Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Blucher Waterloo 202

This Sunday the 18th June, the 202nd anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the Wollongong Wargamers held our now traditional Blucher ruleset game of Waterloo.

Image courtesy of Kaptain Kobold Semi Professional Photography inc.
We were a bit light on in terms of players this year, since David, our official Napoleonic intellectual, had been granted leave to pursue his political career as a Representative of the People, or something or other, and Peter, who had spent much effort in improving last year's scenario, was overseas. A particular shame, as his improvements delivered a perfect game!

Whereas last year we had gone for Waterloo - The Full Monty, this year we would ignore Placenoit, so also the Prussian IV and French VI Corps, concentrating instead on a narrow table based on the Mont St Jean ridge itself, as illustrated in the red rectangle above, image from The Waterloo Companion, Mark Adkin, an essential aid to wargaming Waterloo!

Which ridge Gary hand built in record time, delivering up 9 foot modelled to his usual impeccable standards.

Also finding time to provide the opposite 'French Grand Battery' ridge, to fully set the scene!

The various strongpoints and salient features were modelled, but, given the scale of the game, each turncated to a single Base Width footprint - Hougomont's grounds being reduced further after this picture was taken. Similarly the sandpit, sheltering only a Bn. was subsumed into the La Haie Sainte model, and the complex of 4 smaller farms out west represented by just Papelotte and Frischermont.

We divided up each army into manageable 'Corps' that would each get by with one MO dice.

Points (Elan)
Table Position
I Corps (D’Erlon)
South East half
II Corps (Reille)
South West half
Reserve Cavalry (Ney)
Initially off table
Guard Cavalry (Ney)
Initially off table
Imperial Guard
Initially off table

The French had 5 'Corps', but only I and II Corps would start on table, and Alan's Guard and Reserve Cavalry were conflated into one command for ease. The French had an morale value of 15, and a total of 195 points.

The Anglo-Allies had 4 commands, and the Prussians just the 1. The Allies had a morale value of 11, with 187 points.

Anglo-Allied East ‘Corps’
(Cooke & Alten)
North East
Anglo Allied West Brunswick Divison
John G
North West
Anglo Allied West Hill’s Division
John P
North West
Anglo Allied Cavalry (Uxbridge
John G
North Centre and detachments
Prussian I & II Corps (Zieten)
John P
Eastern edge of table from move 19

The Prussians had a morale value of 6, at 64 points, with their army representing only Zieten and those elements of I and II Korps which directly supported the Mont St Jean ridge, rather than go further south agains Plancenoit. They would arrive on move 19, about a third of the way into the game. In terms of attrition, realistically we felt only the Prussians might have had cause for concern...but they had Blucher himself, who allowed a free Army activation: Raise high the Black Flags, my Children!

The Anglo Allies set up first, using cards face down to conceal their deployment...

At first sight, it seemed they were deploying in the same old way: along the ridge, but with the forward strongpoints stoutly defended...  The game started with the French turn 12 which equates to midday in Blucher. The objectives were allocated a points value:     Hougomont (2 points) La Haye Sainte (2 points), Cross Roads on Ridge (2 points) Papelotte/Frischermont, (1 point each).

We French however, having done the thankless historical deployment hard yards last year, were this year free to deploy as we wished. Accordingly Caesar led D'Erlon's corps directly against the Papelotte complex, using his light cavalry to cover his flank...

Whilst Daniel led Reille's corps against Hougomont, but diverting rather more of his units to cover against the strongly held ridge...

As you would expect, most of the Allied artillery was attached to the Brigades, but there was sufficient concentrations of Royal Horse Artillery to make one's eyes water...

Caesar used his own grand battery to good effect also, and was soon in position to assault the objectives on the eastern flank - hopefully before the Prussians turned up...

Meantime John G in the centre had taken a page from history and launched a couple of Brigades of Light Cavalry against Reille's corps. Unfortunately they weren't the Union Brigade though, so only did superficial damage...

Even though it was early in the game, at this stage I decided to order La Garde au Feu! With one French corps pushing east and the other west, our centre was looking decidedly empty, and I saw no reason why Daniel and Caesar should have all the fun!

Accordingly the Guard was manoeuvered so as to be able to assault La Haie Sainte, after it had been judiciously softened up by the Artillery of the Guard!

Gary was making a fine defence of Hougomont however, the Redcoats' volleying ability was steadily eroding Daniel's combat ability...The was no breakthrough imminent on the French left flank...

Over on the far right, Caesar seemed to be taking great pains to set up his assault with meticulous precision - perhaps he thought those looming dark blue columns approaching his flank was Grouchy?

At any rate the Allied players were struggling to hide their confidence!

But no, it wasn't Grouchy who turned up just as the French assaults were about to go in! There are those Black Flags!

The British and Prussians had a cordial encounter, and hatched their plans...

And Gary, supremely confident of his mastery of the western flank, redeployed his garrison from Hougomont, leaving it apparently safe behind the thin red line....

However, suddently the initiative seemed to swing back to the French - thanks to some powerful cannonading, the gallant garrision of La Haie Sainte was speedily evicted by the Young Guard!

And Caesar managed to storm and capture both Papelotte and Frischermont just before the Prussians could support their beleaugered garrisons...

At this point John G, perhaps alone amongst the Allied players in sensing that this year the Allies would have to work for their victory, began deploying the Allied heavy cavalry...

Alan had already been moving the French Reserve and Guard Cavalry towards our eastern flank, both to attempt to pin down the Prussians...

And also to keep our increasingly threadbare centre together...

So at this stage, the game was evenly balanced, the French having 4 objective points in hand, La Haie Sainte and the Papelotte complex, the Allies also 4; Hougomont and the crossroads...

The allies sought to regain the initiative, with an attempt to recapture La Haie Sainte led by the Brigade of Guards, supported by the Union and Household Cavalry Brigades! Heavy weights indeed!

However this was the Old Guard they were dealing with...

And a spirited attack by the Grenadiers of the Old Guard pushed back a heavy Cavalry Brigade!

However over on the eastern flank the relentless pressure from the Prussians was telling....

And Caesar had to explain to the rest of the rather sceptical French team how he managed to lose one of the hard-won objectives to a bunch of conscript sausage eaters!

But then, as if to balance the Prussian's success, a last gasp effort by Daniel with Reille's corps reached the abandoned objective of Hougomont!

If I could hold La Haie Sainte against the mounting British counter-attacks...

And if Caesar could retake Papelotte - Victory would be ours! However, John P, aware of Caesar's reputation with the dice, was not a worried man...

In the closing moves of the game, all seemed to hang on the number of momentum dice each side would get...

But the dice Gods maintained their disdain for the Allied momentum dice, and, incredibly, smiled upon Caesar's last ditch assault on Papelotte - the village changed hands for the third time! La Victoire et a Nous!

Time to celebrate with a nice cup of tea!

Friday, 26 May 2017

Blucher - French tears of 1814...

Last night at the uni, to get warmed up for our big Waterloo bash on the 18th June, we had a small game of Blucher, the Army level Napoleonic rules from Sam Mustafa, which we helped to play test.

Largely pitting Caesar's Russians against my French...

And a few stray Italians...

My Conscript units were Marie-Louises, which meant that despite a parlous Elan of 5, they also had the Shock attribute...

reflecting their youthful enthusiasm to defend La Patrie – I would exploit this ruthlessly!

My colleague David had the Cavalry Reserve and the smaller infantry corps.

The layout was a nondescript French valley, with a road intersecting a minor river and a small town , with a couple of large woods. Still in Team Yankee mode, I was about to cover half the table with terrain, until quietly but firmly reined in by David, and I think the resulting table provided just enough terrain to be interesting. One result of the valley effect, and the rules of objective placement, is that the 3 objectives had to be placed well into each corner of the table, giving the French, as defenders, a strategic conundrum! We couldn't defend both objectives without leaving ourselves very weak in the centre. We left one objective completely uncovered, as it was somewhat separated from the rest of the table by the river and a couple of bogs...

Alan briefs Caesar on the finer points of French architecture...the Coaltion were very confident throughout...
I had forgotten about Reserve Movement, and the rather ungentlemanly Russians showed no qualms in occupying it in their first move!

In the spirit of 1814, we decided to gamble all on an all-out reckless offensive a l’outrance! Given that Caesar had already captured one objective, the Russians, despite being the attackers, could realistically sit and wait for us to take the attack to them…

Which of course, despite knowing it was folly, we did – well you do attack, don’t you, as French players! Whilst wanting to maximise our young troops’ Shock attribute, of course the Russians all had the Steady attribute, and were possessed of a higher Elan value to boot!

However, owing to some fine heavy artillery volleys, Marmont’ Corps initial wave of attacks went well, driving back a couple of Russian brigades. So far, so good! However, as Marshal Ney observed; You can’t just kill those Russians – you have to push them over as well!

Meanwhile Caesar had been carefully husbanding his heavy cavalry corps across the river and was starting to present a credible threat to the deep French rear.

Marmont’s Corps could no longer simply be content just to push the Russians back, they would have to be destroyed in the hope of breaking Russian army morale value before the centre was ridden down by rampaging Kuirassiers and Cossacks!

However, that traditionally strong arm of the Russian Army, massed artillery...

now weighed in, and a typically Alanesque throw of four sixes from five dice with his opening salvo decimated an entire brigade of Marie Louises, and the French offensive in the center began to falter – it was the French Army morale that was starting to dwindle!

Despair really set in when a Russian pike armed Milita unit captured our Grand Battery – had the Grande Armee really come to this? David attempted to restore the situation with a well-planned but nevertheless desperate massed cavalry charge against prepared Guard Infantry in square.

C’est magnifique, mais c’est ne pas la guerre! The gallant charge ended in a mass of ruined horseflesh, with the stoic Russian Guards suffering but a few casualties…

With dusk deepening, and French Army morale nearing the red line, our brave, tearful young Conscripts ceded the field of honour to the hordes of Muscovy, trudging back to the next desperate battlefield of home…

C'est la guerre! An engrossing and enjoyable game, with 10 moves played in about 2 hours of play - we just love these Blucher rules - but we would say that, wouldn't we!