Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fiddled with Waterloo a bit today

Finally had the time needed to try a couple of test turns in Waterloo.

it's an intriguing design, and while completely different from Bowen Simmons' Bonaparte at Marengo or Napoleon's Triumph , Martin Wallace's Waterloo is similarly completely divorced from the hex-and-counter wargame tradition.

While traditional hex-and-counter wargames have their flaws and limitations, they do have the considerable advantage of familiarity. After some 40 years of playing them it's pretty easy for me to sit down with an unfamiliar h&c wargame and get up to speed relatively quickly. Are there zones of control? Are they locking or semi-rigid? Is the CRT odds based or differential, etc.

Waterloo is different enough from all that to have required a dedicated stretch of time to set it up and try to step through a couple of turns without interruption. So today I ran through the set up and first two turns solitaire.

What's immediately apparent is that, notwithstanding Mr. Wallace's protestations and the cute little meeple soldiers, Waterloo is definitely an intricate wargame, not a euro. While flavored with some euro-style mechanics (such as casualty cubes instead of loss point markers) the game is much heavier than most euro fare and is probably a heavier wargame than Borg's Commands & Colors system.

There's a lot going on, and while I think experienced players will probably hit pretty close to the 3-hour playing time mark promised by the box art, I wouldn't be surprised to see early games take twice that long to play. A combined arms assault into a heavily defended area can easily be a very intricate affair, with defending cannon fire, a multi-step cavalry melee, a cavalry vs. infantry duel, a two-step contest between infantry and finally an overrunning of the guns!

Because it's a wholly new system, it's not immediately obvious what to do and what the pacing will be, but my 2-turn play through revealed that it's certainly not a game that will reward just tossing troops at the enemy and seeing what will stick. Similarly to Simmons' games, although getting there in an entirely different way, it's best to think of battles as multi-round affairs that will require staging, reinforcements, counter attacks and combined arms.

It's definitely NOT a filler game, but must be the main course for an evening's gaming.

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