Saturday, 25 March 2023

Napoleons Battles, Quatre Bras again

 After my recent experiment with Napoleons Last Battles I thought I'd give it another go now I understand the mechanisms better. Quatre Bras is the smallest scenario so I broke that out again. 

Reille and Kellermans Corps pile up the road to Quatre Bras, defended by Perponchers Dutch. I left D'Erlons Corps and all the leader counters off for this as I wanted to see if I could put up a better defence. I've also oriented to North-South.

As before I'm using the optional combined arms rules, but not leaders, cavalry withdrawal before combat etc.

Just as in the last game, the French pile forwards in an all out assault on Perponcher, and get almost all their units into contact on Turn 1. As before, I'm going to try and work the massively superior French cavalry around the flanks, while bludgeoning forwards with the infantry and using the two artillery units to make two combined arms attacks per turn if possible.

These attacks go slightly differently to last time. Bijland is routed but the other Dutch infantry are just forced back (at 6:1!). The French follow up, which pins the Dutch 5-4 in combat so they will have to attack next turn.

Pictons 5th Division and the Brunswickers turn up. The Brunswick cavalry move to block the French 4-7 cavalry. The Dutch are forced to counterattack. Unlike last game, the Dutch gunners bravely hang on, which blocks the route to Quatre Bras with a ZOC.

And manage to roll a DR (at 1:2), so the French 6-4 is pushed back. Medals all around! 

The French pile in with everyone along the whole front, but with the cavalry favouring their right. The Dutch 5-4 is surrounded by ZOC so is going to be destroyed whatever happens.

The 5-4 is duly routed and removed, and the artillery (1-4) and Brunswick Cavalry (2-7) are also destroyed in high odds attacks. There are just too many French and I've just managed to lose the best Allied cavalry unit, again.

It did take a French cavalry unit with it in an EX result. I was forced to commit the Brunswickers as otherwise there was nothing to stop the French cavaly simply riding into Quatre Bras! 12 Allied SP lost to 4 French.

Picton and the Brunswickers move up and try and form a semblance of a line. Their real problem is the possibility of being outflanked and caught in a 'buttocks of death' unable to retreat. One of Pictons brigades stacked with the Dutch (1-7) cavalry and supported by Brunswick artillery conducts a counterattack in the woods west of QB. Combined arms gives it a column shift.  

The attack succeeds and pushes back the 5-4. There is now quite a solid line around Quatre Bras, although the Allied left looks a bit exposed.

The French get stuck in. The difficult terrain and ZOC preclude any big flanking manouvres, so the French concentrate their efforts on the flanks, with diversionary attacks elsewhere. I'm trying to end up with a stack next to QB, forcing the allies to attack out of the town. 

The attacks everywhere are a stunning success. The Allies are pushed back along the line, even the 1:2 attack on QB works and the defenders are pushed out. The unfortunate KGL and guns next to QB are surrounded and then eliminated as they are forced to retreat.

The French are just too strong. Good job D'Erlon isn't here as well! 

Not so great for the Allies. 4 French down to 17 Allied,

Most of the Allied units were pinned by advances so forced to counterattack, which they duly do. The only unengaged units (British infantry plus Dutch Cavalry) get stuck into a diversionary attack to support the Brunswick attack on QB.

Amazingly all the counterattacks work and the French are pushed back along the line, no significant losses though. Quatre Bras is recaptured. Maybe this is a more even fight than I thought.

The French pile in again. Unfortunately the Allied units on the right have a wide open flank and are enveloped by cavalry. The French concentrate on QB with a soakoff against the units in the woods.

The French retake Quatre Bras and annihilate the exposed Allied units on the right.

Cooks Division is now getting close by and Altens Guards are marching on from Hal. The Allied units around QB are pinned in ZOC and forced to attack at 1:1.

The attack fails and the units fall back. This is starting to look like a more coherent  Allied line running SW to NE, although that Brunswick 3-4 looks very exposed.

The Allies are nearly at their demoralisation level (25).

The French make an all out assault again, reordering their units so infantry and cavalry are combined, and the II Corps artillery provides fire support from Quatre Bras. As usual, the focus is on worrying away at the flanks, with diversionary attacks elsewhere.

The exposed Brunswickers are destroyed and the rest of the Allies force back. Advancing French units pin the survivors in ZOCs. 

The Allies have hit their demoralisation level now.

But as the Guards arrive, they bravely counterattack and try to anchor a line on the woods on each flank. Being demoralised means the Allies can't advance after combat. 

The Allied counterattacks fail, but after retreating there is now a nice concave Allied line anchored on the woods. Try attacking that Ney!

Which the French duly do, focussing on the flanks again. The terrain restricts how many units can be deployed, and the French concentrate on the extreme flanks, with soakoffs in support.

The Allies are pushed back, and once more French advance and pin them.

The Allies counterattacks fail and their line falls back further. Their left is now anchored on that stream, but their right is now hanging in the air (and anyone who can count hexes can see that 4-7 just itching to outflank those 6-4 Guards Brigades).

I call it a day at that point as the Allies have no hope of salvaging a win now.

That played better, I'm getting the hang of it, but I do think this scenario is hideously unbalanced. The Allies actually have more stuff than the French, but it gets chewed up in  bite sized chunks as it all arrives piecemeal. 

I had a look on BGG for some suggestions and the consensus seems to be that you have to use the (campaign) leader rules or the French can just attack everywhere with everyone and pull wildly unrealistic flanking manouvres. So I guess that will be the next trip to Quatre Bras, I can see that will be much tougher for the French, with Neys command limit of one facing off against Wellingtons four.

That apart, I'm getting some ideas to put in my own rules. I really, really dislike the bloodless retreats although I do like the back and forth of the heavily AR/DR focussed CRT. I'm now thinking DBA type modified opposed dice rolls for combat but with successes and failures generating retreats and a variable number of hits as well. Similar to the method I use in Panzergruppe. Units are only removed once their maximum hits are exceeded, and before then they can be rallied off. Food for thought anyway, which is the whole point of these experiments. 


  1. Thanks Martin, super-interesting. I have a half-baked theory in the back of my head that scenario+rules tend to be better predictors of game outcomes than what the players do and the four main battles of the Waterloo campaign tend to be great examples of this. To the extent that the rules allow highly co-ordinated and flexible actions, then that helps the French; the more disorder and confusion make it hard to do stuff, the stronger the Allies will be.

    1. I think you are probably right. The old AHGC Waterloo game got around some of these issues via completely daft stacking rules and adding bits of imaginary terrain! I'd actually intended to play each of the Quad battles in turn, but now Quatre Bras has piqued my interest and it is a problem I'm determined to solve.