Saturday, 27 September 2014

Quatre Bras - Age of Eagles

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have been hoping to play Quatre Bras using the Age of Eagles rules. Last weekend I managed to find the opportunity to do so, playing solo. Overall it was pretty successful and I found that the rules played quite quickly and easily (though inevitably for a first time out I got a few things wrong). I did run out of time unfortunately only getting through 9 turns (the game is supposed to last for 12 in all) but I think that the result was fairly clear by then; Vive L'Empereur!; the French had clear control of QB and had inflicted significantly more casualties than the Allies.

Here is the table without any troops on it, seen from the Allied side. I found I did not quite have enough trees and in the end I represented the Northern end of the Bossu, which should be woods almost all the way to QB, with a 'field' calling that a patch of rough terrain. There should also be a pond on the stream (behind the woods on the left) but unfortunately I found that the pond I had made were a little too large to be accommodated so I represented that with hedges along the side of the stream. Finally, in the end I added a bridge shown in later pictures at the Gemioncourt stream mainly for visual effect.

Here is the view at the start of the game (2:00pm) from the Allied side. You can see Bjilandt's brigade, with attached battery waiting just beyond the stream and Saxe-Weimar's Nassauers in the Bossu.

.. And here are the French. Each unit represents one brigade & you can see they heavily outnumber the allies initially, especially in cavalry (though there is little space space to maneuver all that cavalry in). According to the written scenario L'Heritier's division of dragoons & cuirassiers are also supposed to start but I decided to bring them on a little later as reinforcements. Even without them there's quite enough troops to cause congestion.

Here we are a couple of turns in. The French are beginning to get within range of their adversaries and have started to bombard them. In the distance you can maybe just make out the figure of Wellington watching cautiously from Quatre Bras itself.

Help begins to arrive for the Allies in the form of Van Merlen's Dutch-Belgian cavalry brigade followed closely by Picton's division; (I realised after the game that they were in the wrong place!)

Contact! Bjilandt's brigade is charged by both the French infantry of Bachelu's division and Pire's lancers. Having previously bombarded them with 3 batteries, the French had a serious advantage...

...And rolled well too, leaving Bjilandt's lot in flight. Still the clock is ticking (we're now on turn 4, 4pm) and the allies are arriving in more force.

Merlen's cavalry who had attempted to support Bjilandt are countered by Lefebre-Desnouettes & the red (ie Dutch!) lancers. Something of a grudge match perhaps. This was to be the first of several clashes between these two units in which the Imperial lancers gradually pushed their opponents back, until eventually they were driven from the filed.

Here, a little later on turn 5 (4:30pm), we see probably the crucial moment of the battle. Kempt's brigade at the head of Picton's division is contacted by the French lancers. They are still in march column having been unluckily disordered by a bombardment and  stubbornly refused to change formation despite the urgings of Picton and the Duke himself. This is not looking good for the allies...Even though the highlanders are made of tough stuff they are pushed right back by the lancers allowing the French into Quatre Bras.

Meanwhile in the Bossu the Foy's division pushed back the Nassauers and then in a comedy moment the Nassuer's pushed themselves back a whole lot more by badly failing a 'march' roll when disordered. This left the French in undisputed control of the woods.

Here we see the position at the start of Turn 7 (indicated by the big D20). The French definitely have the upper hand though Allied reinforcements are coming to stem the tide. Heading to try to retake the Bossu are a brigade of Brunswickers while Alten's division is just arriving. At the right you can see the 'Arc of Fire' template which is a very handy (useful for other games too, I hope)

The Allied position begins to look more stable as they manage to form a line, from which they can counter-attack though its well back from Quatre Bras itself. The French meanwhile are struggling to bring up their artillery to help renew the assault.

Here you can see that the French are firmly in control of Quatre Bras though a Brigade of Brunswickers are preparing to challenge them for it. Just beyond QB a brigade of Brunswicker hussars (I admit that I used British hussars to represent them, shame!) are challenging French chasseurs.

In the Bossu the Brunswickers counterattacked but, after initial success, were repulsed. Meanwhile Foy is still struggling to bring up his artillery.

The Red lancers have finally seen off Merlen's brigade. They breakthrough onto Kempt's brigade but the doubty Scots formed square and repulsed them

A final desperate attack on Quatre Bras itself by the Brunswickers is repulsed. With that, the Allies withdrew in good order (and I called it a day) at the end of turn 9 (6:30pm).

Here are a few more pics of the final scene....

Saxe Weimar holds the line beyond the Bossu, now with support from Kielmansegge's Hanoverians.

Here you can see L'Heritier & his dragoons and beyond them are the Chasseurs de la Guarde & the masses of French infantry.

Four French generals...Kellerman doffs his hat to Ney in Gemioncourt (his cavalry didn't get into action). On the other side of the stream are Jerome (in the grey coat) and Reille.

Age of Eagles is hardly a 'buckets of dice' game. Here is the entire collection of dice which I used; 2 D20's (used as D10's).

As I said I enjoyed the game a lot and am very pleased with how it came out. The main mistake I made, I now realise, was with the Allied reinforcements as I brought almost all of them on at the Nivelles road. In fact, according to the scenario (and other sources)  Picton's Division and the Brunswickers arrived on the Brussels road which would make a significant difference.

I also think I used Built Up Areas which were a bit too big; I've seen it suggested that in AoE a typical BUA should be no more than 4" sq and sometimes 2"sq; my buildings were much bigger than that. There isn't a lot of space on the table and if I had used smaller BUAs it might have helped.

As for the rules I am pretty pleased with the way they went; I especially like the way that the labeling of the brigades (and leaders) means that you know exactly who is squaring up against each other. My main criticism would be that as Wellington has a +2 advantage (on a D10) over Ney on initiative he always consistently won, meaning that he always chose to go first in the turn making the game a bit IGO-UGO. If Ney had won the initiative at some point it could have had a big effect, not least as the French would then get two turns on the bounce.

Next up in my schedule is to play QB using the Too Fat Lardies LFS rules and see how that compares. It will be a bigger game as LFS works at a different level of AoE so I will need to get a few more troops: more French dragoons, another unit or two of French infantry and a couple of units of British guards (and maybe some Brunswick hussars!). Might be a little while though as I don't even have the figures yet & I have plenty of other painting to do.