Sunday, August 30, 2015


Paul disclosed that he just happened to have significant numbers of never-before-seen French troops in the huge underground bunker which evidently stores his vast stocks of wargaming goodness. Naturally, an opportunity was immediately invented to get them onto the table, against Ross's British. As we'd never really played a game using VLE with significant numbers of cavalry, we took the opportunity to give it ago.

A simple table for simple folks - infantry country in the centre, cavalry on the flanks
The table was set with very little terrain; the river was entirely decorative except in the central area where it was a major obstacle to cavalry or guns (but not to infantry). Both players' objectives were simply to capture each other's village which retaining control of their own!

Both players got to select troops with a flexible list system we use, and interestingly came up with a very similar split of forces - the French had one more regiment of cavalry, the British one more infantry battalion. Both brought along three batteries of artillery; all were light guns although the British were all RHA and so more mobile than the French foot batteries.

So, we kicked off; Paul massed his horsemen (including two beautifully-painted Guard regiments) on the left, while Ross positioned a couple of regiments of light dragoons on the other side to support his infantry. The French won the Initiative and advanced with alactrity.

The French deploy and push forward at great speed
British Infantry brigades mass on their left, with the Heavy Brigade in the distance on their right
The French go defensive on the right, holding back some poor-quality Wurtemburg battalions...
... while pushing their first wave of cavalry across the river on the left, supported by two batteries of guns
British dragoons seize a chance to gut an enemy light cavalry regiment, but pursue in disorder before halting winded and so are, in turn, routed by supporting French.
As the Guard pours across the bridge in the centre...
... the Scots Greys meet their match on the right, and are broken by their Nemesis - French lancers!
The French artillery grab a piece of the action, manning their guns with deadly accuracy
The British right in chaos - a mess of broken and heavily-damaged regiments, as the French reserves arrive
The cavalry action on the British right developed very quickly, and not to their advantage. The French attack in the centre never even had a chance to gain momentum before we decided it was "Game over, man" for the British. The speed with which the cavalry swung this battle astonished us all - the game was over in two hours (these Division-sized, multi-player games normally meander along all day!)

Well, there was only one thing to do - have another game! Both sides resurrected their dead and redeployed; we were ready to roll again before lunch!

After pies, Ross decided to position the British entirely on the centre-left, and pushed strongly forward on this side. Initially, this looked as if it would catch the French napping, as most of Paul's cavalry was again strung out on his left flank.

The British huddle!
Screened by the 60th Rifles...
... the British push forward, hoping to overwhelm the French right
The French start to swing their cavalry across...
... but will they be in time? The Wurtenburgers still look shaky...
Ross  pushed forward, but somehow didn't seem to get a momentum going - it seemed to take ages for his men to reach the enemy lines. Meanwhile, the more dynamic French cavalry (led, of course, by the Imperial Chasseurs á Cheval de la Garde) were pouncing mercilessly on the troops holding the British right (in the centre of the field).

British guns pour canister into the Chasseurs, but they just keep on coming
The gunners take shelter in a square, and the Chasseurs charge on to casually sweep away some British light dragoons who had the temerity to stand in their way
British columns finally assaulted the poor Wurtemburgers, who surprised nobody by dying in droves and routing. Suddenly, a hole had opened, and Obaix looked to be within reach.
The Wurtemburgers evaporate, but some Proper Frenchmen arrive to save the day

However it was not to be. A French battalion promptly attacked from the woods, pouring volley fire into the British column's exposed flank before  plunging in with La Bayonnet.

At the same time, the supporting British cavalry charged the French gun line on the hill - only to be surprised and cut to ribbons by a French reserve cavalry brigade which had been sitting patiently, concealed on the reverse slope.

Cuirassiers - the Hammer of God...
With that the British were becoming encircled and were out of options -another stonking French success. A longer and more interesting game, but again over remarkably quickly, just taking a leisurely afternoon.


Both games showed the importance, speed and striking power of cavalry, but also their fragility. VLE treats cavalry as one-shot weapons - casualties in cavalry-cavalry melees tend to be one-sided and heavy on the losers - and this game brought that out fully.

In both games, the British horsemen were destroyed by a combination of occasionally ridiculous luck in Paul's dice-throwing, but also well-judged skill in using his troops to draw the British into poor situations and an uncanny ability to have heavy cavalry or lancers in just the right place to run down and destroy disordered enemy.

The Guard cavalry must be singled out for Mentions in Dispatches - in the first game, the Grenadiers á Cheval just shrugged off a potentially fatal morale roll with a double-6, while in the second game the Guard Chasseurs were simply unstoppable. Both regiments had clearly been armed with Lucky Dice, and wielded them mercilessly!

Paul has also written an account of the day - do go and see his excellent blog.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Quatre Bras, 1815

This game was an attempt to refight Quatre Bras - without the French realising what it was and being able to apply any benefits of historical hindsight. I planned it all quite carefully, and disguised the battlefield by making up place-names (well, fans of Tin Tin may realise some aren't as made up as they look!) and swapping west and east. All went swimmingly from that perspective - the French (played by Ross and Jim) didn't click to the nature of the thing till quite late in the day. Andrew and Paul commanded the Allies.

Alias Quatre Bras - the map
The table, looking south - the stream was removed before the French players arrived to add yet more Fog of War

However, in a classic example of careless design and umpire hubris, I completely wrecked it by mistiming the whole thing. I kicked off at 1pm - the time around which the French started to seriously engage the Dutch - but started the French player way too far back. I should have either let them deploy much further north, or set the game time to start an hour or two earlier. As a result, by the time the French forces approached the Dutch line, pre-programmed Allied reinforcements were already starting to pour in. I could probably have resurrected the timeline by pausing the game-time, but I didn't realise how badly out things were out of sync till far too much had already arrived in the Allied rear.
Looking north from the French rear - the French forces are shown by markers at this stage to keep the Allies guessing
 Interestingly, our French players made the same call as Ney did historically - Bachelau's troops were sent left (equivalent to the historical right, or east - keep up!) across the more open country, which was also (in a spooky parallel) weakly held by almost the same Dutch-Belgians who had in reality.

Action imminent - Bachelau's men assault the Dutch defences around the farm...
... and evict them in short order.

The Dutch fall back on their main line - which, unhistorically, already exists!
The French push on...
... but so many Allied reinforcements have now arrived unreasonably early that there is no way the French can attack this position with the forces available. Ah, if only D'Erlon was here...
 So, apologies again to the participants for the waste of a good opportunity; an enjoyable enough day was had I think (and the pies, at least, were good!) but relatively little action occurred and the French were on a hiding to nothing from the start.

Paul has put a fuller description of events and a lot more photos on his blog.