I came across Victory Point Games a few years ago now - I think there was an advert on Board Game Geek. I then happened to find someone in the UK selling all the Napoleonic 20 series (as it then stood) on ebay and manage to get them all. In the early days the games were cheap and cheerful and came in zip lock bags. Due to customer demand they have upped the quality of all the components (e.g. thick laser cut counters) and they now come in a box (a bit like a box from a chip shop but as I was happy with plastic bags no problem for me but a few people complain). For me it is more about the game and they have always been excellent.
The games have standard and exclusive rules but the bulk is in the standard set. The exclusive rules are mainly the set up and scenarios with a few battle specific rules. I have done a separate post reviewing the rules and how the games play in general so it would be best to read that before the review of this particular battle / game.
For the last year Victory Point have released Napoleonic 20 games as two battle boxes. The newest was for the Hundred Days and this post is concentrating on the Waterloo game. I will do a review for Tolentino later (Murat in Italy against the Austrians). I will then work my way through the other games even if just a brief review - one of the great things about the series is that the extra little bits in the rules, the cards and the low counter density mean that each battle plays very differently (it is not just the same old thing with a different name).
To note, throughout click on a picture if you want to see a larger version and you will then be able to read the counters etc.
First a quick look at the game as it comes out of the box:
Here is the Victory Point page for Hundred Days.
The components are:
- maps in stiff glossy card, comes in two halves for each battle;
- player aid sheet with all the tables and charts needed (CRT, terrain effects etc.);
- one counter sheet of units for each battle;
- one counter sheet of generic markers;
- standard rules booklet;
- exclusive rules booklet;
- set of event cards, most are specific to one battle;
- a die.
The rules booklets are quite thick now but that is because they have spaced everything out massively and they are certainly not complex rules.
This is the counter sheet for Waterloo (to note you get a tissue with a Victory Point logo to wipe the edges of the counters when they are punched out which you do need to clear off the black stuff from the laser cutting).
A closer look at the pack of event cards and the bottom corner of the player aid sheet.
Two halves of the Waterloo map unfolded and put together.
The standard scenario starts on turn 9, the afternoon turn of 16th June, although it is possible to play other scenarios starting earlier than this. This is the opening position of the standard scenario. The Prussians are set up around Ligny with the French massed ready for battle - two units are already engaged. Around Quatre Bras the British and French are both sparsely deployed.
I am playing the Allies and a friend is the French. To note though that these games play very well solo just with the normal rules - I quite enjoy the odd solo game and not just to learn the game.
This is the position after the first French turn. The French go first and as such do not draw an event card. No morale was used to force march or commit the French Guard.
French 3e attacks Prussian 1st corps at minus 1 odds (both strength 3 but across a stream). The French put in a morale point to increase the odds but I put one in too to bring it back to minus 1. The French roll a one and rout but only 1 hex so no morale loss.
The attack of French 4e on Prussian 2nd corps is at minus 2 and again the French put in a morale to improve the odds but I don't this time. With a six though the Prussians need to withdraw.
On my turn I pull the Prussians back into a defensive line and bring up the British to defend around Quatre Bras.
My event card means Fredrick's corps may arrive. I don't toll a six so the variable reinforcement moves on to the next turn to try again.
On to dusk of the 16th June. It is light rain so all infantry have one less strength (attack or defence). The French event is a good one - they can either commit the guard for free or force march all units for free (no units to rally so that is not a useful option). As the French intend to both force march and commit the guard then the card means that this only costs them one morale point for both actions.
The French move up for an all out assault on the Prussians but don't yet move to contact the British.
I realise I made a mistake where I put the Prussian cavalry - with a stream behind their retreat path is a hazardous retreat. I should have put then in 1110 or 1111. I still decide to use my reaction move to charge the guns. They would be doubled when attacking plus the infantry are reduced in strength so a healthy attack. When I counter charge (selective attack on one unit) my strength is doubled to I am at minus 1. I am hoping to push the guns away but I roll low and get a withdrawal but the cavalry break when retreating across the stream and are removed for later rallying (if I had let the French cavalry attack me they could have advanced after combat so on the whole I am still better off).
The French 3e unit gets a no result while 4e and the guard rout the Prussian 2nd corps sat with Blucher. Fortunately I roll a 2 for rout and so no morale loss (you lose a morale if the rout is more than the unit's movement points). Prussian defences looking rather sad now!
On my turn I draw the event which allows me to add a good ground marker - not the best thing I could have gotten at this stage. I stick it on the British unit to the left of Quatre Bras and choose the +1 defence rather than protection from artillery. I roll for Frederick again and again fail to get them.
Two of my Prussians were left engaged after the French turn and long story short they both routed, but again I rolled low for rout and no morale loss. Although apart from 4th corps that has just arrived all the Prussians are routing.
Evening of the 16th June - no rain. The French draw an unhelpful event card but then realise that everyone can get where they need to be with one less on movement - drat!
I realised after that I had forgotten to take a picture after the French move and before the combat. 1st corps routed again - but again my luck held out and only by one hex. On the far left the two French cavalry and the artillery attacked the Prussian 3rd corps but rolled an exchange! Quite a choice for the French, lose both cavalry or the artillery. He chose to lose the cavalry which I thought was the right choice but it did limit the extent to which the Prussian flank can be threatened - however, having checked though my general article again before publishing this I remember now that by taking two units as the loss the French would have lost one more morale and the allies gained one more morale, whereas losing the artillery would have meant a net change of nothing on morale. If we had remembered then he may have taken the artillery as he could not afford to lose another morale or perhaps not and then a later combat could not have the bonus?
Not very useful event again for me - didn't see anything that was helpful.
The Prussians have one unit recovered from rout - the other is still in rout until the end of my turn, the rout marker had not yet been changed in the picture on the French turn (you place the colour of the other player in your turn so that routs come off at the end of the next player turn).
I move up the British cavalry to try and help the routing Prussians push the French cavalry away - night next turn so having the allied units staying there stops the French moving closer during the night (can't enter ZOC, and the rout comes off this turn so the Prussians regain their ZOC). The French are forced to withdraw and have to go back two hexes as they can't stack.
No interesting event cards during night. The French move a few rear units up but can't move further forward. The British cavalry and Prussian 1st corps then pull back over the stream.
During the night the French lose one morale as the allies hold Quatre Bras then gain one due to rest (they lose it first and that put them to one morale and then increases back to two - so if the French had been on one morale to start with they would have lost before gaining the morale due to rest). The French rally one cavalry but the other is destroyed - the rallied one comes on right at the back.
The allies gain two morale due to rest but spend one to improve rally chances. All three allied units rally (one Prussian cavalry started in the rally box at the start of the game). But with only two lines of communication (LOC) hexes only two can be brought on.
Morale levels for the next day are two for the French and three for the allies. The difficult positions mean that morale gets spent in combat more often than many games. While the Prussians were pushed back they did not really crack and the British were undisturbed and the two armies are still more or less in touch. All still to do for the French.
Morning of 17th June is sunny but the French need to move up to get into a position to attack across a wide front and don't have spare morale to force march. The allies just move some Prussians up and switch round the two British cavalry. Neither side draws an event of any consequence.
Mid day of the 17th and it is light rain and all infantry reduce strength by one. Event cards are shuffled in at the end of night. The French draw their card - oh, no, not that again! The French get to commit the guard for free.
I forget that all infantry are reduced in strength so I think the French attacks are better than they are and so again choose to counter charge in the reaction phase. But again fail and withdraw (safely this time!).
Doesn't look good but then I remember it is light rain. This is worse for the French as they lose more as each unit is affected. The Prussians are in a village so still have 3 strength. The French have four (one for the cavalry, unaffected by rain, and one for 4e and two for the guard). Plus 1 is not terrible but also not great, particularly because if the guard can not advance the French lose a morale (don't have to advance just need to be able to). The French go for broke and put in a morale to push things up to plus 2, I spend a morale to bring it back down (if the French had not put one in I would still have done so and that would have pushed the odds down to zero and increased the chances of a rout as well as a guard recule).
The French roll a 2 and lose a morale as the guard are held. I win! (NB Frederick never made an appearance).
This Waterloo game is actually the third edition of the game. I have the first edition too but not the second. It is essentially the same but the new version has some extra chrome and some more map space. Plays fairly similarly as far as I can see from one game. In the first edition I would always commit two morale on turn one to get the French to force march and commit the guard and put in a big attack on the Prussians. Seeing how this went I still think that is the right strategy - the French actually spent two morale on the first turn to stop the two combats being too bad so may as well of just gone for it. I think with this it is essential to push the Prussians back quickly to make the British position untenable otherwise it becomes a slugfest.
This game was a good illustration of the use of morale points as we used them so much - and hardly had anything that reduced them due to combat (just my cavalry breaking when retreating over the stream and the last throw of the game when the guard were held). You can get too aggressive with morale and once you are down around two or three then a couple of bad routs and the game is pretty much over. It also shows that a big push with a couple of morale is likely better than gradually whittling them away boosting individual combats.
This game could still have gone very differently. I rolled terribly on all combats - don't think I rolled above a 3 all game except for my rally rolls in the night. But I also rolled one or two whenever I had a unit routing and hence I never lost a morale due to a rout. If I had rolled higher not only would my units be retreating further my morale would have been reducing and I would have had to fall back with everything to get away from the French to recover.
This third edition has the new components and so better quality than the original I have - not that that was ever a big problem - but there are some nice new bits of chrome that just add a little bit of flavour without complicating or skewing the game. There are more scenario options too and weather can be fixed or variable and like all the Napoleonic 20 games you can chose to play concealed (with dummy units too) or open. Combined with the variability created by the event cards these games are hugely re-playable.
So I enjoyed the game and would recommend it. If you are interested in these sorts of games I would also suggest getting several as they vary so much with some being set piece battles and others being fluid manoeuvre games and often parts of battles moving form one type to another.