I finally got myself a copy of the first Campaign Manual, for the Hundred Days Campaign of 1815, and for those who haven't seen this book yet, I thought I'd give my first impressions.
The book is paperback, not hard back as the rules. My experience of paperback rule supplements has been coloured by my experience of the offerings from Battlefront, where the process of trying to open the book at a certain place and folding the spine back to maintain that page as you make notes or something, the book quickly loses its original shape, and pages start to come loose. This quickly necessitates a visit to Staples to remedy the situation with a spiral bind!!!
This being said, the quality is very good, with a nice glossy cover and page style, that is very attractive.
The book starts with an introduction to the campaign, the manual and how to use the lists contained. The overview of the Hundred Days Campaign is a three page summary of the events and key personalities involved.
We then have the core of the book which are the details you will need to model the armies of this period, starting with the French. The format is the same for each of the armies involved, with a briefing on the personality commanders and their special attributes in the game, the lists for the different types of Divisions the army could field on the table, and a colour uniform guide for those forces. For those unfamiliar with Napoleon at War army lists, you can see the generic lists in PDF available on the Napoleon at War site to get an idea of the format.
As you would expect the lists introduce new forces to the table with different special abilities, that are designed to capture the feel of the armies involved in the campaign. So the French have five lists, consisting of the Infantry Division, Young Guard Infantry Division, Imperial Guard Division, Light Cavalry Division and the Heavy Cavalry Division. Like wise the Anglo-allied Army have four lists, the British Infantry Division, the Netherlands Infantry Division, the Brunswick Infantry Division, and the British Heavy Cavalry Division. Lastly the Prussian lists include the Infantry Brigade and the Cavalry Reserve Brigade.
The book then concludes with a chapter on scenarios from the campaign, Quatre Bras, Ligny, Hougoumont, Ney's Charges and Placenoit.
The "Quatre Bras" scenario is based on the counterattack of the British Guards, which re-captured the Bossu Woods. The "Ligny" scenario sets up the final attack of the day by Napoleon with his Old Guard attacking in to Ligny and the Prussians, with Blucher commanding the Reserve Cavalry, desperately trying to hold out for nightfall. The "Hougoumont" scenario is the classic attack on the prepared position, with the Guards defending against Jerome's Infantry assaults, allowing the French to try out the new "Sappeurs" rule when assaulting buildings, whilst trying to burn the defenders out with howitzer fire. The "Ney's Charges" scenario, recreates the massed cavalry assaults on the allied lines in the afternoon of Waterloo, with Ney trying to force an Allied retreat from the ridge. The final scenario "Placenoit" recreates the assault by the Prussians on this village towards the end of the battle of Waterloo with a mix of Prussian infantry types getting "up close and personal" with the Young and Old Guard.
All the scenarios are built around the six turn scenario of a classic Napoleon at War encounter and make these very playable entertainment at an afternoon at the wargames club.
I think this book is a valuable addition to my library, and am pleased with the content. Speaking as someone who has a passing interest in the Hundred Days and would probably only build a few units for that period, this book gives me an easy to follow data base to quickly put together appropriate units and set up some interesting scenarios. As a Napoleonic Grognard, I have more detailed sources of uniform info and orbats available to build on the resources in this book, but the lists and ideas contained within also provide useful information for constructing campaign forces and are a useful summary of the important aspects to be considered when fielding armies of this period.
For the newcomer to Napoleonics, and particularly for someone specifically interested in building the armies of the Hundred Days, this book is an excellent resource and I would have been very happy to have had this alongside my copy of Bruce Quarrie's "Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature" when I first started playing Napoleonics many many years ago.
If you haven't yet looked at Napoleon at War, then do so. I often see them characterised as "Flames of War" for Napoleonics, which is not a label I would give them. Yes the "points based lists and pre-packed units of figures" model of business do seem very familiar, but as someone who wouldn't play FOW from choice, if I had been influenced by that description, I may have been dissuaded from trying these rules out. I think they have a lot to offer the Napoleonic player who wants to capture the look of a Napoleonic battle combined with the character of the armies that took part and the aspects of each that made one army very different from another.
The rules, figures and the campaign book are available in the UK from Battlefield Models and Paul Mews offers a first class customer service when ordering your stuff.