Quatre Bras one last time

Quatre Bras one last time

 I thought I’d give the Quatre Bras scenario from Napoleons Last Battles one last go. After the previous two French victories, I used all the optional and campaign rules, most importantly, the leader rules. 

This should heavily handicap the French ability to simply devour the Allies piecemeal by attacking with all their stuff every turn and conducting wide outflanking manoeuvres with their numerous cavalry. 

The French CinC (Ney) has a lousy command rating of one, meaning he can activate a single formation plus a single unit per turn. In contrast, Wellington has a rating of four (!) and is supported by Orange who is also a one. There are the usual Wargame type limits on command distance, five hexes for CinC and three hexes for formations, so armies need to stay together. 

Here we are again, with all the leader counters too. I did eventually find Orange in the Waterloo scenario bag. Having two commanders is a big Allied advantage as they can operate in two wings if need be. 
It doesn’t help with Perponchers Dutch being outnumbered about 8:1 though. 
Reille has cleverly positioned himself so that the advance guard of his Corps (the cavalry division and two infantry brigades nearest QB) are out of command on turn one. That doesn’t seem very sensible and a mistake no wargamer would make, although I guess it is for scenario balance.

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Perponcher holds the ground in front of the crossroads. There are as many commanders as combat units as Orange and Wellington look on. 

Although Reilles Advance Guard is out of command, the rest of his Corps isn’t, so Ney activates them and uses his unit command to activate the OOC (out of command) cavalry division too. The French pile down the road into Bijlandts brigade in time honoured fashion. 
The main difference here is that an entire division of Reille and all of Kellermans cavalry are out of command, so they can just cautiously move up instead. This means the French just attack one Dutch brigade in overwhelming force instead of both of them. 
The French commanders meanwhile sort themselves out into more sensible locations. 

Bijlandt is duly routed, leaving the other Dutch brigade looking a bit isolated. Kellerman has a Guard cavalry division attached, which isn’t apparently part of any command structure, so Ney will have to order them himself. They occupy the chateau on the left, while Kellermans cavalry mass in the better horse country on the right. 

Unlike previous games, more of the Dutch are intact as Picton and the Brunswickers pile down the road from Brussels. The Dutch infantry block the road, the guns fall back to QB and the light cavalry screens the tracks through the woods. The cavalry screening rules coupled with the (out of) command restrictions make for interesting options with light cavalry screens and serve to protect Army flanks much better. 

I made a stupid mistake with the Dutch. I should have used the guns to cover the right flank of the infantry. The guns would have been overrun, but at least would have avoided the the 5-4 being encircled! The initial defence really is hard, I was trying to avoid losing the special allied units (guns, cavalry) but in fact they have loads of artillery units, so losing the odd 1point gun doesn’t really matter. 
Ney activates Reille again. He also activates that lone Guard Cavalry who ride through the forest and try to drive off the Dutch light cavalry. Kellerman gets his horsemen over the stream on the right. 

The Dutch 5-4 is duly obliterated, surrounded on four sides. The ZOC rules are brutal.
In the woods however, La Garde Recule! Notionally a 4:1 attack, cavalry are halved in woods and the 2:1 attack by the Guard Cavalry fails. In the campaign game this would have catastrophic morale consequences, but we aren’t playing the campaign game.

Picton and Brunswick occupy QB and form a line behind the Ridge. The brigades are a bit jumbled up as  a lot of them are stacked with artillery, but their flanks are anchored on woods. Hanoverians and Brunswickers put in a counterattack in front of QB to try and hold the Ridge. If it fails, it doesn’t matter however…. 

As they can just retreat into the woods hex next to QB neatly providing support. I thought I was being very clever there. Not sure about all these bloodless retreats from failed attacks, but that is how the CRT is set up. 
Right, attack that Ney! 

Ney obliged and Reille rolled forwards again. As did the Guard Cavalry, right through that enormous gap I’d left on the allied right flank, and no doubt already spotted by eagle eyed readers. Oh dear! What an idiot I am. 
Kellerman was left in the cold again. The attacks to the right of QB are basically soakoffs. I’ve got the Hanoverians surrounded to the left of QB, and if I win, there will be a great big stack left next to the town, forcing a counterattack. 
It is so much easier attacking. 

The soakoff attacks fail and  retreat, but the unfortunate Hanoverians are routed and the victors advance, which leaves three big units right next to Picton in Quatre Bras. 

Not looking so good in the casualty pile here. 

Altens division is now marching down the road from Nivelles so the Brunswick and Dutch cavalry move to cover the road and Orange rides off to command them. The rest of the Allies try and form a coherent line but Picton is stuck in ZOC and forced to attack.

The attack at 1:2 duly fails, Picton retreats and the French take QB. Looks like the Allies are about to be split in two. Again.

Ney activates Reille who makes another massive frontal attack on Picton, who is routed and destroyed. 

This is looking really bad. The allies are 3SP off demoralisation and the French haven’t lost a single unit.

Alten tries to save the day with a combined arms attack on the French left flank, while the remains of Pictons division makes a pinning attack on the right.

Picton attack fails and forces a retreat (the desired result), while Alten succeeds in pinning the French left. The Allied line is looking a bit better now but their left wing is still vulnerable.

The French consolidate their position around QB, routing another Allied brigade and tipping the Allies into demoralisation. The Allied line doesn’t look too bad, but the French have cleared the road to Ligny, and almost opened the route to Waterloo and Brussels without losing a single unit.
It is curtains for the Allies so I stopped at that point.
So, another crushing victory for Ney despite his command limitations. Perhaps I’m just rubbish at defending. The command limits actually worked very well and meant the various Corps had to stay more concentrated. I also liked the additional rules for cavalry, which combined the command rules gave cavalry a sensible screening role. 
There are definitely some ideas in there I’m going to borrow, but I’ll want something with a much less granular grid. I reckon half mile hexes and bases representing roughly 2000 infantry or 1000 cavalry grouped into infantry divisions and cavalry Corps respectively. I really like the idea of Corps commanders having to be activated. 
The NLB CRT is just bizarre though. It is far too easy to make low odds attacks with no penalty, but high odds attacks can result in massive losses to both the attacker, which is contrary to all my understanding of Napoleonic warfare. Anyway easy enough to fix, the Corps level combat system in Phil Sabins „Kartenspiel“ is a far more sensible and historically grounded method, so I’ll probably do a variant of that. 
A useful series of games though, and it has helped kick start the design process again at any rate. 

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Autor: Martin Rapier / The Games We Play

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