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Jeff Curtis
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Waterloo 20 is the first release in the Victory Point Games Napoleon 20 series of games. The significance of the ‘20’ is neither side will have more than 20 counters in play. Each counter represents a corps, or 8,000-20,000 men. A hex is a half-mile across, and game turns represent 3-4 hours, with the exception of the night turn. So a full day is made up of a morning, mid-day, afternoon and early evening turn, followed by a night turn.

The Nappy 20 system was designed by Joe Miranda, and for more background on the system you should check out the Alan Emrich interview on episode 36 of the Point2Point podcast. Alan is the proprietor of Victory Point Games.

Components: If you are expecting basic DTP quality, which is how these small games are often published, then you will be pleasantly surprised. The small counter sheet is die cut and the artwork for both the counters and map is top notch. The map is 11x17 and is printed on medium-weight paper. The 40 counters are 5/8” and are fairly thick. A color playing aid with the various charts are included along with 12 event cards. This all comes packaged in a ziplock bag.

Rules: There is a standard 8-page rules booklet for the Napoleonic 20 system and a 1-page addendum for each specific battle. This includes 5-6 page of core rules followed by some optional rules. Currently games are available for Waterloo and Jena, but more are in the pipeline. At its heart the system is your basic hex-and-counter war game, but there are a couple of unique features.

First and foremost is the morale point system. France starts with 8 morale points while the British-Prussian allies start with 7. Morale points can be gained or lost through combat, but you, as commander, can choose to expend morale points to motivate and enhance your forces. When the point is expended by the allies, then only the British or the Prussians get the benefit, whereas the entire French army gets the benefit. You would have to spend 2 points if you want both the British and Prussian troops to get the benefit.
The catch is if either side’s morale ever reaches zero, they lose immediately.

Benefits you can obtain by expending morale points include:

Force March – Add one to the movement allowance of your troops. Since infantry moves 2 and cavalry 3 hexes, this is a significant bump.

Commit the Guard – The French have the infamous Old Guard, while the British also have an elite corp. It costs a MP point to commit the guard, which means the elite unit moves from outside an opponent’s zone of control into an enemy ZOC.

Commit the reserves – This is simply adding a point to the strength of your units before resolving a battle. “Reserves’ here is an abstract concept that each corps is holding back some reserves and by committing them to a battle you can bump up your strength. The combat results table is based on differentials and not odds, so every point counts.

Add 1 to rally roll – Broken units are not permanently destroyed, but are set aside off the map. During a night turn you can attempt to rally these units with a D6 roll. On 1-2 the unit is eliminated, 3-4 no action and on 5-6 the unit rallies. So +1 is big.

During combat morale can change in three ways. If you break an enemy unit your morale goes up one while the enemy’s morale goes down one. This can be a big momentum shift later in the game when morale levels are nearing or are at critical stage. Second, if you rout an enemy unit, that unit has to make a D6 roll to see how many hexes it retreats. If that roll exceeds the units normal movement allowance then the enemy side losses a morale point. In that case, the attacker morale does not go up. Finally, if you do commit a guard unit and they do not win then battle, then you lose another morale point.

You can also drive down an enemy’s morale by controlling an enemy objective hex during a night turn or controlling two or more of an enemy’s line of communication hexes during a night move.

There are three possible ways to increase your morale. First is the aforementioned “breaking’ of an enemy unit. Each side also gets morale back during a night turn. The French get one point while the Allies get two. Finally, there is a random event card that requires a morale dice roll. On 1-2 you lose a morale point, 3-4 no change, or 5-6 you gain a morale point. Each side starts their turn with the drawing of a random even card, with the exception of the French turn 1.

There are also some special rules that apply to cavalry units. The system is your basic IGO/UGO with movement followed by combat. However, enemy cavalry gets a reaction phase in between your movement and combat phases. During the reaction phase a cavalry unit can withdraw from the ZOC of an enemy infantry unit. They can not escape the ZOC of an enemy cavalry unit. The cavalry unit can also countercharge an enemy unit at double its normal combat strength. The other cavalry special rule is that cavalry must advance after a combat in which it wins. If an enemy routs and retreats up to six hexes, the attacking cavalry unit can advance all the way along the retreat path as long as it doesn’t hit an enemy ZOC.

Optional rules include playing with hidden units (all counters are flipped) as well as more detailed rules for tracking and rallying routed units. There is also an optional rule for cavalry penetration, artillery support, and breaking corps down into two smaller units.

The victory conditions differ for the two sides. The French can only win by driving the allied morale level to zero. The allies win a decisive by getting the French morale to zero, but the allies win a marginal victory if their morale is higher than the French morale at the end of turn 13. Anything else is considered a draw.

Game Play: I have given you the details of the morale system as that is really the heart and soul of the game. I have played the game 4 times and the game has always ended early because one army or the other breaks with morale hitting zero. This really causes some tough decisions. France starts with more units on the map and has the only cavalry on the board at turn one. Since the French have to break the Allies to win, you feel the pressure to attack, attack, attack right from the get go. When playing the French I tend to burn two morale points right off the bat. One to force march and another to commit the guard. The force march allows me to surround one and possibly two (if I win an even battle) allied units with my own ZOC. If I can force the enemy to retreat in those battles there is a 50/50 chance their units will break. The allies also start with possession of the French objective hexes. The game starts on the afternoon of day one, so you only have two turns to drive the allies from those cities or you will lose more morale on turn 3, which is a night turn. The allies also get more reinforcements than the French which also adds to that tension that the French needs to make big gains early in the game. This makes the game wonderfully tense with many critical dice rolls.

The allies are on the defensive, but must watch for opportunities to attack. This might be the result of pinning in a French cavalry unit (they cannot withdraw through an enemy ZOC) or some other opportunity might arise where you can surround an enemy unit. I should mention an important aspect of movement. Zones of control are sticky. Units cannot move out of an enemy ZOC with the exception of the cavalry reaction phase. Also, units moving into woods or rough terrain must stop for that turn. Judicious positioning of your units can use combination of woods and ZOC’s to prevent the enemy cavalry units from getting to your rear and wreaking havoc.

Conclusion: This game is great fun. My games have not gone the full 13 turns, so most did finish around the one hour mark. There are not a lot of wargames that you can truly play in an hour or two. Also, the small number of counters does not mean this game is overly simplistic. Yes, dice rolls will be critical, but there are tough decisions to be made and strategy can definitely help or hinder your opportunities to win. The rules seem logical and there are not a lot of exceptions you have to remember. I have not played with the optional rules yet, but those will add another level of complexity to the game. The hidden units with dummy counters would seem to change the game a lot, so that might be interesting to try. Leaving routed units as routed until rallied would also be a big change and is one to try. I’m not sure if you can apply the optional rules piece-meal or if they should be all be used or none of them used.

A friend is taking a copy to Europe this fall to play in the Belgium pubs while he and friends tour the battlefields of the Waterloo campaign. How cool is that. There’s not a lot of war games suitable for playing in a pub either. Just one more plus for this game and this system. Kudos to Joe Miranda and Alan Emrich for bringing us a system that is fun, fast and strategic. I also own the Jena 20 game and look forward to sampling other entries in the Victory Point Games lineup.

Edit: I forgot to add there is a Cyberboard gamebox that seems to work well. You do have to pause before each battle to see if attacker and defender will expend morale points, but with so few counters to move, you can often turn around two or three files in an evening. Vassal modules exist for Waterloo 20 and Jena 20, but I have not tried those yet.
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Pokke
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Looks good. I'll try to order a copy.
 
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Wulf Corbett
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There is a third one already, Albion 20. I have all 3, I've played Waterloo & Jena, and I'd pretty much agree with your review (especially the component quality). Napoleon seems to have a worse than usual Waterloo with me though, he always loses...
 
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Jeff Curtis
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Napoleon has lost 3 of 4 in our games too. He usually has a chance to break a couple of allied units on turn one, but they always seem to make their rolls.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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In true Napoleonic style, you must pursue the Allies with "l'epee sur les reins"...!

I love this series.
 
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Jason
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Jeff,

Great review. I just wanted to point out to those looking for the interview that "episode 36" is referring to episode 36 of the Point2point podcast.
 
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Eric Smith
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Waterloo 20 is an excellent game, I highly recommend it. I have Jena 20 set up on my credenza in my office behind me right now. I look forward to more in the series.
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"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
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"Night or the Prussians must come."

Good review!
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Pokke
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Quote:
Napoleon has lost 3 of 4 in our games too.


Same here. In the one that he won, he was very lucky with the die rolls of the opening battles. In two others he got stuck against Hougomont.
And the 4th game was just a complete disaster. Bad weather, almost every other turn and all combat rolls were lousy results. Lost the guards at Ligny due to EXC (on the 4+ column). Well, I should not have sent those in with just one cavalry to support.

BUT great fun! Every game seems to tell a story. I love that.
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