Sunday, 12 April 2015

Wargaming Waterloo 1815 : 2015 (4) Battle of Quatre Bras Bicentennial Game (part 2)

I began the second part* of our bicentennial game of Quatre Bras thinking that I, as the French player, had little chance, but, considering that my worst enemy was my own apprehension, I had to go for it…
(*click on this link to see report of part 1)

Photos 1–2: Foy’s lead battalion (1/4e légère) attacked the square of the 1st Brunswick line, while their sister battalion (2/4e légère) were charged by the 5th Belgian light dragoons.

Photo 3: First blood slightly in the French favour: the Belgian horsemen were ‘broken’ tackling the 2/4e légère’s square, but the 1/4e légère were sent packing by the indomitable Brunswickers (they would later rally).

Photos 4–6: The Brunswickers advanced in force, lead by their Duke, cutting a fine figure beside Prince Jérôme, also a fine figure!

Photo 8: Overview of the battlefield from our vantage point at the eastern end.

Photo 9: A stroke of luck for the Anglo-Allied cause: Perponcher’s division rallied. Once they received new orders, they’d be back in the fray!

Photo 10: The 1/72e ligne became the first battalion of Bachelu’s division to ‘break’ as a result of losses from artillery fire from Picton’s guns. “The plan is working”, said Wellington. Brunswick and Ney both gave a wry smile…

Photos 11–12: Time to increase the French pressure! Kellermann sent the 8e cuirassiers (represented by a stand-in unit) to attack the Brunswick horsemen. They ‘broke’ the already reduced uhlans and followed on to break the hussars.

Photo 13: The 3/1e ligne of Jérôme’s division assaulted the Brunswick horse guns, but were driven back, losing the staff officer who had lead the attack.

Photo 14: Better luck (from a French perspective) as the Hamlen landwehr battalion broke in a failed attack on the 2/4e légère’s square. You don’t win throwing ones Julian—particularly when your opponent rolls a six!

Photo 15–16: The overview of the battlefield at this stage.

Photo 17: In the Bossu Wood, the Brunswick lights broke the 2/3e ligne…

Photo 18: …but their horse battery could not withstand a second assault; this time from the 2/1e ligne. 

Photo 19: A second Hanoverian battalion, the Hindesheim landwehr, fell foul of Foy’s advancing battalions.

My secret weapon, Julian’s daughter Tabitha with her special pink dice, was working very nicely.

Photos 20–24: The press is on. I was now feeling quite buoyed, thinking that we’d hold our own or perhaps even better.

At this point, Mark had to leave, so we called it a draw…

…unfortunately, that was not the case. “I’ll be able to stay for the next three turns”, he said.

Photos 25–26: Another of Bachelu’s light infantry battalions, 2/2e légère, broke in the face of the British artillery to the east of Quatre Bras.

Photo 27: As too did the previously successful 2/1e ligne, as the Brunswick foot gunners avenged their mounted compatriots.

Photo 28: Tabitha’s good dice again: in Bossu Wood, Jérome’s 1/1e légère and 1/3e ligne drive off the latest Brunswick counter-attack.

Photo 29: Even she can be a bit off: the Brunswick Leib battalion’s square fought off the 11e cuirassiers and 2/4e légère. Although yet another Hanoverian landwehr battalion was broken (Peine)—centre of photo.

Photo 30–32: It was a mixed bag of results with the attack over on the French right (east): Foy’s 2/92e ligne was broken attempting to assault Picton’s artillery, the 2/92nd were broken 3/2e légère and the 1/2e légère were broken by an attack by the 1/28th foot (represented by some mates with green facings), in column no less!

Photo 33: Our overview photo looking from the east. The French attacking divisions were somewhat thinned, but it was still possible to breakthrough, if only we could cause sufficient casualties to Picton’s and Brunswick’s divisions

Photo 34: On the other side of the table, Wellington and Brunswick identify the location of the enemy!

Photos 35–36: Bad news for French interests. Bachelu’s and Jérome’s divisions failed their divisional morale tests at 1/3 losses, both becoming demoralised. It was gonna be more difficult from here.

Photos 37–38: Tabitha did her best, throwing to halt the attack of the 1st Brunswick light and breaking the 2nd light…

Photo 39: … but the 2/93 ligne failed in a lone attack against the Leib battalion.

Photos 40–42: Meanwhile, on the French right, 2/100e ligne broke trying to capture Picton’s guns, while the attack of the 3/2e and 4/2e légère were stopped by a powerful British volley, only to be broken by the counter-charge of the 1/42nd and 1/28th respectively.

Photo 43: A positive for the French as the last of Picton’s Hanoverian landwehr battalions (Gisshom) was broken by the 1/92e ligne.

Photo 44: A divisional morale test for Bachelu at 1/2 losses: broken!

Photo 45: Picton’s division also needed to test and was demoralised.
Brunswick’s passed the same test, so fought on unhindered.

As the veil of darkness began to fall, French hopes of victory depended on breaking the “men in black”.

Photos 46–47: Tabitha delivered again! The Brunswick 1st Light and 3rd light were both defeated in mêlées (although the 3rd were only pushed back and rallied beyond the woods)...

Photo 48: ... the 8e cuirassiers came close to defeating the Leib battalion’s square, losing by one (and hence losing one casualty),…

Photo 49: … and the 2nd line was broken by the 1/92e ligne.

Photos 50: This left Brunswick with only three remaining battalions and needing to test divisional morale at 1/2 losses. He passed!

To add further insult to French injury, Picton’s division successfully rallied, so was no longer demoralised, while Jérome had no such luck.

Photos 51: Aerial view: the crossroads securely in Anglo-Allied hands.

Photos 52: Our view from the east show how the press had been relieved by the removal of Bachelu’s command.

Photos 53: The 1/4e légère were wise to stay in Gemioncourt Farm!

The French had lost two divisions ‘broken’, Piré and Bachelu, with Jérôme’s demoralised. This gave a total of 66 victory points to the Anglo-Allied. They had lost only van Merlen’s cavarly ‘broken’, giving 8 victory points to the French. A difference of 58 points, so a crushing victory to Wellington’s men!

For the third time in three games we had significantly changed history.; and I was left wondering what happened!

Of course, had Brunswick had a worse result for divisional morale, Bachelu a better result and perhaps been around to try to make Picton test at 1/2, it may have been different. Although, had Bachelu’s division not broken when it did, it most likely would have lost more units and so broken at 3/4 losses anyway.

All this conjecture of what-ifs and couldabeens comes when one is beaten so completely. A near run thing became a pretty devastating defeat!


  1. Still it looked a good game. I enjoyed our QB games last year


    1. Thanks Ian. We enjoyed it immensely. The twists and turns were dramatic, with what I thought was going to be a clear draw or even a minor French victory on turn 10 becoming a devastating defeat by turn 12!
      I seem to recall that your games thus far were play-tests and you have another planned for this year, is that correct?

  2. Great looking game and write-up, James... even if you did manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!

    1. Yes, I have been looking at what I reckon that I did wrong. Reason to do it again... add it to the list!! :)

  3. Cool game and loved the report! A real mix of figures on the table that day!

    1. Thanks John. Yeah, all those nationalities lend themselves to figures from a range of manufacturers!

  4. This was fascinating for me. I didn't really fight this battle as Wellington, though I had laid down the plan to my doubtful ally (!) - actually I fought it AS PICTON, worrying endlessly about where to site the guns and how best to deploy my line, what to do about the line battalion that wandered too far back, etc etc. The consequence was that each battalion did its duty - well, one Highland battalion routed - but otherwise, all did well. However I didn't pay enough attention to the Hanoverians 'at the tip of the spear' - a hopeless place to deploy in Napoleonic terms - and they lost heavily as a result. And I left the entire Nassau/Brunswick battle to Mark, who held on brilliantly. A tremendous insight for me into the reality of command. The plan worked - but goodness, it was a damn close run thing!

    1. You are saying, "see the plan worked perfectly!" We are still unsure why/how...

      Well done to you!

    2. I did feel guilty though: I thought the plan had an excellent chance of success provided the French stuck to their objectives, rather than their guns, and I thought the battle would end up being rather dull - which it wasn't at all, but mainly thanks to Mark's staunch defence on the right flank and in the centre. If everyone fought Napoleonic battles as I fought QB, there wouldn't be much of a hobby. Even the Duke was more game in reality than I was in the re-enactment!

  5. A very pretty and busy table with an old school feel to it. Delightful stuff. Sounds like it was a hard-fought game.

    1. All those adjectives are what it is about for us! Thanks Michael.

  6. Awesome for Tabitha and her PINK dice!

    Great tale of the battle ... now my turn to get an AAR out.

    1. She is fabulous and delights in rolling those sixes!

      I have just noticed your report of Quatre Bras. I'll get to it when I can...

  7. An Allied victory without the 1st and 3rd Divisions arriving. Impressive.

  8. The Emperor will not be pleased with Ney and will no doubt be issuing pink dice to all his remaining troops!

    1. I particularly like the little silver sparkles, very Murat n'est pas?

  9. Interesting outcomes. One thing I've noticed with many rules is that although they change the ratings for the French for different periods, the same isn't always said of the British. The British army in 1808 was not the quality it was in 1812, nor is it the same in 1815. Many of the Allied units were hastily organized and that doesn't always come through in rules as they are written. You might adjust their stats (Are you still using Shako?) and see if the same holds true. I played the Quatre Bras scenario with Shako as the French and was beaten up badly due to the rules as they were written. Your outcomes seem to largely mirror my own experience.

    1. Although you may call me parti pris, I really don't think this is what caused the French defeat. The Hanoverians were already classified as raw, and although this didn't help, the main reason they were chewed up was that they were at the tip of the spear, the worst place for any Napoleonic unit to be. Likewise the reason Bachelu's division broke was the sustained artillery and infantry fire it sustained in a long and slow advance, not the morale of the British troops - in fact one Highland veteran battalion actually broke. Die rolls at the right time helped, for sure. I would also add that Shako places British and French line on par, including for 1815, and if anything, I would have thought that one would want to diminish the French quality, not the British.

    2. We use our adapted version of Shako, which we refer to as Shako-ANF, but did not utilise the scenario in the Shako II rules book. That scenario has two big flaws in my opinion. It begins after Brunswick and Picton have arrived, thus the battle lines are drawn, missing one of the main interests of Quatre Bras, the building battle with steady balancing of the numbers, until the allies become numerically superior. I also rejected having Gemioncourt as a 'fortress'. It was captured with ease in the real battle--I've not read any evidence that it was even loop-holed.
      I definitely concur Julian--apart from considering that you'd make French quality poorer than British in Belgium 1815. The British had a number of third-line units in the campaign (some of their best were still in North America or en route). French morale was arguably superior, but fragile. Such nuances are not modelled in Shako, so keeping them even is fine and works perfectly in the overall system of the rules, as we know.
      It's worth recalling that our game was a near run thing that went to pot (from a French perspective) in the last two turns. The chief cause was my poor plan and slow advance of my divisions. I should have driven hard at Quatre Bras with Jerome and Foy, with Bachelu in support of the latter and the cav. of the former, instead I strung the army out in a long line and trundled across the field. Worse still, I squandered the light cav. and lost a key advantage. Some key die rolls did not go my way, but I firmly contest that if you need luck to make your plan work, then it is a poor plan. Luck should only decide the degree of your victory/defeat, not determine whether you win or lose. That's what happened here. My poor plan and tactical manoeuvring caused my defeat, the poor luck made it a devastating loss!!
      Despite having "perfect knowledge", I did far worse than Marshal Ney did in history--in all respects and, ultimately, in the final result.