Friday, 22 May 2020

Assault on Hougoumont

This is a three turn scenario from Hexasim’s Eagles boardgame package that covers the Waterloo battlefield.
Part of box artwork

Starting at 11am, with hourly turns, the French will win an instant victory if they capture the farmhouse. If this is not done by the end of the game, they will lose, unless the ridge behind Hougoumont is controlled by the French, in which case a draw occurs.

The farmhouse is fortified and a tough nut to crack in the game. The gardens, orchard and light woods around the farmhouse are all represented by orchard type terrain.

I am using the most recent rule set (from the Quatre Bras module), including the rule that caps a stack's strength points at 20 if made into or out of non-open terrain.

And so it begins

The French open up at range with their guns, without making much impact. Reille with so many men at his disposal is impatient and immediately launches infantry attacks to overwhelm the defenders in the orchards.

This opening attack has mixed results with 1st Léger pushing 2/1 Foot Guards back into the Farmhouse complex, but 2nd Léger completely wreck themselves attacking Sandham’s guns. 3/1 Foot Guards make a heroic stand, suffering heavy casualties, but managing to hold back the main french thrust.
The French launch their assault, 3/1 Foot
Guards take the brunt of the attack.

12 noon
The British continue to hold ground while taking very heavy losses. French guns are brought up within 400 metres of the farmhouse. Reille’s divisions are pushing deeper into the orchards, where they attack Kühlmann’s horse artillery, who lose half their guns before falling back a short distance to maintain alignment with Hougoumont's flank.

Alone, Kühlmann’s guns are vulnerable and cheers suddenly go up from the gunners as 2nd Nassau (counts as a British formation in this scenario) come down from the crest at the rear of the farmhouse and form up with the guns.

Heavy French artillery batters away at the Farmhouse, causing very heavy casualties amongst the Guards, but their morale holds up and they keep hold of the farm complex.

As the British perimeter shrinks, the French started to envelop the position and put in their strongest attack yet, attacking from three sides, but Kühlmann‘s artillery fires canister driving off 100th Ligne, while at the farmhouse, robust fire from The Guards causes 2nd and 92nd Ligne to rout.

The fighting is growing in intensity - can the British hold on?
The pressure is really on at the farmhouse

1 PM - A last push!
The assault is seeing Reille's entire Corps getting drawn into this cauldron, but surely one more push will do it!

Kühlmann‘s artillery becomes overwhelmed, having seen off 72nd Ligne, they are immediately counter-attacked by 100th Ligne and the gunners are lost. The farmhouse now stands in defiance ... alone.

The Guards manage to repel another assault and then another! but with both sides exhausted, the fighting dies down around Hougoumont, however any hopes of sustaining the defence for much longer diminish as 1st and 100th Ligne push 2nd Nassau off the ridge behind the farmhouse. The French take the ridge and Hougoumont is now isolated.

Conclusion - British losses have been huge, 6 units have left the map and only the battered 2/3 Foot Guards remain - demoralised! But French losses have been equally significant, with 2 units routing, 1 unit flipped and 5 units lost.

Though the French have failed to win the scenario, they can claim a draw due to their capture of the ridge.

With such a close ending, I of course felt compelled to see what a fourth turn would bring, and this saw the collapse of the British position at Hougoumont. Playing this extra turn just shows how tight the scenario is. It makes for a good intro scenario, but is also an interesting mini-game in it’s own right.

The full Waterloo battle now begs attention!

Commanders is my sister site, which is a bit more snippet based than here. LINK

A previous post covers the STREETS OF LIGNY and has an AAR and description of the game mechanics. LINK


  1. Great report and seems like Reille managed to achieve what the French failed to do on the field. It will be interesting to see if Napoleon can do likewise for the main battle.....

    1. Thanks Keith, ‘a close run thing’, but Reille’s Corps perhaps paid a too higher price.

  2. Another nice little slice of action from a bigger battle and once again love the look of the mpa and the counters.

    1. Thanks Steve, I prefer the artwork on this map to the ones that followed in the series, high ground is easier to see and the pastel shade is a wink to the classic period of boardgaming. These small actions though do give good mini games.

    2. My God, Norm. Are we really getting that old?

    3. Aye - the nostalgia is kicking in :-)

  3. This was really a hard-fought action. While casualties were very high, I would give the edge to the French. I wonder if a demoralized unit holding the farm should count in determining victory? If only the French could have given the Guards one more good shove.

  4. Hi Jonathan, Demoralised comes after 50% casualties to the formation, it hurst units that attack in melee and those that attempt to rally from rout and gives a movement penalty - so really demoralised status curtails offensive capability and not so much defensive capability.

    The way the scenario victory conditions are set, everything is about Hougoumont and the Briish hold it for dear life. Had this been the full battle, I think Cooke would have pulled his Guards out before seeing them decimated in position.

    The difference in the Quality Factor rating between English and the French is fairly significant and the Fortified farmhouse really is a bastion, with a very high defensive value and attackers cannot claim the ‘surround’ benefit, so they are tough to winkle out.

  5. An interesting small scale scenario. A game of just three turns certainly focuses on the decision taken.

  6. Hi Peter, yes it does, it certainly removed the luxury of time that the French may have wished for to do a pre-battle bombardment with their guns. Once their infantry dash forward on mass, it rather neutralises their own guns, who then don't have free avenues of fire.

  7. A famous place and a great looking little inexhaustible subject!

  8. Yes Phil and it struck me as odd that I had not really concentrated on this action before at this scale, in my games, the whole Hougoumont complex has always been contained in a single hex, as a victory point hex in a bigger picture - so it was nice to drop it down to a more tactical level and of course it begs a figure game to cover the same action.

  9. Nice report Norm. One can see from the pics the blue tiles pushing into the red tiles. I know next to nothing about Hougoumont (including how to spell it, was that right?) so can’t comment to much on the scenario.
    But you’re certainly getting a lot of play out of these rules. Seems like a keeper in your scale down project. 😀

  10. Thanks Stew, yes, the streamlining of the boardgame collection to have more ‘series’ games type rules is paying dividends.

  11. A close run thing indeed! Interesting battle report and mechanics!
    Best Iain

  12. Hi Iain, The short and small scenario is an ideal way for people to feel their way into the system.



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