Thursday, 30 January 2014

Boxtel - 15th September 1794

We're planning on a double-sized Maurice game next week, but it's been a while since we played, so we set up a smaller game tonight so that we could remind ourselves of the rules. And, more importantly, how to play, as there's a knack to Maurice card-play that we'd still not got to grips with.

Ralph concocted a scenario for Boxtel, Wellington's first encounter with the French, when he was a mere brigade senior officer. It's a little outside of the period covered by Maurice, but allowed us to try massed columns and make use of Ralph and Dave's nice 15mm Napoleonic figures. It's also the first time we have played an actual battle using these rules.

Both sides had a Notable - the British had Wellington, the French a Revolutionary fanatic whose name escapes me. The British had two brigades of infantry, one of cavalry and some artillery. the French had much the same, but had more infantry of a generally lower quality but the Artillery Train national advantage. In addition the French had Columns and Bayonets, whilst the British had Rally To The Colours and Lethal Volleys. The French cavalry was superior to that of the British.

Here's the table setup. The French are in march columns in the foreground. The British are marching through, and to each side of, the village.

The French cavalry. Watch them; they're important ...

Wellington forms up his brigade ...

... whist French columns advance on it.

But the main attack doesn't come from the columns - the French cavalry charges towards the British artillery ...

... and sweeps it away/

It then moves behind the British line. The British cavalry moved up to defend their infantry.

But the French cavalry swept into the rear of the 33rd Foot, routing it and killing Wellington. This left the British morale in tatters.

The French cavalry was spent by this stage, though, and a British cavalry charge swept them from the field. However the damage was done - the British morale was shattered and their line broken.

Time for the columns to advance!

The British cavalry tried to stem the tide, and destroyed one French regiment, forcing their notable to flee to the rear.

But after an exchange of musketry the other columns went in, and another British regiment routed. With only one point of morale left, against the seven the French had remaining, the British conceded.

The battle was basically won by a slashing attack by two French cavalry units, which took out key elements of the British line and left them just reacting to the French for most of the game. This was certainly the most exciting and fluid game of Maurice I've been involved with - great fun, and I look forward to next week's extravaganza. 


  1. Imagine if that had happened for real? Poor Nosey.

  2. Yes I hadn't imagined we'd change history to that extent! Interesting to see the French lead off, and continue, with their cavalry though...We certainly weren't expecting that, and it showed!

  3. Alan, about the French chappie who you've forgotten:

    The two ‘Notables’ cards designed for this scenario are based on two historical personalities who took part in this battle; Lt-Col. the Honourable Arthur Wellesley, 33rd Foot; and the rather less pleasant Representatif en Mission Louis Antoine de Sainte Juste, ‘the Angel of Death’, who was charged with encouraging or investigating military technocrats who allowed bourgeois considerations of logistics, strategy or tactics to interfere with their soldier’s revolutionary fervour:

    We have resolved to… track down all the guilty, whoever they may be.... and we will offer such examples of justice and severity as the Army has not yet witnessed.

  4. cae5ar@y7mail.com31 January 2014 at 12:17

    Great report Alan. The pictures with comments make the action very easy to follow.

    Yes, a fluid game indeed! Unfortunately for Wellesley, the elite British brigade couldn't relieve him in time, giving the French a large numerical superiority where it counted. I'm glad we had a chance to blow out the cobwebs because Maurice command and control takes some getting used to. Great fun though with some classic card modifiers and interupts played on both sides.

    Thanks Ralph for putting on our first historical scenario in Maurice, well thought out and beautifully presented in 15mm (or should that be 18mm these days?).


  5. British lines formed square in the presence of cavalry, at which point there wasn't much the cavalry could do but ride around the squares getting shot at. The British deployment of artillery in an unsupported position is not very historical, either. Playing the British takes finesse and using hills and the superior position of height and reverse slopes to avoid taking fire unnecessarily. Other British commanders also used their troops firepower and ability to maneuver to advantage over the French propensity to charge. A charge by cavalry alone was not likely to result in the results shown in your battle, See Waterloo to support my point. Either the British commander has no real grasp of British tactics or the rules do not reflect the realities of Napoleonic conflict between French and British..

    1. Well I was the British commander for this game, and I do think I have a grasp of British tactics - both for the Napoleonic period, and for the Revolutionary Wars - in which this game was set. And of course they were rather different! As Wellington later said, during this campaign he learnt what not to do!

      And no, these rules do not allow for Square formation, quite rightly, as it was rarely used during this period which is not 'Napoleonic', but Revolutionary, as we have tried to make clear...This battle occurred right in that changeover period between the 18thC, when Infantry would happily receive cavalry in line, and the Napoleonic period, when as everyone knows they would form square.

      As a matter of fact, the course of our battle did not alter too much from the historical outcome, except that it was the Guards Brigade that fell into disorder, owing to the British Cavalry's response to a French Cav charge interpenetrating their ranks....But overall the outcome was the same.

      BTW, The artillery was deployed on the flank of the 6th Brigade, and so was supported as much as any battery can be...

    2. So when did British infantry (or indeed any European infantry) regularly start forming squares in the presence of cavalry?

    3. "BTW, The artillery was deployed on the flank of the 6th Brigade, and so was supported as much as any battery can be..."

      It was also supported by light infantry on the other flank, but the support wasn't close enough to prevent the cavalry from getting at it.

    4. Probably the first successfully recorded instance, in the modern era, was Napoleon at the Battle of the Pyramids, in 1798, so about 4 years after Boxtel. He had realised right from the outset that he would be facing masses of Mamluke cavalry, so trained his army to form Divisional Squares. Battalion squares were used successfully at Mount Tabor in 1799..

    5. Of course Anonymous' advice for the British commander to use hills and reverse slopes in 1794 is totally anachronistic - these tactics were pioneered by Wellington - trialled in India from 1800 and then fully developed in his Peninsula campaigns from 1808 onwards.

      As to finding reverse slopes in the lowlands of Flanders - good luck!

  6. Great to see Boxtel being used as the inspiration for this game. I spent 2 years researching this action for my book "Wellington's First Battle". It is a great little action for demonstrating the state of flux that the armies were then in both organisationally and tactically.

    The research highlighted some interesting facts, for example 6 officers who were present at Boxtel served as Generals with Wellington at Waterloo, including Chasse who led the leading French brigade.

    The success of the French cavalry in your refight is interestingly accurate in some respects; they probably had no carbines and were mounted on small horses and thus avoided the British Cavalry on the 15th, but on the 14th the same regiment of Hussars ( the 8th) led by the soon to be famous Marulaz, rode down and captured 2 battalions of Hessian infantry.

    I have taken my game to several shows in the UK and the photographs are available on my blog;

    Best Regards

    Garry Wills


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