Perseverance Pays Off During the
Wade Hyatt relives the cardboard
of a bygone age.
champ Paul Fletcher is looking
for new worlds to conquer.
50 years and still kicking ...
anniversary shirts abound.
... at least among our finalists.
WATERLOO celebrated the bicentennial (June 1815) of the actual battle of Waterloo with one of the best tournaments of the last decade. Of the 30 games played, there were an equal number of Prussian Anglo-Allied (PAA) vs French victories. So, the ten-sided CRT and the Prussian/British stacking prohibition along with enhanced player skill have very nearly achieved ideal play balance. Player preference though continues to favor the PAA as bidding in every game sought to secure the PAA with bids of 2 to 5 predominate. The other big news was the absence from the semifinals of the “perennial” champions; Rob and Richard Beyma along with Joe Beard. While Joe did not make the trip from the West this year, Rob and Richard had other priorities that captured their attention. With the pathway open to the title, the four semifinalists of returnees Ray “The Rapacious” Clark, “Tasmanian” Tim Miller, Ed “The Magnificent” Menzel, and Greg “Smithereens” Smith girded for battle.
Normally this report continues by explaining this year’s semifinal and Final games in some detail and those accounts will follow shortly. However, in an attempt to reveal some of the tactical and strategic principles employed by veteran WATERLOO players for the benefit of new and returning gamers, the following information is provided. This year’s report will focus on early play or the beginning game of 16 June while next year’s will examine the middle game of 17 June and possibly the end game of 18 June and later.
The French player enjoys the initiative and a superiority of factors at the start of the game. Therefore, they must aggressively advance, spreading out, and close on all the potential routes toward the north edge of the board. The PAA player enjoys good defensive terrain that limits the French to a single axis of attack east of Quatre Bras initially but must be wary of engaging the lead elements of the French Army early between Ligny and Quatre Bras. Aggressive Prussian play at this location plays into the French player’s hands as any losses will be sorely missed in defending the more constricted avenues further north. The second axis of advance for the French toward Wavre in the east opens later in the morning while the dual paths south of Nivelles expand the French avenues to four by the afternoon of 16 June. But these are insufficient even if the potential threat for a 1-1 or 2-1 attack against the Quatre Bras heights is added since the primary roads connecting Quatre Bras and Nivelles provide superior internal lines of communications for the PAA player to counter the most dangerous French advances. A French player who tries to frontally assault his way through the three primary axes of attack at Nivelles and Quatre Bras will have a difficult time breaking through unless the dice are favorable. Consequently, the French player must also threaten the river line in the west that defends the road to Braine le Comte. In this sector it is the French who enjoy the advantage of the interior lines of communications as it is easier for them to transfer forces between the river and the primary road toward Nivelles complicating the PAA defense. Simultaneously, the French advance toward Wavre must not be neglected with the initial objective being the Dyle/Thil/Genappe river junction in the east. From here the French can threaten an advance toward the LaLasne River, threaten to turn the flank at Quatre Bras and the Genappe River, or extend the PAA defenses northward along the lower Dyle River. A French force in possession of this important river junction again enjoys interior lines of communications over the PAA player. Now the purpose of all of this French maneuvering is to spread out the PAA defensive front and then break this front that runs from the river near the road to Braine le Comte over to the Nivelles corridors continuing to the Quatre Bras heights down to the Thil and Dyle Rivers. This PAA defensive front reveals that the French player has potentially up to seven axes of advance to choose from by the middle game and the most critical aspect of expert WATERLOO play comes to the forefront at this time.
The French Army starts with 193 factors and the defending PAA forces number 116 factors while the first three British reinforcements bring that total to 151. Initial PAA bids and the inevitable PAA delaying unit losses only contribute to this French advantage. Both players must remain acutely aware of the combat factor ratios in each sector! This is not to say that the French must have a superiority of factors in each sector as this is usually not possible. For example, if the PAA player has a 7-4 and a 4-4 defending the river near the road to Braine le Comte but the French threat consists of three 2-6’s then the advantage lies with the French. Or, if the PAA is defending a river line using two 4-4’s and the threatening French force is 20 factors, then the PAA is at an advantage accepting the fact that a risky 2-1 French attack is possible. Likewise, if the French player is attempting to infiltrate a solitaire 2-6 through a forest between sectors and the PAA player counters with their 2-6, then this is slightly advantageous to the French since it makes their superiority marginally better in some other sector. If a player can attain force superiority in one or more sectors and then defeat the opposition units, this should lead to collapse of the initial PAA defensive front in the case of the French, or result in additional units to reinforce other sectors in the case of the PAA player. French strategy in the early game should strive to conduct a series of attacks simultaneously in every axis of advance as the outnumbered PAA usually cannot counterattack in every threatened sector. Player awareness of these ratios is crucial for quality tournament level play!
So what can the PAA player do to neutralize this early French juggernaut? The terrain and skillful emplacement of the 6-4 and 7-4 infantry divisions are the basis for a tough PAA defense. Let’s identify the six approach routes from east to west available to the French in the early game:
1 The three-hex wide secondary road from Tilly toward Wavre.
2 The two-hex wide primary road east of Quatre Bras.
3 The primary road over the Quatre Bras heights.
4 The one-hex wide path south of Nivelles.
5 The one-hex wide primary road south of Nivelles.
6 The three-hex wide approach toward the Braine le Comte road.
Routes #3 and #6 are protected by doubled defensive terrain and will require a major French effort to capture either. The vulnerable “corner” (the wooded hex) atop the Quatre Bras heights from which retreat is blocked can be held longer with two large units and nearby counterattack units. Routes #4 and #5 can be defended using a single 6-4 or larger unit as only a 2-1 attack can be achieved from a single attacking hex. This key tactic is critical for the PAA player to master for use over the entire board as it makes the French player risk losing his entire attacking force with a poor die roll. The PAA player must be ever vigilant to French efforts to infiltrate units to enable them to achieve a 3-1 attack vs these defending units. While these infiltrating units cannot be stopped, they do present opportunities to the PAA player to counterattack units whose retreat is blocked. This is the second critical tactic that must be foremost in the minds of both players and is particularly important to the PAA player during the early game especially protecting routes 4, 5, and 6. This leaves routes #1 and #2. Skillful use of 1- factor delaying units coupled with the aforementioned use of a 6-4 or larger unit in combination can significantly slow or block the French advance down these two routes. The PAA player must maintain a sufficiently large counterattack force behind these forward defenses especially along route #2 as this is where the initial French attacks usually occur. The French can eventually force their way down route #1 as there is just too much maneuver room in the east to defend without committing the bulk of the Prussian Army, leaving little to defend Quatre Bras—a losing strategy for the PAA. Route #1 is where the PAA player must make an important strategic decision regarding force dispositions. One strategy is to also position a smaller counterattack forces on the route to contest the French advance here. This is more appropriate against a numerically small French threat. Against a large French threat, a more appropriate response would be to slow the French advance where possible and retire to doubled defensive positions near the Thil/Dyle River junction. The PAA player has insufficient forces to defend the river lines stretching from the east edge to the Thil/Dyle River junction continuing along the river towards Quatre Bras. The PAA player cannot hold any defensive line for very long without sufficient reserves to conduct counterattacks. The final thoughts on the beginning game strategy and tactics involve use of 1-factor delaying units. Three of the six routes can use delaying units “economically” (one unit stops the entire advance) while routes #3 and #6 do not require them. Route #1 is too wide and would require two or more units to stymie the French advance. The dilemma for the PAA player is that if 1- factor unit usage is too prolific in the early game, then there could be serious negative consequences in the middle and late game. Seeing 2-factor or larger PAA units being used for delays or soak-offs is usually a sign of the PAA sliding into the morass of defeat. However, when the PAA loses only a single factor in a turn in which they have no attacks, then that is a sign of economical play. The last point of this tutorial deals with the relative value of the 1-factor units in that the Prussian 1-6’s need to be conserved for their counterattacks while the British 1-4’s are the first choice for delaying units. Of course, all of the above advice can be overwhelmed by a string of 1-1 or 2-1 attacks with Defender Elim results that obliterate a line of doubled positions as happened this year.
In semifinal #1, Ray “The Rapacious” Clark secured the PAA with a 4-factor bid vs. Tim Miller. Tim’s campaign featured aggressive French advances over the width of the board with a heavy concentration of cavalry moving on Nivelles. Tim’s “Tasmanian” war name seemed most appropriate as the 16th was characterized by a series of successful 1-1 and 2-1 attacks including a 1-1 D-elim of a Prussian 5-4 in the Bors de Mez woods east of Quatre Bras. By 1 PM, a French corps(-) [meaning less than full strength] was advancing northward toward Wavre and battle was joined in the “Corridor of Death” on the primary road east of Quatre Bras. At 3 PM, Tim urged his forces forward up the 2 axes of attack south of Nivelles while battles raged in the east. Ray’s British skillfully maneuvered from the Braine le Comte road area in the west to turn Tim’s flank and encircle the French forces in front of Nivelles. Ray succeeded in trapping one of Tim’s corps and in an attempt to extract the remnants, Tim attempted a truly desperate 1-1 attack (no attacker retreat possible). The Attacker back 2 result sealed this French formation’s fate and placed the French wing near Nivelles in a perilous position. These battles of encirclement resulted in significantly more French loses than PAA casualties (43 French vs 39 PAA losses at this time). By 7 PM battles raged across the width of the board and Tim resorted to his special “Imperial Guard” die and several low odds attacks. These succeeded in breaking the PAA defenses forcing Ray’s Prussians back to doubled defensive positions near Genappe and the hills in the center of the board. However, near Nivelles the numerically superior British forces attacked the French remnants south of the town. By the end of 16 June losses stood at 79 French vs 63 PAA. At early dawn on 17 June, Tim formed his battered French columns for a series of 2-1 and 1-1 attacks in an attempt to redress the deficit in battle losses. Using his “Imperial Guard” die again, he won the battles near the Thil/Dyle River junction and forced the doubled Genappe river line, but suffered two exchanges near Nivelles. Seeing Tim’s precarious position at this stage of the game, Ray chose to retire in the east and near Genappe. Mid-morning on 17 June saw the French go one more time into the breach, but the magic had left Tim’s “Imperial Guard” die as he suffered several exchanges or defender retreats against Ray’s doubled defenders in the center while another exchange near Nivelles left this sector entirely undefended. These results broke the back of the French Army. Tim was last seen retiring from the field of battle protected by what little remained of the Imperial Guard to endure abdication and exile. Ray “The Rapacious” Clark was only one victory away from the coveted WATERLOO championship! (GM Note: Judicious use of low odds attacks can sometimes turn the tide of a game or at least get it to parity as Tim did after the 7 AM 17 June turn. However, his third attempt at 9 AM to gain an advantage was not successful.)
In semifinal #2, two of the reborn “stars” of WATERLOO squared off as this game featured Greg “Smithereens” Smith who took the French versus Ed “The Magnificent” Menzel who got the PAA with no bid. This pair of weathered grognards were hardly new to the game, but were only recently returning WAT event players. Greg, in particular, was returning to WAT laurels for the first time in 13 years. He started his French columns in motion with a single strong Corps (+) [meaning reinforced] with numerous cavalry brigades and horse artillery batteries attached heading toward Nivelles. The rest of the French Army advanced up to the primary road east of Quatre Bras at which time two Corps (+) pushed toward Wavre. The western force brushed aside the delaying Belgian and Dutch cavalry brigades as they pushed towards Nivelles. By 5 PM on the 16th Greg had managed through careful maneuver a set-piece 3-1 attack against one of the Prussian infantry divisions entrenched on the Quatre Bras heights. This compelled Ed’s Prussians to commence a short retrograde action to just north of Quatre Bras covered by a single sacrificial cavalry brigade. Likewise in the Nivelles sector a slow withdrawal to just south of the town was covered by a single 1-4 delaying unit while Prussian forces also retired northward toward Wavre confronted by a slightly larger French force. At this stage of the game the loss ratio was only 12 PAA factors to six French, though all of the PAA losses were 1-factor units. The first major battles started at first light on the17th near Nivelles but critically important was Greg’s failure to advance onto a hilltop hex won in combat. This oversight left a path for the cooperating British and Prussian forces to surround a French corps on the hilltop directly southeast of Nivelles. Simultaneously, the arriving British units from the Braine le Comte road rushed into battle formation and in cooperation with British forces already on the battlefield were able to surround a large stack of French cavalry near the western edge of the board. Ed again employed sacrificial units near Quatre Bras and the road to Wavre to prevent any large French attacks. By 9 AM all of the entrapped French cavalry had died but the encircled French corps near Nivelles had managed to extract themselves due to an error on Ed’s part. While Ed’s encirclement of the French near Nivelles looked very impressive, his failure to recognize that the British attack was against a doubled position turned his planned 4-1 attack into a risky 2-1 attack. The fact that the Prussians and British could not cooperate and attack the same French units added to this situation. Ed’s British suffered a ½ Attacker Exchange and this bloody repulse gave the French freedom to maneuver. More importantly, it allowed the French to retain the initiative on this flank and escape from this game ending battle! While Greg regrouped the French near Nivelles, Ed established the PAA in doubled defensive positions across the center of the board. By 11 AM on the 17th the French force heading toward Wavre received orders to execute a sharp column left and enter the main battle. This “short hook” flanked the Prussian defense of the Genappe river line. The Prussians defending the Dyle River fell back northward towards the LaLasne River to new defensive positions. Ed’s style of play in using many 1-factor screening units greatly slowed the French advances and only allowed attacks against doubled positions. It remained to be seen if this strategy would have a negative impact on the PAA later in the game. The afternoon of the 17th saw the fighting concentrated in the center of the board as the French pushed on from the Genappe River toward Mont St. Jean. With no French flanking threats either toward the LaLasne River or along the west edge of the board, Ed’s PAA were able to establish a long battle line from just north of Nivelles to the hills near Mont St. Jean. Greg’s French closed on the PAA battle line late in the afternoon which forced Ed to use several 2-factor units to delay while the British attacks near Nivelles only forced the French defenders back. The loss ratio at this time was 75 PAA vs 63 French. As dawn broke on the 18th, both players realized the moment of decision had arrived. The French massed near Mont St. Jean with a 3-1 against the Steinmetz infantry division (8-4) who escaped and against the British near Nivelles where they were much more successful, killing 14 British factors for the loss of only two French. With Ed frantically sending couriers to spur the advance of the Prussian IV Corps along the primary road to Quatre Bras, the weary British and Prussian divisions gathered for a series of three 1-1 attacks and two 3-1 attacks. The results were very disappointing as they had only managed to kill 18 French factors at a cost of 22 of their own. With victory within his grasp, Greg’s tired but resolute French opened a general offensive that bagged 28 PAA factors at the cost of only eight French—the death knell of the PAA armies! With the Prussian IV Corps still two turns from the battle area, Ed tried one more desperate 1-1 attack. As the brave Prussian divisions melted in the massed fire of the French guns, Ed conceded.
The Final was now set between Greg and the more tournament-tested Ray. (GM Note: Ed’s maintenance of his long battle line between Nivelles and the hills near Mont St. Jean in the middle game gave Greg many opportunities to make major attacks against the PAA. Ed’s lack of 1-factor covering units may have contributed to his decision not to concentrate all available PAA forces near Mont St. Jean earlier.)
Strangely, no bidding occurred in the Final as Ray requested the French, giving Greg his preferred PAA armies. Ray sent one corps (+) reinforced with 12 cavalry units toward Nivelles while the rest of the French Army concentrated against Quatre Bras. Ray advanced cautiously and by 1 PM had detached a corps reinforced with 13 cavalry units down the road toward Wavre. The only losses at this stage of the game were six PAA factors. Greg chose not to contest the narrow corridors south of Nivelles and instead withdrew to the doubled river line immediately north of the town. His defense also featured three double stacks of large Prussian infantry divisions defending the Quatre bras heights. Fighting did rage along the primary road east of Quatre Bras in the “Corridor of Death” but the results were hardly decisive with three D back 2s and a single exchange nearby renaming this stretch of road the “Corridor of Frustration”. These battles though did require Greg to weaken the formidable Quatre Bras hill defense. Late in the afternoon, Ray cast his fate by launching three low odds attacks against the Quatre Bras heights and a 1-2 versus a 7-4 near Nivelles. Incredibly, there was not a single French factor lost in any of these attacks! Moreover, a D back 2 result in a 1-2 versus the famous “corner” hilltop hex of Quatre Bras destroyed a Prussian 6-4 infantry division with no retreat possible due to the woods while the 1-2 near Nivelles also drove the British 7-4 back two hexes. Talk about good luck! Losses at the end of the first day were light with only 14 PAA factors lost versus five French. On the morning of the 17th Greg’s front extended from Nivelles across the center of the board to the Thil/Dyle River junction in the east. While Greg had done an admirable job of conserving the fighting strength of the PAA armies assisted by more D back 2s in the “Corridor of Frustration”, his defensive responsibilities had increased significantly. Greg’s defense was solid at Nivelles, across the center of the board, and along the Genappe River, but weak along the Dyle River. Ray reinforced the corps there and out maneuvered and the Prussian forces in his drive toward Wavre and the LaLasne River further north with the loss ratio of PAA 41 factors versus only 17 French highlighting the deteriorating PAA situation! Ray’s defensive stance at Nivelles (only three French infantry divisions) was paying big dividends as this economy of force measure allowed most of the French Army to concentrate against the Prussian Army along the Dyle River and in the center. Meanwhile, almost all of the British Army sat idle near Nivelles. Ray pushed his French hard toward the LaLasne River and at 1 PM commenced a general offensive against a weak defensive line to force a crossing. Greg had finally abandoned Nivelles and was rushing all available forces to the LaLasne River. At the Battle of the LaLasne River, Ray’s French were wildly successful with D Elims in two attacks, an exchange, and a fortunate 1-2, D back 2 result versus a stack of Prussian 2-6s that could not retreat!! The French had destroyed 13 factors at the cost of four and were across the river in force. Greg could see that the secondary road to Brussels was open and the British were still two hours from the battlefield. As news of the Prussian losses swept the British forces and defection of his Dutch and Belgian troops loomed, Greg sent emissaries of peace to Ray’s headquarters ending the slaughter. Ray “The Rapacious” Clark had most definitely lived up to his war name and relished the thought that he had finally reached his long sought goal of becoming the world champion of WATERLOO!
(GM Note: Ray’s dedication to WATERLOO is well known as this is the only game he plays at WBC. He is always available for a game and will play anyone and everyone. He is to be commended for his perseverance and well-deserved victory.)