A Re-vamped Waterloo

The New Waterloo was played out last weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre, as always the protagonists turned up for the game late Friday afternoon.

This version of Waterloo was going to be far different to any other I had played or indeed run before. We turned the whole battlefield around 180 degrees, this means that the new position for Plancenoit would be far more historical locating it more south of south-east from the French front line. Hougomont would also be better located geographically, being nearer the French deployment.

The French assault

The French assault the Papelotte area and ridge.

While I am on the subject of change, I’ve looked at some of the “In the Grand Manner” rulings and taken advice from people out there who play a great deal and made a few changes. Key ones being that there is no more “doubling” unless routing or charging, (people always forget whether it was two or three turns since they last doubled). This has been encompassed with the “tactical march” formations are allowed to make a tactical march move anywhere on the table. The whole turn must be in this manoeuvre, the change of formation being in the following turn, unless the unit is receiving a charge.

moving to occupy Plancenoit

The French move on Plancenoit.

This means reserves can be brought into place quickly while losing nothing of the feel of the game.

British Hussars

British Light Cavalry.

The sides were chosen, the tiles written and the tactics discussed and put into practice.

Veterans outside Frischermont

French Veterans line out just outside Plancenoit, near Frischermont.

We have had some new additions at the WHC in the last few weeks, Dave Docherty of One man and his brushes fame has painted a beautiful new battalion of British Foot Guards specifically for the replay on the anniversary. He also put a surprise into play by presenting us with a scratch built Rocket troop using Front Rank RHA, converting the gunners to hold rockets and building a rocket launcher from wire. Fantastic!!!!

Massed French Troops pour forward

French Troops from D’Erlos Corps and Kellermanns Cavalry pour forward on Saturday afternoon.

The French deployment was fairly historical with limitations put on them by me, the Umpire. All the Guard were held in reserve, either side of the Brussels highway south of La Belle Alliance along with Lobau’s Vi Corps. The Allies were deployed in the usual place behind the ridge, the British Guards being deployed at Hougomont with the rest of the army being deployed right down to Papelotte. Any divisions held behind the ridge were to be represented by a single tile, thus giving nothing away to the French.

The die was cast and battle was set, the first turn on tiles was completed and people retired for an evening of merriment at the local.

Saturday morning saw the battle begin in earnest, with the Prussians now having so much room to deploy and a nine to ten foot distance to get to Plancenoit they were seen right from the off! Lobau began manoeuvring toward Plancenoit. The Corps of Reille began the bombardment of the ridge, while Jerome’s division began the attack on Hougomont.

D’Erlons Corps began to probe the Papelotte position and the ridge to the west of this farm. All the French Heavy Cavalry corps were held in reserve waiting for the moment to smash through.

KGL engage the Cuirassier

The Cuirassier of Milhaud’s Corps take on the KGL brigade of cavalry early on Saturday afternoon.

Along the Allied line the British and Hanoverian troops awaited the impending assault, the light battalion of the KGL opened fire on the French Division of Girard as it started into the garden of the farm house, all the skirmish screen being shot away in short order.

The assault on Hougomont was getting tense for the allies, the Guard battalion holding the Orchard was reinforced by another battalion of Guards and the initial exchanges saw the first battalion of Guards become decimated by close range fire from Reilles artillery. The resulting melee in the Orchard saw the Guards give ground, being reduced to half strength!

Early on the Saturday

Prussian Cavalry push on to Plancenoit.

Around Papelotte the news that the Prussians were arriving gave the commanders there confidence. Vandeleurs light cavalry brigade pushed forward to link up with the Prussian brigades freshly arrived. This prompted Milhaud’s Cavalry Corps moving west to counter this while Kellermanns Cavalry supported the two divisions of D’Erlons corps that was fast approaching the ridge.

Prussian Horse Battery goes down!

A Prussian Horse Battery is overrun by French infantry near Plancenoit.

By lunch time on Saturday, the Prussians were fully engaged with Lobau’s troops and the fighting east of Plancenoit and Frischermont began in earnest. The battle raged back and forth! More Prussians were arriving all the time and the French needed to hold, so some talk of the Young Guard being released was mentioned.

A view of the Massed French attack.

The French Assault on the Allied ridge.

Vandeleur’s Light Dragoon regiments ran into the lead regiments of Milhaud’s Cuirassier and the bloody engagement saw several squadrons drawn into the fight. A flippant remark by the Umpire saw all the brigade of plucky Light Dragoons committed against a full regiment of Cuirassier, poor Bob only managed one six out of twenty four though and the Cuirassier squadron threw four out of his twelve. Vandeleur scurried back to the ridge with his tail between his legs. (Sorry Bob, I’ll keep my mouth shut next time).

Carabinier and Dragoons

Heavy cavalry from Kellermanns Corps.

L'Heritiers Dragoons

L’Heritiers Dragoons, probably the most successful cavalry of the battle.

The ridge to the east of La Haye Sainte was fast being approached by the two French divisions from D’Erlons Corps amd the Allies responded by sending the 95th Rifles out to enfilade the advancing mass in the flank. The plucky commander of the divisions pressed his attack home though and beat the Highlanders holding the ridge here. The Dragoons and Carabinier from Kellermanns Corps were preparing to ride down the resulting mass of unformed infantry when the Union brigade emerged from behind the ridge.

Scots Greys emerge from over the ridge and into the Fray.

Deathhhhh!

Scots Greys meet their match.

The Scots Greys and Inniskilling Dragoons led the charge and the two cavalry forces collided in the biggest cavalry melee of the weekend. The fight went the full three rounds with all the reserves being drawn in. The infantry were saved, but the Union brigade was shattered, then Kellermann rallied the Carabinier and Dragoons and roused them for another charge, this time running down the Brunswick Foot Artillery and the remaining cavalry from Vandeluer’s brigade.

Lobau

Commander of the French VI Corps, Lobau.

Still the Prussians pushed on, there were now four brigades on the table and still more on their way, could the French hold?

Time for a well earned pint and a slap up meal.

Sunday dawned, the guys turned up bright eyed and bushy tailed and we set off again. The casualties from the area of Hougomont were light on both sides. La Haye had not been troubled, however, at the eastern end of the battlefield Papelotte, Frischermont, Smohain and Plancenoit were carnage.

The French commanders decided to release the Young Guard and the Guard cavalry. To the east of Hougomont the Household cavalry had shown their face in support of the Dutch and Belgian cavalry and the Cavalry of the French Guard were moving to stop them and support the taking of the Chateau. The British Life Guards had got lucky and managed to ride down two battalions of Frenchmen just outside the Orchard to the east of Hougomont!

Outside Plancenoit the Prussians again poured forward, volleys from Lobau’s Corps crashing into the Blue and Black ranks of Germans. One of the Prussian artillery batteries from Bulow’s corps was overrun during a counter attack by the French infantry. There were now six brigades of Prussians on the field, stretching from east of Plancenoit, north through Frischermont to Smohain and now linking up with the British division occupying Papelotte.

The French divisions of Durutte and Marcognet renewed the assault in the Papelotte area, covered by the Cuirassier of Milhaud’s Cavalry Corps. The melee saw the French repulsed but they rallied and readied themselves again.

Overview of Papelotte ridge

The Papelotte area on the Sunday.

Will this be enough?

The Brunswick Corps along with their British Allies move to plug the gap.

At this point in the battle Duhesme and the divisions of the Young Guard were seen moving toward the Papelotte area, column of attack they marched resolutely on. The British realised they didn’t have anything to stop them now, they needed the Prussians to press the attack and put the French on the back foot in the Papelotte and Smohain area. It was slow work but the Prussians were trying.

In Hougomont the Guards moved to the edge of the Orchard, opening up on the French infantry of Jerome’s division. The French held their ground, these brave Frenchmen were holding up one Guards division and two of the Dutch/Belgian divisions in the area not to mention the Dutch/Belgian cavalry and the Household Cavalry that were committed here!

The Farmhouse of La Haye Sainte, still sat unmolested, the French division sitting on the Garden of the farmhouse trading shots with the KGL Lights inside.

Lunchtime on the Sunday saw the Old Guard released, the mass of nine battalion of Bearskins started their inexorable advance to the Allied ridge. By the time the Young Guard had finished with what remained of the defenders of the ridge between Papelotte and La Haye Sainte, it would be easy for the Grumblers.

The Young Guard advance.

So the battle came to a natural finish, the Allied forces had nothing to stop the French advance, their infantry around Papelotte had been decimated, the French cavalry had won the day and punched a large hole in the Allied line. The Prussians were slowly making headway but only around Smohain and Plancenoit.

The Young Guard advance to the ridge.

At the end of Sunday it was agreed that the French had won the day.

It was a new way of fighting the battle, the Prussians had started on turn 2, which may seem early but historically they were seen on the field as early as 13.30, Prussian Hussars being captured. Napoleon had seen them from the heights of Rossomme.

Advancing over nine feet means that the French can manoeuvre to stop them, should the Prussians succeed in getting their brigades on in force early it may have been a different story, but the first three brigades of Bulow were followed by a belated brigade from Pirch and then Ziethen, finally their last brigade arriving into the melting pot around lunchtime.

French Cuirassier

French Cuirassier pressing the Prussians at Smohain.

I decided to allow the French to make their own decision as to when they could release the Guard. I explained that the key features would carry victory points which would increase or decrease in value, depending on the arrival of the Prussians. There was a negative effect to these “victory points” if the various Guard units were released and when. So it was up to them if they wanted to throw the Old Guard in on turn 2, it would carry massive minuses and may have cost them the battle. This is in an effort to make it their decision and bring something of the campaign effect into the game. The players all agreed that it worked very well and these are from the more seasoned campaigners!

Good news, so until the Gettysburg write up, roll high!

This entry was posted in Battle Reports, Napoleonic, Wargames Holiday Centre. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Re-vamped Waterloo

  1. brian southwell says:

    Looks a well fought and interesting battle, but confused – How does turning it round 180 degrees give thr Prussins more room and affect the layout? It’s still 27ft long? I’d love to see the map of the table layout.
    Hougoment & Plancenoit were never quite right in my view.

    • Mark Freeth says:

      At the new Wargames Holiday Centre we have a lot more room behind our second six foot table. This means more people can operate comfortably around the table. The 180 degree turn means that Plancenoit is now S.SE of the French front line by six feet. The edge of the table to the right of the French centre is over fifteen feet away and Plancenoit is at least nine feet away from this edge. Overall there is a lot more space for manoeuvring. I’ll look to get the map on ASAP. Thanks for the enquiry.

      • brian southwell says:

        Cheers Mark,Makes a bit more sense now, not such much ‘spare’ space behind the French – Also like the concept of prussians getting on earlier – saves them being British for a day, and they could have arrived by brigades much earlier, rather than wait until they were mob handed!

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