Lee has two of the four boards complete allowing us to playtest the assault on Hougoumont. It is critical we get this right. Too weak and I blast my way through, too strong and I just sit away from it trying to get in through the odd howitzer shot. We were also trying out subbing a converted Commands & Colors combat system for our combat tables so a perfect opportunity for everything to go wrong.
Well no matter what else happens we at least have a great looking table. Note it still needs the varnish adding to protect the surface but it's close to how it will look when finished. Lee as soon as he saw my mass of infantry started to worry about balance. It was hard not to agree he has sod and all defending the place.
It the first picture you get to see my troops in the distance, here you get a better idea. I have yet to do the work on the formal gardens so we used some MDF walls for this play through. The woods are also not yet finished so the add on's have some way to go before being finished.
I have three divisions all lined up ready to assault. Scenario rules only allow me to activate the two reserve divisions once the preceding division has suffered a certain amount of casualties and then the final third division and and when the second has stalled. Of course once the second division is on it's way in nothing is stopping me trying again with the first division IF I have rallied enough battalions back in to a fit state to support.
Not in the battle but I wanted to show off Lee's sandpit, I had wondered how he would represent it and I was VERY impressed, looking forward to owning that in the game ;-)
Can you see Hougoumont? It's just behind the trees. This is the view from the third division I would potentially have to use against Hougoumont. Their journey would take them across the British gun line, I don't hold out much hope for their good order when they finally get to the target.
A View from Lee's side of the battlefield. Just out of view to the right is my main attack force which will go in first. Lee is outnumbered by more than three to one, can anyone say cakewalk? It's a great view to show off what Lee has worked his magic on, shame we don't yet have the full gardens ready to add to his great work.
In the distance is Hougoumont, here is just the flank of my 12 battalion strong division with the light infantry leading the way.
Lee was to send some of the light companies forward to contest the woods before falling back to defend Hougoumont itself, it looked to be a hot fight.
We did not put on all the reserves as they were not going to be used. For example I had two cavalry corps behind my infantry missing whilst in the picture above Lee's scanty reserves for throwing into Hougoumont are all there!!! Talk about thin red line.
The blue markers show me disordered as I move through the woods, I take my first casualties but start to push a lone battalion back towards Hougoumont. Whilst in the woods I am unable to charge the defenders though my numbers look to be enough to push them out of the woods without the need for cold steel. Still first blood to Lee as he reduces one unit by a pip.
Lee brought two half battalions up into the battle for the woods and these along with the original battalion would cause a good number of casualties that would force me to replace the lead units even before coming out of the woods though it would be at some cost to him.
My first battalion is reduced to a strength of one and moves deeper into the woods awaiting a commander to start rallying troops back to the colours, would I get enough back in time to bring them back into the battle?
The answer was not really, they failed morale test after test, in the end I moved on to another unit with more success. Here though a lone Battalion made it through the woods, reordered itself for the attack and charged home. French have a bonus when attacking in melee and this would be a test to see if they could crack the defence.
Other battalions stream in behind them whilst still more move to attack another side stretching the defenders further. The big question is will I be able to get attacks home along the whole front?
The answer was nearly. The first attack was beaten back before I could get more battalions into the attack and the constant fire from the defenders was chipping away the effectiveness of my attackers. I needed to get more units in to the fight at the same time but Lee was reducing the strength of some Battalions whist others were forced to retreat back into the woods disordering them again.
With most of my Battalions down to 2 and 3 strength I threw in the last three full strength battalions but again Lee was picking off strength points nearly every time he fired. I really needed to get back to back activations but Lee kept beating me to the punch meaning he had the opportunity to weaken key attacking units. I can see how Hougoumont sucked in troops, it always seemed that I was one good turn away from breaking in but always Lee was able to do enough to slow down or break up the attack and with each minor success he bled me out that bit more.
I finally got two battalions to get in at the same time, the third poised to join them so long as they held on. Close assault with the French Melee advantage and the lack of numbers for the defenders can work well but I need to roll well due to the heavy penalties for attacking a fortified location. In this case I was unable to get into Hougoumont with one battalion whilst the other was sent back into the woods. If I can just get the next activation I have a good chance of getting a second battalion into the mix.
Alas it was not meant to be and both battalions would be pushed back next turn and whilst they still had reasonable strength left the majority of the other battalions were either one (red die) or two strength battalions and were in desperate need of reforming. In the distance you can see the next division already marching towards the objective and looking untidy as the British artillery starts to work them over.
We played a few more turns, it felt really good, Hougoumont's going to be a pig to take as it should be and will see a great deal of action. We will make a few minor adjustments and try it again. Time wise it was much faster than the old combat system and we will try it with more open terrain with more artillery and cavalry involved but right now it feels right and I think we can really make this work for the actual game making for a much faster and slicker game that still feels Napoleonic. All in all a great nights work.
Last word though is a big thanks to Lee for creating a table that ROCKS. I am already foaming at the mouth over the two boards but with two more to go and these will have the most buildings on it's going to be stunning, top job Lee.