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The Last Days of the Grande Armée
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The time is: 1630 hrs., 15 June 1815
The Imperial Guard light cavalry of Lefebvre-Desnöttes encountered the Nassau infantry of Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar. The Duke had taken the initiative to move one of his two regiments south from the vital crossroads of Quatre-Bras, in the rolling countryside of Flanders, to delay the lead elements of the French advance.
The French horsemen found the village of Frasnes occupied by a regiment of 1500 Orange-Nassau infantry. The Guard troopers began to ride around the town on both sides, threatening a double envelopment. Observing this, the Nassauers started to withdraw back up the road toward Waterloo.
The Guard Chasseurs Regiment, 1100 men under the command of General François Lallemand, pursued them off the road into the woods of Bossu, capturing 15 men.
At the same time, the 800 Lancers of the Guard continued straight for Quatre-Bras itself. Their commander, General Colbert de la Chabanais, rode behind with a small escort, into the walled-farm of Gemioncourt.
By pre-arranged signal, the 2600 troops of the 2nd Nassau Regiment, who remained in Quatre-Bras, set fire to a beacon and fired their 8 guns, alerting the rest of the Anglo-Allied army further up the road, toward Waterloo. As the Lancers approached the cross-roads, the two Nassau regiments in the town and in the woods on their flank kept up a fire of musketry which made it impossible for them to remain in their exposed position on the open road.
Had the Lancers succeeded in hustling the Duke's Nassau troops from Quatre-Bras as they had done at Frasnes, the battle to be fought there next day would have been a defensive one for the French. No one suspected that on such decisions hinged the last moments of glory for Napoleon and his Grande Armée.
Waterloo has long been a synonym for disastrous defeat. However, as this culmination of many years of intensive historical research and game development shows, it was only a small part of a larger campaign that could have ended differently. Last Days presents either two players (French vs. Allied) or three players (divide the Allies into British and Prussians) the operational situation faced by Napoleon, Wellington, and Blucher in June of 1815. Simple but historically accurate mechanics nicely reflect the operational art of conflict in the dramatic closing days of the Napoleonic Wars. Commanders must deal with fog of war, attention, lines of communication, and the vagaries of men in battle. Period components and enlightening historical commentary complete a package that will immerse you in the campaign that might have altered European history as we know it.