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Subject: A Review of the Quatre Bras Scenario. rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
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Quatre Bras
Stalemate on the Brussels Road



Two-player Tactical Napoleonic Wargame
Simulation of the Battle of Quatre Bras - June 16, 1815
Designed by Jay Nelson & Kevin Zucker
Published by S.P.I. (1976)



During the 1970’s, S.P.I. was famous for its ‘quadrigame’ concept – four separate games on the same topic that could be sold individually or as a set. A couple of these quadrigames, Napoleon’s Last Battles (NLB) and Battles for the Ardennes, had the added bonus that the four games and maps could be combined to create a fifth campaign situation.

Quatre Bras is one of the four folio games that make up the NLB quadrigame. I have played NLB in its four folio formats as well as the campaign game. I think that the campaign game is truly superb and significantly better than the individual folio games and hence the title given to this review. One of the aspects to the folio games that is interesting from a game-play point of view is that each of the four games simulates a different type of battle – Quatre Bras is a meeting engagement.

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday June 18th, 1815. Two days prior to Napoleon’s ultimate battle a smaller engagement occurred at Quatre Bras. At the start of the battle the Anglo-Dutch forces control the town of Quatre Bras (translated to ‘four Arms’) which is situated on a crossroads. For the French to advance upon Brussels they must control Quatre Bras. The French advance upon the town with overwhelming strength. The Anglo-Dutch army has a tiny force holding the crossroads as reinforcements gradually give the Anglo-Dutch some sort of parity of numbers. Helping the Anglo-Dutch defenders is the terrain – Quatre Bras is shielded by a combination of woods, streams and ridges which tend to funnel the French attack into a narrow channel and/or force the French to weaken their assault so as to send forces the long way around the natural obstacles to attempt to surround the Anglo-Dutch forces.

Historically the Anglo-Dutch army won at Quatre Bras – they held the town at the end of the day and, more importantly, were able to withdraw in good order. The French should have won. They had requested reinforcement and the French 1st Corps spent the day of June 16 marching back and forth between the Battle of Quatre Bras and the nearby Battle of Ligny without actually entering either battle.


Components


One 8-page rulebook containing 6 pages of basic and optional rules, 1 page of scenario details for all four folio games and 1 page of designer’s notes.

The are only a very small number of units involved at Quatre Bras. The British start with 4 counters (strength of 11) and receive 14 more counters as reinforcements (strength of 49). The French start with 12 units on the map (strength of 60) and receive no reinforcements. The counters are double sided with the reverse side showing the same unit at a lower strength – the reverse side is only used in the campaign game. French counters are light blue while the Anglo-Dutch counters are different shades of red.

The game is played on a 17” x 22” non-gloss map with a soft cream background and greens, browns, greys and blues to represent woods, crests, villages and streams respectively. The combat results table is printed on the map. The terrain effects chart is printed on the back of the rules.


Rules

The game lasts for 7 turns, each one representing an hour of real time. The game has a very standard French movement, French combat, Allied movement and Allied combat sequence of play.

Stacking is two units per hex. Roads give movement advantages. Streams, woods, crests and villages give the defender a combat bonus.

Zones of Control are rigid and once you enter an enemy ZOC the only way to leave it is through combat – advance, retreat or elimination. Once in an enemy ZOC combat is mandatory.

Artillery can fire at 2 hexes range (providing the line of sight is not blocked) and can either bombard independently of other troops or make a combined attack with other friendly units.

There are rules for Demoralization and an armies Demoralization level is measured by the number of its units that have been destroyed – the Demoralization level varies from scenario to scenario. Once Demoralized the French will automatically lose the game. The Allied armies only lose the ability to advance after combat. The Allies have a second level called Disintegration. If the Allies reach their Disintegration level then the French will automatically win the game.

There are optional rules for Combined Arms Attacks and the Imperial Guard.

Victory is achieved by scoring more points than your opponent. You score points for destroying enemy units and for occupying Quatre Bras at the end of the game.


Playing the Game

I rather like Quatre Bras and consider it the best of the four folio games. It plays very quickly and should be finished in less than 75 minutes. It is highly exciting although this is the consequence of the significance of die-rolls early in the game when the Anglo-Dutch army has only 4 units on the board.

The French units are, on average, stronger than the Allied units. This gives the French an advantage when making a direct assault. The Allies have more units which gives them an advantage when it comes to trying to outflank the French towards the end of the game. The terrain also gives the Allies a significant advantage as the onus is on the French to attack throughout the game and for the British, in general, to deploy units for a defensive posture and only counterattacking towards the end of the game when there is a good chance to destroy French units by surrounding them or to retake Quatre Bras, should it fall into French hands.

Often times victory will not be decided until the very end of the game. I have a memory of having been in a winning position while playing against my son. On the second last turn, as the Anglo-Dutch, I managed to drag defeat from the jaws of victory. I wasn't satisified with just winning - I wanted to totally humiliate my son with the level of my victory. I sent some of my troops out to surround a couple of French units to attack them at 3-1. Both combats resulted in the attacker retreating and the consequence was that my units, rather than advancing to safety were surrounded by the French on the final turn, and destroyed, giving my son victory.

Greed is a terrible thing - one of the good things that we learn through playing games.

(This has been previously posted under the Quatre Bras listing, but I felt that it was just as valid here and perhaps some people will locate it more easily now.)


arrrh "Dead Men Tell No Tales - And That Is No Tall Story."
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Mark Mokszycki
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Nice review of a good game, and good scenario. Thanks for (re)posting.
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John Clockerty
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A good review, covering the essentials of the game.
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Aaron Silverman
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Did they change the rules much in the DG edition? In the DG game, crests give no defensive bonus (they only block artillery LOS) and woods only give a bonus if the attacker is cavalry (or a penalty, if the defender in woods is cavalry). Also, the nature of the scenario gives the French a pretty good chance to destroy the Allied units piecemeal as they come into play, especially when using the combined arms optional rule.
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Nicola Ciabatti
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DJ Kuul A wrote:
In the DG game, crests give no defensive bonus (they only block artillery LOS) and woods only give a bonus if the attacker is cavalry (or a penalty, if the defender in woods is cavalry).

Are you sure? I don't have the two rulesets with me to check now, but I can't remember any such differences.

Nick
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Steve Winter
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DJ Kuul A wrote:
Did they change the rules much in the DG edition? In the DG game, crests give no defensive bonus (they only block artillery LOS) and woods only give a bonus if the attacker is cavalry (or a penalty, if the defender in woods is cavalry).

That's exactly how it is in the SPI/TSR version.

Steve
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