Friday, 18 April 2014

The Battle of Oudenarde

After Blenheim and Ramillies, this was the latest in Caesar's Marlborough scenarios for 'Maurice'. We played it as a doubles game, with Ralph and I being the experienced players on each side, and Austin and Dave learning as they went on.

Oudernarde was a French attack on an Allied bridgehead over the River Scheldt. Being the Low Countries, the battlefield was very damp.

Austin and I played those jolly allies, Marlborough and Eugene. We had a small force covering the town of Oudernarde (the French objective), and the promise of reinforcements to come.

Ralph and Dave played the French - Ralph the rash French C-in-C (whose name eludes me), and Dave the tardy Duke of Burgundy. What could possibly go wrong?

Here's a view down the French lines. Once again we used whatever figures we could muster, so our armies were made up of a mix of Caesar's Imagi-Nations ("Why are my troops marching under a flag with a teapot on it?") and my GNW Russians and Swedes, in their Painted, Based and Varnished debut game.

The French had lots of infantry. There was also the promise of reinforcements coming in on our right flank.

The heroic Allied infantry; stout chaps who eschew the consumption of garlic and frog appendages. Many of them seemed to be wearing borrowed Russian uniforms. Apart from the ones who looked like Swedes. And a lone elite unit who had come to the party as Prussians.

Anyway, we formed up in a double line and awaited the inevitable French advance.

Dave also had a shed-load of infantry, the photo of which was so blurry that I won't bore you with it. Since it, and the promised French reinforcements, threatened our right flank, I garrisoned the village that covered that end of our line. This had nothing to do with me wanting to try out my new buildings.

The other end of our line, with the French infantry beyond it. Ralph is, at heart, a Frenchman from a century later than this period, so formed them into column and prepared to attack. He had the bayonets advantage, so it wasn't a bad plan on paper.

The French attacked, although some confusion about changing formation in this more stately era left them trying to form up into line in range of the rather effective Allied musketry. Our plan was rather simple - let the French get partially across the river (which they did without disruption thanks to a well-timed card), then move in close and blow them away with gunfire whilst leaving them no room to maneuver.

It worked quite well.

Once our infantry were nicely ensconced in a firefight, I switched Eugene to our other flank where my cavalry were lurking. The Duke of Burgundy, under Dave, was advancing his infantry to support Ralph, covered by his Guard cavalry. I moved up my gallant cavaliers to oppose his (who apparently regard horses as not only the best way of engaging in warfare, but as part of their national cuisine as well). With his attention focused on the cavalry battle, the Duke of Burgundy stopped advancing his infantry, buying ours a bit more time.

Guard cavalry are a tough nut to crack. It took a few useful melee cards to hold them off, and we still lost one of our cavalry units.

Back at the main fight, Ralph was losing infantry units to our Lethal Volleys, but stuck to his plan of charging, charging and charging again. We responded with every melee bonus card we could slap down on the table; a number of our units held off potentially deadly attacks only by virtue of a card-given bonus. And, of course, every time a French attack faltered and pulled back we blasted it with musketry. The French morale was now looking rather shaky.

The French Guard cavalry charged and swept away one of our - MY! - cavalry units. The dogs!

"You have a flank attack there", said utterly neutral umpire Caesar (born in England). So we charged it. Au revoir, French Guard cavalry.

This put the French down to one point of morale. "Don't worry," said Ralph, "There's a card we can play to increase our army morale!". "We know," we said, "We've got it."

Here's the Duke of Burgundy, pictured just before a stray cannonball took off his head. Austin had been hoarding the 'Death of a Hero' card for most of the game, and played it. Away went the last vestige of the French will to fight, and Marlborough/Eugene had won themselves another famous victory, plus piles of cash from their respective grateful sovereigns.

The French slunk away, secure at least in the knowledge that their cavalry losses, combined with the amphibian-laden marshes through which they were retreating, meant that they wouldn't be going hungry any time soon.

Truth be told this was a difficult mission for the French, with the two parts of their army separated, whilst being on the offensive. Apparently it went pretty much according to history, with the one wing attacking aggressively whilst the other dithered. We suspect that the French need to bide their time in the early part of the game, and get all their troops together first. The downside of this is that it gives them less time to mount the attack before the decks run out, and that it gives time for the Allied reinforcements to appear. Of course the French have reinforcements too, but with hindsight I suspect they appear too far from where the main battle is fought to be of any great use.

The Allies are in a strong position, with villages to fortify and an impassable river to cover one flank. We were able to concentrate the battle into a limited area, where the French numbers didn't count for much and where our superior firepower gave us the edge. And, with any game of 'Maurice', switching the focus of the battle at a key moment paid dividends; a handful of 'Co-ordinated' cards helped there.

Thanks to Caesar for organising a great scenario, to Austin for falling in with my cunning plan, and to Ralph and Dave for being gallant opponents, even if they were French.

The game took us just under three hours to play (excluding setup), and we didn't finish the first deck.


  1. Very enjoyable BatRep! Hope to see more Maurice reports.

  2. Yes an entertaining and fairly unbiased account of what was essentially a tale of brave French soldiers queuing up to be slaughted by deadly English vollerys....But I like to think we did it with a ne sais quoi...sangfroid!

    1. cae5ar@y7mail.com18 April 2014 at 21:38

      Great report Kaptain, and it was a marvellous battle to watch (particularly since I could let others make all the difficult decisions), made better with all the masterfully painted and adapted Risk figures.

      My apologies to the French for heaping the odds unfairly against them. This scenario needs some work to strike a good balance. In hindsight I can remove a stream which doesn't play much of a part in the battle other than to frustrate French deployment, and release the French reinforcements a lot earlier (at the very start of battle in fact), whilst holding the Dutch reinforcements to appear as they currently do. This should make for a much closer match. There is also the possibility to move the objective towards to the French lines but I don't want to swing the pendulum too far in the French favour. I will tweak the scenario and post an update to the Honour website.

      As it was, hats off to Ralph's bold use of march columns to push his infantry up so fast, almost too fast - this is how we should be getting troops around quickly in Maurice, before contact. When they formed up in line he kept hammering the assault in the face of enemy lethal volleys and I really don't know what else Ralph could have done in the circumstances. Heroic play indeed! All credit to Alan's canny cavalry attack to retain initiative on that wing and take the wind out of Dave's relief force. Well done to Austin and Dave for assuming the reigns of command with no experience - you fought like veterans.

      Thank you all for being such forbearing guinea pigs. I look forward to Malplaquet in several weeks, a battle that presents more challenges not the least of which is the sheer number of troops, the biggest Maurice battle yet!


  3. One of your most entertaining batreps so far!

    Looks like an amazing game and every time I read about Maurice it makes me want to give it a go. Damn you.

  4. cae5ar@y7mail.com19 April 2014 at 20:57

    By the way, the buildings worked perfectly. They look so much better than the footprint of a village, previously made invisible by a garrison. The barricades are a nice touch too and will be very handy as gun emplacements at Malplaquet.


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