Thursday, 1 December 2022

Quatre Bras in Albany

A few weeks ago John and Mitch called me to see whether I'd be interested/available to join them for a game down in Albany (at Mitch's place and HQ of the Serpentine Wargaming Club). The short answer was 'yes, provided that date 'worked'. On checking, it did, so I was 'in'.

After an enjoyable and uneventful 400-odd km Friday afternoon drive, I joined Mitch and John, along with Steve R and Steve W (who had travelled a similar distance from Perth). The other fellas had arrived before me, so all were discussing the coming game over a Friday arvo' bevy. I soon joined them. We decided on players for the coming contest. I would be French (naturellement) and would be 'joined' by Steve R., or more to the point, I wold join him as he would play as Ney as well. Mitch and Steve W. would take the Anglo-Allied. Steve W. had not played Napoleonics before, something that did not hamper him in the least.

After a meal at a pub in town, we returned to begin proceedings...

French ready for the off'. Anglo-Allied troops not yet visible (really?), so represented as 'blanks'.
After our first turn of advance, a few of the Dutch-Belgian defenders have become clear to us (within about 900 m at the nominal ground scale).
Our plan was simple and pretty straight forward, or so I/we thought. I would take the weaker brigades of Foy's division, along with Hubert's brigade of chasseurs à cheval, charged with performing a holding attack against the enemy around and in Gémioncourt. Meanwhile Steve with Jérôme's infantry and Wathier's lancers, the best troops in the army, would make a pivoting, right hook attack along the near-vacant north-east ridge, driving towards Quatre Bras.
I sent Jamin's brigade against the Dutch on the small ridge west of Gémioncourt. Note the Dutch square beside the farm, brought about by the charge of Hubert's 1e chasseur à cheval, who duly 'bounced', retiring back down the road.
Jérôme's infantry advanced slowly and steadily towards the Materne stream, although Wathier's lancers had 'hiccoughed' and missed a turn of movement—a 'hesitant' roll for activation. This was despite Steve having added an aide de camp to obtain a re-roll, making the quite sizeable 1 in 3 chance of a hesitant result from a single attempt a 1 in 9 one of two rolls. Each is a straight roll, no modifiers.
View west to east with French at right.

An attempt by Marbais' lead battalion to storm Gémioncourt failed, the attacking 1/92e ligne retiring through their second battalion causing them to be unformed.
Meanwhile, Jamin's 100e ligne attacked the Dutch on the small ridge...
...failing and incurring a few casualties.
To the east of Gémioncourt, Marbais' 1/93e ligne suffered at the hands of Stievenaar’s Belgian artillery, aka Steve W's dice rolling!
Back on Jérôme's (Steve's) flank, progress was slow, thanks to more rolls of less than '3' for activation.
Another overview from the west, Bossu wood in the foreground. Note the French chasseurs manoeuvring in that direction.

Another wiff from those Belgian guns sent the 1/93e packing. Now represented by the gap in the middle ground of photo)...

...and Marbais' brigade 'faltered' (I was lucky enough to convert this to a 'rally' in my next activation phase).
Over on the French right, Steve had managed to activate Baudin's infantry and Wathier's cavalry (the latter were to fail for over half of the turns of the game), but not Soye's infantry.
The delays meant that the Brunswickers and lead elements of Picton's 5th Division awaited them.
The latter linking up with Saxe-Weimar's Nassauers, who seemed to have acquired breechloading repeating rifles, such were Steve W's skills with the dice!

Back on the French left, the Dutch militia that had been forced into square in turn two, but had managed to survive the subsequent French artillery fire, now skulked behind Gémioncourt (left of photo).
Somehow I managed to miss another bit of minor glory from the 1e chasseurs whose charge
forced another of Bijlandt's militia into square (bottom right of photo)—hence my advice to note them six photos above.
Finally some coordinated activation on the right and Jérôme's infantry moved to attack. Trouble is, all that 'hesitation' meant that the flank was now well populated with allied troops.
On the French left, it was the 'turn' of Jamin's infantry to be active (while Hubert's chasseurs looked on) and they duly seized the small ridge!
Another overview photo.
Those 'breechloading-repeater-armed' Nassauers had managed to drive off Marbais' artillery battery, causing the brigade to 'falter' again. This time I did not roll so well on the faltered brigade activation table!
    


Having a 'hesitant' brigade  is far more serious than 'just' preventing it from moving, as Steve now found out.
Being 'hesitant' yet again, Wathier's lancers sat back and watched as the Dutch chevaulégers rode straight past them and charged their accompanying horse artillery. This was despite the fact that they had moved to the position that they now occupied in order to engage the enemy. Bizarre in the very least.
Worse was to come. The Dutch duly broke the horse battery, causing Wathier's horsemen to 'falter'.
In line with his dice rolling for the game, particularly on the Saturday, Steve rolled poorly on the faltering brigade table and 'whoosh', the lancers were gawn!

We decided on one last turn, to see whether we French could achieve some 'dernier hourras'.

With the gloves off, on the left, Steve had his best turn of the game, causing no little discomfort to Picton's Highlanders.
That was, until he rolled a double six, producing a 'destiny' roll for Soye, leading to his 'unsightly demise'.


Over on my side, Jamin's lead battalion charge that Dutch square, resulting in an indecisive mêlée, causing casualties for both sides and a 'bounce' for the French.
Still, my troops continued to hold the hill, an 'important' objective for which I was awarded the legion d'honeur and given a marshal's baton... or something like that.

Summary & Thoughts

Shared joy

What an enjoyable weekend!

The game looked marvellous, the company was excellent and beer and other beverages flowed at a steady but not crazy rate. The game was brought to a conclusion in good time (1700 on Saturday) so that we could discuss it for a while before adjourning for an excellent meal of Indian food and passively watching a mindless and silly film ('Morbius') that takes far more liberty with science and reality than we had done with history. Stil, it sucked me in, has some speccie effects and a plot that doesn't test a tired wargamer's brain much!

A giant thank you to John and Mitch for hosting the game and providing a glorioius combination of venue, terrain and figures. Special mention to John for assuming the mantle of umpire and forgoing the pleasure of pushing his own figures around the table over his excellent terrain cloths.

The rules

I have now played three games using General d'ArméeAbbach, Abensberg (north) and Quatre Bras—each of them reasonably sizeable actions (for the rules) and played to conclusion in sessions over two-days. My impressions of the rules have not really changed since I first read them; instead firming after now thrice putting them through 'contact with the enemy' (i.e. use in a game).

The core mechanics of the rules, movement, firing, charging, combat seemed pretty reasonable on reading. After three games, they have improved in my estimation to 'robust'. The same cannot be said for command and control.

When I read the rules, I struggled with Brown's aide de camp version of a 'pip' system. The line in the rules is that they 'represent command ability'. On reading, I thought, "Why have an abstract system to 'represent command' and not simply represent it directly?" After Abbach I wrote that, "There remain a few doubts in my mind regarding the ADC system,... It is possible, with more use, that this system will show itself as a mechanic that is too stylised for my liking...". I was a bit more comfortable with it after Abensberg, but this game has demonstrated to me why I 'had reservations' with an example of the worst that can occur.

So, the rules are okay from my perspective, but they are a long way from being my 'go to' set. At their core, the system works well, but the game aspects are not for me and detract from the rules as a representation of a Napoleonic battle. Clearly Brown likes this sort of stuff in his rules. I had a similar and more direct experience with General de Brigade. It was an evening game at the Napoleonic Wargaming Society. I was moving up my French force of a couple of infantry brigades and some cavalry when I rolled a 'blunder' (double one is it?). I followed this with some other pitiful roll and my cavalry about turned and began heading away from the enemy, who were a long way away and I had intervening infantry between the two. There was no cause for this in the game. It was purely some bad rolling. Such completely random aspects are not for me. If I were to have General d'Armée as my 'go to' set, I would make some fundamental changes to the system of command and control (including 'destiny'). John is considering some changes/adjustments, so I'll be interested to see how they go in the next 'contact with the enemy'*.

Historical insights

This was the fifth time (at least) that I have played a re-fight of Quatre Bras. I'd have to look back to count exactly, but there were four, or more, during the bicentennial year of the battle. I'd also have to look back in detail to check the results, but I recall that in all but one the French performed worse than Ney and his men. The exception was a game using Napoleon's Battles where they did decidedly better, but it took Ney's considerable (really, really considerable) bonus in combat under those rules to make it happen. I am left wondering if I can do as well as Ney, let alone better. That is a project for another time, but this game has brought it back to front of mind, so it may now be brought forward quite considerably!

*More to come

There are plans for another weekend in Albany in a month or few. I look forward to it immensely. The joy of shared time, plenty of banter and laughter, enjoying the love (obsession) of the hobby with a fine group of gents far outweighs any limitations to General d'Armée (or other set of rules).


Game Info.

Rules

General d'Armée

Scales

As written, the rules are for actions of division to corps size.

Minimum unit of manoeuvre is a battalion.

Ground scale approximately 1 mm representing 1.5 m (1:1500)

Figure scale can vary and was nominally ~1:25 in this game

Figures

1/72 (mixture of Airfix, Esci, Hät, Italeri, Zvezda, 3D-printed) with a couple of Minifigs & Hinchcliffe 25 mm as well






Friday, 11 November 2022

A quest nears completion

I received another of the Tranie-Carmigniani series of books of the Napoleonic era this week, Napoleon 1813--La Campagne d'Allemagne, and it is, of course, glorious. I was particularly pleased to get a copy of this one as it is amongst those that are difficult to find and which tend to go for 'collector' prices. I found one that was more reasonable, albeit at the upper end of what I am prepared to pay for such books.


Jean Tranié and Juan Carlos Carmigniani, teaming initially with Baron Louis de Beaufort for the uniform plates and using the notes of Commandant Henry Lachouque, produced a set of books about the campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars under the series title of "Les Grands Moments de Notre Histoire" (Great Moments of Our History). There is a fascinating and really useful chronological history and overview/review of all of these books by Yves Martin on the Napoleon Series website (in English).

It began with "Waterloo" (one of only two translated into English) and, after a dalliance into the Great War with "La Marne", progressed in an ad-hoc fashion to "Napoleon et la Campagne d'Espagne 1807-1814" (the other one that was translated into English), "Napoleon et l'Autriche: La Campagne de 1809", "Napoleon et la Russie: Les Annees Victorieuses 1805-1807", "La Campagne de Russie, Napoleon 1812", "Les Guerres de l’Ouest 1793-1815", "Napoleon et l’Allemagne, Prusse 1806", "La Patrie en Danger 1792-1793: Les Campagnes de la Révolution", "Napoleon 1813 La Campagne d'Allemagne", "Bonaparte: La Campagne d’Egypte", "Napoleon: 1814 La Campagne de France", "Napoleon Bonaparte: La Premiere Campagne d'Italie 1796-1797", "Napoleon Bonaparte: La deuxième campagne d'Italie 1800" and "Napoleon et l'Angleterre". The first two volumes were published by Stock, the next four by Copernic. Martin tells us that, "In 1981, Copernic was not doing well and the series is picked up by the prestigious military publishing house: Charles Lavauzelle." From "1813" onwards the books were published by Editions Pygmalion (who also reprinted several of the earlier volumes) with uniform plates by Courcelle, Rousselot, Bidault, Coppens, as well as originals by Louis de Beaufort coloured by Jean-François Ardellier.

In 1982, after the publication of "1812", they 'side-tracked' and produced two volumes about famous units/corps of the period, namely "Les Polonais de Napoleon", about the 1st Polish Lancers of the Guard, and an edited and illustrated version of "La Garde Imperiale" by Henry Lachouque (translated into English by Anne SK Brown as "The Anatomy of Glory").

In putting together this post I found out that Jean Tranie is no longer with us, having died on 8th October 2001 and Juan Carlos Carmigniani followed in 2008. I am really pleased to have a copy of his last book "Napoleon and Italy: A military history of Napoleonic Italy, 1805-1815" co-written by Gilles Boué (English translation by Marie-France Renwick).

I now have the entire 'set' of those dedicated to specific campaigns and which begin the title either with 'Napoleon' or 'Bonaparte'. They are marvellous tomes all, with plenty of pictures, which I always like! Mine are mainly the Éditions Pygmalion titles and/or re-releases of the originals. These are beautifully produced with a lovely faux-leather cover beneath the dust jacket. The English version of "Waterloo", by Arms and Armour Press, was originally purchased for me by my father in the late 70s. I have mentioned "The Anatomy of Glory" above and in a previous review. In addition, I managed to get hold of "Les Polonais de Napoleon" and a couple outside this series "Napoléon et son entourage" (a text-only book with brief biographies of members of Napoleon's family, female loves, children, selected social 'enemies' (e.g. Mme de Stael), household, ministers, marchals, recipients of the Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honour and companions at St Helena), as well as "L'épopée Napoléonienne: Les grandes batailles" (an excellent introductory volume to the period, but also with much for those already well "into it", including lavishly illustrated descriptions of 25 major battles on land and sea, illustrated biographies of the Marshals of the Empire and appendices of tables of the battles (forces and losses), generals of the Grande Armée killed or wounded, flags and battle honours of French regiments and armaments of infantry, cavalry and artillery of the Grande Armée).

Despite the titles nearly all featuring the keywords (from a publishers point of view) 'Napoleon' and/or 'Bonaparte', the books do not focus only on Napoleon and the activities of and around him. Each covers the period of the campaign in its entirety, presenting a balanced and complete (as possible within the page-limit) account.

The books run to around 200–300-odd and are 'sumptuously illustrated' as Chandler says in his foreword to "Waterloo". There is a marvellous mix of text, reproductions of paintings, lithographs and cartoons of battles, people and events (some in colour, others in black and white, all reproduced clearly and with detailed captions), detailed maps (though most without a scale—aaahhh!!), contemporary photographs of sections of battlefields and lovely plates of some of the uniforms (with captions only and no text). Strangely, and quite rudely, Martin says that, "The text, however, is poor to very poor (with the noticeable exceptions of Lachouque’s Waterloo and Garde Imperiale)...". I need to be careful in challenging this conclusion as I have not read them all and not even read one book in its entirety, but what I have read was interesting, easy to read and edifying and is enhanced by lots of eyewitness quotes. I am supported by other reviews such as one that said:

le texte de Tranié est particulièrement bien écrit, dans un français classique, riche, épique ; le récit des opérations militaires est précis et explicatif et il est émaillé de nombreuses anecdotes dramatiques ou croustillantes ; enfin, le travail de recherche iconographique de Carmigniani est d'une richesse incroyable et est mis en valeur par un art très accompli de la légende qui fait mouche pour les accompagner.

My translation: Tranie's text is particularly well writen, in classic French, rich and epic. The account of military operations is precise and explanatory and is enhanced by numerous anecdotes. The reviewer continues with remarks about Carmigniani's wonderfully researched images and detaild captions.

The books "Napoleon 1813 La Campagne d'Allemagne" and "Bonaparte: La Campagne d’Egypte" received le Grand Prix du Souvenir Napoléonien 1988.

A picture tells a thousand words, as the old adage goes. This is certainly the case with these books. Carmigniani's choice of images, his detailed captions and the composition of the pages enable the images to be an essential part of each book, complementing the text by adding further information and detail.

I hope that these randomly selected photographs from some of the pages of the books will serve to give a sense of how lovely these books are, how well the images are reproduced and how well they stand alone (despite the poor focus of some of my photos that were quickly snapped!) .

La Patrie en Danger 1792-1793: Les Campagnes de la Révolution

This was the only book of the set uniform plates per se., instead having these lovely reproductions adapted from the work of Albert Gregorious.


 Napoleon Bonaparte: La Premiere Campagne d'Italie 1796-1797

 

Bonaparte: La Campagne d’Egypte




Napoleon Bonaparte: La deuxième campagne d'Italie 1800

Most of the books include orders of battle, generally to the brigade or divisional level.


Napoleon et la Russie: Les Annees Victorieuses 1805-1807


Napoleon et l’Allemagne, Prusse 1806


 
Napoleon et l'Autriche: La Campagne de 1809

La Campagne de Russie, Napoleon 1812

Napoleon 1813 La Campagne d'Allemagne





 Napoleon: 1814 La Campagne de France

 Napoleon's War in Spain: The French Peninsular Campaigns, 1807-1814

 
  
  

Waterloo


"The asides of glory" always brings a smile!



Several of the lovely line drawings of Jean Auge are used in the book (see Footnote).

Several sections of the Waterloo panorama are reproduced in the book.


Napoléon et son entourage
This interesting and useful book is all text, so only the cover shown here.

L'Épopée napoléonienne
Sample page. Unfortunately, my copy suffered bad water damage in transit from the vendor to me. Every page is wrinkled at the top and has mould stains. It is still useable, but it detracts from the impression. The vendor apologised sincerely, gave me a full refund and said to keep it (to expensive to return).
 
 Les Polonais de Napoleon
 
 
Footnote
 
In 2018, I sought to find the original source of the drawings of Jean Augé that are reproduced in "Waterloo". This lead me to the "Le Champ de Bataille de Waterloo" by Louis Garros, illustrated by Jean Augé and Denyse Franck. I was able to get a digital copy from our National Library. The 88 pages of this packed little book provide a brief description of the preliminaries and opeing engagements (including Ligny and Quatre Bras), before covering Waterloo in some detail. The dispositions of the armies are describe and the battle narrated, aided by Augé's beautiful drawings. This is followed by a detailed order of battle and description of the battlefield, with vignettes of each location by Franck. Marvellous and another yet to be read in full! :)
This is one of only two of the drawings in the book by Augé that are coloured.
I have produced a command stand of d'Erlon based on this drawing, for a bicentennial game of Waterloo. Like so many of my figures, I got them 'okay' for the occasion and they have awaited the finishing touches ever since!

References

Garros, LFP, Augé, J and Franck, D (1952) Le Champ de Bataille de Waterloo. Editions Beaudart, Paris. 88 pp.

Lachouque, H (1975) Waterloo. Arms and Armour Press, London, England. 202 pp.

Lachouque, H and Brown, ASK (1978) The Anatomy of Glory. Arms and Armour Press, London, England. 564 pp.

Lachouque, H, Tranie, J and Carmigniani, J-C (1982) Napoleon's War in Spain: The French Peninsular Campaigns, 1807-1814. Translated by JS Mallender and JR Clements. Reprinted 1993. Arms and Armour Press, London, England. 191 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1979) Napoleon et l'Autriche : la campagne de 1809. Copernic, Paris. 239 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1980) Napoleon et la Russie. Les annéees victorieuses (1805-1807). Copernic, Paris. 245 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1982) Les polonais de Napoleon l'épopée du Ier régiment de lanciers de la garde impériale. Copernic, Paris. 179 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1984) Napoléon et l'Allemagne Prusse 1806 Lavauzelle, Paris. 255 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1987) La Patrie en Danger 1792-1793: Les Campagnes de la Révolution. Tome 1. Lavauzelle, Paris. 223 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1987) Napoleon 1813 La campagne d'Allemagne. Éditions Pygmalion, Paris. 311 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1988) Bonaparte: La campagne d'Egypte. Éditions Pygmalion, Paris. 315 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1989) Napoleon 1814 La campagne de France. Éditions Pygmalion, Paris. 312 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1990) Napoléon Bonaparte, 1ère Campagne d'Italie. Éditions Pygmalion, Paris. 265 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1991) Napoléon Bonaparte : la deuxième campagne d'Italie, 1800. Éditions Pygmalion, Paris. 266 pp.

Tranie, J, Carmigniani, JC and Beaufort, Ld (1981) La Campagne de Russie. Napoléon 1812. Les Grands Moments de Notre Histoire Ed. G Devautour. Lavauzelle, Paris. 302 pp.

Tranie, J (1999) L'épopée Napoléonienne. Les grandes batailles. Editions Tallandier, Paris. 176 pp.

Tranie, J (2001) Napoléon et son entourage. Pygmalion, Paris. 458 pp.