Back in 2015, a group of us played a game of the Battle of Waterloo using Sam Mustafa’s Blücher rules and a collection of polythene 1/72 scale figures, some of them dating back to 1970. A few years later we played Ligny. The figures have spent the years since then in boxes, labelled up and waiting for the Waterloo itch to return.
In February this year I got the figures out, repainted a few and rewrote some faded labels, then hosted a Waterloo refight for four of us in the dining room (too cold for the shed). I had read a few more Waterloo histories since 2015 and changed the deployment rules from the original scenario. Ian and Paul led the Allied and Prussian armies while Chris was Napoleon. We had a great game that ended with Chris breaking through the Allied centre and opening the road to Brussels.
A couple of months ago I noticed that 18 June this year would be on a Sunday, as it was in 1815. Not exactly a rare coincidence but I’ll use any excuse to play the battle again. This time, we had six players: Nick, Dan and Will played the French (Napoleon, Ney and D’Erlon); versus Harry, Jack and me (Wellington, Picton and Blücher). I took the Prussians so I could help with easing newcomers into the rules. Blücher is a very easy game to learn but with both Jack and Will playing for the first time, we cut them some slack for the first 5 minutes - and were then ruthless, obviously. In fact, both teams were well on top of the system in no time.
The orders of battle, reinforcement schedule and briefings are on the Napoleonic Scenarios page here
The game began with the French going wide on both flanks: Will took two cavalry Corps and part of I Corps around the West of Hougoumont, while Dan led II and VI Corps in an assault on Papelotte, Smohain and Frischermont on the Allied left. Both attacks were intended to pin Allied reserves in place while Nick went straight up the Brussels road with the Guard. Harry and Jack used the reverse slope effectively, thereby negating much of the power of Nick’s artillery. In the East, they ran an aggressive defence against Dan, which led to a sticky end for one Hanoverian infantry brigade that overreached itself and dissolved in the French rear area. On the opposite flank, a plucky Dutch brigade bought valuable time, as it survived repeated cavalry charges before finally going under.
While the flank fights settled into seesaw combats, the Guard made its move up the centre of the field. Nick took La Haye Sainte but his leading units suffered heavy losses from Allied artillery and musketry and he withdrew them before they disintegrated. Fortunately for him his reserves were close behind, including the Guard cavalry who made it onto the Allied ridge. Harry and Jack sent units up and down the line to plug gaps and their line between the Brussels road and Hougoumont held firm, but they started to run out of reserves and a hole developed in the line between the Brussels road and Papelotte, which the French Guard Cavalry filled. Meanwhile the Prussians, on a fixed variable reinforcement plan (available at most High Street banks), were delayed by two turns, which was unfortunate for the Allies as they were unable to strip troops from their left to create a new centre. When the Prussians did arrive, they got stuck in to Dan’s right flank but did not trouble him too much: he refused his right and although his line was now bent backwards, he didn’t need to ask Nick for more troops.
Throughout the day, the Allies had been losing more units (and hence morale points) than the French, partly because of some aggressive counterattacks and partly, I think, because being on the defensive, they could only guarantee that a damaged unit would not be drawn into combat again if they sent it off the table. In the second half of the day they adopted this approach which preserved morale points but meant they eventually lacked the units to man the whole front line. We were approaching nightfall and if they could hang on to their morale, the day would have been theirs as the Brussels road was still not open (though the ridge to its east was filling up with Frenchmen). However, at the start of the last French turn of the day, the Allies had 2 morale points remaining and first Nick, then Dan was able to destroy an Allied unit, breaking Allied morale. The day had been very close but this time, Napoleon would spend the night in a Inn at Waterloo while Wellington sped back through Brussels and on to the sea.
Went the Game well?
I had a lovey day and at my age, that’s what matters! But I do believe the rest of the crew enjoyed it too. I have the following thoughts about the scenario:
I am really grateful to my five co-players for a game played with good humour and Peroni. Thanks also to Caroline, ably assisted by Will (2) and Katie, for the catering and general hospitality.