Thursday 18 June 2015

Waterloo - a Russo-Japanese War refight

Waterloo ... 18th June 1815 ... 200th Anniversary .. etc etc ... if you need to know more then then look at wiki

For the past several months I've been playing my La Haye Sainte game at various shows in England. At the club this week I did think about playing it to commemorate the battle but honestly couldn't face it.
Japanese Kobi battalions attack Plancenoit

A few years ago I commemorated the D-Day battle of Pointe du Hoc by playing a game roughly based around it using troops from the French Intervention in Mexico in the 1860s. Therefore I decided to refight Waterloo with my 10mm Russo-Japanese Wars armies using Battles for Empire (BFE). So that's a Napoleonic battle fought with early 20th century troops using a set of Colonial rules

I commanded the Japanese who would play the part of the Anglo-Allied and Prussian armies and the Russians, commanded by Rodge, would be the French. I told Rodge that this was a refight of Waterloo and that the Japanese reinforcements would be coming in from the north because the table was flipped.

The Scenario
A Kobi battalion rests before the battle

During the battle of Mukden a Japanese attack to the north of the city has been held and the Russians are counter-attacking. The Japanese have fallen back on a ridge line but have had no time to prepare defenses before the Russians attack. The Japanese can expect reinforcements from the north but must hold the line otherwise the Russians will outflank the Japanese forces engaged to the south.

The Battlefield

I dumbed down the battlefield and flipped it so that Hougoumont was on the Japanese left flank and Plancenoit would be vaguely on their right flank. The were a few fields of kaoliang dotted around.

The Forces
The Japanese Commander waits for the Russians to advance

6 Battalions of Line Infantry
3 Battalions of Kobi (Reserve) Infantry
4 Batteries of Artillery
2 Hotchkiss MG companies

These troops can  deploy anywhere east of the blue line

3 Battalions of Line Infantry
6 Battalions of Kobi (Reserve) Infantry

Each turn roll 1D6 and note the score - 3 battalions appear when the score reaches 10, then a further 3 battalions at 20 and  the last 3 battalions at 30. Each reinforcement appears randomly along the north table edge.
The Russian commander watches his troops go over the ridge
16 Battalions of Line Infantry
4 Batteries of Artillery
4 Maxim MG companies
2 Sotnia Cossacks

All troops start on the western table edge


The Japanese deployed as follows taking full advantage of the buildings and the reverse slope of the ridge
The Japanese Southern flank with Hougoumont in the distance

Southern flank
1 Line Battalion in Hougoumont
2 Artillery batteries and 1 MG Company on the ridge 
2 Line battalions behind the ridge 

1 Line Battalion in La Haye Sainte
1 Artillery battery and 1 MG Company on the Ridge 
2 Line battalions behind the ridge 
The Kobi battalions defend the Japanese Northern flank 

Northern flank
1 Kobi Battalion and 1 Artillery battery on the Ridge 
2 Kobi battalions behind the ridge 

The Russians deployed the artillery as a "grand battery" across the central road with 3 battalions to the south. The remainder of the force deployed north of the road. I thought that this was a cunning plan on Rodge's part as he would be coming face-to-face with the reinforcements. Rodge however had forgotten that and thought that the reinforcements were coming from the south.

The Battle

Artillery in BFE is devastating and when the Russian Grand battery opened up on the northern ridge line it qucikly destroyed the Kobi battalion and the artillery stationed there. This allowed the main Russian force to advance almost unopposed. 
The Russians advance on the northen ridge

The Japanese reinforcements arrive

However on turn 3 the the first lot of reinforcements, 3 Kobi battalions, appeared north of Plancenoit. The Russians dismounted the Cossacks in Plancenoit and together with an infantry battalion held off the Japanese.
Cossacks defend the approaches to Plancenoit

Japanese troops start moving north

To counter the Russian thrust against the northern flank the Japanese ordered all the troops behind the ridge to move north. 
The Russians advance ove rthe ridge
Japanese troops in La Haye Sainte about to attack the Russian flank
The two armies about to clash
The tail of the Russian assault force
The fight for the centre begins
With hindsight maybe the Japanese should have brought their firepower into play earlier. At close range both sides inflicted heavy casualties but with greater numbers the Russians gained the upper hand.

Japanese troops in Hougoumont pinned by skirmishing Russians

The southern flank was devoid of troops as the main Russian force fought to the north sucking in the Japanese troops. Hougoumont was held by a single battalion and pinned by two Russian battalions.
The Japanese commander stares defeat in the face

After the Japanese had lost the northern and centre ridge line I conceded the game. The original defenders had lost 6 of the 9 battalions plus both MG companies and 2 batteries. From the reinforcements only 6 of the 9 battalions had arrived and 3 of those would never reach the battle in time.

Therefore honours to the Russians but let's face it the French always win Waterloo. 

Maybe I should have risked putting the Japanese infantry on the ridge to shoot the Russians rather cower in the relative safety of the reverse slope. However the Russian artillery wrecked everything that showed itself.

The figures are all by Pendraken