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"So why is Waterloo very popular ?" Topic

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mysteron Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 3:38 a.m. PST

I am just curious on this one.

My own reasons is just nostalgia. I am not getting any younger and I have so many part done projects, that I decided to concentrate on the core areas that I did using the Airfix soldiers when younger. The Waterloo set being one of them which included the Highlanders of course.

Yes I also like the film which gives inspiration and great battle scenes if not altogether authentic. The biggest one for me is the lack of representation of the Hanoverians and the Dutch/Belgium forces. Sharpe's Waterloo is also my favourite episode from the series as there are lots and lots of subtle humour.

So I am just wondering why so many find Waterloo popular when there are many other battle and campaigns to choose from ?

von Winterfeldt29 Mar 2017 3:43 a.m. PST

waterloo film

those 3 make a powerfull combination

SJDonovan Inactive Member29 Mar 2017 3:52 a.m. PST

I think vW is right on all three counts. Waterloo was the first Napoleonic battle I was aware of. And for a long time it was the only Napoleonic battle I had heard of.

Later I got the Letraset rub-down-transfers of the Retreat from Moscow and the rest is history

CATenWolde Inactive Member29 Mar 2017 3:56 a.m. PST

Growing up in the midwest of America, I had no youthful pull to the campaign, other than books on the topic being fairly easily available. I think the Top 10 reasons are:

1. British troops played a decisive role in the battle, and British wargamers play a decisive role in the hobby – no mystery there.

2. It's a fairly well balanced and decisive campaign, compact but with a diversity of troop types.

3. Due to its pivotal and final nature, it is very well represented in literature (as an understatement).

4 – 10: see #1.




4th Cuirassier29 Mar 2017 4:24 a.m. PST

I like Waterloo for the same reasons as above, and to sustain my interest, there is also a huge literature on it in the two / three languages that I read (Fraktur gives me a headache so barely counts as German in my book…I just wish Google would figure out a way to digitise it into a legible font…).

It is unquestionably the most decisive battle at which British and Netherlands have fought (and German forces too, if we limit it to battles where they fought on the winning side). Geographically the battlefield is easily reached and there is a lot there for a visitor to see compared, say, to Naseby which is only easily reached, or to El Alamein, which is neither of those.

Then there is Waterloo's place in history. The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars spanned from 1792 to 1815, and Waterloo was in 1815, so the dates alone tell you that it was unquestionably the conclusive battle that marked the end of era (no, 1812 wasn't conclusive because there was 1813, which wasn't conclusive either because there was 1815).

The counterfactual course of events in 1815 is one where Wellington loses at Waterloo. British armies in retreat in this era tended to disintegrate (eg Corunna, after Salamanca), so I don't hold out much hope of a defeated Wellington evacuating an army in any shape better than Moore managed. Napoleon had defeated three Prussian army Corps at Ligny, which is I presume the main reason why Blucher sent the distant IV Corps to Waterloo it was the only one left to him that the French had not already thrashed. So defeat there, coupled with Grouchy's victory at Wavre, suggests Prussian disintegration too, with every Corps mauled and Grouchy athwart the line of retreat to Louvain.

The 7th Coalition could then easily have disintegrated, or at least become a constructive dead letter, like the 3rd did after Austerlitz. It is wholly plausible that a Europe exhausted by war, and with its two most effective field commanders humbled in the field, would have come to some accommodation with Napoleon that left him on the throne before or after Napoleon defeated its armies in detail, with the Austrians next.

A decisive battle to achieve this was of course is exactly what Napoleon was aiming at. Wellington's political consideration was always about postponing such a battle until the rest of the coalition arrived, and his military dispositions reflected this aim of holding his positions.

Napoleon in contrast had no special interest in geographical objectives and was always sure to send his armies against Wellington, regardless of where they happened to be, to force the unwanted decisive battle upon him. Napoleon was successful in doing so and did indeed "humbug" Wellington, only to be defeated at that battle by an adversary who turned out to be the better battle captain on the day. But there is no doubt that the battle of Waterloo happened at all only because Napoleon was the superior strategic thinker.

So the stakes played for are fascinating. It's not like the battles of, say, the Pacific in 1942 to 1945. There, the strategic outcome was never in doubt, although Japan's leaders mostly didn't get this. If there hadn't been a Midway in June 1942, however, there'd have been one elsewhere not long after, and it was just a question of where.

mysteron Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 4:28 a.m. PST

Wow that's brilliant . I guess I have so much too read yet .

arthur181529 Mar 2017 4:44 a.m. PST

I agree with all the above, plus a nice mixture of nationalities, troop types and uniforms, presence of Imperial Guard, several battles in only a few days, so ideal mini-campaign/alternate history scenarios, and three very different, but charismatic commanders.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 4:56 a.m. PST

William Faulkner summed it up speaking of another war: "It's all now you see. Yesterday won't be over until tomorrow and tomorrow began ten thousand years ago. For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago; or to anyone who ever sailed a skiff under a quilt sail, the moment in 1492 when somebody thought This is it: the absolute edge of no return, to turn back now and make home or sail irrevocably on and either find land or plunge over the world's roaring rim."

Yep that's how the Francophiles see Waterloo, another lost cause myth.

4th Cuirassier29 Mar 2017 5:21 a.m. PST

@ 138

Great quote. Which book was that?

vtsaogames29 Mar 2017 6:15 a.m. PST

"The Civil War in the South isn't past history. It isn't even past."

Back to the main topic: As said before, one of the truly decisive battles of history. Napoleon was emperor before it started, a titled fugitive when it ended. A compact campaign over in 4 days, 4 battles on two days, stiff rear-guard actions on the other two. Great uniforms, guards, rifles, cavalry, you name it. The battle itself was a cliff-hanger. Plenty of books and other sources, figures, board games, etc.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 7:01 a.m. PST

In addition to those mentioned, Waterloo has lots of important decisions made at different levels of command. Not only can you fight out the whole thing with miniatures on a tabletop, you can spend an afternoon defending or attacking Hougomont or La Haye Sainte, or conducting a pursuit/rearguard on the 17th. That makes it a very good battle for miniature wargaming.

leidang29 Mar 2017 7:11 a.m. PST

Wellington vs Napoleon… It's like a heavyweight title fight. Everyone wants to see it on pay per view.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 8:29 a.m. PST

I was sort of banking on Waterloo being the most famous battle in history when I created my paper armies of every regiment, battalion and battery in all three armies :) Sales haven't justified the enormous expenditure of time and effort--yet! But things are picking up.

Scott Washburn

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 8:40 a.m. PST

It's a good story where every moment seems like it could have gone differently.

Murvihill29 Mar 2017 9:35 a.m. PST

If the British were Austrians or Russian I doubt it would get half the attention it gets now.

4th Cuirassier29 Mar 2017 9:40 a.m. PST

@ Murvihill

It would get as much as Leipzig.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 10:13 a.m. PST

@ 4th Cuirassier

"Intruder in the Dust" from 1948. William Faulkner is one of myfavourite authors and this one deals with Southern memory and the Civil War. The themes are similar to those of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

daler240D Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 10:27 a.m. PST

good story, near run thing and all that and actually quite an historically important battle, or at least the capstone on a period of great change.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 11:15 a.m. PST

The same reason the film was made. It was the end for Napoleon. It was dramatic, waiting for the Prussians to come in. Would they get there in time? The British hanging on with their determination. You have two of the greatest military minds of that time going at each other. What's not to like?

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 11:16 a.m. PST

Time for a new movie. I am looking at you Peter Jackson.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member29 Mar 2017 12:57 p.m. PST

Ugh, NO, NOT Peter Jackson. In his hands, any historical battle would be come a travesty of slavering Orcs, trolls beyond count, slo-mo evil cliches, and bad jokey dwarves.

Napoleon would have an elf girlfriend and attack with kangaroo cavalry, there would be aerial combat between giant insects, Wellington would have long blonde hair and speak in incredibly slow monotones, Blucher would hiss and rant about the French stealing his Precious….

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 12:58 p.m. PST

No nostalgia for me. I've always thought it made a crappy game.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member29 Mar 2017 1:01 p.m. PST

From my reading and skills in prophecy, had Napoleon won at Waterloo, I see only a dismal repeat of the 1814 campaign to follow. The Allied coalition didn't show signs of dissolving in 1815; if anything, having crushed Napoleon with weight of numbers once, they were certain they could do so again. The Russian and Austrian armies, each larger than the Anglo-Allies or Prussians, were lumbering into position, hostile armies were on the Pyrenees, the Vendee was in simmering revolt again, France was war-weary and had no foreign allies to speak of for support. I can't see Napoleon overcoming the odds in the long term.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 2:03 p.m. PST

Yes Piper, Sir Peter Jackson is the perfect choice. Who better to put on a huge battle scene. I think his Great War exhibit shows his love of history.


Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 3:05 p.m. PST


My My… Waterloo Napoleon did surrender


Mister Tibbles29 Mar 2017 3:39 p.m. PST

I'm going to have to agree with Crispy.

I won't play it in any form, but if others like it that's fine by me. This is just a hobby after all.

JMcCarroll Inactive Member29 Mar 2017 3:46 p.m. PST

Because the good guys won?

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 3:53 p.m. PST

There have been discussions here about how Waterloo works as a game. Although I can't find them now. I find that more often than not the French end up winning.

I think the reason for that is the 100 foot Napoleon which can see over the ridge. The French player is also very aware of the Prussians. The French player has so much more information available to him than Napoleon.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member29 Mar 2017 4:35 p.m. PST

Interesting and educational, Rallynow, I will admit!

But I can't get over my Jackson cynicism when it comes to something like this.

daler240D Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 4:36 p.m. PST

+1 Rallynow

daler240D Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 4:37 p.m. PST

and Peter Jackson can make battles like no one else's business.

skinkmasterreturns29 Mar 2017 6:46 p.m. PST

When I was first exposed to miniatures as a lad in the late 70's,Napoleonics was THE period and Waterloo was THE battle.

John Miller Inactive Member29 Mar 2017 7:44 p.m. PST

It was the battle that first inspired my interest in the Napoleonic Wars due to the Life Magazine article in 1965. As I became more deeply interested in the warfare of the era other battles eclipsed it, however. Even though it has become my least favorite Napoleonic battle to study, it still holds some fascination if only because so much appeared to be at stake. John Miller

vtsaogames29 Mar 2017 7:53 p.m. PST

more often than not the French end up winning.

Because most rules allow more control over the French army than Boney actually had on the day.
Because the whole French team knows the battle and the Allied position like the back of their hand.
Because the French can see over the hill and know where the Allies are. (The BBB scenario allows the Allies to deploy after the French to represent the reverse slope advantage.

With one move per hour the French advantage fades away.
So far the most realistic game of the battle that I have seen is the fast board game W1815. French wins are hard and involve a lot of brass.

Lonkka1Actual29 Mar 2017 8:52 p.m. PST

The battle where famous Napoleon got beaten for good.

Winners beating their drum about it on and on.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 9:40 p.m. PST

The first Napoleonic game I ever saw was Waterloo in 15mm at Origins when it was in Dallas back in the late 70s. I think they were using Empire and the French won with much celebrating.

gamershs Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 11:55 p.m. PST

Most of people on this web site read English. Most books that we would read are written in English. Biggest battle that England fought in Napoleonic War was Waterloo. Most books written about England's land battles in Napoleonic War are written about Waterloo. US may have separated from England but there is a great interest in England and books coming from England do not require translation.


Marcel180929 Mar 2017 11:58 p.m. PST

Waterloo, the closing battle of a fascinating era, the myth of Napoleon, and it happened on my doorstep…

langobard Supporting Member of TMP30 Mar 2017 1:20 a.m. PST

I think I was about 12 when someone gave me a copy of David Howarths 'A Near Run Thing'. I was hooked from then on, so yes, for me, nostalgia is a big part of it.

That said, I have never gamed it as a one off battle. I either play scenarios or the campaign as a whole.

arthur181530 Mar 2017 1:41 a.m. PST

vtsaogames, I agree that W1815 is one of, if not the, best games on Waterloo.
I recommend it to any one seeking a playable game on the battle.

dagc54 Inactive Member30 Mar 2017 11:50 a.m. PST

Since Waterloo is such a famous battle; players want to see if they could have done better.

seneffe30 Mar 2017 2:02 p.m. PST

It's the combination of epic knife edge see-saw battle (of which in fairness there were several in the Napoleonic era), together with the decisive finality of its result.

BTW- re the film and its very 'British vs French' look- I remember reading in an old magazine that many Dutch-Belgian uniforms were made up by the costume people, and a Belgian character who had once fought for Napoleon was proposed by the British screenwriters but the producer (?Italian) thought it would confuse things and scrapped the idea.

forrester Inactive Member30 Mar 2017 2:10 p.m. PST

A dramatic story.
Famous commanders.
Plenty of memoirs.
A movie.
Short campaign, battles in fairly compressed areas, so easy to grasp the basics.
For not a few of us, the happy coincidences in 1970-something of the film, Airfix, and Military Modelling magazine.Waterloo was handed to us on a plate.

mysteron Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2017 6:25 a.m. PST

Many thanks for your responses .

It took me a while to get through them all.

It appears I am not alone when it comes down to nostalgia with Airfix

Mike Target15 Apr 2017 2:04 a.m. PST

Wheras I don't get the attraction. The uniforms just aren't as colourful, its big battles or nothing, overpowered special characters everywhere, both armies are min-maxed to within an inch of their lives, and its just a little over done…

Oh, now I get it- it was clearly a battle fought entirely for the benefit of wargamers!

Murvihill17 Apr 2017 9:50 a.m. PST

It's ABBA's fault.

42flanker17 Apr 2017 2:24 p.m. PST

Peter Jackson's battles have all the humanity of a computer game, sweeping scores of men-? creatures- into oblivion 'like flies to wanton gods'- There may be some truth in that but it's no way to tell a story.

He would dehumanise it with CGI. Whatever the Bondarchuks' failings, and the many wooden performances, he managed to make it human- though the blonde boy, badly dubbed, running around shouting "Why? Why?" was a step too far. Christopher Plummer, and Dan O' Herlihy were superb and Rod Steiger wasn't bad

Marc the plastics fan23 May 2017 11:01 a.m. PST


And their Waterloo farmhouse – I have two…

I still paint and play with Airfix

Not a Francophile not a myth chaser. Just love my Airfix

It is about the colour and romance to an 8 year old back in the 70s

And Patterson Blick rub down transfers

Marc the plastics fan23 May 2017 11:02 a.m. PST
Lord Hill23 May 2017 11:12 a.m. PST

One of the reasons is "The Big Match" element of Napoleon finally being pitted directly against Wellington.

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