This Sunday about half of the 2 dozen Waterloo 200 Hall of Heroes project team met for our inaugural practice game using Black Powder rules. We will be holding these games every few months until the big weekend on the 200th anniversary when we will be refighting the climax of the 100 days campaign 'in the grand manner!'
On this occasion we just concentrated on one third of the ultimate table area - from La Haie Sainte to Papelotte. On the actual day we will have the same size of table area again for the Eastern half of the field from Hougomont to LHS, and a third section running at right angles off the Eastern end for the area around Plancenoit.
So you can see we are not doing things by halves! Well, actually we are, as we have planned to represent all of the Formations, with only 50% of their units present on table, at a 1:20 figure scale. This will equate to around 5,000 miniatures!
So as a first game we started off with a fairly generic scenario - the Allied army along the ridge and defending LHS, theoretically benefitting form the reverse slope position. I say theoretically because of course one of the team wanted more than a passive game - but more anon!
The Allied Team was led by Philip, who is also one of our 2 key rules 'lawyers', and included young Cameron, and the slightly less young Vic, Terry and Rob. The allied army was un-historically homogenous, with only the 2 Hanoverian brigades provided by Rob representing the high proportion of non British troops present at the actual battle - we have many project members working keenly on painting up the various Allied contingents. Of course some of us are taking shortcuts by buying prepainted troops from Fons and his Mabuhay Miniature Painting Service, who is supporting the project handsomely, as well as providing handsome figures. If you haven't visited the website his services are strongly recommended. He also did a wonderful job of custom building LHS for us, and as he is Belgian and was a regular visitor to the battlefield, we know he has done a good job!
The French team was led by Bryan, who is the other of our rules' guardians, and supported by Austin, Caesar and myself. As it happened we all hail from Wollongong, so today it was also a bit of a North - South thing against the Sydneysiders!
Bryan's plan was suitably historical - to concentrate on pushing up the Charleroi to Brussels highway - which probably meant capturing LHS!
The Prussian team was led by our very own 'Marshal Vorwarts', Jason, and he lost no time in bringing pressure to bear on the French left flank, where, in order to concentrate our efforts further to the West, we had left Caesar with just 2 Brigades of Middle Guard to fend off the Black Hordes!
Now Caesar is something of an 18th Century buff, and I think it showed in his deployment!
However, to be fair, how else do you hold the entire flank with just 6 battalions other than form them into line? Without giving too much away, it has to be said that he did manage to hold throughout the game... just!
Right over on the French left flank, Bryan lost no time in putting the boot in against the gallant 2nd Light Bn KGL who were garrisoning LHS...
This garrison was entirely nominal for this practice game, but rest assured we will have figures to represent Major Baring and his gallant men for the real thing! Successive attacks managed to break into the front orchard, but the farm itself was too tough a nut to crack! Nothing daunted, Bryan decided to commit our strategic reserve early - 3 large battalions of the Old Guard!
Elsewhere, Austin and I in the centre were trying to support Bryan's punch as much as possible without leaving the centre wide open - Philip had not yet unleashed Terry with his Brigade of Heavy British Cavalry!
Further over, Rob had gotten bored with simply sheltering behind the ridge and receiving the odd hit from artillery, and decided to cooperate with the Prussians to add to Caesar's woes!
Fortunately, the antidote to bold Hanoverians was easily to hand - a pair of Old Guard 12 Pounder batteries - the Emperor's beautiful daughters - they soon cooled the froward Teutons down!
Back at the point of decision, around LHS, a couple of Command Blunders made the Allied position look a little bare at times - so the British Heavy Cavalry was committed!
That duly put the brakes on the French advance as squares were hurriedly but safely formed...However, that's not a Heavy Cavalry Brigade - this is!
The resulting all-arms stoush - referred to by the players involved as the 'Mosh Pit' for the benefit of old 'Bad Manners' fans like myself - really did test our knowledge of Black Powder rules for multiple combats, but with Philip and Bryan on the case I assume all was skilfully untangled...
To get us out of our old bad habits of using house rules, and to learn how to apply the new special rules and stats in Albion Triumphant 2, this was very much a learning exercise with frequent halts in the action to discuss teaching points. We still managed to get in 8-9 pairs of moves, but not enough to fight the game to a conclusion.
We didn't manage to break through down the high road to Brussels, whilst on the Eastern flank despite putting some very real pressure on Caesar, the combined efforts of the Prussians and Hanoverians buckled, but did not break, his lines.
Here we see Wellington, sorry Philip, with his habitual cup of tea at half mast, perhaps in tribute to the stoic defenders of LHS?
Despite the practice and learning aspect of the game, and the fact that we are still very much in the early stages of putting together the models and terrain - we still have over a year to run - I did feel that all present had a fun game. I also got a sense of the superb once-in-a-lifetime wargaming experience that we can all work together to bring off for the 200th anniversary of that iconic battle -