Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Battle of Waterloo in 6mm Part 1

Background
 How the game will be played
Terrain & Figure details
Orbats
Situation at 11.30am. (photo tour of battlefield)

Background:

I can recall walking home from school one day in 1970 and seeing incredible posters up on billboards advertising the new 'Waterloo' film. I saw the film with friends and that, combined with Airfix releasing their Napoleonic sets and my new found hobby of wargaming, started a desire to play this battle. I had no idea at the time how I was going to play it. My collection of Airfix French infantry, Highlanders and Cuirassiers somehow fell short!

In the early 80's I turned to Heroics & Ros and began collecting and painting figures with the intention of playing it at a ratio of 1:25. A career change, house move and various other real life factors conspired against me and I momentarily too a break from wargaming in the late 80's - early 90's.





I got back into the hobby again and by the mid 90's had become heavily involved in the DBM scene including competition wargaming. The H&R figures were sold off as I had decided at the time, that I would only play 15mm. During the Noughties I built up a reasonable collection of 15mm (18mm) AB Napoleonics for the Peninsular using the General de Brigade rules. The fascination of Waterloo had never left me though.

I paid two visits to the battlefield, both with Ian Fletcher Battlefield tours, one in 2000 and the other in 2001. I will never forget seeing the battlefield for the first time. We traversed the battlefield in a coach on our way to Quatre Bras and I caught sight of La Haye Sainte. It was quite an emotional experience and walking around the battlefield was just something else.

Then in 2009 I came across the Baccus website and Pete Berry's excellent 6mm figures. That rekindled my desire to fight Waterloo. I simply could not see me ever acquiring sufficient figures in 15mm or the space required to play Waterloo. 6mm was the only answer for me.

I began my Waterloo project in September 2009 purchasing and painting my first French line infantry units from Baccus. Initially they were based on 60mm x 30mm mdf bases with each base representing one unit. This is what seemed to be the norm for 6mm on the basis that you could create great looking bases. Anything smaller was too fiddly and difficult to handle without damaging the figures so the conventional wisdom went.

I ran a campaign with one of my son's which encouraged me to continue to build my Napoleonic forces and we used the Grande Armee rules by Sam Mustafa. These are a nice set of rules and we had many fun battles, but for me there was something missing. Although I played DBM, I am generally not in favour of element based rules, much preferring single figure casualty removal with units reduced through attrition. It was also bugging me that I could not change formations, an important facet of Napoleonic wargaming, and neither did my units represent their actual historical equivalent. My 1000 man British Guards Battalion was the same 24 figure size as a 400 man unit. The only difference being its abstract strength factor. Our games felt more like boardgames with figures.

There was only one answer for me and that was back to my favoured rules, General de Brigade. These remain my all-time favourite for the Napoleonic period. For me they capture it perfectly. I had a sinking feeling looking at the over 7,000 or so figures I had painted completing the orbat for Waterloo. I realised that rebasing was the only option to achieve what I wanted. Looking at all the options I settled on 15mm x 15mm with 6 figures to a base. This tied in with the Baccus 5mm frontage per figure on a strip. With a figure to man ratio of 1:20 it allowed different formations to be represented fairly easily. Casualties would be recorded on a roster (see the orbats below) and bases removed when the appropriate number of figures were lost. This base size was about as small as you could go before it became just too fiddly. I found the 2mm mdf bases were too thick for this size and scale so I used artist card, which at just over 1mm thick was strong enough but not so thick it detracts from the figures. I also needed to paint over 2,000 more figures.

My original intention was to fight the battle on the 200th anniversary but the need to rebase and paint up more figures took me past that date by some considerable margin. Over the past year I have been chewing over the possibilities for building the terrain. My original intention was to build a purpose built board with the entire battlefield sculpted. However, my scratchbuilding and modelling skills are distinctly limited. Not only would I have been in all probability disappointed with the results, there was the issue of storage for what essentially was only suitable for one battle.

The main problem was depicting the gently rolling nature of the countryside in this part of Belgium. The answer came last year when I built some 10mm thick hill sections. This I felt was a suitable compromise.

I have several books on Waterloo but the main source I have used is Mark Adkin's 'The Waterloo Companion'. This is incredibly detailed, and is the most accurate book that I have certainly come across (I have not read every book on Waterloo ever written so I stand to be corrected!).

How the game will be played:

Two important (to me) points to be covered are:

1. Cover as much of the battlefield as possible.

So many recreations of the battle only represent the French and Allied ridges with maybe Plancenoit on a separate table or in an 'L' shaped board. In 15mm or 28mm that is understandable as the size of the table would be significant otherwise. In 6mm I intend to cover everything from the edge of Rosomme in the south to Mont St Jean farm in the north, and as much as possible east to cover the Prussian arrival and an area to the west of Hougoumont. The absolute maximum board size in my room is 7' 6" x 4' 6" with an additional area across my painting table of 6' 9" x 1' 6" (the shape of the room denied me 9" of length!). This latter board will contain Plancenoit and the Imperial Guard deployment zone. I have had to 'squash' the length very slightly of both boards to encompass all the features I wanted. The boards are aligned allowing units to travel directly between the two.

2. At least partly represent what actually happened on the day.

The initial positioning of units will be as close as I can get them to what is known historically. This includes the formations each unit had adopted at the time. I had to make compromises in some instances as space was tight in some areas. e.g. Most allied units were in column of companies at this stage of the battle and I have had to change that in some instances to column of divisions.

Rather than just wargame the entire battle I wanted to at least partly represent some of the action on the day. At 11.20am. French artillery opened fire on Hougoumont followed by an assault by Bauduin's Brigade at 11.30am. This will be wargamed from the start. All other movements will be as they performed historically. The grand battery will be formed and open fire at 1.00pm the results of which will be calculated as per the rules. The French 1st Corps will begin it's assault at 1.30pm. As soon as 1st Corps, or any of its units, makes contact with the allies then wargaming will take over. By that I mean that there may be different outcomes from those that occurred historically. If Hougoumont falls before 1.00pm. then some of the allied moves will be different.

Once the wargaming aspect kicks in then there is every possibility that I will diverge from history. I would like to include one massed French cavalry charge instigated by Ney just so that I can see most my painted French cavalry en-mass. As that did not occur until 4.00pm. it may not be possible depending on the course of the battle. If the two British heavy cavalry brigades are able to make their charge then that would also be good but only if circumstances permit.
                  
I made several changes to the rules to accommodate what I wanted to achieve in my games. There is more about this elsewhere on my blog (under the 'rules' label) but briefly:
  • Command and Control imported from Grande Armee to replace that within GdB. As most of my games are solo it just added a little more unpredictability.
  • Skirmish rules scrapped. I had tried using them in one of my early battles, The Battle of Rolica (also on my blog). It worked ok for a small battle but it was incredibly fiddly. I have considered abstract systems but so far nothing has been found that would not have slowed the game or produced odd results. 
  • I have reworked the firing casualty charts replacing the number of figures firing with the number of bases. 
  • Army break points again imported from Grande Armee. 
With regard to distances for firing, movement etc. GdB gives these as cm for 15mm and then inches for 28mm. I simply used the 28mm figures but used cms rather than inches.

This will be fought solo with one of my son's occasionally joining in for the odd move. It will not be quick! It may well be several weeks before I play it to conclusion. I will update the blog regularly with with battle reports.

Terrain and Figure details:

Almost all figures are Baccus 6mm from their Napoleonic range. French cannon are Adler as are several commanders. All units are built on a figure ratio of 1:20. Orbats are rounded up or down to the closest base equivalent (infantry mounted 6 to a base, cavalry 3, artillery 4 with one cannon).

All buildings are from the Total Battle Miniatures 'Big Battalions' 100 Days range.

Base boards are from the now defunct Purbeck Terrain and purchased 20 years ago. Hill sections are made by myself. As are road sections which are made from Decorators Caulk.. River sections from Baccus and trees purchased in bulk from China over ebay. Hedges are also scratch built with loose clump foliage from Woodland scenics filling in the gaps. Corn fields are made from an old earth brown bath towel and painted with cheap acrylic paint.

Some compromises had to be made with the terrain. I discovered I had not made enough roads to include all those on the battlefield maps. Rather than further delay playing the game I decided to run with what I had and not include the less important roads. I probably would have excluded these roads in any case as the battlefield would have been too cluttered with them.

A reason for choosing Total Battle Miniatures for buildings, aside from their high quality, is their reduced footprint. As it is I excluded La Haye as, together with Papelotte, Smohain and Frischermont, it would have looked like a small conurbation at the eastern end of the board rather than  individual farms and hamlets.

NOTE: All other projects are on hold while I play this out including no painting! Apologies to those of you closely following the Napoleonic Campaign but I will be back on the case as soon as this finishes.

So with all terrain and figures completed I am now ready to play what I dreamt of doing 48 years ago. Here is the result and I hope all those that read it enjoy it:

ORBATS:












The Situation at 11.30am. A photo tour:


Imperial Guard and Guard Heavy Cavalry positioned on smaller board to left. Bottom of photo from left to right, Frischermont, Smohain and Papelotte.











Frischermont
Smohain



Papelotte



View from Prussian arrival zone

Vivian and Grant's Light Cavalry Brigades
La Haye Sainte





Hougoumont








Merbe Braine
Mont St Jean
 





















La Belle Alliance


Lobau's 6th Corps.
Jacquinot's 1st Cavalry Division on French extreme right.

French 7th Hussars sent by Napoleon to scout for Prussians
French rear. Plancenoit and Imperial Guard. In distance is Guyot's Guard Heavy Cavalry




Guyot
Plancenoit





Napoleon arrives.
I hope you enjoyed the opening photos. I was a little concerned that it looked crowded in places. However, it would appear it was actually like that. Lobau's Corps was formed very tightly. On the allied side accounts relate as to how little space there was to form lines (some British battalions formed lines 4 deep rather than the usual 2 through lack of space). 

I have only captioned a few photos and feel sure that most of you, or at least those that have some knowledge of Waterloo, will identify the different formations.

The next post will feature the opening assault on Hougoumont. 

69 comments:

  1. Amazing & inspiring!
    Love the building set ups 👍

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  2. I am in awe. That's one of the most impressive things I have ever seen!

    How will General de Brigade handle such a large battle at that scale? I like the changes you have made to adjust the rules. Will brigades still get orders, or will you send aides de camp as in General de Armee?

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    1. Thanks for your kind comments Scott. I have replaced the command and control system completely with a reworked version of Grande Armee's by Sam Mustafa. There is more info on the rules label. I feel it works a little better in solo play and can more easily be applied to Corps level battles.

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  3. What a terrific project! I will look forward to following its progress.

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    1. Thanks Duke. Pleased you enjoyed the blog.

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  4. Great looking figures and setup.
    I look forward to following your progress and to see how the GdB Rules with modifications work.
    I like you did not go with the 60 x 30 bases for my 6mm figures that seem the ‘norm’ I did 20 x 20 with metal bases so I could ‘sabot’ them up depending on the rules I want to use. I want to try a Waterloo game one day you may inspire me!
    Thanks...

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  5. Brilliant stuff! Very inspirational!

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  6. This is going to be a wonderful personal wargame fest. I can't imagine a project that could have more effort behind it than his and those buildings bring an amazing look to the table.

    Baccus have a set of their own rules for napoleonics (I am going from memory now), but every formation has a skirmishing value from zero to two. I can't remember how it works, but the mechanic may be of interest to you as could easily be encompassed in the roster.

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    1. Thanks for that Norm. I have tried Baccus 'Polemos' rules and their skirmishing system is very similar to that in Grande Armee. An 'SK' value is added to each unit. I have considered this and in all probability this will be something I will try. I might test it in one of the campaign battles but I need to do some work on it first. Some aspects of it will need changing to shoehorn it into the GdB rules. I would want to keep it basic to avoid bogging down the larger battles in particular. Thanks for drawing my attention to it.

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  7. Wow! That is mightily impressive! Well done!

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  8. Bloody Marvellous as always. I think we'll all forgive you for not posting any Campaign updates when we have this to enjoy instead :-)

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    1. Thanks Tales form Shed HQ. I will get back to them in time .... honest. I am actually looking forward to the next battle in the campaign, its all becoming a little critical!

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  9. PS thanks I've just spent an enjoyable 2 hours watching Waterloo. Haven't watched it in years.

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    1. I often wonder what it would be like made today. No doubt masses of CGI! Was an awe inspiring film in its day. A friend of mine actually got to see the full 4 hour version including the Battle of Ligny before it was cut and went on general release.

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    2. Love the scene from above with the infantry in square and the French cavalry milling in and out. Fantastic!!

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    3. The 4 hr version would have been very interesting to see. I find the 'Waterloo film' disappointing on some levels. No mention of Plancenoit and the Prussians who arrived at 4pm, not at the last minute. Or the dramatic battle for the gate at Hougoumont. No realistic tactical formations shown, apart from the square - not even musketry volleys in line, apart from the silly British Guards volleys. I wonder if some of those things were cut out perhaps.

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  10. How wonderful and awe inspiring. So much detail in the 6mm scale and an incredible collection.

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  11. Fabulous effort! looking forward to seeing how it turns out

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  12. Saw this on LAF so had to pop over and read the whole lot, great ORBATS, now following your blog!! Super dtuff!!

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  13. Has to be said the commitment and dedication that has so obviously gone into this project is beyond words. Admirable.
    Dave.

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  14. Wow, very impressive. I admire your dedication to this project

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  15. Found via TMP. Excellent. And love the fact you went with smaller bases - I am not a fan of the 60x30, despite the vocal calls for standardization on TMP by certain people. Horses for course of course, but yours look the biz

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    1. Great to see I am not the only one who prefers smaller bases. Thanks for your input Marc.

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  16. That is just awesome - what a wonderful project beautifully executed.

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  17. This is simply gorgeous, Jon. The ground, the buildings, the hedges and trees, and of course the thousands of troops all look wonderful. Magnifique!

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    1. Pleased you liked it Peter. Many thanks for your compliments, much appreciated.

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  18. this is fantastic. One of the best Waterloo battles ever! Please give us more fotos

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    1. Thanks for your comment Mitiadis. Yes there will be more photos in subsequent posts which will cover the progress of the battle. Hope you continue to enjoy.

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  19. Hi Jon, John Urban from Buffalo, NY USA here, if you would be so kind as to explain how you go about solo wargaming. I am an avid 6mm Napoleonic (Adler) painter who cannot find a game anywhere near my residence and have followed your blog from the TMP 6mm Napoleonics Board. Any assistance would be welcome, thank you.
    John
    john@auadv.com or jfurban15@gmail.com

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    1. Hi John. Difficult to know where to start, it is potentially a huge subject. I have wargamed solo on and off most of my wargaming life so I tend to just do it without thinking too much about it. I have tried using an AI opponent several times over the years using various methods but always came back to what I like best which is playing both sides and let the story unfold. A command and control system that prevents your commanders doing precisely what you want them to do and that combined with die rolls can add unexpected results. Although I rarely use them, a system that creates random events can also add to the fun.

      For me, solo gaming has now become a choice for a variety of reasons. A primary example is the Waterloo game I am currently playing. I can spend as little or as long as I like at the board and the game is going to last several weeks. I can thoroughly enjoy all the twists and turns in the game and so far, much of it has been similar to what actually happened. There is also the Nap Campaign on my blog and again this is something you may wish to consider. Campaigns are a great way of generating often unequal battles and present challenging games.

      I recommend the Solo Wargaming with Miniatures facebook group, which is a very friendly group and where you will find many helpful suggestions and ideas. Some prefer AI opponents and others particular gaming systems that satisfy their preferences.

      If there are any specific Q's you have or anything else I can help you with please feel free to ask. My advice is try a scenario playing both sides with a rules system you are familiar with and take it from there.

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    2. Thanks Jon, I really like the comment that you can play for as long or short time — it's your choice. I use Grand Armee by Sam Mustafa, even though they are a bit older, I enjoy the choices that need to be made and the fact that you cannot possibly deal with ALL the factors of the field. I appreciate your response and will look at the Facebook group you suggested.
      JOhn

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    3. Thanks so much JOn, I will check out the Facebook group you recommended. I'm using Sam Mustafa's Grande Armee, and the true "Army commander" feel — do the big thinking.
      Thanks.
      JOhn

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    4. I used Grand Armee rules when I began my Waterloo project and using some aspects of them (mainly command and control) in my current games. If I decide to do other large battles I may well use them again. The plan would be to use movement trays rather than rebase my figures. They are a good set of rules and made for some very enjoyable games.

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  20. Simply stunning! I think that this is the first game that I've got the feel of the whole battlefield and how it looked.

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  21. Magnificent! To my mind, this is the sort of thing that the smaller sizes were really meant for.

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    1. Thanks Ross. Totally agree with you regarding smaller sized figures.

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  22. So wonderful Jon. Truly spectacular!

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    1. Many thanks for you positive comment Carlo.

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  23. Seriously amazing . I've been a 6mm addict for years and have just commenced 2mm Thirty Years War today with a Swedish Army . I skirmish in 10mm .
    But this is serious detail and looks so realistic

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    1. Thanks for your kind comments Neil. Over the past 10 years I have been increasingly sold on 6mm although it is not new for me. I did have H&R from the 1970's - 90's. The detail on them these days is superb.

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  24. Just was made aware of your blog via Norm's Battlefields and Warriors blog. As someone who has 6mm figures in his collection, I am always heartened to see them on show in such grand fashion (which is an understatement). You may be playing solo, but you aren't alone.

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    1. That's great to hear Ed. I have found 6mm quite liberating. The speed at which they can be painted up opens up all sorts of possibilities. I have not completely given up on my 10mm and 15mm but most of my games are now 6mm.

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  25. Very nice Plancenoit. When I visited there it was twilight and near deserted. Very spooky touring the church graveyard and without distractions around I easily imagined the horrific fighting at the place 200 years earlier. Photos are at Waterloo-Napoleon.com

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    1. Thanks Joe. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to visit Plancenoit when I was there. Sounds like I should have done.

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  26. Hi Jon,
    I was just wondering if you looked at using the General de Armee rules??
    Thanks,
    Ed

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    1. Hi Ed. Yes I had considered it but not convinced it would have suited my preferred style of game. My bookshelves are creaking with rules purchased over the decades and I am steadfastly attempting to avert my gaze from yet more rules. Not an easy task! All the best, Jon

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    2. Hi Jon,
      Sorry, it didn't tell me you had replied and I hadn't looked for a while. Ok, interesting, I have used GdB for a lot of games in the past and I was hoping that GdA would allow for bigger slightly quicker games while not losing the feel. I guess I will have to keep searching!

      Btw, I was wondering if you could possibly send the excel/word file of the ORBAT that you have up there. I am looking to possibly start a similar endeavor and it would be a very helpful starting point! :)

      Thanks,
      Ed

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    3. No probs ref orbats. They are in Open Office format. Probably the easiest way is by facebook or if you let me know your email address I will email them to you.

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    4. Thank you! That is very kind of you! I don't really use FB any more. But my email is Ed (dot) Gilhead (dot) work (at) gmail (dot) com

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    5. Email sent. Letme know if any probs.

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