Playings 3, (6 hours), 1 French, 1 alliance win
This game covers part of the Napoleon at Bay campaign which I own but have not played but at a smaller ground and time scale. Zucker has since brought out 2 other games with the same system. I have not seen the Waterloo game but do have 1806 and can say that the rules are almost identical. In this case the turns are divided into 2 day and 1 night groups with no combat and restricted movement at night. The counter density is also low with about 35 combat units a side giving a feel of not a lot of game for the entrance fee. Compare the price to 1807 that does not cost that much more and buries the buyer in paperwork. The game strikes me as one of those good-for-tournament type games with certain clever moves found from repeated play. It must be noted that the errata does change have some small rules changes that will have a big effect on play, particularly with regard to activation.
There are shorter scenarios but even the campaign only takes a few hours. This consists of a coalition force under Blucher to the top right and another under Sacken to the middle left as the French see them. Neither of these forces can move until released by a die roll or the French approach them. There is also a modest coalition force directly ahead of the French that deserves a good seeing to and some Cossacks off to the left that are going to need rounding up. A chunk of the Cossacks will get away but the French can surround the coalition to the front every single time. They do not move on the 1st night turn and will be dead meat after the French combat phase on the 1st day turn. A good 1/3rd of the map is unlikely to see any more action than the odd reinforcement rolling along. There is a familiar activation system with units that are not in range of a commander that is not in turn within range of his commander having to roll. The French have Napoleon, Grouchy and Ney as overall commanders plus the Guard cavalry can operate on a 5 or better so will be able to command most of their force. Blucher and Sacken are the coalition overall commanders neither of whom are in range of the forces directly ahead of the French at the start of the campaign or the rather useful 2nd game turn reinforcements. The original rules had these failed units unable to attack but the latest errata allows them to attack but not to advance after combat. In short there is not much point in rolling so I kept to the older rules. The net result is that failed die rolls for these 2 forces in the early game are going to severely restrict the coalition – under the original rules anyway. The combat system is very qauddish with risk to both sides and soak off attacks and compulsory combat except for cavalry who may withdraw before combat against non-cavalry giving a retro feel to battles. The unit density will restrict battles to 3 or 4 hexes however unlike the possible long fronts in Napoleon’s Last Battles. Any unit can road march and move along roads at ˝ a point a hex although this prevents stacking and requires 1 point to leave road march. Road marching units also cannot enter enemy ZOCs leading to chains of single hex units rushing down the roads and then lumping together when the enemy is approached. In some places the roads and trails are hard to tell apart and the hex numbers are close to invisible, even so the advantage of the road networks tends to create certain choke points where combat may occur.
The only real new idea to me is the use of vedettes and cavalry screening although this may be in the new Napoleon at Bay. Light cavalry can break into vedette units that are very poor in combat but like all cavalry can withdraw and are darn fast. You can wip them around the flanks and try to block the relatively generous supply lines (14 hexes to a waggon or supply hex). They are bounced out of the way by approaching units so cannot block movement but are hard to destroy unless surrounded. Units can retreat through vedettes zones of control or even vedette units themselves making it hard to trap vedettes with other vedettes. The French need to sort out the 8 Cossack vedettes that start the game suspiciously near to a French supply hex. Due to the usefulness of sending vedettes forward they may often end up out of command and will require a 3 or less to move into combat, this does reduce their effectiveness. Unless you pull them back at night they will also end up out of supply adding +1 to that activation roll. A commander can bring units back from the dead once only by starting a day turn 5 or more hexes from the enemy and passing on activation. Vedettes can really mess this up if they can approach commanders of weakened formations.
The players notes imply that the French aim is to block off Blucher and go for Sacken who is stronger and more likely to activate before Blucher. Certain French reinforcement appear behind the line that will automatically activate Sacken thus placing him in play before his die is rolled. Careful study of the rules shows that reinforcements can be delayed so if the Fenchie holds these rather weak units back he can head for Blucher instead. Blucher will be automatically activated but is not as strong as the French and Sacken can possibly be blocked off by cavalry and vedettes. This plan worked for me although I admit to some poor coalition activation rolls. I tried again and had Sacken activate 1st and the French put in a bit of a mess. Things were looking pear shaped when the Russians attacked the French Old Guard and got an Ex. For the Old Guard defending only this is changed to Ae and that was about that for the Russian army. I could have looked and avoided this but what is the point in peeking with a solitaire game.