Monday, 25 June 2018

Waterloo - The Crisis!

The Plancenoit table - the La Haye Sainte table in the background.
OK - so how to do Waterloo differently this year, but with only one day available? We've played the whole thing using Sam Mustafa's excellent Blucher rules regularly every year using 15mm figures, and those rules do allow you to do the whole damn ball in a day - but we've done that 3 years in a row! We've even played the whole thing, with every Regiment represented, in 28mm, using Black Powder - but that took 3 days, had folk travelling interstate and took over the entire Hall of Heroes -  a bit of a special effort for the 200th Anniversary! Can't do that every year - my marriage won't take it, Jim!

The La Haye Saint table - view from the Anglo Allied Ridge looking south
Well, with only 8 players and one day, and a general clamour to use Black Powder rules and trot out the big 28mm figures for once, something had to give! 

The King's German Legion in the foreground: 1st, 5th and 8th KGL Line. 
The compromise was to concentrate in both time and space - on the crisis of the battle, which I reckon was from about 5-7pm, when La Haye Sainte finally fell to the French, and the Prussians took Plancenoit for the final time.

Bryan's lovely French Division - figures from the HAT range
Concentrating on just those parts of the action, playing over 2 tables each 8 x 6 feet, we would reflect the full orders of battle for those particular sectors and attacks - within the 1:20 figure scale of Black Powder of course!

Plancenoit from the south, with the River Lasne on the right hand corner constricting Prussian deplopyment
Mark Adkin's The Waterloo Companion provides an admirable level of detail for working out the units involved in these key actions, so working out the orbats was straightforward - although I have identified the need to add a few Imperial Guard units to my collection!


The stats from the Albion Triumphant Hundred Days supplement were used, but special rules were kept to a minimum to speed up play and go easy on the noobs. 


A British infantry bde behind the crest: 32nd, 79th (Cameron Highlanders), and 28th Regiments of Foot
All the British were deemed to have used up their first fire, and the Cuirassiers, having been exhausted and blown by charging allied squares all afternoon, prior to the game, started with 1 pip of stamina already lost. 

Each of Plancenoit's 3 'blocks' could be garrisoned by up to a battalion, counted as in heavy cover
Perhaps controversially, all the Prussian Landwehr and Reserve Regiments were given the same stats as the Line doggies - I reckon by 1815 they were every bit as experienced, and actually no-one objected too strongly. I also gave them 'Tough Fighters' to reflect the desperate and fierce fighting around Plancenoit. I also invented a special rule to allow Prussian commanders to give orders to all units irrespective of arm of service, to reflect their advanced mission oriented orders I heard so much about at naval academy!

La Haye Sainte, custom made for me by my good friend Fons Libert. Merci Fons!
French Line infantry were given Pas de Charge, and their brigade skirmish screen Sharpshooters, and in fact all skirmishers were so designated.


On the La Haye Sainte table, the French objectives were the orchard, the farm itself and the kitchen garden. Nothing was said about the sandpit, and the breaking through the ridge itself is best left to the Old Guard in a couple of hours...


Bryan ran the action on the LHS table - here the players discuss the finer points of terrain - the farm and sandpit both heavy cover +2 saves, the orchard and garden just light cover and no obstacle to movement. L-R Daniel (FR), Peter (Allied), Bryan (FR), and Andrew (Allied).


I ran the action on the Plancenoit table, taking the Prussian Dragoon and Light Cavalry brigades, whilst my colleague Gary commanded the Prussian infantry and their artillery batteries. 



Defending Plancenoit the French team consisted of John commanding the French Infantry and Caesar, above right, the French Cavalry.


Our Prussian plan to take Plancenoit was to destroy or neutralise the French Cavalry, giving us free rein to manoeuvre deep around Plancenoit in order to be able to assault it from three sides simultaneously. Although I had superior numbers of cavalry, I messed up my initial deployment on table, not only disordering one of my cavalry brigades, but also the infantry brigade it got entangled with. Time was of the essence at this stage of the day - we only had 6 guaranteed moves, with a 50% chance of a seventh move and a 33% chance of an eight move! Not a good start Sparks!

Traffic jam on the high road to Plancenoit - D'Oh!
The French took heart at our confusion and boldly sent their cavalry and infantry up to stage a very forward defence, and initially it was effective...


However, the Prussian eventually organised themselves and pressed on....


and began to allow their numbers to tell - pushing the French back - but slowly, oh so slowly...


The first Prussian assault into Plancenoit, despite being well organised, was beaten off in short order...



After move 6, the time came for Andrew to roll that fateful dice determining if there was going to be a seventh move - there was - time for one more all out effort! As the shadows started to lengthen, we desperately threw everything into one last attempt, even resorting to using cavalry as supports and exposing them to short range musketry. 



But as the assaults went in against two thirds of the town, only one succeeded! As night drew the curtain on that fateful day, the gallant French garrison had grimly held onto most of Plancenoit!



But would French arms also be crowned with glory on the La Haye Sainte table? The French team again led off aggressively, losing no time in surrounding three sides of the orchard...



And Anglo-Allied efforts to move reinforcements down of the ridge met with slow results...However the British Light Cavalry could be relied upon to get stuck in!


Leaving the remnants of the French Cuirassier free reign across the other side of the table to impede the allied move forward...


The orchard soon fell into French hands and they lost no time in repositioning around the farm itself...


Even the doughty King's German Legion hesitated to go forward, and Ross's Battery RHA was having to work overtime to slow the resurgent French...


By this stage Bryan and Daniel were working together methodically to evict the gallant defenders of La Haye Sainte, who at this stage were having to re-roll hits to reflect their depleted ammunition stocks, despite repeated calls for resupply...


And so it came to pass that the French Tricolour flew over that iconic centrepiece and key objective, La Haye Sainte!


But not content with that, the French team used the extra move to press on to the ridge, displaying a dangerous level of all arms cooperation...


And also having evicted the 95th Rifles from their sandpit, swept the board of all objectives on this table!


And even made it up onto the ridge  past Wellington's Elm tree - that's the Imperial Guard's job, fellas - calm down!
 

So with French victories on both tables, we rewrote history! But more importantly, had a great pair of games in great company, and a chance to play with our beaut 28mm minis in God's Own scale!

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Napoleon at War!


Last night at the uni David ran us through the new ruleset Napoleon at War V2. Now a few years ago he ran a game based on the original NAW set, which was quite the most entertaining game I'd had in a long time, so I was really looking forward to this game...



The rules have quite specific instructions about setting up - Caesar and I set up first, then Gary and Peter, above, set out their Prussian and Austrian armies.



There were 3 objectives set out across the table centre line, L-R a dead horse in the walled field, a dead horse on the cross roads, and a dead horse on the edge of the hill. I think the game may have been sponsored by Maccas....You can see above that both Caesar and I biased both our forces towards our centre, without conferring in anyway - that would smack of forward planning!


Peter opposite me had a chuckle when he saw my cavalry deployment - which had me worried - I don't have much success with cavalry at the best of times, whilst Peter is very experienced with Austrian, hence cavalry-centric, armies!


By contrast, the Allied deployment seemed very well balanced, with the Prussians seeming to favour deploying in line for maximum firepower...


Whilst the Austrians stuck to columns. Peter also kept his cavalry tightly concentrated, and his Grenzers headed straight for the nearby dense woods where they could operate to best advantage...


The French stuck to attack columns too - Bien Sur!


Let Battle Commence!


Peter lead off with his cavalry...


No doubt hoping to overawe with the impeccable turnout of his Hussars!


However the French cavaliers were determined to show off their prowess in combat as well as their unquestioned superiority in sartorial magnificence! Kaftans are so a la mode these days! En Avant!


The Austrian cavalry, overwhelmed by my ridiculously high dice throwing as well as embarrassed to be dressed soo last century, got the worst of it - a Dragoon regiment disintegrated and the remnants of the Hussars turned and fled...



The flank duly secured, it was time to advance on the objective...


Unfortunately Peter had the same idea, and got there first. My horse gunners, nicely emplaced on a nearby hill, would have to even the odds... 


Which they did, emboldening the first assault - however the doughty Austrian Infantry saw them off!


On my left flank, Caesars troops in and around the woods were being hampered by Prussian firepower...it seems that in NAW a defending unit may issue volleys as many times as it is attacked in the same turn...hmm...


Back in my sector, whilst I was lining up for another assault, Peter had advanced his second Austrian Brigade perilously close to my open flank...Fortunately Caesar was all over this and moved up his lancers to forestall any such shenanigans! 


In combination with the judicious application of firepower...


The second French infantry assault carried all before it to seize one of the 3 objectives...


The other 2 were still in play but as it was getting late we called time. Given the fast rate at which NAW chews through units, my half of the army wasn't going to be achieving a great deal more!


So what did we think of NAW? My biggest beef was actually what I found most fun - having to make a decision as to when to order a volley against a charging enemy - early and relatively ineffective, or wait until you see the whites of their eyes and risk failing to issue fire at all? 



Great fun, but hardly the decision you would expect from a divisional level game I would have thought? Overall too early to make a decision on the rules so I expect, and hope, more games will be in the offing!