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Subject: Ligny – French disaster and triumph (sort of) rss

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Andrew Hobley
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Andover
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Back into Belgium 1815 after a watery anniversary game and having warmed up with the two expansion kit scenarios to the scenarios we knew and loved forty years ago (yes, 40!!) in Napoleon’s Last Battles. Having played the NLB scenarios last year on the anniversary (see the NLB separate game page forums for the reports) I was interested to see what changes NLG brought.

And first the setup. Very different from NLB – that’s what 40 years of military scholarship does.

Setup for NLB

Setup for NLG

Very unhelpfully for the French the initial mode cards sent Napoleon and Grouchy to ‘sleep’ and the Prussians received reinforcements, bringing the reduced I Corps units up to strength. And the day began with rain – which continued – and continued. So no French Guard artillery bombardments and no lines of sight so attacking unseen enemy.

Using the ‘one hex move if out of command and within 3 hexes of the enemy’ rule from ‘Napoleon Against Russia’ Vandamme and Gerard were able to launch attacks. Ligny changed hands as each side took the village and then lost it to counter attacks as Blücher fed in II Corps. On the French left III Corps attacks made little progress until the Young Guard joined in at 5pm; the village and chateau were taken, the Prussians fell back safely protected by a Grand Battery. The Guard crossed the stream, only to be held by a Prussian bayonet charge. IV corps had taken Ligny for the fourth time, only to be driven out by another Prussian counter-attack and losing Capitane’s Brigade.

6pm - the French have St Amand

At 6pm Napoleon stirred; Grouchy had become active earlier but had been keeping the Ligny attacks going rather than disturbing the Emperor. At 7pm Thielmann and the Prussian III Corps also moved. Vandamme attacked across the stream driving the Prussians back, eliminating the already weakened 24 Infantry and routing the 1 Westland Landwehr. The Old Guard was thrown in, crossing the stream west of the Ligny chateau. But at Ligny Hulot and St Cyr’s brigades pushed into the town, only to have the supports on their flanks held and a Prussian counter attack routing them.

As Pirch drove into the village Thielmann attacked from the east. IV Cavalry Corps was surrounded and routed and Milhaud was carried off wounded, The Old Guard were pushed back by a bayonet charge from the 2nd Infantry Regiment and then held in attack on the Ligny Chateau [Shock result leading to mutual unit reduction]. The 2nd Infantry Regiment and the Young Guard Horse artillery fought each other to destruction; then the Young Guard were routed as the Prussians pushed back towards St Amands, General Drouot fell trying to rally them, and Michel’s Old Guard Brigade were routed outside Ligny. As night fell it as clear the campaign of Belgium was over for the French.

8pm - the French right crumbles

French losses were heavy with IV Corps demoralised; the Prussian I Corps lost few units. The VP calculation was 4:20 in the Prussian’s favour – a Coalition Strategic Victory.

That was such a disaster I thought I would try again. Round 2 stated with a hot day with the French all alert and Blücher initially distracted. The initial French attacks took St Amand easily and cleared Ligny on their side of the stream. Despite Blücher directing counter attacks III Corps took the St Amand Chateau and pushed across the stream, routing Prussian I Corps and demoralising it, while IV Corps crossed the stream and firmly held the further part of the village.

4pm - the French left sweeps forward

Zeithen was captured as the Prussian 2nd Brigade artillery was overrun. To the north Milhaud’s IV Cavalry Corp and the Prussian II Corps cavalry fought over Marbais for two hours, Milhaud was wounded and the French eventually fell back. As rain relived the heat of the day the French suffered a setback when Rome’s Brigade and the IV Corps cavalry were trapped Sombref and Toussaint’s Brigade was routed trying to save them. Exelmans’ II Cavalry attacked, but were also repulsed and Exelmans was badly wounded (he died later that evening).

8pm - the French left triumphant

These last losses took the shine off the French victory. The Prussian I Corps had been badly cut up – 38 SP lost of which 15 were permanently eliminated. Without the VP for the card play it was a French tactical victory, with the cards a French marginal one.

So quite a contrast in results. If the French can cross the St Amand stream quickly and stay over it they can drive the Prussians slowly back. But if they can cross the stream. And if the French get stuck the Prussians have a whole Corps lurking on the French right which is quite open.

So much for the Prussians. But what has happened at the Quatre Bras crossroads?
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