Jim Owczarski, 20 February 2021
A group of Dragoons — not all of whom are big Napoleonic nuts — are making their way through many different versions of the Battle of Quatre Bras to decide which is the best, but also talk about how they each handle the iconic battle. This is the second after action report. And no, if you were checking, you didn’t miss Quatre Bras II. That’s coming later. With Quatre Bras V. I know, it’s complicated.
The Ruleset: The legendary Frank Chadwick’s Volley and Bayonet: Road to Glory. As was discussed during “Saturday Night Fights”, the same fellow that gave us Twilight: 2000, War in the East, and Space: 1889, wrote a classic set of black powder rules.
Can I Still Buy a Copy?: Yes.
How Many Players?: Five, three French and two Allied.
How Long Did It Take?: Rules had to be taught and that added somewhere near an hour, so we were not able to complete the scenario within four hours. That said, as will be seen below, a definite outcome was reached to the satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) of everyone playing.
How’d It Play?: I will now speak what some would think heresy hereabouts: In some respects, Volley and Bayonet, despite its years, is a better game than Blucher. I sincerely doubt the latter would exist without the former, but it is more than honoring the bloodline. Some things folks particularly liked:
- Volley and Bayonet makes extensive use of commanders, down to the divisional level and relies on them to maintain command and control. This became an intriguing and, yes, at times frustrating “game within a game” for the players. It also feels true to the era.
- The dramatic movement rates — far greater than those in Blucher — make the game seem to flow more, even on a smallish board like that for Quatre Bras.
- Perhaps related to #1 above, players seemed to prefer the notion that everybody moves and “does something” every turn in Volley and Bayonet as opposed to Blucher’s abstracting command control into the limited pool of momentum points. I am fairly confident this relates to Volley and Bayonet being created as a set of rules with multi-player in mind.
- Players also liked the combat system which flowed well, although, as it turns out, we let defenders be inappropriately “shooty” which definitely played against the French. They may on this basis be entitled to a re-match.
The battle went this way:
The Allies again invested Gemioncourt Farm with the Dutch and the men of Nassau. This time, though, they hung back a bit north of the stream that ran near it. Unlike the first game, this marshy stream disordered all those crossing it which would further muck up the French advance.
The French came straight up the Brussels Road, if they did send a brigade of cuirassiers to sneak round the Allied left. How that many men, clad in shiny chest pieces and riding big horses sneaks, I do not know.
The initial rush past Gemioncourt was shattered by defensive fire. As I mentioned earlier, the Allies certainly got too much of it and the local commander rolled like a man possessed. Making matters worse, though, the first two French divisions in had low exhaustion levels and they were hors de combat before the battle was three-turns old. Note that in this image, taken from the height of the fight, Quatre Bras is several hundred yard still to the north.
Unlike the earlier battle, a great deal of fighting took place in the close quarters of the woods. Here again, though, the French got much of the worst of it with Best’s men driving off an entire division.
Late in the game, the remainder of the cavalry reserve tried to pile-drive its way to the Allied left using their march moves, hence the extra bases behind them. I personally think a commitment to a flank move like this one is a key to French success in this scenario. By this time, though, it was decided that the French would not be able to make up for their two already-exhausted divisions and, as the Allies would win ties, it was decided to call the game for the Duke of Wellington.
A picture of the game state when the fight ended.
Overall “Project: Quatre Bras” score: Allies 1, French 0, one draw
Next up? Prof. Sam Mustafa’s brand new offering, Lasalle 2. Set for Saturday 2/20/21 at 1800 CST
The video of the Volley and Bayonet festivities is here:
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