04 January 2011

Struggle for Hougoumont Lasalle Scenario and AAR

For ease of review this is the complete trial scenario and action report
Planned Scenario
About 3 months ago on the Lasalle Forum, there was a discussion about how to organise a scenario for Hougoumont, Napoleon's left flank at the Battle of Waterloo (or I suppose alternately Wellington's right flank). For some reason, about which I am still unsure, I was quite attracted by the thought of doing this scenario. I had almost enough French battalions and I was in the middle of painting some Hanoverians, so I said why not! I spent quite a lot of time researching the action, a lot of information was out there. I found the internet somewhat contradictory, so I bought a couple of books; first Pagets's monograph on the action and then Adkin's authoritative book on the battle. The latter is really a most excellent book.

A quick inventory of my army showed that I could accurately do the OB with what I had, as well as needing to paint 4 more battalions of légere, a few command figures, some Hanoverian skirmishers and finally a battalion of Nassau. Knowing the importance of the look of the thing, I also knew that I would have to acquire some terrain, namely Hougoumont itself.  I have a 12'x5' table, so I felt a small action like Hougoumont was quite possible. Piece of cake, I said to myself, I can do that all in 3 months, as my plan was to run the scenario in the week before Xmas. Indeed, once I did some measuring I felt I could also run the La Haie Sainte scenario at the same time. Luckily, I controlled myself (the thought of having to paint 3 more battalions of légère also helped), and restricted myself to having to paint around 140 figures and the buildings in less then 3 months. I am going to use the Lasalle Napoleonic rules for my first go at the scenario.

Order of Battle: The OB I am using is pretty accurate, and covers the first 3-4 hours of the action. I have had to make some slight adjustments to the number of men and I also slightly varied the OB for Jamin's brigade. The light German infantry and light companies of the Guards companies are slightly over represented while the remaining number of men in the 2nd battalions of the Coldstream and 3rd Guards are under represented. In respect to Jamin's brigade I have increased the number of ligne and decreased the number of légère, just could not paint any more légère. I have left out the other brigade (Tissot) in Foy's 9th Division and I have not included Bachelu's 5th Division. For my first go, I also left out cannon on both sides and Pire's cavalry brigade. I have used standard Lasalle ratings for all the French, I do not believe the 1,2,4e légère can be rated elite troops. I increased the SK value for the Nassau, I would think that this specific battalion stood above most of the other Nassau.  I have made the light companies of the allies irregular, I believe of course they would have fought as such, and the 1/2e légère are also irregular. They represent all the skirmishers sent forward in Baudin's brigade. The French sub-commander rating have been diced for, I have made MacDonnell a superior commander and Saltoun a good tactician and vigorous commander. Three engineering groups have been attached to the French, maybe a little much, but in this first playtest they have one less infantry brigade, we will see how it goes. Soye's Brigade enters in Attack Column at the southwest corner. The 2/Coldstream Guards enter in March Column at the north corner of the complex.
The Terrain: I have used the Hovels 15mm model to decrease the already too big footprint. I believe the final ground ratio for the model ended up at 5 cm to the metre (I am very poor at these types of calculation, so I am happy to stand corrected). As you can see, this is way out of proportion to my battalion scale (16 cm in line). Thus, I really can not use the concept of Lasalle BUA (1 BUA equals 3 BW) as laid out in the rule book. I looked around for some ideas and found that Barry Hilton in his Republic to Empire rules has a completely different approach to BUA. He essentially ignores the size of the model (the footprint is always going to be too big) and accepts that the important thing to many gamers is the look of the game. I like this! He looks at a BUA as how many models can occupy it and how many models can attack at one time. Using the table from this ruleset, I felt that it was reasonable that the maximum number of models that could occupy the walled Hougoumont complex at one time was essentially no more than a battalion, that 1-2 battalions could occupy the formal gardens and that no more than a brigade could attack at one time. This sounded quite reasonable historically if you think about it. He also imposes a zone of control (area which is barred to non attacking units) around any BUA which in Lasalle speak is going to be approximately 6 BW. So much for that, otherwise I am really going to try to stick to the Lasalle rules as written. The complex and the walls around the formal garden are impassable, but the gates and the walls can be destroyed as noted in the scenario specific rules. The walls are all hard cover. Movement within the complex and the formal garden is unrestricted and all units are in the complex are in the town deployed formation, but in the garden are regular formation. The 2 internal gates within the complex are not impediments. Movement out of the complex and through outer gates is in march formation. Woods around the complex are defined as rough terrain and soft cover.

Scenario Specific Rules: As noted above, I really want to play the rules as written. Entry of reinforcements will be turn dependent and the French will not be allowed to attack with more than a brigade at a time as noted above. As far as I can tell now, I will be using the Optional Rules for Officers Tactics and Casualties, Irregular Units (Hanoverian, British elite companies, 1 French légère), Half Battalion Deployed (British Guards), Superior Commander (McDonnell), Irregular Units Recovering and Engineers. The only variation in these Lasalle optional rules is that in the Engineer demolition rule, the walls around Hougoumont and the 3 gates can be demolished. The wooden gates will be treated as the equivalent of a wooden bridge so an engineer may re-roll a failed attempt. The engineering bases are attached to specific units and can only carry out a demolition task. They do not utilise their assault enhancement. They are removed if the infantry unit to which they are attached is destroyed or when they carry out a demolition task. The game will end when one side fails it's Morale test. Well, I hope, I have covered everything, we will just have to see how it goes.

Playing aids, check!
Initial Deployments, as from Adkin.
Looks like we are ready to go.............

(30982) First posted December 23rd
Part 1
I have run 14 turns and so far things are going quite well. The only real problem is that the time element is way off. Generally each turn is supposed to represent 15 minutes of real time, after 7 turns though the 2e légère is just approaching the wall. This is ok, but the reinforcements are arriving too early. I suspect the increased ground scale is throwing off the movement scale. 

Here we see GdB Baudin giving orders to chef de bataillon Le Vol (2/2e légère). Colonel  Maigrot can be seen to the right exhorting the 1/2 légère to enter the wood. 
The French advance toward Hougoumont through the wood. The Hanoverians in the wood start to pick off the advancing french skirmishers. There irregular status and their SK advantage work to their benefit and the 1/2e légère suffer the first casualties. The voltiguers have to retreat. The 2,3,4/2e légère advance and the Hanoverians withdraw. The light companies of the Guards advance to cover their retreat.
Turn 4 has already arrived and we see Soye's brigade advancing from the south west in attack column. The 2e légère are almost through the wood (it is a little hard to see, but if you doubleclick on the photo, you will see that I detach the mounted officer from each battalion and use this as a marker to record the battalions advance through the wood)
Soye's Brigade advance, it looks like the Guards light companies and the the Hanoverians may get caught. The Hanoverians turn and attempt to cover the retreat of the the British. Lord Saltoun watch as his irregular troops attempt to extract themselves from the the French advance.
The 1,3/1e ligne form line and fire into both the British and Hanoverians. The British maneuver into line and start to retreat around the south west corner. It looks like the Hanoverians may be caught! The 2,3,4/2e légère advance into the killing ground. The Nassauers fire a volley but cause no casualties.
The 2/Coldstreamers form a line to protect the retreat of their light companies and hopefully the Hanoverians. Positions at the end of turn 7.
Well fun so far, I will continue to run the scenario as planned, but some problems have been identified. I probably need to change the turn entry of the reinforcements. I am also going to have to reconsider what units can enter the ZOC. As noted in the introduction, I felt only a brigade could attack the complex at one time. I envisioned this to be units from only 1 brigade at a time. As you can see the forward elements of both Baudin's and Soye's brigades reached the ZOC at the same time. I had to hold back the lead battalions under Soye. Maybe, I should have made it that 6 battalions from any brigade can attack at one time. Of course if I changed the turn entry of Soye's brigade this may of not been a problem. Any comments?

Well time to celebrate Xmas and start cooking, I have to figure out how to cook duck and make a trifle. Hope to have another report for Boxing Day. Happy Xmas to all.


First posted December 24th
Part 2

Well the battle continues, sorry for the delay in the post, the blizzard in the Northeast US messed up my morning yesterday and I had to work in the afternoon. I got a few turns in on Boxing Day and few more this morning, have to work again this afternoon, so a quick post.

Rafa made me realise in my last post that I was making an error describing the number of turns. I was undercounting by one half (I was counting 1 turn as 1 French and 1 Allied move). Thus, I had completed 14 turns in my last post rather then 7. This was the equivalent of almost 2 hours of real time, so I should of brought my reinforcements in later then I have done. This is a trial run though, so it is good to discover errors now. I had been trying to schedule the reinforcement entries in an historical accurate way using Adkin's book.

So anyway, I have completed 22 turns now and the battle is raging. All of Baudin's brigade has now entered the killing ground in front of the orchard. They are taking casualties, as are the Nassau. An engineer from the 3/2e legere set a demolition charge and was successful in causing a breech in the previously impassable wall. It is now possible for the French to charge!
The Hanoverians are taking significant casualties and although they are irregular they continually fail DISC tests to change formation and are having difficulty withdrawing. The light companies of the Guards appear to have no such problem and are withdrawing in orderly fashion north being covered by the Coldstreamers.
The 3/2e legere charge through the breech, the Nassau fire in reaction and the large battalion destroys the already decimated French battalion. Other French battalions move into to continue the attack. The Hanoverians take fire from Soye's brigade and are destroyed. 
Jamin's briagde starts their advance, the engineering company attached to the 1/4e legere is moving forward.
The 2/3rd Guards advance to the southern wall to support the Nassau, who now have suffered 50% casualities. Lets hope McDonnell can throw some 6's.
The light companies enter through the north gate with Col Saltoun.
Well I believe things are going better then expected and the Lasalle ruleset is holding up nicely with very minimal modification. It is a challenge to handle all the traffic from 3 French brigades around Hougoumont, although the ZOC rule is certainly useful. We will have to see how the French handle their attack: Will they continue to add reinforcements to the assault on the south wall, or will they hold back and use some of their 6 attacking battalions in a separate attack on the north gate. We will have to watch the 1/4e legere.................


First posted December 28th

Part 3

Finally had a chance to update the battle, it has become extremely bloody and is clearly mirroring history. We are now up to 30 turns, the great thing about the Lasalle rules is that the mechanics are quick and exciting to apply, the game just zooms along. 

Rafa asked me to explain the Zone of Control (ZOC) rule, I had grafted on to this scenario. The model of Hougoumont being used is just too big to apply the Lasalle BUA rules. My BW is 40mm and each BUA under Lasalle should be no more then 12x12cm. 1 BUA represents the space that 1 battalion would occupy. If you think about it historically, no more then 3 battalions ever occupied the building complex and the walled garden at anyone time, so really the the maximum number of BUA's I could use in this scenario is 3. The complex made of 3 BUA's would be 36 cm x 12 cm. My model is approximately 70 x 60 cm, so there is no way I could use the Lasalle BUA rules with this model. A model of 36x12cm would be just visually unappealing and for me would ruin the whole game experience. 

I searched through other rulesets, and really the only set that deals with this problem in a reasonable fashion is the Republic to Empire ruleset. Barry Hilton recognises that the visual appeal of the war game is of first importance, but at the same time appreciates that most models built have a footprint way out of proportion to the game scale. He has developed an approach that disregards the size of the model, but looks at it as what it historically represents. All BUA are classified as to their size and to their construction. The rules would regard Hougoumont as a size 3, construction style C complex. The size of the complex determines both the number of troops that can garrison it and attack it at one time. Some simple calculations indicated that no more then 3 battalions can garrison Hougoumont and 6 battalions can attack (or be in the ZOC at one time). Another simple calculation gave me a ZOC of 6 BW. I then thought about this, the actual Hougoumont complex and walled garden is around 240 by 120 metres in size. If you think about it, a French attack column is probably 150 metres wide (200 men), so having 6 battalions attacking a complex with a total linear perimeter of 720 metres is reasonable. I hope this explained things.

I also had to make a couple of other minor tweaks as the game went along. Once a breach was formed in the wall, I had to think about what formation a battalion had to be in to charge, well according to Lasalle a battalion in column of march can not charge and it seemed unreasonable that a battalion in line could move through a breech, so I settled on only attack columns being allowed to charge through a breach. Also I had to think about the bonus in combat for being at a higher elevation, I decided to give it to the allied forces within Hougoumont as I believe the walls were at least 7 feet in height and the defenders were on elevated platforms shooting down. Probably wrong on this one, but we will see how it goes.

Anyway on to the battle: Both Jamin and Soye need to redress their brigades, it now seems that Jamin is going to advance north to the east of the compound while Soye is advancing north to the west. Certainly it appears that the allies are going to be encircled (the weakness of the OB for this scenario is now becoming apparent, should have had some cannon on the ridge as was the case historically to threaten the French advance to the east of the complex). The 3/1e legere maneuver into attack column to charge the Nassau. 
The guards light companies advance through the complex.
The 3/1e legere charge and the engineering detachment of the 2/1e legere makes contact with the wall.
The Nassau easily repulse the 3/1e legere and they fall back. Amazingly enough McDonnell throws a double 6 and the Nassau recover a DISR. The 2/1e legere engineer throw a 3 and his fuse fails to ignite. The flanking fire from the 4/2e legere into the 2/3rd Guards starts to cause damage despite the hard cover.
The Coldstream Guards wheel to meet the lead battalions of Soye's brigade. The light Guard companies enter the walled garden, the 2/3rd Guards are being pounded with flanking fire.
The engineer from the 2/1e legere replaces his fuse, ignites it and blows a hole in the wall, there is now a second breach. The Nassau and the 2/3rd Guards continue their fire Baudin's brigade is weakening. The 3/1e legere are destroyed.
The 2/3rd Guards wheel backward to allow the light companies to replace them at the wall, but they lose their hard cover by doing so. Not looking good!!!!
Well at the end of 30 turns, it is starting to look a little tricky for the Allies. The French outnumber them by 3 to 1, but have only lost 2 battalions so far. If the 2/3rd Guards fall, the Allies will have to start taking Morale tests.

More to come......


First posted December 31st
The Final Part
Well as you know from the last post Hougoumont has fallen to the French. What happened? The allies appeared to be handling the stress and the French attack appeared to me to be somewhat disorganized.

A quick summary of the action to date. The 2/3rd Guards are down to their last DISR and have been forced to withdraw, the continuous fire into their left flank from the 4/2e légere has cost them. The light companies of the 2/Coldstream and 3rd Guards rush into to cover their flank. Meanwhile the 2/1e légere are about to enter the gardens through the breach and the 1/1e légere have been sent in to attack the Nassau.
Jamin's brigade led by the 1/4e légere is making their way around the northeast corner of the garden.
At the northwest corner of the complex the weakened Coldstream Guards are now facing several battalions of Soye's brigade. Only the ZOC rule is stopping a multi battalion charge.
The 2/1e légere charge the 3rd Guards and are destroyed. The 1/1e légere form in attack column and get ready to charge the Nassau.
By now the 1/4e légere are about to invade the garden from the north, the severely weakened 2/3rd Guards about face to meet the oncoming attack from the north. Meanwhile the 1/1e légere charge the Naussau, although weakened (4DISR), they are a large unit and have the combat advantages of cover and higher elevation, they also have Col Saltoun leading them so they have a tactical bonus of a hit on a throw of 4. They throw 10 die and score only 3 hits! The 1/1e légere have only 5 die (they lost 1DISR when the Nassau fired in reaction to their charge), they throw 5x5=5 hits!! The Nassau are down to their last DISR. The 1/1e légere fallback as the Nassau are entrenched. The Coldstreamers meanwhile are beating a slow retreat to the north gate facing the enemy, firing as they go, the 1/2e ligne break. But loss of the French battalions south of the complex allows 2 battalions in Soye's brigade to form up into line and fire a musket volley into the Coldstreamers.......they break. The Allied forces reach their breakpoint.
The 1/4e légere enter the garden. The 2/3rd attempt to maneuver into line. The light companies fire into the 4/2e légere and they are broken. The French reach their breakpoint. The light companies wheel back to support their parent battalion. 
By now the French 2/1e ligne and the 1/2e legére have pinned down the Nassau and they are destroyed. The 2/3rd Guards form into line and fire at the approaching 1/4e légere. The Allies pass their first Morale Test. But the end is near the 1/4e légere fire with just 2 die and get a double 6, game over........A look to the east reveals what is next on my plate!
This was by far the most exciting scenario I have played, and I am very pleased at how well the Lasalle ruleset worked in this asymmetric battle. The only real modification made was the ZOC rules that I got from RtE. This was required as the foot print of the model was way out of proportion to the game scale. The game had a total of 43 turns, but really I spend less then 5 hours in total and this was solo. The movement, fire and combat mechanisms are extremely simple, but effective. The modifiers for combat situations and the unit classifications gave a very close game, despite the Allies being out numbered by at least 3:1, I believe this says quite a bit about the rules.

I did identify though a few things that need to be changed in the scenario. I do need to adjust the turn entry of reinforcements. I also think I will add some entrenched cannon to the Allied side on the northeast hill overlooking the complex (this was the case historically) and it will make it a little more tricky for the French to try a flanking maneuver to the east. I am also going to adjust the ZOC rules to limit the number of French battalions that can attack on any one side of the complex. Curt at Analogue Hobbies has also suggested a modification to the way that the French reinforcements are fed into the battle that also comes from the RtE ruleset. 

I plan to run the scenario again (there was just too much work put into the OB and the model to pack it away already) soon, so stay tuned.



  1. A funny game and a great AAR. Maybe the French were allowed to turn easily the left Allied position!
    What will be the next?

  2. Brilliant - good write up and what sounds like an exciting game!

  3. Nicely done, John! An epic report for an equally epic game.

    I agree with your idea to include more 'off-board' influence to the scenario (i.e. supporting artillery fire, possibility of cavalry intervention, etc.) especially if things become dire for the Allies. As you know Wellington recognized the importance of holding the farm and was prepared to commit resources to support its defense. As it stands the engagement sometimes gives the impression that its occurring in a vacuum when in fact it was a battle within a battle.

    I look forward to your replay.


  4. Great battle report with good comments. Well done!

  5. John!

    This looks shockingly great! A dream come true. When do we play it again?