Earlier this week, having re-arranged my living room to accommodate a 10 x 6 foot table (boards on trestles), 8 of us fought out the last of the Duke of Marlborough’s big battles with 15mm miniatures.
As readers of this blog will be aware, Malplaquet (1709) has been a project in the making for quite some time. My journey to this point has involved two battlefield terrain walks; the scaling of the terrain to 1 inch representing roughly 100 yards; several years of collecting and painting all the troops needed at approximately one 15mm miniature to 150 actual men; refining my War of Spanish Succession rules to fit the ground and figure scale; and several trial games along the way.
Malplaquet village - the French HQ
Marlborough and Eugene meet at the Saart windmill
It also involved the design and creation of purpose-built terrain — not by me I hasten to add. My skills are not up to the building of such incredibly detailed and atmospheric pieces.
The allied centre
The 3 French and 4 Allied players started off with the historical armies and deployments of 11 September 1709. We would play 17 turns, each representing 1/2 hour from the opening allied bombardment at 07:00 through to 15:00 when the French withdrew from the field on the day of battle. Players were free to make their own decisions, not bound by historical precedent. Their objectives were to do better than their side had done 310 years ago.
French foot behind abatis in the woods
The French player pulls his troops out of the woods
The French players surprised the Allies when they decided to abandon their defence of the Bois de Sars on their left flank. They had 20 battalions in the woods facing an attack by some 80 Allied battalions coming in from several directions. Giving up the woods meant that the Allies could advance through them unhindered but it gave the French the opportunity to concentrate their troops in a strong defensive position to the south of the woods.
The Dutch attack
On the other flank the Dutch advanced with only half their foot against the French entrenchments. Taking fire from French artillery and some dismounted dragoons hidden in Blairon farm, the initial Dutch attack was repulsed.
The Hanoverians are driven back
Rantzau’s Hanoverian brigade cleared the dragoons from the farm and then surged forward against the entrenched Gardes Suisses only to be thrown back.
Lottum's men move into contact
Count Lottum’s Prussians and British advanced on the French centre then swung to their right to take the abandoned French positions in the Bois de Sars and emerge on the southern edge of the woods. They launched an immediate attack on the French lines but their ranks were thinned by enfilade artillery fire as they went in. The first Prussian attack was thrown back. A second followed with the same result as Lottum and Maréchal Villars joined the front ranks to steady their respective troops. Lottum and one of his Major Generals were both as Villars launched a counter-attack which drove the Prussians back into the woods.
Eugene's Imperialists advance into the woods
Withers' column moves along a woodland track
Prince Eugene’s Imperialists found it slow going in making their way through the woods although Lt General Withers with 20 battalions on the far right made better headway. His troops began to emerge on the edge as Major General Miklau’s Imperial hussars and dragoons skirted the wood to come out on the far French left.
French horse move against Miklau
The French sent 2 brigades of horse against Miklau’s men, driving off the hussars. The imperial dragoons dismounted at the edge of a stream and formed a firing line. Against all the odds they managed to see off a charge by the French cavalry.
The French Redans in the centre
In the centre the French redans, supported by artillery and cavalry were too strong for the Allies to attack. With the Imperialists still slowly struggling to get through the woods, Marlborough rode over to the Allied right to encourage the Dutch in another attack on the allied right.
D'Artagnan's men stand ready to receive the Dutch on the French right
The attack ended in disaster. Marlborough was shot dead. The Dutch faltered and with the great man’s demise the Allied hopes died with him.
The death of Marlborough
Rolling two 'skull and crossbowns' results in Marlborough's death and the end of the battle. The French had won the day.
Look out for a full article in a future Wargames Illustrated