Wednesday 23 July 2014

Waterloo Project: First Test game - Infantry and Artillery

I've made cryptic reference in previous posts to working on rules for our madness of refighting the actions around La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont in 1:3 scale next year. I drafted a set of rules, appropriately entitled With MacDonell and Baring, 1815 (WMaB for short), back in April but it took us till 17th June to assemble the gamers and a venue. In fact I had to have it at my present abode, commandeering the sitting room while the Duchess was away for the day and so the terrain is just cobbled together to make a space 6 feet x 6 feet 6 inches with a couple of gentle slopes made of basic boards and books covered in suitable green material. It's nothing like I hope to have for the real games, twice the size. Four of our 6 project members contributed - Kevin East took the French, and Richard Newcombe and James Fergusson the British, plus me umpiring. Being a rules test it was not so much a game more like "three blokes pushing around 1000 figures and talking a lot"! Consequently we didn't get any other result than a feel for handling such big units and the opportunity for healthy criticism of my rule writing.

The new frontispiece (above) for my blog gives you an idea of the spectacle when viewed from "mounted commander" level and this posting contains many photos of figures you'll have seen showcased on this blog since last Autumn, most in action for the first time.
My first photo shows the simple terrain - no it's not meant to be part of Waterloo but just containing some elements we will need - walled farms, hedges, orchard, woodland and slopes. The Allies had three companies of 95th Rifles on the table to start with, holding the far wood and both farms including the near orchard. the French brought on two battalions and a Horse Artillery battery deployed across the road. The allies reinforced with a similar battery deploying between the farms, and a large company of Nassau Voltigeurs on the right flank.
Testing the skirmisher rules James quickly advanced a company of Rifles from the wood to what is pretty close range on this scale.
Another French Battalion, this one has skirmishers out front .
The first French battalion throws out its Voltigeur company and the Rifles cheekily fire and retreat having taken a satisfying toll on the main column.
A third French battalion appears and is wheeling its Voltigeurs out to skirmish
A wider view shows the front battalion attacking a farm where Riflemen are lining the hedge and RHA give them some canister (not effectively enough - we changed the rules later). The farm had already been set on fire by French artillery fire.
On the Allied left flank James now brought on the 2nd Light Battalion KGL. Although a rifle-armed light unit I organised them in two wings of three companies each for this game.
Although the rules don't favour skirmish troops in melee Kevin thought it worth his Voltigeur company trying to force the hedge from the Riflemen. At first it was a stalemate.
Allied reinforcements on Richard's flank in the form of a half battalion (wing) of British Line infantry.
A general view showing most of the table. French Voltigeurs engage Riflemen in the right hand woods. The farm building burns more fiercely.
A fourth French battalion makes an appearance in the near corner and Richard's Nassau skirmishers will have to look out. 
View from behind the Allied right flank. On the right are 30 degree round shot angles and a 10 degree canister angle. On this scale canister could reach across the table, given line of sight, but ball proved useful for a narrower field of fire.
This general view gives a good idea of one of the delights of gaming in this scale - the solid masses of 130 -180 figure battalions.
 The Nassau Voltigeurs have pulled back and formed line to face their new foes and French line infantry engage the orchard hedge and the farm main gate.
I was pleased how my special rules for pushing melees with reinforcing masses quickly broke any sign of deadlock. No more a few skirmishers holding up hundreds just because they are defending soft cover. Here the 95th began to yield the orchard.
A nice view along the line of French attacking columns
This view from behind the same battalion shows a significant close range engegement building up with 2nd Light Bn KGL.
Allied light and line troops prepare to meet the French with volleys. In the distance a Rifle company has made its withdrawal from the orchard.
British Royal Horse Artillery battery, though at present we are having to use some foot artillery crews and teams to make up the strength. French howitzer fire has now set the other farm alight.
The second KGL wing takes up a reserve stance while their colleagues reinforce the wood.
Finding he could not break down the farm gate quickly enough Kevin reorganised his front to form a column of companies led by his Grenadiers to attack te RHA battery frontally. The casualties suffered were not enough to repel the attack and we all felt amazed that the French got off so lightly. However, I explained that the canister angle (Charles Grant style) was deliberately narrow due to the very long potential range on the table, therefore at very close range like this not many figures are actually hit. 

We didn't have time to see the melee through but just before we packed up two of us had a play around with the line versus line musketry dual hinted at in one of the photos. That was a worthwhile exercise because it showed that casualty rate attrition, and subsequent morale checks, was too slow for gaming purposes so we made some fairly drastic amendments for the next game.

In conclusion everyone involved said how much they enjoyed the day; whatever the outcomes it was sheer joy playing with these large formations, and particularly for Kevin who has put so much loving attention  into his figure painting and basing. We'd spent about 7 hours playing of which probably about 4 was productive due to constant debate about the new rules, and some really useful amendments resulted, including the observation that we need to set up a test with attrition already taking its toll on morale. So, coming shortly .....the cavalry test game.


  1. Even at this stage its clear that it will be an impressive looking event and doubtless memorable for the participants.

    Out of sheer idle curiosity, 2 questions. How much historical time did the 4 hours worth of gaming represent? Did you include a provision for musket shots against a skirmish screen to go through and hit supports if they got too close (100 yds or so).

    Great stuff. Good to try out new perspectives.


  2. Ross
    Thanks for your anticipation of sharing our pleasure, and your curiosity is commendable as it's been a great challenge to produce some rules for "a very large skirmish game"! I say that one move is about 3 - 5 minutes "real" time and about 15 minutes "historical" time, but it's deliberately art not science. The former justifies averaged out effects for multiple volleys/salvoes as in most wargames, and the latter is for us to stage appearance of units at about the right time historically. We got I think about 6 moves so maybe 20-30 minutes and 1.5 hours respectively. there will be more on this when I report test game 2. No we don't allow pass through of musketry but we do allow it for round shot and canister. Musket range is 36 inches (about 100 metres)so if two skirmish lines face each other at reasonable distance the main lines will be at long range anyway and we are trying to keep it simple.

  3. Fabulous looking stuff! It's like looking at an old Peter Gilder set up!

  4. Looking good gents.some fantastic work.

  5. Your test games will set the tone for what will happen on the main tabletop 'in action'.

    Keep in mind the time factor - great if you could have enough player-commanders for each battalion so as to really keep the action flowing.

    Great eye-candy!