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La Bataille des Quatre Bras» Forums » Reviews

Subject: La Bataille: Beautiful, brilliant and engrossing rss

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Scipio O.
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tl;dr: You need to play this game.

I don't have a huge amount to say about the details of La Bataille des Quatre Bras or about the LB series, except that based on multiple plays of QB and some exposure to scenarios in Moscowa I would encourage every serious historical boardgamer to be sure to have at least one of these games in their collection.

The games are built on an astonishing depth of historical knowledge and research that's reflected in the outstanding maps and counters. The recent production quality and artwork is terrific, you'll be glad just to have the game on the table. Game play is driven by a pool of limited orders that you will assign via command. A command can be an entire corps or a single unit; if you allow your commands to be separated, your side will pay dearly. The chit-pull mechanism includes each command plus activations for both players (eg Fire and Regroup) and it provides a highly interactive structure.


Battle gets underway at Quatre Bras (gohrns)

There are not a lot of games where a principal barrier to entry is the question: what rules do I use? A recent comment on Consimworld is like many reactions you have probably seen - "just figuring out if this series is even worth purchasing for a newbie like me has proven quite bewildering. My purchase decisions for... other tactical level games have not involved anywhere close to the research this series seems to require." This confusion, apparent here on BGG and CSW, is without doubt depressing interest in these games.

My short answer is: use the ML (Reglements de Marie Louise). The ML is a distillation and simplification of the core elements of this game series that is well organized and a pleasure to read. The rules are readily applicable to a host of the more recent games in the series, and they form the basis for expanding out to other rule sets. Depending on how you take to the ML rules and the system, you can always move on to the XXX (Reglements XXX). Some background on the history of the rules can be found here < https://boardgamegeek.com/article/22034372#22034372 > . In fact, the waters have gotten still murkier now with the emergence of the "Premier" and "Fifth Edition" rules (as of the time of this writing, I have only glanced at them).

The ML rules provide the entry-point for any gamer who has enjoyed playing the Library of Napoleon's Battles, Combat Commander, Paths of Glory, or SPQR, just to cite a few diverse examples. I think the XXX rule set can fairly be analogized to ASL for Napoleonic wargaming, and it will be there if you want to step deeper into multi-hex formations, grazing artillery fire, recoil at the point of the bayonet, and the like. This review from BigBoardGaming < https://bigboardgaming.com/la-bataille-reglement-xxx-rules/ > gives a critical yet ultimately positive description of the hardship of trying to learn the game by jumping straight into the complex XXX system. I wouldn't recommend that approach. I tried to learn QB with "the rules in the box" which are essentially the XXX, and made some progress but ended up putting it back on the shelf for several years.

Those of us who come to play the games without being steeped in Napoleonic history can sometimes find ourselves a bit lost (exactly which units at Quatre Bras make up the full complement of Hanoverians whose overall morale I am supposed to be tracking? What exactly was the Russian command structure for the Center Wing at Borodino so I can correctly assign my MUs?). It's worth working through it. While the series and many of its long-time players may seem to assume that you bring a lot of this knowledge, the main point of writing this review is to encourage you to dive in anyway: the water's fine!

Consider this comment from the CSW forum: "I vaguely remember reading about one LaBat game at some convention where six players were using seven different versions of the rules, plus differing house rules were in effect depending on where one sat at the table. How awesome is that???" Embrace the chaos, seems to be the advice.


Moscowa - looks great.

And the chaos can roll out on a vast scale. Many of the full campaign scenarios are simply so large (four maps! seven maps!!) as to be bordering on once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The market for that is inherently limited. But recent years have seen the release of this great QB one-mapper and the ML rules can be used to play other manageable 1-2 map games.

The ML rules are clear and tight, the maps and counters are fantastic, and whether you play solo or with friends or preferably both, La Bataille delivers a deep, engrossing challenge that you'll come back to many times.

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M St
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I would not recommend playing this game unless you have Rick Barber's newer map of the area from Grognard's Incredible courage series. The QB map is about 40-50% off by scale (due problems with the old source material by the designer's statement), making for a much denser defensive line than historical. I'm normally someone who puts more emphasis on the rules than the other components (that's why I pretty much stopped playing La Bataille), but in this case the map, however beautiful, is the villain.
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Frank Jewell
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Thanks Scipio. Sound advice. I definitely share your enthusiasm and recommendations. Currently I am in the middle of Moscowa using the excellent ML rules and enjoying it immensely. Next up is QB2 with the XXX rule set. Looking forward to that challenge. I can't think of a better way to complement reading around Napoleonic military history. Five star recommendation but you need time to do it justice!
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Gene Rodek
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La Bat fan since the original Austerlitz. The multiple rule sets can be frustrating, but agreed that the ML may be the easiest way to enter. QB2 is IMHO an excellent game to get into the system. Low density meeting engagement. Lots of problems facing both sides. Good reply value.

Albuera is also a good entry game, though it may be hard to find. Marshall Enterprises has been re-issuing games and have a couple of DTP games on their site that are also good intros. ME still uses the Primiere set of rules.

Lots here to enjoy!
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Terry Lewis
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"But first, the children ought to be fed." -- Virginia Held (1980) from "Property, Profits, and Economic Justice"
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Great discussion!
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