Individual player accounts from the French side...
#1 A Tale of Three Generals in the Service of the Emperor… by Dan Buckley
Generals Gèrard and Vandamme had an opportunity to recount their day’s events at the evening campfire of June 15, 1815. Exelmann’s II Cavalry Corps, Gerard’s IV Corps, and Kellerman’s III Cavalry Corps fought all day between Charleroi and Ligny against Ziethen’s I Corps, reinforced by Bulow’s IV Corps, while Vandamme’s III Corps contacted Thielmann’s III Corps and eventually engaged the rest of the Prussian army.
By our accounts, the combined French losses included two infantry, two cavalry, and three artillery units dispersed beyond rallying, while the Prussian losses included eight infantry, seven cavalry and two artillery dispersed beyond rallying. The Emperor’s orders to engage and lock down the Prussian army were successfully carried out, and while the Prussian army was not defeated, we gave far better than we received, considering the forces involved (representing 39,500 French with 92 guns against 84,000 Prussians with ~304 guns).
French Forces at Start: All the French forces that engaged the Prussians started around Phillipeville. The order of march was IIc, IV, IIIc, and III corps, heading north to Charleroi via Lanuffe. Standing orders were to advance to Ligny and engage any enemy encountered to hold in place and defeat it if practical. Gèrard interprets this order as PROBE.
Turn 1: IIc entered Charleroi, finding Ziethen’s I Corps west of Ligny, halfway to Charleroi. The Prussians deployed for battle, forming their 12-13 infantry, 6-7 artillery, and 4 cavalry units in a broad arc. The Prussian southern flank was anchored against the Sambre, while the northern flank consisted of three cavalry and two 12 Pdr batteries on a hill east of Quatre Bras. Most of the Prussian infantry were in squares, in response to the arrival of IIc’s four dragoon units and a single horse battery.
The rest of the French queued up along the road, south of Charleroi.
Turn 2: Gèrard’s IV corps entered Charleroi, sending three infantry and one artillery east of the town, and four infantry, one artillery, and two cavalry units north of the town towards Quatre Bras. Exelmann’s IIc deployed north of Charleroi. The Prussian 12 Pdr. artillery tried to discomfort the French dragoons, but they deployed unmolested. Kellerman’s IIIc follows IV corps into Charleroi. Vandamme’s III corps receives new orders and turns east at Phillipeville. The Prussians make only modest adjustments to their deployment, firing only the 12 Pdr guns.
Turn 3: Gèrard’s artillery fails to dislodge a Prussian infantry present in the woods east of Charleroi, so he sends in two infantry units to attack and destroys a Landwehr unit. The other half of the IV corps continues to advance to Quatre Bras. The light cavalry swing east after reaching the town to try to outflank the Prussian battleline. Kellerman’s IIIc follows the IV corps to Quatre Bras. Exelmann’s IIc horse artillery engages the Prussian artillery, but the 12 Pdrs start to bother the dragoons, so he commits one unit of dragoons against a unit of uhlans. The melee lasts the full three rounds before the uhlans are driven off. The Prussians send a second infantry unit into the woods east of Charleroi and start to advance their 6 Pdr batteries closer to the French near Charleroi. The 12 Pdrs start to drive off some of the French dragoons. The Prussian cavalry observe that the French cavalry are trying to outflank them, and one of them tries a bold charge against the leading French infantry moving to Quatre Bras, the Legere form a hasty square and easily drive off the Prussian cavalry. An English column of at least 8 infantry units under Picton appears west of Quatre Bras. Blucher arrives on the battlefield from Namur to see the developing battle for himself.
Turn 4: Gèrard’s infantry in the woods east of Charleroi attack and destroy the new Prussian infantry unit that moved in last turn. The French foot battery starts an uneven duel against three Prussian batteries on the road to Ligny. Gèrard peels off one cavalry unit to stare down the English, while the hussars continues to swing north around the woods, getting behind the Prussian flank into an open area northwest of Ligny. Kellerman’s IIIc attacks Prussian light cavalry at the north end of the battleline, destroying it, and sends two units to follow the IV corps hussars that is flanking the Prussian line. The Prussian artillery redeploys to its rear to try to avoid being outflanked, and still discomfort Exelmann’s dragoons, driving one back to Charleroi. Ziethen starts to deploy a second line northwest of Ligny with one battery facing west to face the threat of Gèrard’s flanking hussars. Picton’s infantry forms square and modestly advances. Blucher leaves the battlefield on the road to Namur.
Turn 5: Gèrard’s infantry in the woods by Charleroi hold position, facing three Prussian infantry and one cavalry unit in the fields east of the woods, with three 6 Pdr batteries north of the woods, which becomes a static front for the rest of the day. The French light cavalry stalling the English pull back to north of Quatre Bras. French infantry occupy Quatre Bras with artillery support, facing west towards the English. The IV and IIIc cavalry continue to outflank the Prussian battleline and a wedge-shaped salient starts to form. Ziethen tries to redeploy his batteries and anchor the “wedge” against the second line. Wellington appears, looking for Blucher, expressing disgust when he realizes he is not present. Picton’s troops about face and go back to the deployment zone, preparing to leave the battlefield, but far to the east are Prussian reinforcements: the leading cavalry of Bulow’s IV corps.
Turn 6: The Prussians continue to try to improve their “wedge”, but the slow movement of the squares and artillery leave the “wedge” crowded. Picton and Wellington leave. Bulow moves towards the French cavalry northwest of Legny, but is still quite a distance away. French IV and IIIc cavalry continue their outflanking maneuver and threaten Ligny from the northwest. The French occupy the hill abandoned by the retiring Prussians.
Turn 7: The Prussians form a line west of Ligny with a cavalry unit, battery and square on the “corner” of the line. The Prussian artillery has no impact on the flanking French cavalry, but batteries facing south fare better, driving French infantry and a foot battery near Charleroi back a little bit. The French move second, and Gèrard signals a massed attack from the northwest, west, and southwest, hoping for success – and if the French win the next initiative, some advantages may be realized. IV corps’ two cavalry units charge a Prussian cavalry unit (nicknamed the “yellow jackets”) and a 6 Pdr battery, and a Legere units attacks a Prussian square; one of IIIc’s cuirassier units attacks a 12 Pdr battery, and a dragoon unit from IIc attacks a 12 Pdr battery. The Prussian cavalry north of Ligny is destroyed, as is the 6 Pdr battery. The Prussian square is destroyed. The cuirassiers and dragoons fail to close on the 12 Pdr batteries.
Turn 8: The French win the initiative and Gèrard presses the attack, knowing that Bulow’s cavalry will be able to flank charge the French cavalry on their half of the turn, regardless if the attacks are successful or not. IV corps light cavalry flank charge a Prussian cuirassier unit, and a Line unit attacks a Prussian square from the woods north of the hill. IIc dragoons flank charge a 12 Pdr battery. All three attacks are successful, destroying the Prussian cuirassiers and 12 Pdr battery, while the square is driven off in panic, sweeping another battery and square away with it. Bulow’s uhlans flank charge the IV corps hussars, but the hussars beat off the uhlans with a lucky roll. Ziethen pulled back his damaged units to try to get them 12” away from all enemy to prepare to rally them. The “wedge” no longer exists, so the battleline bends to anchor on Ligny itself. The remaining Prussian batteries are not idle, and drive off the French infantry.
Turn 9: The Prussians win initiative, so now they enjoy a double-turn. A fresh Prussian hussar unit flank-attacks the IV corps hussars, beating them up and sending them packing in panic. The IV corps dragoons remain bold, facing down infantry and artillery fire, but they are over-extended with three Prussian cavalry units present to their flank and infantry and artillery newly reformed to their front, so they retrograde towards the cuirassiers. The cuirassiers engage the fresh Prussian cavalry and destroy all three of them. The last Prussian cavalry unit of Ziethen’s corps is also driven back in panic.
Turn 10: The Prussians have only one cavalry unit on the battlefield in a panicked state. Ziethen has successfully reformed his battleline with three intact batteries and at least 6 infantry in good shape, shielding the damaged units from further harm. Bulow’s infantry approaches Ligny, but have no cavalry left, although the six batteries will be an effective deterrent to any further French attacks today. The French back off to reform their own line and bring up their own artillery, destroying a Prussian square.
Turn 11: Bulow slowly advances his batteries and infantry. Ziethen does some minor adjustments. The lines are now about 8-9” apart. The French have a significant number of battered units, and although there are some fresh units in the front lines, it’s clear that these will be insufficient to continue the attack without great risk.
The time is now 4:30 PM. Bulow has at least 6 batteries and 12 infantry east of Ligny. Ziethen has six intact infantry and three intact batteries, with one battered cavalry unit, one battered battery, one battered infantry. Gèrard’s IV corps has not lost a unit, but the hussars, Legere, one battery, and two line units are battered. Exelmann’s IIc lost one dragoon unit, with only one of three dragoon units undamaged. Kellerman’s IIIc lost no units, but has two undamaged cuirassier units, an undamaged battery, and two damaged cuirassiers.
What the players did right and what they did wrong:
I had a little Fire & Fury on my mind at the start, and the French didn’t fire their artillery after moving them during the first two turns, but that was cleared up after checking the rules.
We treated the French dragoons as heavy cavalry the first two turns, then after inquiring about Prussian cavalry that looked liked dragoons, James indicated that for simplicity, all dragoons were considered light cavalry.
We failed to melee that squares only fight with one stand versus opposing infantry, so all the column vs square attacks were incorrectly resolved as 2 stands vs 2 stands.
The Veteran* was treated as Elite correctly for the melees in the woods, but was incorrectly treated as Elite when charging out of the woods.
We remembered to apply modifiers for shooting about halfway through the game (when it started to apply).
We remembered Command Radius (most of the time).
Fire was straightforward. I reminded players that instead of spending half a move to change the facing of artillery, that they could spend 1/3 to limber, move up to 1/3, and unlimber in any direction (and still fire).
Melees were resolved one at a time with both sides paying attention to the modifiers. We gave a winning attacker the option to occupy the position the displaced defender had occupied, but no further.
The “overlap” rule in melee appeared to work. We asked what happens to an overlap unit when their side loses the melee, and the response was “nothing” – which was the conclusion we were reaching.
None of the leaders on either side attached to a melee, being too busy trying to rally the faint-hearted or keep as much of their troops in command.
#2 Waterloo ala Vandamme
by Russ Lockwood
In a mansion at Beaumont, the diminutive Emperor emerged from his inner sanctum to address the assembly of marshals and senior officers. "You have all received your initial orders?"
Napoleon, at left, with a pair of corp commanders. Beaumont is the white building. III Corp (Vandamme) will head east towards the upper right corner. Everyone else, to the left towards Mons.
An affirmative murmur rippled through the crowd.
General Dominique Joseph René Vandamme, Count of Unseburg, did not know Napoleon's orders for the other marshals of France, but his orders sent him through Phillipeville, Laneffe, and Charleroi, seeking to find and pin the Prussians. He had previously asked the Emperor about making sure the northwest road to Mons was defended against any sneak attack. Napoleon had assured him it was. Now he saw five corps around Beaumont, his to the east of the town and all aligned on the road to Phillipeville.
That's when the Emperor lit off an explosion of concern with a strategic shift in direction. Napoleon had originally projected a northeasterly route of march for the five corps towards Brussels. Now, he changed the route of march to a northwesterly direction towards Mons, Ghent, and the vulnerable Channel ports that supplied the English army.
III Corp would head east off top of photo. The rest head to Mons via bottom left.
Napoleon sidled up to Vandamme. "General, I want you to follow these five corps to Mons."
Vandamme looked down at his map. The Prussians were to the east and northeast around Namur, Liege, Ciney, and Ligny. Vandamme shook his head. "Emperor, the center will not hold. You need my corp in the middle to hold the flank against the Prussians and prevent any disruption to your plans."
Napoleon considered the suggestion.
Vandamme stabbed a finger on the bridges over the River Sambre. "The traffic jam at the bridges will be bad enough with five corps. At Mons it will be worse. I am the sixth and last corp in line and will likely clog up the rear areas instead of pounding the enemy. L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace."
The Emperor, unused to his plans being questioned, much less fed his own quotation, fixed his general with an Imperial stare. "General, it is good you do not have a brother. If I had two of you, I'd have to hang one."
"So you have reminded me on more than one occasion."
Napoleon continued to ponder for a moment more. "Very well, Count, take your corp to Charleroi. Support Gerard and his IV Corps."
"It will be done, mon Emperor."
Napoleon began to exit, then paused. "If I was attacking Lucifer in Hell, I would put you in the vanguard."
Before the Emperor left, Reille called for three cheers for the Emperor.
Vandamme couldn't help himself. "Three? Only three cheers?"
The Emperor shook his head and disappeared out the door.
Snappy Nappy: Waterloo Campaign in a Day
Peter set up a fantastic 200th Anniversary Waterloo Campaign in a Day using the Snappy Nappy rules at Time Machine Hobby in Manchester, CT, on Sunday, April 26 -- close enough to the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.
Set up gets a bit chaotic when you have 20 players and 11 tables.
The 20 players (although I believe there was a last-minute walk-on or two) and three umpires made it a fun afternoon across 11 tables from 11am to 5pm.
That's right, 11 4x6-foot tables. You have no idea what's on the other side of a river (the usual dividing terrain) because Snappy Nappy takes away the helicopter view. Better yet, the terrain on one table is not adjacent to the next table -- you might have to move two tables down. That also helps diminish the helicopter view of miniatures battles. Going across a bridge into the unknown provides a special brand of wargaming anxiety...
About Snappy Nappy
In the interests of full disclosure, I wrote the original rules back in the early 1990s, spent years running multi-player games in my basement, at Origins 95, and at various HMGS cons, and then On Military Matters published Snappy Nappy in 2009.
Snappy Nappy - well worth purchasing a copy if these write ups interest you - Peter
Those of you with access to MWAN #78 can read about a different Waterloo campaign in a day from way back then. While you can certainly play on a two feet by two feet sized table with 15mm, Snappy Nappy is meant for big, multi-table battles, where two stands make up an infantry or cavalry brigade -- roughly 2000 men per stand for infantry and 750 for cavalry -- and one artillery stand equals 24 guns. The numbers are not hard and fast, but a general guide to help you create a corp per player.
The rules mechanics are straightforward, simple to pick up, and induce movement and activity (really, they are pretty snappy, but I am biased). It's main claim to rules mechanics fame is that when a unit is hit, it rolls against its morale (a standard save roll), and if passed, nothing happens, but if failed, the unit drops a level (and mostly suffers a retreat) and then rolls against morale again -- and continues to roll against morale until it either passes or routs off the table.
Reserves are important because Snappy Nappy bypasses the turn-after-turn grinding nature of most Napoleonic rules and creates breaches, breakthroughs, and opportunities.
Peter also runs a great blog: blundersonthedanube.blogspot.com that has the full OOB (in Snappy Nappy terms) and all 11 table maps. I told you this was a fantastic game. You can also pull up the other Snappy Nappy battles he hosted, including one at Havoc earlier this year and an 1813 Campaign in a Day (also held at Time Machine) from 2013.
You can learn more about Snappy Nappy from a great Yahoo group run by Alan. Lots of info, including scenarios, variants for Franco-Prussian War, errata, and more. Great group.
In this write-up, 1 hour equals 1 turn.
About Time Machine
Also, let me lead a round of applause for Ken at Time Machine Hobby a few miles outside of Hartford, CT. He runs a great game and hobby shop housed in a large, old brick building once used (I guess) for manufacturing and now converted into retail space.
Set up continues…
TM includes a floor full of train and doll items as well as floors for RPG, wargaming, card, toy, and other sections. My guess is that the store is about 50 feet wide by 250 feet deep per floor and there are three of them. Go visit its website for directions and other information.
The actual game took place across the street in The Portal -- another building the store owns. The miniatures area is now an enclosed room separate from the open area containing rows of tables for card players, etc. It even has a snack bar. New construction. Well lit. Friendly staff. Well stocked.
On that Sunday afternoon, in addition to the 20 Waterloo players (as seen in Peter's photos) and a number of onlookers, there were about 50 or so card players. Hoppin' place.
Many thanks for making the space available. Although most of you are not specifically near Hartford, CT, I'll put in a general word to support your favorite local game store.
Now, back to the battle...
March to Contact
Vandamme's IIIrd Corp headed over the Heure River, a minor branch of the Sambre River, and ran smack into a traffic jam. IV Corp was stretched from Laneffe to Phillipeville -- slowed in its march over the Sambre because the Cavalry Corps had to clear over the same bridge into Charleroi.
Starting positions. Map is from Columbia block game Napoleon. Notice all the French corps at Beaumont.
Vandamme peeled some units out of march just in case Prussians showed up. Paranoid, perhaps, but with nothing to do but wait and no updated scouting report, prudence seemed a better course of action.
Gerard (left) watching his troops head from Phillipeville (foreground) through Laneffe and off table north towards Charleroi. A French cavalry corp also heads north. III Corp (Vandamme) is just entering table from left and into Phillipeville. At back, Scott (center) would lead a cavalry division onto the table, as Mark (right) commands all Prussians.
The traffic jam slowly made its way northward, giving Vandamme more room to maneuver. Napoleon's orders specified finding Prussians and pinning them, which Vandamme interpreted as *Screen* in Snappy Nappy parlance.
As a precaution, the one Cavalry brigade at Vandamme's disposal meandered eastward in the general direction of Givet on the River Meuse, but not too far.
In the third hour, III Corp was just reaching Laneffe and starting to cross the Thiria, little more than a stream that led into the Heure, when the Prussians showed up to the east at Fosse.
A Prussian Cavalry division arrives at Fosse (upper left) just as the French cavalry corp exits to Charleroi (lower left). Vandamme’s III Corp moves eastward to engage the Prussian cavalry.
Vandamme dutifully sent off a note to Napoleon that a cavalry division of three brigades and some horse artillery was heading west towards Laneffe along a secondary road that connected Fosse and Laneffe. Vandamme figured it was but the initial forces of a Prussian corp come to pay a visit. He swung some troops towards Fosse and Givet to protect his flank while maintaining motion towards Charleroi. Word filtered back from Gerard that Charleroi was a bottleneck and IV Corps and the French cavalry corps needed more time to make room. Just then, an aide appeared with a message from Napoleon telling Vandamme to ignore Charleroi and pin the Prussians at Fosse and Givet.
IIIrd Corp peeled off the main road and headed east, a spectacle of road march columns along primary and secondary roads, with the cavalry in between ready to assist in either direction. Artillery leapfrogged to keep the Prussian cavalry at bay. Oddly, one Prussian cavalry unit circled Fosse, mooning the French corp from the safety of a couple miles away.
For four hours, IIIrd Corp marched east, the leading elements pulling out of road march and into tactical field columns. As the two sides grew closer, the Prussian cavalry division abruptly turned to the east and left in the direction of Namur.
Which Way Did They Go, Pierre, Which Way Did They Go?
Vandamme expected a Prussian return any second and headed towards Fosse with the bulk of his corp while sending detachments towards Givet. Then he set up a defense of the Fosse to Givet line -- IIIrd Corp could just about stretch out along the entire line, but with only a single infantry brigade as a reserve. It was a precarious situation.
Vandamme waited. The Prussians were no shows. Vandamme received more missives from Napoleon to pin Prussians.
"The Empereur knows best," Vandamme muttered. He had no word about the march on Mons and only a sketchy report from Charleroi that was hours old.
Four roads led off to the east over the Meuse River. Vandamme mobilized his aides as much as he could and sent his cavalry brigade towards Namur and three infantry brigades across the Meuse along the three main roads.
Mon Dieu! Prussians to the left of me, Prussians to the right of me, and Prussians to the center of me...
James came up with an interesting mechanic for crossing tables, although it took me a while to understand exactly how it worked. He established a 'safe zone.' When you move troops onto the next table (the umpire leads you there), if the entry point is clear of enemy, you move normally, but if enemy forces are ready to pound the snot out of you, you stop in the safe zone.
In the zone, you cannot attack nor be attacked. The next time you move, you face a choice: either advance as per normal, bringing in more troops if you have them, and the safe zone goes away, -- or -- retreat back to the table you came from.
His idea is that a brigade would not blindly head into disaster without some sort of scouting going on, hence the safe zone and the choice.
The part I finally figured out (duh) was that the safe zone only lasts that initial turn. After that, all bets are off.
Clever idea and it worked well. You still get the 'choke point' effect of bridges, but you also prevent excessive casualties from blind over-the-bridge attacks.
The Chicken Crossed the River
Why did the chicken cross the Meuse?
To get to the other side.
Why did the French cross the river?
They were pinned to the chicken.
Vandamme sets up the line from Fosse (right) to Givet (left).
On the Namur side of the river, Vandamme saw two Prussian corp plus another corp at what Vandamme thought was Ligny. Post-game, Vandamme’s Ligny was really Ramilles. Cursed multi-tables! They confuse all. But at the time Vandamme was sure it was Ligny and hastily scribbled another note off to Napoleon.
Also post-game, Vandamme found out it was not three corp, but two: two players plus Blucher. Vandamme saw three players and so thought three corps. Cursed multi-player multi-tables! They confuse all.
Vandamme’s cavalry beat feet back to Fosse.
On the other side of the Meuse, one road led to Yvoit and the other two generally led to Dinant. Beyond these two towns, the roads curved to Ciney. Vandamme found two more players, hence two more corps! Post-game, it turns out the father-son team split the big Prussian corps in half, so it was only one corp, not two. Cursed multi-player multi-tables! They confuse all.
MERDE! Five corps? Vandamme found the entire Prussian army. What the heck was IV Corp and Gerard fighting? Must be the English (actually, more Prussians, but without the helicopter view, speculation was all Vandamme could do -- Cursed multi-player multi-tables! They confuse all). More to the point, what was Napoleon and his five-corps army doing at Mons? (
Vandamme dashed off another note to Napoleon with the (overstated enemy strength) news and then added an 'I told you so' that IIIrd Corps was needed in the center. (Peter's note: Napoleon's famous response to Davout's report that he was facing the bulk of the Prussian Army at Auerstadt came to mind - "Tell your Marshal he is seeing double!" This time, it was almost true, although the Prussian Corps were about 50% bigger than the French ones!)
Whatever the Prussians were doing, Vandamme took advantage of the initiative and dropped a brigade in Yvoit and another in Dinant. The third he turned around and sent back just across the river to help man the Fosse-Givet line.
The Prussians on the Ciney table did what smart players always do when they outnumber the enemy 10-1: they attack.
An hour later, the French troops at Yvoit, battered by artillery and musket fire, fled back across the Meuse.
When the Prussians arrived, they certainly arrived. Vandamme could arrange only a very thin line from Fosse (foreground) to Givet (background) and with a single infantry brigade in reserve.
Two hours later, the French troops at Dinant, battered by artillery and musket fire, fled back across the Meuse. They lasted longer only because the Prussians had to redeploy to get at 'em.
As they streamed back, Vandamme expected the Prussians to be on their heels within the hour.
Nothing. And nothing and nothing and nothing.
Vandamme rallied the troops and stuffed them back into the line. His corps sat and waited. And waited. He was starting to consider sending another little force over the river to make sure the enemy was indeed pinned when the Germanic horde from Ciney finally used their Garmin and spilled across the river.
"They're pinned for sure," Vandamme mentioned to an aide. "Whether we can keep two corps occupied for long remains to be seen."
Desultory long-range artillery fire shielded the Prussian deployment from the bridges. Vandamme transferred a brigade from Fosse towards Givet.
An hour later, a Prussian corp stormed over the bridge from Namur. Now, it was three corps on one.
In actuality, the Prussian III Corps from Ciney tallied 18 units (10 infantry [four veteran and six conscript], 4 cavalry, and 4 artillery [three 6lb, one 12lb]), versus 12 units for Vandamme's IIIrd Corps (8 infantry [seven veteran and one elite], 1 cavalry, and 3 artillery [all 6lb]). That would not be too bad, but when the additional Prussian cavalry corp showed up with 12 more units (I think -- four cavalry, four infantry, and four artillery), then it was 30 to 12 and indeed closer to three to one. Just because Vandamme was paranoid about being outnumbered doesn't mean it wasn't true.
The Sound of the Guns
The artillery duel grew in intensity as the Prussians pushed up all their batteries and began counter-battery fire. Vandamme positioned himself on the front line, rallying dispirited French artillerists to go back to their guns.
On the right flank, Prussian cavalry charged across the bridge to Givet, only to be turned back by steadfast fire from the infantry brigade tasked to hold it. That French infantry brigade would fall in and out of square as needed, although when the cavalry hit, it always refused to go into hasty square and just fired away. Give the Prussian commander Jim credit for the timing -- as pretty a maneuvering as Vandamme has even seen.
Fortuitously for Vandamme, the Prussian cavalry lost morale and retreated all times -- the fortunes of war, you understand. The Prussian infantry replaced it at times, but it too was repulsed. After all that action, the French brigade, which contained the 25th Line regiment, deserved promotion after the battle to Elite status!
In the center, the battle of artillery attrition favored the Prussians, but a combination of Vandamme's charismatic presence (+2) and some fortuitous die rolls stayed the Prussian forces.
On the left at Fosse, one cavalry charge was repulsed, and then another, until finally the third time proved a charm. The French artillery fell back and the one cavalry brigade of the IIIrd Corps routed away as Prussian infantry flanked and fired. Without support, the artillery would soon join it.
Back in the center, the other two French artillery units finally succumbed to Prussian fire. They had switched off their fire to the infantry, but apparently, forgot to load the cannon balls. Veterans? Bah! First one, then the other, was picked to pieces and routed. The center turned ugly. An aide was sent to IV Corps and Gerard to warn that IIIrd Corp was being strained to the utmost.
Le Center Recule
About this time, the 16th hour of battle according to notes, the center of Vandamme's line buckled, with Vandamme swept away with it. One brigade on the left fell back in the direction of Laneffe while another held Fosse. In the center, the one Elite brigade held its ground as Vandamme tried to rally one of the panicked brigades.
In the woods in the center right, the Legere fended off attacks, but ultimately bolted when flanked. Vandamme sent more messages about the battle back to Napoleon. Napoleon would offer words of encouragement, although one strange message arrived that suggested Vandamme chase the Prussians back to Namur and Ciney! Hard to do when your brigades are routing or panicking. No reinforcements coming, obviously.
Message in a Bottle
Messages go through one of the umpires. For mine, I always put "To: Napoleon, From Vandamme III Corp" on the outside. I also time stamp it, but given the disparity of times on various players' watches, it's more an approximation instead of an accurate measure. Historical.
Anyway, in one of the funniest moments of the game, Umpire Peter handed me a message from Napoleon...only it was my (undelivered) message *TO* Napoleon. In my finest French accent, I upbraided the aide for his illiteracy and ordered him to deliver the message again and slap himself silly for the error! (Peter's note: and I did dope slap my self several times for effect, mouthing
Shake, Shake, Shake, Shake It Off, Shake It Off
Only the far right near Givet would hold, but Vandamme gave the order to form a new defense line after obtaining a message from Napoleon to hold out as best he could. Vandamme moved the geographical objective behind the Fosse and Givet line.
The Prussian cavalry took this opportunity to charge a disrupted infantry unit that Vandamme was trying to rally. For once, the French troops formed hasty square. The cavalry crashed against the square, but the stubborn French square, encouraged by Vandamme, routed the cavalry.
That put some spirit back into the French and took away some of the bluster from the Prussians.
Only two French brigades remained in front of the Prussians in the center-left: one in Fosse and the Elite in the center. Together, they picked the prime moment to launch a last-ditch spoiling attack in an effort to stabilize the new line.
The Elites braved musketry from the nearest Prussian unit and survived to contact. The other brigade charged out of Fosse and hit another Prussian unit in the flank. Both Prussians routed. Prussian fire poured into the French survivors.
"What's this?" Vandamme noted. He then grabbed the initiative on hour 20 of the battle and sent the two French brigades into the nearest Prussian infantry. That also failed morale test after morale test. "It's the gooey center of the Prussian line -- conscripts, not veterans!"
Center, what center? The position at game end. Note the two French infantry just to the right of Fosse counterattacked and routed three Prussian infantry brigades, but only darkness saved them after 20 hours of battle.
Gooey it may be, but given enough time, the rest of the Prussians would surround and overwhelm these two brave brigades. Fortunately for Vandamme, night fell and put a stop to the battle. IIIrd Corps was in the process of withdrawing back to new line and most likely even further back to Phillipeville and Laneffe.
Under Cover of Night
The IIIrd returns came in -- all three artillery units and all one cavalry unit were lost. Of the infantry, the Elite and unnamed brigades were both Disrupted and too far forward with Prussian cavalry near. Vandamme wrote them off, likely from the cavalry putting them in square and the infantry to move in and overwhelm them. Only the darkness saved them.
Of the other six brigades, two were untouched, Bold as can be and ready for whatever the next day would bring. Three were in Panic mode, just one step above a complete Rout, and the last was Nervous. With a night's rest, Phillipeville and Laneffe being the most likely spots, most wounds would be healed, but so would Prussian wounds. The next day would need reinforcement for IIIrd Corp if it was to do more than hold these towns for a while until overwhelmed by the combined Prussian corps.
The post-game debrief: Players move Napoleon blocks on a map to show their side of the battle…and offer rosy speculation on the next day’s battles…
In the post-game debrief, Gerard of IV Corps, along with Exelmans II Cavalry Corps and Kellerman's III Cavalry Corps, held off the Prussians at Charleroi and Ligny.
Overall, Napoleon defeated the British at Mons and swept into Ghent and Brussels, sending two corps to sweep the Channel ports that supply the English (and forcing the Allied player on the overnight to remove double the number of units to counteract them).
A big thank you to all who participated, especially those that supplied the 25mm troops, the terrain makers and placers, the donut and pizza wranglers, and umpires. It was a great day for wargaming!
#3 "The Emperor has found a New Way to make War - With our feet!"
by Len Ances (1st French Corps, D'Erlon)
My initial orders via email before the game where to get to Quatre Bras and hold that area.
At the game I was instead ordered to Mons, and arrived stuck behind II Corps and I cavalry. I couldn't participate in the battle because of the traffic jam. After the English retreated off the table, I was ordered to rear guard the road from Enghien. Finding nothing coming my way I did a reconnaissance in force toward Ghent, through Enghien, which was lightly defended. Another French Corps appeared on my right and moved on Ghent (Peter's note - this was in fact the Imperial Guard!) . I had one small skirmish with a English Cavalry unit, which retreated, and then planned to move on to Brussels when I received a written order to leave the board heading West to require the English to remove 2 units for every unit I moved off the board.
A few comments on the game play:
I don't know what the victory conditions were, but taking into account the French capture of Ghent and Brussels should have been a major part.
Apparently the English player didn't understand that the roads to the West had to be protected, and as a consequence lost the game. Seems like it should have been a 1 for 1 reduction. A cheap and sneaky way to win a game, but the French would have won anyway.
After the 2nd or 3rd turn units that were on a table without enemy units could move without regard to waiting for turns to complete. While I realize that the game would have been very slow without the speeded up movement it did throw the balance of the game off.
I can't comment on the battle rules since I only had one small battle in this game.
Thanks for all the effort you and your club put into arranging this game, and although it's a long drive I would be delighted to attend another game.
Time Machine made out alright, I did wind up spending over $150 on games!
Peter: Thanks for the report and feedback, as well as your support of the ime Machine, Len!
Wellington (Joe) certainly did know about the provision for 2:1 soak off of troops for French exiting towards the channel ports. I infer that he decided to ignore it when it looked like he'd be unable to stop it, which was in part due to my not stationing some British piquets on the Mons table, and also the A-A's not hearing the announcement that we were moving to non synchronous movement after Move 2 was completed. From a practical standpoint, doing synchronous turns for more than 2 or thee turns is impractical as many players would be sitting on their hands, and broad strategic movement impossible. It actually works quite well, I think! Finally, and to his credit, Joe tried very much to play in Character as Wellington, and ignore things things that he could see as a player that he wouldn't have known about in fact as The Duke. This is especially true as he was one of the key movers of the event, doing thee of the tables and providing the bulk of the Anglo-Allied troops
Historically, Wellington was very worried about being cut off from the Chanel ports by a "manouvre sur les derrieres", and that both delayed his response to the French crossing at Charleroi, and even by Waterloo, substantial amounts of A-A troops were detached guarding his LOC.
The rule for 2:1 soak off for French troops exiting MW of Mons was an attempt on my part to force the A-A to take the possibility seriously, and plan accordingly. Since the Allies (combined) outnumbered the French roughly 3:2, a 1:1 exchange would be very unfavorable to the French, especially as the A-A army contains a substantial amount of crappy LW and Dutch-Belgian Militia. Indeed, I;d say the first French Corps to exit is pretty much a wash (or worse) because most of the A-A troops detached would be very low quality. After that, though, it would (and did) start to hurt big time!
The same could have been done using Ghent as the site triggering the 2 for 1 -0 I thought that was too far to be a realistic threat. So, if I did it again, I'd change the British set up some what so that contesting the Mons table with at least a full Corps would be easily done (and maybe add a 12th table to the West of Mons). As you may have seen, a Corps can hold out a darned long time, even against big enemy numbers - that, of course, is the point of the Corps system to begin with.
While the loss of Ghent and or Brussels would bolster the French cause and might cause the defection of some D-B troops to France, it would hardly be decisive otherwise. The Netherlands was a bit player here - it's the main allied powers that had to be beaten decisively if Napoleon was to have any chance of retaining his newly regained Imperial throne.
If I did it again (heck, I'm pretty sure we'll do another Campaign in a Day, probably be 1-2 years), I'd cut the troop numbers down. I tend to forget how small 4 x 6 foot tables are! I also like the "Bring your own Corps" format we used last time - let's people play with their own troops where possible, design their own forces, and reduces the GM work. Plus it's flexible according to the number of players attending, within reason.
#4 With Druout and the Garde Imperiale,
or "If it's Tuesday, this must be Brussels", a late Spring tour of Belgium
Snappy Nappy Waterloo Extravaganza – 26 April 2015, by Mitch Abrams
Written the day after the battle
Just south of Beaumont:
Most of the day was spent getting gear squared away. The Guard consisted of the Old, Middle Guard and Young Guard. There was six batteries of foot artillery and to support the Cavalry, there were three batteries of horse artillery. All told, a formidable force. Larger than each individual Corp of Napoleon’s Northern Army. Still, some of the talk amongst the troops were that while morale was high the troops in the Young Guard did not have the years of training in the past.
I was standing next to General Drouot when he received the orders from Napoleon. We would be following 2nd Corp and moving on Charleroi. The General looked at the orders, knowing that the Guard would not lead but be a force of decision . . . if needed. Given the last few months observation and the state of the troops compared to earlier years; that was probable. Still, the new staff that Napoleon was dealing with had some growing pains. Without Marshall Louis-Alexandre Berthier’s watchful eye there were bound to be problems. The first, quickly seen by General Drouot was that it would be impossible to come to terms with the Prussians as five Corp would be moving over the two bridges leading to Charleroi. A bottle-neck would be formed and the Prussians would either use their artillery to smash the hastily formed French infantry or move along interior lines to link up with their allies, the British. With less distance between the two forces it would be difficult to stop them from combining their armies. That would spell doom for the French empire and with that doom, each officer’s personal actions would be at question!
I saw General Drouot talking with the great man and then Napoleon, always decisive, wrote out a change of orders. His adjutants at hand, the warm breeze blow, he gave a series of quick commands and had them ride to deliver them. In short, some of the forces would move to Charleroi but the majority would move to Mons. It would not be the Prussians but the English and their Allies. The Guard would follow 1st Corp. It was a whirlwind of activity. Being in a cantonment area, it was not difficult to have the soldiers rearranged to meet the redistribution. . Had we been on the march it would have been much more difficult. At this time, no one had moved and some were still having breakfast. With the orders given, drums started beating and whistles blowing in order to get the troops in the correct march formation
West of Beaumont:
The movement is slow. The cavalry has left the road as the infantry of 1st Corp cannot move faster and the few good roads are clogged with troops. There are carts off the side of the road – broken, which can only cause problems for our troops. I cannot think that as slow as this is, the road to Charleroi would have been worse. After a few hours on the road there is firing up ahead. Our lead Corp have engaged the enemy. No one knows if they are Prussian or British. Rumors abound. Some say that they are the Light Blue coats of Prussians but the Prussians should not be anywhere near Mons. Others say they are British as we are moving towards them and that is the only thing that makes sense. We in the Guard are too far back to know and most do not care.
I move my horse past a formation of the Young Guard and see them smiling. They are ready for the fate that awaits them. Whichever army they are to meet, if the enemy survives the Corp in front of us, they will be no match for the Guard.
South of Mons:
General Drouot receives his first order from Napoleon, who is just up ahead in Mons. It is clear there are skirmish forces due north and perhaps a British Division to the Northeast. Both enemy forces do not seem to be synchronized. We are to leave the main road and move to a position in the middle, but to the rear and support either of the French Corp attacking the enemy. We are in support and it is not our time yet. Still, my horse is called upon to deliver the messages that are the heartbeat of movement for the Guard. That is the life of an aid - constant delivery of messages going to and from headquarters. No matter the weather (and today is warm but cloudy) it is critical they get delivered.
Upon arrival at the center position it is clear that there will not be a fight at this spot. The 4th Corp (at least I think it was leading) has sent the skirmishers fleeing and the British have withdrawn. It is said that the road they were on leads to Quatre Bras. All I can see from my position is French troops – no enemy. General Drouot is in a foul mood. He has no orders and cannot move forward. After a long wait a courier arrives at his headquarters. Napoleon has sent the 4th Corp to Quatre Bras. Others are following on the adjoining road network. Slowly word filters back that we have found the British main army. It is formed at Quatre Bras. Napoleon has sent three Corp there but it will take time to move all of those forces there. Meanwhile, the Guard and one, perhaps two other Corp are idle. It is at this time that General Drouot reads the message Napoleon has sent. He takes his time to take it all in. Fortunately, being an aid to the General gives me the latitude of being able to be at headquarters. Minutes later I see Napoleon’s courier riding away. General Drouot is smiling as he walks up to me. He tells me to get the lead battalion on the road north. We are to follow 1st Corp. Napoleon has let loose the troops.
The Guard moves through the town. To our right it is plainly obvious that 1st Crop has moved on Engheim. What little resistance is there (some token light cavalry) is charged by the 1st Corps Lancers and Hussars. The enemy troops are shattered and they panic. With only a few remnants of British troops in Ghent, General Drouot remarks to his staff that we should be dining there by the evening. First we will need to bring up the artillery and shell those troops but they are probably support/rear echelon troops and will not give us any trouble. Still, I overhear him give orders to have the Young Guard prepare to storm Ghent.
As we move toward Ghent, our light cavalry leading, the 1st Corp moves to the rear. A courier comes to give the news that 1st Corp has been ordered to take the road to the coast. Napoleon has information that Wellington must protect his line of communications and because of that he will dispatch the troops he has to protect that at all costs. We do not believe such folly. Surely this cannot be true. But nonetheless, the Guard will move and take Ghent alone. As we near the city we find that there are no enemy troops there. The residents say that they have been ordered to the coast. Our troops enter the city and the population is in a panic. Some of the residents have left while others can do nothing but aid us in any manner they can. We are joyful and our troops are able to dine properly. General Drouot will not have this. He sends me to the other battalions to keep on the main road and move toward Brussels. My horse is panting as I race to the lead cavalry squadrons. They are to continue towards Brussels. Only a small infantry force will be allowed in Brussels and then only for a short time. They will follow up and be the rear of the column.
On the Road to Brussels:
We are tired. While buoyed by the lack of enemy forces in front of us we are able to secure the land and all the bounty it provides. Still, this has been a lot of marching but I kid with my friend, another aid, Marcel, at least it has not been forced marches. Midway to Brussels a courier has reached our headquarters. He also is tired and his horse nearly spent. He has orders for General Drouot. They say, “Move to Brussels and take the road from Hal to Quatre Bras.” I can see General Drouot smile as he has anticipated the Emperor’s orders. Already on the way to Brussels it is clear that, “Anticipation is the key to success”.
The inhabitants are in a panic. Ghent was nothing like Brussels. They expected British troops – not French – and not the Imperial Guard! I move my horse down the main street with the Old Guard beside me and hear a man shout, “Where is Wellington? Where are the troops protecting us?” There is firing in the streets. Most of the firing is by our troops and we have no time to waste on the inhabitants of Brussels. A few hundred shots will open the way through the city. Only the truly brave or the hopelessly insane are foolish enough to stand in our way . . . and then only for a few moments. We have no time or inclination to stop – the road to Hal is a short distance away.
With two French Corp (some thirty eight (stands/units) reaching the channel ports Wellington would [be forced to] dispatch 70 plus units to maintain his lines of communications. The bottleneck at Quatre Bras and the defense of that position, wonderfully planned and maintained by Wellington did not take into consideration his supplies. Since he could not use Prussians to maintain his line of communications, he would have to send British and British Allied troops there. Sheer numbers would tell the story. The Anglo-Allied army had a total of 127 units. They sent 6 (stands) to the channel from the area around Ghent. That left them with about 70 additional stands to be sent to the channel. Eliminating 70 stands from the Quatre Bras area would leave them decimated and either require a full retreat or capitulation as three French Corp were holding their own. The Imperial Guard, were coming in on the British flank and rear. Even with the troops at hand – these would not be enough to stem the tide.
While the Prussians were fighting and in many cases winning, it was against minimal French forces. The preponderance of French forces were aligned against the Anglo-Allied army. If the Prussians were to continue against the French forces, linking the French up to fight would shift the fight to the France’s advantage. But realistically, the Prussians would not continue the fight. They would move back to Prussia as the allies had abandoned the field (or been defeated). This may have given the French the necessary time they needed to get their house in order and await the next assault . . . which was bound to come.