Monday, 16 March 2015

Waterloo 200 Practice game - the Prussians are coming...(eventually)

Yesterday, for a change of venue, we held our penultimate Waterloo 200 practice game at the Hall of Heroes Penrith, better known to the old and bold as The Tin Soldier. This had the added bonus of exposing our project, and large scale Black Powder wargaming to a wider audience.  

No Sir! - its not **#@!** Warhammer ***#!#@* Historical!

Our express aim for the game was to experiment and rehearse with the Prussian side of the Waterloo equation. At what point in the battle should they come on, how should they be allowed to deploy, how do we stop the French establishing a prepared defence on the exits from the Lasne defile, and what on earth do we do with the Prussian players before they get to move their toys onto the table?
On the commemorative weekend itself, our 20+ players will be playing across five 12foot x 6 foot tables, but this practice game concentrated on the Eastern-most table. Controversially, perhaps, we have omitted the village of Plancenoit itself! We feel that if the Prussian IV Corps manages to fight off the Western Edge of table 5 (the grey table), the French can pretty much consider themselves outflanked! It was also a trial run for Philip's command cards, which allocate senior Staff Ratings to certain key Marshals and Generals, so that we can keep the default Staff Rating at an easy to remember 8 all round. It was also a good opportunity for new and recent players to get some practice within a relatively small game, and get their models out on the table. 

Jim P's Chevaux Leger Lanciers - with a few Dragoons to make up the numbers - we tend to go for large units!

The boards were laboriously moved from the Campbelltown store under the good offices of Matt and Terry, and were the first opportunity to showcase Bryan's purpose built roads, both in 'hard' and 'soft' versions, all the better to ride the contours of our hills.  
Mein Kinder! No more shall ye struggle through bog and mud - these roads are fit for Prussian heroes!
The scenario initially experimented with having the first elements of Bulow's IV corps debouching form the Bois de Paris on move 7 (which we calculate would make it about 16:30). 
The leading elements were represented as historically as possible, so that von Losthin's 16th Brigade was allowed to arrive on table arrayed in battle order after having taken the time to shake out after crossing the Lasne defile (which is off table). As von Bulow described it:
It was half past four in the afternoon, when the head of our column advanced out of the Frichermont wood. The 15th Bde uner General von Losthin deployed quickly into battalion columns, throwing out skirmishers...the Brigade cavalry, led by the 2nd Silesian Hussar Regiment, covered this movement.
Peter Hofschroer 1815 The Waterloo Campaign, Vol 2, p. 116.
As our Hussars are provided by Troy, currently serving in Adelaide, 
3rd Brandenburg Landwehr Uhlans
a Brigade of Uhlans stood in.
The French were allowed to deploy halfway across the table, which with hindsight, and knowing Vic and Terry as I do, was a big mistake! 

Vic (l) and Terry (r) rubbing their hands with glee...Newbie Jim is wondering what he's gotten into....
Since we have adopted the Albion Triumphant Vol2 'Pas de Charge' rules for French Infantry to get an additional order bonus for being in Column, the French Infantry crossed the table in record time!
More to the point, the French divisional 6 pounder batteries were able to take the Prussian columns under medium range fires - 2 batteries at medium range - 4 dice needing 3's - Schiess!
Indeed the first few salvoes scored more than their fair share of 6's, resulting in disordered, and therefore stalled, Prussian columns. First scenario hiccup! Historically the only opposition the Prussians faced at this juncture were a few light cavalry units....The Prussian team racked their brains, whilst the French team tried not to laugh.....and continued an aggressive and active forward defence, continuing to close the noose around the exit from the Bois de Paris.

And calling forward their Light Cavalry Brigade to administer the coup de gras...

The Eagles closed on the Prussian columns...

It was not looking good - so the Prussians attempted to regain the initiative by charging with with their only undisrupted formation on table - the Uhlan brigade...

Meanwhile the Landsers were holding on, despite the odds - just...

The opposing Light Cavalry brigades closed in a resounding clash of steel - Lance against Sabre!

This would be a critical roll....

And the French Hussars evaporated - leaving their own Lancers to stem the tide of jubilant Uhlans!

At this point the Prussian medium cavalry, led by the 1st Queen's Dragoons, arrived on the field to stabilise the Prussian right flank.

However, yours truly, as the umpire allowed the French to commit a Dragoon brigade of their own, and with some masterly deployment they managed to achieve the holy trinity against an isolated Uhlan unit - support to both flanks and the rear!

So at this point, move 11, despite some stolid defence the Prussian IV Corps was really struggling to seize the initiative, and the next Prussian corps, von Zieten's I Corps was not due on for another 3 moves. Perhaps a hint of what might have been had Lobau moved forward to defend the Lasne defile.

Anyway, my scenario had pretty much stalled, so we duly wound on the clock to bring on Ziethen, further North, aligned to the Anglo-Netherlands line.

This opened up the battle a bit, if only Bulow's Corps could hang on...

By this time the Prussian Dragoons were making their presence felt, and acting a link between the two corps, first rebuffing the French lights....

Then the mediums...

And some Uhlans even caught a French line out of square, with predictable results!

But all was to no avail - from the South East the French pushed hard and aggressively to block the exit from the Bois de Paris...

So hardly a balanced or historical scenario - but a gripping game where both teams played out of their socks - thrilling to watch. Lessons learnt for the big game? Most certainly: Roads and Command Cards - good; original Prussian deployment model - bad! Back to the drawing board!

Btw, most of the Prussian models used in this game were from the wonderful Calpe Models, whose one man designer/sculpter/caster's love for his subject and outstanding attention to detail make these figures just wonderful. Also fleshed out with several battalions of the Perry hard plastic Prussian Infantry, surely a boon to any Prussian collector with a touch of megalomania!


  1. Boy I enjoyed then photos in this post!

  2. Excellent work Sparker - great looking game and excelent report.

  3. Thank you all very much Gents!

  4. I'll join the crowd cheering you on my dearest Sparkles. A great post.

    It's nice to see the Prussian out and about. And I'm only a little bit biased! 8O)

    von Peter himself

    1. Thank you your a connoisseur of late war Prussian your praise is means a lot! One of the Prussian team early in the game did mention that you would be disappointed by their performance, but they kept hammering away until the end, in true 1814 style!

    2. We have complete faith in the players and the figures. We are sure that they are all fine upstanding characters with true Prussian blood flowing through their veins. We have despatched a team to have a 'word' with the scenario designer however!! 8O))

      It's great to see your Waterloo preparations continuing. Your game will not lack for preparation effort or spectacle. Give that man an Iron Cross.

      von Peter himself

  5. Very similar to my first refight of Plancenoit. Very hard for the Prussians to deploy and bring their forces into action with the French defending the woods. The mechanic around this was to delay two turns and then bring them on deployed - that at least gives them a fighting chance, however they are then fighting a long way from Plancenoit.

    For my second attempt the French didn't deploy in the woods and I also made the woods a bit smaller.

    If I was to play again, I would attack with the Prussians through Papelotte/Smohain where Ziethen went in. That depends on how you classify the Smohain stream.

    Fun stuff.

    1. Yes it is, and I think we now have a deployment solution that will work - I hope so as we won't have the opportunity to practice this again!

  6. A great report with a splendid table! Your Prussian army is really impressive, a great mass effect!

  7. Thanks Phil. Although one of the brigades was provided by Mark, who unfortunately couldn't be there. But on the Waterloo Weekend we will have North of 30 Prussian battalions coming onto the table - eventually!

  8. Wondrful looking sight Sparker. Great figures.