Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Waterloo Battle #2

Finally happy(-ish) with the rules, I invited a group to my place for a good playtest and another go at Waterloo (being 200th and all).  Like herding cats, trying to get the guys all here and knowing the rules had the game start an hour and a half late.  As weekday evening, at only mid game were the complaints of "gotta go" heard.  And this after tea/coffee was ready and served.  Perhaps I will need to offer RedBull instead.....

I knew the likelihood of the reconvening was almost nil, so I slowly worked through the game myself, trying to follow the initial plans by the French and try to play out each side as well as possible.  Of course, being solo, I could co-ordinate the various commands which would be less likely with different players commanding each, but the dice seem to enjoy making this more difficult than one would believe !

The Allies win again in a very close near-run-thing!

The rules are specifically designed for the convention setting so simplicity is the key and I was happy to find that the players had the concept by Turn 4.
The deployments were historical but each side were allowed to develop their own strategy.

  The French decided to ignore the historical strongpoints of Hougomont and La Haye Sainte.  It was apparent from the initial moves that Reille and Kellerman's heavy cavalry were to move against the Allies right flank, dErlon to pin the Allies centre with Milhaud's cuirassiers and Lobau to attack between  Hougomont and La Haye Sainte.  At least that is what I surmised looking at the initial moves.  Other than the Young Guard and the cavalry having moved to the right to counter the Prussians just coming on the table, was the only move by the French Imperial Guard.  It stayed well to the rear.  Whether by design so it would not be overly committed in any one direction so to exploit any of the various attacks, will not be known.  It was not helped forward as Napoleon was on his "sick-bed" for extended periods during the game.

This rule had a 50-50 roll whether Napoleon was on the field and could a) contribute to any formations movement and b) move the Middle and Old Guard (the 4 infantry elements) as only he personally allowed.

  The Allies had less decisions to make in their defensive role behind a ridge.  However, coordination between commands would prove troublesome (even as a solo effort)  due to the tight confines of the battlefield.

The Terrain:
The battlefield is one of the most known of history and quite easy to replicate.  I did not make the ridgeline but used a road to indicate the crest, with movement unaffected but artillery random if firing across (only allowed one shot per element and at a major minus).  Initial reaction by the players seemed to think this was fine and simulates the historical situation well enough.  All strongpoints could be defended - but were in any event not attacked. But the Allies still had to defend with the historical elite troops despite.

I will let the photo captions do most of the talking.
Overview of the battle in its early stages looking from the east.  The lower portion shows Milhaud's moving behind d'Erlon's massed corps while the 'Grand Battery" and Quiot's Division stands guard.  In the centre, Lobau's Corps in column moves to between La Haye Sainte (grey buildings) and Hougomont (brick complex upper centre).  Reille and Kellerman's heavies move around to attack the Allied Right.

Closer view with the initial French moves done and the Allied players positioning their Generals.  
Picton's command behind the ridge and the Allies Heavy Horse behind.

French army in full display.  La Belle Alliance in the centre of this photo.
Showing the French moves on their left. Hougomont upper centre, La Haye Sainte upper right, La Belle Alliance slightly south.  A tight battlefield even by the standards of the day.  But still lots of maneuver room with 28mm on a 8x5' table.

Reille's Corps ignoring Hougomont and rounding it's west side.
Close-up of the Allied right/west flank.   The multiple commands in this area made coordination of the different arms difficult. One wonders how Wellington made it work.

The Prussians would make little impact this day.  Bulow's poor consistently poor command rolls would not allow much forward movement.
Forced into action, d'Erlon attacks would ultimately fail. 

Finally off his sick bed, Napoleon personally led his Guardsmen.  The Brunswickers ( in black) would not stand.
The Highlanders of Picton's command could finally move and thus defeated the Guard in a flank attack. 

The conclusion:
The initial game ended at the start of Turn 8 with very little combat.  I had played the game out until Turn 15 but the game starts to increase its tempo (shorter real time game turns) as morale/combat effectiveness collapses in ever increasing amounts.  Rather like the real thing.  At Turn 15 only the French Guard was left and the one element loss to the Highlanders meant Napoleon could no longer force his army forward.


  1. Wonderful stuff Doug.

    Will you have this on the table at Salute?

    1. Yes, Saturday morning and afternoon. Perhaps two games depending upon participation and player speed.

  2. Sorry I missed the game Doug. As always, it looks spectacular.

  3. Great to see all those units come together and look so good on the table top. Quality.

    I'm planning on 15mm on a 9x5 foot table, brigade level. Even so I expect some congestion.

    1. Thanks for the nice comments.
      A suggestion re the size of the tabletop is to note the speed/distance of your movement rates and scale the battlefield accordingly. I have ignored the vertical (the height of the figures) and sized everything roughly to the horizontal (width of the battlefield). Many a scenario - including some of my own - have been a disaster due to the distance troops must travel to achieve their objectives. Just travel time alone would make it impossible. I am thinking of the Prussians for Waterloo. 15mm suffers from this perhaps more than 28mm, but in any case, if the table is too large poor Bulow if coming on too late in the battle will not be able to get to Plancenoit let alone take it in the time allotted.
      I am still working on the timing myself as in this playtest the Prussians did not even get close to the town. But more my poor command rolls than distance of course, but I will need to have them come on earlier to give them enough time to at least exert some pressure on the French.
      ...that or just have the THREAT of them, and see if the French can defeat Welly all alone! :-)

    2. I've tried the Plancenoit portion of the Napoleon's Battles Waterloo scenario twice now. Forces seem right and entry times okay. The troops are strung out in long march columns and it's important to represent that depending on your timing and entry point. I did consider allowing force marching, but feel they are already doing that, but that the muddy tracks don't give them any benefit.

      However the thing that caused the biggest impact is the positioning, size and classification of the woods, from the Paris wood, the Frichermont area (and south to the stream) and towards Plancenoit.

      The second thing was how far east you let the French set up. The positioning of the woods impacts this obviously as they can provide the French with a very strong defensive area.

      The bulk of my research is based on Mark Adkin's The Waterloo Companion.

      But for the moment I have gone back to pondering the Anglo-Allied command structure (was it really four Corps or a collection of divisions?)

  4. I would suggest that historically the French did not hinder the Prussian advance much before the emergence from the woods. That is the approach (bad pun?) I am doing.

    It sounds like you are as confused about Wellington's command structure as I, especially as my rules require large corps commands for player use. Wellington certainly did not keep his "corps" together and even divisional distinctions were vague. I finally just grouped several different commands together (especially Clinton's, Cooke's and Colville's Divisions) due to natural location groupings. Uxbridge had all the cavalry, so while difficult to command, nevertheless is historically accurate.
    and yes, just a collection of divisions! I use Wellington as a roaming extra commander helping out while he is in the area.....

  5. Excellent presentation! May I ask, what size bases you have used for each troop type? As a Impetus player, I have considered something similar to basing this period.

    1. You will be pleasantly surprised that we use 12cm by 6cm for our infantry and cavalry. We use 3 inch square for our artillery (why inches and not cm? don't ask, long story!)
      As you may have noted we use between 8 and 12 figures per base, with 10 the norm.

  6. Thank you for for you're response. I have a mind to start a new project... lol