Something I've been hoping to do for a while came to fruition last night - a game of Napoleon's Battles at the NWS.
In fact a number of things came together.
First I was able to put together a reasonably straightforward small scenario, around 300 points on a two to three foot by three foot playing area.
Second I was able to use the SPI Boardgame Napoleon's Last Battles to construct the scenario, something I knew the game lent itself to but had never tried it out till now.
Third it is themed for the Waterloo Bicentenary and showed progressive on planning for the big event underway at the NWS.
Fourth I got to try out my 2D hill. I generally avoid hills as I hate carefully positioning my troops only to have them slide away.
Fifth I got to use my figures, including some old and some new.
Sixth I got to introduce two friends to my favourite Napoleonic rules.
But could I produce an enjoyable game?
Background to the Battle of Ottignies
Marshal Grouchy is pursuing the Prussians towards Warve when he hears the massed cannon fire to the west. Leaving the I Cavalry Corps and 21st Division to screen Warve he marches to the sound of the guns with the II Cavalry Corps and III and IV Corps.
He crosses the River Dyle at the village of Ottignies around 15:00 to find the Prussian III Corps approaching from the North. He turns to face them with the II Cavalry Corps and III Corps so the IV Corps can slip round to join the Emperor. He is relieved to receive a despatch sent at 13:00 on which Napoleon has personally written "do not lose an instant in drawing near to us, in order to join us and crush Bulow, whom you will catch in flagrante delicto."
Order of Battle
The French have deployed first and can be seen in the top half of the picture, with the village of Ottignies on their right. The Prussian side is the Northern edge and so the sound of the guns from the big battle is coming from the right of the picture. Only cavalry could be deployed in the right hand third of the battlefield as this is where they had marched to before turning to face their respective enemies. The left hand side of the picture should show the River Dyle, but I had not been prepared for the big table surface (which was much bigger than the 3x3 table required).
The French move first and seize the low rise. The Prussians have the worst of the long range fire conducted during the 16:00 turn.
As I was busing umpiring and keeping Mark B who played the Prussians, and Stephen N, who played the French, in line (no pun intended) I didn't take any more close up pictures. The labels, while coloured show up very white in the photos - they were a pale blue and a pale grey. The 2D hill (a painted piece of lino) worked well. It has now put the bases I use to denote built up areas to shame.
16:30 and the French attack, committing their generals to gain maximum advantage. The Prussian cavalry has reacted and hit the lead brigade of the 8th Division as well as engaging one of the two small cavalry divisions in Excellman's II Cavalry Corps to stop it coming to exposed infantry's support.
The Prussian Uhlans routed the French and went on to perform a controlled recall that took out the III Corps 12pdr battery, ran down the routing French which dispersed them and caused Grouchy to flinch. Else where the combats went more in the French favour, but by the end of the 16:30 turn the remainder of the 8th Division was looking very thin (one casualty away from dispersing and facing a mass of Prussian guns - they were leading a charmed life).
The 17:00 turn saw the attack by Vandamme repulsed. As it was late we decided to end the game at this point (we had played for about three hours). The Prussians had a little bit of fight left in them, but their cavalry was all but used up. The French cavalry was still serviceable, but Vandamme was going to need to rally the big brigade of the 10th Division if he was stop his corps from going fatigued.
There was some excellent use early on by von Thielemann of his free roll markers, reversing outcomes. For a long time Marshall Grouchy held free roll marker superiority, but in the last turn unsuccessfully tried to reverse two outcomes only to make them worse. The two players each finished up with one free roll marker left so I guess it was a draw.
I was surprised we only managed three turns. Eight turns were available, but starting just 1,200 yards apart, the relatively open battlefield and evenly matched forces meant action started very quickly. The French knew they were somewhat fragile and that their strength lay in their commanders so a quick attack was to their advantage.
I only had to check a few things and I don't think any mistakes were made. Playing umpire has its advantages. I only recall my decisions being questioned once and the dice Gods came to my rescue with swift retribution.
I am looking forward to playing it again as I certainly enjoyed it.
The scenario can be found here: