Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Waterloo Project: La Haye Sainte Refight at 1:3 - Part Two

Apologies for the delay in continuing this story but I've been very busy building the terrain for our next one - Hougoumont. If you have just arrived, or wish to have your memory refreshed on the basics of this unusual wargame, please see la-haye-sainte-refight Part One

As they would be present for all three days of our game Richard volunteered to be “co-ordinator” for the French, and James for the Allies. It was never intended that players would represent specific commanders for the reasons given in the previous posting about the difficulties of  chain of command as part of a bigger battle. Instead, they tended to divide the troops up for participants more or less so they could reach them from each side of the table as we were playing length ways. That was particularly important when employing “the extra bit” of terrain.

The Plans
As it happened Wellington was by his Elm tree at the start  of our game. The Allies had 4 “free” Initiative tokens and Wellington’s 2. Uxbridge was also present on the table but since he had no cavalry nearby was just for decoration at this stage!  James had a fairly aggressive policy which involved using the Luneburger’s existing orders to press forward towards La Haye Sainte (LHS), but also advance downhill with the 95th Rifles and 1st Bn KGL Light. Hence a swathe of green jacketed infantry would confront the French at close quarters, strongly contest LHS Farm, and mount a fighting retreat elsewhere.  The ridge line of Mont St Jean  (MSJ) would be back-filled by the red-coat battalions. The Life Guards would move up in due course to support, or counter attack French cavalry.

Above and below: Two views of 1st Light Battalion King's German Legion
in column of companies just to the NW of the elm tree crossroads at the start

Rogers' battery on MSJ crest closely protected at the start by the 95th Rifles
(Photo Kevin East - KE)
Richard reviewed the pre-written orders for his infantry. Charlet's Brigade of 54th and 55th Ligne were generally to press forward taking in an attack on LHS as they went. My expectation was that this meant attacking the orchard frontally and also initially going up the flanks of the farm buildings and garden, but events turned out differently. 28th Regiment  of Bourgeois’ brigade was to advance up towards the sandpit area and beyond. All had ultimate orders to drive the Allies off MSJ crest.  I gave the French some latitude with the 1st Cuirassier Regiment and they chose to make an attack up the left flank  in  column of squadrons, supported closely by the horse artillery battery. At the very start they had 5 Initiative tokens not yet supplemented by any "on-field" senior commanders.

As stated previously an Event was rolled for by each side each turn but I’ll only include them in the narrative if they have some significance.

1.30 - 1.45pm

In accordance with the plan all of the Allied green jacketed units moved steadily forward. This movement obviously reduced the fire effect of those in range with rifles. However rifle fire from 2nd Light Bn  KGL in LHS took a toll on 1/55th Ligne who were shaken. The French infantry pressed on undaunted,  buoyed up by the arrival of Marshal D’Erlon in person due to the Event roll.

The two battalions of 54th Ligne regiment advance on the LHS orchard;
1/55th  Ligne is in the distance (KE)
A thick skirmisher screen from 1/55th Ligne exchanges fire with a 2LB KGL
company in the orchard.......
....while 2/54th Voltigeurs engage 2LB frontally with very close range fire (KE)
1st Light Bn KGL join the advance 
An overall view of much of the field in Move One.
On the left the 95th have advanced from the sandpit and Luneburg's skirmish
 company advances on the right. In the sunken road more German green jackets are
moving up in column of companies.
French 1/28th Ligne can just be glimpsed on the "extra bit" at left. (KE)
Close up of some Luneburg Battalion skirmishers (KE)
The Grand Battery tried some concentrated fire on Roger’s Foot Artillery battery  and caused considerable casualties. One gun lost sufficient crew to stop it firing completely. (see below)

1.45 - 2 .00 pm
Marshal Ney arrived leading the 1st Cuirassiers on the left flank and adding a much needed two Initiative tokens to the French. The Prince of Orange arrived in the Allied front line and, to introduce a bit of local colour, James was forced to make a compulsory change of formation! He chose to close up the Luneburg battalion into a 4 rank deep formation rather than form square. This made a lovely target for some of the Grand Battery guns this turn and significant casualties resulted but Luneburg stood firm.
8th Line Regiment KGL is moving up in the foreground.
To their right is 5th Line KGL and beyond them Luneburg centre companies are
 cresting the front of the sunken road before the Prince's arrival.
He's now got them to change formation - maybe he can see the 1st Cuirassiers in the distance?
Prince William's command base can just be seen at the right hand edge
Safely still behind the crest 32nd Foot are in a four deep line.
Their Light Company is skirmishing forward  towards the sand pit hedge (KE)
The first attack on the orchard goes in (2/55th Grenadier company)
but the front company of 2LB holds firm (KE)
Ney tries to inspire the attack on the orchard (left foreground with ADCs).
His two Initiative tokens have not yet been deployed (KE)
These  2LB riflemen at the barricade by LHS gateway can cause damage
to the French attack on the orchard (KE)
Rogers Foot Battery managed to get rid of its "Shaken" marker and reorganised to man the uncrewed gun.

French artillery were still targeting Rogers' battery and Ross's  Horse Artillery
battery (seen here with 1 LB KGL passing through Nosy and Uxbridge's staff groups.)
2.00 - 2.15 pm

A blow for the French with their Event roll - one of the batteries in the GB was given orders to deploy elsewhere and a further roll proved it to be the heavy battery.  This relieved some of the pressure on Rogers' guns. The Allies were somewhat relieved to lose the Prince of Orange as their Event.

The forward wing of the 95th had by now got level with LHS and were adding to
the damage inflicted on 1/55th attacking the orchard.
Closer view of their targets
....and from behind 1/55th Ligne as they pile in towards the orchard (KE).
(Perry figures painted by Kevin East)
On the "extra bit" of terrain the 95th forward line extended to punish 1/28th Ligne.
In the foreground the Reserve Wing of the 95th has come up  but their fire is blocked by
their comrades
Back on the main table the 95th rear line is level with the sandpit and Light company
of the 32nd Foot mans the hedge line.......
.........behind them their battalion has deployed in the cover of the sunken road
In the orchard itself the Grenadier company of 2/54th Ligne, backed up by the press of Fusilier companies and spurred on by Ney  has pushed back the forward companies of 2LB in the orchard. Major Baring can be seen desperately trying to keep things together. In the distance 1st Cuirassiers lead squadrons are only advancing slowly behind a skirmisher screen. This superb photo by Kevin captures the mood (KE)
A close up of the above action (KE photo). All the 2LB figures are Perry plastics for the
 riflemen and Perry metal command figures
Waterloo refight banter: There were a few gasps when Pat pushed his 100- figure column through the orchard hedge and I grabbed my Stanley knife to literally cut the gap - "Well, it's installation art for a one-off game!" At the point when Pat's hard fighting into the orchard was beginning to show results he said enthusiastically  "I'm enjoying this!" Deadpan, Mike's Major Baring replied "Well, you need to get out more then".
1st Cuirassiers Elite Company leads the column of squadrons. (KE photo) This unit was only 24 strong and soon suffered some artillery casualties, but the other squadrons were 40-45 figures each. (Foreground figures from Paul D's collection)
Ross was not enjoying the casualties being inflicted by the occasional lucky shots
from the GB, so he called up the limbers intending to find a safer position.
In the foreground Luneburg Centre companies are advancing down Mont St Jean's
forward slopes and withstand more casualties from French artillery.
The view from behind the Luneburg Centre companies
 (mostly Wargames Foundry and Essex figures painted by CG. Photo by KE)
Kevin's superbly painted rendition of 5th Line Regiment King's German Legion
2.15 - 2.30pm

The Allies Event roll caused one of those sequences an umpire can usually only dream of. Last turn James had called forward the limbers in order to get Ross's guns away, of course he hadn't intended to leave the field. However a score of 17 indicated orders from on high (Wellington) for Ross to move off table to the West; a historical instance under which Wellington was reinforcing his right centre on MSJ, but not part of our field. James took it very well as he was beginning to mask his own field of fire down the forward slope anyway.

All three gun models of Ross' battery limbered up with gunners mounted,
ready for their next assignment.
Wellington watches with satisfaction from under his elm tree. (KE)
Above and below:
Two more gratuitous shots of the RHA as Kevin worked so hard on them

.....and out of the smoke, from the French baseline, thundered some remnants
of the Royal Scots Greys who were retiring in haste from over-running
the central part of the Grand Battery (not in our game)..........
.....they rode right through that 95th company, causing much amusement to
the watching wargamers (KE)
By now 1st Light Battalion KGL was nearing the LHS garden.
 Its skirmish company was still in the original position to the West of LHS
in the far distance. Luneburg's skirmishers are behind them back up the slope.
On the East side of LHS part of the 95th had formed close order to concentrate fire
on the approaching dense target of  2/55th Ligne
Things were literally coming to a crunch in the La Haye Sainte Orchard. Our push-back rule meant that a thin line, such as presented by the riflemen, could not expect to hold their ground in the light obstacle afforded by the apple trees against such columns. The three companies of the Advanced Wing had been plucky to stay and slug it out for an hour but would now suffer under the combined weight of three battalions. The Initiative system meant they could be hit by successive battalions commanded by both Richard and Pat, suffering disorder in the push backs and losses from the melees. They got split up with 1/55th stomping over part and pressing on towards the LHS walls. The melee swung like a gate and we had to temporarily remove trees to accommodate the masses. The following sequence of photos shows the retrograde movement of the 2 LB companies.

In this final photo it's clear that the wing has been broken in two with Major
 Baring's figure backing onto the French 1/54th while he reorganises his riflemen (KE).
2LB had inflicted severe casualties on the individual Voltigeur companies but
not yet significant losses to the large Fusilier blocks.
At the rear of the Allied position the Earl of Uxbridge, who had left
Wellington's elm a little earlier, called up the 2nd Life Guards and the
two-squadron regiment moved up either side of the main chausee.
For the moment their advance was held up by the 8th Line KGL
 (no gratuitous "passing through" formed units at this scale)

2.30 - 2.45 pm

Pat pressed on with 1/54th Fusiliers engaging the withdrawing KGL riflemen up to the LHS walls, and within a short time the fate of the two parts of 2 LB's Advanced Wing was sealed. Major Baring was killed in the melee at the centre of the orchard and half his remaining command were killed, the rest were surrounded  by 2/54th and 1/55th and surrendered. This half of the battalion had by now suffered 70% casualties and the remnants broke, scrambling over the barricade and running past the now-closed LHS gates up the paved chausee.
Dead and dying riflemen mark the spot where Advanced Wing broke.
The first attempt to set fire to LHS with howitzer fire failed. Colonel Baron Ompteda
is now in LHS courtyard ordering the defence in person, while Lt Col Bussche
rides along the West wall to make contact with his skirmish company
By the time 1 LB KGL and Light company 5th Line KGL were garrisoning the LHS
garden French guns had become successful in starting a fire. The remnants of 2LB
Advanced Wing can be seen legging it at speed up the chausee.
To the East of LHS 95th Rifles retained very close proximity to the oncoming
French 2/55th Ligne.
Richard had by now begun to realise how dangerous the fire from all those riflemen had become, so he started to direct artillery fire on them. The initial 3 shots resulted in 7 rifle figures being removed, the beginning of significant attrition. 

The Life Guard Squadrons now formed march columns so that they could manoeuvre round 8th KGL and one advanced up to the crossroads while the other made for one of the pre-made gaps in the hedge leading to the left (East) side of the crossroads behind the sandpit.  This sequence of photos shows how they did it.

This 40-strong squadron I made from Perry plastic British Hussar torsos with
the braid trimmed off, and heads from Perry plastic French Heavy Cavalry Carabiniers.
This squadron is made up of  Kevin's 15 Perry Lifeguards and 10 of an
unknown make I got off Ebay, plus 9 from Paul's collection.
In the distance Ross' battery can be seen leaving along the MSJ sunken road
Earl of Uxbridge is between the squadrons. Each turn he was on the field he had
 to dice to see if he "lost his leg, by God" to a stray roundshot - so far so good.
The final action of this turn, and the first day's play, was for a squadron of French Line Lancers to arrive hot on the heels of the Scots Greys. One turn behind, but moving faster than the weary and weakened Scots. This photo also shows that Mike was persisting with close range fire from the Rifle company against Bourgeois' Brigade. In the absence of their Voltigeurs 1/28th commander had deployed his Grenadier company to skirmish and protect the column to some extent.  2/28th is now on the field behind the 1st Battalion. Events were to show that this Rifle company had over-reached its support but had gained some time by slowing up Bourgois's advance considerably. Rogers' battery was also inflicting some casualties on the French columns from the ridge crest.

This took us to the end of Move Five and around 1830 hours real time, not too bad as I had hoped to do six moves on the first day. Next time - the Second Day's play, joined by two more participants.

Some credits:
Artillery, wagons etc
Learning about our project on the A Military Gentleman Forum, Niels of Westfalia Miniatures had donated some British artillery equipment for Kevin to paint and use. A couple of Westfalia pieces are in this scenario but we do have more that couldn't easily be used in the front line. Thanks Niels. Well worth looking at the company website for a lot more than Napoleonics.
Status Bases and Markers
If you want to get yourselves, at a special price, some Wargamer ADC plastic status bases and markers like Martin had provided to us for these games, please visit this blog post first waterloo-project-record-keeping for the link.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Waterloo Project: La Haye Sainte refight at 1:3 Part One

I refer readers to my previous post -starting-line-up-for LHS as the introduction for this game which took place over 3 days 17-19 July 2015. For this post I'm delving pretty deeply into the wargaming aspects in this scale for a one-off historical refight and I hope you find it of interest before I enter into the narrative itself.

These maps are adaptations of the ones in Adkin's marvellous "Waterloo Companion". Using my photo and drawing programs I stripped them of existing troop markings and redrew them, emphasising the contours so I could build the terrain (more on that another time). The scale is shown and translated to roughly 3 metres for 1 inch on the table. Although the hedges are shown, the crops are not, so I used a lot of picture and written sources to come up with my own interpretation and you can see the result in the above referenced post. The photos also show the troops on the table at the starting point (with the exception of the 1st Light Battalion KGL still on the painting table at that time!) but these maps show all the available wargame units in the area, many off-table. They formed part of the brief to the players. (Click to enlarge all images)

Map  showing the Allied dispositions at the 1.30 pm start time
For practical purposes all historical units to right and left of the table were ignored. I told the players we would assume that as this is part of the big battle any units at either side were equally engaged and not a threat to their flanks. It made for a better game, with all available space being used.

The French map.
Only skirmishers on the table to start with and many of these
we judged had 10% casualties already from long range rifle fire.
Orders of Battle
Every unit was listed on an Excel spreadsheet together with number of figures, "10%" increment loss in figures for casualties, Number of figures per die for Firing and Melee, and the Morale Factor, a line ready to record the running total of casualties, and in many cases "orders" pre-written by me. The latter was intended to give some sense of purpose and structure at least at the start. Once players had got the more senior commanders into action then they were at liberty to change orders as they wished. Every leader from battalion commander upwards was also listed by number and name on the spreadsheet, and noted whether they were "inspiring" commanders (in my humble opinion and for the balance of the game). I won't bore you with a full Orbat but it can be gleaned from the Subordination charts below. In round numbers we had available for use about 2000 Allied figures and 2700 French of which all but about 650 made it onto the table during the 3 days' play.

As previously mentioned the players and Umpires  came from Gloucestershire, Bristol, and Buckinghamshire.

Allies - James Fergusson, Mike Tovey
French -  Richard Newcombe, Pat Burden, Paul D. and Dillon Browne

Richard briefs Paul and Dillon on their arrival for the second day of play.
Pat scratches his head wondering how he can secure La Haye Sainte Farm
Umpire Kevin listens with interest
James and Mike have a horde of French to deal with on Mont Saint Jean on the third day's play
This mad idea to make authentic forces at 1 figure representing 3 men started out two years ago. At that time we realised we might be able to do this if we combined Kevin's and Paul's existing collections, added  a significant influx by co-opting me into collecting and painting about 1000, and trying to find other collaborators too. Richard and Mike from the Greatfield Group joined the fray with painting and funding, and we discovered James just by chance through post-purchase chat on Ebay. James turned into a major contributor, rules tester and general breath of fresh air to us oldies. But various factors combined to conspire against my targets and I fell short by a  few hundred. Fortuitously the posts on this blog brought forth Paul H. an established wargamer only about 5 miles from my house! Paul had recently bought a big collection of Waterloo Napoleonics and was willing to fill some of the gaps by lending some superbly painted units, even though he was pre-booked on our weekend and couldn't play. Thanks so much Paul.

I tried to match starting strengths where possible as given in Adkin so there were no standard sized units. However most French companies were 24- 32 figures making battalions of 150 -180 figures. Allied battalions were of 4, 6 or 10 companies each so battalion strengths varied from about 135 up to over 200 figures. Cavalry squadrons on both sides were very varied to try to match up similar types, resulting in the smallest being 24 figures and the largest about 55. French 1st Cuirassiers and 2nd Dragoons, and the Allied
3rd KGL Hussars each had 4 squadrons on the field.

So for many days before the event I was busy trying to match up figures from 6 collections to try to make coherent units of the right size for our game. Most of the green clad Allied figures were my own so were relatively easy, but all the French battalions and the Allied redcoats had to be assembled to look OK together, and with Light and Grenadier companies.  A lot of the cavalry too were made up from disparate units designed for 1:20 or 1:100 scale armies. So please forgive some of the close-up photos where, if you look hard, you'll see soldiers with different facing colours juxtaposed. However I think the consolation is that, at normal wargames distance they look pretty impressive. And I revert to my usual mantra "This is not a static diorama it's a wargame!"

Lovely mass effect but all those different portmanteaux give the game way about combining smaller units
While I mention it can anyone challenge my claim to having the most green-clad rifle types on the table at once? If you take the 95th Rifles, 1st and 2nd Light Battalions KGL, and the Luneburg Battalion at this scale it is over 600 figures all in rifle green jackets!

Across the collections we probably had some of most manufacturers in 25/28mm but by far the majority were Perry metal and plastics, which we all like. There were also representatives from Front Rank, Elite, Essex, and in view of costs, Victrix and Warlord plastics too.

Rule aspects
Those who have followed our test games reported on this blog last Summer and in May this year will know I have written a set of rules especially for this game and our 1:3 Hougoumont scheduled for September. They are called "With MacDonnell and Baring 1815". We've tried to strike a balance between the fun of single figure skirmish gaming but with the overall tactical/strategic context still in view and getting the game actually done with thousands of figures! I wanted to ensure there was some flexibility for single companies and squadrons when needed, but that full battalions posed tactical issues particularly over manoeuvre and formation changing. Fog of War had to be present as I think it was responsible for some of the major "mistakes" made on 18th June 1815. A lot of this was represented by the Initiative System. Put simply, each side had a limited amount (maximum 12 as the game progressed) of numbered tokens. These were allocated blind at whatever level of the command chain a player chose. Mounted leaders have a 12" range of influence and foot officers 6". A higher echelon officer can influence more of his units as long as they are within 12". Exceptionally a few very senior leaders were allowed notional ADCs who could carry 1 or 2 tokens up to 30" to activate a subordinate command that turn. All the tokens are turned over and units played in order from 1 upwards. Morale effects are instant and the results applied using a "free" move. Thus players had to make hard choices how to place their tokens but could often be confounded by the playing order that came out and morale effects during the turn. It creates the kind of unpredictable to and fro I wanted but generally rewards the side that put its efforts into crunch points. Without some valid command a unit could not attack or move. "Unplayed units" are dealt with simultaneously at the end of the turn with limited firing and formation change ability.
A beautifully painted French Chevaux Leger Lancier officer leads his squadrons.
The red dot on his white sticker shows I have given him "Inspiring" status.
(photo and figure by Kevin)
Commanders deemed "Inspiring" can swap their initiative token for one nearby to give them more options and they add to a unit's morale if near enough. Players could pack in Inspiring commanders to an important area and add as many as were valid in the subordination chain.

This very smart looking French officer is having difficulty
controlling his French infantry outside the LHS entrance gate,
despite his "inspiring" sticker (at left)!
(Figure by James, photo by Kevin)
Another aspect of fog of war that worked well was that any target over 36" (approx 100 yards) away could be enshrouded in smoke and might not present a good enough target for full effect shooting results that turn.
A reducing chance of good visibility on a D6 over 72" and 120" meant long range artillery targets rarely received full effect which would have been unrealistically devastating every turn.

Even though Allied light troops are surging down the forward slope of
Mont St Jean they are still unlikely to provide full effect targets for  French
batteries (on window cill) deemed to be about 500 yards away (i.e. over 120")
Each unit had a set of statistics and status markers using the
Wargamer ADC bases and tokens adapted for our rules.
Take advantage of Martin's special offer for my readers of this blog by visiting
this posting  before your purchase.
As you can tell from the above I was keen to limit initiative and commands to reflect the historic command structure and likelihood that units would follow known leaders. It wasn't reasonable to expect players to know this so I provided each with one of the charts below that show how the Corps/Division/Brigade/Regiment/Battalion/Battery subordination should work, assuming the commanders were actually available (see Events)

Baron Dubois uses his Initiative token to order forward the front squadron  of
1st Cuirassiers while also summoning up  another one within 12".
On reflection this limitation proved more difficult for cavalry commanders due to the size of units.
(photo by Kevin)

The French chart is fudged somewhat as the paved chausee seemed to be a dividing line between both infantry and cavalry corps and the command chain would have exceeded our officer figures available and chances on the dice!

Random Events and Command

Most wargames tend to represent a battle in its entirety but here we had taken a slice out of one of the most crowded battlefields in history, and one where some generals were notable for their personal involvement at points of crisis. I wanted to reflect firstly, the prospect that generals commanding troops elsewhere might not be present all the time, and secondly that orders might arrive adding or subtracting units due to pressures elsewhere. Occasionaly this was fun, often it was frustrating and, in a few cases, produced exultant air punching!

Each turn a different player on each side rolled two D10 and added them together. Then we applied the resulting number as far as possible. I hope you can read these by clicking and enlarging. If a general "arrived" before any of the troops in his subordination it was not wasted but was applied at the time those troops were due. The Events chart also allowed some custom made occurrences pertinent to the La Haye Sainte area which could prove to be significant game influencers if they happened at the right time.

Allied Event Chart

French Event Chart

Paul D's Wellington Command Group. For his rules each figure on the vignette base
represents a command (so 5 for Old Nosey), but he only had two with my
WMaB1815 rules (photo by Kevin)
Time Charts
I don't want to bore you with more charts, suffice it to say I looked at whatever concensus I could glean from various published works on Waterloo to arrive at times when new units could be fed into the fray. Each side was given their own copy showing timed moves from 1.30pm, optimistically up to 7 pm. but I admit I was allowing some units to arrive a bit earlier than historically as I foresaw the inevitable wargaming delays.

The French 2nd Dragoons advance up the "extra bit" having been available from 3.30pm
Behind them one of the battalions of 13th Legere came on a 4pm
You might think the game objective for the French was obvious - take La Haye Sainte Farm! But no, that was simply a means to an end on 18th June 1815 and the real aim was to take Mont St Jean Farm and Village much further forward.  So I gave the French the game objective to dominate the crest of MSJ ridge and have seen off most opposition there by our close of play after 3 days' wargaming. I wasn't prepared to predict what game turn we might have reached by then!

Next time I'll get on to the narrative.