Thursday 19 February 2015

Waterloo project: Third rules test game in play

I set the scene for this in my previous posting  so if you have come here first best look back to see what it is about.

To get you in the mood - a digitally enhanced photo of some anxious moments for British 95th Riflemen trying to retreat into the farm.

Getting under way
Our session commenced with A Company 1st Battalion 95th firing and retiring through the orchard towards the farm gate, pursued by the voltigeur company of  3/63e Ligne.......
......backed up by the rest of their battalion and 2/63e Ligne
This general view shows the French moving in force upon the farm. The two squadrons of  French cuirassiers are advancing in the centre and the first company of a line lancer squadron has appeared on the table near them.
Later joined by the second company

Although if you look at the general view again there is a sad open space at the far end of the French line.
I should have been more zealous in my photography but here is the best I can do of what was there.
2nd Battalion 6e Legere was advancing with a skirmish line made of the voltigeur and carabinier companies, and the chasseur companies were backing them up in line. As the skirmishers advanced downhill to fire more closely at the KGL light infantry they exposed the chasseurs to canister fire from the whole Royal Horse Artillery  battery on the opposite hillside. Even in line the casualties proved horrific and the chasseurs morale broke seeing them run hastily back to the rear crest of their slope (ie. the bookshelf behind them!)
Mike looks on confidently as Kevin removes the unfortunate chasseur companies
By Move Two things were hotting up at the farm.

A Company 1/95th Rifles had retired through the double gate and an officer ordered it locked while the men provided a second rank. B Company was manning the walls on the improvised fire step all the way round to the side gate, however their relatively small numbers firing made little impact on the large numbers of French. Above you can see the Voltigeurs of 2/63e Ligne are assaulting the west side walls. Below the two battalions can be appreciated - 3/63e Ligne is firing at the southern wall and inflicting just enough casualties on B Company to cause a worry.

This one shows the problem more closely as the French close assault in full force.
At the far corner wall you can just make out where casualty infliction  has contracted the B Company line leaving a two-figure-wide gap. The initiative system is deliberately designed to make commanders take tough decisions about where to put their resources and Mike had reasonably supposed that his 95th, sitting in a defensive position, didn't need much leadership so failed to allocate any initiative tokens there and thus could not fill up the gap. This gave the French a chance to use my "leg-up" rule.
The only way to get over a high wall without ladders etc is for one man to cup his hands and support the weight of a mate's foot and give him a "leg up" to the top of the wall. This can only be done where unopposed as the climber has to have most attention and his hands concentrating on steadying himself at the top. One figure can do this for 3 comrades per move. To add to the fun we make each climber roll a die and "1" means he has an accident and joins the casualty list. You can see above that this time Kevin was successful with all six and they have turned the open flank of B company in the hand-to-hand combat.
This shot above shows the result. The rules don't require a melee "winner" as such, but rather morale checks are required at each 10 per cent loss, however caused. B Company had 20 per cent now and, without a secure flank failed to make their morale factor rating on a D6. They retired disordered one move distance - into the courtyard behind the main house. One point worth noting is that the larger C Company 1/95th had deployed in Move 1 into all the buildings on the east side  of the farm and suffered a few casualties when French off-table howitzer shells successfully penetrated the roof and started a fire. This was spreading by  3 inches each turn since there was no water on hand to quench it.
Another point is that the once strong column of 2/63e Ligne has been horribly weakened by canister and shrapnel fire sweeping down from the British foot battery on the ridge. The Voltigeur company was sheltered to some extent by the haystacks but the Grenadier company took the brunt of it and retired back in open order. The Fusiliers, however, carried on with the fight.
This is the view from the battery.

A bit more on the artillery
In the previous post I mentioned that the scale means that some artillery support needs to be "off table". That could be just notional units but we are preferring, if possible, to represent the guns crews and teams as models. The usual wargamers' dilemma of whether to go to the trouble and expense of having a model limber for every model gun is extant in our group, as in many others, so we have been scratching round a bit for suitable teams, extra foot crew etc and all are not completely compatible. However I was insistent that we get it as near right as possible on the day for the horse artillery so players will have a realistic option of moving the whole battery or just some of its divisions/sections.
The French 12 pdr battery on a chest of drawers way beyond the table edge
A fuzzy photo of the French Horse battery on its bookshelf about 30" off table
The HA battery has 2 x  6 pdr guns and a howitzer and a couple of teams by Kevin.
Paul D provided the extras
RHA battery (mostly) by Kevin. It looks impressive but is still not complete for a 1:3 scale version
 Pragmatically I took the approach of one model gun represents two, not three, real ones so we could have reasonable proportions of howitzers yet not over fill the space the batteries should take up. Everything else is aimed at 1:3. At Waterloo most batteries on both sides were around 200 men plus vast amounts of horses. HA on both sides had 6 gun batteries, and so that feels like about 35 per real gun or about 20 per model gun. There were generally three echelons of horse teams from limbers through to ammunition wagons and support vehicles. This is far too many for a front line game with an average table depth of 2-3 feet for each side's line. The good news then was that at least half these vehicles should be so far back as to be unnecessary for us. So I settled for a minimum strength of about 30 figures - that could mean  3 limbers and an ammo wagon and about a dozen team riders and 6 or 7 crew per gun model. There need to be around a dozen individual crew riders for when the battery is in motion, allowing for some riding limbers, and horses without riders being held at a respectable distance in the rear.  This is important to me as cannon fire uses templates for "beaten zones" and in the event of counter battery fire I want to know if crew, team horses or caissons or wheels are hit as it can affect what happens next. Kevin has great plans to make our horse batteries look spectacular in action or in motion.

Back to the game
As previously mentioned the French had a build up of cavalry in the centre. 

They were bearing down on the 1st Company of  2nd Light Battalion KGL (2LB) who fired their rifles and then hurriedly formed a company square back on the ridge. Sadly the rather nice figure of the Cuirassier regimental colonel was one of their first casualties so he is missing from this photo!
But not to worry - the Cavalry Brigade commander was accompanying the second squadron
The KGL Hussars began to move onto the ridge to meet this threat . 
But 2nd Squadron came under fire from the French HA battery, lost some casualties and decided to "lie low" behind the crest, formed in two troops one behind the other.
This of course left 1 Coy 2LB to face the 1st Squadron 4e Cuirassiers alone....except that Mike had kept his initiative tokens, lacking at the farm, for the battle in more open ground. In a rather unorthodox move he carefully judged the distances and had two companies of 2LB change formation at the quickstep into a square to help absorb the impact when the cuirassier wave broke over the ridge. 6th Company was left behind in a supporting line as he didn't have enough move distance to incorporate them in the square. I've given such highly trained light companies each a leader stand so they can act independently. Major Baring is placed so he can bring his 12 inch leadership initiative distance to bear on all 4 companies of 2LB in that vicinity. Both squadrons of 4e Cuirassiers received rifle fire on the way in from the 2LB companies, from this platoon of the Luneburg battalion.....
.....from the east facing loopholes of the farm, and from the RHA battery on the left flank which had turned now the threat to its front had gone (see photo above of  RHA). Nevertheless the first squadron charged home, the small squares just held on, and we now await initiative at the start of day 2's gaming.

And what of the rest of the Luneburg Battalion? 

After the first turn the Rifle company, in skirmish order, had split into two. The left platoon used the hedged field to give fire on the attacking cavalry; the right platoons filed off and began to reinforce the farm  via a small gate on the North side. Strung out by channelling through the defile this took them some time, but by move three the leading elements were across  the courtyard. The larger part was being targeted by French howitzers, but without success as they were out of sight therefore needing a visibility roll to keep the howitzer template on target. Ironically the die roll meant an impact on the regrouping B Coy 1/95th Rifles, sending them scurrying for cover in the building behind them.  Here's an artistic rendition of the scene.

The three centre companies of Luneburg advanced, still in company column, in order to fill the space neatly between the farm wall and the hedged field, thus securing their flank from overlapping by an attacker. The Cuirassiers had diverted so ceased to be an immedate threat but their place in front of Luneburg was being taken by the Lancer squadron. A volley at that range took out 3 figures, not enough to dent the lancers morale. But, critically, the front company of Luneburg came under fire from the French 12pdrs on the distant "ridge"/chest of drawers, in scale this was about 500 yards range and near enough, even with unlucky bounce/graze dice, to cause sufficient casualties to significantly shorten the line and take out the foot command on the base with the colours. The mounted Lieutenant Colonel steadied the line and contracted both ends away from the secure flank cover. Whether this will prove a fatal error we'll have to see next time..........
Note the gap between the farm wall and the Luneburg flank;
there is a similar one at the other end!
 At this point we ran out of time for our initial day of rules testing. My aim had been to get four turns done but we only achieved three. Not much you might think but this was two blokes pushing round 1000 figures for 6 hours, occasionally at skirmish level detail.  Enough to give me a long blog posting anyway, so thanks for sticking with it!  I wanted to ensure some of the units were very weak or even destroyed so as to make room for reinforcements. To some extent that had been achieved, especially with the breakthrough at the farm wall and the demise of Kevin's Legere battalion. I had thought to leave everything in situ to continue next time but needed a bit more space so it was an opportunity to do what might happen in our real refight of La Haye Sainte. I'm always conscious this has to be a small part of a huge, intense battle; senior commanders are likely to be off-field making decisions influenced by "bigger" events so on-field units might get orders to deploy elsewhere, exasperating the commander on the spot.  So I decided to limber up most of the RHA battery, since they had successfully seen off nearly all the French Light battalion on the opposite hillside, and only the howitzer section remains. Besides, it gave me a bit of fun to "mount them up" for some posing:

And here is a final photo I could not work into the narrative but have to show you. The historical French order of battle includes a company of line engineers which were brought in late in the day to batter down the gates of La Haye Sainte. Here they are behind 63e Ligne, waiting to get to the gate if it's not forced by the infantry.
Lively sapeurs in greatcoats from Warlord games, painted by Kevin East

All the green-clad riflemen, the  Luneburgers, and 2nd Squadron of  KGL Hussars are mine.
All the remaining figures are by Kevin East with small numbers swelling the ranks from the collection of Paul D. (I suspect obtained via Ebay and based by Paul but painted by others).
A few of the extra horses in gun teams are from my 18th century collection.
Buildings - Hovels resin painted by Kevin
Trees - hand made by Kevin  (multi -talented!)
Hedges  - hand made by CG when I did 20mm WW2
Stream pieces - hand made by CG back in circa 1987 for my 15mm Napoleonics, it's worn well!
Cornfield - experimenting with carpet off cuts, powder paint and PVA glue (never waste anything from a house renovation!)
Plastic status trays and blocks by with grateful thanks to Martin for the discount for our Waterloo project.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Waterloo Project: Setting up the third test game

Now I'm more or less established in my new wargames room it was high time we got on with another test game for the rules to be used for our 1:3 scale efforts in the areas of La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont. As you will have seen before we are just aiming to produce a generic battlefield which will test the type of units and capabilities we will need in the real games to take place this July and September.

First let's look at the table
The plan for my room is that the space is for flexible use, including figure painting, tabletop model making and 2D oil painting. So the tables are all foldable and give me various configurations. The test game set up is completely removable but, subject to Paul finding the space suitable for his "whole battle" refight, the boards will form the core of  all four weekend Waterloo games. So I was keen to have a test of the space and size as well as the rules.

Here is an idea of the table layout with boards, this is 12 feet x 6 feet

Then with an add-on to make use of the way the room widens out. This is another 5 feet by 2 feet. But we still have to ensure we can get round to maintain the functionality.

You can see I have started to place some high ground. This is spare wooden boards covered with shaped cardboard and taped and then smoothed with magazines and newspapers.
Once I was happy with that I covered the whole lot with layers of plain paper left over from our recent unpacking. This helps the smoothness which at this scale is pretty important as the terrain is mostly "what you see is what you get" and not really representational like most non-skirmish level wargames. 

Finally it is covered with fabric. I've used a garden product by Gardman "Grow it" Heavy Duty Thick Fleece in rolls of 10 metres x 1m. One roll was plenty to do the table once but it is not "thick" for my purpose so I had to get three rolls and lay them on top of one another to give a richness of colour that was sufficient. It's only about £6 a roll so doesn't break the bank and, unlike a bespoke terrain mat at greater expense, I think this will prove more versatile into the future.  I hasten to add that the real games will have a much more custom designed and modelled terrain, but I've not decided yet precisely what as they will all be very different.

Who are we?
Now ranging between Bristol, the Cotswolds and Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, we have 6 wargamers who are putting resources into this project. Four of us, me, Mike, Richard and Paul, have been gaming together for decades, mostly in Cheltenham, then Kevin came back into our lives after 35 years, full of Waterloo fervour. He was the catalyst for the project and in the search for cheap figures we found James of Fergscalemodelsuk in Aylesbury, who not only proved a useful source for plastic figures, but practically blagged his way into participating too (see James' blog here napoleonicwargamesblog). Mike and Paul have yet to try out the rules so I've organised two days of gaming to fit their schedules.  I'll be umpiring Mike and Kevin who will kick it off next week and then a couple of weeks later the others will join Kev while Mike is away. These two days, with the first leading into the second, will simulate what we want to do over a weekend for the real games but with more figures and players.
But what about the game?.....
  Above is a general view of the terrain I've chosen and the starting positions of the first day's troops (just for Colin the photos are before the arrival of the Wargamer Aide de Camp statistic trays! :-)). It's about 1100 figures and it's worth remembering that the ground scale is 1 inch represents 3 metres, so musket range is 36 inches and effective rifle range goes up to 72 inches. Consequently I make some allowance in the starting strengths to allow for casualty infliction and morale effects as units approach.  What you see on the right is a French brigade of 3 infantry battalions with a small company of line engineers/sapeurs, and two squadrons of cuirassiers. A squadron of line lancers is just off the table. Further back there is a battery of horse artillery 30 inches off table, and a battery of heavy foot artillery about 90 inches off table. We actually have the models set up on shelves representing high ground! (Though they were not in position when these photos were taken)
The Allied front line is represented by three companies of 95th Rifles in the orchard and farm,and the 2nd Light Battalion King's German Legion skirmishing along the valley and with a supporting wing on the ridge above. The centre is supported by the Hanoverian Luneburg Battalion with a quarter of its strength rifle armed and skirmishing. In the rear of 2LB KGL are two squadrons of KGL Hussars. The left flank is guarded by a battery of Royal Horse Artillery and the right by a battery of Royal Foot Artillery. Now some more detailed views with captions
Above and below:
 Luneburg battalion faces a formidable force of cuirassiers while in
column of companies, but both sides have enough distance and options not
 to just confront each other like this.

Two squadrons of KGL Hussars shelter from the worst of the artillery fire behind a low ridge.
The wing of 2LB KGL may choose to lie down to shelter, but they are easily within rifle
 range  of the approaching French infantry so might do better to stand up and fire.
The RHA battery on a rise in the background has already caused casualties among the French.
View of Kevin's beautiful resin farm buidings from the RFA battery position.
We have used about half of his entire Hougoumont model for this test game;
 the whole lot takes up about 4 feet of table just for the main buildings.
Well the stage is set. My intention is to bring you many more photos after our first day's play. Later, when the second day arrives, these forces will get reinforcements of about 60% more each.

(PS. In case anyone is wondering that is a large canvas print of  "Natalie" on the back wall. The original was much smaller and as far as I know her owner is still allowed to have her on display even though he seems well hooked now!) (See right hand side bar for info on Hussarettes) 

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Waterloo Project: A Collective of Colonels

My ignorance was rather profound when I foolishly volunteered to organise our La Haye Sainte 1:3 scale refight. I thought there would be lots of redcoats but when I looked into it I realised that I would need to recreate four battalions all in "rifle green". It's about 650 figures. I've got three out of four so far but I had not much idea how to source their commanding officers - ideally mounted officers in hussar garb but with bicorne hats.  When I started to look at the Perry plastic British Hussar models for my KGL Hussars I realised I had the core of what I needed.

Here is what I came up with
Left to right: Major Baring commander of the 2nd Light Battalion Kings German Legion; Lt Colonel Sir Andrew Barnard of 1st Battalion 95th Rifles, and Lt Col Bussche of 1st Light Battalion KGL. The missing one is the Lt Colonel of the Luneburg battalion, already reported on here

I had bought a batch of "spare" metal horses on Ebay and found three that looked OK, then selected three different arm positions from the Hussar box to fit the torsos. Baring's bicorne is from the Victrix Napoleonic Austrian Grenadiers set and the other two are Victrix Napoleonic French in canvas covers.

The 95th Rifles commander gallops up to give some orders 
The two KGL commanders with a group from 2nd Light Battalion
I had to put officers sashes round the waists of the Hussar torsos and so I painted on acrylic structure gel, which dried to a nice effect. Then it was just the usual paint job.  Now fingers crossed that I'll find the time to make the missing 170 of 1st Light Bn KGL before our July game.