Even before you place a single figure on the table this game can be fatally flawed with any one of three areas badly conceived or carried though. What's more is that many an attempt of a game of such a scale often fails to impress either the spectator (a shame) or the participant (almost a crime). Possibly the worst thing is that this is often avoidable. Of course plenty of other factors can wreck a game but I will deal with just the three I have in mind here and now.
The make or break of the actual game play. Of course this is so much more likely when one or more members have written a set of rules for the big game. Given that is exactly what we have done should mean rather loud warning bells ringing in our ears. In fact it has been a worry for me. The rules to this point have we feel produced good balanced games that feel right. Tweaking has been (and will continue) to be made with every playing. However the rules as was really seem to work well with about twenty bases per side but when it's well over one hundred I was positive it would shudder to a stop. Yes I think they would portray the battle well, the steady decline in fighting power and ever more brittle formations as the battle wore them down would work. The shear amount of time to play through this though would just end up being slow torture for the players. Very much great simulation, poor game.
The thing is we really like the way the rules are going. Yes the artillery still needed work. The fixed range of all guns did not sit well with Lee and he had rather compelling evidence but I could not shake Barry's view that all guns worked to the same effective range. So we will try keeping the set range as is but tag on a less effective range set to different distances based on the size of the gun.
The real issue for speed of play was that the Battalions just took so long to grind down. Especially when you used them well, removing the worn units from the front line and resting them through good use of reserves. The thing is I like that about the rules and was keen to keep some form of it within the rules. Truth is I just did not WANT to change the rules but clearly they just wont work as is. Cohesion has to be the key. The rules are built around one key element, that being formation and morale combined hold infantry and cavalry together as an offensive entity. Removing the concept breaks the rules.
Then I realised I did not have to break this, just water it down. Even better I did not have to change a single rule, what I needed to do was have two sets of army lists! The original allow a small action to be played out in an evening whilst the other army list will allow far more units to be used but still get a result in the same time scale. So far we have tried the new lists only the once and whilst it worked well, further tweaks will be required. In the next day or two I will do the game report pointing out some of the changes and what worked and what needs more thought. What was great though was that both of us left the game jazzed. Are these the right rules for around three hundred bases of Napoleonic madness? Possibly, in all honesty we need to throw twice as many units in the next game and see where it struggles and how well it runs. I have a hunch that if we prepare well it will be fine.
It's easy right? After all we have so many maps to work to and so many published Waterloo table layouts that we are spoilt for choice. But in fact the terrain and rules have to link together so that you get the right kind of results. Sunken roads, woods and of course certain farms all had roles in the battle and this needs to be considered. Lee has a great deal of experience building boards but for the 28mm Giants, this is something else. One decision Lee made and was firm about was that the whole set up had to be purpose built JUST for this battle. He wants to use two foot squares and as such roads will not be going through the middle of boards just so they can be used in battle x. The whole table will be just Waterloo. Maybe it will be sold afterwards to off set some of the cost, that is something Lee will have to decide at a much later date.
Size though does count. We want the whole battle to be one big table, no Prussians on a separate board with French disappearing from one table edge to reappear eight turns later. This should supply a number of areas almost or totally devoid of troops at one time or another. Something we think will look really good.
The nett result is a bigger table, a much bigger table. Or to give it some numbers it will be six feet deep and around sixteen feet long. We have twenty four foot to play with so it can be extended if needed.
This means every farm, road, village, river, forest etc etc. needs to be represented on the boards. That will be a hell of a lot of trees and buildings. The trees will be easy enough and I am hoping we will have the buildings sorted as well. We don't want to be throwing any old buildings into this, we want period ones. Not just the famous three but also any village or farm that either was fought over or could have been. We want to fight OUR battle, not a script, not a free placement or what if. Just take the forces and the situations and just run with it from there.
Saved the hardest till last. We know when certain things happened, we also know that some things could have or should have happened before. Now we just have to take all these things and make it all work together without either scripting or fudging actions. The Prussians for instance have to arrive late in the day but how we measure time will be key to them not arriving with the battle still developing or after the French have driven in the Allied forces and waiting for the Prussians to finally come to their doom. Not only that but it's got to be fun for all the players.
Flexitime is the answer (kind of). I feel it will become early evening when they are required though we still need to talk about that. A lot is made about the need to hold La Haye and Hougoumont so that the Allies could hold out. However they have to be realistic chances for the French to take at any point in the battle or why would I attack it? The rules are designed to have special rules incorporated to add flavour to the game. This is one such ingredient that we hope will make a great stew. Anyone who has studied the battle know what each side did wrong and as such can take the short cut to victory. I am keen to limit some of those choices so that we get a good fairly even battle. I feel that certain formations either are not allowed full freedom of movement at the start or use of them is less straight forward than we are used too. This is an area that needs a great deal of thought and we will be experimenting with a number of special rules through the coming year or so so that when the big battle starts we have a working model.
As you may see, we are really taken by the project and whilst we are two years off the actual game we will keep updating various parts of our progress. We have lots to do beyond just painting up the forces and building the battlefield. What I can promise you though is that this is not going to be dull, thanks for reading this rather long post, real soon you will get a colourful battle report from Spain, note I did not say sunny ;-)