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.

Monday 18 February 2019

The Battle of Wavre: A Horse, Foot & Guns Scenario

The Battle of Wavre was the only one of the 'big four' battles of the Hundred Days that I didn't get to have a go at during the bicentennial year.  Never one to not right a wrong, when I stumbled across a scenario for it in Miniature Wargames 62, I decided that it would make an interesting scenario.

I think this was a great issue BTW!
The original magazine scenario is designed for a big game using a 33:1 figure ratio but I prefer smaller games on smaller tables, so I re-designed it, also drawing on the scenario in the Polemos Napoleonic Companion, so it would be suitable for Phil Barker's Horse, Foot & Guns on a small 3'x2' playing area.

The aim of the scenario is for Marshal Grouchy to gain control over the river crossings as soon as possible: in this scenario the bridges at Limale and Wavre (there are four in the original scenario, but since the watercourse is only a stream, I felt that the important ones were those chosen - the Polemos scenario makes a similar determination).  Thielmann and his Third Corps must prevent them.

18th June lasts until the end of Turn 20.  If there is no result, fighting can continue until Turn 32.

The Forces:

Imperial France:
1 x CP (Grouchy)

1 x CP (Vandamme), 1 x Light Infantry, 9 x Bayonets, 2 x Field Guns
1 x CP (Gerard), 1 x Light Infantry, 7 x Bayonets, 3 x Field Guns (Arrives Turn 4)
1 x CP (Exelmans), 3 x Dragoons, 1 x Light Cavalry, 1 x Horse Guns (Arrives Turn 2, except the Light Cavalry that arrives on Turn 10)
2 x Bayonets (part of Teste's Division, Arrives Turn 21)

n.b. Pajol is not represented and his Hussars are included in Exelmans Corps - his forces seemed too small to merit his inclusion as an individual Corps commander.

Kingdom of Prussia:
1 x CP (Thielmann), 4 x Bayonets, 6 x Inferior Bayonets, 3 x Light Cavalry, 1 x Inferior Light Cavalry, 1 x Field Guns, 1 x Horse Guns (I think I may have miscalculated here and was too generous with the Prussian cavalry)

2 x Bayonets, 1 x Light Cavalry (I Korps' rearguard - withdraw on Turn 21 if still on the board at that point).

 n.b. There are army lists, but no scenario, in the main HFG rules for Wavre.  They give:
Prussians: 1 x extra Bayonets, -1 Light Cavalry
French: -4 x Bayonets/Light Infantry for III Corps; -1 Light Infantry, -1 Bayonets, -1 Field Gun, 1 x extra Light Cavalry for IV Corps; 1 x extra Dragoons, -1 x CP (Exelmans) for the Cavalry, which are instead commanded directly by Grouchy.

The Set-Up:

View from behind the French side: Limale on the left, Wavre top-right.  Vandamme's Corps has entered the board on the North-South road (bottom-right)

The view along the stream near Wavre, down to Bierge - complete with watermill!

Stengel's detachment holds the bridge at Limale.

The massed ranks of Vandamme's III Corps.
The Battle:

Vandamme throws his leading brigade of Legere into the assault, hoping to clear the southern bank of Wavre

Meanwhile half of his forces are rushing towards Limale (bottom); Exelmans cavalry have arrived and are in support (bottom-right)

Vandamme's leading brigade has disintegrated in its assault!  He organizes his next division to conduct a more deliberate assault

Meanwhile, Vandamme's other units approach Limale (left)

A second assault goes into Wavre, combining superior numbers with artillery support

A wider view at this point.  Vandamme's Corps is engaging along the length of the stream, and Gerard's Corps, following up (bottom-left) is clearly heading in a direction to support Vandamme's left rather than aid the assault on Wavre itself.

Eventually Vandamme succeeds in pushing into Wavre, although his troops remain on the southern bank

French troops form up to assault the bridge at Limale

Intense fighting around the bridge and stream in Wavre leads to heavy casualties but no result

Vandamme's troops probe all along the river, trying to stretch out the defences and find a weak spot

Stengel's detachment throws the intial French assault back across the bridge

Vandamme's leading brigades are still getting nowhere fast in the fighting in Wavre

Gerard's Corps winding its slow way forward...

Another determined French attack in Wavre - but the defences are too strong to the west of the bridge and road

Stengel's detachment still holds the direct French attacks off, but he is unable to prevent the turning of his left flank by superior French forces

Another French assault goes in and crushes one of the Prussian brigades!  The bridge is cleared, although the village is still in Prussian hands...for now...the morale of the rearguard is visibly crumbling...

French troops try and cross the stream between Limale and Bierge, but are being strongly resisted by the Prussian musketeers and landwehr, as well as with musketry from the Landwehr units in Bierge.

The Prussian infantry, ably supported by its artillery which has already destroyed many of Vandamme's guns by searingly accurate counter-battery fire, still resists all attempts by Vandamme to push forward around Wavre

Prussian Cavalry charges French Dragoons in support of Stengel around Limale; the village is again under attack from Vandamme's infantry

The Prussian troops around Biele manfully keep the French back - the Landwehr brigade charge and repulse French fusiliers (centre-right)

The wider view: Limale is taken (left); fighting continues along the stream (centre), with the Prussians basically holding on gamely, and intense but indecisive fighting happening around Wavre (top-right); Gerard has got his light infantry across the stream south of Limale, but the remainder of his column is still just approaching it (bottom)

Vandamme's troops have simply not been able to dislodge the plucky Prussian defenders around Biele

Limale is lost, however; Prussian Cavalry take up blocking positions (centre-top)

Once more again, with feeling.  Is this the fifth assault around Wavre?

Some success at last!  Some French infantry manage to get across the stream, and the Landwehr regiment near the bridge are under severe pressure

It restores the situation.  However, the French infantry has finally managed to get across the stream to the east of the bridge and pushed the Prussians out of the town.

Heavy fighting continues around the stream - the Prussian artillery has been forced (temporarily) into the rear (top)

Now that Limale has fallen, the French have been able to attack with superior numbers and start to get troops across the stream between that place and Biele.

A wider shot: both Vandamme's Corps and Thielmann's have taken heavy casualties but are continuing the fight for the crossing points.  The French turning movement to the left has slowly succeeded in pushing the Prussians back.

The Prussian cavalry has been forced to put in another charge near Limale.  Although they have destroyed a brigade of French Dragoons, elsewhere they have been defeated and become exhausted

The indomitable Prussians around Biele are still strongly resisting the French

Grouchy launches a cavalry attack with a brigade of Dragoons, tiring of repeated infantry failures!

The Prussian infantry merely forms squares and the French Dragoons pass through them harmlessly, but end up in the midst of Thielmann and his staff (centre)!!

Who are immediately killed, captured or dispersed.

Inexorable French pressure on the Prussian Right is beginning to tell...

Not the devil himself is shifting these Landwehr from this part of Wavre however!

The Prussian centre and right is still holding on, but disheartened by the loss of their leader and much of the left wing, retreat is ordered just as night falls...

The position at the end of the battle.
Game Notes:
A very enjoyable battle and I think a pretty successful scenario.  I did make a significant mistake, however: I think Exelmans command was 'defeated' and I missed it (I accidentally mistook one of Exelmans' Dragoon brigades for Gerard's, and vice-versa).  This had some impact, although I think that overall the battle would have turned out the same (the Dragoon brigade which attacked Thielmann at the end belonged to Gerard, not Exelmans).  The Prussians proved tough opponents and the simple-but-effective PIP system in Horse, Foot and Guns makes organizing a really first-rate combined attack quite tricky.  There was nothing in the game that struck me as too implausible.  The number of turns might seem excessive, but since it is a DBx game, then each turn rattles along quite quickly.  The only slowing element in the game is the number of firing die rolls (since both sides can fire twice in each turn), although this is hardly excessive.
The only thing that I dislike about HFG is that it theoretically allows several march moves by a single base in one turn, so if Wellington is really cracking the whip, the 52nd will cover 6.4km along a road in 20 minutes...obviously this is an extreme example, but I do dislike loopholes like that.  That said, if that is the worst that can be said for some rules, it must be doing something right - and these are!  I really do enjoy them for this level of combat...
I am pretty happy about my decision to play this scenario at this scale, since it allows an involved battle to be fought to a conclusion in a couple of hours.  I know that other gamers very much differ from me on this point, liking to have every battalion represented, but having 10-25 manoeuvre units per-side just works well for a fast but intense game, and I certainly won't concede it to be less realistic.  If anything, it is more accurate in focusing on the kinds of decisions a Grouchy or Thielmann usually had to make.
I counted Stengel's detachment as a separate force for morale purposes. In retrospect, I think this was a mistake and it should just be counted as an integral part of Thielmann's troops.  Otherwise, it would be better to ignore his force morale entirely (since Ziethen's Corps was doing just fine) and maybe roll a separate D6 for his PIP score, divind the raw score by 3 and rounding to the nearest whole number.

Previous 100 Days Refights:
Quatre Bras
Quatre Bras again

Figures by Baccus 6mm, except for some of the Prussians which are wooden figures from Commission Figurines, buildings mainly by Leven, some by Baccus.


  1. You mentioned the multiple march moves. Did you remember to +1 pip to marchers who have already made 3 march moves on a good road, 2 march moves if on a bad road or off road?

    1. Hi Dave. Yes, I did. I was calculating Wellington (Brilliant CP) in a group with a British light infantry unit on a good road. I worked it out as follows:
      Rolls a 6, uses his 'Brilliant' status to double it.
      0 PIPs for the first move
      2 PIPs (2x1) for the next two moves
      10 PIPS (5x2) for the next five moves, total eight moves.
      8 moves of 800m = 6400m.
      I think I have that right - but delighted to hear corrections if I have messed it up (very possible).

  2. Thanks for detailed report here, considering a refight of this and reading other's efforts is helpful! :)

    1. That's very kind Chasseur, and you are very welcome. Check out the versions of Wavre on 'The Games We Play' and 'Battlefields & Warriors' for more interesting takes on the action.