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"Bloody Big Battles goes to Waterloo" Topic

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matthewgreen30 Jun 2015 8:39 a.m. PST

In a hurry to stage a bicentennial game of Waterloo on 18 June, I adapted the Chris pringle's Bloody Big Battles rules (designed for 1850-1900). Though my attempts to adapt the cavalry rules and add something for fortified outposts was a bit of a flop, the rules are a good basis for running Waterloo as a two player game on a home-sized table 3ft wide.

BBB is based on Fire & Fury, and Chris has produced a very elegant ruleset, with unnecessary detail stripped out. The F+F mechanism has its fans and detractors, and in my view both have valid points. But so far these are the only rules I have found that are able to deliver big games for two players in a relatively small space.

You can read (much) more on how I got on, including my house rules to adapt to the Napoleonic era (revised after their unimpressive debut on the 18th) at link

vtsaogames30 Jun 2015 12:41 p.m. PST

Your version used 1500 infantry per base. I used 750 troops/18 guns per base, which made for a big (and slow) game.

My result was also a French defeat, but I was giving the British some trouble. La Haye Sainte fell on the 3rd or 4th try. Hougomont drove off two attacks. Then the Guards came out and joined Hill's attack. The end came when the Prussians fell on Lobau and crushed him in by the 7 PM turn. I threw in the towel and went to St. Helena.

For La Haye Sainte, I ruled it was a town (2 column shift vs. fire, +2 during assaults). Baring's garrison was the only 1 base unit allowed, rated veteran with devastating volleys. The orchard south of the farm blocked artillery from that direction, similar to Hougomont woods. LHS was a pain to attackers. if they ignored it fired on their flanks. if they attacked it directly, troops in the Ohain road added their fire to the defenders. It finally fell to the Young Guard on a tie result. I was pretty happy with the way it worked. Hougomont was also a town but could fit 4 or 5 bases, which ended up being Cooke's Guard division.

vtsaogames30 Jun 2015 12:41 p.m. PST

How many yards did an inch on your table represent?

flipper30 Jun 2015 12:42 p.m. PST


I don't see why 'Blucher' could not produce a similar game – 1 base per brigade/division – the recommended base size is between 1.5 – 3 inch – you certainly would fit Waterloo on your 3 x 4 table at the lower scales.
It seems that in BBB units can get destroyed very quickly – in Blucher a unit can suffer around 7 fatigues (hits) before going to bed.

matthewgreen30 Jun 2015 2:32 p.m. PST

My table was 1in for 150m – about 165 yards.

I think Blucher is bigger game, though at the smaller scale I might well get it onto the table. But it could be a challenge for two players in 5 hours or so. But I haven't played Blucher, so I am open to being corrected on that!

One base is a square inch in BBB, and these are organised into units, usually divisions, of 3 to 6 bases. A lot of the units were three bases, and under the rules they are eliminated after the second base loss. It didn't help that we forgot to play the recovery rules until; the end of the game! But bigger units proved more resilient.

matthewgreen30 Jun 2015 2:39 p.m. PST

vtsao games. Interesting. I treated Hougoumont as a small single-base outpost, shielded by the wood. It was sustained by the Guards division on the hill behind. I treated each outpost as an extension of a divisional deployment. LHS was protected by being in a hollow in a hollow.

However on the outposts I didn't allow for the extra points attackers could get for depth formation and numerical superiority – so it was quite easy to match the extra points for being a town, etc.Both fell rather easily, though the first attack on Hougoumont got a -5 to the attackers, which was painful.

Also at one firepoint a time, fire was ineffective.

Did you feel the need to change the cavalry rules?

vtsaogames30 Jun 2015 7:30 p.m. PST

Large infantry units are are more resilient if they are veterans. But large raw units become shaken after 1 hit, trained units after 2. Spent units are a real deficit in the front line.

With smoothbore muskets, the main effect of small arms fire is to stop assaults. The defender prefers firefights to assaults. I originally intended to have cavalry represent half the number of troops as infantry but was dissuaded. I didn't change cavalry rules at all.

I did the following for assaults: veteran units roll two dice and use the highest, raw troops roll two dice and use the lowest. When veteran cuirassiers charged raw Hanoverians, each side rolled a pair of fives. The cavalry was driven off.

I did find that most casualties were dealt out by artillery fire, close enough to my views on the warfare of the time. This didn't help me when my artillery dice went cold for two turns.

My towns held out well with no changes. The veteran garrisons with deadly volleys had something to do with it.

I consider deep formation to include columns, squares, etc, being dealt with the unit CO.

Flipper, Blucher might indeed get a similar result. But my guys are not up for learning another set of rules any time soon. With BBB we can play Napoleonic, ACW and I hope to embark on a Franco-Prussian campaign in a bit, all with the same rules.

vtsaogames30 Jun 2015 7:58 p.m. PST

In case you missed it, here's the link to the second half of our game TMP link

ChrisBBB01 Jul 2015 4:28 a.m. PST

Matthew, thanks for posting such a nice thoughtful AAR. I'm glad you have got some value out of your copy of BBB!

It seems to me that some of the reservations you express are more to do with your scenario design, rather than the BBB rules themselves. For instance, the question of how large or small to make your units, as discussed by Vincent above. I don't know how you rated or organized your cavalry, but in BBB a 4-base Aggressive cavalry unit can be a pretty potent weapon – provided it is hitting troops who have been softened up first, or finding a flank. I'd be happy to discuss all this in more detail either here or offline if you want.

Flipper: yes, in BBB units can get destroyed very quickly – if their enemy concentrates enough effort against them, or if their own general puts them somewhere really dangerous. Normally firefights are more attritional, and it takes an assault to get a conclusively destructive result. Quick and decisive combat resolution is in my view a virtue of BBB.

Bloody Big BATTLES!

matthewgreen01 Jul 2015 7:28 a.m. PST

I messed up the cavalry side by designing a special cavalry v infantry column for Assaults and modifiers that worked in a way more similar to classic Napoleonic rules – but it was calibrated badly. Probably sticking to the original rules would have worked better – though the idea of combat results which forced the infantry to retreat just a short distance seemed incongruous, and small cavalry units would have had a tough time. I am used to the idea of cavalry either attacking ineffectually or with dramatic results, and small units potentially having a big impact.

Good point about overcoming many design issues with game design. This is true of all rules, but usually under-appreciated. I did this with the leadership. The French and Prussians had a general for each corps. The Anglo-Netherlands army just had Wellington – I think this modelled the differences between the command strengths of the armies quite well.

Building beefy cavalry units was a tough call at 1,500 a base. I managed it for the French by cutting the cavalry per base figure to 750, and then putting each heavy cavalry corps into a single unit. I left the Brits with smaller cavalry units as I think their coordianation was weaker. But maybe the Union and Household brigades should have been combined.

ChrisBBB01 Jul 2015 9:14 a.m. PST

Matthew, I've posted a full response as a Comment on your blog.


vtsaogames01 Jul 2015 10:21 a.m. PST

Interesting blog, Matthew.

flipper01 Jul 2015 12:04 p.m. PST


FWIW I have both 'BBB' & 'Blucher' – when I finally get my spare room decorated (having moved 3 years ago) I might even get to try both systems!

vtsaogames01 Jul 2015 1:45 p.m. PST

I have both sets of rules but fear my mates would ready tar and feathers if I tried to start a new set. Fussy bunch we are.

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