Saturday 30 May 2015

Waterloo Project: Our 1:100 Refight unveiled

I've written an awful lot about our West Country group putting together the forces and test games of sections of Waterloo at 1:3 scale and thank all my followers for the kind and supportive comments.
But we are also doing the whole battle in some style too. I refer you back to my original post in 2013 as this is an emotional wargame for me, marking 50 years since I first started wargaming  "properly". This is the brainchild of Paul D who has been giving us grand scale Napoleonic battles in 28mm for many years but we've never yet fought Waterloo.  He is providing the entire armies - nearly 2000 figures at one figure represents approximately 100 men. I took on to do all the terrain, and the ground scale is about 1 inch = 60 metres.

You may have seen me preparing the basic table for the 1:3 game back in February and all the photos of that in recent posts. Well the week after that I started a solid timber battening and side wall construction and took the next two months rendering a kind of "installation art" version of the Waterloo terrain covering a scale 5 mile width.  Here is the map with the simplified contours necessary at this scale.
The outlined area shows the terrain we will be able to play on and it is 12 feet long by 6 feet on the West side and 8 feet on the East side. There is 9 feet x 2 feet extension divided into two pieces at Plancenoit village. One piece will be placed on a side table so the open space will allow player access.
Now some views of the overall finished terrain but without the add on piece which will go where my painting table is.
From the East
From the South
From the North-east
In the past I had a sand table which was hard work but no problem in rendering accurate terrain. Then with ill health and house moves that had to go and I made two-foot square terrain tiles instead.  But I got fed up with the joins and the warping and the configuration limitations so I was determined to do better for something as iconic as Waterloo.  I think of it as installation art because I've given it much of the love and attention one would a piece of permanent art work, but unfortunately I have to "scrap" it at the end of June to make it into the La Haye Sainte terrain at 1:3 scale!  So download the photos of this Chris Gregg original and save them for posterity! And if the map is any use to anyone feel free to use it for non-commercial purposes.

Here is a quick tour of the main features. Most buildings are conversions of the 15mm card Waterloo series sold by Miniature Wargames magazine a few years ago. We agreed that the "footprint" of the key defensive positions and villages needed to be right at the cost of the buildings not being accurate, but passably representative. There are some figures on the table just to give an idea - the 28mm is just about acceptable with these buildings.

A Division's worth of British infantry line the crest of Mont St Jean
La Haye Sainte and the Elm tree crossroads
La Belle Alliance looking North
Hougoumont with Merbe Braine and Mt St Jean farm in the distance
Frischermont and Smohain
Papelotte and La Haie - combined for our purpose into one resin farm model
Plancenoit village from the South. The church is 25mm by Hovels and
beautifully painted by Kevin. Like the real thing it is on its own "hillock" and
dominates the village centre. 
Two views of the Lasne Brook. This one looking East from Plancenoit,
and below looking West. Rather pleased with the wet look.

Smohain seen from Smohain Brook. Pity to spoil the rural idyll with muddy
I have photos of the work in progress and am happy to post a few "how-to" thoughts if there is sufficient interest.

And now the scene is set, so Paul came round and deployed the forces ready for next weekend. We are starting off this game in approximate historical positions around 1130 am. Most of the Allied army is still out of sight so shown by unit cards. The French forces visible at present are I Corps - D'Erlon and II Corps - Reille, all the rest are still unsighted. There will be two umpires and 3-4 players per side playing for two complete days to give us time to get the best out of Paul's rules and hopefully a definite result.

Our plan is to stop the action at the end of each turn so we can take a photographic record and bring it to you happy viewers, hopefully during the week of  8th June.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Waterloo Project: More on the Test game - Part 3

Thank you for the nice comments on the first two parts of this photo report. Here is  a link to more-on-test-game-part two

First, how did Luneburg Battalion react under the horse artillery fire?
They were not being pressed even though French cavalry were still in the vicinity,
so they formed company march columns and marched to a new position a bit further
 away and formed square again taking more shelter from the farm walls. You can still see
part of a company on the right marching into place.
Here are the Horse Artillery, still at in the late afternoon sunlight
And in close up: From Kevin's collection at left, and Paul's at right to make up
the numbers on the day
But that move still didn't completely stop the persecution from artillery so they abandoned
square and formed a thick line along the hedge and the sunken road - safe at last! 
So the French HA no longer had any viable targets!
Meanwhile the brave men of the Luneburg Battalion rifle company were manning the front
wall of the farm to allow their fellow green-clad allies in the 95th time to reform
while the French pushed past them!
Behind them the 27th Foot were marching up to reinforce. Here still in close
march column......
....and then gradually spacing out into company column to confront the French
at the side of the farm
While depleted Rifle companies pulled back bringing some prisoners with them
To be replaced in the farm by Grenadier and Light companies of the 27th
You will recall from the early report of this action that British Foot Artillery had been
constantly weakening the French battalion threatening the side wall of the farm.
The Voltigeur company had gone; in the foreground is the remains of the Grenadier company,
and behind them the Fusilier companies. It's only the determination of their mounted
Chef de Battalion (designated an "inspirational commander" +1 to Morale) that will stop them
running off the field completely
So Kevin ordered his heavy (12 pdr) battery to switch targets from the farm house ,
which was well on fire by now, to the British Foot artillery on the hilltop.
Much to our alarm his round shot and shell demolished the crews in the front line
 and damaged all three guns in only two salvoes. The range was a scale
 approximate 400 metres.  Much discussion and a rules amendment followed!
I showed in the previous post the KGL Hussars piling into the Cuirassiers
but the result was inconclusive and the numbers and weight of
French cavalry surrounded the Hussars, with the French Lancers lending weight frontally.
That hole you see was filled with Hussars - we definitely need some casualty markers!
Beyond that combat  a weakened 1st Squadron 4th Cuirassiers was piling up
against the small square of  2nd Bn KGL Light companies
A closer view shows the Royal Scots Greys attacking the 2nd Squadron of Cuirassiers
 and a squadron of Life Guards just arriving on the scene  
Here is a close-up
A general overview catches the mass of supporting French in the lowering sunlight
The Scots Greys saw off their opponents (who have retreated at left) and now
confront the Lancers
In the centre of this photo the KGL square has seen off 1st Squadron of Cuirassiers after a tense fight. The latter can be seen retreating in disorder back through the Dragoons. Scots Greys and Lancers are mixing it by the hedged field
Here is a close up of that.
2nd Cuirassiers squadron is rallying back by the hedge accompanied by KGL Hussar prisoners
The French Dragoons advance across the stream to threaten the
 KGL Hussars 3rd Squadron. French skirmishers keep up the pressure on
their weakened KGL Light Infantry counterparts....... 
..........who soon give up and hurry back behind the shelter of the ridge  now
that 5th KGL Line Infantry have formed a solid line on the ridge crest (below)

Across the valley French infantry continue to advance
Back at the farm the French have brought another battalion round the side
and it is shaping up for a firefight if the 27th can form their company column into a line
And more French line up to press on into the farmyard
Well, if you've stuck with me this far through the two posts on the first day's test, and then the latest three on the second day, give yourself the legion d'honneur and a long service medal! If you were looking for a result I'm sorry, but this was only a test game and this is as far as it got. Three moves with two players on the first day and four moves with four players on the second nevertheless gave us a lot of test situations.

I had to revise artillery fire so that gun crews were not so vulnerable, and a lot of time was spent in discussion over the nature of squares and fighting round them. Whether, at this scale, infantry can inflict fire damage while the cavalry mill round fairly uselessly is a feature of many contemporary accounts of Waterloo. I had tried hard to avoid "special rules for squares", thinking, it's just a line that can't be outflanked, but some of my collaborators have convinced me that if infantry are stationary in a "proper square", i.e. a scale 4 ranks deep, then two ranks can still fire effectively while the front two ranks kneeling are fending off the horses and troopers with 5 or 6 feet of musket and bayonet. So we'll be tweaking the rules to encourage some advantage for deep rank squares, and taking the initiative sequence into account for close range fire. But we won't be changing the fundamental melee rules or bumping up effect or morale for the infantry artificially.

We realised that when fighting La Haye Sainte the length of the table we need slightly longer cavalry move distances which should ensure all the squadrons get some chance to gain their objectives during our simulated "longest afternoon".  And that means our "longest ever wargame" as we are now scheduling three full days to play out 18 - 20 x 15 minute moves with about 3000 figures, and, for Murdock's benefit, that means 16 player-days of those so far signed up.

Oh, and I should mention we had great fun with my rules for rocket firing. The French dragoons lost small numbers of men and horses when the rockets found a target among those masses, but none of the resulting morale rolls for "panic" resulted in any adverse effects during our game.

I'll leave you with two of Kevin's photos
A bird's eye view across the centre field at the end of our play time.
James listens politely while CG pontificates over some point of the rules!
All the green-clad riflemen, the Luneburgers, and 2nd and 3rd Squadrons of  KGL Hussars are mine.
KGL Line and most of the cavalry, artillery and French infantry are by Kevin East.
Modest numbers were swelling the ranks throughout, and a French battalion, from the collection of Paul D.
Some French dragoons by Richard Newcombe
British 27th Foot by James Fergusson
Buildings - Hovels resin painted by Kevin
Trees - hand made by Kevin
Hedges  - hand made by CG  about 10 years ago
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!)
Rubbery road sections by Total Battle Miniatures
Plastic status trays and blocks by with grateful thanks to Martin for the discount for our Waterloo project. Get your discount by mentioning this blog, see record-keeping-and status markers

Monday 25 May 2015

Waterloo Project: More on the test game, Part Two

To follow up waterloo-project-more-on-test-game.

Here is the view of those French line lancers as seen from the Luneburg battalion
Not surprisingly, Luneburg formed a square while they still had time
At which the Lancers moved to phase two of the plan and manoeuvred to their
right to support the Cuirassiers......
.....which unmasked the Horse Artillery battery who opened fire.
This photo shows the round shot method with first graze and bounce through
templates hitting the front face and colour party.
The status marker already shows "shaken" from previous losses
1st squadron 4th Cuirassier regiment has now concentrated on the next square of
KGL riflemen while 2nd Squadron takes the heat off provided by the oncoming
KGL Hussars.
Two squadrons of Dragoons are backing up the Cuirassiers
And here is a wider view of the French attack
But more KGL Hussars join the fray...... close-up; and I suspect those Lancers think they have spotted an opening
However it's likely to be filled by 3rd Squadron KGL Hussars, and a squadron
of Royal Scots Greys has just made an appearance behind them
Allied left flank: View from 5th Regiment KGL Line Infantry down into the valley
....where the French are making progress towards the stream
Back at the main gates of the farm the French have penetrated on both sides but
men of the 95th struggle to keep the gates closed
French Voltigeurs are also seeking to stretch the defenders at the side and find
a way over the unguarded wall.....
........which about 6 of them did but were confronted by a platoon of Luneburg Riflemen
 and were annihilated, causing the remainder of the company to break
The engineers break through!  But who is that trying to stop them? It's that ghastly
figure of Sharpe with the big cavalry sword!
By the next photo he and his mates had been swept aside and the French
onslaught continued...coming in from the left flank too.
.....where more of the 95th had a rough firing line based on wagons and farm impedimenta
Above and below: Two more views showing the apparently unstoppable
 French infantry.  But help is at hand......that's the Grenadier  Company of British
27th Foot in the courtyard

Didn't want to interrupt the narrative with this but have to show you, slightly earlier,
James Fergusson's superb battalion of the 27th  Foot approaching the rear gate of the farm
I'll finish off this set with a rather nice shot of Paul and Kevin, French commanders, sharing out their initiative tokens. Richard watches with his usual sang-froid

More tomorrow, family permitting.