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Subject: Refighting Quatre Bras using DBA rss

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Eddy Richards
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With an afternoon off from work a long-considered refight of Quatre Bras was on the menu. For rules we used a variant of DBA (called DBN) with appropriate changes for muskets, napoleonic artillery and so on. Rather than a standard DBA battle with 12 elements per side we used a scenario where the starting forces were relatively small but there was a schedule of reinforcements as per the historical happenings. Essentially the scenario is that the Allies (English, Dutch-Belgians and Hanoverians) have to hold on to the village of Quatre Bras, the French have to take it. Initially the Allies are outnumbered in quantity and quality of troops (and leadership - Prince William of Orange, the general at the start, has -1 to his Pip die) but have some high quality reinforcements (British regulars, including what I identified as Richard Sharpe's Rifles) coming later on, with Wellington (+1 to pip die) to lead them. The French have a decent force to start with, and more coming later, and are led by Ney, an average general. The job of the initial Dutch-Belgian force is to delay the French until Wellington can arrive, and to help them they have a river which the enemy have to cross (counts as bad going) and Gemioncourt farmhouse as a strongpoint. There is a road leading from the French board edge to the village of Quatre Bras, about 2000 paces away (for reference infantry moves 400 paces along a road).

I opted to be the brave and noble allies, and set up a forward defence, with my best troops (musketeers) occupying the farmhouse and some militia artillery sitting on the road 1000 paces from the French edge, aiming to at least disrupt the columns of French infantry as they marched up the road - surely I couldn't miss such an easy target?

The French deployed next, and basically arrived with all their elements near the road and farmhouse. As I rolled a 1 for pips I couldn't do anything so I just took a potshot at his artillery with mine, with no effect - if you double artillery it is destroyed, not very likely at 3 (4 -1 for being militia) vs 3 ( reduced combat value from the usual 4 because it was unable to shoot back, having moved).

The French then proceeded to march forward, but were held initially by the musketeers in the farmhouse. I decided I might as well try another pot-shot at his artillery (which had moved again) and lo and behold - a 6 and a matching 1 for him, the humble militia have destroyed the pride of the French army with a lucky shot. Huzzah!

Soon more French reinforcements came, and with a bit of pushing and shoving, with Gemioncourt farmhouse taken and retaken several times, the Dutch Belgians retreated to relative safety behind the river line. But not before the militia artillery blew away another unit, this time some skirmishers rashly moving across open ground to take control of a large wood to one side of the battlefield (another 6 - 1 roll to double them and make them flee in disarray off the table).

Next came the critical phase of the battle. Could the French get rid of the thin line of Dutch-Belgian infantry (1 regular and 1 militia musketeer) holding the central ground before the newly arrived English could help? On the allied left the brave but thick Prince William was giving ground slowly against some horse artillery with two light cavalry units ready to pounce; on the right light infantry from each side pushed each other to and fro rather indecisively in the large woods (the second skirmisher would have been very helpful here of course). So the centre was key.

Marshall Ney threw everything he had across the river, personally leading a column of men to attack on the militia unit to counteract the disadvantage of attacking across the river. The militia held firm, and pushed back the column. At this point fate intervened as the French player very sportingly remembered that there was a chance that a leader involved in a melee combat would be wounded. I nonchantly tossed a die. As it was in the air I asked what I needed to get the kill. 'Only a one will do' came the reply, just as the die landed.... poor old Ney. Either the fortunes of war, or a superb shot from the gun of Capt. Sharpe (about a mile away at this point) to change the course of a battle yet again.

The French wisely surrendered, deciding not to cause the deaths of any more of their young men to no purpose. With 2 pips per move needed, it would have taken them several turns (at least) just to cross the river, by which time the English would have been in a position to wipe them out.

The verdict: very good fun doing a scenario (and a historical one, to boot) rather than a standard battle. This was my first time using the Napoleonic variation, it seemed to work quite well and gave a reasonable feel for the period. Although this particular battle was rather one-sided, with more even luck it would I think have been an interesting and probably close run thing.

Finally, my thanks to opponent Tim for organising it all, getting the figures ready and doing the research. This session report is partly to say this, and partly to help remember a fun afternoon!


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Jeff Hayes
United States
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try DBN instead
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