Napoleon at Waterloo is a very basic war game using what I assume to be traditional mechanics. I may move any or all of my units, battles occur between adjacent enemy units using a CRT (combat result table), then my opponent takes his turn. The rules are even more simple than the frequently recommended Memoir ’44 since terrain offers very little to remember: each hex is one movement point whether it’s buildings, road, or forest with a road (forest without a road are impassable). Buildings double the defender’s value, making it harder to fight them.
The heart of the game, the tough decisions, and, ultimately, what killed it for me, is in the details. First is how the CRT works. This was new to me but is very familiar to long-time war gamers. Here’s how it works: count the fire power of the attacking units then compare that to the fire power of the defending units using odds, such as 1:1 or 3:1. Then roll a die and trace the result across the row to the column with the odds for this battle. This gives you the results. In this game you can get Attacker Retreat, Defender Retreat, Attacker Eliminated, Defender Eliminated, Even Elimination.
This means that you are constantly computing odds and trying to figure a way to increase your firepower to give you better odds. Even that wouldn’t be too much like a math assignment if not for the second rule: every unit (of both sides) that has an enemy adjacent to it must battle. So when faced with a line of enemy, you not only need to design an attack that gives you the best odds you can in each battle, but must be careful not to forget an enemy that you happened to touch while working towards good odds on another unit. Now it becomes more like a math puzzle, a relative of Sudoku, and can take a lot of thought and counter pushing to come up with a satisfactory solution. After 3 games, I decided that this wasn’t something I enjoyed.
One thing I did like was zones of control (ZOC). This is the area adjacent to a unit that it controls. In Napoleon, a unit moving into an enemy’s ZOC cannot move any further, and cannot leave that space except as a result of death or retreat. Also, a unit that is forced to retreat cannot enter a ZOC of his enemy, and is eliminated instead. That’s very cool and a tactic to be constantly aware of.
Although I found Napoleon at Waterloo not my kind of game exactly, I did enjoy the experience of learning about traditional war game mechanics and I came away with a better feel for overall tactics. I finally found myself looking at the whole and coming up with a loose plan, rather than just concentrating on a small part of the battlefield. Call this my first baby step.