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 14 February 2022

Neil Thomas Horse & Musket Scenario 011: The One Like Quatre Bras

For the 11th scenario in Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames book, the author adapted that hardy perennial of the wargames table and a battle I never tire of reading about or gaming: Quatre Bras.  Obviously, this being Neil Thomas, he strips it down to the barest fundamentals...


As previously, I am using Neil Thomas' Simplicity in Practice rules for the Horse & Musket period, published in Battlegames 023 and modified a little by myself.


Structurally this game is quite similar to the previous two games, in that the defender's have a third of their force present, which is then reinforced in two further stages during the course of the game.  I slightly messed this up, but more of this in the game notes!

The Forces:

The Hanoverian Army:
6 Infantry units
1 Dragoon  unit
2 Cavalry units

The Franco-Jacobite Army:
5 Infantry units
2 Artillery units
2 Cavalry units

The Set-Up:

The Hanoverian position is anchored on a large pool and a large wood, which I am trying very hard not to call 'Bossu'...

The Battle:

The Franco-Jacobites advance down the road towards the defenders; all of their troops can arrive on Turn 1...except they all have to come down the road, so they can't if you see what I mean!

The Franco-Jacobites don't commit early, preferring to deploy into a full line of battle before engaging, so the first British reinforcements arrive before the action has really got under way.

A wider shot: French artillery is already causing some casualties in the centre of the Hanoverian line

The intensity of the fire increases and both sides are suffering...but the British Foot is suffering rather more...

The Franco-Jacobites are developing attacks to the centre and the right, whilst still merely demonstrating on the left.

The regiment in the Hanoverian centre (Fergusson's) is pulled out of the line, unable to stand further losses

Similarly, Dillon's Regiment is pulled back by the Franco-Jacobite commander (centre-bottom); meanwhile, the right-flanking attack is proceeding nicely, starting to pull off the British reserves

Seeing an opportunity as the 4th Foot have been disordered by French artillery, Royal Allemands charges home!

The 4th is worsted, and disperses into the woods.

The general takes refuge with the retreating Fergusson's Regiment

A wider shot: the Hanoverian position is looking decidedly thin and shaky...

And becomes a lot thinner and shakier, as Leven's Regiment is also charged and routed!  The Hanoverian general is captured too...things are looking grim!

A wider shot: note that du Roi regiment is now beginning its sweep through the woods on the left flank too

The British Foot is retiring, hoping to reform the line on where Fergusson's Regiment is rallying as one of the Brigadiers steps up and assumes command (top-left)

The Franco-Jacobite flank attack has been contained on the Right, although the musketry battle is favouring them slightly.

More British reinforcements arrive in the nick of time, to help stabilize the situation

But losses have been high amongst the British Foot

Lumley's Regiment sees its moment and charges the Franco-Jacobites!

Feeling that the boldest measures are actually the safest, the British Brigadier orders a charge in the centre too!  Royal Ecossais and Clare's Regiment are charged

Meanwhile, Lumley's Horse has been beaten off on the right.

The situation is parlous on the Hanoverian left - all the units are considerably understrength now.

However, the Carabiniers in the centre have fared rather better, the Irish infantry thrown back in disorder!

They are quickly followed by Royal Ecossais!  The French artillery is now looking very exposed...

A wider shot

Having had the initiative snatched away, the Franco-Jacobites immediately try and snatch it back: Fitz James' Horse charges the very battered 5th Foot!

In a 'one for the Battle Honours' moments though, the 5th hold firm, bayonet and ball beating speed and sword on this occasion!

Meanwhile, the British relentlessly press their advantage in the centre, ignoring the French artillery and charging right into the press of disordered Jacobite infantry!!!

Royal Ecossais breaks at bayonet point as the 17th step forward...

Whilst Clare's Regiment is defeated and dispersed by the rampaging Carabiniers - the French general is captured too!

The battle has now taken on a rather different aspect!!!

Lumley's Horse is still losing heavily but the Hanoverians now have superior numbers on this flank

A wider view

French musketry and artillery by the woods on the left is causing some annoyance to the British Dragoons and the long-suffering Fergusson's Regiment!

However, the British in the centre are taking full advantage of the confusion in the Franco-Jacobite chain of command, launching further charges!

The 5th's musketry fire has seen off the remnants of the cavalry facing the British Left: Berwick's Irish regiment (top-right) is now horrible isolated and outnumbered

Nothing is going to stop the 17th Foot on this day - Dillon's regiment routs...

As does Royal Allemands, their retreat impeded by the woods, the uncaptured survivors must flee by foot or leading by bridle to avoid the unstoppable Carabiners

After a few devastating minutes, quiet descends on the battlefield - the Franco-Jacobite army is largely destroyed, only Berwick's Regiment (right) and du Roi (in the woods, left) are in a position to escape.

Game Notes:

I will admit - six turns in, I did not see that coming!  Everything seemed to be going so well for the Franco-Jacobites.  In fairness, I did make one error which may have favoured the Hanoverians: one set of the reinforcements was supposed to arrive from the West (left) rather than both coming from the North (top).  I don't suppose it made too much difference though.  On the other hand, the Franco-Jacobites had what is usually the strongest force selection (with 2 artillery units) whilst the Hanoverians had none.  What the game really showed I think is the advantage of fresh troops in these rules - fresh troops don't particularly have an advantage in musketry or artillery duels in these rules, but they do get an advantage in melee.  The advancing Franco-Jacobites had suffered just enough in the advance that when a small number of fresh British troops arrived who could be thrown into battle without suffering from fire whilst advancing, mix in a little luck, and there you have it - a decisive victory!  

Incidentally, in these rules, cavalry charging formed infantry in the front, even if the infantry have suffered some losses, is risky: not that it shouldn't be done, but that it is no sure thing.  So the French tried it twice in the battle: once it paid off (early, in the centre), once it didn't (later, on the right).  Neil Thomas avoids some of the pitfalls possible in Horse & Musket rules in which there are too many sure things: cavalry will never voluntarily charge a square, because it is suicidal; or infantry in line will never voluntarily stay in line versus cavalry, because it is suicidal. Neil Thomas found a quite decent balance point in these rules.

As ever, figures are from Baccus 6mm War of the Spanish Succession range.

Incidentally, Quatre Bras is a battle I have refought quite a few times, some of which are on the blog:

This is it re-fought with Polemos Ruse de Guerre.

This is it re-fought with Polemos Marechal d'Empire.

And this is it re-fought with Horse, Foot and Guns

Not sure what you would all think, but I think Neil Thomas did a pretty good job in distilling something of the essence of the battle into a very simple but playable and recognizable recreation: very impressive.  I have enjoyed all of the battles so far in this series, but this was a particularly good one.

Of course, it isn't a new thing setting Quatre Bras in the C18 - there was a very pretty game put on at Partizan a few years back.


Neil Thomas Horse & Musket Scenario 010b

Having inadvertently inverted this scenario the first time I played it, but having a great game nonetheless, I decided to play this scenario again the way the designer intended!  Once again, the rules used were Neil Thomas' Simplicity in Practice horse & musket set, with minor modifications.  This time the defenders are still trying to stop the advance of the attackers as piecemeal reinforcements arrive but the attackers must take the town and exit from its road instead.

The Forces:

The Hanoverian Army:
5 Infantry units
2 Artillery units
2 Cavalry units

The Franco-Jacobite Army:
6 Infantry units
1 Artillery unit
2 Cavalry units

I won't re-iterate the scenario details at length, since they remain the same as the first time I did the scenario, but essentially the Hanoverians have 15 turns to capture the town and exit the board; the the Franco-Jacobites start with 3 units on the battlefield, and are reinforced by 3 further units on turns 5 and 10.

The Set-Up:

An Irish infantry regiment (Clare's) and a French artillery battery defend the pass, whilst another Irish infantry regiment defends the wood (bottom-left)

A closer look at Berwick's Regiment, holding the edge of the woods to threaten the left flank of the Hanoverian advance

The Battle:

The British advance begins and the lead regiment (Seymour's Marines) are met with an absolute hail of fire, causing very severe casualties; Pearce's Regiment (top-right) attempts to deploy to threaten the wood and take some of the pressure off.

Seymour's Regiment is practically annihilated by the fire and the survivors disperse

Fergusson's Regiment advances to take its place, but it too starts taking heavy casualties: however, the British Foot are now in a position to attack the wood; strong British counter-battery fire is starting to take a toll on the French gunners by the mountain (left)

Fergusson's Regiment suffers heavy casualties too (centre, on the road), but at least the Irish infantry is beginning to suffer a little bit too

Fergusson's Regiment is withdrawn into the lee of the mountain to rally (top), whilst the 17th Foot advances to close quarters (centre-left); Leven's Regiment moves to the flank of Berwick's Regiment (right), whilst it is exchanging fire from the wood with other British infantry.  The British have also brought up the Carabiniers (centre) to try and force the gap between the two Irish infantry regiments.

Franco-Jacobite reinforcements march as fast to the relief of their comrades as the stately pace of early C18 warfare will allow...Royal Ecossais leads du Roi and Dillon's Regiment forward.

At last the British seem to be getting somewhere: Berwick's Regiment is under heavy pressure in the woods (right) whilst Horse, Foot and Guns are all being brought to bear on the Franco-Jacobite blocking force on the road (centre).

A wider view of the situation: the battle has run a third of its course at this point.

The combined fire of the 5th (left) and Leven's Regiment finally sees off Berwick's Regiment in the woods.

Clare's Regiment and the supporting French artillery in the centre are still giving rather better than they have got however, and British casualties mount again.

However, the British general orders the Carabiniers to charge...

...causing Clare's regiment to retire...

...and then rout and disperse!

The Franco-Jacobite reinforcements deploy to the left and right of the road, attempting to form a new line: the French artillery has prudently withdrawn to join them.

Another view of the same.

The new Franco-Jacobite line is formed, more or less; the British are beginning to shake themselves out into a formation suitable for their next attack

Sensing that the vulnerable point is the Franco-Jacobite right, Leven's Regiment and the Carabiniers move towards Dillon's Regiment (Right)

Royal Ecossais (centre of Franco-Jacobite line) has turned slightly to bring extra muskets to bear on Leven's Regiment, so 17th Foot advances down the road to increase the pressure.  Note the lanes left clear to allow the British artillery to continue firing

More Franco-Jacobite troops arrive: the Normandie infantry regiment in the rear, preceded by Horse regiments Cosse and Royal Allemands.  The battle is now two-thirds of the way through...

Musketry rattles along the infantry lines, with casualties about even in this exchange

Then the Carabiniers charge home successfully against Dillon's regiment, which is pushed back to the edge of the town (right)

Determined to regain the initiative, the Franco-Jacobite commander orders Royal Ecossais to charge: they do so, their gleaming bayonets and ferocious aspect proving too much for 17th Foot...

Which breaks and routs!

But the pressure is intense on the Franco-Jacobite right: the Carabiniers have charged again at the disordered Dillon's Regiment (right), whilst the French cavalry are not really the right troops to hold off Leven's relatively fresh infantry (left)

Dillon's Regiment surrenders, and the Franco-Jacobite general is taken!

A slightly wider shot

A slightly wider shot - the Carabiniers (right) have been driven back with loss by Royal Allemands (bottom-right) but the British have managed to get the rest of their Foot back into action (centre); note that Fergusson's Regiment has been fully rallied (the further back of the two Scottish regiments)

The Royal Ecossais in the centre have succumbed to overwhelming infantry and artillery fire

Then Cosse falls to infantry fire too!  The Franco-Jacobites are suffering horrendous problems in their command chain, as no-one seems aware that the general has been captured. 

Lumley's Horse charges into the left of the Franco-Jacobite line: only Du Roi and Normandie remain in action

But some accurate shooting and steely determination sees the British Horse off!

However, outnumbered and outfought, the cry of sauve qui peut rings out along the French ranks...

But, astonishingly, they have held off the Hanoverians for long enough to also claim the victory!!!

Game Notes:

There was an interesting comment on the previous scenario (from Steve) that one of the best ways to win as the defender was to simply occupy the town, which given the timelines involved would be very difficult for the attacker to take in time.  Thinking about it, I don't think this would work in  my version of the rules and scenario, since the attackers could win by ignoring the town and defeating the rest of the army, because my modifications bring in army morale rules.  The other change - having more units in play - exacerbates the problem because more of the defender's force would be outside the town, proportionally; and keeping units out of the fight in Neil Thomas' rules is always problematic, because ideally you want as many units contributing to the fight as possible (which is reasonably standard for rules which are quite attrition-based). But if you didn't have them, then it probably would be the better strategy.  I only bring this up because it shows how even rules modifications which have on the face of it nothing to do with the scenario itself can have huge effects on optimal strategies.  This actually inspires some further thoughts on 'realism' in rules, but I will save those for another time.
In any case, lots of fun and a real nail-bighter this one: the Franco-Jacobites were quite badly affected by the loss of their general near the end, which meant that more or less every unit simply had to fight it out where it stood!  Luckily, the British were not quite in a position to get into the town in time despite breaking the Franco-Jacobites: one more turn would have done it! So incredibly close, but honours to the Franco-Jacobites in this one...
Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Leven and Timecast.