Thursday, 19 February 2015

Waterloo project: Third rules test game in play

I set the scene for this in my previous posting  so if you have come here first best look back to see what it is about.

To get you in the mood - a digitally enhanced photo of some anxious moments for British 95th Riflemen trying to retreat into the farm.

Getting under way
Our session commenced with A Company 1st Battalion 95th firing and retiring through the orchard towards the farm gate, pursued by the voltigeur company of  3/63e Ligne.......
......backed up by the rest of their battalion and 2/63e Ligne
This general view shows the French moving in force upon the farm. The two squadrons of  French cuirassiers are advancing in the centre and the first company of a line lancer squadron has appeared on the table near them.
Later joined by the second company

Although if you look at the general view again there is a sad open space at the far end of the French line.
I should have been more zealous in my photography but here is the best I can do of what was there.
2nd Battalion 6e Legere was advancing with a skirmish line made of the voltigeur and carabinier companies, and the chasseur companies were backing them up in line. As the skirmishers advanced downhill to fire more closely at the KGL light infantry they exposed the chasseurs to canister fire from the whole Royal Horse Artillery  battery on the opposite hillside. Even in line the casualties proved horrific and the chasseurs morale broke seeing them run hastily back to the rear crest of their slope (ie. the bookshelf behind them!)
Mike looks on confidently as Kevin removes the unfortunate chasseur companies
By Move Two things were hotting up at the farm.

A Company 1/95th Rifles had retired through the double gate and an officer ordered it locked while the men provided a second rank. B Company was manning the walls on the improvised fire step all the way round to the side gate, however their relatively small numbers firing made little impact on the large numbers of French. Above you can see the Voltigeurs of 2/63e Ligne are assaulting the west side walls. Below the two battalions can be appreciated - 3/63e Ligne is firing at the southern wall and inflicting just enough casualties on B Company to cause a worry.

This one shows the problem more closely as the French close assault in full force.
At the far corner wall you can just make out where casualty infliction  has contracted the B Company line leaving a two-figure-wide gap. The initiative system is deliberately designed to make commanders take tough decisions about where to put their resources and Mike had reasonably supposed that his 95th, sitting in a defensive position, didn't need much leadership so failed to allocate any initiative tokens there and thus could not fill up the gap. This gave the French a chance to use my "leg-up" rule.
The only way to get over a high wall without ladders etc is for one man to cup his hands and support the weight of a mate's foot and give him a "leg up" to the top of the wall. This can only be done where unopposed as the climber has to have most attention and his hands concentrating on steadying himself at the top. One figure can do this for 3 comrades per move. To add to the fun we make each climber roll a die and "1" means he has an accident and joins the casualty list. You can see above that this time Kevin was successful with all six and they have turned the open flank of B company in the hand-to-hand combat.
This shot above shows the result. The rules don't require a melee "winner" as such, but rather morale checks are required at each 10 per cent loss, however caused. B Company had 20 per cent now and, without a secure flank failed to make their morale factor rating on a D6. They retired disordered one move distance - into the courtyard behind the main house. One point worth noting is that the larger C Company 1/95th had deployed in Move 1 into all the buildings on the east side  of the farm and suffered a few casualties when French off-table howitzer shells successfully penetrated the roof and started a fire. This was spreading by  3 inches each turn since there was no water on hand to quench it.
Another point is that the once strong column of 2/63e Ligne has been horribly weakened by canister and shrapnel fire sweeping down from the British foot battery on the ridge. The Voltigeur company was sheltered to some extent by the haystacks but the Grenadier company took the brunt of it and retired back in open order. The Fusiliers, however, carried on with the fight.
This is the view from the battery.

A bit more on the artillery
In the previous post I mentioned that the scale means that some artillery support needs to be "off table". That could be just notional units but we are preferring, if possible, to represent the guns crews and teams as models. The usual wargamers' dilemma of whether to go to the trouble and expense of having a model limber for every model gun is extant in our group, as in many others, so we have been scratching round a bit for suitable teams, extra foot crew etc and all are not completely compatible. However I was insistent that we get it as near right as possible on the day for the horse artillery so players will have a realistic option of moving the whole battery or just some of its divisions/sections.
The French 12 pdr battery on a chest of drawers way beyond the table edge
A fuzzy photo of the French Horse battery on its bookshelf about 30" off table
The HA battery has 2 x  6 pdr guns and a howitzer and a couple of teams by Kevin.
Paul D provided the extras
RHA battery (mostly) by Kevin. It looks impressive but is still not complete for a 1:3 scale version
 Pragmatically I took the approach of one model gun represents two, not three, real ones so we could have reasonable proportions of howitzers yet not over fill the space the batteries should take up. Everything else is aimed at 1:3. At Waterloo most batteries on both sides were around 200 men plus vast amounts of horses. HA on both sides had 6 gun batteries, and so that feels like about 35 per real gun or about 20 per model gun. There were generally three echelons of horse teams from limbers through to ammunition wagons and support vehicles. This is far too many for a front line game with an average table depth of 2-3 feet for each side's line. The good news then was that at least half these vehicles should be so far back as to be unnecessary for us. So I settled for a minimum strength of about 30 figures - that could mean  3 limbers and an ammo wagon and about a dozen team riders and 6 or 7 crew per gun model. There need to be around a dozen individual crew riders for when the battery is in motion, allowing for some riding limbers, and horses without riders being held at a respectable distance in the rear.  This is important to me as cannon fire uses templates for "beaten zones" and in the event of counter battery fire I want to know if crew, team horses or caissons or wheels are hit as it can affect what happens next. Kevin has great plans to make our horse batteries look spectacular in action or in motion.

Back to the game
As previously mentioned the French had a build up of cavalry in the centre. 

They were bearing down on the 1st Company of  2nd Light Battalion KGL (2LB) who fired their rifles and then hurriedly formed a company square back on the ridge. Sadly the rather nice figure of the Cuirassier regimental colonel was one of their first casualties so he is missing from this photo!
But not to worry - the Cavalry Brigade commander was accompanying the second squadron
The KGL Hussars began to move onto the ridge to meet this threat . 
But 2nd Squadron came under fire from the French HA battery, lost some casualties and decided to "lie low" behind the crest, formed in two troops one behind the other.
This of course left 1 Coy 2LB to face the 1st Squadron 4e Cuirassiers alone....except that Mike had kept his initiative tokens, lacking at the farm, for the battle in more open ground. In a rather unorthodox move he carefully judged the distances and had two companies of 2LB change formation at the quickstep into a square to help absorb the impact when the cuirassier wave broke over the ridge. 6th Company was left behind in a supporting line as he didn't have enough move distance to incorporate them in the square. I've given such highly trained light companies each a leader stand so they can act independently. Major Baring is placed so he can bring his 12 inch leadership initiative distance to bear on all 4 companies of 2LB in that vicinity. Both squadrons of 4e Cuirassiers received rifle fire on the way in from the 2LB companies, from this platoon of the Luneburg battalion.....
.....from the east facing loopholes of the farm, and from the RHA battery on the left flank which had turned now the threat to its front had gone (see photo above of  RHA). Nevertheless the first squadron charged home, the small squares just held on, and we now await initiative at the start of day 2's gaming.

And what of the rest of the Luneburg Battalion? 

After the first turn the Rifle company, in skirmish order, had split into two. The left platoon used the hedged field to give fire on the attacking cavalry; the right platoons filed off and began to reinforce the farm  via a small gate on the North side. Strung out by channelling through the defile this took them some time, but by move three the leading elements were across  the courtyard. The larger part was being targeted by French howitzers, but without success as they were out of sight therefore needing a visibility roll to keep the howitzer template on target. Ironically the die roll meant an impact on the regrouping B Coy 1/95th Rifles, sending them scurrying for cover in the building behind them.  Here's an artistic rendition of the scene.

The three centre companies of Luneburg advanced, still in company column, in order to fill the space neatly between the farm wall and the hedged field, thus securing their flank from overlapping by an attacker. The Cuirassiers had diverted so ceased to be an immedate threat but their place in front of Luneburg was being taken by the Lancer squadron. A volley at that range took out 3 figures, not enough to dent the lancers morale. But, critically, the front company of Luneburg came under fire from the French 12pdrs on the distant "ridge"/chest of drawers, in scale this was about 500 yards range and near enough, even with unlucky bounce/graze dice, to cause sufficient casualties to significantly shorten the line and take out the foot command on the base with the colours. The mounted Lieutenant Colonel steadied the line and contracted both ends away from the secure flank cover. Whether this will prove a fatal error we'll have to see next time..........
Note the gap between the farm wall and the Luneburg flank;
there is a similar one at the other end!
 At this point we ran out of time for our initial day of rules testing. My aim had been to get four turns done but we only achieved three. Not much you might think but this was two blokes pushing round 1000 figures for 6 hours, occasionally at skirmish level detail.  Enough to give me a long blog posting anyway, so thanks for sticking with it!  I wanted to ensure some of the units were very weak or even destroyed so as to make room for reinforcements. To some extent that had been achieved, especially with the breakthrough at the farm wall and the demise of Kevin's Legere battalion. I had thought to leave everything in situ to continue next time but needed a bit more space so it was an opportunity to do what might happen in our real refight of La Haye Sainte. I'm always conscious this has to be a small part of a huge, intense battle; senior commanders are likely to be off-field making decisions influenced by "bigger" events so on-field units might get orders to deploy elsewhere, exasperating the commander on the spot.  So I decided to limber up most of the RHA battery, since they had successfully seen off nearly all the French Light battalion on the opposite hillside, and only the howitzer section remains. Besides, it gave me a bit of fun to "mount them up" for some posing:

And here is a final photo I could not work into the narrative but have to show you. The historical French order of battle includes a company of line engineers which were brought in late in the day to batter down the gates of La Haye Sainte. Here they are behind 63e Ligne, waiting to get to the gate if it's not forced by the infantry.
Lively sapeurs in greatcoats from Warlord games, painted by Kevin East

All the green-clad riflemen, the  Luneburgers, and 2nd Squadron of  KGL Hussars are mine.
All the remaining figures are by Kevin East with small numbers swelling the ranks from the collection of Paul D. (I suspect obtained via Ebay and based by Paul but painted by others).
A few of the extra horses in gun teams are from my 18th century collection.
Buildings - Hovels resin painted by Kevin
Trees - hand made by Kevin  (multi -talented!)
Hedges  - hand made by CG when I did 20mm WW2
Stream pieces - hand made by CG back in circa 1987 for my 15mm Napoleonics, it's worn well!
Cornfield - experimenting with carpet off cuts, powder paint and PVA glue (never waste anything from a house renovation!)
Plastic status trays and blocks by with grateful thanks to Martin for the discount for our Waterloo project.


  1. All the hard work is paying off,the figures look great.

  2. Stunning photographs of a great looking game and figures plus terrain.

  3. Really deeply impressive how you did this battle, the realistic building models, tees, figures and background. I love the digital changed images - they show this black, rainy day of a terrible battle!!
    Thank you for giving this great report and letting us be with you in this moment!

  4. Thanks all for your nice comments, especially from Peter as you are widely recognised as the peak of superb presentation of photography , figures and scenic backgrounds (others- see Zinnsoldatenkrieg in the right side bar).

  5. Amazing! Not sure which is more impressive - the painting, the photography or the sheer scale! So many lovely details - my favourite is perhaps the RHA horse holder with nags in tow!
    Great work - please post lots more as often as possible!