Wednesday 2 January 2019

Finally facing my Waterloo....

Even after nearly 50 years of reading about it, watching it and gaming it using figures, cardboard counters and blocks the Battle of Waterloo still has the power to move, excite and fire my imagination!

When you look at the map above what do you see? This is a stylised interpretation of that most famous of battles: Waterloo in 1815. Looking closely you can see some of the major topographical features - the road network, towns and villages, woods and waterways - and the approximate starting positions for the major formations that took part in the battle. The map also shows the various attacks and counterattacks that took place during the battle and the approximate times these occurred. The terrain appears to be flat with no significant relief to be seen so we can safely assume that the countryside the battle was fought over was, by and large, gently rolling fields and meadows. As a high level map this does the job reasonably well.

Looking at the way the units are depicted on the map one is straightaway faced with a number of questions. What does each block represent? What units are where? How strong was each unit? Who commanded what?

If one could enlarge the map scale then these points, rather like focusing a camera, become clearer in that one would expect the various blocks to subdivide into smaller blocks e.g. a corps block would split into divisional blocks which in turn would break down into brigades then battalions. All the while the terrain would become more detailed so that if one were to look at a map of the battle at battalion level it would look very different to the above.

This is a very obvious point but what it serves to show is that a single block labelled similarly to the above could serve quite happily as anything from a corps to a battalion. As long as one preserves the appropriate level of detail in the organisation of the forces, the terrain being fought over and the scope of the rules being used for the scale of action being depicted all should be well.

The best way I can think of to describe the above is when you are coming in to land in an aircraft. As you descend to earth the details in the countryside become larger and clearer the closer one gets to the ground and so by extension should the armies being represented and the battlefields one is fighting over.

Due to my lifelong interest in the campaign of 1815 I shall be using this as a test bed for the army level rules I am devising and indeed, depending on how it works out it may even feature in my book but there is  a lot of ground to covered before we get to that stage.

The first step I shall be undertaking is to, in effect, translate the orders of battle into game sized units. At this stage the only decision I have reached is that a single half block will equal a brigade sized formation so a typical division will contain a number of these (typically anything from 3 to 6) plus the all important command/identification block. In order to achieve this I shall be making use of the Napoleon Returns Volley and Bayonet supplement as well as the order of battle from Columbia Games: Napoleon (3rd edition). I will also call upon the various books I have about the campaign in my library. This should be fairly straightforward although I will need to be careful not to overdo the artillery element.

As far as the rules themselves are concerned I have a number of avenues I am investigating but at this stage it is fair to say that the end result will feature a number of game mechanics that have been seen elsewhere although with a couple of 'Crookisms' thrown in for good measure.

Onwards and upwards then!


'Lee. said...

Very enjoyable read as usual David and best of luck with your book, I'm fascinated by the use of block armies so look forward to it. I'm going to try to see if I can get the French & British blocks back to the UK during January as my daughters will be visiting so I can split them between the suitcases to keep within the weight allowance. They are currently all organised in business card boxes so should be easy to pack. As my project progresses over the year you can have the Prussian, Austrian and Russian blocks too :) be great to see them put to use rather than just languishing in boxes as they have been for the past couple of years.

David Crook said...

Hi 'Lee,

Happy new year old chap! Many thanks for the kind comments - as ever they are very much appreciated. That is really news re the blocks (I will email you later) as I have a cunning plan for them....

An army level set of rules starting with the 1815 campaign is very much an itch that needs scratching for me and it has been a long time coming!

All the best,


Anibal Invictus said...

There are never enough games played of Eaterloo. My latest last Sunday with Commands and Colors, a crushing British defeat with me in Command ... in two weeks time I’I’ll have the revenge

David Crook said...

Hi Anibal Invictus,

At last - a fellow Waterloo enthusiast! I have fought the battle on three occasions and so far have lost two (as the British)and won once as the French.

I hope to be able to do something about this once the rules have been written!

All the best and Happy New Year!


arthur1815 said...

Happy New Year, David! I look forward to seeing how your rules and recreation of Waterloo develop.

Having played several games - such as W1815 - that have been designed precisely to produce a game that bears a distinct resemblance to the original battle (and no other), rather than as a generic set of army level rules that could be used to fight Waterloo (amongst other battles of the period), I personally feel that combining the two aims in one set of rules is the most difficult option - so wish you good luck with that!

David Crook said...

Hi Arthur1815,

Happy new year to you as well sir!

The plan is to use Waterloo as a test bed for the rules rather than them behind designed specifically for one battle and yes you are quite right - combining the two aims in one set is going to be difficult but it is something I am going to try.

Thank you for the good luck wishes - I believe I will probably need it!

All the best,


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Interesting as I am reading "The Battle" at the moment
Lots of French cavalry running round Wellington's squares at the moment!

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

It is not one I have read but the imagery is both inspiring and evocative.

All the best,