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Subject: Mastery of Wavre rss

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Albert Valente
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Battles of Waterloo (BOW) is a war game with layers of complexity, and getting started can be a challenge. The system of play and the rules for movement and combat are complex, but quite rewarding. To speed-up the process the author has posted a guide to the rules called the BOW Program, which was written expressly for the Wavre scenario. Historically, Wavre was something of a throw-away, but the designer's included it as a scenario for new players. Of course everyone wishes to start with Waterloo, but it's Wavre were one will develop the strategies and tactics that carry into more advanced scenarios. As an aside, the designers offer several optional rules, even for this scenario, but the writer suggests that players avoid all optional rules until playing a scenario a few times to get the hang of things.

Since the reader is most likely playing BOW for the first time, this “mastery” lesson will go a bit further to help each side get off to a good start. Be advised that a French victory is virtually assured once their infantry and artillery reach the bridges at Wavre. All the French need do is to roll up to bridge hex(s) during the Operations Phase and wait. In the ensuing No-LIM phase the Prussians must either assault or withdraw, and if they assault the French cannon will blow them away. It is such a QEV that bridge control should really be modified as a victory condition “for beginners only.”

The Prussian player sets-up first. Historically, General Thielmann fought on the French side during much of the Napoleonic Wars, so it's rather unusual to see him conduct a rear-guard action against his former allies. Nevertheless, he must both occupy the French in this theater, and protect Blucher's line of supply. To ccomplish this task the Prussians must maintain possession of Wavre and defend the bridges across the Dyle. Thielmann has the advantage of interior lines of defense and can shift units around to where they are needed. Still, those lines will be stretched to the max--so try to avoid allowing any units to become "Out-of-Command" for very long since they can easily be picked-off and destroyed. Stack heavy artillery (7MPs), and move them back and forth between Wavre and LeVallee to help break-up any assaults across those two strategic bridges. The Prussian's have no overall commander (OC), but they do have the "loose cannon" rule that allows individual units to be activated in the Operations Phase. Use this rule to advance into enemy ZOC, to patch-up any holes the line, or to rally a unit already in the line.

The Prussian III Corps has two kinds of infantry: Regular and Militia. The regular infantry should set-up in extended formation in Wavre to protect the bridges over the Dyle. Move light artillery right up to the front line to help defend key crossing points. The militia are called “Landwier” units, and I mark these in pencil 'LW' (one letter on either side of the cross) as an added reminder because they cannot be deployed in extended line formation. Landwier can form a square; however, coming out of square is a problem due to their low cohesion rating. Otherwise, the militia work well in a support role, to protect the flanks, and help connect units together to maintain a chain of command. The Prussians also have a contingent of I Corps units left behind by the main army, and these invaluable reinforcements must make it to Thielmann's lines ASAP.

Be advised that General Hobe's cavalry may operate as an independent force, and can be activated independently of III Corps. All of Hobe's cavalry should immediately move over the Dyle to defend the eastern approaches of Wavre and keep the French infantry at bay as long as possible. After that, swing around the French rear to pick-off any stragglers (especially cannon). This strategy will likely bring several sharp cavalry engagements, so to avoid being caught out in the open move into the forests where necessary. Next, the French IV corps will come-up after an hour or so, and this corps must be delayed as well. It's a tall order, to be sure, but French operations will be hampered so long as they have enemy cavalry in their rear. Remember, every delay brings Prussian victory closer to hand.

The French player must adopt the mindset of General Grouchy (Gou'shay, not Grouch'y), who was a brilliant cavalry commander of the Napoleonic Era. Now assuming his first independent command as a Marshall of France, his orders are to occupy Wavre and its approaches. It is imperative to get III Corps heavy infantry down the road to Wavre as quickly as possible because time is short. This corps must immediately assault the bridges across the Dyle and force entry into Wavre. Use the Strategic Movement LIM to begin the game, and move that Corps up as quickly as possible. Use General Pajol's light cavalry and/or Heavy cavalry under General Exeleman to screen the approaches (i.e. block enemy LOS). The III Corps can strategically relocate to within easy striking distance of Wavre if there is no enemy resistance. Once IV Corps comes up, cross them over the Dyle wherever possible. Time is of the essence. Roll for activation of IV Corps at every opportunity. If activation fails, use Detachment Leaders to keep that infantry moving along the paths in the OOC phase. Once IV Corps arrives on the western side of the Dyle, move to assault the strategic bridge at Le' Vallee in order to shorten Grouchy's lines of communication.

The French player must keep the Prussian cavalry contained at all costs--never let them get behind your lines unhindered or it will become a long day for General Grouchy. The Prussians will defend all the river crossings, so deploy French cannons to assist in breaking up those defenses. Advance heavy infantry and light artillery to bridge hexes, but do not risk a frontal assault. Instead, disrupt enemy forces repeatedly using a combination of musketry and artillery. Once the Prussians withdraw, simply occupy both sides of the bridge and hold position. Counter-attacks will be sparse as the Prussians cannot enter enemy ZOC without activation (loose cannon unit excepted).

This scenario requires a combination of maneuver accompanied by brute force at the point of attack, attributes both players need to learn. There is plenty of time to experiment with various formations and combinations of units, and so no matter which side one plays, Wavre is one of the more enjoyable scenarios in the Battles of Waterloo game.

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