I have the delight to report that Napoleon was repulsed just outside of Brussels by the combined British and Dutch forces under the guidance of the Duke of Wellington. After routing the Prussian forces the day before Bonaparte swept towards Brussels with only the Anglo-British forces in his way. The key to his success or despair lay in the junction of the major roads which lay 10 miles out of Brussels. It seemed that whichever combatant managed to hold this juncture would prevail.
(The game was played in 10mm on a 6x4 table playing in cm which gave a lot of space for manoeuvre. The French had 4 infantry Brigades and field artillery (of 4 battalions), a Guard Brigade (large units), a Grand Battery and a Heavy and Light cavalry brigade. Facing them was a force consisting of a Guards Brigade (2 large units and a rifle small unit), 3 infantry Brigades with artillery(one allied)and a heavy and light brigade (numbering less than the French in units though) supported by a RHA unit and a Rocket unit - the table had the 3 way junction in the middle with a walled farm complex sitting on the juncture of the roads. The junction lay in a shallow valley which had woods on one flank and a small town and river on the other. The ground was intersected by crop fields which gave 'rough ground' patches. The armies started within 18cm of the edge roughly 40cm from the junction)
The battle began just before midday with the French advancing in attack column towards the farm complex besides the junction sitting below us and on their right flank aiming at crossing the bridge and threatening our left flank. Looking across the valley towards the fanfare it was hard to see how they could be stopped, the major concern was how the Dutch Brigade would hold up as they seemed to be in front of the major French point of attack. Surprisingly the mass of cavalry on the French left flank haltered and there seemed to be confusion as their officers tried to move them towards their enemy.The imposing sight of the Old Guard could be seen in column next to the inn on the hill opposite our position.
(The French moved forward using the +2 on command for being in attack column and being 'reliable' French a this gave them at least a couple of moves per brigade. However the cavalry commander failed in his first attempt - all was looking good as the French machine ground forward)
The Duke urged his men on. Maitland took the Guards Brigade hurrying into the farm complex with orders from Wellington to 'hold at all costs' the green coated riflemen scurrying ahead of them and harassing the approaching French mass. The Highland Brigade was caught in some unexpected marshland as they tried to secure the flank of the building and I distinctly heard the Duke chastise their commander for not getting them out of march column in sight of the French artillery. Our line Brigade marched towards he bridge, forming line to meet the advancing french seemingly oblivious to the fact the Highlanders had left their flank exposed. Meanwhile our erstwhile allies advanced and formed line in front of the advancing French columns safe for now as the French Hussars seemed uninterested.It was a joy to see our frightening rockets hurl into the French.
(the guard unit made 3 orders to move straight into the farm complex which was fortunate in a number of ways, one unexpected plus was that the French Battery had to ignore the Highlanders in march column as the Guards were within half range and to their front.The good thing is with having to 'give orders' the Highlanders did indeed leave the Line Brigade with their flanks to the French as they had turned to cover the bridge and the columns about to come over it because they only got one order and failed to get where intended. The British reserve cavalry brigades were split covering each flank with the heavies (including the Greys) in the middle. After lamenting that the rockets would probably be useless as we had not used them before I promptly threw two sixes and hit the Old Guard hard. The rest of the cannon fire and the fire from the rifles did little damage but managed a few of the coveted '6s' which meant 3 or 4 of the french columns were stationary the next turn.)
A gasp went up from the onlookers on the hill with me as we saw 2 french columns charge into the flanks of the line brigade watching the bridges ... hearts were in our mouths as the columns over the river marched to get across the bridge which would have caught our lads in a pincer move. A faint cheer went up as the lead column seemed to falter on the bridge.The farm complex was a haze of smoke and flames as the French Artillery pounded away ... through a sheet of fire the French columns swept into our allies ... thankfully the cavalry still milled around and didn't support. Our chaps held out along the line and a cheer went up as firstly the Highlanders went charging in, the Dutch Line repelled the first columns. It was at this point Uxbridge tried to get our Hussars to move against the enemy pinned by our gallant left flank. Unfortunately they had been watching the French cavalry laxness ... it was left to Wellington to order the Greys to charge the reeling French columns ... to our amazement the Greys took off at a gallop but towards the wrong flank.
(The game was getting tense ... the initial hit from the French columns had damaged the line severely but a failed command roll meant that the other french columns failed to get in - amazing morale rolls of 10, 11 and a 12 had seen the lines hold which then meant in my turn the supporting units could enter the fray and even it out. The French would have been in real trouble if the Greys had charged in ... but to the amusement of my opponent Wellington blundered on a '4' and they moved the opposite way!)
Seeing that his attack was stalling we saw the Emperor himself ride to the Old Guard and urged them down the hill with orders to take the farm and thus the crossroads - saving the day. The Anglo- British force was very close to breaking, the French seemingly better off with 3 fresh looking Brigades. Sensing the moment Uxbridge released the rest of the Heavy Brigade onto the Old Guard forcing them to form square as our horses swirled around them. Again gasps were given out as we spied the French Lancers at last making a decision and charging to catch our Heavy Brigade behind the French line.Meanwhile all over the battlefield the vicious fighting was continuing with neither side giving any ground.
(The last throw of the dice for both sides ... the Guard could well win the day if they could get to the Farmhouse as my Guard Brigade was slowly being whittled down by the artillery fire onto the farm house. I was one brigade from having to test for army break - we have a house rule for a test when the army reaches break point; roll 1d6 add the number of unbroken brigades left and if the number is equal or higher than the game turn number the army may fight on but have to test every go. But this go saw 2 French Brigades finally break from the vicious melee fighting. It was at this point that the French commander suffered a great piece of bad luck ... my shaken cavalry units managed to beat and shake 2 of his cavalry units meaning that on his next turn if I could hold out he would have to make the army break test)
Watching from our vantage point it seemed that the battle reached a lull ... the Old Guard squares were being pounded by our guns and from close musket fire from our own Guards ... the French Hussars were in full retreat and the French Heavy cavalry advanced but seemingly too late ... the Emperor could be seen ordering a withdrawal ... our bloody and wounded boys had saved Brussels and maybe even the whole of Europe.
(The game had gone to the wire ... the inability of my opponent to get three orders with his cavalry at two main points had saved my bacon as it gave me a chance to break the Brigades I needed and then have him fail the army break test. Again the rules had done their job, the whole game taking just under 3 hours (we were talking someone through the rules at the same time. To me it again showed just how 'fun' the rules were and how smooth the game play was, the rest of the club were intrigued by the noise and merriment coming from our table especially the flourish we got into when giving our orders - mainly due to actually giving the Commanders names and 'personalties' from the charts ... we even got in a few, "Come on Sir hurry along, we haven't got all day" comments ... as my long time gaming buddy says, at last we don't have to worry about finding any Nap rules!)