Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Portable Quatre Bras 2 - Action

We left the battle narrative last time with Bachelu's Division having forced the passage of the Gemioncourt stream; that village under attack by Jerome, the Highlander garrison barely holding, and Kellerman's cuirassiers and Foy's Division assaulting the gun line between Gemioncourt and the Bossu Woods. Meanwhile, reinforcements in the shape of Alten's and Cooke's Guards Divisions were hurrying up from Hautan le Val.  

The already arrived Brunswicker Line Brigade looked set to contest the Quatre Bras crossroads, whilst the Advance Guard penetrated the Bossu Woods to contest Foy's push. On the far eastern flank, a rather desultory cavalry combat ensued, neither side able to achieve decisive results - not even when Lefebvre-Desnouettes's Guard light horse arrived late in the day.
The French push, though here and there checked for a while, proved inexorable.  The Highlanders in Gemioncourt finally succumbed to the pressure. Quatre Bras could not be held, even though Bachelu had at one point to fend off a flank attack whilst closely engaged at that village. Perponcher's guns were finally overrun; and the Brunswicker advance guard were too few to stop Foy's victorious infantry from pushing almost as far as the Hautan le Val road.
The attempted intervention by the Guards Division didn't stop Foy's Division, either - which led to a lengthy reappraisal of the combat system, which I shall shortly discuss.
Driven out of Quatre Bras and the Bossu Woods, and having reach their exhaustion point in terms of SPs lost, the Anglo-Dutch infantry formed a cordon to the north, where they remained until nightfall.  The French has lost barely half the SPs required to reach their exhaustion point. So it was a pretty decisive French victory.
The remaining pictures depict the final moments of the battle as night draws in.

But right now I want to go back to the picture of the Guards Division's battle with Foy. Let's redraw the picture, below. (The die showing '6' seems to be Wellington's SP die somewhat misplaced. Ignore it.) What we are interested in is the blue-red pair showing '1'and '2'. These were combat dice rolled.  By the way, although the fight was taking place with both sides inside the woods, I ignored the modification for cover.  

Let us now examine the results 'as per book'.
French: Roll 1, + 1 (General with) + 2 (supporting ranks) - 1 (enemy supporting column) = 3 - French unscathed.
British Guards: Roll 2, +1 (General with) + 1 (supporting ranks) -2 enemy supporting ranks = 2 - Guards take a hit.

This seemed to me a bit wrong. That the French had an extra rank over the British indicated a 1-pip edge, fair enough.  But this led to a bigger edge. So I retried a system I thought up in the third of the 'Mini-Campaign' series, in which ones own supporting ranks cancelled enemy supports. The results then were:

French: Roll 1, +1 (General with) -1 (enemy supporting rank) +1 (own supporting rank cancels negative from enemy supporting rank) = 2.  French take a hit
British: Roll 2, +1 General with) - 2 (enemy supporting ranks) +1 (Own supporting rank cancels one of the negatives from enemy supporting rank) = 2 Guards take a hit.

Such a solution seems reasonable, but it is not easy to remember how it goes. Perhaps a simpler solution is called for, somewhat suggested by my ignoring cover for this combat. It also requires a less cumbersome amendment to the rule book:

All bonuses for cover, presence of generals, supporting ranks, and such-like are cancelled if the enemy can also claim the same bonus.  In this instance:

French: Roll 1,  +0 (General with, cancelled), +1 (2 supporting ranks, 1 cancelled) = 2
Guards: Roll 2, +0 (General with, cancelled), +0 (1 supporting rank, cancelled) = 2.

We could 'add in' the cover, which would also be cancelled.

On balance, I prefer this system of cancellations. It could be extended, rather than bonuses being cancelled by type, to all bonuses cancelling each other out until one side gets the benefit of the difference.  

Supports to a flank.

In the course of this action, the Anglo-Dutch forces tended to a linear defence approach,  as they could not claim supports from the same grid area. Of course, I could have placed stands side-by-side in the same grid area (they would have fitted), which would have thickened up the line a bit. Even so, there seemed to me that columns had too much of an edge.

I am proposing, quite tentatively at this stage, that

Flank supports in the same grid area.
A1.  Reduce the D6 score of the stand being attacked and/or initiating the attack by 2 for enemy flank support in the same grid area.  
A2. Cancel 1 point of reduction for each enemy supporting stand in the same grid area (whether flank or rear)

Flank supports from other grid areas.
B1.  Reduce the D6 score of the stand initiating the attack only, by 1 for each adjacent enemy-held grid area that is not itself in close combat or contact with other friendly stands. (There has to be a better way of wording this!)
B2.  Same as A1.

Effect of Flank Attacks:
A unit attacked in flank or rear can not claim flank supports, not from within nor from adjacent grid areas.

More on Flank Attacks.

There arose a situation in which Bachelu's Division, attacking Quatre Bras, was itself attacked in flank by 4th Hanoverian Brigade of 5th Division. This didn't seem to faze the French column, much.  

Claiming pluses for general and 2 supporting ranks (+3) they took minuses for opponents in cover (one in village, the other on the edge of a wooded grid area; -1) and being attacked in flank (-1), which still left them with +1 onto the die roll. Only a roll of '1' would have yielded a 'hit'.  The unit in the town (9th Bde) - the main focus of the French column, and their combat of choice - could add for general (when there was one present) +1, but -2 for enemy supports : -1 on the die roll.  Hits on '3' or less.  

Assuming no one was driven away or destroyed in these combats, the flanking unit would be diced for only in its own turn.  It had no general present, and no other bonuses. So it would be facing -2 for its die roll - hits on '4' or less.

Now, neither Anglo-Dutch unit being in contact with any other French unit(s), only Bachelu's Division column in the one grid area, then it seems to me that each could cancel one of the enemy support stand reductions to its own roll, as suggested in the previous section on flank supports.  This would have brought the 9th Bde to 'evens' on the die roll, and the flanking unit to -1. Still favourable to France, but not to the same extent.

Cancel the generals, and all 3 units would have been rolling at -1 on the die rolls - which seems to me a lot more satisfactory a situation.  (Actually, the column could still have counted the general against the flank attack, which could claim none).

Though I shall probably adopt permanently the system I finally proposed in respect of supports in the same grid area (in bold italics above), the suggested system in respect of supports to a flank are at the moment very tentative. We might be forced 'redo' Quatre Bras in order to test them.

I may reprint this half of this posting next time, more to focus on what I've suggested here.  Suffice to say, than even with the 'rub of the green' I felt that the French victory came a bit too easily this time around.

To be ... revisited.


  1. Archduke Piccolo,

    I've actually read your blog entry three times because I've enjoyed it so much. I know that your suggestions for rule changes are the result of your experience using the rules in a far larger battle than I ever envisaged them being used for, and they make a lot of sense. If I ever get around to writing another book about further developments of the PW, I'll be in contact about including your suggestions therein.

    I know that you think that the French had an easier win than they should have, but reading your battle report certainly gave me the impression that had the dice rolled a little more in the Allies favour, it might have been a bit more of a close run action.

    A stunning battle report that I shall be mentioning on my blog before the weekend.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks for your kind response, Bob. In that battle the French did have the dice running in their favour - especially early on.

      Quite a few of my suggested combat amendments have been occasioned by the action being interrupted when a roll of '1' has still left a unit or formation unhit. I felt pretty sure (though not absolutely certain) that that wasn't quite what you had in mind. What I've been looking for is a method that kept the margin for advantage, but, for all units in combat, always left at least 1/6 or 2/6 chance of receiving a hit. Bigger odds might accrue if the disadvantages are big enough.

      Probably the simplest way of doing this would be to add the bonuses and penalties listed in the rule set, then conflate them to zero if both sides are equal, and to +1 (only) for the side with the most advantages, but minus the difference for the side with the fewer.

      Another idea to play test!

      I don't know whether you saw this, but in my first posting on Quatre Bras, my wargame buddy, Paul, expressed a hope of 'doing' a 'Portable Waterloo'. I don't think it's feasible on my existing board, but, were I to grid up my 6'x4' board...?


  2. Wonderful report. I have the rules but haven't tried them yet and now I'm keen to have a read!

    1. Hi Maudlin Jack Tar -
      Thanks for your comment. The rule set is simple and uncomplicated, and designed for quick games. You could use them, I believe, to fight a campaign in a day (now THAT I'll just have to try out some time!).

      I'd be interested in reading your own experience of them.