Saturday, July 18, 2009

Martin Wallace's Waterloo session report

This intrigued me from the moment I heard about it. Like Bowen Simmons' designs of Napoleon's Triumph and Bonaparte at Marengo, Martin Wallace's Waterloo is a wargame, but one completely outside the hex-and-counter wargame tradition. It takes a completely different tack from what we've seen before, yet succeeds in being an-honest-to-goodness wargame and not just a war-themed game.

Wallace's design notes emphasize that he didn't mean for it to be considered a simulation and eh wasn't too worried about coming up with an exact order of battle or making each piece represent a particular number of men. Yet the interaction between the arms and the relative strengths between the armies ended up seeming about right and is consistent with the judgements made in similar wargames.

As it turns out I had the chance to play Chris O. at the recent gathering of the Central Connecticut Wargamers. While I didn't know this, Chris had just gotten a copy and posted a request on the club email asking if anyone wanted to try it. I rarely have Friday nights off, but I happened to have this one off and brought my copy of Waterloo, also hoping to get in a game.

This made it possible to play and finish a game within the four hours we had because both of us were familiar with the rules. I think it would have been slower going if one of us had been required to try to teach the game as well as play it. While not a difficult game, the fact that it doesn't really share any of the usual hex-and-counter mechanics mean the learning curve was a little steeper than the usual, even for experienced wargamers.

The general course of the game is simple enough to relate. I drew the French, and I think my in experience with the game hurt a little bit, as the game system is designed to reward the proper execution of combined arms tactics but I wasn't quite sure how to bring everything together. I made pretty good progress on the French right, Anglo-Allied left in the first few hours, and also captured La Haye Sainte, but ended up butting my head up against Hougoumont rather badly.

When the Prussians arrived and Chris got more action discs he was able to take advantage of my unnecessarily heavy losses to push me over the victory point limit. The final score was 16 for the Allies and 10 for the French.

It was very instructive though and I have a lot of ideas for how I might do better the next time. It's a very entertaining game system, though and Chris was a great opponent as well, so while victory wasn't mine, the fun was.

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