Saturday, August 28, 2021

Portable Waterloo - The set-up


The Waterloo battlefield, looking from directly 
behind Wellington's position.

I thought I would begin here by describing the set-up, special rules and any administrative matters that cropped up in the course of this little project. Just by the way, the hardest part of all is turning out to be this write-up! I have decided upon a series of instalments to narrate this battle, rather than go for a very long single posting. I hope this will better engage their readers.

First of all, allow me to refer you to the beginning of the project, with the orders of battle in my posting of over 2 months back: Waterloo PW Orbats

As it happens I added 2 units to the Anglo-Dutch army, namely the defenders of the Hougoumont and the plantations attached to it, one stand of 2 figures at each of the 2 hex-grid areas, each with 2 Strength Points. It would not have been a bad idea to make them elite into the bargain, though, as it happened, the French assailants were to find chateau garrison very hard to shift. These stands represented not only the garrisons, but also of the reinforcements filtered through during the course of the battle.

Reille's II Army Corps, Kellermann's III Cavalry 
Corps, with the leading Division (19th) of 
VI Corps, and the Guard Heavy Cavalry

Summary of Armies

Army Command (Duke of Wellington) = 6SP
Cavalry 'Corps' = 30SP (Includes Corps command @3SP)
I Army Corps = 45SP (Includes Corps command)
II Army Corps = 28SP (Includes Corps command)
Reserve 'Corps' = 40SP
Garrison of Hougoumont and grounds = 4SP

153SP total, exhaustion point - 51SP

If we exclude the 15 command SP, leaving 138SP, at c.500 men per SP, the army's strength comes out at 69,000 - pretty close to the generally accepted strength of the army at Waterloo.  Note that the Reserve 'Corps' seems to have had no commander, so I have supposed that Wellington retained that corps under his own hand.  The Anglo-Dutch army fielded 155 cannon - represented by the three on the table (c1:50)
D'Erlon's I Army Corps ready to go, supported
by Milhaud's cuirassiers and Subervie's lancers

Army Command: Emperor Napoleon/ Marshal Ney = 6SP
Imperial Guard = 36SP 
I Army Corps = 42SP
II Army Corps = 43SP
VI Army Corps (-) = 21SP
I Cavalry Corps (-) = 6SP
III Cavalry Corps = 9SP
IV Cavalry Corps = 9SP
(All Corps include 3SP corps command)

172SP total, exhaustion point, -58SP

Excluding the 27(!) command SP, leaves 145SP.  At 1SP:500 men, the army's strength comes out to about 72,500  - again, pretty close to the usual figure for the French army at Waterloo.  At 1 gun representing 50, we get an artillery park of about 250 - very close to the actual number.

I have conflated the command of the army into one figure, Napoleon himself, though it is true that Marshal Ney's played possibly an even greater role than his emperor in the conduct of the battle.
Anglo-Dutch right wing.  Genl Hill's 2nd and 4th 
Divisions ready to hand though II Corps artillery
is just out of the picture to the Footguards' left.

Army Command: Generalfeldmarschall Blucher = 6SP
I Army Corps = 45SP (Includes Corps command @ 3SP)
IV Army Corps = 52SP (ditto)

103SP total, exhaustion point, -35SP

Excluding the 12 command SP, leaves 91SP, that is 45,500 counting 1SP to 500 men. The 2 cannon allotted to each corps represents the 88 piece inventory of both. - a slight over-representation only.

French Imperial Guard, with elements of 
VI Corps moving off to the right of the pic.
The sapient reader might observe that the French army is blessed with a lot of commanders, especially amongst the cavalry.  This had some interesting effects.  During the course of the action, Divisions and Brigades were activated according to their proximity to or distance from their Corps or Army Commander.  The French Cavalry corps being so tiny - one or two stands apiece - there was very rarely any occasion in which any of their Divisions had to test whether they received their orders.  For the sub-formations of the Army Corps, this was more of a consideration.
The Hougoumont, and environs.  Probably using riflemen
to represent the plantation defenders wasn't quite the right choice... 

It was an even greater consideration for the formations on the Anglo-Dutch side. Lt-Genl the Earl of Uxbridge's cavalry was scattered all over the field. In fact, only 'Daddy' Hill's II Corps presented any kind of coherent formation. This proved something of a problem for the Allied side, with Divisions frequently having to roll for activation, and failures were not at all infrequent. The French enjoyed, therefore, considerable advantages in terms of command in this refight.
Early clashes on the eastern end of the line - the 
struggle for Papelotte and Frichemont

The arrival of the Prussians was determined by a die roll, IV Corps leading.  A roll of '6' at the beginning of a turn brought the first elements of IV corps in the 2-hex defile between Maransart village and the 'Paris Wood' to its north.  If for any reason the two hexes were occupied, then reinforcements could pass through the north end of the village itself.  I Prussian Corps would not arrive until all of the IV Corps was on the table, whereat it would arrive along the clear table-edge northeast of Frichemont.  As it was, it took a good four turns to bring the whole of IV Corps into the action... 
French I Corps attacking the villages, whilst
1st (Light) Cavalry Division and Milhaud's 
cuirassiers threaten the allied flank.

As usual, I used my dice initiative system, in preference to the standard card draw.  The French received a White die, the Anglo-Dutch a Red.  The Prussians upon arrival rolled a separate die for initiative: theirs was Green. Their separate die seemed reasonable, as the IV Prussian Corps could scarcely have been in touch with their allies.

To be continued
- The beginning of the action.


  1. Breaking the action up into several, easily digestible bites is welcomed by me.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! The thing went pretty well on the whole, with a reasonably satisfying outcome...

  3. Archduke Piccolo,

    I have wanted to refight Waterloo for years … and you have shown me the way to do it! I look forward to reading the rest of your battle report as I am sure that it will encourage me to follow your example.

    All the best,


    1. Cheers, Bob
      Actually it was one of our Facebook Portable Wargames group members who showed me that, one way or another, the thing would be plausible on my table.
      Archduke Piccolo

  4. Good start. I agree that installments is the way to go. Roll on the next one !!! Regards.

  5. Your tabletop setup looks good and I am looking forward to the game report instalments.

  6. I must admit I am puzzled by the appearance of comments to which I haven't replied. I do monitor fairly regularly whether any require 'moderation', yet several are managing to slip through the cracks.