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It is a bit harsh to get the French to fight Quatre Bras twice!

5 years 9 months ago #1 by mcaryf

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  • The heading for this thread reflects my initial thoughts when I realised that the designer for the Quatre Bras scenarios had used the same OOB strength ratings for the French as for Waterloo. As the Waterloo French numbers already included the French losses at Quatre Bras it seemed rather harsh to have the French start the Battle of Quatre Bras with their actual losses already subtracted. However, this post is not intended as a criticism of the designer’s decision concerning the French but rather an appeal for help to clarify what the Allied unit strengths should be for the start of the campaign. A brief comment about the designer’s choice – Quatre Bras is a very difficult battle to simulate if you want to create a balanced one off-game. The outcome of the real battle was only a draw because the French did not initially realise that they had a very significant strength advantage. Thus the designer’s decision that effectively removed 4,000 or so men from the French starting force was not unreasonable. I am less sure about the strengths of the Allied units also being the same as those at Waterloo and I will return to that after briefly explaining the project I have in mind.

    My current project does not set out to create balanced scenarios but rather it is an attempt to see how feasible it really was for Napoleon to seek to create a series of asymmetric battles by rapid manoeuvre so that he could weaken the allies individually and eventually prevail. I am doing this initially for my own amusement but if I can create a set of scenarios, tools and rules for progressing from battle to battle then I may publish the resulting material for others to try. Thus my campaign will start with QB and the French player will get a choice at a particular time as to which of D’Erlon’s divisions to use at QB. Any not used will potentially be available at Ligny. If the French player can achieve certain objectives at QB he will inflict extra losses on Wellington, however, if he fails to hold onto other objectives then any of D’Erlon's divisions he chose not to use will have to be recalled and will not have participated in either battle. Thereafter the French player fights Ligny using whichever of D’Erlon's divisions the QB results allow. There will be 3 objectives at Ligny which will determine the level of French victory (or defeat) obtaining just 1 will be a draw, 2 or 3 will inflict increasingly serious additional desertion losses on the Prussians with 2 equating to the 10k historically lost. Depending on the outcomes at QB and Ligny the next battles might be at one or other of those locations but more likely will move to a battle for a River Dyle crossing which will determine how many Prussian units participate at Waterloo. Finally Waterloo will be fought as a one or two day battle with the losses from previous battles carried forward. Napoleon can win on day one by breaking through to Brussels but if the battle goes to day 2 all remaining forces on both sides will participate. If at the end of any day Napoleon’s strength after wounded recoveries has fallen below somewhere between 80k and 90k then the best result will be a draw as that level of strength will be needed to deal with the Austrian and Russian threats.

    Returning to the Allied strengths I am looking for help with respect to a good, ideally web based, set of data giving Wellington’s starting forces. Just as an example with the Norbsoft data Merlen’s Dutch Light Cavalry is given the same strength of around 1,100 for both QB and Waterloo scenarios so they do not include QB casualties. Dutch sources show that he started with well over 1,000 but lost 168 casualties and 203 missing at QB. They indicate that the 200 or so missing were largely those whose horses had been shot, unfortunately quite a few by British troops because these Dutch and some French cavalry were both wearing green uniforms! Most of the men were still missing at Waterloo because they had been unable to obtain remounts so his Waterloo strength should have been in the 700s.

    British casualties were the greatest at QB comprising about 50% of the total and at around 2,500 of the order of 10% of the whole British contingent that fought at Waterloo. The 2nd and 3rd Btns. of the 1st Foot Guards both have strengths of just over 1,000 in the two scenarios but both suffered casualties in excess of 200 at QB. So should their campaign starting strength have been over 1,200 or should the Waterloo OOBs have been significantly reduced?

    Regards

    Mike

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    5 years 8 months ago #2 by RebBugler

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  • From HQ: The original OOB was with unit strengths for the beginning of the campaign. They were inadvertently not adjusted for Waterloo itself.

    So, CarryOver scenarios through QB, Ligny, and Wavre to Waterloo will eventually better represent Waterloo strength numbers.

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    5 years 8 months ago #3 by mcaryf

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  • Hi Reb

    Belated thanks to you and HQ for the reply to my post on OOB strengths - I have been on vacation for a couple of weeks so did not acknowledge before.

    I am fairly sure that the French strengths given for the start of QB already include the losses that were historically incurred at QB. There are some detailed reports in a paper by Oman concerning French officer casualties at both QB and Ligny. A reasonable rule of thumb converts officer losses to total losses by multiplying by 21. I have done this for Oman's starting officer numbers and casualty figures at QB and after adding these back in to the QB OOB, the French battalions in Reille's Corps start to have much more consistent numbers at the start of QB. On the other hand my further research on Allied losses confirms that those were not included in Waterloo. Thus Waterloo is historically unbalanced with Allied units such as the Guards being much too strong and QB is historically unbalanced with French units being too weak. I have not looked in such detail at Ligny yet but I think the situation is not so bad as the Waterloo participants played a lesser role at Ligny.

    I should of course say that the designers will have balanced the game play in other ways at both QB and Waterloo so any players thinking of just making changes to the strengths in the two standard battle scenarios would create a different imbalance.

    During my vacation I have been thinking a bit more about how to create a campaign that flows through the preliminary battles ending up at Waterloo. It is both interesting but complicated to attempt to create the two battles of QB and Ligny happening simultaneously but also influencing each other. It would be fun to create a multi-player situation with delayed messages/orders passing across to players who otherwise do not know how the other battle is progressing. However, my priority is a method for a single player v AI or 2 players v each other to handle this situation. My solution would be to play the two battles in a series of episodes with binding decisions having to be taken at specific time intervals. An example would be that a single player might play QB up until 4.30 pm and then play Ligny up until 5 pm at which time the player has to take an irrevocable decision which of D'Erlon's units should be ordered to Ligny - the idea being that Napoleon would have received a report from Ney concerning the situation at 4.30 pm which obviously is the player's own knowledge. The player would then continue with Ligny until 6.30 pm thinking that the troops will most probably arrive about then. The QB game is then restarted and the player has to conform to the order concerning D'Erlon that is notionally received at 5.30 pm (I am assuming that messengers pass between the two commanders in about 30 minutes whilst transfers moving along roads take about 60 minutes). The QB battle is then continued until 6.30 pm and, if during this time certain objectives are lost, some of the units sent to Ligny have to be recalled and effectively do not take part in either battle.

    I can see opportunities for further variants on this even to the extent of the French being able to reinforce QB from Ligny if the Prussians are decisively defeated before, say, 7 pm. At the moment I am thinking I would have to create the scenarios with the potential reinforcements for both battles already built into the scenario file which would mean that only units that had not already suffered more than trivial casualties would be allowed to be transferred. I can carry forward casualties that have been incurred at the end of a battle (see next para) but I am not sure that it would work at an intermediate point and involving two separate battles so I would be interested in suggestions to address this.

    For use at the end of a discrete battle I have been kindly given access by another player to a tool that allows casualties to be carried forward into a new OOB which I can then load into the next relevant scenario.csv file. I have now got this working with an OOB that integrates both the QB and Ligny starting forces and should flow through to Waterloo with a bit more work. The Waterloo complications occur where the OOB structures historically differ as a few units were moved between corps but it is doable. The tool also has the ability to provide percentages for reinforcements between battles - no significant unit reinforcement happened in the Waterloo campaign but there were additional losses between battles. I have experimented with making the reinforcement percentage a negative number and this does work albeit only operating on units that have already suffered losses. I think I will use this for armies, e.g. the Prussians, who have been defeated and forced to retreat to generate additional losses. The fact that it increases the losses of already shaken units seems to be a sensible effect. I would fine tune it by increasing the percentage negative recruitment if the victorious side had substantial quantities of fresh cavalry to harry the retreat as the Prussians did to the French after Waterloo.

    I would be interested in any comments on these ideas particularly how I might handle casualties in units that are effectively being transferred part way between two concurrent battles.

    If by any chance the developers are thinking of a campaign themselves I am very happy for them to make free use of any ideas I have suggested here.

    Regards

    Mike
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    5 years 8 months ago - 5 years 8 months ago #4 by RebBugler

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  • Excellent ideas! Once Wavre is released the '100 Day Battle' can really begin. :)
    And ideas turn into mods. ;)

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    Last edit: 5 years 8 months ago by RebBugler.

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    5 years 8 months ago #5 by mcaryf

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  • Hi Reb
    Thank you for your comment.

    A consideration about Wavre is that as it played out historically it was pretty well an irrelevant battle. If the developers are not too far into it I would hope they might somehow build an optional scenario for a what if Grouchy actually headed much earlier in the day for the two bridges across the Dyle at Moustier and Ottinges to the West of Wavre. These were closer to Waterloo and if Grouchy had been trying to cross earlier a battle could have delayed or diverted some of the Prussians heading for Plancenoit and had a real impact on the outcome of Waterloo.

    Regards

    Mike

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    5 years 8 months ago - 5 years 8 months ago #6 by mcaryf

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  • One of the main reasons I modify wargames is to help myself understand more fully the opportunities and constraints historical commanders had and to evaluate alternative actions they could have considered. I have read dozens of books and articles on the 100 days campaign but I have never before come across or considered an issue that I have encountered when thinking about the Battle of Ligny for my campaign version.

    I had decided that I should make the situation at 2pm on 16th June 1815 the historic starting point but be prepared to let history be varied after that time to see how realistic an opportunity Napoleon actually had of winning. To do this he not only had to capture Brussels but also would have needed sufficient surviving troops to confront or deter his other enemies, such as the Russians and Austrians. I have assumed 80K plus for this. One of the first points I considered for Ligny was how to improve Napoleon’s concentration of his forces. As far as I am aware every writer or commentator on Ligny has criticised Napoleon for the failure to organise Lobau’s VIth Corps to be available earlier to participate in the battle. However, with the benefit of hindsight I have now understood that even if Lobau had been present at, say, 5pm and contributed to a larger victory margin it would probably have done Napoleon no good with respect to the eventual outcome of the campaign. Just as an example let us assume Lobau’s earlier presence resulted in additional losses of, say, 5k troops and 50 guns for the Prussians at a cost of 1k casualties to Lobau’s VIth Corps.

    Unfortunately for the French any additional Prussian losses at Ligny would have had minimal impact on the forces they brought to Waterloo. Around 80% of the Prussians participants at Waterloo and pretty well all those that had the decisive impact of absorbing Napoleon’s reserves before 7pm came from Bulow’s IVth Corps. They were still many hour’s march away from Ligny when the outcome was resolved there and could not realistically be prevented in the campaign from joining Wellington at Waterloo. Thus no really significant additional Prussian losses would be carried forward to Waterloo but Lobau’s French would have suffered a reduction in their strength for that battle.

    I think my campaign is going to be quite challenging for the French player as there is a similar historically accurate effect at Quatre Bras. If Wellington had suffered more serious losses at Quatre Bras then he would most probably have made them good by calling in the 17k troops he had based on his flank at Hal. The French player will have no such luxury of additional reserve troops to make up for any heavier losses they suffer even if they have been incurred by winning more decisively at QB.

    Regards

    Mike
    Last edit: 5 years 8 months ago by mcaryf.

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    5 years 8 months ago #7 by Saddletank

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  • Be careful about how flexible you allow your Anglo-Allied commander to be with the Hal Contingent. Wellington placed this there partly to have forces close to Ghent (and the French Royal Court-in-Exile which had to be protected) but the Hal Contingent also contained the other Dutch-Belgian Division (Detmer's). Wellington is on record as saying that he needed to keep part of the Dutch-Belgian army in-being so that, in the event of an Anglo-Prusian defeat south of Brussels, the Dutch King would have some military forces in-being, a significant political factor.

    It's my view that if the Battle of Waterloo was lost, Wellington would give up Brussels before bringing in the Hal Contingent. North of Brussels the remaining Anglo-Dutch forces (now reinforced by the Hal troops) would still be sufficiently numerous to force Napoleon to leave troops to cover them. The Prussians would presumably fall back on the Lower Rhine and Wellington on Antwerp or possibly even Rotterdam and Utrecht.

    The loss of Brussels would oblige King Louis XVIII to leave Ghent, most likely taking his court to London.

    The politics of the VII Coalition begins to heavily outweigh the purely military problems at this stage (post a lost Waterloo).

    I feel sure Wellington would do his utmost to keep Coalition forces in northern Holland as a threat to Napoleon's flank after he turned to face the Austro-Russians on the middle Rhine. A safe French royal court and a Dutch-Belgian army still partly operational are the two big political "must haves" for the Coalition at this stage.

    Evan a victory at Waterloo would have done Napoleon no good - by the later summer 400,000+ Austro-Russian-German troops would be crossing the Rhine with Napoleon physically unwell and many of his most able Marshals no longer beside him the conclusion would not be in doubt.

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    5 years 8 months ago #8 by mcaryf

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  • Hi Saddletank

    You may well be right in the grand historical perspective but I think my campaign can only last up until possibly a second day at Waterloo so the players should be free to use the contingent at Hal either on the first or second day. In practice my campaign, if it reaches the stage of being published as a mod, will only be a set of guidelines plus some scenarios and maybe methods to carry forward OOBs. My guideline would be that if Wellington's losses at QB were within a thousand or so of historical at QB then he would not call in the Hal force but if greater than that the player could call in numbers of troops as reinforcements to existing Allied units to partially rebuild those that had been badly shattered. Using the actual Hal units would probably result in too complex a variation for the day 1 scenario and having the historic units built back up would avoid the deployment at day 1 Waterloo having excessively weak forces in the wrong place. The day 2 Waterloo scenario might possibly use one or two Hal units as reinforcements as well as any Prussians judged to have been delayed by whatever force the French player has assigned to Grouchy.

    I have been reading Clausewitz on the Waterloo Campaign and he makes a significant point about units that have participated in heavy fighting during an afternoon and evening needing to rest and regroup on the following morning. As he was actually a participant his views have to be given more weight than armchair generals who reckon, for example, that Ney should have been attacking Wellington early on the 17 June. I am thinking of making a guideline that Quatre Bras can only be resumed by the French when they have more "fresh" divisions present than Wellington.


    Regards

    Mike

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