Monday, September 21, 2015

In my previous life I was the Duke of Wellington - Waterloo 2015 - A Funny Little War


This apparently is available on cafepress

A note with regard to photographs - I have taken care to upload full sized versions of all the pictures that I took.  Because of the nature of the game and the terrain, examining them as is will probably not be very enlightening.  I would encourage you to click on them to make them larger and take a closer look. 


Last week, I took part in a Waterloo Bicentennial Game organised by the Funny Little Wars fraternity. I traveled over to London to take part and it was just wonderful. I met some friends like Tim, who I have known through the blogosphere for years, and others like Bob & Paul, who I'd met in person before. I also had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of some new friends and take part in what was without doubt one of the highlights of my wargaming career. 

Played on a gloriously sunny day this was an epic undertaking involving a lawn area of nearly sixty yards by thirty, over 2000 1/32 scale soldiers and ten players.





The Field of Mars
(shot with the viewers back to Wavre, looking along the Allied position, the 
small cluster of buildings in the left middle ground is Placenoit)
(click to embiggen) 





French Hussars scouting in the distance
(click to embiggen) 

This is a highly subjective, deeply partisan and necessarily fragmentary account of the game. Those of you might prefer a more coherent narrative, should turn to the efforts of Messrs Gow, Cordery and Carrick.  I was enjoying myself far too much to pause to take many pictures and I suppose in many ways, my favourite parts of the battle are absent from this record because I was having far, far too much fun doing to think about recording the moment for posterity. 





A view from La Bella Alliance Farm (I think) - while the French lay out their forces.
(click to embiggen)  

The game began with us laying out troops using small flags, these were thrust into the ground to mark the location of troops, while we unpacked the boxes.  This actually got a little confusing at one point, when I accidentally deployed troops meant for Bob's flank in the centre. 



At the models eye view, the lawn does not seem so flat
(click to embiggen) 

Many wargamers revel in games that involve vast numbers of figures and there is a joy in ranks and ranks of toy soldiers that thrills the heart. But, what impressed me about the game was how open the battle was. Lines formed and columns marched and match stick cannon fire flew across the field, but despite the number of troops, the game never felt claustrophobic. The sheer size of the play area swallowed up even the huge number of troops we were using and left the game feeling quite open and fluid.  




There are a fearful lot of those Frenchers
(click to embiggen) 

Even the huge column of several hundred French figures here didn't feel too weighty and there was none of the wall-to-wall troops that many big games become. There was plenty of maneuvre to be done, which kept the battle short and lively. 



French cavalry probing our line
(click to embiggen) 

These fellows scouted out the defended villages of La Haie Sainte. I had held them with infantry, but did not reveal the artillery I had concealed there until the French cavalry were charging in to assault the squares I had strung between them. 





The Mont St Jean position, which ably defended by "Dead-eye" Carrick
(click to embiggen) 

For the most part, with the exception of some trees and a few buildings, we left the ground to be the ground so to speak, but it wouldn't be Waterloo without the Mont St. Jean ridge.  Bob and Brian kept a goodly portion of our infantry on the reverse of the slope, ready to meet the French attack. Our general plan was to play the French out for as long as possible, so that the Prussians could arrive. 






Mark (or should that be Marc?) moving his French rotters down the road towards La Haie Sainte
What insidious devilry could he be planning? 
(click to embiggen) 






I think I may have broken the code...
(click to embiggen) 



A view of the Allied position before lunch 
(Mont St. Jean to the right, La Haie Sainte. Placenoit out of shot to the left)
(click to embiggen) 

I can not understate how much I enjoyed this game. I am generally the game organiser and the host, so I rarely get to play without having half an eye on what is going on in the game as a whole. Now it is a role that I relish, but it was a departure for me to arrive to play a game and not really have to think about the setup or the scenario or anything other than playing the game for it's own sake. It was a very enjoyable experience.  I think it helped that I purposely decided that I would not think of Waterloo while we were playing.  So rather than trying to map what was occuring to my understanding of the battle, I focused on playing the game as game. 



A brigade of Frog cavalry hoving into view 
(click to embiggen) 

This had the strange somewhat counter intuitive effect that moments in the game seemed to mirror those of the actual battle without us actively attempting to do so.  There was a massive French cavalry attack on my squares in the centre that could have been directed by Sergei Bondarchuk himself.






My brave Scotsmen prepare to receive them in square. 
(click to embiggen) 







Meanwhile, the RHA have been moving up to support the Prussians who were coming in  on our left
(these were some really beautiful old plastics painted by Brian, wonderful)
(click to embiggen) 

I'd been shoring up our left flank with the Household cavalry supported by some Dutchmen, dancing around and generally trying to look intimidating so that the French didn't attempt to drive a wedge between us and the Prussians. Fortunately Blucher - ahem - I mean Anthony cracked on in a style that would have made the mad old hussar proud.  To be honest, he channeled Blucher so successively that the only question is whether he's stopped screaming "VORVARTS!"(1) at things.




My gallant lads shortly after sending the flower of the French cavalry to the knackers yard
(I really wish I had taken more photographs of this...)
(click to embiggen) 





Meanwhile, over on the Allied right, a massive cavalry battle was developing
(click to embiggen) 




The French punched through the Allied line
(click to embiggen) 





The lone survivor of the 18th "Drogheda Cossacks" scoots for the rear
(click to embiggen) 



But he has found spiritual solace
(click to embiggen) 








Blucher (left) and others look on while Mark defends Placenoit from the advancing Prussians
(click to embiggen) 

After the massive cavalry battle on the right, the Prussians began to arrive in force. The French guns ably manned by Mark and Mike (who has curiously managed to be almost entirely absent from these pictures) simply could not knock down enough of them. 







Just look at all those lovely, lovely sausage munchers go
(click to embiggen) 


Mark attempts to stave off the advancing Prussians, just as the game is coming to a close
(click to embiggen)  

So, there you have it.  The game ended after a sort of happy blur - to be honest, I think the only thing that could have made it better was if I had been able to get a little bit more sleep the night before. I'm totally smitten with the idea of garden wargaming now.  It was really interesting to see how the change in the nature of space totally transformed the game. Now Mrs. Kinch runs to a (though I say so myself) very fine flower garden, but there is no lawn to be had. 

Another aspect that complete transformed the game, which has been totally absent from our indoor Little Wars games has been the dips and rises in the ground. No lawn however well tended is entirely flat and it was very surprising to see troops disappear from sight, once one got down to fire ones cannon from the models eye view, into dead ground that was totally invisible when viewed from the lofty height of a 5'10. 

The game was wonderful.  The company was wonderful. The spectacle was probably never to be repeated. I cannot say enough good things about the experience. 

However, it has left me nursing imperial ambitions regarding nearby lawns and muttering greedily about yardsticks and movement trays.  

I think Little Wars will have to ride again. 


(1) Reports that a wargaming Englishman was removed from a Tescos somewhere in the midlands last Thursday after repeatedly screaming "FORWARDS MY CHILDREN! DEATH TO THE FRENCH!" at the dairy counter are unconfirmed and no doubt scurrilous. 

17 comments:

  1. (1) it wasn't the Midlands, I understand this happened in Woking...

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  2. A wonderful, most entertaining report of the game. Don't worry, you were never at any risk of understating how much you enjoyed yourself, which is what it is all about, n'est pas?!!!

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  3. Garden wargaming...now that is something not tried since I was a wee lad. Looks like a very entertaining afternoon for you and your friends.

    Good show!

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    1. It is tremendous fun and I would recommend anyone give it a shot if the opportunity presents itself.

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  4. Excellent looking game - you were blessed with the weather ! , Tony

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    1. We were - and the heavens had been opening the previous day.

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  5. Excellent photos...it's interesting to see how 2000 figures can be lost in such a large field. The only solution is to buy more!

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    1. Now that is some inescapable logic right there.

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  6. Amazing. Hugely enjoyable I expect.

    Thank you for the heartfelt account, it really looks like something wonderfully memorable.

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    1. It was excellent. Looks like I might be making it to the Oldhammer day after all.

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  7. This kind of thing might be very well at the end of a bucolic English summer (!), but I suspect the Irish weather might do any plans in > that said we'll have to keep an eye on the long-term forecast; my back garden might do for a skirmish...

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    1. Only if we let it Donogh. I actually have my eye on a venue a little closer to home, but we shall see.

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  8. Superb ! Certainly captures the spirit of the hobby, what? Some of the photos appear life-like. Well -played Mr. Kinch !

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    1. Thank you very much Jubilo. I'm itching to give it another try.

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