ARMY COMMAND & STRUCTURE for BEGINNERS


The first part of a three essay series on the three armies that fought in the 100 Days Campaign

Charge of the Life Guards at Waterloo by Mark Churms

PART I The British/Dutch Army at Waterloo

COMMAND:

For a beginning player, one look at the Allied Army on the field at Waterloo can induce overwhelming confusion. Here's some tips on how to proceed with command:

Your Army Commander is Wellington. He has an unlimited hex range command modifier (small "c" on his unit icon) which is "B." That means he has 5 chances in 6 ("A" would = 6 in 6, "F"=1 in 6 etc.) on a 6 sided die roll, to pass along his command modifier to the next level of command which is Corps Command. You have two Corps Commanders; The unfortunate Prince of Orange (I don't know why he was unfortunate but everybody calls him that) who commands I Corps and General Hill (II Corps). Like Wellington, the Corps Commanders also have unlimited range to pass on their command modifiers to the next level; Divisional Command. Here's where your command problems become tangible.

For the Divisional Commanders to pass on their command modifier to the next lower level (Brigade Command) they must be within 4 HEXES of the Brigade commander who must then be within 2 HEXES of all his battalions. So the magic numbers here are 4 & 2. It is imperative to keep a tight command structure so that the command modifiers can be passed on to each battalion, to re-order them when they become disordered. Units become disordered sometimes when they pass through obstructed terrain, after melee and most often, when they take casualties during an enemy fire phase. In the enemy DEFENSIVE PHASE if your unit fails a moral check (6 sided die roll based upon your battalion's moral); Militia, which usually have a moral of "2" will disorder on any roll higher than that. Guard units, with a moral of "7" will never disorder in an enemy defensive phase. In an enemy OFFENSIVE PHASE, your units will always disorder is if they take a hit and rout if they fail the moral check. So, Militia, will rout on a roll of "3" or more, while Guard will only rout if there are extra modifiers applied, for example, disordered units check moral with a +2 modifier, attacked in flank in another +2, so a disordered Guard unit with a moral of "7" attacked in flank will have a cumulative +4 added to the die roll. So it's possible they can rout too.

Unlike the French Army, the British/Dutch has very few commanders to pass along modifiers: So your units do not have the resiliency of the French. Be prepared to play the game with very few of your Army's units regaining good order in the command phase. At best, they will have only 4 chances in 6 of re-ordering: Wellington > Corps Command > Divisional Command > Brigade Command. And there; only in I Corps & II Corps. All units attached to "Reserve" and "Cavalry Reserve" have only 3 chances in 6 to re-order, and then only if Wellington and the Divisional commanders in the "Reserve" pass their command checks to the Brigade commanders. Other independent outfits like Lambert's & von Kruse's big boppers, which operate without a division command, (their divisions are elsewhere) will re-order at best 2 chances out of 6. Keep in mind however that big units like that pack a lot of firepower even when disordered as long as they are in line formation.

STRUCTURE:

1. This is essential: Don't be in a hurry to move everything around. Wellington's deployments can serve you as a firm base of operations for your battlefield management. Right off the bat, there's an interesting group of units in your center which you should try to not move until in desperate need. They are Lambert's 10th British brigade, von Krause's Nasssau Reserve Contingent, Somerset's 1st Cavalry brigade & Ponseby's 2nd cavalry brigade and General Colbert's Dutch- Belgian cavalry division, which is a right fine outfit. Leave all these outfits alone for a while. This reduces the number of decisions you have to make every turn and it insures you a nice little army group for use late in the game. Those two infantry brigades are very strong and when you use 'em, make sure they are in line. Believe me, those 900 strength battalions pack a lot of punch when in line formation! There's no greater satisfaction in Napoleonic wargaming than to have an 800 strength unit in line formation firing at enemy infantry units in column formation.

2. Colbert's Dutch- Belgique cavalry division, believe it or not, is the best cavalry detachment you have. The reason for this is that Colbert, as division commander, has three powerful cav brigades under his command along with two batteries of guns. The rest of the British cavalry, all 7 brigades of them, have only ONE divisional commander (Uxbridge) which means that to insure command integrity, those 7 British cav brigades need to be within 4 hexes command radius of Uxbridge in order to have a reasonable chance to re-order after a charge. The Dutch-Belgiques can operate on their own! Keep them together.

The Left Wing, aka. The Smohain Complex.

Fight there with the skirmishers from those two D-B light battalions. Put the skirms in the chateaux, orchids and towns, where they can't be overrun by cavalry. If your opponent wants to make a push over there; let him fight through your light troops (hold those chateaux!) and come to your 4th & 5th Hanoverians in line. Those boys don't have much moral but they have some firepower! And they are backed up by 2 fine cavalry brigades and Pack's 9th British brigade. Be prepared to fall back on your left. Again, you don't have to move a lot of troops here. Trust Wellington's deployments, play with the cards that are dealt 'ya and any French player foolish enough to commit major resources to a push in that area will soon have the Prussians at his back. If you have to fall back there, fall back to Mont St. Jean town & farm and make that the Main Line of Resistance (MLR).

The Center.

This is more of a problem here especially with the guns deployed forward. At the first hint of an enemy push here you need to get the guns out of there before they are overrun by cavalry or else deploy infantry in front of them to prevent that. Fight like crazy to hold La Haye Saint farm and if the enemy by-passes the farm counter attack with infantry, cavalry & horse guns which can move, unlimber & shoot all in one turn. This is the essence of combined arms attacks. Use all three forms and make sure Uxbridge is there to re-order the cav after they are spent from the charge.

The Right.

The key defensive terrain here is the Hougomont complex which is one tough nut to crack. If you lose that place then the ridge behind it might well fall too; although it's not automatic. If the ridge does fall and the enemy place guns up there and proceed intelligently you are in a lot of trouble. Remember though, it's much more difficult for the French to hold Hougomont than for you. If you lose it, counter-attack to re-take it; again making sure Uxbridge is there to personally lead the cavalry contingent. Your structure on the right is again well deployed. II Army Corps is in good position and I would try to hold them in reserve. Hill is the II Corps commander and Clinton (who begins the game in a forward position with Mitchell; get him out of there!) commands the 2nd Division which is all of it. The outfit behind them is the Duke of Brunswick's private army. Unfortunately for you, the Duke got hisself killt at Quatre Bras so Offermans is in command which means they have at best 3 chances in 6 to re-order while units in II Corps have 4 chances. If you can, use the scenario editor to increase the strength of the 52nd Light Battalion (II Corps) to about 900. For some reason, it's understrength.

Another key terrain feature on the right is the town of Braine 'l Alleud whose defense is entrusted to Chasse's 3rd D-B infantry division of I Corps which is a good outfit. Hold the light battalions in reserve and break 'em down into skirms to fight in the town. If the enemy makes a major push here, and most French players do, these boys will need support: Brusnwick & II Corps are the logical choices. You can't blame a French player for using two squadrons of lancers to destroy your most forward deployed battery of guns here. Be prepared for that.

Finally, you'll probably be faced with a mechanized infantry attack, i.e. the type of assault where the French player cranks up all units, gets 'em on the roads to close everywhere as soon as possible and attacks everywhere all at once hoping for a quick decision figuring that he's gonna lose anyway if the attack fails and the Prussians arrive. It's not Napoleonics but rather generic wargaming (the field could be anywhere; the units on the east front; it's the panzerblitz mentality spawned by games with short duration spans and quick resolutions) and it's your choice as to whether or not you want to play against it. As wargaming goes it's an effective attack but it's not the kind of military movements which were customary in the 19th Century. If you're interested in Napoleonics, look for opponents who wish to re-create the mood & movements of a Napoleonic battle rather then just win baby. Good luck.

John Egan

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This page updated on 08/10/02.