Perhaps the most famous battle of the 19th century is Waterloo, where two titanic armies, led by the finest military minds of the age, Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, clashed. Napoleon lost, forever changing the destiny of Europe; had he won, what we call Europe would probably be better known as the “Greater French Empire.” There have been a few boardgames based around the classic battle, but perhaps the most popular was Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign 1815. It addressed the mighty battle, along with skirmishes in the area in Waterloo, in a mere two hours, using a rules system that anyone can pick up and play without studying the rulebook. It’s been 20 years since the third edition of the game came out, so Columbia Games figures it must be time for new edition.
Warfare in the age of Napoleon was truly special: it was the final era of elite aristocratic cavalry units, still somewhat effective on a battlefield where firearms were woefully inaccurate. Artillery fired just a bit too slowly to stop a cavalry charge on anything like even terms. Mean, infantry varied in quality for elite Old Guard to mobs that barely understood which direction to point their weapons. Napoleon was the first to use the masses of troops firearms allowed, and only British forces could really stand up to him. Napoleonic games were once as big a genre as real time strategy games are today.
The world’s changed in 20 years, however. People are now playing most of their games via the online world, so Columbia is wisely hedging their bets with a Napoleon Kickstarter campaign. One big advantage board games have over more electronic ways of play is the low manufacturing price. So, as Kickstarters go, this has a tiny goal: a mere $14,000 is all it takes to have this game see print.
Like any good Kickstarter, there are bonuses for higher pledges. Serious gamers should consider the $120 level, which includes two copies of the game. Why would you want two copies? Because it helps address the major failing of most boardgames to accurately represent the fog of war. With both players playing on the same map, it’s easy to see exactly where the other guy is moving his armies, and to make a counter move appropriately. The warfare of the 19th century (or any time earlier) was nothing like that, and it was quite possible to lose track of an entire army. Imagine if Napoleon walked into Waterloo while the Duke managed to evade him entirely, and capture Paris, winning the war without firing a shot! Thus, the $120 pledge includes two copies, as well as rules for a “referee” to allow two players to play a double-blind game that much more accurately resembles warfare of this period.
Past that, folks with really deep pockets and serious interest in Waterloo could shell out $1295. At this level, once they get to Brussels, they’ll be treated to days of tours of the actual battlefields by game designer, Tom Dalgliesh, and scoring maximum Napoleonics gaming geek cred points. I’ll be happy to just have the game.