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Black powder

Black Powder battle report: Attack of d’Erlon’s corps at Waterloo

 

Background:

As in a bad sequel, the once defeated and exiled Napoleon Bonaparte has once again seized power and disturbed the peace of Europe. Surrounded by enemies closing in on France and naturally inclined to the attack, the Emperor of the French has taken the bulk of his forces on a lightning attack into Belgium, driving a wedge between the allied armies of Prussia and a British led coalition army. Both have been defeated, but the war is far from over as two days later all three armies close in on some fields just south of Waterloo.

Further in the tradition of bad movies, the bad guys (aka the French) outnumber the stalwart redcoat defenders who have pledged to defend their ridge until the “cavalry” (the Prussian army) can come to their aid. For the emperor, the time to strike is now or never.

Seeing red (pun intended), Napoleon has forsaken all the fine art of maneuver that history has later made his hallmark and gone for the full-frontal assault. D’Erlon’s I Corps is just the type of blunt instrument the emperor needs.

The mission:

The French objective is to capture a portion of the ridge for subsequent cavalry and infantry formations. This has to be accomplished within 8 turns. A secondary objective is to capture the fortified farm of La Haye Sainte, which threatens the flanks of any advancing formations and provides a good firebase onto the ridge.

 

Order of battle French:

Charlet’s brigade: 4 line battalions

Bourgeois’ brigade: 4 line battalions

Schmitz’s brigade: 3 légère battalions, 2 line battalions

Aulard’s brigade: 4 line battalions

Traver’s brigade (elements of 13th cavalry division): 2 regiments of cuirassiers

Grande battery: 8 batteries (immobile during the game)

 

Order of battle Allied:

Ompteda’s brigade (KGL): 2 line battalions, 1 light battalion, 1 battery

Kempt’s brigade: 3 line battalions, 2 rifle companies (small), 1 battery

Bylandt’s brigade (Dutch militia): 3 line battalions

Pack’s brigade: 4 line battalions, 1 battery

Ponsonby’s brigade: 2 dragoon regiments (reserves on turn 4)

Somerset’s brigade: 2 guard dragoon regiments (small) (reserves from turn 2 onward)

Best’s brigade (Hanoverian): 4 line battalions (reserves on turn 4)

 

Set-up:

The British were set up similarly to the actual battle, with all three batteries and the dutch militia on the ridge and the rest of the forces kept in reserve just behind this. The riflemen from Kempt’s brigade were in forward positions and the KGL light battalion was occupying La Haye Sainte. Somerset’s dragoons would be arriving from the north-west corner any time from turn 2 onward, Ponsonby’s dragoons from the north on turn 4 and Best’s brigade from the north-east corner on turn 4.

The French artillery was on a hill slightly forward of their infantry. The infantry were in attack columns lined up along the whole front. The main strength was on the French left nearby La Haye Sainte. Here battalions were lined up in two waves with the légère battalions in skirmish order screening the advance. Aulard’s brigade on the right was the only section of the line where the battalions were only in one line and without a separate skirmish screen, they were deployed in mixed order with the battalions’ own voltigeurs up front. The cuirassiers were the only formations deployed to the left of La Haye Sainte – intent on securing the flank.

The battlefield can be seen from the north-east corner in the picture below. The French are attacking from the south.

 photo IMG_7207_zps749aa1fa.jpg

 

The French left:

 photo IMG_7208_zps695b32fd.jpg

 photo IMG_7209_zpsf3e583d6.jpg

 

French center with the grande battérie. photo IMG_7210_zps72cb4087.jpg

 

British center:

 photo IMG_7211_zps98829edf.jpg

 

Wellington has come to oversee the threatened sector: photo IMG_7212_zpsa24d20c9.jpg

 

The game:

The thunderous roar of the grande battérie paused only for a moment, before the air was filled with the sound of hundreds of drums pacing the advance of thousands of feet. The attack had begun. The attack was well coordinated and determined as every French infantry brigade managed to roll three commands. The four battalions of Charlet’s brigade started the show by assaulting La Haye Sainte. Meanwhile the whole line advanced towards the ridge in the cover of their skirmish screen. D’Erlon himself led the attack, giving a combined order to numerous brigades in order to ensure the line wouldn’t break up.

Shooting was quite ineffective with the French artillery concentrating on counter-battery fire, disordering one battery and the skirmishers harassing the riflemen to their front. The British return fire was equally ineffective. The first assault on La Haye Sainte was repulsed, but the second wave made some headway and set the farmhouse on fire. (We played the farmhouse as a standard building but if the attackers won, the defenders morale and static building bonus would drop by one. On the other hand, the defenders would pass their first break test automatically).

The French left:

 photo IMG_7213_zps965fae83.jpg

 

The center:

 photo IMG_7214_zps5e72dfdc.jpg

 photo IMG_7215_zpsf3c60720.jpg

 

Turn 2 saw the French commit two more battalions from Schmitz’s brigade to attacking the farmhouse from the east (a combined 6 battalions vs. 1!). Bourgeois’ brigade in the center was ordered to assault the Dutch militia on the center, but delays in transmitting orders and difficult terrain resulted in a slow advance to within musket range. Sensing this hesitancy, Aulard’s brigade (on the far right of the French line) was commanded to conduct the assault instead of simply providing support and protecting the flank as originally intended. Shooting continued to be ineffective, though the British artillery continued to sustain damage from the légère battalions and French artillery.

The assaults were a mixed success, with the defenders of La Haye Sainte being routed and the farmhouse captured. On the other hand the Dutch militia proved a tough prospect for the overconfident French, who were forced to retire in disorder.

 photo IMG_7216_zps49cc7b45.jpg

 photo IMG_7217_zps5af8f907.jpg

 photo IMG_7218_zps27359c73.jpg

 

The second British turn saw mainly static firing on the advancing French, although Ompteda’s brigade (right) and Somerset’s cavalry brigade (which entered the table from the north-west corner) advanced onto the ridge on the British right. Some battalions from Pack’s brigade on the British left also moved onto the ridge and opened fire on the French. The firing caused some damage particularly on the French right (Aulard’s brigade).

The following French turn saw a renewed assault with even more vigor. This time Bourgeois’ brigade (center) managed to close with the enemy in a dense formation, while Aulard’s brigade (right) was complacent in supporting this assault and liking its wounds (disorders from previous turn and some rallying from damage caused). Charlot’s and Schmitz’s brigades on the French left now resumed the advance on the ridge, leaving behind a mauled up battalion to hold the farmhouse. The skirmish screen of légère battalions engaged the enemy by assaulting the forward rifle company and engaging the British artillery in a close range firefight. The cuirassiers were ordered to engage the advancing British dragoons, but failed to engage.

Attack on the Dutch militia by Bourgeois’ brigade (with Aulard’s battalions supporting and on the left and rear of the picture).

 photo IMG_7219_zps8a94dae2.jpg

 

 

The British right with some nasty close range artillery fire on the French and lead elements of Pack’s brigade engaging the French: photo IMG_7220_zps09214682.jpg

 

The British right:

 photo IMG_7222_zps6a3c6718.jpg

 photo IMG_7223_zps9807dc47.jpg

 

 

Close-range skirmish fire proved deadly and the British artillery was neutralized.

 photo IMG_7224_zpse64fba8f.jpg

 

 

The légère also proved their worth in the assault, routing the pesky and annoying 95th rifles defending the sandpit while at the same time screening the main force:

 photo IMG_7225_zps0c6ffda9.jpg

 

 

The cuirassiers failed to engage:

 photo IMG_7226_zps3459c55e.jpg

 photo IMG_7228_zps957d9f74.jpg

 

 

On turns 3-4 Bourgeois’ brigade (center right) finally manages to rout the Dutch militia and a battalion of Aulard’s brigade (right) charges and routs the British battery protecting the flank. Pack’s brigade makes a furious counter-attack on the British left though, driving back one battalion and badly mauling another:

 photo IMG_7229_zpsa43fe131.jpg

 

The guard dragoons on the British right seize the initiative and charge the cuirassiers, who are caught wrong footed. The 4th regiment of cuirassiers are routed in what is a thoroughly shameful performance.

 photo IMG_7230_zpscb94ee07.jpg

 

Overall view:

 photo IMG_7231_zps76d11717.jpg

 

 

On turns 4-5 the swirling cavalry mêlée escalates as the infantry are drawn in. The second regiment of French cuirassiers charged the infantry of Ompteda’s brigade and forced them into a square, thereby protecting La Haye Sainte from attack and giving an excellent target for the French artillery. Shortly afterwards the British cavalry counter-charged only to be decimated by the furious French. photo IMG_7233_zps68bd902a.jpg

 

 

Meanwhile Best’s Hanoverian brigade arrived from reserve on the British left. With great precision they took up positions to counter-attack the strung-out French right, which was already in a very bad shape.

 photo IMG_7236_zpsfde1fb42.jpg

 

Turn 4 also saw the French make even more headway on the ridge, only to witness Ponsonby’s cavalry reserve enter the field.

 photo IMG_7237_zps984ed635.jpg

 photo IMG_7239_zpsa3a03194.jpg

 

On the French left the cuirassiers finally clear the field of the British cavalry while Charlet’s and Schultz’s brigades get properly stuck in. The British line on this flank was now perilously thin:

 photo IMG_7240_zpsa275e402.jpg

 

While two French battalions charged a lone battalion from Kempt’s brigade on the French left, the légère opened up on Ponsonby’s cavalry. The fire disordered the 6th dragoons two turns in a row and thereby prevented them from charging:

 photo IMG_7241_zps08c2d550.jpg

 

The center of the field was a mass of chaos with a furious firefight between the two armies and several French columns in strong positions on the ridge. The British cavalry was a serious problem for any further actions though:

 photo IMG_7242_zpsebd521ee.jpg

 

 

The Scots Greys wasted no time in assaulting the French who formed a battalion square (which held out for 4-5 rounds of combat!).

 photo IMG_7244_zpsf3118637.jpg

 

To the shock and horror of the French, the assault on the central-left portion of the ridge takes a horrible turn when the two battalions assaulting the British lose a round of combat and both rout, taking with them a third battalion of légère. Mon dieu! (fortunately the French still had reserves)

 photo IMG_7246_zps53555274.jpg

 

 

The Hanoverians on the British left got stuck in and began to drive back the French, who were hanging on by tooth and nail (virtually all four battalions of Aulard’s brigade were shaken or disordered each turn with frantic efforts to rally the battalions going on).

 photo IMG_7247_zps7037080a.jpg

 

Furious fighting for the central portion of the ridge:

 photo IMG_7249_zpsec81c378.jpg

 

 

With the help of the cuirassiers and the remaining battalions of the reserve the last British defenders are mopped up on their right flank:

 photo IMG_7250_zps166bb732.jpg

 

 

On the British left the French are driven back ever further:

 photo IMG_7251_zpscc5fc043.jpg

 

The 6th dragoons also managed to close in on the French, whose central position was becoming ever more untenable with the pressure of this assault and the disintegration of their right flank:

 photo IMG_7252_zpsca390b1c.jpg

 

 

Final position on the French right – a lost cause:

 photo IMG_7253_zps1ffc72be.jpg

 

 

But La Haye Sainte and the left flank portion of the ridge was firmly in the hands of the French:

 photo IMG_7257_zpsc264bd10.jpg

 

We called this a marginal French victory, with a sufficient though small bridgehead achieved in the vicinity and cover of the now French controlled La Haye Sainte.

 

Endgame:

This was a fun game not only thanks to a great and sporting opponent, but also due to the greatly adapted and thought out scenario and the attention to historical detail (though we didn’t constrain ourselves to simulating a historical event). The game played out nicely with different outcomes in various sectors of the battlefield that also nicely affected each other (particularly with the use and redirection of reserves).

The game wasn’t an example of the finer tactics with the French essentially bludgeoning their way onto the ridge, but this didn’t make it any less fun. The game also included memorable events such as a “rally” command on the desperate French right going horribly wrong with the battalion conveniently misunderstanding (blunder) the general’s commands as an all-out retreat.

We also tried out some of the new rules from the BP supplements Albion Triumphant 1 and 2, which worked out nicely and didn’t bog the game down.

Lessons learned include using hills that are easier for game play the next time we play a scenario centered on fighting on and around hills.

Thanks to Antti for a well adapted and researched scenario and for making a great model of La Haye Sainte farm.

 

 

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15 comments to Black Powder battle report: Attack of d’Erlon’s corps at Waterloo

  • avatar Antti Lahtela

    Kiitos vielä pelistä, mahtavaa päästä vihdoin pelaamaan Waterloon taistelua :) Tässä on vuoden verran maalattu liittoutuneille joukkoja kovalla tahdilla, niin kiva saada ne käyttöön.

    Skenu toimi tosiaan hyvin ja päästiin mielestäni ihan kivasti lähelle oikeaa historiallista lopputulosta, tosin ne saksalaiset siellä La Haie Saintessa olisivat voineet pitää asemansa vähän pidempään ;)

    Tämä raportti on hyvä sneak peak tulevaisuudessa pelattavaan koko Waterloon taistelua kuvaavaan skenaarioon, milloin se tapahtukoon jää nähtäväksi. Hougomount-kartano on vielä rakennusvaiheessa ja ranskalaisia tarvitsee lisää…

  • avatar Juha

    Hieno raportti! Tuo taustatutkimus ja historiallinen lähtökohta ovat hienoje juttuja!

  • avatar Teemu

    Kaikki Black Powderia 28mm pelaavat huomio!

    Fantasiapeleissä on ainakin ranskalaisia, brittejä, itävaltalaisia ja venäläisiä naposodat-figuja alessa:

    https://www.fantasiapelit.com/index.php?main=ai&kat=sekal&jamista=luokka&jamika=miniatyyri&jarj=miniatyyripeli&mista=kampanja&yhteen=&alue=_&etsittava=netti6

    Toki myös kreikkaa, roomaa ja kelttejä ancienttiin sekä pike & shotte -joukkoja.

  • avatar Antti Lahtela

    Joo, onhan se hyvä että ovat alessa niin voi houkutella lisää pelaajia Napoleonin sotia pelaamaan.

  • avatar Juha

    On se hyvä, noin genren kannalta. Minulle vaan tuo 15mm on enemmän Napoleonic skaala, jo ihan noiden historiallisten pelien edellyttämän figumäärän vuoksi.

  • avatar Juha

    Jaaako tai Antti, mitä Albion lisäsääntöjä kokeilitte tässä pelissä?

    • avatar JaakkoB

      Käytettiin niitä brittilinjan ja ranskalaiskolonnan sääntöjä – eli Britit voivat tehdä vastarynnäkön tulen jälkeen, eivät saa mennä hyökkäyskolonnaan mutta käyttävät komppaniakolonnaa (column of companies). Ranskisten hyökkäyskolonnat menettävät moraalibonuksen lähitaistelun kakkoskierroksella jos eivät menekään läpi mutta jos voittavat saavat myös tukevat osastot edetä (rules as written on että vain kontaktissa olevat mutta päätimme muuttaa tämän järkevämmäksi).

      Käytimme myös uudistettua neliönmuodostussääntöä ratsuväen hyökätessä (komentotesti johon plussia jos ratsuväki aloittaa rynnäkön kaukaa sekä erot linjojen, kolonnien sekä linjojen joiden selusta turvattu välillä).

      Kokeilimme tykinkuulan pomppaamisen sääntöä, mutta muutimme tämän suoraan järkevämmäksi: jos kohteen takana tukikantamalla (6cm tai 6″ skaalasta riippuen) on toinen kohde heitetään myös tätä kohtaan osumista (mutta on tietenkin obscured).

      Käytännössä neliösäännöillä ja kuulankimpoamissäännöillä ei ollut pelissä merkitystä koska näitä tilanteita oli sen verran vähän ja testeissä onnistuttiin.

      Niin, ja käytimme myös sääntöä että kuolleen komentajan tilalle tulee toinen (tosin meillä piti odottaa vuoron ennen kuin ilmaantuu), mutta tätähän olemmekin jo jonkin aikaa käyttäneet.

      Antti myös ehdotti että Wellington olisi antanut Corps commander re-rolleja komentoihin mutta mielestäni tämä olisi tehnyt komentamisesta liian helppoa (kun kaikki oli vielä 8n komentajia).

      • avatar Juha

        Tuohan on hyvinkin historiallista, tuo Brittien osaamattomuus kolonnissa ja linjan vastahyökkäys, hauskaa! Samoin hyökkäyskolonnan muuttuminen tavalliseksi unitiksi momentumin hävitessä, sekin vaikuttaa hyvältä. Kohta voimme siirtyä General de Brigade sääntöihin, tarkentuu homma vielä ;-)

  • avatar Antti Lahtela

    Kuten ollaan keskusteltu, niin Black Powderin säännöt on mainiot sellaisenaan. Aina voi kokeilla uusia sääntöjä, mutta ei toki ole tarvetta lähteä säätämään joka peliin uutta. Paras anti tuossa uudessa kirjassa oli jalkaväen toiminta ratsuväen hyökätessä, eli neliösääntöjen tarkennus. Tuo mielestäni hyvin esille eri muodostelmien eron taistelukentällä, kun etenkin linjasta oli vaikea muodostaa neliötä historiallisesti.

    Muita sääntöjä voidaan käyttää jos siltä tuntuu, ei lähdetä GW:n Errata-linjalle missä pitää tietää kuukauden uudet säännöt että pääsee pelaamaan :)

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