This friday evening we were spoiled by Gerco. He had prepared a scenario based on the battle of Wavre. In this case a what if type scenario, the what if being what if Grouchy had done what he was ordered to do: pursue the Prussians and make sure they could not interfere with Napoleon crushing Wellington.
It was a large scenario with some 50 units in the table and 5 to 6 players per side. I was on the Prussian side. Prussians in this case was to have a broad definition as dictated by the availability of figures. So my “Prussians” looked remarkably similar to Dutch and Nassau infantry and many other “Prussians” were clad in red uniforms so typical for you know who.
The setup was that the Prussians would start at one corner of the table and would try to exit at the other end which would lead them to Waterloo. One forwards brigade occupied a small village down the road. The French were to stop the Prussians from exiting the table.
Along the table ran a stream lined with a number of villages. The stream was defined as difficult to cross and a unit needed 1 full move to cross, so move up to the stream then one move to get to the other side and then forwards again. At each village there was a bridge.
The Prussians decided to deploy two brigades along the stream in order to block the advancing French and have the rest of the army advance along the road to Waterloo. The French had first turn but all the brigades did not respond to the order to advance. This gave the Prussians one full move along the road and things looked well for Wellington. However, next turn the French advanced out of the woods and made their presence felt. Along the stream an extensive fire fight broke out while the Prussian columns advanced further. With only one artillery battery available and the French advancing in mixed formation columns the casualties were moderate and the French columns advanced steadily and surely.
Then came the turn of the french reserves. The far right of the table from the Prussian point of view suddenly was filled with massive french units which quickly advanced towards the road to Waterloo. We started to count and a Fxxx! kind of feeling got hold of the Prussian command. The single advanced Prussian brigade had on unit of cavalry available. These were charged by French confident French cavalry. It was not to be for the French. The brave Prussians swept the French aside and then seeing a second French cavalry unit in march column and in reach swept forwards, and with predictable results.
Along the stream the french made several attempts to charge across. However, the skirmishing Nassau jägers evaded which put the French columns right before the Nassau infantry in line and the Dutch artillery. Over the course of the next rounds the fire fight disordered the units on both sides meaning that no close combats occurred. One of the French second line columns charged across the bridge but was taken care of by Prussian hussars and swept back.
The arriving French reserves made the Prussian command to reconsider their approach. Punching through towards Waterloo did not seem to be a viable option. So one brigade was deployed towards the stream with the aim of destroying the French army part that was trying to cross. The rest deployed to face the oncoming French reserves. The Prussians made one little mistake. They forgot that at every village the stream was fordable. So when two Prussian line deployed next to a village the French saw an opportunity: an empty village. Vive L’Empereur and in went a battalion. Realizing their mistake the Prussians wheeled and charged in both battalions. It took them two turns to capture the village.
By now the first French brigades were hitting their break point because of casualties and started to fall back towards the woods where they came from. On the Prussian far left the French infantry proved tough, but not enough. In the centre and after having captured the village the Prussians advanced across the stream in pursuit of the retreating French brigade. One of the French reserve commanders saw the opportunity and skillfully deployed a battery in enfilading fire on the most forward Prussian infantry unit. That was the end of that unit.
From my eye-corners I could see the massive fight on the Prussian right on the road to Waterloo. It was a true cauldron with neither side gaining a clear advantage. However, along the stream a further brigade was broken which brought the number of broken brigades above the army break point. A Prussian victory! A victory without a HURRAH, however. The Prussians were stuck on the road and lost precious time. Wellington would remain on his own. What effect would that have on the course of history?