Retro Review - Battle Of Waterloo By Palitoy (1975)
Antony Brown is a games analyst and inventor who writes regularly on board games. His Retro Reviews take a nostalgic look at games of the past. This article looks at The Battle of Waterloo, a battle-themed game published in 1975 by Palitoy.
In the mid-1970s Palitoy published two board games based on famous battles - the Battle Of Balaclava and the Battle Of Waterloo. Both have similar playing pieces and basic game mechanisms but are very different in the way play unfolds, as each aims to follow the key events of the battle. The games are positioned as strategy games and the boxes declare: "Can you change the course of history?" Of the two, the Battle Of Balaclava probably works slightly better.
Waterloo is one of the decisive battles of European history. The protagonists were the French, under Napoleon, against Britain, under Wellington, and Prussia, under Blucher. After torrential rainfall, that may have been a contributory factor in the eventual outcome, the French launched an attack in the morning of Sunday 18th June, 1815. This was the attack on Hougoumont Chateau, which features in the game. Hence, the French always make the first move.
The game comes with sets of infantry, cavalry and artillery pieces in two colours; a single, non-folding board, which is quite unusual; a die; and an illustrated booklet which provides a description of the battle as well as the rules.
The key game concept is the attack line, along which specified troops can move by a throw of the dice. Some of the squares in an attack line may have specific actions to be undertaken. The line terminates with an arrow head - if a infantry or cavalry piece reaches the arrowhead an opposing piece may be removed from the board. There are several attack lines for each side in play and the tactics consist in making the best move given the role of the die, especially watching your opponents moves.
The ending conditions of the game when a player is no longer able to make a move or cannot take an opposing piece when reaching the end of an attack line. The winner is the player whose army has the higher score of pieces left on the board (every cannon is worth 6pts; each cavalry is 4pts; and infantry are 2pts each). The game last about 40 minutes to an hour. The game claims to be for 2 - 4 players but it is really suitable only for two players. Like the Battle of Balaclava, it is a mainstream board game and is not a wargame.
A final thought. There were nearly 50,000 casualties at Waterloo. The close combat and suffering must have been appalling. Four days after the battle ended an eye-witness wrote of the battlefield scene: "On arrival there the sight was too horrible to behold. I felt sick in the stomach and was obliged to return. The multitude of carcasses, the heaps of wounded men with mangled limbs unable to move, and perishing from not having their wounds dressed or from hunger, formed a spectacle I shall never forget."
Games like the Battle Of Waterloo help us not to forget either.
Verdict: A family game from the 1970s, well-presented and educational.