Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle

By Richard Moore

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Austerlitz: The Rise of the Eagle - the premier play-by-email Napoleonic wargame


Hugely playable and addictive, Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle finds the Napoleonic commander deep inside and forces you to take up arms.

Whether it be fighting for the Emperor, or doing your best to ensure his downfall, the game transports you into the era with a seductiveness that sneaks up on you.

Initially it looks a little complicated, but a few sessions will see you comfortable with the basic controls and style of the game - then the hardest part is stopping yourself from reading the manual (it's true) and learning the in-depth aspects.

And it's the depth of play and detail that make Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle such a terrific game to play. It entices you to learn more about how it works and then you get the almost-instant results on the battlefield.

Working your way through the six tutorials is highly recommended as it makes the 30 other scenarios so much more enjoyable. They range from small within-Waterloo battles - such as the attack on Hougoumont, or keeping the Prussians at bay - right through to massive clashes that involve all of the available armies.

Moving around the battlefield is a doddle - just click and drag your divisional units' flags (or their commander's) to where you want them to march.

Easily seen on-screen icons make controlling formations a matter of clicking a button as is giving them orders to force march, charge, withdraw or hold a position.

The screen also has small windows for morale and battle stress levels, a jump map, scenario timer, a navigation panel, zoom functions and game speed controls. Despite the wealth of detail available at any one time, your view of Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle never gets cluttered and staying focused on battlefield events is not difficult.

Part of this is due to the excitement that builds during the action, but most of it is due to the graphics of the military sprites and the terrain you are fighting over.

Everything looks right. The trees, the buildings, the fluttering flags, the roads, tracks and fields of crops.

Once you've worked out how to zoom in and out (the manual can help) the details you can get on the troops is remarkable.

Now this is not to say that Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle is the most beautiful game you'll ever play, but it is finely detailed and copes with six zoom levels - from satellite to extreme close-ups - very well.

For strategy gamers the visual appeal comes from the sense of colour (60 different uniforms are on show) and movement you get while watching your troops in action.

The march of a French ordre-mixte column on Hougoumont is something to behold, but nothing like when the British heavy brigade comes pouring out to smash unwatchful infantry to paste.

It is quite a frightening spectacle as the Scots Greys et al hurtle, swords drawn, towards your unformed infantry who have to quickly form square. If they can't - they're dead or broken within seconds.

This real-life power of Napoleonic cavalry is absolutely awesome. Once you've been caught a couple of times you tend to have a rather panicky feel when scrolling around the battlefield searching for the damned enemy horsemen.

There are also some very nice aspects to the game that see you having to take notice of your army's overall morale and the toll Battle Stress has upon the troops' cohesion and ability to fight.

Each army loses moral points for every active unit on the map and again when troops change formation, force march, charge, retreat or fight.

This builds Battle Stress and a unit that has done too much will often refuse to charge, flee from the enemy or rout away completely.

You can also occupy strongpoints on the battlefield - usually earning Victory Points for doing so - and forcing the enemy out of them can be one very difficult task.

So is holding your own against the computer. However, while it takes a little settling into Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle is a strategic game that will have you at your computer screen determined to have one last go at victory until all hours of the morning.

Well worth an investment of both time and money.



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