Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Wargaming Waterloo 1815 : 2015 (2) Battle of Quatre Bras Bicentennial Game (part 1)

In this, the final bicentennial year of the Napoleonic wars, we are joining many wargaming groups and enthusiasts around the world in staging re-fights of battles from the Hundred Days.

You’ll find links to reports and photos from many of these—and more besides—at the Wargaming Waterloo 2015 blog.

Quatre Bras, the battle for the cross-roads, was one of two battles fought on 16th June 1815, two days prior to the Battle of Waterloo. It seems that there are about as many interpretations of Quatre Bras as there are sets of rules for Napoleonic wargaming! It’s partly down to the start time chosen for this encounter battle, but there are numerous inconsistencies and contradictions in and between the accounts of the battle.

In the end we developed a scenario based largely on the re-fight written by Asquith (1996), with reference to several other accounts, particularly some recently published ones (list below). We based the order of battle chiefly on Nafziger’s.

Photo 1: We began our version at 15:00, with the two armies in arrayed for battle. Perponcher’s 2nd Netherlands division was defending in and around the Bossu Wood and Gemioncourt Farm, supported by van Merlen’s 2nd Netherlands Light Cavalry back in Quatre Bras.

Photo 2: Jérome’s 6th Division (furthest from camera at left) and Foy’s 9th division prepared to attack the Dutch-Belgian defenders, with Bachelu's 5th and Piré’s 2nd Cavalry divisions in support.

Some stats
• Game began at 15:00 and lasts until 20:30 (inclusive), representing up to twelve 30-minute turns.
• The tabletop has an approximate ground scale of 1 mm = 20 yards and covers a table  3 600 mm x 2 000 mm.

  • A figure scale of approximately 33:1 was used. The number of units of infantry, cavalry and artillery were determined based on a conversion of approximately 600 soldiers present per infantry and approximately 400 troopers per cavalry unit. Artillery batteries were included at the rate of one battery for approximately 6–8 guns.
  • Number of figures in each army (including all initial troops and reinforcements): Anglo-Allied - 720 infantry, 48 cavalry and 10 gun models; French - 486 infantry, 72 cavalry and 6 gun models.

Photos 3–5: The French attacked immediately, with the excitement of the photographer evident from some of the poor photos! Jérome headed for the Bossu Wood and to its east, Foy striking towards and east of Gemioncourt Farm, while Bachelu provided support on the right (eastern) flank.

Photo 6: These attacks opened the way for Piré’s light cavalry to strike towards the Nassau-Netherlander’s centre.

Photo 7: Help was on it’s way for Perponcher’s outnumbered men in the form of Brunswick’s and Picton’s divisions.

Photos 8–10: The 1/2nd Nassau and 7th Belgian line were beaten off by Jérome’s men, but Perponcher’s men continued to hold against the overwhelming odds. (Apologies for the poor quality of some of these photos.)

Photo 11: Overview of the battlefield looking from the east.

Photos 12–14: The 3/2nd Nassau were charged by Piré’s 1e chasseurs à cheval, coolly formed square and met the light horsemen, driving them off with some considerable loss.

Photo 15: Nassauers stand tall…

Photo 16: …only to be surrounded by hundreds of Frenchmen!

Photo 17: The second battalion of 2nd Nassau also resisted, holding on tenaciously in the Bossu Wood.

Photos 18–19: All the while support came closer and closer.

Photos 20–22: French attacks along the line defeated the gallant 3/2nd Nassau and expelled the 5th National militia from Gemioncourt farm,…

Photo 23 …but the 6e chevau-légers lanciers were driven off by the 8th National militia who had cooly formed square in response to the charge.

Photos 24–25: van Merlen’s cavalry moved to head off Foy’s advance around the east of Gemioncourt Farm.

Photos 26–28: Three overview photos of the battlefield as Alten’s division has joined Brunswick’s and Picton’s in moving to support the hard-pressed ‘Netherlanders’.

Photos 29–30: van Merlen’s cavalry struck: the 6th Dutch Hussar charging Foy’s 1/4e légère, while the 5th Belgian Light Dragoon charged the divisional artillery (they and another French battery having failed to inflict losses on the light dragoons).

Photos 31–33: The hussars were beaten off with moderate losses, while the light dragoons over-ran the battery, rallying back to safety.

Photo 34: A major mêlée developed when the 6e chasseurs à cheval charged the 2/Orange-Nassau regiment. The Dutch unit formed square and was supported by a charge of the Brunswick uhlans, while the French cavalry were supported by the 3/2e ligne.

Photos 35–36: We paired them off and rolled. Silly me, a 1 and a 2 are never gonna cut it against a 5 and 6!

Photo 37: Better rolling for the French against the 2/2nd Nassau finally saw that unit succumb to a 3 to 1 attack! The excitement of the cameraman is clearly in evidence!

Photo 38: The losses had mounted up and what remained of Perponcher’s division retreated.

Photo 39–42: They had bought valuable time for the allied reinforcements to arrive, so the Brunswickers were ready to take their place.

Photos 43–44: The two armies ended turn 6 arrayed roughly in centric semicircles (Julian, mysteriously, held Picton’s division back close to Quatre Bras).

At the half-way mark, the game is evenly poised, perhaps slightly in the Anglo-Allied favour, since Perponcher’s division has retreated and van Merlen’s cavalry is nearing a 50% test, but the French have completely lost Piré’s cavalry division ‘broken'.

We are scheduled to finish the game this weekend.

  1. Asquith, SA (1996) Practical Wargamer (1996) The Hundred Days. Practical Wargamer Vol. 10, No. 6 pp. 18–23. Argus Specialist Publications.
  2. Buttery, D (2013) Waterloo Battlefield Guide. Pen & Sword Books Limited, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England. pp. 31–36
  3. Chandler, D (1966) Part Nineteen The Campaign of the Hundred Days, Section 90 The Errors of Marshal Ney. In, The Campaigns of Napoleon. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London. 1993 paperback edition. pp. 1047–1057.
  4. Glover, G (2014) Waterloo Myth and Reality. Pen & Sword Books Ltd, Barnsley, UK. 268 pp. 68–87.
  5. Lawford, J (1977) Napoleon: The Last Campaigns 1813-15. Crown Publishers Inc., New York. pp. 117–125.
  6. Nafziger, G (n.d.) Allied Order of Battle at Quatre Bras 16 June 1815. The Nafziger Collection of Orders of Battle, file name 815FBC. http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/CGSC/CARL/nafziger/815FBC.pdf
  7. Nafziger, G (n.d.) French Order of Battle at Quatre Bras 16 June 1815. The Nafziger Collection of Orders of Battle, file name 815FBD. http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/CGSC/CARL/nafziger/815FBD.pdf
  8. Uffindell, A and Corum, M (2002) On the Fields of Glory: The Battlefields of the 1815 Campaign. Greenhill Books, London, UK. pp. 17–31
  9. de Vos, L (1997) Les 4 Jours de Waterloo 15–16-17-18 Juin 1815. J.-M. Collet, Braine-l’Alleud. pp. 76–80


  1. My favourite Nap' battle!! Excellent report, an epic game with splendid pictures...but sorry for Piré's division!

    1. Thanks Phil. It is going to be difficult without Piré. I hope that van Merlen's Dutch-Belgians and the Brunswickers will quickly follow them (in 'breaking') to even it up from the French perspective.

  2. Brilliant, well done!!! I wish I had the organisational skills for a game this big!

    1. Thanks Paul. I have seen some pretty specky stuff on your blog!

  3. Very nice! That's a striking column of red advancing down that road!

  4. Excellent, looking forward to part 2!

  5. Rousing action! Great looking game! Superb!

    Our Waterloo "Campaign in a Day" with Snappy Nappy is the end of this month. I'll be running Ligny at Historicon with FoB2, and this Fall hopefully we'll do Waterloo proper and/or Quatre Bras - Joe has been collecting all of the Anglo Allied forces needed for the battle (QB) for the past ? 10 years...all Perrys!

    1. Thanks Peter.
      I'm looking forward to your report of another 'campaign in a day'. I put a link about it on the Wargaming Waterloo 200 blog.

  6. Very good report James. Are you heading to Perth for our Waterloo Battle btw?

    1. Thanks Carlo.
      I was able to answer you in person on Wednesday, but 'for the record', I'm 'in' for the NWS's Waterloo on the 13th and looking forward to it immensely!

  7. Excellent stuff James!

    The 200th going to be busy!

    1. Cheers David.
      Isn't it marvellous to have so many Napoleonic games being played 'simultaneously' around the globe?
      Another David (from Liphook Historical Wargames) is setting up an on-line survey instrument so that, hopefully, people can record some stats about their games. A nice bit of info. for posterity and perhaps even an article in a mag. There will be more from him on that later...

  8. Replies
    1. Thanks Mark. Your comments about it on your blog are too, too kind!