Another Grognard Classic
A Beyma once again is at the top of
the heap of Waterloo players - but this time it's Rob's son,
Richard. GM Marty Musella and finalist Pat Mirk congratulate
him for over all those defeats he endured at his father's tanle
in learning his trade.
Thanks to Bruno Sinigaglio's tireless
overseeing of the Grognard events and Bill Morse's updated computer
printouts, the Grognard Free Form scheduling works to keep these
old hex classics alive at WBC.
a perennial classic characterized by taut, well-balanced games,
enjoyed another successful year at the 2009 WBC. Play this year
saw a much wider use of attacks below the old "standard"
3 to 1 ratio especially by the French player early in the game
using the new 10 sided die Combat Results Table (CRT). This tactic
hopes to quickly force the initially outnumbered Prussian Anglo-Allied
(PAA) armies out of their forward doubled defensive positions
so that the French can reach a decision before the numerous PAA
reinforcements arrive. This year, playing time continued to decrease
and this allowed participants to play in more of the classic
wargames featured during the Grognard Pre-Con. Also, the GM noted
a lack of emphasis on bidding to secure a desired side to play
as most of the decisions as to which side to play seemed to be
reached by a simple role of the die or mutual agreement between
the players. About half of the participants began play during
the Pre-Con; while the other half still had time to qualify during
the regular convention time period. In fact, of the four semi-finalists,
only two began play during the Grognard Pre-Con. The GM was delighted
to see many former champions in attendance though last year's
winner, Joe "The Surgeon" Beard, did not make
the long journey to defend his crown. A surprise returning champion,
Phil "the Blade" Evans did make the long trek from
his retirement home in France, but failed to garner enough victory
points in this game to make the semi-finals. That distinction
belonged to only one former champion, John "Medicine Man"
Clarke who was paired against Pat "the Lucky Irishman"
Mirk in semi-final #1 and returning 2008 semi-finalist Richard
"Beyma the Younger" versus John "Classic Man"
Popiden in semi-final #2.
Semi-final #1 showcased two experienced players, John
Clarke and Pat Mirk who routinely display top quality play. So,
while a tense and well fought game was anticipated, the actual
result was one of the strangest and most unorthodox games ever
witnessed in tournament play. It also explains how Pat earned
his moniker of "the Lucky Irishman". Pat's French opened
his offensive in a very traditional way with a secondary attack
of about two corps reinforced toward Nivelles while the bulk
of the French Army moved towards the heights defending Quatre
Bras and down the primary road toward the town from the east.
John's PAA forces defended Quatre Bras with the well recognized
8-4, 6-4, and 7-4 large Prussian infantry divisions arrayed west
to east in doubled defensive positions on the heights and several
large stacks on the primary road to the east. In most games,
it takes the French most of the 16 June turns to close with the
PAA forces occupying their final defensive positions near Nivelles
and Quatre Bras and this is what occurred. On the 7 PM turn,
Pat's French launched seven separate attacks in the Quatre Bras
sector featuring two 1 to 2 attacks against the Prussian doubled
8-4 and 7-4 divisions. He also launched 3 to1 and 4 to1 "normal"
attacks down the primary road and three low odds "soak-off"
attacks to enable the main attacks. One of these low odds attacks
was a 1 to 2 versus a Prussian 6-4 infantry division. Incredibly,
Pat rolled "exchange" results in all three 1 to 2 attacks
and then proceeded to roll two more exchanges in the normal attacks.
The two remaining soak-offs resulted in a single French cavalry
division lost! While the French losses were severe, the Prussian
Army was decimated losing five large infantry divisions; they
had lost their primary doubled defensive position; and there
were no significant reserves for John to launch any good
counterattacks. Most importantly, John's morale was shattered!
Even though the numerical losses were about the same, John had
lost the battle in the center and with it the game. Even if his
remaining forces on each wing had withdrawn to support the crippled
center, there just were not enough PAA units in the center to
occupy the remaining defensive positions. John's PAA armies surrendered
to avoid further anguish. Both players expressed amazement at
the die rolls and the quick resolution resulting from these rolls.
It was very easy for Pat to give himself the nom de guerre of
"The Lucky Irishman" and it just remained to be seen
if his luck would carry over to the championship game.
Semi-final #2 was a match-up between Richard Beyma, a returning
semi-finalist from the last two years, and John Popiden, an experienced
classics wargamer and last year's Panzergruppe Guderian champion.
Richard was in the hunt for the Waterloo wood
and was the #1 ranked semi-finalist with the most preliminary
wins. He was eager to pick up the legacy of "Beyma the Elder".
Side selection was decided by mutual agreement with Richard getting
his favored PAA and John's attacker preference showing with selection
of the French. John sent only a single corps northwest towards
Nivelles while the rest of the French Army, eager for battle,
rapidly closed on Quatre Bras. Not one to disappoint, John immediately
launched a 1 to 1 attack on the doubled 8-4 in its now familiar
position on the heights south of Quatre Bras. The biggest unit
in the Prussian Army was totally destroyed and John's victorious
French occupied the hilltop. Richard's Prussians immediately
counterattacked and exacted revenge by killing a 6-4 infantry
division. However, John was not dismayed and launched several
large attacks all along the now undoubled heights forcing the
Prussians to re-deploy and delay on this part of the battle line.
However, all of these now released divisions swung eastward and
battered the French units advancing down the primary road slaughtering
three 5-4 divisions. In the Nivelles sector, John reinforced
his single corps with several units from the Quatre Bras heights
and continued to advance on the Quatre Bras road junction. Richard
delayed with sacrificial cavalry brigades buying time to assume
good defensive positions in and around Genappe and formed a strong
central reserve mid-way between Nivelles and Quatre Bras ready
to march to the most threatened sector. The Nivelles sector was
strangely quiet as the French slowed their advance to a crawl.
By 5 PM, John had also positioned a small cavalry force in the
far right flank moving toward Wavre but these were screened by
an even smaller PAA force using the many rivers with their doubled
positions to delay the French advance. Richard had formed a solid
defensive front along the Genappe River extending
to the heights north of Nivelle 7 AM, 17 June. John attacked
on both flanks and forced the Dyle River on the
right in spite of a bloody exchange. But he only drove back a
British division on the left which promptly counterattacked with
other British forces to preserve the river defense at Nivelles.
At 11 AM French assaults spanned the entire front as John sought
to gain a positional advantage over the PAA by driving them from
the last major defensive terrain blocking his advance towards
Waterloo. His point of main effort was against the heights west
of Genappe where he killed a Prussian infantry division. However,
Richard immediately reinforced the hilltop and counterattacked.
This attack was very successful and destroyed three French divisions
that were compelled to retreat into a river "death"
hex ensuring their destruction. John joined many excellent Waterloo players
who have learned the bitter consequences of this rule to their
chagrin. Taking advantage of this opportunity is one of the tactics
that differentiates the play between very good and outstanding
players. By this time in the game, losses favored Richard's PAA.
John realizing this, launched his Imperial Guard against the
same bloody heights in a desperate 1 to 1 attack, hoping to swing
the tide of battle in his favor. But alas, history repeated itself
and the Guard was destroyed so John conceded the game to Richard.
"Beyma the Younger" was now only one game shy of attaining
the championship game, Richard "Beyma the Younger"
and Pat "The Lucky Irishman" Mirk by mutual consent
agreed to sides with Richard once again playing the PAA and Pat
taking the French. The French commenced their usual advance at
7 AM on 16 June. However, Richard's PAA reacted with a markedly
different defense, featuring six large Prussian infantry divisions
defending the three hex heights in front of Quatre Bras. The
impenetrable defense would prevent Pat from attempting his low
odds attacks if he hoped to repeat his opening from the last
game. Obviously Richard's intelligence services had reviewed
Pat's previous play and he was taking no chances in regard to
Pat's luck. The French advance continued and by 11 AM, the disposition
of the French Army was evident with two reinforced corps heading
toward their Nivelles objective, three corps threatening Quatre
Bras from the east and a corps minus heading down the right flank
toward Wavre, all-in-all a fairly standard French opening. Richard
expanded his defensive frontage and concentrated six large infantry
divisions into a central reserve position on the strategic hilltop
half way between Nivelles and Quatre Bras. This redeployment
did require him to reduce the defenders on the Quatre Bras heights
to the "normal" three infantry divisions. This thinning
of the height's defenses at 1 PM enabled Pat to try a repeat
of his low odds attacks east and south of Quatre Bras. However,
none of these were successful as the French were repulsed at
the cost of a cavalry and infantry division. Richard reacted
by moving two large 6-4 infantry divisions to block the two clear
axis of advance south of Nivelles and counterattacked east of
Quatre Bras to hold his main line of defense killing two French
6-4s and losing a Prussian 6-4 in an exchange. Pat's French continued
their advance on the far right toward Wavre and immediately counterattacked
into the "cauldron of death" along the primary road
east of Quatre Bras. He also advanced his troops to their line
of departure in the Nivelles sector ready to attack the next
turn. Losses were severe in the cauldron east of Quatre bras
with the French losing four divisions to three of the Prussians.
Pat's attack had required his units to deeply penetrate the forests
on the right flank of his battle line. His forward units were
now vulnerable to elimination on any Defender back 2 combat results.
Whether this was an oversight on Pat's part or a calculated risk
was not ascertained by the GM. (GM note: This is a risky
tactic used by many experienced players, especially the French,
to infiltrate gaps between defended positions. If this tactic
is employed in coordination with other maneuvers to ensure that
the infiltrating units cannot be hit at 3 to 1 odds, then it
usually increases pressure on the defending player to maintain
his defense.) Nevertheless, Richard seized this golden
opportunity with a ferocious counterattack in which he not only
committed his entire "central reserve" but also evacuated
the heights south of Quatre Bras for a maximum effort by the
PAA armies. This large assault assured the destruction of three
French divisions with minimal PAA losses. On the other sectors,
PAA forces remained in defensive positions.
As the evening of 16 June approached, the crescendo of battle
roared along the entire front from Nivelles, through the Quatre
Bras cauldron, all the way to the Dyle River. Sensing
the game slipping away to excessive losses, Pat's offensive featured
a number of low odds attacks hoping for a flash of the luck that
fuelled his earlier victory. Unfortunately for him, the hoped
for Defender Eliminated result was not to be seen and instead
only the dreaded Attacker Eliminated verdict was realized. At
this point in the game, French losses outnumbered PAA losses
69 to 36. Richard, now seized the initiative, and using his growing
numerical superiority, launched a series of attacks in the main
sectors of Quatre Bras and Nivelles. Several Defender Eliminated
results in these attacks further increased the loss ratio in
favor of Richard's PAA armies. Desperation now replaced apprehension
in Pat's mind as he threw his now depleted and weary French divisions
into several low odds attacks hoping for near miraculous die
rolls. It was obvious that Pat's luck had deserted him along
with many of his French conscripts as not one of these attacks
was even partially successful. As the smoke cleared, Pat offered
his hand in defeat and Richard had earned the accolade as the
Champion Waterloo player for 2009.
The GM would like to note to all former and new Waterloo players
that the marathon playing times usually associated with this
fine classic have all but disappeared in current tournament play.
Most games this year were resolved in less than three hours!
Undoubtedly some of this is due to the conscious efforts by players
to play quickly to enable more gaming opportunities each day;
and the GM believes that the new CRT helps too. Whatever the
reason, the GM invites former and new players alike to stop bye
next year and give this exciting classic a try. Waterloo is
easy to learn, full of action, and fun to play.