At the start of June Des had arranged another great day of gaming in his shed (with the added bonus of watching the Champion’s League Final after too). This time we would be tackling Quatre Bras. I reckon that this is a battle that might have been attempted by most Napoleonic wargamers at least once, as I think as it is just big enough/not too big for most rulesets to handle, it could go one way or the other and it has a nice variety of troops involved. In fact we had had a go at it at the club a couple of Christmases ago and then my French chaps had been thwarted in our attempts to gain the crossroads by stubborn resistance from the Dutch-Belgians that enabled the reinforcing Brits enough time to turn up and really spoil the day.
This time I would be taking on the mantle of the Jonny Cash of the Napoleonic world, the Duke of Brunswick, and would be in charge of that ‘great moving hearse’ that was the Brunswick contingent (as well as some Hannoverian types). My fellow allies would be Warren who would be in command of the Dutch-Belgians, and using his extensive knowledge of Dutch profanity to bring added realism to the role, and Paul who was taking the British units with all the sang froid of the Duke himself. We faced some stiff opposition with Andy, Martin and Des (when not wearing his umpires hat) taking control of the French. So after tea and coffees were dished out we made our way to the shed and were presented with a glorious sight as Des had really pulled the stops out setting the table for this one, it was instantly recognisable as the battlefield and looked bloody marvellous. One noticeable thing about the table set up was Des had included more ground North of Quatre bras than you usually see on a table which meant if the French took the village there was still room for the arriving allied forces to deploy from the march to counter the threat instead of being bottled up due to ‘edge of the world’ syndrome.
After a quick briefing about scenario specific rules (we were using a ‘joker’ system to either speed up Allied or slow down French formations as well as variable entry of units and we also agreed on being strict on using written orders too) and a quick get together to get plans sorted we got to it. Obviously there wasn’t much for either Paul or I to do for the first couple of moves as our commands were still wending their way south from Brussels or across from Nivelles but Warren was engaged from the off with his Nassauers in the Bossu wood coming under attack from at least a Brigade. Whilst this was happening the French were trying to deploy their other Infantry Divisions and Cavalry to engage the waiting Dutch infantry but were held up somewhat by Paul and Warren playing their jokers (we had one each and once played they would hold up an enemy Division for one move OR allow one of our Divisions to accelerate one move along the reinforcement schedule) but they had managed to move one command along the road to Thyle. As is his wont Warren decided that a forward defence was best and moved all of his lads forwards to try and delay the French as much as possible and as far as possible from the crossroads and pretty soon all of his Division was committed to action and were giving the French a tough fight ably aided by the authentic admonishments of their commander.
Meanwhile Paul and I had eventually arrived on the battlefield after being held up in a godawful traffic jam on the Chausee (we both were failing rolls to get our lads on table), and started moving off to the sound of the guns. We pretty soon received our orders from Wellington with Picton’s rascals being directed to the ridges just south of Quatre Bras to take up the defence from the hard pressed but still stubbornly holding on Cloggies. The Brunswickers were to move to the left and contain the French division that was heading to Thyle, I had delayed them with my joker but we had no units on that flank and it was looking a bit up in the air. The arriving cavalry of Merlen’s brigade were quickly dispatched forwards to aid their countrymen and Warren wasted no time in committing them to the maelstrom near Gemincourt.
Down in the Bossu, the Nassauers were finally near to breaking point after seeing off repeated attacks since the very start of the battle and break they eventually did but luckily for us the survivors managed to reform to the west of the wood and draw off at least some of the Andy’s lads from exploiting northwards to keep an eye on them. Another factor that aided the allies here was the time that it took Andy to get the remainder of his force moving along the track through the wood which would have caused us to be outflanked, luckily for us Des had confiscated his ‘Blue Dice of Doom’ earlier in the day and he was having a terrible time changing orders! Whilst the Nassauers were going through their trevails the constant pressure Martin had been exerting in the centre was finally beginning to tell and Warren was pushed further and further back, albeit whilst scoring victories here and there against the French invader.
Help was at hand however as Picton and his men had finished deploying and promptly stepped off to attack the French that were on the verge of breaking through, whilst fresh reserves of Netherlands and Hannoverian infantry were arriving along the Nivelles road that we started deploying across the north of the wood to stop Andy’s advance. The Guard Division was also near at hand too going into reserve around Quatre Bras whilst I had finally managed to deploy my lads across the stream from Thyle to shore up the left flank. Unfortunately it was at this point that we ran out of time and so had to leave things just as the battle was about to enter its second phase which I think, to be honest, would have been a tough ask for the French to gain a victory from. It seemed that the Allies had more fresh units than the French and with the potential of more arriving the pendulum would have definitely swung our way.
Again it was an absolutely cracking game and even though I didn’t manage to roll a dice in anger all day I had an absolute blast! The French were unlucky trying to change orders for some of their formations, apart from Andy’s lads on the right Des had problems with his Division once they had taken Thyle. Both of these delays granted the Allies just enough time to get reserves into blocking positions and things would have been very sticky for us if this hadn’t happened. Warren was definitely man of the match for me, holding off both Andy in the wood and the constant attacks of Martin in the centre he bought time for Paul and I to get up and bloodied the French’s nose enough to give us an advantage in any further fighting. As usual it wouldn’t have been quite as enjoyable if it wasn’t for the gents around the table, a pleasure as always sirs. Also, as usual many thanks to Mrs D. for the fantastic spread at half time and to Des for putting on another cracker and for the refreshments for the footy too. That there was the mother of all thunderstorms on the way home made it the perfect end to the day really (dirty cheating Spanish centre-half’s aside).