Thursday, April 9, 2015

Quatre Bras at the NWS

Hot on the heels of my solo play test I umpired the same scenario at they NWS last night.  Stephen N took control of the Allies while Mark B took the French, ably assisted by James of the ANF.

I hadn't seen the post of the ANF's recent refight of Quatre Bras, but it can be seen here.  As I now also see it is a treasure trove of information about the battle.

My scenario is for the Napoleon's Battles rules and I use a hybrid of the 2nd addition with some elements from the expected Marechal Edition.  The most controversial of which is that units attacking BUAs use their LN factor, not their current formation factor.  This normally means a quick counterattack can be made by troops in column (which given it takes a turn for troops to fully occupy a BUA and gain its defensive factors, may not be such an issue).  What it does mean is that you can quickly monster a BUA without the delay of going into line.  This is especially so if you have a leader like Ney.

For the record I used the NBII scenario and the map from the NBIII edition (which is in colour and at least legible, but otherwise identical to that in NBII).  The Order of Batte I checked against and Nafziger and settled on Mark Adkin's The Waterloo Companion in a few cases, mainly around Jerome's Division.  Given the brigade level scale of Napoleon's Battles the OOB wasn't such an issue, perhaps what I should have considered was what forces were actually available/used.  I had a thought that the French dragoons didn't arrive and the presence of the Guard Light Cavalry always seemed a bit of a mystery.

As to the map, I got a bit carried away painting up a play area (actually it is the back of a lino off cut).  I was always interested in this battle as a quick game on a small area.  I need to do a tiny bit of extra work, mainly move the actually BUA for Quatre Bras to the cross roads and check that there are usable gaps between terrain areas (just to avoid doubts etc).

The Dutch-Belgian militia turned out to be expert shots and stopped the French at the stream.  Ney lead an attack that overwhelmed the Dutch-Belgian jagers at Gemioncourt Farm (which I classified as a full BUA)

Next Ney lead some of Jerome's division in an assault on the 2nd Nassau defending the wood while Pire's cavalry moved around the top of the stream, carefully keeping their feet dry.  The Orange-Nassau regiment can be seen holding the crossroads.  That black part of the road represents its sunken nature.

Merlin leads his cavalry against the French Chasseurs a Cheval.  Not sure I can recall the outcome of the combat correctly, but my point in taking the photo was because I like the figure I have standing in for Merlin (a Prussian Old Glory figure).  And yes, I've used British Light Dragoons for the allied cavalry in the absence of proper Dutch Belgian troops.

Guard Light Cavalry have eventually crossed the stream near Thyle.  Kellerman crossed in the centre.  Movement in the streams disorders cavalry according to the original scenario notes, an additional factor that seems a bit harsh given the cost to cross and the negative fording factor if they engage in combat while fording.  Note Ney has been pulled back to rally some troops.  Previously he had been placed in the rear so that the Corps commanders, who have better command ratings) could take over.  I justified this bit of gamesmanship on the basis that he had gone to look for d'Erlon.

The final action for the night, Ney yet again lending his support to the attack on Quatre Bras.  After this it became rather difficult for the Allies to continue given lack of playing surface.


Having the French commanders roll (and the Prince of Orange do the same until Wellington arrives) seems to work okay.  It certainly is a good solitaire play factor but also creates an element of the tardy French approach to the battle.  The French also benefit from the Napoleon factor (increasing their dispersal numbers) and this also reflects Ney's role as a wing commander.

The Guard cavalry seem excessive and if removed along with the dragoons and also dropping the disorder affect of crossing what is believed to be a minor stream, then it might be a game balance factor although it really swings the points in favour of the allies (344 to 450).

Review the arrival times of the allies and the start time.  This could also be done with the addition of an extra bit of terrain at the allied entry points.  One of the key factors in these rules is changing from march column to attack column.  Another aspect is having plenty of rear area in which routed troops can rally.

Here is the game times:

Here is the Order of Battle (clicking on image should bring up something readable)

One thing to note is that French fatigue is based on Corps while that for the Allies is based on Divisions.  This is something I have agonized over and settled as it seems to better reflect the differences in command structures and will be something I carry over to the Waterloo game.


  1. It was a most enjoyable game to play Mark. Thanks for all your efforts in getting it ready. The map/board was superb!
    Those jolly National militia were amazing and the Nassauers did well too, but Ney was not to be denied!
    (The Dutch Belgian light cavalry drove back the French chasseurs, and then broke through onto one of Bachelu's units which failed to form square and was mauled, but not broken.)

  2. Great looking game and set up, Mark. Just found your blog via James' link on the ANF site.

    1. Thanks. Yes, James's and the ANF's blog is a great conduit for Napoleonic wargaming blogs and info.

  3. I enjoyed reading your after action report Mark, lovely figures/units, terrain and photos ..... well done!

  4. Interesting stuff :)
    I'm not convinced that we should assume a unit with 'guard' in the title should automatically be amazing - some 'lesser' units and brigades deserve much credit during this and other campaigns. A possible French bias,,,?

  5. I would say that Napoleon's Battles does have a French bias, but in their defence they reflect that other countries copied the French and the rules show this overtime (in the rules the factors change based on the year and of course the OOB change over time).

    The British guard infantry are only a little better (roughly one factor more) than the British line and the French guard light cavalry is better (by at least two) than French line cavalry. When you are using a ten sided dice there is still plenty of room for that level of difference not to predetermine results. Plus the rolls are capped at 1 and 10 and that increase the chance that poor troops, with a good roll will at least tie with good troops.

  6. Great report and a beautiful looking battle, Mark!

    I think you can make a pretty strong case for the fighting capabilities of the Old and Middle Guard - they were very carefully selected men, veterans all. Most other nations guards, our wargames conventions aside, were probably not that much more than expensive line troops, membership often being more a social status thing than by virtue of proven combat worthiness!

  7. Very cool Mark.

    I use James' blog as a links page myself to keep an eye on what everyone's doing. Good onya James.
    Plenty of good old Essex 15's in there I see. Those French lancers - I have some of those. They are a one piece casting although I can't remember what make. Tabletop perhaps?

    1. Thanks.

      The lancers are a favourite of mine. They are from Lancshire Games.

  8. Great Game. Really enjoyed reading about this and the solo version also

    1. Thanks. I'm looking forward to playing the scenario again, but without so much cavalry on the French side.