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.



  1. I've been thinking about trying some of these myself with my new 6mm ACW stuff. What size table is this? I'm guessing 2' x 2'?

    1. Yes, spot on. They should suit well.

      But surely the first game with any new ACW armies has to be Sawmill Village?

    2. Well actually I did 1st Bull Run but I was after something which didn't hurt my head quite so much to design. I was looking at the Shiloh OHW scenario, and maybe a couple others which map onto OHW scenarios.

    3. Sounds a good plan. I have unfortunately not played that much ACW but seems an interesting period.

  2. Thank you for posting these. I have enjoyed your posts and battles. Recently I rethought the cross roads scenario with my War of 1812 armies and enjoyed it very much.

    1. You are very welcome, Mark. It is one of those scenarios that would struggle to produce a boring game, I think.