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Vintage Marlburians

By smacdowall, Jan 30 2018 03:43PM

I have been once again bitten by the Marlburian bug and planning is well underway for the second part of the Battle of Oudenarde which will be fought out in 15mm scale in May. Imagine my joy when the prospect came around for another game, this time with vintage 20mm Les Higgins figures.


Les Higgins' 20mm English and Scots
Les Higgins' 20mm English and Scots

These beautiful miniatures, formally from the collection of Tom Brown, are now lovingly looked after by Ernie Fosker. 20mm is a great scale and I think it a shame that scale creep caused them to be overwhelmed by 25 and then 28mm scales. Only a little bigger than modern 18mm miniatures these figures have great charm. They are slightly toy-soldierish, elegant and crisply cast.


The convoy heading to Lille
The convoy heading to Lille

The game was a re-fight of Wynendael in 1708 shortly after the Battle of Oudenarde. The French with 40 battalions and 60 squadrons attempted to intercept a vital convoy of supplies for the Siege of Lille escorted by 24 allied battalions and a regiment of dragoons.


The allies begin to deploy into the defile
The allies begin to deploy into the defile

I played La Motte, the French commander. Looking at the table-top I despaired of our chances. Although we had the numbers we would have to attack through a narrow defile between woods with no hope of using our superior numbers to outflank the enemy.


We decided to send the 4 battalions of the Irish Brigade through the woods on our left to prevent the allies from harassing our left flank and maybe to give them a surprise. Our dragoons would advance to the woods on our right, dismount and then make their way through it to head off the supply column while the rest of our forces would push hard through the defile, attacking without respite.


The Cuirassiers and Dragoons clash
The Cuirassiers and Dragoons clash

As we advanced in a long column with cavalry leading, the enemy began to deploy to block the defile with their mounted dragoons. Confidently I led the lead regiment of Bavarian Curiassiers to brush them aside. After all, heavy cavalry on good mounts had little to fear from mounted infantry on poor nags. What I did not know was that, flushed with their victory at Oudenarde and re-mounted on captured cavalry steeds, the German Dragoons fought with the élan of the best regiments of Horse. I had to pile in two more regiments of Horse before the enemy Dragoons were finally forced to retire.


The Dutch, Danes , Scots and English prepare to block the French
The Dutch, Danes , Scots and English prepare to block the French

By this time the English, Scottish, Dutch and Danish foot had deployed to close the defile, ending our slim chance of a rapid cavalry break through. It would now be up to our foot to do the hard fighting. We had plenty of them but in such a tight space we could only deploy on a 3 battalion frontage.


French cavalry prepare to hammer the enemy left
French cavalry prepare to hammer the enemy left

We decided it best to pull our horse back to the edge of the woods on our right and use them to hammer the enemy foot in a succession of charges to wear them down enough for our foot to break through. Cavalry charging infantry frontally had no hope of breaking through but with three lines of Horse I could afford to send each one forward in turn and then let them rest and recover as the succeeding lines took their turns to charge while the enemy had no such respite.



Dismounted French Dragoons make their way through the woods
Dismounted French Dragoons make their way through the woods

Meanwhile our dragoons dismounted and began to winkle their way through the woods on our right. Doing their best to avoid a battalion of Scots, they pushed on. But as soon as they were out of sight of their commanders they lost their enthusiasm for the task and milled about in the woods for the rest of the game and did very little other than to make their presence known.


Our initial assessment had been that we would have no chance of breaking through the centre once the allied foot had deployed and that our only hope was for either the Irish on our left or the dragoons on our right to break through the woods. As it turned out the opposite was true.


The Irish push through the woods on the French left
The Irish push through the woods on the French left

Surprised by the Irish Brigade and worried about the Dragoons, the allies drew off their third line to hold the edges of the flanking woods. Their centre battalions took hard pounding from repeated cavalry charges on their left and close range fire from a battery of light guns on their right. Although they successfully repulsed the first attempts of our foot to close they were being gradually worn down.


The Foot close in
The Foot close in

When our second line of foot passed through the first the allies began to waver. A Dutch battalion was routed, an English battalion was forced to retire and as new French battalions closed in on them the enemy morale began to waver. At this point La Motte, the French Commander, took personal charge of a regiment of horse and led them forward in a gallant charge, supported by foot. This charge broke through on the enemy left while two battalions of French foot shot apart the Danish guards on the right.


The allied centre begins to waver
The allied centre begins to waver

The cumulative effect of several battalions routing or retiring at the same time broke the morale of the other units in the allied centre and the day was ours. We had broken a hole in the enemy line and we had several regiments of horse waiting to exploit it. The vital supply column would never reach Lille!









4 comments
Jan 30 2018 04:06PM by Richard S

Great write-up, Simon. My record as a British or Allied commander in our Malburian period games is such that I think from now on I should play on the French side if we are ever to have an historical outcome! Despite yet another loss, this was a good game with lovely figures in excellent company.

Jan 30 2018 04:16PM by smacdowall

You and your men fought valiently. I think it was combined arms which won it. Without much cavalry there was little you could do to elevate a messy infantrymen's scrap to an elegant encouter! You will have your chance of revenge at Oudenarde part II.

Jan 30 2018 11:26PM by Ross Macfarlane

I do rather like 20's for wargaming, able to be deployed en masse in a reasonably small area but still enjoyable to view and identifiable at arms length. We really didn't need 15's and 25's. Ah well, too late now that I'm hooked on OS 40's.

Jan 31 2018 12:18AM by smacdowall

Yes, too late unfortunately. I still have 20mm plastic ACW and AWI armies but most of my troops are 6mm, 15mm or 25/28's. I can see the attraction of 40mil and also 10 mil but the last thing I need now is a new scale!

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