Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Quatre Bras AAR

After a long hiatus - mainly from a very busy work and family schedule - I finally managed to get a game played yesterday.  I decided upon refighting Quatre Bras, inspired by the upcoming 200th anniversary and the recently released Osprey, a battle I have recreated before but haven't played for a few years.   The last time I played, I used Polemos General de Division and the Quatre Bras scenario within the rulebook.  This time I fancied trying something a little different and a little more broad brush, so I gave Phil Barker's draft version of Horse, Foot & Guns a go.  As ever, I used my collection of Baccus Napoleonic figures: the troops are accurate for the Dutch-Belgians, Brunswickers and the Hanoverian militia (with massive liberties taken with the standards), but many of the British and French troops are from my armies uniformed and carrying the flags appropriate for the Penisular War period - I beg the indulgence of the purist!

The Orders of Battle:

The Allied Army:

Brilliant Army CP - Wellington (30)
I Corps CP - Prince of Orange (15)
2 NL Div:
1 x Bayonets (Dutch) (4)
1 x Inferior Bayonets (Dutch Militia) (3)
2 x Bayonets (Nassau) (8)
1 x Smoothbore Artillery (Dutch) (8)
NL Cav Div:
1 x Light Cavalry (Dutch) (5)
1 Br Inf Div:
2 x Elite Bayonets (British Guards) (10)
0-1 x Smoothbore Artillery (British/KGL) (8)
3 Br Inf Div:
2 x Light Infantry (Hanoverian) (10)
1 x Bayonets (British) (4)
0-1 x Field Artillery (British/KGL) (8)
5 Br Inf Div:
3 x Bayonets (British) (12)
1 x Elite Marksmen (British Rifles) (3)
1 x Field Artillery (British/KGL/Hanoverian) (8)
6 Br Inf Div:
1 x Inferior Bayonets (Hanoverian Militia) (3)
Brunswick Corps & Nassau Contingent
2 x Light Infantry (Brunswick) (10)
1 x Bayonets (Brunswick) (4)
1 x Light Cavalry (Brunswick) (5)
1 x Field Artillery (Brunswick) (8)
1 x Bayonets (Nassau) (4)
Br Reserve Cavalry:
1 x Light Cavalry (British)

The Imperial French Army:

Wing CP - Ney
II Corps:
II Corps CP - Reille
9 x Bayonets (3 per Inf Div)
1 x Field Artillery
2 x Light Cavalry (Pire's Cav Div)
1 x Heavy Artillery 
II Cavalry Corps:
II Cavalry Corps CP - Kellermann
1 x Dragoons
1 x Cuirassiers
1 x Horse Artillery
2 x Elite Light Cavalry (IG Lt Cav Div)

Deployment/Arrival Timeline:

1400: French Attack Begins
(Allies: 2 NL Div; Imperials: II Corps less Jerome's Div)
1500: Wellington, 5 Br Inf Div & Hanoverian Militia arrives at QB; Ney arrives
1530: Merlen's Cav arrives
1600: Brunswick Corps arrives less two bns + arty; Jerome's Div arrives
1630: II Cav Corps arrives
1700: 3 Br Inf Div arrives
1800: 1 Br Inf Div arrives
1900: Remainder Brunswick Inf + Arty arrive; IG Gd Cav arrives
2000: Br Cav arrives

The Battlefield:

This will probably be quite familiar to many wargamers: Bois de Bossu on the left, Quatre Bras at the top-centre, Gemincourt and the stream in the middle-left next to the the Charleroi road, with the Namur road going from top-left to bottom-right. 
 The Deployment:

The view from behind Reille's advancing corps.  Dutch-Belgian troops hold the farm and the wood-line, with artillery and infantry in reserve towards Quatre Bras.

French Success:

Foy's infantry rout the Dutch-Belgian infantry near Gemincourt after a short, sharp engagement.  Unfortunately the Prince of Orange failed to rally them in the following turn!  Some of Pire's lancers can be seen just to the left, observing the Dutch-Belgian infantry in the woods.

The French advance a little further but some fine fighting by the Dutch-Belgian militiamen hold the French on the south side of the stream.  The Prince of Orange orders some of the infantry in the Bois de Bossu to advance and force away those French lancers.
 The French Flanking Move:

Marshal Ney tries to urge Bachelu's infantry and Pire's Chasseurs forward round the empty right flank.  Picton's division - preceded by the Duke of Wellington - can be seen entering Quatre Bras at the top of the picture.  The time is 1510 (turn 7): can the Allies shore up the flank in time?

Ney manages to get troops across the stream first!  Can the Allies use their artillery advantage here to restore the situation?

Yes they can!  The "man of the match" performance of this battle belonged to the Hanoverian militia brigade and their supporting artillery (in reality, this was Col Carl Best's 4th (Hanoverian) Infantry Bde, consisting of the Verden, Luneburgm Osterode and Munden Landwehr battalions, here supported by the 2nd Hanoverian Foot Artillery and No.2 Coy, 3 Bn RA (Rogers' Battery)
 The Central Clash:

A lot of action has occurred in the centre, but there is still stalemate at this point: the Dutch-Belgians in the woods did manage to drive off the French lancers, but were then forced to retire by French artillery fire.  Pire managed to rally the lancers, who then advanced to prevent any Allied advance to the west of the farm.  Exactly mirroring real events, the British infanttry and the French infantry are stuck in a fierce, bloody, see-saw fight in the high grass and fields.  The heroic Dutch-Belgian militiamen were defeated in the end, but their excellent performance basically prevent any Imperial advance until the arrival of Picton's troops. Ney's last throw - Jerome Bonaparte's Division - is advancing up the cause way.
 The Endgame:

Stalemate on the right: the French were never able to make a concerted advance, Ney judging that bold moves by Bachelu's troops (centre) would probably only lead to their destruction, with very little real chance of success.  Ney moved up Picquet's Dragoons to launch a combined assault with Bachelu's infantry, but by the time this was set-up, events elsewhere had left the move redundant...

The position at 1700 (turn 18):  Jerome's attack (far left) on Bossu has been driven off with heavy casualties by the Dutch-Belgians lining the wood.  However, Foy's last brigade in the centre has been routed and there is no more infantry to plug the gap. At this point, Ney decided to slowly retire and there was no further significant action.

Same position, slightly different angle.

 Game Comments:

An exciting game, although strong performances by inferior Allied infantry in the middle of the game really spoiled the Imperials' chances of victory and they did significantly less well in this recreation than in the real battle.  

The rules really do rattle along quite quickly.  For anyone unfamiliar with them, they are based heavily on the "DBx" engine of WRG rules, with the basic command and control mechanic being the roll of a D6 every turn to generate acticity points.  There are some qualifications to this, but that is it in a nutshell.  Combat is based on D6 opposed rules, modified by a list of factors then the results looked up in a table.  The factors quickly become second nature and I didn't actually have to look up the rules too often when I got into the swing of it.  Phil Barker's writing has been described as a "love-it or loath-it" legalistic style: on balance, it is easy enough to follow after a little while and the rules are tightly written, there were very few instances when I had to puzzle out how to play out a given situation. Initially I didn't feel that involved in the game - I'm not sure why, perhaps as a result of the writing style or more probably the length of time since I had a full game using these rules - but after a couple of turns, I got really into the game.  The game took just under two hours of playing time, which isn't bad at all, considering that I haven't played these rules properly for a long time.  Tactically they work a little differently from other rules, so I expect to be able to play better in future games now that I have worked out/remembered some of the subtleties.

The simple dice throw for activity points works really well as a solitaire mechanic: it easily creates the friction that helps to create that immersive solo experience.  It worked nearly as well as the similar but more involved system in the Polemos rules, but took significantly less time so perhaps on balance comes out ahead for solitaire play.  That Polemos' tempo bidding system is hard to beat for a face-to-face game, however.

The draft version of Horse, Foot and Guns had been on the WRG/Phil Barker website for ages as a free download but it seems to have been removed recently - perhaps publication isn't that far off  now?  I think that they are still available on the Yahoo Group.


  1. Really nice looking game and great to see something other than Waterloo.

  2. Thank you very much Steve. I must apologize (again) for the poor photographs: my gaming table is in the worst possible room for photography! I was quite pleased with both the game and the overall look, but I must get round to making some less regular looking bases for the woods and maybe some more naturally curvy streams, too.

    And in case anyone had noticed and was wondering, the line of stones next to the Namur road is meant to represent the ditch that the Allied infantry used for cover, I didn't really have anything more suitable.

  3. Hi thanks for posting this in response to my question on TMP, great to read a report of this system in action! I look forward to giving it a try.

  4. No problem, glad I could help.