Thursday, 22 June 2017

Battle for Hoeke Valley - the wrap-up

Sorry for the delay (and Tony has been hassling me over it! :-) ) but this post will attempt to wrap up what we saw and have learned from my battle report in the previous two posts. Thanks again for all the great comments and particularly for those compliments received in person at AMG 17 recently.

Just to prove I was there (second from right)
Here is the final score chart, which was a bit astonishing considering how hard fought the game had seemed.

So FRENCH 37 Victory Points to only 7 for the ALLIES! Neither side gained much for taking the opposition's high ground (area gained) but the French scored highly for complete destruction of enemy units and objective locations either held or gained.

The Allies attributed their losses chiefly to the highly effective French light cavalry. The Guard Lancers were Elite, and "shock" in the first round of melee. Line Lancers were also "shock" in the first round. Providing shock cavalry win a melee they automatically destroy what remains of the enemy infantry unit. We think this is too drastic and will change it to "rout" the remainder. Kevin is resistant to reducing the effect of Lancers since the real QB refight will depend on it, but the role of the Guard Light cavalry will be very restricted in our refight. (I encouraged Kevin to place them "up front" in this test just to prove the point). The Allies did have British Foot Guards on the table early so also had some very good troops and used them to hold on a long time.

All three Imperial Guard Lancer "squadrons" arranged  by Graham for attack
 by squadron column

Another Allied point was that the steep slope I had built with the stream at the bottom slowed them up a lot (we made it half speed up or down) and made their cavalry counter attack especially vulnerable. I sympathise to some extent, but it did help them thwart Graham's infantry attack West of Piron Woods. In our defence the whole terrain was designed by me but the objectives were decided by Kevin - he was stuck with what I wanted to build to a give varied flowing game that would look pretty spectacular. I had both the ridges in store in part finished form and was desperate for a game big enough to justify putting them on one table.  We learned that we need to make all the slopes in the QB refight "gentle" for movement yet ensure we allow plenty of dead ground by the undulations.

Allied cavalry "cautiously" sweep down hill
Looking down from the Ramskapelle Heights on the swirling cavalry attacks 

The Allied centre and right flank did suffer badly from enemy artillery fire, but the DB and Brunswick guns on their left gave as good as they got. If James' and Ken's infantry and cavalry counter attacks were broken up by fire then I can confirm that Graham and I found Richard's batteries on the other flank equally destructive and space limiting. So it balanced to some extent, but we mustn't detract from Tony's and Roy's expert combination of distance fire from Foot guns on the ridges and Horse artillery in the valley weakening the units they were attacking. We won't be changing this since in the real QB battle the French did use their artillery superiority well and several Allied batteries were considerably discomforted by them. As with any wargame, a lot of it depends on how the players use what they have!

The French Foot artillery batteries mostly occupied key ridge-top positions 

The other thing I introduced to the rules, given that our real refight will cover 4 day's playing time, was the idea that units could fall back to recover stands, but only up to one above 50% strength. They have to retreat to a place of safety in cover, or out of artillery range, or off the table and then get the right succession of rally dice, aided by appropriate generals and unit class. It's difficult but not impossible if a player is prepared to take one or more generals out of the fight to rally them.   I found the loss of two leaders on the French right made it not worth trying but Tony did it to effect, especially with the 1st Chasseurs. Kevin and I got the impression James would have done better if he had tried it with his Hanoverians ejected early on from the Chatelet area. Kevin likes the system and wants to keep it for the real refights.

Once some of these French battalions had lost their leader and broke from
losses it proved far too difficulty to rally them off table
But this rather poor photo shows the 1st Chasseurs coming back for more
late in the game

And while mentioning Kevin East, the man deserves an accolade from me. He will admit he's not very experienced at organising games but he planned this for a couple of months, worked up the detailed orbats and briefs for each side, spent a day at my place organising the units and status bases for everything, as well as providing the largest share of the 2,500 figures, and the model buildings used. He then umpired solidly for two days, masterminding both sides feeding in reserves, and while maybe not all umpiring decisions were rock solid, I think everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, including me, so thanks a lot Kev. Thanks are also due to James and Tony for their considerable efforts with creating great looking new units needed for the refight and which got an airing at Hoeke Valley.

Clipboard in hand Kevin was the tireless match official!

Now for me? - Lots more blogging, not least on the wonderful AMG 17 weekend, and then onto hosting another HoW game in the Cotswolds, followed by what remains of the Summer making four Hanoverian Landwehr battalions for QB...oh..... and the 12 foot x 8 foot terrain! ...and that's just my hobby.......

The victorious General Reille used up his reroll!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Battle for Hoeke Valley- The Second Day's Play

My previous post, Battle for Hoeke Valley Day One action , created a lot of very positive comments for which the team are very grateful. Apologies for the delay for those keen to follow the story but real life has to be attended to in between blog posts!

The story so far
To summarise the first day's  play very briefly - On the Eastern flank the French under Prince Jerome held onto Pironchamps farm and looked as if they might break through the Dutch -Belgian line with an uphill attack to the left of the farm, but by day's end the battalions had run out of steam and poor morale dice took their toll. On the Western flank the French attacks, directed by Reille on the Chatelet area, with both infantry and cavalry, were initially repulsed, but extreme perseverance overcame the Hanoverian defenders and saw Reille and Bachelu make some headway by Move 7. In the centre the Imperial Guard Lancers forward wing mounted Hoeke Hill and saw off a DB Cavalry counter charge while the supporting second wing made ready to face reinforcements in the form of the British Heavy Cavalry brigade. French line lancers reinforcing the centre made a big cavalry clash inevitable.

An early start
The evening before, returning from the pub, players and umpires agreed that we had not got as many moves done as we had hoped and that Day Two reinforcements might be delayed too long to give new arrivals Ken and Roy a decent game. So we all got up early and breakfasted and were down in the wargames room by 0845, dice and tape measures in hand ready to do Move 8 before they came.

I have to apologise that as I had to take over Graham's troops and spent all day operating the French right flank infantry and artillery my understanding of the detail in the centre and left was rather limited. These overall shots help explain the situation.
I started by an aggressive advance on my extreme right to ensure the Nassau skirmishers were kept well away from interfering with two regiments of Foy's Division who began to arrive to reinforce my flank.
To the left of the foreground woods and orchard can be seen 5 depleted French battalions. This is the retreating remnants of Jerome's attack. One battalion tries to reform in the dead ground of Hoeke Hill, another retreats from the river, while one has formed column of march to get back quickly to the orchard. Two are routing at under 50% and will leave the field
Foy's four battalions and a battery can be seen arriving in the foreground. Way beyond them cavalry are contesting the river area and the ridge slopes, and in the very far corner another brigade of sturdy British infantry is just arriving
Second Wing of the 2nd Lancers of the Guard is charging the Royal Scots Greys,
who are supported by the 1st Royal Dragoons
But the Guards are supported by Pire with two regiments of Line Lancers
First wing of Guard lancers carries on the charge into the weakened
Dutch Belgian Light Dragoons, only to be hit in the flank by  DB  Hussars
This gives a good indication of the desperate struggle for Chatelet woods
Fully up to player strength now, I can take up the story to include Roy Boss, being a cavalry commander in the French centre, and Ken Marshall taking British reinforcements in the vicinity of West Hoeke Bridge.

Roy receives a briefing from Kevin
And then it is Ken's turn
The Scots Greys have successfully pushed back second wing of Guard
Lancers but in their pursuit have fallen foul of a flank attack from Line Lancers
West of Chatelet the 30th Foot again face cavalry, this time in line, and
 against 8th Chasseurs a Cheval
....and behind them 1/1 Foot Guards form square
General view across the valley to the cavalry melees

Quality tells as the 1/2nd Guard Lancers has fought off the flank attack by DB cavalry and concentrate on the 1st Dragoons......
.....defeat them....
....and follow up
Behind them things had turned out very badly for the Royal Scots Greys

Shoring up the defence of Pironchamps
General view of the eastern area: On the extreme right the Nassau firepower has seen off the tentative attack by 2nd Ligne.
The weak battalions are beginning to occupy the orchard and luckily I am able to bring forward Foy's battalions to make the situation feel happier
A close up of the right flank
A big gap has been opened as Jerome's men clamber back to the orchard,
 and DB 27th Jagers reoccupy Piron wood

Allied attempts to brace their right flank

More French reinforcements - Foy's 92nd Regiment de Ligne,
and the reformed 1st Chasseurs a Cheval
2/1 Foot Guards face another infantry attack
The Cameron Highlanders head Kempt's brigade and cross West Hoeke bridge 
French skirmishers in the crop field had been left open to a rear attack from the British Life Guards
Above and below: Chasseurs see off the 30th Foot and press on towards the Guards' square

A fateful move - tempted by trying to get enemy lancers within rifle range Ken crosses the Hoeke with most of the 95th Rifles, in skirmish order
Foy's men back up Bachelu with a serious push through Chatelet village 
In middle distance the 5th Lancers change face to line up for an attack on the crop
 fields where French infantry are already threatening the Highlander line 
Further West the Gordon Highlanders continue the line beyond the small wood 
Above and below: the 28th Foot cross West Hoeke bridge; Rogers battery deploys at the road junction and sights upon the 6th Chevaux Leger Lancer Regiment. The 5th Regiment get stung by rifle fire from the 95th. In the foreground, to right and left of the road, the Hanoverian Light Field battalions pushed out of Chatelet are trying to rally. 

Lancers' eye view of the 95th Rifles......
...and when they charged the open order riflemen were ridden down and dispatched

Balance of power changes on the Pironchamps flank

Around this time I was alarmed to see the vanguard of a Brunswick force
 arrive opposite me - an infantry battalion and a horse battery
Slowly I managed to get the weakened 1/1 Legere evacuated to the safer side of the
walled farm while performing a "relief in place" with one of the fresh battalions
 of 100th Ligne  
1/4th Legere had suffered taking on the Nassau elite companies, ending in mutual
withdrawal but I sent in 2/4th as a column attack against the white shako'ed
,Nassau line battalion, determined to keep them back 
Kevin confers with Richard as the latter brings on yet more Brunswickers
As the Brunswick infantry move forward my Foot battery from Jerome's Division
 manages to inflict some casualties on the Dutch Belgian Horse Artillery in the big battery nearby. 
The Guard Horse Artillery, under my command, had to cease firing due to running
out of ammunition, but was now being resupplied
A nice view of some of James' hard work creating all the Brunswick units. They have now moved forward to the hedge bordering the ridge crest

Multiple cavalry actions decide the centre ground
Guard Lancers led by Lefebvre-Desnouettes have pressed 1st Dragoons up the hill as far as they can go!
...but the newly arrived Brunswick cavalry have other ideas.

Baron Picquet's two French Dragoon regiments arrive on Lissewege Heights......
...then break out into two march columns to gain ground unopposed over Hoeke Hill 
They, in turn, are backed up by Guiton's Cuirassier brigade,  the regiments picking their way between the batteries
Behind Hoeke Hill they wheel left in readiness to form line. In the foreground Roy
has considered the Polish Squadron of 2nd Guard Lancers is "surplus to requirements" and
kindly sends it to reinforce my right flank infantry
Brunswick Hussars meet the exhausted Guard Lancers right on their back line.....
......and push them back downhill
By their side the Hussars' second wing meets a regiment of French Line Lancers

Deadlock at Pironchamps
Further East still the advance of French Dragoons ensures that the now-routing
27th Jagers have no chance to rally
Desperate action by Pironchamps Farm as I press forward column attacks with
Foy's troops to meet the Nassauers and Brunswick infantry descending the ridge
(Apology for the shaky photo - too much excitement!)

French consolidate gains at Chatelet

In the distance the Cameron Highlanders had formed square while the 95th skirmishers
 were over run, but they have seen off the French Line Lancers, for now. In the
foreground Scottish infantry present a stern front to the battle weary Bachelu
The 28th Foot guard West Hoeke bridge but Rogers' battery is now reduced to 50% strength
by counter battery fire. Foot Guards reform by the junction
A broader view across Chatelet Wood showing the natural break that has occurred between the battling infantry lines 

From the opposite direction the successive lines of French Dragoons and Cuirassiers can be discerned along the valley

The final battle photo with a yellow line showing the front line. Considerable French gaining of territory up onto the centre of Ramskapelle heights

Kevin and the Sunday players before packing up time
That familiar ADC of modern life, the smart phone, was bringing urgent news of significant road closures along the A40, and although it was only 1700 hours, Richard and James were concerned about their route home. Weighing up the battlefield with his practiced eye James said "I don't think one more move is going to make any difference, let's call it now".  That still left time to tot up the final points scores and have a jolly good analysis of the game before they went though.

So next time - Score results and conclusions on the game, and thoughts on how this will affect our refight of Quatre Bras