walter vejdo
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During the Paris wargame convention, I had the first test of an Eagles of France system campaign game using the prototype of two soon to be released games: Ligny (due Q4 2017) and Quatre-Bras (H1 2018).

The campaign was played using a customized (enlarged hexes and solid counters) that I took the time to build (special thanks to Fabrice Randeau for the map and Matthieu Karrer for support on the counters!). The combination of the two games (4 hexasim maps oriented vertically) would allow to play a full campaign game of the 16th of June 1815.
The full fog of war rules was used (see system rules 2.0). In addition, new rules simulating uncertainty on reinforcements arrival and alternate reinforcements were tested. Basically, there are two kind of reinforcements:

• The first is standard reinforcements, they will arrive but depending how long from game start they are supposed to arrive, there is uncertainty on their actual time of arrival
• The second is variable reinforcements. At the beginning of the game, each player decides if he would like to TRY to have them on board. Their arrival time is also variable but in addition, one will not know for sure if they will materialize. If they arrive AND are deployed on the map (losing their fog of war status), they will cost VPs to the owning player.

In this case, both sides are put as close as possible to the real commander’s situation. No more perfect planning and anticipation of the enemy force. This is useful to simulate rather than just re-create battles like Quatre-bras and Ligny where the arrival of reinforcements played a major role.

I took into consideration the historical position of corps/division on the evening of the 15th to provide a variation on a “historically acceptable” theme. For example, the first Prussian corps was already deployed near Ligny, the second NL division near Quatre-Bras and the French formation were more likely to arrive according to the historical order (II and III corps plus I,II and IIIcav leading) but could go either toward Quatre-Bras or Ligny.

The battle was played with two team of two players. Two French, one Anglo-Allied, one Prussian. Letting players play in separate rooms to simulate the information gap between the two theaters could have been an option. But we preferred the fun to play together, considering that the orders rules were already giving a bit of inertia to each army’s reaction.

Victory conditions are the following:

To win the French must either beat decisively (in losses differential) the Coalition or exit the map through the Wavre or Brussel road in force before the end of the day without losing its supply hexes on the south edge of the map.
I played as the referee. Here is the plan of the two teams as they decided it at the beginning of the game.

French Plan:

The bulk of the force will eventually go against the Prussian. The IIIc and Ic cavalry corps will be the advance guard in front of Fleurus, followed by the II corps. Then the IV corps and the IVc cavalry corps will follow. The French anticipate to receive d’Erlon I corps around 3pm which will cost them around 200Vps. Mouton’s VI corps might also arrive later if necessary (at a cost of 60 to 80 Vps). Note than the uncertainty of VPs cost is related to the uncertainty of the exact arrival time of the unit. Also, the French player is not sure that D’Erlon will arrive at all. A die roll confirmation will be done at the time the first element of the I corps might enter play. In the case of D’Erlon the confirmation roll is a DR equal or lower to 6 (likely historically). Each player has also a special “wild card” to add or subtract once in the game 3 to any of such DR. This is an additional uncertainty and friction on what can happen.
Toward Quatre-Bras will go the IIc cavalry corps, followed by Vandamme’s III corps and supported quickly by the Imperial Guard and Napoleon itself! This was decided around a campaign specific rule which states that the “non Napoleon” wing (in this case Ligny) would have no orders until 1pm to simulate the slowness of the French command structure on that day. The plan is then to accelerate the taking of Quatre-bras and then to fall back via the Nivelle-Namur road (the big straight road between the two battle that you can see on the photos) on the Prussian’s back, while defending with Vandamme and the light cavalry.

Coalition plan:
We are quite afraid of the lack of defense around Quatre-Bras. The Coalition team decided to “pay” VPs to get faster reinforcements (and alternate reinforcements) to the battle. In practice that means to try to get the full Dutch cavalry division (instead of only a part of it as in history) and to commit the 3 NL division. Their total cost is 120VPs and they their entry DR are feasible. We are going to use our wild cards on them anyways. We could have decided to take the risk and maybe withdraw in front of the French that could have not put enough forces here to score for the exit, but we do not want to rely too much on the ability of the Prussian to go to the offensive toward Fleurus in case the bulk of the French comes to us. We are also trying to commit the cavalry reserve at the end of day in case we should go to the offensive while being screened by too little forces.

10am:

1: The small Dutch-Belgian second division occupies the Quatre-Bras crossroad. As in history, its commander had disobeyed Wellington who asked them to stay around Nivelle (what irony to see that Wellington saved the day thanks to the lack of discipline of troops in which a lot of officers used to fight for the French previously! But Napoleon could not be lucky every time.)







2: the “morne plaine” of Belgium is quite colorful after all. First the I corps deployed at start around Ligny and in the distance the latter Quatre-Bras crossroad. Where are the French coming??





3: Enters fog of war. The French player deploys its fog of war units. Let’s recall that there are 3 counters per formation or commander. Two fakes and one real. When these counters have line of sight within 6 hexes of an enemy unit, they are revealed. Now players understand better the need to have light cavalry screen in front to “chase” enemy scouts and reconnaissance.





4: at the end of the first turn, the French forces around Fleurus are staying close to the town. Everybody wait for confirmation from the Emperor what to do…




5: At Quatre-Bras, Wellington has arrived and sent units toward Gemincourt. Three counters from the NLC (Belgian-Dutch cavalry) are in play. The French player knows that there will be more cavalry waiting north this time.




6: the French Columns advance toward Quatre-Bras. IIc cavalry corps leading with III corps fog of war units behind. Is it a feint for Vandamme as one III corps unit has been seen at Fleurus?





7: end of turn one. The French are coming and to the right the spearhead of the Prussian II corps can be seen arriving from Namur.





11am:
8: The French deploys his two cavalry corps in front of Ligny. They will be used to protect and hide the movement of the rest of the army there.





9: At Quatre Bras, Wellington evacuate Gemincourt. It seems that there are a lot of French action here which could indicate that the Emperor is around. The entry of Ney, one Napoleon, II corps and Imperial Guard fog of war counter is adding to the pressure on the Anglo-Allied.





12am:

10: The pressure mounts at Quatre-Bras, Vandamme corps is deployed and given the number of Imperial guard counters and French activity, Napoleon must be there! In addition, a IV corps counter is seen near Frasnes. Is Wellington going to face that many troops! The Prussian player gives the order to its III corps to move south in order to support the I corps at Ligny and maybe to counter attack if necessary. The II corps stays on the Namur-Nivelle road to keep both options open.




1pm:

11:The Emperor strikes! Vandamme and the Imperial guard attack at Quatre-Bras. Will the skillfull Anglo-allied player be able to stand long enough? Wellington begs for help! The French might have enough force to score an exit victory here. For the Coalition the options are:
a) Reinforce Quatre-Bras with the Anglo Allied reinforcements of course and the Prussian II corps to fight a pitched battle. In this case, the Prussian has to be cautious at Ligny in order to avoid adding more casualty VPs for the French if the French army is also more than a cavalry screen here.
b) Evacuate immediately to the north at Quatre-Bras to avoid giving too much VPs to the French while fighting a lost cause and attacking with all the Prussian force at Ligny in order to inflict more losses to an inferior French (which would void the victory exit) or even take Fleurus.
The Coalition team will go for option 1 . For the French, this is going according to plan, even if the French player at Quatre-Bras discovers that a quick victory here is not achievable any more given the density of the defense.





12 and 13: So the II Prussian corps will move to Quatre-Bras, the two other corps will have to fight a delaying action while avoiding to take too many losses.





2pm:

14: Meanwhile at Quatre Bras, the storm is on. Reinforcements are badly needed for the Anglo-Allied. Quatre-Bras might fall soon.

to ne continued..


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Jason Roach
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Good report Walter; the convention playtest game looks cool.

That initial possible faint and the FoW that made it a possibility, really brings to mind the need for proper cavalry screening in the game. It’s interesting at this scale; the commanders were required to consider it and use their LC historically (here for the Coalition, the NLC), despite being rather close to contact.

Looking forward to the next report.
 
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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Very interesting. The map and counters are lovely as well.

I note that the counters seem to be mounted on blocks; is this just for the extra-large playtest version?
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Mark Herman
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Looks amazing... I love the system and I am eager to give Ligny a try. Next time you are in NYC.

Mark
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Philippe Parmentier
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Eric Brosius wrote:
Very interesting. The map and counters are lovely as well.

I note that the counters seem to be mounted on blocks; is this just for the extra-large playtest version?
Yes I think so
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Norm
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Thank you - looking forward to this addition to the series.
 
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walter vejdo
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15: At Quatre Bras, Napoléon feels that with a last push, the defense might collapse. The "last push" card is played for an additionnal activation.
The Imparial Guard takes Quatre-Bras!



16: O Fortuna! Just under the fire of the reacting defenders, one regiment of the Guard rolls 12 on its QFT. Its rout triggers few artillery batteries which fails their test in a string or fortune reversal.

This is not the end of the attack but a delaying setback.



17: At Ligny, the French continue to advance in front of delaying actions by the prussian I corps.



3pm:

18: At Quatre Bras, Brunswick has reinforced the defense just in time. Picton and the Dutch have taken a beating.



19:The French try to take Ziethen by storm and isolate it from the Third corps. A few resisting pockets of resistance and key activation rolls are deciding the fate of the prussians.

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walter vejdo
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4pm:

20: the chase goes on at Ligny while quatre-bras stabilizes



21: Pirch arrives near Quatre-Bras. At last, the prussian arrive on the french's right. Napoleon send a screen of elite cavalry to delay the prussians.



22:the french last push at Quatre Bras. Brunswick is also exhausted but with the arriving of the elite 1st division, Wellington is now safe. A mini Waterloo in the making??







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walter vejdo
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end of 6pm:

The prussians are regrouped to defend the exit to Wavre. I corps has escaped full destruction during its retreat. Big losses are expected if they stand untill sunset but not enough to reach the decisive level of victory via losses.



At Quatre-Bras, Napoléon moved to a defensive mode. Too much pressure from a fresh prussian corps directed by Blucher. More reinforcents could also arrive from Nivelle (notably the cavalry reserve). This was supposed to be a feint anyways with the bulk of the army on the prussians.



Final perspective of the campaign map.

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walter vejdo
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Post game analysis:

The French have lost around 7,000 at Quatre Bras and 1,500 at Ligny.
The Coalition around 9,000 at Quatre Bras and 7,000 at Ligny.

No plan survive the contact with the ennemy. Here also.

The French "feint" with the Imp Guard turned into a pitched battle and it was impossible to use the Nivelle Namur road to send troops to Ligny after a quick control of the crossroad.

The Coalition panicked and sent the II corps which spent most of the battke in transit between the two battles and did not change much the situation at quatre bras after all. Note that the coalition, should have use more fog of war and keep the II corps hidden with fake counters at Ligny. This would have confused more the French.

In any cases,the French got an easir battle at Ligny. But it was so unbalanced that it turned into a quick withdrawal. With a bit of luck, the French could have come quicker to contact with Ziethen and made a decisive breaktrhough. It was nearly the case but with the exits closed and a loss differential still undecisive, it was called a draw.

Playing two more turns would have just confirmed that and this was not a reason to miss the train/plane.

At 12pm/1pm the rench nearly made it at Quetre-Bras and only a very skillful defence from David saved the day. The Imperial Guard had also its dark luck moment at one stage.

Many thanks for the enthusiastic participation of Hervé (French left), Matthieu (Prussian), David (Anglo-Allied) and Marco (French right).


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Vincent GERARD
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Wonderful campaign report...I have always liked games on which you can play both Quatre Bras and Ligny at the same time ; but none with this level of surprise, command and control issues etc.

As always, the map is stunning. I believe the campaign rules will be in "Quatre Bras 1815 : Last Eagles" ? Will the game need Waterloo counters ?
Last but not least, is it difficult to change formations orders as in Austerlitz or normal like in Waterloo ? And in the campaign, do you roll one die for the whole army or one die for each wing ?

Thanks again Walter for the report and all the players of this game !
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