Cavalry attacks at Waterloo

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Russ1664
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Cavalry attacks at Waterloo

Post by Russ1664 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:52 am

Previously we had tested how FOG-N rules represented D’Erlons attack at Waterloo and we now wanted to investigate the part of the battle West of La Haye Sainte. This is the second part of our preparation for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, again testing the suitability of the rules for our group to recreate the battle; where “suitable” is a combination of playability, historical accuracy and fun. In this game we played the French attack on Hougoument and the subsequent massed French cavalry attacks.

Using a historical Orbat(1) and guidance from the rules we created the units and command structure for the battle this time limiting ourselves to the action and units involved West of La Haye Sainte. For the French we represented Reille’s infantry corps with Milhaud’s and Kellerman’s heavy cavalry corps together with the Imperial Guard Cavalry, and 1 division of D’Erlons corps which was limited to attacking La Haye Sainte. The British (and friends) represented the troops of the Prince of Orange Corps (less Perponcher’s Division), the 2nd Corps under Hill, the Brunswick division and 5 assorted allied cavalry brigades under Uxbridge.

We placed La Haye Sainte, garrisoned by the KGL, and the Brussels road in the middle of the table, Hougoumont was placed 15” to the West. North of the two strong points was the East-West allied ridge line with a second ridge some 10” to the north and parallel. The British deployed on and between both ridges. To the South of the buildings ran a curving ridgeline roughly East-West on which the French deployed. However, having deployed the troops we found the two ridges were too far apart for the French artillery to bombard the allies. Hougoumont and its associated woods covered an area of about 9” square, with the building garrisoned by the 2nd Guards brigade and the woods to its South by a brigade representing Nassau and Hanoverian troops.

The allies had 2 small artillery units and 5 infantry brigades on their forward ridge crest with the remaining 10 infantry and 6 Cavalry brigades with 4 artillery units on the reverse slope. In addition to which there were a further 4 cavalry brigades, some of which counted as spent, available in support. The French we deployed as per the maps of the battle(1) with Milhaud’s Cavalry Corps and the Guard Light Cavalry to the East of the main road. For both sides some historical brigades were sufficiently large that they constituted 2 small units for our game, this is particularly true for many of the allied forces.

Similar to our previous refight we agreed to constrain our ability to manoeuvre units to their historical roles, for the French this meant Reille’s Corps would confine its attacks to Hougoumont and the cavalry would attack between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte. The allied infantry would not advance from the ridge and the allied reserves behind the ridge could not manoeuvre until a French cavalry unit had attacked the allies on the ridge. To speed up the game we allowed the start of the French infantry and cavalry attacks to be near simultaneous rather than sequential as in reality the two fights were almost independent of each other.

We made 3 rules changes; the first was to allow artillery to fire overhead of friendly troops on lower ground if the firer and the target were both on higher ground; secondly to increase the range of artillery to 24”(because of my mistake in setting up). If the artillery unit fired in either circumstance then it’s effect was reduced by 1 die. Finally we did not play an overall commander on the French side, each corps commander led his own forces, but in addition we played Marshal Ney as a competent charismatic army commander who could move like a divisional commander. During the game he spent much of his time rallying forces.

And to the refight itself? Well on the initial turn the 2 leading brigades of Jerome’s division promptly assaulted the woods of Hougoumont and were immediately repulsed by the defenders fire! Similarly the assault on La Hay Sainte on the other side of the battlefield was also repulsed. The artillery fire of both sides was ineffective although in the subsequent infantry fire fight with it’s erstwhile attackers the Nassau troops were driven back deeper into the Hougoumont woods.

On turn 2 both the reserve brigades of Jerome’s division now jumped into the assault and this time the fire from the Nassau troops did not stop the attackers and they were broken in the subsequent melee. This unsettled the Guards in the buildings behind them and even more so the Hanoverians on the ridge behind as the Nassau troops routed through them. Kellerman’s cavalry corps now moved forwards into the valley between the armies though some units were delayed by failing their CMT to pass through the infantry divisions. Meanwhile a desultory fire fight was starting around La Haye Sainte.

Little decisive action was seen on turn 3. The 4 French infantry units in the woods were reorganising for the assault on the Chateaux. Meanwhile the 2 British artillery units prevented the leading cavalry units from advancing this turn. The desultory fire fight continues around La Haye Sainte with the French trying to renew the assault, but failing to rally their units as fire from the buildings and supporting British artillery drops their cohesion levels, the KGL defenders also intermittently suffer and recover cohesion. This fight stutters on throughout the game but no further reference will be made of it.

On turn 4 Jerome’s expected attack on the Chateaux commences but both brigades are stopped in a withering hail of fire from the Guards. More of the French heavy cavalry move into the valley and get into charge range (but just outside medium gun range), in response the front line allied infantry brigades form square.

Turn 5 and Charge! Huzzah! First a large unit of dragoons charges a square and an artillery battery, while a Cuirassier unit charges the square of the 1st Guards brigade. The gun crew pass their CMT and stand to fire at close range and together with the square break the dragoons, who were previously disordered. The Guards however despite missing with all their shots repulse the cavalry with the bayonet instead, breaking the cavalry in the process. Both cavalry units rout back across the valley and cause another cavalry unit to rout (it having failed both cohesion tests for routers and already being disordered). Several infantry and artillery units also suffer cohesion losses from the debacle. At Hougomount the 2 leading infantry brigades close with the Chateaux despite the defensive fire from the Guards. The Guards themselves proceed to lose the melee but succeed in driving back one of the attacking brigades the other sticks to continue the fight against the disordered Guards next round.

The allied infantry now in square and with no enemy cavalry close by to provide shelter take a pummeling from the French artillery. In the French rally phase a mass of rallying is performed and 2 of the 3 broken cavalry units are rallied and the artillery and some infantry recover. This means in the allied turn the French artillery pounds away again and it forces the 1st Guards brigade to withdraw wavering reverting to tactical formation as it does so. At Hougoument the 2nd Guards fail to achieve any hits on the French losing the melee also dropping to wavering! However, in the allied rally phase their divisional commander, Cooke, moves over and provides some moral fibre to the brigade, but to no effect, while the Prince of Orange has a quiet word with the 1st Guard’s brigade on the ridge.

On Turn 6 Milhaud’s cavalry corps starts to make its way through the Reille’s infantry in preparation to advance into the valley. One of the 2 British artillery units is now disordered by massed French counter battery fire in their attempt to suppress the allied guns. The French Carabiniers move to within charge range of these guns ready for a charge. Meanwhile, the French fail to start a charge with other infantry units against the Guards in Hougoumont so the melee continues with the Guards again losing but still holding and in the allied turn Cooke does indeed deliver a swift kick to the Guards which improves their cohesion level.

On the final turn the Carabiniers charged the guns only to be stopped, failing their CMT to charge home by the gunfire, despite being veterans. Of course in the subsequent firing phase they receive more medium range from the guns blasting them down to wavering and forcing the Carabiniers to retire. At Hougomont the French have now also retired from the melee and the Guards in the allied turn have recovered another level of cohesion.

At this point we called halt, we on the French side realising the difficulty in charging guns supported by infantry, while our own cavalry acted unsupported and the situation will only change for the worse for the next cavalry corps attack. The opposite was true for the allies as we realised that we could now reinforce the artillery on the forward ridge, as happened in the historical battle. With the evening getting late we decided to call a halt and relocate to a close by strategic facility for a debriefing.

In just under 3 hours of gaming, we managed 7 turns a slower rate than for our previous game and although we had many more brigades on the table far fewer, certainly on the allied side, actually did anything. Probably the longer set up time lost us a move during the evening.

Again the rules worked well in most cases and gave a good feel for the battle and problems faced by the commanders. (Don’t try to take on most of Wellingtons’ army with 10,000 cavalry squeezed though a small gap! ) We thought the rules worked very well for the storming of the two strong points/ built up areas, Hougoumont, particularly with the command overload of the French divisional commander trying to get units to charge and then rallying shaken units meant that after the initial attack only piecemeal attacks were possible.

The cavalry attack did not seem to follow the historical path of charging and flowing around the squares. I had expected the cavalry attacks to end up with disordered and perhaps spent French cavalry trying to fight the second or third lines of fresh allied troops, but in our game they did not get that far. The artillery stopped them in their tracks; certainly the CMT stand and fire on a 4+ on 2 dice gave them a 75% chance of firing before running to a nearby infantry unit and they succeed in both cases.

Afterwards I did realised we had played the cohesion test for cavalry incorrectly; we had them causing a test to any unit within range throughout their rout move rather than just at the point of breaking. In addition after setting up we realised that it would be quicker and possibly more interesting given the mix of cavalry units in Kellerman’s Cavalry corps if it attacked first before Milhaud’s cavalry.

One issue highlighted by this game is; given the difficulty in attacking shown by our games how much constraint may be put on the French in a full recreation? How close should we keep the real battle? Must the French deploy and make the same attacks as per history, or perhaps deploy as per the start of the battle then are free to manoeuvre how they wish; or as a third option allow them free a deployment and manoeuvre. If the third of these options is taken, how much could the allies change?

Russ

Reference:
1. The Waterloo Companion – Mark Adkin. dated 2001

Some Photos this time. ( If I can get the system to work!)



View from behind the French lines –There’s not that many of them!

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The same view as the player - Oh yes there is!

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Wall to wall Allies!

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Jerome’s forces about to break the Nassau troops in the Hougoumont woods

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Kellerman’s Dragoons and Cuirassiers ready to Charge

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The next division of French joining in to attack Hougoumont (In an uncanny echo of history, sat at the other end of the table, I had not realised we had thrown in a second division of infantry into the fight for Hougoumont!)

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The Carabiniers about to charge as Milhauds Cavalry corps moves forwards.

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Russ1664
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Re: Cavalry attacks at Waterloo

Post by Russ1664 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:26 pm

After much struggling I think I've have sorted out the pictures (errrr.... but perhaps not the size)

View from behind the French lines –There’s not that many of them!
Image
The same view as the player - Oh yes there is!
Image
Wall to wall Allies!
Image
Jerome’s forces about to break the Nassau troops in the Hougoumont woods
Image
Kellerman’s Dragoons and Cuirassiers ready to Charge
Image
The next division of French joining in to attack Hougoumont (In an uncanny echo of history, sat at the other end of the table, I had not realised we had thrown in a second division of infantry into the fight for Hougoumont!)
Image
The Carabiniers about to charge as Milhauds Cavalry corps moves forwards.
Image

Russ

hazelbark
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Re: Cavalry attacks at Waterloo

Post by hazelbark » Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:38 pm

I am about to refight Marengo next week, less iconic. So loves your reports.

One thing in 20 years of gaming refights of Waterloo and Borodino, gamers and game rules consistently say the center of the battles (in the game) were too clogged up compared to what they expected vis history or rules or such. One group doing Borodino multiplied the width of the front from the river to the Utiza forest by 1.5 I believe.

Now the question is was the density feel historical as both were very crowded, or was the density of troops too much for rules?

I would have through of Ney as skilled or exceptional and charismatic. The idea is its not about being clever, in this point of the battle he was very spirited about throwing troops in and pressing the attack.

We have found it takes a bit of practice to get attacking squares right. 2 units to 1 etc. Supports
Did the French horse guns play any role?

I love the report and the detail of your game.

bahdahbum
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Re: Cavalry attacks at Waterloo

Post by bahdahbum » Fri Mar 01, 2013 10:52 am

The Waterloo battlefield was perhaps the most clogged up . The area where the battle was fought is relativly "small" compared to ohter napoleonic battles . It was crowded .

During the battle, many british artillerymen did flee before the french cavalry and never returned . Some stayed and stopped the cavalry . The french did bring some batteries with them and the squares suffered for it ...

deadtorius
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Re: Cavalry attacks at Waterloo

Post by deadtorius » Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:28 pm

One issue highlighted by this game is; given the difficulty in attacking shown by our games how much constraint may be put on the French in a full recreation? How close should we keep the real battle? Must the French deploy and make the same attacks as per history, or perhaps deploy as per the start of the battle then are free to manoeuvre how they wish; or as a third option allow them free a deployment and manoeuvre. If the third of these options is taken, how much could the allies change?
I think it depends if you are looking for a total recreation of a battle or would you like to have the same troops same terrain but how would you make it different. In this case you were trying to see how the rules would mirror the actual events so putting the restrictions on commanders makes sense and gives you a good idea of what your goal was.
If you want to try a "whit if" option then go with the original forces and deployment but let the players do as they wish. Sometimes the results will be close to historical either way.

Thanks for the write up, interesting to see other players experiences with the rules, especially in a historical setting. Good luck with your next attempt.

hazelbark
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Re: Cavalry attacks at Waterloo

Post by hazelbark » Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:21 pm

I wonder if the real battle the troops would have narrower frontages than our game likely the squares would.

deadtorius
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Re: Cavalry attacks at Waterloo

Post by deadtorius » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:46 am

Perhaps it depends on how many of them are still alive and standing at any given time...

Sarmaticus
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Re: Cavalry attacks at Waterloo

Post by Sarmaticus » Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:03 am

hazelbark wrote:I wonder if the real battle the troops would have narrower frontages than our game likely the squares would.
E.g. battalions of British brigades at Waterloo were formed four ranks deep IIRC but were in a single line - so Tactical should work. The main divisions of D'Erlon's Corps were formed in columns on a front of one battalion, which would make a FoGN formation too wide.
Of course, the need to have units either Large or Small and nothing in between must lead to some distortion.

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Re: Cavalry attacks at Waterloo

Post by Glyph » Thu Apr 07, 2016 10:13 pm

Great report!

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