Finally we are at that point where we can sit back and say, that's a wrap. Well sort of as lets face it were a breed that never has really finished titivating rules, even our own. I say our own but it's no secret that we have taken bits of other systems and worked them together. The last piece was a complete re-work of the combat tables, replacing a morale based system with a casualty one. I still like the morale version for small games but bigger games the new combat works so much faster and as such better. We still have to try with a really large game but that's happening a week on Sunday. Once that is done we finally will get Project Waterloo played out as a game. I really can't wait for that. We played another test game a few weeks ago and it was a blast that saw fortune waver both sides at different points, below is the game report.
I did not get a decent photo of the start up positions so we start with the first action as I send my cavalry and a horse artillery battery to threaten the British left flank. My force is somewhat weaker in numbers than the allies but I have the edge on quality. In the distance you can see Lee's cavalry emerging from behind the woods (top right). Lee was wanting to force the issue with his cavalry for a second game on the trot.
My plan is to hold the centre anchored on the farm at the top of a hill, I would be facing about twice the infantry I had in this area if my cavalry could not keep some of them at bay. Not something I wanted to think about. The thin long woods did act to divide the British troops into two separate forces whilst I had no such problems.
On my left I awaited the Spanish assault, this was in fact my strongest division and I was even able to keep a few battalions in reserve. Reserves in our rules are almost a must. You increase your chance of success if you use your reserves correctly, thought and planning can be well rewarded.
The British cavalry position themselves ready for the charge across the valley. As Lee gets them into position I keep them under fire from my horse artillery and the right hand guns of my infantry brigade. Lee was answering this with foot artillery but with less guns in the fire fight and my better luck his cavalry was taking more casualties than mine, not good when my cavalry started the battle stronger.
The knock on effect was that Lee was also using up precious command actions to get his cavalry in position which was also delaying his infantry attack on my right flank. If he had simply screened his infantry with his cavalry I would have been forced to attack his cavalry before I was ready.
Lee gets his first reinforcements which arrive at a random point. These can either attack my left flank or centre. My left flank is capable of fighting them to a standstill so I hope he moves there.
The clash of the cavalry was always going to happen with Lee bringing his across the table to face mine. Rather than one mass attack we found that we both had charged in with half our regiments holding the balance in reserve. Much would depend on the outcome of this first clash of the game.
One regiment of British Light Dragoons was routed though the second held it's ground. My artillery though was making it's mark as both of Lee's reserve regiments had taken casualties and were now at quite a disadvantage.
Both my light cavalry and Dragoons were quite beaten up and down to half strength Lee was in no shape to take advantage of this with similar loses. I made matters worse by charging and defeating one of his supporting cavalry regiments but these were in turn bloodied by British muskets and canons. The tempo had been hard and fast but this could not continue.
I forced a couple of British battalions into square but again a few more saddles were emptied and I withdrew to try and rally back some of the missing troopers.
At this point I have one regiment that is still capable of offensive action. One falling back (next to the guns) and two one pip off the same. I need to start rallying my cavalry. If Lee can get his infantry moving forward he may be able to force my cavalry away from my infantry.
From the British point of view. If the British move away from the village and can drive off my cavalry he can put impossible pressure on my right flank, his infantry on his left flank is the cream of the British army.
This would have been a great moment for his last reinforcements to arrive on that flank but instead they arrived behind his earlier ones. These at least are also British so will add weight to his existing brigade. Indeed if the timings worked out for them, the British could ram a breach in my line based on my centre as I already have a gap in my line.
A view down the length of the table, the battle is on a 8 foot table by six deep. Lots of space for Lee to manoeuvre and too much for me to cover and have reserves (hence the gaps).
As I try and reorganise my cavalry the British advance and I find my horse artillery under concentrated attack. I have little choice but to fall back or loose my guns.
Lee's plan was starting to work, though it had cost him his cavalry. My cavalry were forced to retreat away from my infantry due to the woods but these same woods would also provide them the cover they needed to reform and be available later in the battle.
Lee showed his hand on his right so I started to move some of my reserves away from my weakened right to try and halt his attack on that flank. This of course was going to weaken my right beyond my ability to resist a major attack there but I planned to start to retract that flank once Lee changed his target from my cavalry.
I had used both by cavalry brigade commander and the CinC to rally my cavalry and had done enough to bring most of my cavalry back into the fight and sent in a few charges against his infantry in an attempt to buy time.
The result was a string of British squares but the butchers bill was fairly high. I again needed to rally back troops whilst Lee was busy shaking squres back into line. The red dice show units in square. These can not come out of square whilst enemy cavalry are within charge range and able to charge them.
To cut back on casualties I withdrew my infantry from the crest of the hill. This saved me from further loss to artillery but if the British threatened the hill I would have to take possession of the hill or fall back towards my left.
After a couple of minor scraps on my left/centre Lee finally sent in the main attack of the day. If successful my centre would be pinned allowing Lee's hammer of a left flank to force my right to stand and there bring overwhelming numbers and firepower to smash through my defence.
I in turn brought my reserves into the line and started to break up the attacks blunting the Portuguese and Spanish flank attack and thus creating a further reserve ready for the solid attack I knew was coming.
The woods was forcing the British attack to become separated and this gave me opportunity to attack back against one attack and hold a defensive position against the other point of attack.
Lee's first attack up the hill to in my centre saw mixed results. One battalion managed to rout it's opponent but with 50% casualties whilst the second battalion failed to drive me back.
Meanwhile the stalled attack on my right allowed me to re-order my cavalry once more. Lee was by this point moving a couple of battalions through the squares and using these battalions to screen the squares that would in turn come out of square. This was a slow process and allowed me to again charge the forward battalions forcing these into square. Each charge saw either my forced withdraw (retreat result), the loss of a strength point or no casualties. I also occasionally caused a casualty and retired back to my start position. Neither side was able to break the other but slowly I was now falling back and I had slowed down this attack to a crawl keeping the infantry safe.
Meanwhile where the original breakthrough was about to be reinforced I simply repositioned my flanking battalions and set myself to send this first assault back.
Gone are the neat lines as the first wave fights for it's life and I try and stop the second wave breaking through. This could be what makes or breaks the battle for us but in whose favour?
To the left of the woods that split the British attack the balance of the allied brigade is reforming and trying to recover from the reverse earlier. I now have the advantage of numbers and quality. My plan is to go fully over to the offensive and if I can drive back this weakened brigade I can then attack the stronger brigade from both rear and front crushing it.
I start to close the route for the trapped forward troops facing British volley fire. This was less effective than hoped as they had to move and fire. I in turn plan to charge in and use the French advantage, infantry column.
Some of the Spanish in the first wave continue to push back a battalion of French whilst a second is pushed back off my hill. Fighting further down the line saw each of us break a opposing battalion. I though have reserves on hand whilst the British still need to fight through more French battalions to support any success on the ridge.
Finally the attack against my right flank is starting to regain momentum, I now have to make a final stand with my cavalry or manoeuvre away from the elite British infantry. I will make use of the greater movement of my cavalry to get them out of trouble.
Already a spill over of the success against my cavalry is the start of the attack on my infantries right flank. I just don't have the troops to contest the hill with any hope of success, will this attack be in time to halt my attacks on the opposite flank?
However the British are wearing down on the opposite flank as the British battalions fighting to get through to the forward troops are either pushed back or broken. One brigade is already now under retire orders and a second close to breaking.
With six French battalions now attacking behind the woods and threatening the rear of the shaky brigade time has ran out for the British attack against the centre. Whilst the left wing is still in good shape the centre is under threat of being rolled up. With just under 50% of the units under retreat orders or broken the British will need to save their army by retreating behind the elite brigade. The success on the left could not be capitalised on other than to act as a rearguard. My cavalry was still on the field and it was possible they would be able to force their way between the still staunch infantry and the wavering brigades to cause a great deal of damage though time was called at this point.
So what did we learn?
Sustained attacks need both close support and built in reserves. When carried out successfully they can really change the dynamic of the battle. Lee's attack on my right was countered by my cavalry but what really slowed it down was when his second attack on the opposite flank was first slowed and then suffered my counter attack. Too often Lee ran out of attack options before being able to activate his left brigade as he had to react to threats on his other flank.
Reserves and more reserves, attacking really soaks up your offensive power. Having a second and possibly third line to move in and take over before the original units are worn down to far is key to keeping the initiative in a sector. The inability to rally troops back to battalions faster than a battalion a turn can really leave a trail of weakened units very vulnerable to a counter attack.
Committing your cavalry to a cavalry melee should be considered only with a good chance of success and is really dangerous if you commit all your assets to the combat.
Artillery should be given time to reduce it's targets and then main attacks sent in.
All these points reflect that the rules for us at least give a real feel of Napoleonic battles. We are very confident that with the new combat system we can handle really large battles and play them quickly. As mentioned above, we will be trying them with a large game in about ten days time, I will even get to see more of my Prussians on the table than I managed in the Waterloo demo.