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!