GeekGold Bonus for All Supporters at year's end: 1000!
7,258 Supporters
$15 min for supporter badge & GeekGold bonus
23 Days Left

Support:

Recommend
25 
 Thumb up
 Hide
17 Posts

The Thin Red Line» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Waterloo Game Quest rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Steven Goodknecht
United States
Bourbonnais
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
For more than 35 years I have been on a quest to find the ‘perfect’ Waterloo game. It began in 1973 when I picked up Avalon Hill’s Waterloo on sale. It was this game that bit me with the Napoleonic bug and I’m still infected to this day.

I played Waterloo until the counters were worn thin but the game never showed me why Wellington chose the Mont St. Jean position; the sparse map terrain didn’t give a clue but I enjoyed the game immensely. Then I discovered SPI and Napoleon at Waterloo. NaW was a great game and a lot of fun but I still wanted more detail. In 1975 GDW released 1815: The Waterloo Campaign; it was a positive step up from AH’s Waterloo with some interesting concepts but it was quickly eclipsed in 1976 by SPI’s Napoleon’s Last Battles. I felt sure that this would be the game to transport me to Waterloo Nirvana. But the Waterloo game in the quad, La Belle Alliance, was a disappointment. The campaign game was where NLB really shined and is still a favorite. Later in 1976 SPI’s four map monster Wellington’s Victory appeared. I loved the system but time, space and a limited attention span meant that I never actually completed a game. In 1979 SPI’s Ney vs. Wellington appeared in S&T simulating the Battle of Quatre Bras, two days prior to Waterloo. Utilizing a streamlined WV system and one map this game quickly became a favorite. But it still wasn’t Waterloo.

Also in 1979 at Origins, I purchased The Thin Red Line and its sister game The Great Redoubt by Yaquinto. The former was a simulation of Waterloo and the latter Borodino. The two games were designed by S. Craig Taylor in tandem and share a nearly identical game system. Upon opening the box I knew immediately that TRL was unlike any other wargame I owned, Waterloo or otherwise. First was the map with the oversized 1 ½ " hexes. The 325 counters were also unusual. Some were standard ½ " square size but others were ¾" x ½ " rectangular. After skimming the rules it was obvious the game had some basis in miniatures.

Component wise, The Thin Red Line is adequate. The map is printed on heavy card stock and measures 21 ½ " x 27 ½ ". The terrain heights are delineated by hex colors in light and dark green and dirty pink. Not overly pleasing to the eye even by 1979 standards but...adequate. Terrain includes hedges along hexsides, roads, woods, streams, villages, fortified chateaus and the Sandpit. The game scale is 300 yards per hex and each game turn represents 30 minutes of real time.

The counters are very thick; a Yaquinto trademark. Care should be taken in punching them out as carelessness can cause damage. Aesthetically, I like them. The French are blue, the Allies red and the Prussians gray/green. No surprises there but the infantry all have their national flags which is a nice touch. Units represent infantry brigades, cavalry brigades or divisions and massed artillery batteries. Strength factors are 300 men or 3 guns. The print on the counters is small. I don’t recall this being an issue in 1979 so the problem is more with my old eyes.

The game employs a roster system that may not appeal to some players. Each unit has a number of boxes that represent strength and morale and are checked off as losses are accrued. Morale drops correspondingly with losses. There aren’t enough units to make the roster system unwieldy and I have little problem with it since it is accurate and I can’t think of a more effective method to employ. It has only a minimal effect on speed of play. In short, it works.


The heart of most games lie in the Sequence of Play and TRL is one that any tactical Napoleonic wargamer will easily recognize. The sequence consists of phases with sub-phases within those phases. The French player is first and the phases are: Charge, Movement, Rally, Fire, and Melee. Morale must be checked for Charges to be successful and any losses for Fire and Melee also require morale checks.

Units are able to assume various formations. Infantry formations include line, column, square and all-around. For square and all-around the unit is replaced on the board with a large square counter. One side represents square, the other side all-around. All-around is used in village and fortified hexes. Cavalry can be in line or column. Artillery is either limbered or unlimbered and can perform ranged fire. All units may be forced into rout formation due to morale checks.

Also included are the army, corps and divisional leaders. Leaders affect movement, combat and morale. Units not stacked with a leader have their movement halved. Leaders also rally routed units if stacked with them and can modify melee attacks if stacked with the units involved. Leaders may also become casualties.

Fire and Melee combat share the same Combat Results Table. There are nine Combat Tables within the CRT. Each combat unit has a fire power rating and melee rating printed on the counter. Artillery has three fire power ratings adjusted for range. These ratings can be modified for various reasons: terrain, formation, etc. The final number rating after all modifications denotes which of the nine Combat Tables will be used. The unit’s current strength is then cross-referenced on the Combat Table and a die is rolled to get the result. It is a novel approach but simple to use.

Stacking is also interesting. Two large rectangular units or up to four small units or a combination of the two may occupy a hex. They are orientated within the hex as to define the facing and whether they may fire or perform melee. For example, if two large units are facing in the same direction, only the first may fire but both could melee forward. If the second unit was facing a different hexside then both may fire but they couldn’t melee in the same direction but can melee in different directions.

There are many optional rules. The amount of complexity they add varies; some are more complex, others not. Players may pick and choose amongst them. They include: Shifting initiative, skirmishers, cohesion hits, cavalry reaction charges, cavalry recall, ordre mixte, capture of guns, chain of command and command control, army morale and more. You get the picture; you can ramp the game up as high as you want if you are willing to sacrifice playability.

There are three scenarios. The first is "The Short Scenario" which starts on turn 5 and ends on turn 13 before the Prussians arrive. The second is "The Historical Scenario" which begins on turn 5 and ends on turn 25. Lastly, number three "The Early Start Scenario" begins on turn 1 and ends on turn 25. Also included are two variants. The first postulates that the Prussians will not arrive and the second is a free set up.

Playing time runs between 6-8 hours. I have only ever played solitaire but I assume this would be the approximate playing time with two competent players.

The rules book consists of 24 pages but don’t let that intimidate you. The basic game has approximately 10 pages of rules including diagrams of play and 5 pages of optional rules. Also included are a Brief Historical Summary, Player’s Notes and Designer’s Notes.

The rules are not overly complex and I have found no unanswered questions playing the game. I am unaware of any errata. Any experienced gamer, especially a Napoleonic gamer, should be able to pick it up with few problems. The larger challenge lies in mastering the game. It is a game system that requires more than a single playing. Don’t expect to play the game once and ‘get it’. It can require several plays to fully understand the nuances. Like scotch, the game is an acquired taste and gets better with subsequent plays as you figure out how it works. The time invested will pay off in a unique understanding of the battle. Not highly recommended for a beginning gamer though.

The question is does The Thin Red Line have any play value today? I believe that it does but it is unlikely to hold much appeal for younger or newer wargamers. Lots of die rolls, morale checks, the roster sheet, uninspiring graphics and long playing time with no blocks or cards would probably have these gamers calling it ‘old and clunky’. The likely audience is older gamers who cut their teeth on games like this but many of those would prefer a La Bataille game or Wellington’s Victory. However, any less graphics demanding gamer wanting a smaller, more playable Waterloo game that still delivers good simulation value should find the game satisfying and insightful.

On the surface, this was that elusive Waterloo game I wanted. It is an operational level game with a tactical mechanism. The scale is only a little larger than Napoleon at Waterloo but has far more detail. The scope and detail of TRL is closer to Wellington’s Victory but TRL is a game I can actually set up, play and complete. Paradise found? Not completely but I do like TRL and it is as close as I have come and probably ever will to my ideal Waterloo game. Overall, it is a very good game. Maybe there can never be the ‘perfect’ Waterloo game. Maybe I just don’t want the quest to end.

And the quest didn’t end there but it did slow down dramatically. I later bought The Battles of Waterloo. Yikes! One look at the rules and it quickly did the ‘eBay shuffle’. The Emperor Returns also went unplayed. Somewhere in there were also two computer games. I’ve had no trouble resisting the urge to buy Waterloo 20, Waterloo: Fate of France and Treefrog’s Waterloo. They may be very good games but I can tell from reading their descriptions that they are not what I am looking for. I did preorder Worthington’s Napoleon’s War: The Hundred Days but merely for fun gaming.

Oh, and for those who criticize this game for the title being a misnomer not used until the Crimean War, the designer freely admits that the Thin Red Line was a term that would not come into being for another 40 years. I suppose even by 1979 there were already too many games with ‘Waterloo’ in the title.

I am also posting a variant article in an attempt to address some possible game imbalance problems. Please check that out if you find this at all interesting as I would appreciate input. If this review garners any interest I may consider doing one for The Great Redoubt.

A complete copy of The Thin Red Line includes:
21.5 x 27.5" map
325 die-cut counters
24 page rulebook
2 identical game cards
record sheet pad
2 six-sided dice
plastic counter tray
30 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Lavoie
United States
Nashua
New Hampshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
A fine review of a much-neglected game and system. I enjoyed both of Taylor's Napoleonic games for Yaquinto, as well as his Gettysburg game for the same company, based on the same game system, Pickett's Charge. Thanks for giving this game some love here on BGG

As for The Battles of Waterloo, I wish you had given the game a chance. The rules are not so bad once you actually set the game up and start to play. Also, there's a re-written set of rules available that some people have found make the game easier to grasp. If you get a chance, you might want to give it a try. It just might be your Waterloo grail.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steven Goodknecht
United States
Bourbonnais
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
Michael, glad you enjoyed the review. I believe the problem with The Thin Red Line is that it came out at a time when many wargames were being produced. It was a highly unusual system for that time so rather than take the time to really master the game, it was easier to throw it in a corner and pick up one of the many new games that looked more familiar to us. Not like the older days when there was only Avalon Hill and their max of two games per year and you played them over and over simply because there wasn't anything else.

I also like Pickett's Charge. I haven't played that one in awhile. I should get it out.

Perhaps you are right about Battles of Waterloo, I didn't give it a chance. The rules seemed like a morass that I didn't want to become mired in! At one point I did regret selling it though simply because I had liked the maps so much. They were great. If I should ever come across a reasonably priced copy...

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Pariseau
United States
Tulsa
Oklahoma
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
First, I agree that The Thin Red Line is a good Waterloo battle game, a rarity. I found two drawbacks to it: first, it can be a little fussy and people seriously prefer strength markers to using a roster to track unit strength (I don't know why, I'm a roster guy myself), and second, the look of it.

The latter factor is more important than one would think. I've had one opponent who should have been this game's target market uninterested in learning and playing it because the rules are in tiny type and the map is a dull, undifferentiated green. I've also had three copies of this at different times (1 new, 2 used but in VGC) and the counters on all three had been rubbed white in one small spot, probably while they were in the tree rattling around during shipping. A light redevelopment and re-presentation of this game might be a winner for some enterprising wargame producer, but I know it will never happen.shake

BTW, I've always wanted to adapt the Triumph & Glory: Battles of the Napoleonic Wars 1796-1809/Jours de Gloire Series rules to The Battles of Waterloo. I think it's doable, and would make a great game.

If you're still looking for a good 'Loo and willing to do some work adapting an existing game, try La Belle Alliance with Markus Stumpner's variant rules, available through a link on CSW. Nevermind, here's the link:

http://www.dbai.tuwien.ac.at/user/mst/games/lbn/lbn.html
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steven Goodknecht
United States
Bourbonnais
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
Peter, I agree with you that The Thin Red Line would be off-putting to a younger/newer gamer as I mentioned in the review. It wasn't even great looking in 1979. Those 'dirty pink' hills. Too bad because as you observed, it really is a good game. Yes, the roster system is also a turn-off to many. But it does work and it would be hard to use number chits because of the morale also dropping with losses. Some different sort of system for morale drops would have to be used and figuring it all out would probably take longer than the roster sheet. I also agree that an update would be great but as you said, highly unlikely. Too bad.

Your idea about refitting the game to the Triumph & Glory system sounds interesting. If it works, let us know about it.

I have downloaded Markus Stumptner's refit for Napoleon's Last Battles but haven't had time to try it out yet. I always thought when I reached this age I would have nothing but time. Something went terribly wrong.
4 
 Thumb up
0.01
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Pariseau
United States
Tulsa
Oklahoma
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
No Expectations wrote:
I always thought when I reached this age I would have nothing but time. Something went terribly wrong.


Oh, how I know what you mean....cry!
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Salander
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools

I am still wavering on whether or not I will keep the game. I have to pick up the counters to read the factors under a bright light or a magnifying glass. Eventually, after all of the fussing with counters and the combat tables, I came up with a Fast Play variation that is close to what you have to do, but quick:

Fire: Infantry & artillery hit on their fire factor. LR arty hits on a 1. Most Hanoverians hit on 1 or 2, French and Dutch-Belgian on 1 - 3, etc. For the British, with their "6", they get 2 hits on a 1 and none on a 6. Factors are reduced by cover, of course. Same approach for melee. And skip the initial morale roll for entering a melee. A lot of dice rolling just to be able to represent Bylandt's unit leaving before contact.

- Chris
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Smith
United Kingdom
Wigton
Cumbria
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have played the sister game, the Great Redoubt, back in the 80s. A long and truly epic game. We played with all options. That game underestimated the strength of the French, so we added a box to most units. In the end my reeling Russian centre, supported by many guns, just managed to hold the Imperial Guard as evening fell.
I think the system is a fine one. Have you noticed that it formed the basis for the Battleground computer games of yore? I have got A Thin Red Line too, and feel sure that I will play it sooner or later.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bertrand Jacquemart
France
flag msg tools
Hi
My english is bad, but just enough to say thaht I have The great redoubt and The thin red line. I'd never find an other game so good.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bertrand Jacquemart
France
flag msg tools
I've those games since about 15 years. But it's difficult for me to find an other player here ...
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bertrand Jacquemart
France
flag msg tools
I've played on The great redoubt the last week-end !
I was on the russian side ... It was great !
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
donald rhyne
United States
columbia
Illinois
flag msg tools
second the great review,I also have this game as well as picketts charge.Great counters and front cover on the boxes sold me.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kirk Allton
United States
Lewis Center
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Very nice review of an overlooked game. IMO, this is the best Waterloo game as far as playability goes. Not too long, not a bad combat system, and it has nice nuances in the game (for example, while the rules allows you to attack an AR in Hougomont in line formation, you will quickly find that you cant hit the unit...you have to be in column). The result is a very bloody attack on Hougomont.

Personally, I think the La Bataille is the best combat system, and Mont St Jean is stunning to look at, but The Thin Red Line holds its own even after all these years.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Zachary
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for doing this review.

I have enjoyed playing TRL from time to time. Not a perfect game by any means but one of the better "tactical" games.

People who think the game is imbalanced in favor of the French should do 2 things:

1) Play a free deployment setup.
2) Create a copy of the AA side of the map and allow the "Brits, Germans, DBs, etc.," to use "hidden deployment."

Also, I would move to have units in line plus unlimbered arty face a hexside junction a la Wellington's Victory and have columns and other formations face the hexside. In this case, only one unit (or one infantry unit plus one arty unit) would be allowed to fire through a hexside.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Zachary
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Love the fire rules, Chris. However, the original melee rules get closer to the "morale" aspects of shock combat.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Balmer David
msg tools
Waterloo battle simulation is a very difficult task.

Many games tried, and failed to simulate this spécial battle.

Thin Red line could succeed but needs some new rules :

1 Rules of activation
R. Berg has done a good job with his "The battles of Waterloo".
Adapt it to TRL.

2 TRL needs some D1 and D2 before routing, fail a moral test by 1 or 2 you are D1, by 3+ you are D2 (+1 level if infantry not in square facing cavalry charge)

3 movement without leader should only be -1 MP.
And Cav should be able to charge without leader.

4 Cavalry who has charged should be "blown" and take one turn to recover.

5 The crest line from the north of papelotte to the north of Hougomont should give a +1 morale to defender.
French should win if he gets 3/4 of it (the three hexes of center should count double.

6 House make a new map !

I ve made an AAR (CR in french) on site:

lignes de bataille

and it worked very well

Napoléon win at the last turn
but...what a fight.


4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Zachary
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Feel free to post your proposed changes in a new thread.

Worth the input.

Also, see my variant of TRL version.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.