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NAPOLEON: The Waterloo Campaign 1815

Designed by Tom Dalgliesh  4th Edition 

COLUMBIA GAMES boardgame of Napoleon’s battles in Belgium is a 2-player block army game that can be enjoyed whether the players have some knowledge of the actual battles, at Ligny, Quatre Bras, Wavre and Waterloo or not. They just need to be prepared to play at a pace generally unheard of or unknown to regular war game players. This is fun wargaming aka wargaming on speed and it is faster and more of an entertaining diversion than probably any other wargame you will have encountered. 

You know you are in for a fast ride when you have completed positioning the stickers on the supplied blocks and pick up the rules book to discover that there are only 8 pages to cover all the eventualities and possibilities. This is a wargame for the people. 


The components comprise of a Mapboard; 2 Battle Maps; 60 Wooden Blocks in 4 colours (2 player colours + terrain+ Prussians) 2 Order of Battle cards; and 4 Dice. Plus, as I said, one rules booklet. Living Rules are maintained online

The players take one Leader each: Either The Blue (French) Napoleon or the Red (Anglo-Dutch) Wellington, the Anglo-Dutch player also controls Blucher and the Prussians, but they, like the other two armies, are independent and can only be led by their specific Leader.

The map-board is directly related to the terrain of 1815 and shows three major cities; Brussels, Ghent and Liege, several smaller towns, Roads, Rivers, Woods and the Franco-Nederland border. Play is alternating between the French (first turn) and Allies, each Turn having three Phases; Movement, Battle and finally Supply & Victory Determination. Each of these Phases has its own segments.

You don’t have to move every (or any) unit but if you do there are specific rules, all of which will be familiar to anyone who has previously played any tabletop wargame. You can move through friendly units but must stop and fight any enemy units you encounter on the road or in a City or Town. Moving off the map is never allowed. As I said, it’s all pretty standard stuff and even if you are new to tabletop wargaming the rules are so excellently laid out and explained that you should have no problem understanding how to play. What is just so good about these rules is that everything is clearly defined by headings, bold and Red with Bold and Black bullet points.

The game itself is played out by army units (blocks) which are positioned and moved facing their controlling player. Units are marked as Infantry (@3000 men), Cavalry (@1500 men) or Artillery (16 guns and either Foot or Horse) and Leaders (not just the main man but their Staff, Couriers and Escort Guards). Each unit block has 5 attributes: Nationality, Strength 1-4 around the sides; Type; Corps and Firepower. Non unit blocks like Woods, Farms, Streams and Hills have just about the right amount of information on them with the full description found in the rules booklet.

NAPOLEON is fast paced and enjoyable. Decisions are usually easily made, only you can make it difficult for yourself really, and actions are carried out efficiently just by following the rules. Unusually, the battles are all part of the main campaign, they are not separately described as specific missions, in fact there is very little by way of introduction to the campaign in general, but then I guess just about everyone knows the basics of Waterloo so no introduction is really required. But just in case you’ve forgotten or never heard of the Battle of Waterloo, it took place on June 18th 1815 in and around an extremely wet field not too far from Brussels. Napoleon was a master tactician and extremely experienced leader but his decisions in this case went against him and Wellington finally ended the Frenchman’s dreams.

This game is well balanced even though it puts the units in the right place if you follow direction or you can set them up under your own direction to get different situations.

I know it’s becoming a cliché but this really is a game that could happily and easily be used to introduce new players to tabletop wargames, leading them gently into block gaming and how to understand unit statistics. It is about as complex as Command & Colours Napoleonics (GMT) but with the card play replaced by human decision making.  

Within the box there is a separate sheet about the Eagles & Napoleon card game which is apparently more of an in-depth and versatile system. There are also rules for a Double-Blind game using two or three copies of the game - I here assume because there is a cover art picture that the game in question is this one and not the card game. I’m not sure why this is in the box because it doesn’t read like or look like an advert and yet there are no cards in the box of the Napoleon game so it must be. The card game does look interesting I must admit, maybe one for the future then.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015