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.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Coup d'Oeil 2 - A Napoleonic Scenario

The most recent issue of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy (108) contains, as is typical, several very useful scenarios. 

However, as I was looking for a second game to play on "Partizan in the Cloud" day and Henry Hyde was doing his talk on staging Sittangbad and Mollwitz, my eye fell on his three scenarios, particularly the one set as a Napoleonic game.  This scenario is a very stylized representation of situations in the centre of the Allied line at Waterloo, with British infantry defending a farmhouse and a ridge against French infantry and cavalry.

Nothing reminds me of "stylized Napoleonics" quite as much as Neil Thomas' Napoleonic Wargaming set, so I used that for this battle.

The Forces:

The British:
5 units of Trained Infantry (if desired
1 unit of Elite Infantry
1 unit of Elite Light Infantry with Rifles
2 units of Elite Heavy Cavalry
2 units of Foot Artillery

The French:
7 units of Trained Infantry (if desired, upto four of these units may be deployed as light infantry - optionally, each of these units may be replaced by two units of light infantry).
3 units of Trained Light Cavalry
3 units of Elite Heavy Cavalry
2 units of Horse Artillery

Rules modifications were fairly minor for this game:
Infantry in square can move at the same rate as troops in line
Each side has a general that can re-roll a failed morale check if present with the unit.  If he rolls a '1' he becomes a casualty; if he is present when a unit routs in close combat, he is taken prisoner.
The nationality rules for artillery are ignored, since they are designed for an Army-level game, which abstracts total numbers and doctrine and so on.  Since artillery units here are all just individual batteries, then they all hit on 4-6.
I use the roll for losses method from Simplicity in Practice (roll to lose a base: 1 hit = 5+, 2 hits = 4+, 3 hits = 3+, 4 hits = 2+).  This reduces the book-keeping somewhat - and adds to the tension!

The Set-Up:
The French are approaching from the South (bottom), with the British defending the farmhouse and the ridge, with an Elite battalion and two regiments of heavy cavalry in reserve.

The French Left Wing

And the French Right Wing

The British centre
The Battle:
Let battle commence!

French light cavalry starts taking casualties from artillery fire

A battery of French Horse Artillery moves into position

The main French attack in the centre (left); the right-hand battalion is taking very heavy casualties from the British artillery

It takes further casualties, but the French push forward to the base of the hill

On the left, the French artillery has deployed, but the Hussar regiment has suffered severely

One of the second line battalions makes for the farmhouse, whilst the main attack bypasses it to the right

The middle French column in the main attack deploys into line (centre-left) to cover the weakened battalion and engage in a firefight; another French Horse Artillery battery (centre-right) moves into position supported by Heavy Cavalry; note that their British counterparts have started to move up...

The British squares start to take casualties from the French guns (right)

French infantry try to break into the farmhouse, but have taken some casualties on the way in...

And recoil after taking more casualties in the close-quarter fighting!  The British Light battalion has suffered too.

I didn't get an action shot, but the leading French battalion (Centre) has seen off the British Heavy Cavalry regiment's charge in fine style!  The regiment can be seen regrouping in the reat (top)

Meanwhile, the French Cuirassiers have charged the British Dragoons (centre-left), whilst the left-hand British battalion has now suffered appalling casualties at the hands of the French artillery (centre)

The Cuirassiers were routed (numbers told, they had been weakened by British musketry previously), and now the British Heavy Cavalry has moved forward to cover the British right which was wilting under the French cannonade

The French attack on the left of the farmhouse is petering out with heavy casualties...

And the attack on the French right has stalled too

French Carabiniers force back the British Horse (centre) in a last bit of glory for the French

But with the rout of the remaining French infantry, it is all for naught

The position at the end of the battle
Game Notes: Great fun this, as is typical for a Neil Thomas' ruleset and a Henry Hyde scenario.  The Thomas' rules are just so intuitive and easy to play.  The scenario worked fine, although I managed to show no coup d'oeil at all, as all my intended decisive moves for each side pretty much failed!   As ever, there are some very interesting subtleties in the Neil Thomas rules: no interpenetration at all means you have to organize your attacks properly; the effectiveness of infantry at full-strength tries to encourage weakening by artillery before launching attacks (whether by infantry or cavalry) and so on, musketry is not typically greatly effective, but it can be effective enough.  And so on. 

For those familiar with the rules, I use two bases per unit instead of the four recommended, with single figures representing losses.  It works absolutely fine.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, the farm is the Commission Figurines La Haye Sainte model.


  1. Another great game and nice to see a section of a bigger battle being fought. I agree that his rules are very intuitive and I use one base, rather than four at present, due to lack of painted figures. Again this works fine be me and I don't mind the DBA look of it.

    1. Thanks Steve, I have very similar feelings about his Napoleonics set as I do about his Ancients rules - if a player is happy with an effective but broad brush approach and isn't going to sweat too much about scales and ranges and so on, then you can't go far wrong with Neil Thomas, especially after you have amended to taste.

    2. My wargaming chum who is a Royal Marine Major, makes the fair point that by keeping the rules simple and the units too, it allows you to focus on the game, your plan of action etc with minimal distraction. A case of less is more.

    3. Yes, very much so. If the administration of the game is easy, then the experience of the game focuses on the decisions. When we played Quarrie & Newbury rules back in the club in the 80s, for all their virtues, most of the game was administering, not commanding (or decision-making anyway).

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. A lovely looking game and a delight for me to see you playing and enjoying my scenarios. I know this one is a tough one and of course, rulesets differ in how they allow a local commander to exercise coup d’oeil, so the Thomas rules may have been a little restrictive in that, but you appear to have had a darn good try!

    1. Many thanks Henry. I aim to give the other two scenarios in the article a go at some point too. But your talk on Sunday has given me an idea for something else I would like to do first...

    2. And all the best for your upcoming trials.