"A Hard Pounding Fight: The Battle for La Haye Sainte"

The Storming of La Haye Sainte, by Richard Knöte

Yes, another small pocket game, this time it is Turning Point Simulations Pocket Battle Game #5 on the battle of La Haye Sainte during the Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815.

Title:  "A Hard Pounding Fight: The Battle for La Haye Sainte"
Price:  $ Free with an order
Designer:  Paul Rohrbaugh
Graphics Designer:  Mark Mahaffey
Publisher: LPS, Inc 2019

Subject: This PBG concerns the fight for the small walled farmhouse that was very crucial to the battle of Waterloo as it was in the center of the battlefield. Both Napoleon and Wellington made mistakes about this farmhouse during the battle. Napoleon failed to supply enough men to take the farmhouse earlier in the day and Wellington did not realize the importance of the farmhouse until almost too late. 

Abbreviations used:  AF = Attack Factor, DF = Defense Factor,  MP = Movement Points, CD = Card Draw, ACT = Activations, PBG = Pocket Battle Game, "Allies" = British and KGL, FAm = French Artillery marker, and last the " > " is the Greater Than math symbol. 

Scale:  Honestly, this is not important for this game. But a quick guesstimate, if I may, considering that the infantry units can fire up to 2 hexes away, and they are using muskets (French), with the Allies using the Baker rifle, one could say that a hex is aprx 100 to 150 yards with the units representing from companies to possibly battalions.  But this is really not important.  Also note, no Cavalry.  Though the Allies do have the horse battery, commanded by Lt Col "Sir" Hew Dalrymple Ross on that fateful day. 

Complexity:  Introductory!!!

Description of Play:  Either player draws a card (CD). The color and type of card allows one player to activate up to 3 units. Once activated, the unit can either move 1 hex or preform fire combat or flip a unit over from a reduce state to full strength. 

Note: If  you have played ATO's pocket battle game #10 "La Garde, recule!", then you will know how to play this one.

Components and Physical Quality:  Standard 4" x 6" postcard cardboard that LPS, Inc uses. Printing is very good. The rules along with a small player's aid listing the terrain with it's corresponding card modifiers and unit breakdown are on the backside with the game map on the front. Counters need to be cut out for playing. 

click to download
Counters: The game only has 17 counters. Allies have eight and the French the same number and one game turn marker. Allied units are red with black lettering and the French are blue with white lettering.  Since the Allied counters with black lettering are next to impossible for me to use, as usual, I made up my own counters.  Adapt and overcome is my motto. You don't need these, but if you want to use, be my guest.  Click on the .png to the left to download.  They are 1" in size. To make 1/2", just reduce by 50% when you print out.

Game Map:  With the various shades of greens and browns used, my daughter said it looked surreal like a soft water colour painting, which means she likes it. I will take her word for it. On the game map are the setup and entry points for the units and the reinforcements, the terrain of  the walled farm house and the important "sand pit".  The game map also has the game turn track (down the left side for the French and the right side for the Allies).   

Player added Component:  Players will need a deck of cards, that is all that has to be provided.

Card Deck setup:   The card deck is setup with all 9's and 10's being removed and one Joker added to the deck. A CD is perform with the French using black cards and Allies using red cards.  An activation allows a unit to either move or perform fire combat. Each type of card does the following:
  • An even card allows up to two units to activate.
  • An odd card allows up to three units to activate.
  • Face card allows any one unit to activate or to flip one unit from reduced to full strength.  And a black face card for the French allows (starting on game turn two) the French Artillery marker to be used in addition to moving 1 unit or flipping a reduce unit to full strength. 
  • An ace is treated as a one or odd.
  • For combat when a face card is drawn, it is an automatic "miss", exception is Major Baring. He can be eliminated on a black ace or king. See "Special Unit Counters" below).
  • The Joker signals the end of the game turn when it is drawn for either activation or combat resolution, unless it is drawn before both sides have activated units. In this case, bury it and continue play until the end of the deck.
Note: Of course, High Flying Dice Games, has their own card set for this game, silly person for asking. Cost is $8 plus postage. Contact HFDG for further information.   Click here to go to HFDG for more info

Solitaire Playability (Scale 1 to 10):  This is like the Five for Fighting series of PBGs. I give it a 7 playing the French as the Allies can stay put and bring up more units to keep La Haye Sainte and the sand pit from falling to the French. Or play the French and take Haye Sainte from the KGL!

Versions/Scenarios:  Only one version, no extra rules or scenarios. At least not yet. I have learned one thing about LPS, Inc, they usually have something up their sleeves in regards as an extra "Black Swan" type add-on for their games (including the PBGs) via their ATO magazine.  And no, not their armees!  

Maybe this includes the three "Low Ammo" counters included on the die-cut counters sheet, along with the KIA message on the back of Major Baring's counter? And it does make me wonder too.   However, for now, it is a mystery and shall remain as such until reveal sometime in the future by Steve, the LPS, Inc publisher.  

Setup Time:  Once everything is cut out, what, maybe 3 mins for setup? It will take longer to shuffle the card deck.

Playing Time:  This one is quick.  My games last 30 to 45 mins if that long. Maybe 45 mins to 1 hour to learn the game the first time, but after?

Rules:  The rules are simple and flow nicely from the various areas of "Setup" to "Play" to "Combat" and to "Reinforcements". This is imho, a very well written set of rules. I found these rules to be very logical, concise, and short.  Most important - NO ZONES OF CONTROL and combat is voluntary.  Oops, sorry, just not having a ZOC excites me to no end!  No stacking except for Major Baring. More on him, later.

Addenda:  There is a tiny bit of addenda and here it is:
  • Under the Reinforcements section. It is mentioned that the French Artillery marker comes into play starting game turn "3".  Wrong as it is turn "2" just as it says on the counter.  Easy fix, just "wite-out" and write in a "2".
  • Infantry attacking 2 hexes away (non-adjacent) have a -2 CD modifier.
  • The Allied artillery unit, "Ross", when attacking adjacent French units has a +1 CD. 
    • Just as for the wrong turn entry for the FAm (above), wite-out the mistakes and correct with a pen.
Note: Canister and Grape shot does hurt!
There might be more addenda or not, however, I don't believe there will be. The above will help keep those pesky French at bay.

Description of Play:  Play is very easy, almost as if the designer was using a formula that he perfected 20 years ago. :D  Sweet. This game has the following:
  • Setup:
    • No stacking, except for Major Baring.
  • Play:
    • a card draw activates units for either moving 1 hex or fire combat.
    • and it doesn't matter who draws the card, as it is the color and type of card that depicts which unit(s) go.
  • Combat:
    • Units may fire up to 2 hexes away. 
    • Inf have a -2 CD modifier if firing at an non-adjacent hex.
    • Allied Arty (Ross) if firing at a French unit in an adjacent hex has a +1 CD modifier.
    • French Artillery marker adds +1 CD modifier to ALL French attacks for the turn.
    • Allies Major Baring adds +1 CD modifier for attacking and +1 DF for any Allied unit he is stacked with. 
    • Sandpit and Hill terrain have a -1 CD modifier.
    • No firing thru other units, hills or La Haye Sainte, but can fire into such hexes.
    • To perform a combat resolution, the attacker picks out the lucky defending target.
      • A CD is performed, adding the card number to the AF of the firing unit. 
        • Face cards are an outright miss (exception Major Baring and a black Ace or King) 
        • Ace is equal to 1.
      • Subtract the target's DF and any CD modifiers for range or terrain the defender is in. 
      • A hit is scored on the defender if the final modified value is greater than the target units DF. If the unit was full strength, it is flipped over to it's reduced side. If the unit was reduced from before, it is eliminated and removed from play.
      • If the modified value is equal to or less than " < " the target's DF = No Effect
  • Reinforcements:
    • Only the French receives reinforcements. There is a number on the lower right side that indicates the earliest turn the French reinforcement can arrive. They can always enter on later game turns. French units also have a arrival hex that they enter on.
    • The French Artillery marker enters play on turn 2, when a black face card is drawn. It will stay in use the entire turn and removed at the end of the turn. It can come back during the next turn when another black face card is drawn. 
  • Game Length:
    • The game last up to 5 turns of card deck shuffles. Victory is dependent on the French securing their victory conditions - all 3 hexes of La Haye Sainte and the Sand Pit being free of Allied units. Otherwise the Allies win.
Special Unit Counters:  There are two special units, the French Artillery marker (FAm) and  Major Baring. Each will affect the combat CD for their respected side.
  • The FAm has been talked about to death above. Basically, I believe it represents Napoleon's "Grand Battery" of over 63+ artillery pieces he had at Waterloo. 
  • Major Baring is the Allies special unit. He must always be in one of the three hexes that comprise La Haye Sainte.  He cannot leave them.  He confers a +1 CD to any unit he is stacked with when it fires and a +1 DF to the unit he is stacked with when defending. If the hex Major Baring occupies is fired upon, he is eliminated on a CD of either a black Ace or black King. Also, if there are no Allied units in one of the 3 hexes of La Haye Sainte, Major Baring is eliminated on any CD when fired upon.
That is it.  Pretty much everything one would want to know about this game.  

Play-Balance: The game is well, pretty darn even. Remarkable.   

Summary:  This is a "sister" pbg game to "La Garde, recule". There is only one difference and that is in the setup of the cards used for the card draw.  This game shows how well the pocket battle game series are coming along. I believe that Paul just keeps honing his designer skills on each game he comes out with. Whether it is a big game like Vicksburg or a small pocket battle game like this one, his games just seem to get better.

It's the little things about these games, that Paul is including, such how in this case, the Grand Battery is depicted and used.  Also, how Major Baring rallied and held his troops together to be a thorn in the side of the French (+1 CD and +1 DF). He started with aprx 400 men and by the time he was able to leave, he was down to aprx 42 men. (He would have won the MoH if he was an American for his actions at La Haye Sainte). 

Graphic Designer Mark is showing good progress in his art skills, too. I still believe his graphic design on "Five for Fighting" series of PBGs is the cat's meow, especially the counters.

This game is fun. It is not a walk over for the French and can go either way, down to the end of game turn 5. The French have a tough job ahead of them to clear out all 4 hexes, the three of La Haye Sainte and the sand pit for victory by the end of turn 5.  But it can be done.  Wise use and a little luck with getting that French Artillery marker will make it a whole lot easier than without. 

The Allies have to be careful not to let the French chew up too many of their units in the walled farm house. Major Baring is the key here, as he was in the real battle. Watch out that you don't leave him by his lonesome, as he will surely perish.

It is said that Wellington was not the hero he has been made out to be for winning Waterloo. Considering that British troops only comprised about 35% of his forces and more than 65% of his troops spoke some type of German, that is actually Germans who won this battle. I know that there were several important small battles that comprised the entire battle field (I was able to visit most back in the early 80's when stationed in West Germany), at least to me and a few others, the battle for La Haye Sainte has always been the most important. It was the center of the battlefield. If Napoleon had held it before the Prussians arrived on the field, he would have been able to take the Allied center.  As it was, the King's German Legion commanded by Major Baring held the farm long enough to keep that from being a reality.

All in all, good gaming to you. I hope you will grab this little game and play it. If so, let me know what you think about it, as I am interested in hearing how you fare.
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