Although I played Warhammer related tabletops in my childhood and adolescence my very first tabletop foray into Napoleonics was pretty late. In 2014 I played a Plancenoit scenario with Field of Glory: Napoleonics and a lot of paper counters and terrain. Here is the link, but be warned, its rather basic stuff.
I played countless battles since then but rarely historical scenarios. Their attention to detail and specific requirements of troops is not that interesting to me but for the sake of good old times I decided to revisit Plancenoit.
Bataille Empire (BE) has a scenario about the battle in the rulebook so I settled for it. This would give BE another chance to win me over.
The scenario begins at 6pm with several reinforcements still on their way. The deployment areas are relatively fixed but I decided that the French try to fend of the Prussians well before Plancenoit. With the reinforcement scheduled, a defense in depth might be possible.
The Prussians decided to lead with their Landwehr on the whole front to soften the enemy up. It would be up to the reinforcements to deliver the final blow. As the Prussians are the attackers the action is mainly depicted from their view.
Losthin’s and Hiller’s Assault columns are carefully advancing. French skirmishers and artillery take their toll. Red dice are hits. Infantry can suffer 4, cavalry 3 before they are packed into the box. Green/blue dice are half hits. BE calls these attrition but they are essentially half hits and an added layer of bookkeeping I find mostly unnecessary. I think attrition can be replaced by rolling a die roll. Even causes a hit, odd is ignored. This would add another roll to the procedure but it would declutter bookkeeping from attrition markers. The additional die could be of another color and rolled with the firing dice if attrition is scored which would not take too much time.
Some turns later Prinz Wilhelm’s attack on the Prussian right flank has been checked by far inferior (in numbers) enemy cavalry. Even worse, Jacquinot arrives with more cavalry (upper right) and supports Domon in holding up the Prussians. The two units with skattered base placement at the bottom are disordered Prussian units which retired from melee.
Hacke’s divison arrives on the far left on the march to Plancenoit. I don’t have enough Prussians so Hacke’s troops look suspiciously like Russians. Meanwhile the real Prussians are pushed back on the entire front.
Combined musketry and artillery ripped a hole in the Prussian center. This is not something the French can exploit as Hacke and Ryssel, who arrived with another infantry disivion, have more than enough troops to fill the gaps. But battlefield chaos and retreating troops keep them from doing so for a while. The French are content with redressing their lines and keeping the enemy at bay which is all they need to achieve at the end of this fateful day.
On the French side about halfway through the allotted turns Duhesme’s Young Guard arrives in Plancenoit. The enemy is still far from their objective.
Prinz Wilhelm’s cavalry has been pushed back to the edge of the map and Prussian reinforcements have no space to enter the battlefield. The entire Prussian right flank is up in the air for a turn but shortly after this picture opportunistic French Chasseurs are send packing by solid infantry formations.
It is the beginning of turn 6 of 7 in the scenario. I decided to end the battle here. Prussian losses are high (62% of of cohesion lost) while the French forces are still quite intact (33% of cohesion lost). What’s more is that the Prussians are still far away from Plancenoit, which is worth a big lump of victory points at the end of the game. There is no realistic chance they can win the scenario. This is partly due to the congested battlefield. About half the troops never saw battle and with the tight turn limit it is difficult to change that.
Part of the problem was the abysmal performance of Prinz Wilhelm’s cavalry on the Prussian right flank. They rolled badly turn after turn and a real threat to the French flank never materialized despite superior numbers. Subervie’s cavalry on the French side even stayed in reserve for the entire time as they were not needed.
French Guard reinforcements marching through Plancenoit as the day draws to a close. Waterloo is lost but the French retreat path has been secured.
The battle felt very one sided. Although Simmer and Jeanin had to give ground slowly at the end they still had more than enough fight in them to hold of the Prussians. Not a single Prussian unit ever advanced past their half of the battlefield! I don’t know exactly how much of this is down to scenario design or my unfamiliarity with the rules. In a previous scenario from the book (Jakubowo) I encountered the same problem though. Attacking is difficult and even more so with conscript level troops. This is neither a surprise nor unrealistic, but on both occasions I wondered about the very tight turn limit for the attacking force.
This is not a big issue as I’m not a fan of historical scenarios anyway. The rules are much more of a problem. Well, at least for what I want from them. Some parts are fiddly and long lists of detailed modifiers are time consuming, although they are all quite logical and easy to check. Add to that the reliance of 1d6 for almost every roll. Whether it is firing, melee, morale or maneuver tests. The high variance of 1d6 feels too random even with the ton of modifiers to add or subtract, yet the results are rather predictable as the casualty tables are designed that way.
The results still seem believable and detailed but the system does not feel fun to play for me. Especially as the turn sequence is geared towards individual divisions rather than IGOYOUGO which is more difficult to play solo.
If you like a bit more detailed rules that are still playable and you are not a solo player BE is probably way more interesting for you than it is for me. The very detailed army lists are a nice bonus. They go way deeper than the usual early-late distinction for the major powers and can be used for other rule systems easily.
5 thoughts on “Plancenoit 1815 – Bataille Empire”
Thanks for the write up, I recently bought the rules, so your observations of play are very interesting. I am hoping they work for bigger figures and fewer units on a limited sized table, but I will test with base blanks before investing in a lot of painting and basing.
I think they will, Norm. Playing huge historical scenarios with lots of different units solo made the game more complex. The rules also seem to scale quite well with unit counts. 2-3 small divisions might do the trick.
I am a frequent player of BE. I have played several dozen games. Most have been 200 point one on one games.
The rules are a bit difficult to follow in places, but the basic game is sound. We have found learning to handle troops a real challenge, (a tactical one, not a rule issue!) I really like this aspect of the game. If you want a game that gives you the challenge of deploying a corps (and being well punished in the battle if you get it wrong), then this is a great game.
(If you found the attack on Plancenoit hard, it may be because you need a dozen games to get the hang of organising the troops 🙂 )