Monday, 4 December 2017

West Country Quatre Bras Part 1: the second day's play

I hope all readers will have by now seen the report of the first day's play. Apologies for the big time lapse in following up but there is a lot of information to sift and many more photos for you to enjoy.

The second day started bright and early about 0900 as we still had to finish off some firing, melees and rallying from Move 8. We wanted to get that finished before the arrival of the two newcomers for this day's play. Roy Boss from Cirencester joined the French team to command Prince Jerome's Division, and Tony Woodman from Gloucester took the part of the Duke of Wellington. In fact he and Richard decided to divide control of the Allied forces by their location either side of the Brussels chausee - Richard to the right and Tony to the left.

Kevin explains the situation at Move 9 for the benefit of Roy (second left) and Tony W (right).
4.15 pm
Off table on the French extreme right Graham launched a charge by the 6th Chasseurs a Cheval which just got the regiment on the field of play only to be halted by canister fire from Koopman's Horse Artillery section and then repulsed by the 6th Belgian Hussars. Behind them Baron Bouge advanced the infantry up the road South of Haute Cense farm, and a little further back the 1st Chasseurs a Cheval were moving up in support round Materne lake.
The French generals - and the precarious position of the figures at the edge of the table on Graham's flank
I had to bring up a  small table to accommodate the flanking movement
6th Chasseurs confronting the Belgian Hussars...........
..........and Koopman's guns
At the hedge gap on Gemioncourt stream a weight of French fire had at last built up to cause 5th National Militia 2 stands lost this move, and in return one of Kevin's Chance cards reduced all Allied return fire along the hedge by 1!

A useful view along Gemioncourt stream
In the centre the British were at last being engaged as 2/93rd Ligne charged across the first Gemioncourt stream bridge but were repulsed by the 32nd Foot.

Allied view of the fighting in the centre
2nd Bn Orange Nassau are routing past Wellington!
2/93rd Ligne attack across the bridge.......
.....and are pushed back by the 32nd Foot
The French assault in Bossu woods pressed on by about another 6 inches without any significant success yet.
Continued attack through East edge of Bossu Woods 

My off-table map at this time shows the French right flank cavalry markers just edging onto the playing area. On the French left, 12, 13, and 14 are the three battalions of 1st Legere beginning to press the Dutch-Belgians and Nassauers in the South-east part of Bossu Wood. Orange Nr 15 is 3/2 Nassau Infantry battalion and is approximately level with the DB line on Gemioncourt stream seen in the photo above the map
More Allied reinforcements in the nick of time - The Hanoverian Landwehr Brigade East of La Bergerie and Pack's British Brigade to the West of that farm.
The next Allied reinforcing brigades arrive

4.30 pm 

Despite the apparent shakiness of the DB opposition on the Gemioncourt stream, nature was proving the main hold up to the French. Graham was now deploying along the hedge line, and following a new "suggestion" from Marshal Ney not to waste men there on an all out attack, he began to use his advantage in numbers as skirmishers.

Above: Another RFA battery backs up Picton with the 28th Foot (below)
along Gemioncourt stream 

On the French left, off field the 1st Legere began to attack into Bossu Wood while further Northeast two French line battalions charged the Nassau Elite companies skirmishing in the woods who managed to evade away yet again. Next to them, out in the open, the Nassau Line battalion which had retreated towards the upper bridge across Gemioncourt stream, was charged by the returning Lancers.
Lancers at top left attack 2/2 Nassau infantry.
 (Below) Note the strong ridge-top position of the Allied batteries facing them

 In one of those strange, but balancing, wargame moments the supporting artillery of both sides fired and the Lancers were repulsed but the Nassau infantry routed!
2/2 Nassau Infantry rout past Prince William of Orange.
Nassau Elite companies and the 95th Rifles beyond hold off Foy's skirmishers
French fortunes began to look up on their extreme right flank. Graham renewed the attack with his 6th Chasseurs a Cheval and this time destroyed the small section of DB horse guns. The newly enthused Chasseurs then forced back one of the wings of Belgian Hussars who had counter charged them.
The Hanoverian Landwehr brigade begins to deploy.... 
......Just in time as one wing of the covering Hussars is defeated and withdraws past them

Back along the road towards Thyle Baron Bouge had formed squares and the 1st Chasseurs a Cheval took up a supporting position behind them.

4.45 pm
The 6th Chasseurs' aggression now caused the Hanoverian Landwehr infantry to form squares while the 1st Wing of Belgian Hussars supporting them was seen off by French musketry fire. All this was happening right on the edge of the table and an 8 foot width was not enough so I was having to improvise with bringing up a small table and trying to place the units in their correct relative positions - it was not very photogenic!

The off-field map shows the fight developing in Bossu Woods, and the cluster of French units striking a balance between aggression and caution in the face of heavy opposition to their right hook
Even my camera setting seems to object to the non-photogenic
side table holding Bouge's infantry and the Chasseurs a Cheval!
On the table a worried Tony W has formed a Hanoverian square while Bouge's foremost
battalion gives the Belgian Hussars a taste of musketry.
Brunswick infantry deployed to their left, facing East, to help back up the
difficult situation on the left flank
Tony and Roy had been steadily bringing forward the French artillery and now established yet another "grand" battery line on the ridge West of Gemioncourt Farm.
The Duke of Brunswick leads reinforcements up the chausee
Pack's brigade advances to form a third Allied line.....
........making a "target rich environment" for Tony D and Roy's new artillery position.
Lancers can be seen retreating from their latest abortive attack
The 95th Rifles proved a more immediate threat for the French artillery,
especially while they remained in formed line
At the main bridge the 32nd Foot was showing typical British steadiness against Foy's skirmishers, blocking the chausee. The skirmishers got good dice and scored 5 hits which knocked off two bases from the 32nd bringing them to 50% losses. In addition their brigade commander, Kempt, was wounded and sent to the baseline. Nevertheless the Allied infantry still held this vital point in the line for the moment.
At this time there was a stand-off all along the Gemioncourt stream
General Bachelu supervises the skirmish line just to the West of the hedge gap....
.....while General Reille takes a position where he can clearly see through it to
the 28th Foot
Tony D was by now trying a steamroller tactic through the difficult terrain of Bossu
woods to try to catch the elusive Nassau opposition
5.00 pm
We were now up to Move 12 and after the previous relatively low key moves this one proved packed full of incidents.

A lot was happening with Graham's aggressive right hook from the French flank. The defiant Hanoverian Landwehr brigade now formed a solid line facing East and their fire saw off  one of Bouge's battalions - the 1/61st Ligne, and also halted the charge of the 6th Chasseurs, bringing its 1st Wing to 50% strength. On the other hand the Munden Landwehr Battalion was brought to 50% by an attack from part of the 1st Chasseurs a Cheval; the other wing of the 1st engaged in a needle match with the Belgian 5th Light Dragoons, not yet having any conclusive result.
At right the 1/61st Ligne is engaging in a firefight with the Landwehr, which they would lose. 6th Chasseurs are suffering too, but at the left the 1st Chasseurs have pushed back Munden Landwehr
Along Gemioncourt stream the 28th Foot moved up to plug the hedge gap and beat back French opponents on the far bank with their musketry.

Bernard of Saxe -Weimar was severely wounded by artillery fire while trying to inspire the 28th Orange-Nassau infantry but without his influence the fire from French skirmishers and guns forced them back from the stream.

One of Kevin's chance cards messed up the Allies again! The four British battalions of Kempt's brigade, presumably seeking revenge for the wounding of their leader, had to make a compulsory advance as they were now under Picton's direct leadership.
32nd Foot already at 50%, before.......
....and after the card!
This was the undoing of the severely depleted 32nd Foot who were destroyed in their glorious but impetuous charge across Gemioncourt stream.  In the nearest part of Bossu woods the 95th Rifles were also victims of the chance card, and a serious clash took place when their advance brought them in range of a charge from 1/100th Ligne.

On the wrong end of Foy and Jerome's steamroller, the 95th can be seen at the far side of Bossu woods

Rather more prosaically Richard, as the Prince of Orange, ordered the newly arrived elite Brunswick Advanced Guard battalion down the right flank road into the heart of Bossu Woods to reinforce Van Bylandt's Nassau and DB infantry who were being sorely pressed off-field by the 1st Legere.

In the French rear area Kellerman arrived along the chausee leading Guiton's brigade of Cuirassier, a very welcome reinforcement given the consistent failure of the French Lancers over the previous 3 hours fighting.

The front of the Cuirassiers' column near Delsot Farm
But the cavalry imbalance was partially redressed with Brunswick Hussars and and Lancers appearing just East of La Bergerie.

The French Lancers reform once again
The heavy battery still gives good supporting fire

5.15 pm
The French right flank cavalry carried on with their momentum, each regiment operating in two wings enabled continuous attack possibilities as long as their luck and strength held. this time the 1st Chasseurs attacked the 92nd Highlanders and the 6th attacked the Hanoverian Osterode Landwehr battalion.
My photos don't easily match the fast moving action of the French right hook. This one appears to show Munden under attack by 1st Chasseurs and a wing of 6th Chasseurs about to give way under 50% so the other wing can attack Osterode 
Munden rout and 1st Chasseurs confronts the 92nd Highlanders
Elsewhere casualties were making both sides cautious. The 1st Regiment of Foot advanced towards Bossu Woods and so the 2/100th Ligne thought their safest option was to voluntarily withdraw within the safety of the trees.
Above and below: Foy's and Jerome's battalions are filling Bossu Woods on-table
 but it is hard to break out with the 1st Foot looking menacing. Tony and Roy prefer
 to let artillery and skirmishers do the hard work

A general view of the Allied right flank. 1st Foot astride the road adjacent to the woods and Nassau elite Companies still sustain their skirmish capability at the bottom right of the photo. By the main bridge some tactical realignment is taking place.
A close up of Kevin's Perry Nassau Elite company figures fighting Tony D's
"classic" French Legere
At the main bridge over Gemioncourt stream the Cameron Highlanders made a tactical withdrawal to help consolidate the line and also open up a field of fire for the British and Brunswick artillery. The latter had just arrived and were now setting up on the low ridge overlooking the stream.
Overall view in the centre
Close up of the Cameron Highlanders making a tactical withdrawal
A general view of the French right hook attack. The nearest two lines are French facing two battalions of Hanoverian Landwehr, then 1st Chasseurs attacking the 92nd Highlanders. Beyond them Tony W. has alternated his withdrawing DB cavalry with newly arrived Brunswick infantry and cavalry to make a formidable looking defence.
For their part the French had established a good gun line on the ridge alongside
Gemioncourt Farm ......
....but had relatively little artillery support for the right hook.
The advance was so swift the "extra bit" of terrain is practically empty now
Kellerman's cuirassiers level with the artillery position by now

5.30 pm

My notes appear to have given out at this point, probably because game time was matching real time on Sunday evening and the players faced journeys. I wrote "Move 14 - a lull with just skirmishing".
You can see from these overall photos that there was mutual pulling back and reforming so I was not far wrong.
Graham's French right hook has made good going to get a foothold on the table but now has to reform and take stock of the situation
The area round upper Gemioncourt stream has cleared. Allies are consolidating very good artillery positions but Tony D's most advanced French are in the near part of Bossu Wood at the extreme right.
View of the French centre - some infantry by now a bit battered, Lancers reduced in strength but still viable, artillery well placed and a formidable brigade of Cuirassiers awaiting their chance to deploy

The buzz round the table was now about winding up the first half of the QB refight and totting up the scores for this game.

If you wish, take another look at the briefs here QB Refight briefs and you will see the break down of Victory points required. 6 Allied Units had been destroyed and only two French - that was pretty much as we had hoped by this stage. But VPs for terrain were more problematic since the dividing line was more or less North and South of the 2 foot lateral running South of Bati St Bernard. The Allies still had units on the offensive side of this line in the centre but the French had made considerable gains on either flank - in Bossu Woods and near Haut Cense Farm/Materne Lake; they also had taken two bridges and Gemioncourt and Lairalle, so it was tight.

My off table map at Move 14 shows the 1st Legere successfully pressing the Allied infantry in West Bossu Woods, the success so far of the French right hook near Haut Cense Farm, and the Guard Lancers and artillery still holding their position in reserve with no losses (Napoleon will be happy!)
After a recount (encouraged by me!) and shifting the goalposts to a slightly more logical width, Kevin made it French 40, Allies 38 - a draw on his terms. So QB Part 1 was a very marginal "victory" for the French players but they had gained good advantages to set us off for QB Part Two.

Here is Kevin's detailed summary:
Firstly, thank you to all the players for taking the time to come to the crazy 1:20 Quatre Bras game and for those who created units for the game, with special thanks to James, Tony and Chris. Best wishes to James who couldn't make it in the end but provided so many magnificent figures. Big thanks to Chris for the terrific terrain 'art installation' and continuing to improve the ruleset which is working very pleasantly. It is very much appreciated as without you guys I can't get 'a game on'. I  get the impression that gamers enjoyed their time which is obviously the main aim. That makes me happy too!
Following detailed analysis, map drawing and reviewing the gratefully received C-in-C notes on unit strengths etc I can now conclude a result.......of sorts!
As with all these points system games the results are never a happy one for one or the other of the adversaries. Please review the accumulated points in the attached document with the following points in mind that I have followed since the points were calculated at Chris's.
The result is actually a lot closer than I originally calculated 

Some Participant comments
By Tony Dillon (Ney and Foy and Lancers)
Hi Chris
Just a quick note to thank you for the weekend. Your terrain looked excellent and made the game all the more enjoyable. You clearly have a talent for building landscapes that are visually appealing while still remaining functional in terms of game  play.
A good group of players again which made the whole experience challenging but enjoyable.
Well done

Hi Kevin
I had originally ordered Graham to clear the hedge line with his engineers and then pass through with his infantry. He did this on one occasion only, where he was bested by the unit on the other bank. This discouraged me from pursuing this tactic so I ordered him to line the bank with skirmishers and engage in a firefight instead.
On my flank  Richard charged across with his Cornwall regiment but was blown away before he could close. I had only one column that closed with the enemy and they lost when I threw snake eyes.
My lancers didn't inflict any casualties at all! And only one Allied unit formed square on my flank.
My columns advancing through the Bossu woods on table were more successful as they charged several times forcing the Nassau skirmishers back and routing the 95th rifles off the table before they could have any effect.
A good scrap with lots going on. You did well to umpire such a complex scenario.

Marshal Ney is happy with the final verdict and would like to make it known that due to his intercession regarding the allied artillery losses that Chris is his new best friend!
It was a hard fought contest throughout and every move was crucial to both sides. The Allies ably led by Richard were handled well and slowed down the French juggernaut successfully. He was well supported by Tony (the quieter one!) on the Sunday who fended off the reinvigorated Graham who became battle mad in the final moves.
Ney and Foy were encouraged by Roy to continue the push forward on the left and his magnificent handling of the artillery was a big factor in the final tally of casualties.
Well done to all involved. 
Looking forward to the next one!

Bossu woods packed (too full!) with French battalions.
We will sort this out for next time and make sure there is still room for trees.
A view of the Allied "interior lines". Highlanders withdrawing voluntarily and DB infantry and Brunswick artillery withdrawing from losses
By Richard (Prince of Orange - overall commander then later shared with Wellington)
Dear Kevin,
Firstly, thank you for a great game. You put in a huge amount of effort in organising it and then sorting out the troops. I thought it went well as a game, and we soon speeded up with the moves. The only disappointment was that after the first two or three moves so much of the terrain was unused as the French had passed through it. However, this was inevitable as the Allies were bound to be pushed back by overwhelming numbers at the beginning.
I have just been looking at Chris’ photos, and musing about what I should have done differently. I think I was right to sacrifice the guns at the beginning, had I not done so I would not have been able to get the newly arrived Dutch-Belgians into position. I was right to put them in front of the stream as it meant I could put a second line behind it. I was disappointed that Gemioncourt fell so quickly, especially as it as worth 4 points. I made a mistake in not sending the 95th Rifles off the board to the right to push the French back in the woods. I wanted to send the Dutch Belgian cavalry off the board on the left to keep the French back, but I had to use them to back up the infantry on the stream in case the French engineers became more vigorous than they did.

And as it's my blog I have to have the last word!
Kevin refers to the "madness" and he is right but then all serious wargamers have to be a bit mad to achieve big goals. This followed on from our Waterloo "madness" in 2015 but is even worse as the aim is bigger in the sense that we want to game the full Quatre Bras experience and we are only half way there yet!

Reading my two accounts covering two days of playing time and about 3.5 hours of historical time you would be forgiven in thinking the game only moved slowly. However that is exactly what we wanted. Not the mad rush of most historical games so we ignore the "fringe" bits, not the frantic scramble to engage every unit to the utmost, but prior development of play testing so when we did it we got it as near right as possible. We wanted to ensure that the colourful Dutch-Belgian and Nassau troops, and the austere Brunswickers, got the wargame treatment they deserve, and which is often overlooked by wargamers either glorifying the elan of the French or celebrating the stoicism of the British. I think we are getting there and my thanks go to Kevin for getting the detail so right and to listening to (most of) my advice! Particularly thanks to the players. who played it cool a lot of the time (even Tony D), but also went at it with a will when advantage loomed, so we got a good ebb and flow of fortune, and alternate sighs of frustration with grins of pleasure.

A great weekend, and we hope this set of players plus a few more, will participate in Quatre Bras Part Two scheduled for mid April 2018, invitations will be sent shortly.

Retiring Hanoverian Landwehr mess up the Brunswick Corps' deployment zone!


  1. Utterly stupendous. Loving it. I have never been a massive late Napoleonic gamer prefering the FRW and the early empire years. This is mouth wateringly tempting! No Colin. Do you sculpt your tables for each game? Great looking terrain. Were you using Rank and File?

  2. Hi Colin. Thanks for your appreciation. Yes we have been developing our own variation on Rank and File for the last 18 months leading up to this. One big improvement is that Kevin has worked out Firing, Melee and Morale values for every battalion/wing sized unit, which has enabled us to go for overall game balance between larger, but raw, units against smaller veteran ones in every tactical aspect. No I only sculpt the big games as custom terrain, but I do hand craft every game to try to get the terrain features to blend as much as possible. That often involves repainting and retexturing bits between games. Hence I only have a handful of games per year, not like you! Still got a backlog of three 18th Century ones to blog though!

  3. Chris it is always a delight when you update your wonderful blog and today was no exception at all. What an extra special read and the quality of photos, figures and terrain is top, top shelf. I very much like your touch of including some of your fellow gamers comments on the entry as well since it always provides an additional insight into what players were thinking at the time. Very, very enjoyable. Now, a fresh cup of coffee and time to expand all your wonderful photographs to take in some more of the intricate details of your sensational looking game.

    1. Thanks Carlo. This was the first part of a special game, with a project team. James was ill at the last minute and luckily Richard brought all his figures (about 40% of the allies!) so we were keen after the event to share our thoughts on line, particularly with James. That meant I had access to quite a lot of emails of which these extracts are the most useful. The main man, Kevin, has worked hard already to encapsulate the essence of where we finished this so we've planned a lot of the start for QB2 already and will "unpack it" in the new year to start again!

  4. An excellent post that reflects the quality of the game. Terrific. It looks good, it reads like a great game and it is something we all aspire to I think. well done to all.

    1. Thank you Paul, praise indeed from a man with your wargaming track record, cheers

  5. Awesome report and wonderful photos Chris! Very impressive terrain and figures too.

    1. And thanks again Rodger for your inspirational help with Rank and File.

  6. Chris as usual an excellent write up and a real treat to see all these lovely figures
    Once again I am astonished by how much detail you put into these games
    Very well done indeed

    1. Thanks Kerry, the detail in the orbat and game play is down to Kevin and to me on the terrain.

  7. Staggering set up. Always been my favourite Napoleonic battle and to see it done in such a way is a real treat.

    1. Thank you Legatus. It is a very satisfying way to refight history.

  8. An excellent display of modelling and war-gaming, thanks for sharing Chris.

    Willz H

  9. Hi Chris, many thanks for the sterling effort on the blog report which really brings to life the excitement of the game. As umpire I found it enjoyable too as it is a culmination of many many months, weeks, days and hours painting, researching,game/ rules testing and organising the choreography of troop arrivals with historic accuracy. A true delight to do but most importantly a game can only be won for an umpire if it was enjoyed! This appears evident from player's comments and what's more with the second part of the game to come there is everything to play for! More fun for all on the way I hope! !!! April here we come!

    1. Kevin, thanks for commenting on the blog even though we have corresponded a lot since the game. Time to thank you publicly for making it happen and I am looking forward to making the terrain for Part Two which will include those Four Arms in person! (which is number I could do with the sculpt the terrain!

  10. Murdock, Geordie and Willz thank you for visiting and adding your thoughts!