Hat tip (and maybe eventual blame) to commentator Terry from my Avalon Hill Battle of Waterloo post. He recommend La Bataille de la Moscowa and I recently bought three Clash of Arms games from the same series: La Bataille de les Quatre Bras, La Bataille de Ligney and La Bataille de Mont Saint Jean, which is the expansion for Ligny and Quatre Bras.
The price was right but I hesitated as these games require a significant investment in time and finding an opponent will be problematic. A look at the maps and the ability to link all three games into a massive Waterloo campaign gave me no choice but to buy and start diving into the rules. This game was first published in 1991 so one day I hope to follow up and let you know if this game system has stood the test of time. A 2013 edition of Quatre Bras is available and I may investigate that later.
The Clash of Arms team were Napoleonic wargame fanatics. Check out this link to see they have most of the major battles of the period covered and have been producing these games since the 70’s.
Currently, I’m slogging through the Quatre Bras rules, divided into the Standard Rules (27 pages with an additional 8 pages providing examples of play) to be followed by the Exclusive Rules of almost 3 pages which refines the differences between the different nationalities (e.g. French horse batteries limber on a roll (1D6) of 2-6 as opposed to horse batteries of the King’s German Legion who can limber after rolling a 3-6 or the less proficient Brunswick Horse battery which required a roll of 4-6) and terrain modifiers. The scale of the games and complexity of the rules are mitigated by a rule governing regular movement (Manoeuvre Exploiter) under the title: Errors in Judgement. Each player only gets 10 minutes, then must stop moving his units and the rule book suggests use of “…a chess clock, stop watch or egg timer”.
From the rule book: “Each 16mm hexagon represents an area roughly 100 meters across. Each turn represents 20 minutes of time. Each increment of strength represents 100 infantrymen (a pied); 50 cavalrymen and their horses (a cheval); or a section of guns (2 to 4 depending on their nationality)”. Players will maneuver corps around the large maps and the corps’ divisions are comprised of counters representing either a regiment (usually 9 to 18 strength points or 900 to 1800 infantrymen for the French) or two to three counters representing the regiment’s battalions. The front of a counter only reveals the unit’s apparent strength and movement factor but the back side, face down until engaged in combat, lists combat values for fire, melee, skirmish, morale and range.
Leader counters “represent the interjection of personality at an important place and time on the game map” and the front of a leader counter only reveals the rank and movement potential of the leader while the back side contains the Leader’s name, and how he modifies dice rolls for units he is stacked with.
Quatre Bras is played on one 34×22 inch map and what a map it is. Each hex representing a village or chateaux is unique while the color scheme is pleasant. One really gets a sense of the countryside with woods, orchards, cultivated grounds, sunken roads and hedgerows adorning the battlefield. I believe some attention to detail has been applied to the map creation. I did a spot check on the church hex located in Frasnes and the modern Eglise de Frasnes lez Gosselies seems to be in the right spot though it seems that the Bois de Bossu, which effectively prevents the French from flanking Les Quatre Bras to the west is now the Pierpont golf course.
It is possible to link both the Quatre Bras and Ligny maps together and recreate the two battles fought on 16 June. That would be one heck of a team game but finding room for all four of Ligny’s maps, not to mention the fifth map for Quatre Bras will take a very large playing surface in an area free of cats and other disturbances for a long period of time. Still, I can’t wait to learn the game.