#Wargame Wednesday – Another wargame “in the books” with WATERLOO Solitaire by Mike Wylie fm @worth2004 (2021)

Sometimes it is easy to see how the worldwide shipping challenges are changing the wargame/boardgame industry. Most visible are the delays in getting a product to market. Worthington Publishing saw what was happening and took a different approach in the publication of their “Bookgame” series:

The design of this Bookgame came about as we looked at some of our board game designs that could be delivered quickly in a book format during backlogs of worldwide shipping and supply chains caused by a pandemic. Waterloo Solitaire fit well. It could do all a board game could do if 1 die and a pen could be provided by a gamer.

Waterloo Solitaire, Designer Notes and Strategy

Using a Christmas Amazon giftcard, I ordered Waterloo Solitaire and after just a few days the book arrived. These Bookgames are print-on-demand and of good quality being standard 8.5″x11″ softcovers in full color. Waterloo Solitaire is 60 pages of which six are rules and a detailed example of play, and the rest are 24 scenarios (12 French, 12 Allied) each with two facing pages (there is one more page of Designer Notes and a scoresheet).

The rules for Waterloo Solitaire are very easy to digest and one can get playing quickly. Each turn is a simple five step process:

  1. Choose Player Action
  2. Roll for Opponent (BOT) Action
  3. Resolve BOT Action
  4. Resolve Player Action
  5. Mark Turn and begin New Turn.

In Waterloo Solitaire each formation on the player side has a limited number of activations. When you activate, one simply notes the turn of activation. The player also has access to “Combined Actions” which activate multiple formations at once with a generally helpful die modifier. Seeing as a single d6 is used, the BOT action is easy to resolve and usually consists of five “attack” choices and a “special events” which calls for another d6 roll. Combat in Waterloo Solitaire uses a single d6 and a straight-forward table. Hits are marked off unit boxes.

Victory in a battle of Waterloo Solitaire is also very straight-forward. The French player wins if any two Allied formations (Allied Left or Right Wings or Reserve) are destroyed. They lose if at the end of any turn if all the units from the French I or II Corps are marked out. When playing the Allies, victory comes if the Allied Right and Left Wings have ANY units remaining at the end of Turn 18 or if the French I and II Corps are destroyed.

Not wanting to mark up my Waterloo Solitaire book, I photocopied the map-side of the first scenario which is a French player against a “Challenging Allied BOT.” I quickly lost as I failed to reinforce my I Corps and lost the last unit in Turn 5. I quickly reset (photocopied a new sheet) and restarted. This time my French (barely) won on Turn 13 with the destruction of the Allied Left and Right Wings. The Prussians never arrived to the battle (never rolled a 6 for an Allied Action). In total, the first and second play of Waterloo Solitaire battle took about 20 minutes.

[As I was writing this post I looked closer at the 12 French scenarios and realized there are actually only three sets of four scenarios. Each “set” uses a slightly different BOT (“Challenging,” “Veteran,” or “Tough”)—you actually play each scenario four times in a set. The same goes for the 12 Allied battles. Honestly, that’s a slight disappointment but in retrospect not surprising. Developing six BOT tables may be all the game design can handle.]

To experiment with the different BOT challenges in Waterloo Solitaire I advanced to playing the French against the “Veteran” BOT. The battle was more of a near-run thing for the Prussians arrived and attacked my French I Corps late in the game. However, on the Hougoumont side of the battlefield II Corps with some reinforcements from the Reserve got the best of the Allied Right Wing and, after the Imperial Guard couldn’t finish the job, were exhorted by Napoleon himself to attack just one more time and rolled up the Allied Reserve on Turn 11 for the victory just as those pesky Prussians arrived in force.

Battling on my photocopied map; you don’t need 4d6

While the game mechanisms of Waterloo Solitaire are simple, it surprised me as the how much I was pausing to think about what units to activate. The designers were quite accurate when they said, “You make the decisions on the best way to pursue your strategy.” As the French you MUST attack but you also have to manage your reserves all while awaiting the blasted Prussians. As the Allied player you have to stall and await the arrival of the Prussians. Both sides demand playing with finesse.

Waterloo Solitaire is highly suitable to be added to my “Office-al” games collection as it is a perfect lunchtime pastime. The fact that each battle is fought more than once is not necessarily bad; as a player you now have multiple chances to explore the battles and the randomness of the BOT will very likely assure that no two games ever are the same.


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History to #Wargame – The Battle of Waterloo, 2021 Edition with Commands & Colors Napoleonics (@gmtgames, 2019)

This has been a very good Grognard week for me.

My Game of the Week right now is Commands & Colors Napoleonics (GMT Games, 2019). For a GotW I try to get deeper into the title and, as luck would have it, the anniversary of two major Napoleonic-era battles fell in the same week. I already wrote about my Battle of Quatre Bras; next is the Battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815).

Commands & Colors Napoleonics (GMT Games, 2019)

The Battle of Waterloo scenario is the last scenario presented in the base game of Commands & Colors Napoleonics. Like Quatre Bras before it, the scenario is large with a wide variety of forces. This makes setting up the game interesting as I paused at times to “pass in review” new units to ensure I understood their unique characteristics. After all, I want to make sure the Old Guard is used properly!

Waterloo set up. Note the “tipsy” British unit at La Haye Sainte in the middle of the board- must of been at Lady Richmonds Ball the night before (or was that Happy Hour at the local pub?)

One reason I like most Commands & Colors-series games is that even the “big” scenarios like Waterloo are still playable in about an hour. My game took ~75 minutes and it was a see-saw battle the whole way. The battle developed in a classic Commands & Colors way complete with elation and frustration.

Specifically, elation and frustration is about the only way to explain how the game went for the French. Elation came early with the French advancing on both flanks and taking the Victory Banner towns of Hougoumont on the left and Papelotte on the right. Then the frustration set in it became almost impossible for the French to draw a Command Card for the center. Even then, there were some highly thematic moments like when the French drew the La Grande Manouevre card and made a bold move to retake the initiative in the center. However, it was not enough, and in the end the British were the first to the requisite eight Victory Banners (final score 8-6).

The French center can’t push the British and Allies away at Waterloo

Playing the Battle of Waterloo, indeed playing Commands & Colors Napoleonics this week, also reminded me a bit about our collective wargame roots.The word Grognard, often used to refer to a long-time wargamer, is a modern derivation in use of the original Grognard which referred to an old soldier from Napoleon’s army. Although I hate citing it as a source, Wikipedia has a good summation of how the term came to be used by the gamer community:

Grognard is also a slang term used by the tabletop role playing and wargaming community to refer to older, long term players of such games. The usage started with Napoleonic miniature war gaming, and originally referred to those who would seek out minor details that were wrong with another’s painting or modeling, mostly in terms of historical accuracy. Various online forums have popularized the usage among the tabletop role playing and war gaming community.

Wikipedia entry for “Old Guard (France)”

I”m very happy that this 21st Century Grognard was able to honor 19th Century Grognards in a game of Commands & Colors Napoleonics.


Feature image courtesy wickedwilliam.com

The Influence #Wargame – @markherman54 Waterloo Campaign 1815 (@RBMStudio1, 2020)

THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO, ALONG WITH THE BULGE AND GETTYSBURG, are probably the most published wargame topics out there. So it was a surprise to me to discover that long-time designer Mark Herman had not designed a Battle of Waterloo wargame.

Before now.

Found in C3i Magazine Nr 33, Mark Herman’s Waterloo Campaign 1815 is the latest entry in the C3i Series games. The first, Gettysburg (C3iMagazine Nr 32, 2018), is a small footprint, rules-lite product that delivers tremendously challenging choices while being suitable for play by both new and experienced players alike. Waterloo Campaign 1815 is a (small) step up in complexity from Gettysburg but still fulfills its mission of “history distilled to it’s essence” (to steal a phrase from Mark Herman himself). It is also a wargame that aims to, literally, influence your play.

Small Game with Big Graphical Art

Waterloo Campaign 1815 is played on a single 22″x34″ map with less than 50 counters. Yes, a single map, very low counter density Battle of Waterloo game exists! The map is beautiful and simple to parse. Corps counters are larger and easy for even this glasses-wearing Grognard to read while the smaller 1/2″ Detachments are easy to distinguish because of their smaller size. The rule book, though 24 pages long, is actually only six pages of rules, two pages for scenarios, 12 pages of Example of Play, two pages of Designer’s Notes and front/back covers.

Mark Herman’s Zone of Influence & Detachments

The heart of Waterloo Campaign 1815 is really a single game mechanic – the Zone of Influence (ZoI). As explained in Key Concepts and Definitions:

Zone of Influence (ZoI): All hexes within two hexes of a Corps constitute the unit’s Zone of Influence. ZoIs restrict enemy movement and both friendly and enemy Detachment placement. A Zone of Influence cannot be blocked, it extends through and beyond enemy units. There is no additional effect for a hex having more than one ZoI projected into it.

IMG_0926Long time Grognards need to pay attention and don’t get confused; a Zone of Influence is NOT the same as a Zone of Control (ZoC):

Zone of Control (ZoC): The six hexes adjacent to a unit are its Zone of Control. Corps units and Detachments have a ZoC. ZoCs can halt or limit enemy movement. There is no additional effect for a hex having more than one ZoC projected into it.

Before we come back to that ZoI, Waterloo Campaign 1815 has another difference from Gettysburg that is important – Detachments:

Detachments: Most Corps in Waterloo Campaign have one or more associated Detachment units that can be placed during Step D of the Command Phase (Detachment Placement). Regardless of whether a Detachment shows an infantry or a cavalry symbol. they behave identically in play. Detachments have a ZoC, and are useful for screening, holding flanks, or as the rearguard when on the strategic retreat. The Grand Battery and Old Guard Detachments have special rules.

The interaction of the classic ZoC and Herman’s Zone of Influence, along with Detachments, makes maneuver and combat in Waterloo Campaign 1815 most interesting. The interactions of these rules in turns allows for few units to be placed on the map. To truly understand the brilliance of these interactions requires looking into the Sequence of Play a bit deeper.

Command Phase / D. Detachment Placement Step

To defend your flanks or screen movement, one can place Detachments on the map. First, they must be placed within four hexes of the parent unit OR, within the Command Range of a Headquarters (HQ). Most importantly, the path from the parent unit or HQ to the Detachment must be free of ANY ZoC AND ZoI. A design note states this is to avoid having Detachments used as skirmishers and forces you to use them as intended.

Command Phase / E. Detachment Recall

Once Detachments are placed, a player can Recall any (or all) of their Detachments on the map. Even ones in an enemy ZoC. The Detachments cannot be placed again until the next turn.

Between placement and recall, Detachments become their own game of flanking and screening; and that’s even before the first unit has moved!

Movement Phase

When a Corps enters a hex within an enemy ZoI it must stop. If any unit enters the ZoC of a unit (even a Detachment) the unit ‘flips’ from it’s Advance Formation (better movement) to Battle Formation (less movement) side. Note that even the ZoC of those pesky little Detachments causes a formation change! One needs pay attention to where they are on the map or risk finding their multi-Corps flanking march stopped cold by a lowly Detachment!

The Influence of ZoI

Playing Waterloo Campaign 1815 it becomes immediately apparent that this is a game of maneuver and the decisions made in the Movement Phase are often more important than even the battles in the Attack Phase. When maneuvering your units one ends up paying very close attention to the ZoI and ZoC out there because you don’t want to enter either one unless you absolutely have to – or are forced to by a crafty enemy using their Detachments to funnel you to where THEY want the confrontation. Such is the influence of Zones of Influence; they make a unit watch their flanks and use Detachments to ‘influence’ enemy and friendly movement alike.


Feature image courtesy C3i Magazine (RBM Studio)