Barring the Gate: The battle for Château d'Hougoumont

Closing the Gates at Hougoumont, 1815

Yes, another small pocket game, Against the Odds Pocket Battle Game #27 "Barring the Gate: The Battle for Château d'Hougoumont", the French morning assault on the fortified position of the Château d'Hougoumont, Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815.

The fighting at Hougoumont has often been characterized as a diversionary attack to draw in Wellington's reserves which escalated into an all-day battle and drew in French reserves instead.

In fact there is a good case to believe that both Napoleon and Wellington thought that holding Hougoumont was key to winning the battle. Hougoumont was a part of the battlefield that Napoleon could see clearly, and he continued to direct resources towards it and its surroundings all afternoon (33 battalions in all, 14,000 troops).

Similarly, though the house never contained a large number of troops, Wellington devoted 21 battalions (12,000 troops) over the course of the afternoon in keeping the hollow way open to allow fresh troops and ammunition to reach the buildings. He moved several artillery batteries from his hard-pressed center to support Hougoumont, and later stated that "the success of the battle turned upon closing the gates at Hougoumont". (wiki/battle of Waterloo)

Title: Barring the Gate: The Battle for Château d'Hougoumont
Price: $0 free with a purchase
Series: ATO PBG #27
Designer: Paul Rohrbaugh
Graphics Designer: Mark Mahaffey
Publisher: LPS, Inc
Published Date: 2021

Subject: This pbg concerns the morning French assault on the Hougoumont. 

Abbreviations used:  AF = Attack Factor, DF = Defense Factor, MP = Movement Points, CD = Card Draw, ACT = Activations, PBG = Pocket Battle Game, ASA = Assault Staging Area, DR = Die Roll.

Scale:  A quick guesstimate, if I may, considering that the infantry units can fire up to 2 hexes away,  a hex is aprx 100 yards with the units representing battalions.  But, this is really not important. 

Complexity:  Introductory!!!

Description of Play:  Either player draws a card (CD). The color and type of card allows one player to activate up to 1 to 3 units. Once activated, depending on the card, the unit can either move one hex or preform fire combat or flip a unit over from a reduce state to full strength. 
The die is used by the British player to see if hits against a British unit in the Chateau hex are effective. Roll 1D6. If the DR is < units DF, the unit is not reduce. If the DR is > units DF, it is flipped or eliminated if already flipped.

Note: If you have played TSP's pbg #5, "A Hard Pounding" or ATO's "La Garde Recule" #10, then you will know how to play this one.  

Components and Physical Quality:  The game comes as a standard size 4" x 6" postcard cardboard. The card is very nice and can take a lot of plays.  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.

Counters: The game only has 15 counters. Allies have 7 infantry unit counters that start the game. The French have 8 counters with 6 starting the game in the ASA and 2 units starting in the ASA at the start of the 3rd Assault Period and one Assault marker. Allied units are red (British) with black lettering and the French are blue with white lettering.  
Note: There are no differences between Guard units and regular line (foot) infantry.

Game Map:  For such a small game map it is well design. I can see why LPS, Inc uses Mark as their GD.  

Player added Component:  Players will need to provide a normal deck of cards and 1 D6.  

Card Deck setup:   Shuffle a standard card deck with 1 Joker,  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 CD allows up to two units to activate.  
  • An odd CD allows up to three units to activate. 
  • A face card CD allows one unit to activate or to flip one unit from reduced to full strength.
  • An Ace is treated as a one for combat or odd for activation.
  • For combat when a face card is drawn, it is an automatic "miss".
  • 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.
La Garde, recule! card deck

Note: Of course, High Flying Dice Games, has their own card set for this game. Click on the .jpg to the right to go to the card sets.  And yes, it is the same for La Garde, recule.  Basically each of the 3 pbg in this series all use the same card setup. 

Solitaire Playability (Scale 1 to 10):  This is like A Hard Pounding.  I give it a 7.  It can be played as solitaire, as just about any game can. 

Versions/Scenarios:  Only one version, no extra rules or scenarios.

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".  After looking over and playing this little game, I found these rules to be very logical, concise, and can see why all 3 PBGs on Waterloo plays so well. Most important - NO ZONES OF CONTROL and combat is voluntary. 

Addenda:  "none" as I can't find any.

Description of Play:  Play is very easy, almost as if the designer was using a formula that he perfected in the past, sweet. This game has the following:
  • Setup:
    • 7 British units setup in any light red or medium green coloured hexes. 
    • 6 French units (6th and 9th Divisions) setup in the bluish ASA area.
    • No stacking
  • Play:
    • A card draw (CD) activates units for either moving 1 hex or fire combat.
    • It doesn't matter who draws the card, as it is the color and type of card that  depicts which unit(s) are activated.
  • Combat:
    • Units may fire up to 2 hexes away.
    • Infantry have a -2 CD modifier if firing at a non-adjacent hex.
    • Terrain on combat
      • Wooded or Orchard terrain has a -1 CD modifier.
      • Chateau has a -2 CD and a DR check (see above under "Description of Play").
      • No firing thru other units, Chateau, or woods, but can fire into such hexes.
  • To perform a combat resolution, the attacker picks out the lucky defending target.
    • a CD is performed (any color or suite is used), adding this to the AF. 
      • Subtract the DF and hex terrain and/or range.
      • Face cards are an outright miss. 
      • 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 less than or equal to " < " the target's DF:  No Effect.
  • Reinforcements:
    • Only the French receives reinforcements. 2 French units (5th Division) enter at the start of the 3rd Assault Period.
Game Length: The game can last up to 6 turns of card deck shuffles. The French immediately wins if there are no British units left in both Chateau hexes. The British wins the game if the French fail to achieve victory by the end of the last turn.

Special Unit Counter:  There are no special counters. 

That's it, pretty much everything one would want to know about this game. 

Play-Balance:  This pbg, imho, is finely balance as any pbg. Out of the 20 or so games played, the Allies won 55%, with the French winning 45%. 

Not sure what heading to use: I had two full paragraphs on possible strategies but you know, the game is small enough that you, "yes, you laddie", can come up with your own. Besides my non-ability to win very many of the games as the French disqualifies me from offering advice. :D  However, if I may suggest that you get all 3 of these little Battle of Waterloo pocket battle games, it will be worth it. 

Summary: This is the 3rd pbg on the Battle of Waterloo.  There are many books written on this battle.  I have ten big thick books myself from the quint-essential bible on Napoleon "The Campaigns of Napoleon" by Dr Chandler to Scotty Bowden's masterpiece "Waterloo" and all in between.  Also, I have all the Osprey books on the various units of this battle, including several French books on uniforms and tactics (these are out of print) and the pride of my art prints collection - the old Heritage Miniature set of all the uniforms at the Battle of Waterloo. 
There are literately dozens of websites not only on Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo, but on the different regiments, battalions, brigades, and other leaders. 
This time period is covered more than the Roman Empire or Germany versus Soviet Union.  Games are very numerous too.  For example, I have 15 board games, three sets of miniature rules, and the seven pocket games. Though most tend to take hours (and hours and hours and...) to play, these little pocket battle games take only 45 mins or less. A bargain these little games are and the price is right too.    
A web site that I, with all sincerity recommend, is "The Napoleon Series" . Napoleonic history galore. And there is also "The Waterloo Association" that one can join.
And I see that I went to much greater game detail than what I want to do these days.  This may be the last....


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