An intro scenario taken from the recently reprinted game of ‘Waterloo 1815 - Fallen Eagles II’ from Hexasim.
Waterloo was the first game in the Eagles of France series. In the re-print the maps have been updated to match the subsequent series games and this includes the addition of doing separate smaller maps for three of the scenarios that make excellent intro games - these being Hougoumont, La Haye Saint and Plancenoit.
Today, we are looking at the latter ….. The Prussian Steamroller at Plancenoit. This is just a four turn scenario.
Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post, which combines a replay with some observational notes.
Each game in the system covers a major battle, but also have one or more of these smaller scenarios, which help the player break into the system or re-familiarise themselves with the rules.
I have some detailed previous posts on this series, which discuss the system in more depth (links below in the Resource Section), but today, we are taking a lighter look, with just some highlights and basic system explained.
The turns are hourly. The game starts at 6pm and ends with a 9pm turn, so these 4 turns are looking at the last part of the days fighting at Waterloo and specifically on the French right, where the Prussians under Blücher were trying to advance to link up with Wellington.
The French have two formations in play, VI Corps under Mouton who is trying to stem the Prussian tide and elements of the Guard, which will arrive as a reinforcement on turn 1.
The Prussians also have two formation in play, IV Corps under von Bülow who are pressing just above the village of Plancenoit and lead elements of II Corps, which will arrive on game turn 1.
Above - these are the start positions. The hex marked ‘exit’ is important because that is where the Prussians are heading and it will also be the hub that the French will fall back upon.
Above - Victory is all about geographical objectives (not casualties). The yellow stars are worth victory points. So the village of Plancenoit is worth 4 points and then each of the three roads that exit the map (towards Waterloo) are worth one point each. Importantly, the middle road (from Plancenoit) will give the Prussians a sudden death victory if they can exit three units there from the map at any time.
Orders are fixed in this scenario, so there isn’t scope to change plans. The Prussian orders are to make for the exit of the Plancenoit Road. The French VI Corps have the same order, as they are trying to block the Prussian advance and will fall back on that point.
Interestingly the French Guard have order to advance to Plancenoit, so they will make their stand there!
To comply with an order, a unit, if moving, must end their movement at least 1 hex closer to the location that they are ordered to.
The system makes a big thing of the Quality Factor of troops. In combat the difference in QF aids the better unit and the QF is what is tested against when making what are effectively morale checks and some other tests.
Accepting that most things are average (QF 7), the exceptions are the Guard who have a QF of at least 8 and the Prussian Landwehr, which although big units, are rated lower at 6!
When units flip to their weaker side, the QF also drops, so those big Landwehr units can be powerful in a fight, but very brittle once losses are sustained.
Getting started. Turn 1
The Prussians always get the initiative at the start of each turn. Even so, formations must still test to see whether they can activate at that particular moment.
Bülow has a rating of 9, The Prussian player wants his formation to act first, so Bülow takes an initiative test (rolls against the 9) and fails.
The Prussian player must now pick another formation and try with that instead. They only have one other formation - Pirch’s reinforcement, but he rolls a 12 and also fails to activate, SO play gets handed over to the other player. The French urgently want the Guard to arrive and secure Plancenoit.
Above - The special rule is that the Guard automatically activate when chosen, so they arrive and promptly march into the village. Play now swings back to the Prussians, this time they successfully activate Bülow.
The nuance of all of that is that if Bülow had managed to activate the first time, his lead units could have entered the top end of Plancenoit - but now they are too late, the Guard have secured it all.
One of the things I really like about the system is that the combat system puts the player in the seat of the higher levels of command. You can direct divisions to attack in situations that you feel may favour them due to modifiers, but the results table can go either way i.e. you may set up the attacks, but then you cross your fingers and hope! High die rolls are bad for the attacker, low are good.
Above - As a case in point, Prussian 18th Infantry with an impressive 24 combat points attack a French position.The attackers survive the defensive fire put out by the French light infantry, but when they launch their attack, they roll a ‘10’ (bad, bad, bad) and the attackers suffer a unit reduction, which means the entire Prussian stack flip over to their weaker side - ouch!
As the turn plays on, French guns inflict heavy losses on the Prussians, who then take further losses when their infantry assaults go in.
When the Prussian IV Corps under von Pirch arrive, they move to take up position on the Prussian right flank, This allows Bülow to reduce his frontage to make up for some of his losses.
Opens with a cavalry charge. Prussian 10th & 8th Hussars charge the French 107th Line and the 2/8 Artillery. The cavalry spend 50% of their movement getting ready for the charge, so that they count as launching a ‘prepared charge’.
The French must decide what to do. Stand and fire defensively? or attempt an emergency order (read go into square). That needs a test. If they succeed, they get a bonus against the charge, but if they fail, the cavalry charge will be more effective.
They fail …. Oh Dear!
It all plays out, but with the help of Mouton, who is also present and adding his leadership value to the defenders QF, the infantry hold out ….. just!
By the end of the turn Prussian II Corps (von Pirch) have become fully engaged on the Prussian right (i.e. well above Plancenoit).
Mouton (French VI Corps) is now under extreme pressure with units routing and very heavy casualties. They are being pressed back onto the Plancenoit / Exit road.
Above - Prussian 3rd and 5th Hussars have charged, made a gap and then when testing for pursuit (cavalry must), they are obliged to ride on and pursue, causing further damage.
The Guards hold Plancenoit and its victory hexes, but they must now be concerned that the Prussians will slip by them, exit the map and win on a sudden death result!
The first of the Young Guard rout (3 Tirailleurs) as Prussians take the far end of the town.
It is difficult to see how the French can hang on to Plancenoit for much longer as they are soon to be assailed from all sides.
Once a formation takes 50% loss, it becomes Demoralised at the end of that turn. Mouton’s casualties have been so high that demoralised status hardly covers it …. In truth, the Corps has been smashed!
As we go into the last turn, the Guard alone must stop the Prussians exiting the map …. but the Prussians will get to go first.
The turn opens and von Pirch, the prime candidate to strike first because of his proximity to the exit hex, fails his activation roll.
Instead von Bülow goes first, followed by the activation of the Guard as play flips to the French player.
They give up more of Plancenoit and try to relieve the pressure at the exit point.
1 Voltiguers and 1 / 2 Chasseurs hold the Prussians back against all of the odds.
Above - At games end, VI Corps provide the smallest of blocking forces. The Guard, the dark blue counters positioned around the dice, have managed to keep hold of lower Plancenoit and to prevent the Prussians from exiting three units at the exit road.
Counting up the yellow stars (VP hexes) the French hold three and the Prussians have captured 4, so a Prussian win, but still a tight finish, going down to the last few rolls.
If the Guard had lost another unit, they too would have gone demoralised.
While the scenario sits in the ‘intro’ spectrum as it only has a couple of formations per side and armies cannot change their orders, so the full flavour of the ‘bigger’ game is not fully appreciated, it never-the-less makes for an intriguing and challenging scenario.
It hits the table again this Friday for a face-to-face session.
Lessons from this game are; that Mouton’s French need to fall back slowly and their horse artillery, with their excellent movement allowance allows them to fire and still pull back. While Bülow’s Prussian cavalry need a better function than the one that I gave them, which was to sit threateningly below Plancenoit - but not actually engaging!
It plays well solitaire as with the activation roll, one is never entirely sure which formation will activate next.
Overall, a thumbs up, the system has never disappointed me. Some of the bigger games like Ligny have taken me around 11 hours to play, so these smaller offerings are most welcome, especially for that single session meet-up.
With four game titles in print and a 5th (Eylau) promised next, this series is shaping nicely.
There is an earlier post covering a replay of Ligny, which illustrates what the ‘bigger’ game can bring. LINK
Using the Hexasim tab in the menu on the right will list plenty of other scenarios played using this system.
My sister webspace ‘COMMANDERS’ showcases the various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and gives a flavour of where current projects are up to. Link.