Thursday, 19 June 2014

Battle of Quartre Bras

Quatre Bras (fought on the 8th June 2014)

As usual Dayle and I planned a battle for B.I.G games day. As usual, we threw the scenario together with moments to spare with Dayle starting work on it the night before we played.

The order of battle quickly grabbed from Wikipedia and several slide rule calculations later we determined that we could cover this with 15mm figures, a good idea given we are still struggling to get the ranges right in our 6mm games.

With a bit of research, Dayle determined an order of reinforcement arrivals and we worked on 30min turns for timeline management.

As always we are using a “built on” rules set in Neil Thomas’s “Napoleonic Wargaming”. The main changes we have made are to lessen the domination of our Artillery units so we can field more batteries. For those that are familiar with these rules, we have modified Artillery ranges and firepower to 24cm short range with 1-3 shots, 48cm long with 1 shot. Other changes are with the saving throws for infantry vs. Cavalry so as to encourage the formation of squares and lessen the effectiveness of Line formations in the face of Cavalry charges.

Setup (13:00)

We start at 1pm, 16th June 1815, the Dutch Belgium 2nd Division has the two ridgelines dominating the centre of the field. With overwhelming French forces advancing on them I planned to do what I could to slow the advance until help arrived, 5 nervous turns later….

You can’t see the ridges to well form this shots.

Turn 1 (13:00)

The French opening moves are as expected, however unwelcome  My major concern was the 2nd Cavalry Division would move on my right flank, but heading to my left means I can bottle neck him at the river crossing, a relief but with only one Infantry brigade to hold it, I may need to use the horse battery, detracting from the much needed fire support for the 1st Brig.

At least the French artillery have not yet deployed… Small mercies

Just to let the French know the 2nd Netherlands Division wasn't going anywhere a solid volley of fire rained down on the advancing Light troops in the centre.

Turn 2 (13:30)

French Infantry are forming into lines, effective at bring fire to bear which from experience with these rules the most effective way to dislodge Infantry in towns, but reduces movement and thus works well into my plans.

Seeing that my right will have time to respond, I decide to commit some of the reinforcements, yet to arrive, to protect that approach and move my 2nd Brig. 2nd Netherlands Division to hold the left, sending them racing to the river crossing to protect my artillery positions.

With cannon ranged in my batteries open fire at long to support the flanks.

Lights in the woods cause minor casualties on the approaching Infantry, paying little mind to the flanking troops.

All the while the 1st Brigade continues to land the hits on the advancing Infantry.

Turn 3 (14:00)

First of a correction, British troops cannot form Attack Columns, so I change my 2nd Brig to column of route, only to form line by the end of the turn.

Doing the math I see the 2nd Brig will not make it to block the crossing so form line with them so that I can fire on the approaching Cavalry as they cross. I didn’t want the cavalry to be deterred as I knew that in 2 more turns I would have the cavalry support to take out one or both of these cavalry, so I didn’t form square, yet…. Then the horse artillery on the ridge behind them sounded a solid warning shot through the chest of a lead Cuirassier, good day sir!

My good shooting seemed to continue with 1st Brig scoring full hits, devastating the French brigade before them, with a failed morale roll, even a reroll!!! 2 stands down. A cheer went up at the sight of so many French backpacks in view. It wasn’t to last long as the French guns replied the insult with a barrage on the troops unable to find cover in time, casualties were light but a wakeup call to all.

The lights in the wood were starting to feel the heat, they needed to get into a better position and soon… managing to return fire with less effect than desired and they prepared to move.

Turn 4 (14:30)

Devastating fire comes in from two sides crippling the Light Brigade and seriously jeopardizing the right flank. With them gone the flank will open up, so they slip through the woods towards the centre to limit the fire they are taking.

2nd Brig form square, needing an entire turn to perform the maneuver we needed to do it now, I need to hold this position so Luitenant-Generaal Baron Perponcher takes up position within the square. This gives a bonus +1 to morale rolls, effectively making them Elite troops. The Cavalry are crossing the stream…
Exchange of fire from the farm continues, 1st Brigade is still looking strong. I hope the 5th will get here on time.

Turn 5 (15:00)

Reinforcements arrive moving to repeal the French cavalry, 1st Brigade 5th Division sent to hold the right flank for when the lights loose the woods.

The Dutch Jäger were in serious trouble, retreating further into the woods to take on a more harassing role, they are set upon by the 4th Light Regiment from the 9th Division which had been charged with taking the woods. Losing another stand, leaving them 1.

Picton positioned his cavalry to mutually support each other by opening the flank of the enemy if either was charged. The infantry and artillery was sent to hold the centre.

Under a hail of artillery and musket fire the 1st Dutch Brigade had to pull back or be overrun. With the arrival of Jerome’s 6th Division the farm would now fall, but their mission was accomplished, holding up 3 Brigades of Infantry and 2 batteries for two and a half hours.

Turn 6 (15:30)

A flurry of action on the left wing with the 6th Chesseurs charging the 3rd Dutch Light Cavalry Brigade, counter charged in the flank by the Brunswick Hussars. The Lancer brigade dips there spear tips at the Dutch square to see if they can break it.

Very heavy casualties to all parties with the only brigade to come out of the hand to hand fighting ok is the Dutch square. The game mechanics give a full 4 stand brigade in square, charged by cavalry a 2+ saving roll for any hand to hand hit. The lancers with 4 dice per stand (the best hand to hand unit) seemed to be the best way to see if cavalry could break a full square in these rule. Defensive fire had scored a full 4 hits taking a stand from their numbers, morale still in check they still kept coming. An amazing 11 hits from 12 dice had things looking very bad for the Dutch. With a 2+ save though it was bound to get better. 11 hits turned to 1 as the ranks moved to support each other. The Lancers withdrew after taking 1 hit from hand to hand, losing due to the defender being in square.

The allied cavalry were not performing as I had hoped, the Chesseurs had repealed both light cavalries with only minor hits to their own ranks. This would be a process of working them down and would probable cost most if not all of both cavalry brigades…. My only cavalry.

Dutch Jäger slipped onto the French Lights flank and frantically fired in an attempt to hold them back a few more minutes. Each man knew there was little chance of getting way with the river at their backs.

With the Cavalry battle the highlight of this turn, the 1st Dutch Brigade slipped from the farm and made their way rapidly back to the Allied lines, with luck the French had not cut off their retreat yet.

Turn 7 (16:00)

Well this turn was a bad round for the allies with the destruction of Dutch Jäger and Light Cavalry. The French cavalry having charged the Dutch opened their rear to the Brunswick Lights which made each hit count, sending the French off with a sting in their tail, 2 stands lighter, now down to a single Heavy Cavalry stand.

The Lancers regroup while the horse artillery soften up the Dutch squares for the next charge. Now down to 3 stands now the Lancers might get through.

The 5th Division hurried to plug the holes in the line on the second ridge. The Dutch 1st Brigade would hold the right side of the line, until relieved. I was confident I would be in position and able to get the fire on the approaching enemy, a very important part of this rule set is to be in position on an advancing enemy, as you can’t move and fire in the same turn (unless Light).

The French had taken the farm and the woods had fallen too. I needed to get the French Cavalry out of my left and sure up the line. I still had the Brunswick Corp and the 1st Division Guard on the way. I have enough artillery in the right positions and the allied fire hitting on 3+ to the French 4+ works in my favor, but only if I can repeal the Cavalry.

Turn 8 (16:30)

With the arrival of the Kellerman’s Cavalry the pressure was on to sure up the left flank.

The Lancers take another shot at the Dutch square, defensive fire cripples the attack and hand to hand and bad morale finish the job, the brave lancers rout.

The Brunswick Lights finish of the Chesseurs, finally liberating the left. Picton forms up his troops guarding Quatre Bras into lines and advance on the river crossing, taking command of the lead brigade. Time is of the essence as even with 3 brigades of Infantry and some light cavalry, I was not confident in holding back the French cavalry unless I could fight them while they crossed the river.

The brigade from the 5th Division deployed in line on the high ground with artillery moving up the road to support them on the right, it was clear more cavalry were on its way to the right so I would need to deploy some if not all of the Brunswick Corp to support them.

Turn 9 (17:00)

The race is on now for the hold of the left. The Dutch 2nd Brigade break from squares to form line and but some fire on the French troops across the river. The Allied centre started to put some fire on the advancing French, with the 5th Division Light Brigade moving to meet them at the river edge, opening the ridge to fire over them.

It was clear that the French planed a push on the right flank, so to sure it up an infantry brigade and horse artillery was ordered to hold the right. The remainder of the Brunswick Corp was deployed to support the Left. Hindsight I should have put the lights on the right, to protect the wood approach from the French lights.
I think Dayle was not happy with the Cavalry Brigade moving up the centre, but with the approach on both flanks looking like it would clog up quickly in narrow approaches there was little choice, best keep them ready to counter attack an allied push up the middle.

Both Artillery batteries from the Brunswick Corp would deploy in the defence of Quatre Bras, aimed at the left.

Turn 10 (17:30)

Racing forward the Brunswick Lights threaten the river crossing in hope to hold until Picton arrives. The brave Dutch 2nd moves to support them.

With artillery now on the right flank in high ground, the infantry from the 5th division would advance down the hill in line, firing on the Lights in the woods and allowing the cannon to tear them apart, as lights cannot charge close order troops in the open.

I still open fire the troops in the centre so if my dice hold out I should be able to make a bit of a mess there.
1st Division have arrived and the guard will move on the centre, next stop Paris.


Although Dayle did not admit it, it was a complete Allied Victory!!!!!

But seriously, this was a great scenario in its simplicity and put together well by Dayle. We didn’t get to finish the full 13 turns, but I doubt the Allies would regain the farm in that time either. This scenario was a great evolving battle, with the Anglo-Dutch starting outnumbered and eventually building up to over whelm the French.

All up the battle played from 10:30 to around 15:00 in actual time. We did chat a bit and took the time to show a friend how to play, so we think we could knock this out in about 4-5 hours for the full 13 turns.

Order of Battle

British Commander (William of Orange)

Orders: To hold the crossroads at Quatre bras

British 1st Corp (William of Orange)

1st Div
2 x Gd Brig
1 x foot arty
1 x horse arty

3rd Div
2 x Line Brig
1 x light Brig
2 x foot arty

2nd Netherlands  (Perponcher)
2 x line Brig (1st and 2nd Brig)
1 x light Brig
1 x foot arty
1 x horse arty

5th Div (Picton)
3 x Brig (8th, 9th, 3rd Hanoverian)

Brunswick Corp (Duke of Brunswick)
1 x Line Brig
1 x Light Brig
1 x Horse Arty
1 x Foot Arty

Anglo-Allied Cavalry Corp
2 x Brig light cavalry (Brunswick 2nd Hussars, Dutch 3rd light Dragoon/Hussars)

2nd Corp Arty
1 x horse arty
2 foot arty

 Turn 1: (1.00pm) Deploy 2nd Netherlands forward of or on line Gemioncourt-Piermont- Busso forest on ridge. 
Turn 2: (1.30pm)
Turn 3: (2.00pm)
Turn 4: (2.30pm)
Turn 5: (3.00pm)
Deploy: At Quartre Bras
5th British Infantry Division (Picton)
Anglo-Allied Cavalry Corp
3rd Dutch Light Cavalry Brigade (Baron van Merlen)
Brunswick 2nd Hussars light cavalry Brig
Turn 6: (3.30pm)
Deploy Brunswick Corp (Duke of Brunswick)  at Quatre Bras
Turn 7: (4.00pm)
Turn 8: (4.30pm)
Turn 9: (5.00pm)
Brit 3rd Div (Sir Colin Halket) at Quatre Bras + corp arty
Turn 10: (5.30pm)
Brit 1st Division (Cooke)
Turn 11: (6.00pm)
Turn 12: (6.30pm)
Turn 13: (7.00pm)     END

French Commander (Ney)

Orders: occupy the crossroads at Quartre Bras by 15th June, it is now 2.00pm on the 16th June.

2nd Corp (Reille)

5th Div (Bachelu)
2 x line regiments
1 x light regt
1 x foot bty

6th Div (Jerome)
2 x line regiments
1 x light regt
1 x foot bty

9th Div (Foy)
2 x line regiments
1 x light regt
1 x foot bty

2nd Cavalry (Pire)
1 x 6th Chesseurs
1 x Lancers
1 x horse battery

Corp Artillery
2 x foot battery

3rd Cavalry Corp (François Étienne de Kellermann, Comte de Valmy)

11th Cavalry Div
1 x Brig Dragoons (light)
1 x brig Curassiers
1 x horse artillery

Imperial Guard Light Cavalry Division
2 x Brig Lancers (equivalent)
2 x Chesseurs (equivalent)

1st  Corps (D’erlon)

4 x line regiments
1 x foot bty

3 x line regiments
1 x light regt
1 x foot bty

4 x line regiments
1 x foot bty

4th Infantry Division, (Joseph-Francois, comte Durutte)
4 x line regiments
1 x foot bty

1st Cavalry Division (Charles-Claude, baron Jacquinot)
7th Hussars
3rd Chasseurs à Cheval
3rd Lanciers
4th Lanciers

1st Corps Artillery (Jean-Charles Desales)
5 x  foot artillery batteries
1 x horse artillery battery (a total of 46 guns)
5 companies of the 1st Engineer Regiment (General de Brigade Marie-Theodore-Urbain, baron Garbe).


Turn 1: (1.00pm)
Deploy on table
Bachelu 5th div and Foy 9th inf divisions left and right of road
Pires 2nd cavalry division wide on right
Desnouettes Imperial light cavalry division wide on the left in front of Bossu woods
Turn 2: (1.30 pm)
Turn 3: (2.00pm) Open attack, order general assault, arty barrage
Turn 4: (2.30pm)
Turn 3: (3.00pm)
6th div (Jerome)
Turn 4: (3.30pm)
Turn 5: (4.00pm)
Turn 6: (4.30pm)
Turn 7: (5.00pm)
3rd corp (Kellerman)
Turn 8: (5.30pm)
Roll for d’Erlon’s 1st corp (d'Erlon is expected to arrive at this time, if the French look in real bad shape, have him arrive)
Turn 9: (6.00pm)
Turn 10: (6.30pm)
Turn 11: (7.00pm)

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