






Napoleon had been strangely detached from events on the morning of the battle. The Emperor was also was suffering from a painful and embarrassing bout of hemorrhoids. He remained on a hill near Rossomme, an elevation which provided a limited view of the battlefield. A courier sent by Marshal Ney might require 15 minutes to carry a message to the Emperor and take any response from Napoleon back to the firing line. Napoleon was increasingly distracted by pressure on the French line of communications as the Prussian IV Corps (4th Corps) attempted to capture the village of Plancenoit. Napoleon only issued a handful of orders to Ney from Rossomme and left that impetuous general in control of the attack.






"Night or the Prussians must come." -- Wellington

The inevitable arrival of Prussian Reinforcements will determine a player's strategy for Napoleon and the French. The epic march of the Prussians from Wavre was one of the most dramatic moments at Waterloo. Blücher had ordered the 4th Corps under von Bülow to strike the French flank. The original instructions issued by the Feldmarscall to von Zieten and the 1st Corps (I Corps) had been modified by events in the Anglo-Allied sector of the battlefield. Only the courageous intervention of General von Muffling (a Prussian liaison officer attached to Wellington's staff) diverted Zieten and his troops to a supporting position on the left flank of the Anglo-Allied line.

There are three possible outcomes with the Prussian Reinforcements die. A single "night" result halts the advance of the 1st Corps. The two Prussian flag results put the 1st Corps in position to support the 4th Corps in the struggle for Plancenoit. Three British flag results place the 1st Corps a location that allows Zieten to support Bülow or Wellington. Regardless of the result, the 4th Corps will advance into Plancenoit and "contest" that area.

In the example shown here a Prussian flag result has appeared.






This is the situation at the end of the Prussian Reinforcements phase. The 4th Corps has advanced into Plancenoit and threatens Napoleon's flank. The 1st Corps has moved into a supporting position. In the One-Minute Waterloo system any unit in a "contested" area can be supported by a friendly unit in a reserve position. An adjacent friendly unit which is not itself in a contested area can support a friendly unit attacked by the French. This support by a reserve formation adds one to the defender's battle strength.






Napoleon was given a hemorrhoid treatment about 3:00 o'clock that afternoon. Later the Emperor moved forward to La Belle Alliance. Napoleon had retained most of the Imperial Guard as a final reserve; now he began to contemplate his options.






"This morning we had ninety odds in our favor. We still have sixty against forty." -- Napoleon

The player (and Napoleon) can win the battle by splitting the Anglo-Allied and Prussian armies. In game terms, this is accomplished if the French capture the hex containing La Haye Sainte and the high ground near Mont St. Jean. Movement and Battle occur during the second phase of the game. Since the Prussian 1st Corps has not moved to support Wellington the player decides to attack the Anglo-Allied position. If the player can force the Anglo-Allied unit to withdraw the French will achieve a victory.

Only the Imperial Guard unit can be moved during this phase... plus the Napoleon block, if the player chooses. The player is required to make an attack. Calculating battle strengths in One-Minute Waterloo is a simple process. Each unit has a strength of one point. The leadership provided when Napoleon is directly involved in an attack adds another point... Wellington said that the presence of the Emperor on the battlefield was the equivalent of 40000 soldiers. Since Wellington used the defensive terrain so skillfully in 1815 the Anglo-Allied unit holding the high ground adds one to its battle strength. In this example the ratio of French strength to Anglo-Allied strength would be expressed as 3 against 2 before the battle die is rolled.

There are four possible results on the battle die. The symbol portrayed in this example represents a French setback... "Le Garde recule!" was the cry heard among the French soldiers at Waterloo as the Imperial Guard retreated. This battle die result subtracts one point from the French battle strength, leaving the actual ratio at 1 to 1 or even odds.

A crude Battle Results chart for One-Minute Waterloo would look like this...

Strength Ratio

+1 or greater = Defender Retreat

1-1 (equal) = Stalemate

-1 or less = Attacker Defeated


...so this battle would end in a Stalemate.






During the third phase of the game the Victory Level achieved by the French is determined. Since the Anglo-Allied unit defending the high ground was not forced to withdraw Napoleon has failed to divide the enemy armies. This outcome is a loss for the player. However, since the Emperor did participate in the final attack the player has been awarded a flag token representing "la gloire militaire" or military glory. Napoleon did not move forward with the Garde Impériale in 1815; if he had chosen that option at Waterloo the history of his career would have a different flavor, regardless of the final outcome of the struggle against the Seventh Coalition.

A crude Victory Level chart for One-Minute Waterloo would look like this...

Victory Levels

6 = Victory with Glory token

5 = Victory

4 = Draw with Glory token

3 = Draw

2 = Loss with Glory token

1 = Loss

0 = Death of Napoleon


...so in this example the player has achieved level 2. The historical result in 1815 would be considered level 1.






The decision to place the Emperor on the firing line is a crucial element of the game. Napoleon obviously adds strength to any attack. The chance for "la gloire militaire" is a powerful temptation. As the battle reached a climax in 1815 the Emperor did ride forward a short distance with the Imperial Guard, but he turned away and watched his soldiers march to their destiny on Mont St. Jean.

There is a good reason to follow the historical narrative during a session of One-Minute Waterloo. Napoleon can get killed.






In this example the Prussian Reinforcements die roll has resulted in the delayed arrival of Zieten and the 1st Corps. Neither the Anglo-Allied left flank nor von Bülow and the 4th Corps will be supported by a reserve formation during the final attack. This is the best outcome a player can hope to receive during the first phase of the game.






In spite of that favorable die roll the French commander has decided to play for a draw. By throwing the Imperial Guard and the 6th Corps against the isolated Prussian 4th Corps at Plancenoit and adding the leadership bonus provided by Napoleon the player can almost guarantee a battle ratio of at least +1 even if the French setback result appears on the die. In addition, a Glory token will be awarded to the player for committing Napoleon to the attack.

In game terms, pushing the Prussians out of the Plancenoit hex will protect the French line of communications and allow Napoleon to withdraw his shattered army. In a tactical sense this represents a drawn battle; strategically and politically this retreat would probably be the beginning of the end for the Emperor.

Unfortunately for the player a skull result appears on the battle die. This is the equivalent of a French setback with an additional penalty -- if the Emperor is present on the battlefield Napoleon is killed. There is a 1 in 6 chance this can happen every time Napoleon moves forward with the Garde Impériale.

Napoleon est tombé sur le champs de bataille. Napoleon fell on the field of battle. A loss with a score of zero.






Sessions are not always so deadly for the player. In this example the Prussian 1st Corps has moved to support Wellington (the historical narrative) after a British flag appears on the die. There is a 50-50 chance this result will occur.






The French commander decides to play for a draw. Napoleon remains at his field headquarters near La Belle Alliance while the Guard and the 6th Corps attempt to drive the Prussians out of Plancenoit. The battle ratio is 1 to 1 before the battle die is rolled because von Bülow's 4th Corps is supported by the 1st Corps. The player rolls a lucky eagle (one chance in six) and this adds one to the French battle strength. Vive l' Empereur!

The modified battle result is a +1 ratio so the Prussians will be forced to retreat.






This is the situation during the third phase of the game. The player has achieved a draw. There is no Glory token because Napoleon did not participate in the attack. The final Victory Level is 3. Napoleon would probably conduct an orderly withdrawal and attempt to unite with Marshal Grouchy.






In this example Napoleon leads the attack on the strongest possible Anglo-Allied deployment including support from the Prussian 1st Corps. Narrowly avoiding a le Tricolore flag result (a 2 in 6 chance which has no effect on any battle) the player rolls the eagle and gains a one strength point bonus. The final battle ratio is 4 to 3 in favor of the French. Wellington will be forced to retreat.

Please note that if a French setback icon on the die had produced a 2 to 3 strength ratio the outcome on the Battle Results Chart would be -1 or Attacker Defeated. If this result occurs the player would not receive a Glory token, even if Napoleon participated in the attack.






I have made all the calculations, fate will do the rest. -- Napoleon

As this game enters the third phase the Victory Level is determined to be 6... a victory with a Glory token. This is the highest level a player can achieve.

Even at this level the strategic picture for Napoleon would be doubtful. His own Armée du Nord has been weakened by the heavy fighting at Waterloo. The coalition armies facing Napoleon in Belgium may have been defeated, but they have not been broken. Other coalition armies threaten France along the frontiers and the Emperor has political enemies in Paris. In the long view it may have been better for France that the period known as The Hundred Days was not extended after a marginal victory at Waterloo. Napoleon needed a to land a crushing blow in 1815; he didn't, and the rest is an epilogue.




Thanks for taking a few minutes to read this lengthy article.

I'm looking forward to posting the finished version of One-Minute Waterloo on BGG with great anticipation. Playtesting should be completed during the RECON convention held in Orlando near the last week of April.

One-Minute Waterloo was inspired by the work of the legendary wargame designers Jim Dunnigan and Kevin Zucker. Games like Napoleon at Waterloo and Napoleon's Last Battles helped to spark an interest in the campaign which has continued for many years.

A special "Thank you!" goes out to...

"L'état, c'est moi."
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...who answered my French language questions.

Any errors in translation are mine.
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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I would totally buy a Kickstarter edition of the one minute series.
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Juan Valdez
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leroy43 wrote:
I would totally buy a Kickstarter edition of the one minute series.


Gettysburg...Stalingrad...Kasserine...the mind boggles.

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Pete Belli
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leroy43 wrote:
I would totally buy a Kickstarter edition of the one minute series.


One-Minute Bulge poked gentle fun at the long list of Ardennes wargames produced by this hobby. It was a mild spoof.

The design effort behind One-Minute Waterloo was taken seriously. The game is intended to offer an interesting play experience.
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Pete Belli
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A complete playtest kit is now available on BGG:

Playtest Version Rules now available...

Playtest Version map, counters, and charts now available...
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Jules Garside
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one second hiroshima.

or it's expansion:

one second nagasaki.

 
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