The Rule Set - Napoleon's BattlesI think the major challenge we faced was using a rule set not many of the players were familiar with. I know the rules well, but I still make mistakes (I thought that cavalry had to withdraw in some cases, but if they don't win they bounce, much safer). As umpire I found I was more advising and correcting players moves than adjudicating rules or measurements. Of the remaining nine players, one at least owned a set of the rules and had played many games, but not in the last few months and so was a little rusty. Two of the players, the respective commanders, had participated in maybe half a dozen games including Marengo and so had what I would call a reasonable feel for the rules. The remaining six players had maybe a couple of games experience. All were seasoned wargamers, but that doesn't always help as knowledge of other rules can cause confusion in interpreting the mechanics of a different set. When I did the survey to see what rules people played, there was no single favourite, in fact it was more each person had their own preference and it didn't match anyone else's. Given that, I was happy to push my favourite set. It was a shame the new edition was not available.
|Players pondering their moves|
Prussian ArrivalWhile I was disappointed the Prussians didn't get more action, the Prussian arrival times seemed right. I had Blucher appear at 13:00 at Lasne and then each turn after that one of the Prussian Brigades arrived in march column at the same place. I had 16/IV, 15/IV, IV artillery, IV cavalry, 14/IV and 13/IV followed by II corps with I corps arriving at 18:00. It is a challenge to command such a deployment and they really won't be ready (deployed and moving past the Paris Wood) until 15:30.
|What happens if the Prussians don't take time to deploy.|
CongestionBoth sides are very congested at the start. I've seen worse (Borodino) and historically Waterloo did see a lot of men in a small area. It meant players had trouble finding their troops and then being able to maneuver them to ease their command burdens. This meant the French are slow off the mark, which again is historical. It did mean that the Anglo-Allied army had additional problems of command.
|It is a 9x5 table and there are well over a thousand figures in an area two foot wide at the start.|
Anglo-Allied Command StructureThe Anglo-Allied command structure is a challenge. I had Picton and Hill as wing commanders and as Picton is a direct commander this worked well, except his range doesn't allow him to cover the left flank adequately, so he has to make decisions. Hill (the player) suffered from not being readily able to see which troops he commanded. The real problem however is the cavalry and artillery. At least they have an artillery general, but given his command span he won't be able to keep them all in command and this caused immediate problems for them. Far worse is the cavalry. If the French attack piecemeal then this is not such an issue, but if they attack both flanks as occurred in the game, it is hard for the Anglo-Allies to use their cavalry effectively. Add to that the large units also create placement problems.
The following picture shows the six RHA batteries and Frazer's command challenge. As the deployment for these is not fixed by the scenario some options exists for the Anglo-Allied commander. Uxbridge's challenge is also demonstrated and his brigades have fixed deployment. He also commands the Dutch Belgian cavalry division, but as they have their own divisional command who can drawn command from Wellington, they are actually a bonus. Uxbridge can also command RHA batteries so it is not all bad news, but placement is tricky.
Generals!This would be my one big gripe with the rules. While there is a lot of flexibility with commanders, especially given their movement of 36", they take up space and once moved can not be moved again during a turn (unless attached to a reacting unit or a unit that is advancing after combat - and there is even debate over that latter aspect).
It can be readily seen in the pictures accompanying this post the space taken up by generals. While they did have staff etc, we are not talking about them representing rear area troops or anything like that, but they occupy a significant amount of table space. Often you will find them blocking the way of unit placement or a unit blocking their optimal placement.
I don't yet have a solution to this.
There is another issue, almost the reverse of this one, with generals. When a general is over run or his unit is wiped out, assuming they survive the 30% risk of having to roll on the general elimination table, then they get a free move to safety (which can be joining another combat, going to rally troops or putting troops that would otherwise be out of command, back in command. My solution to this is to remove the general and return him in the next arrival step (which I note is before rallies and command determination and is also a result on the general elimination table). I need to give this more thought.
Interestingly, in the whole game we only had one roll on this table, and that was after a concerted effort by the Anglo-Allies to run down Marshall Ney. It took them the use of a Free Roll, but then the French got a six result and he came back the next turn and lead the Guard Chasseurs a Cheval in a final charge. Egos were involved.