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By smacdowall, Nov 27 2017 05:42PM

The Battle of Oudenarde (1708) was one of the first historical Marlburian battles I ever played. Because Oudenarde was an encounter battle there is a lot of manoeuvre in the opening moves and we never got very far beyond them. At that time (decades ago) we decided to try it again one day and split the game in two. We thought the initial moves, as the Allies crossed the River Scheldt to attack Eyne and various French units were fed into the fight, would make a great game in its own right. A second game could be fought later taking into account the results of the first one.


This remained a vague aspiration until recently. With one of our number having amassed a substantial 28mm War of Spanish Succession collection to supplement our extensive 15mm figures, the idea was reborn. Why not play out the opening moves in 28mm and then fight the follow-on battle in 15mm scale?


We fought out the 28mm game last week with five players and myself umpiring. The game covered the historical moves from 12 noon to 5 pm using historical starting positions but allowing the players to make their own decisions with certain limitations. These limitations were more severe for the French who had to contend with a divided command between Vendome and Burgundy and Burgundy’s historical reluctance to advance. Their problems were compounded by the fact that they had been taken off guard and their Swiss brigade was in an exposed forward position without orders.


The game was fought on a 10 x 6 foot table. The Allies had 16 battalions of foot, 28 squadrons of horse and dragoons and a battery of light guns. The French had 19 battalions of foot, 28 squadrons of horse and dragoons and a battery of medium guns. Allied battalions were 4 bases (16 figures) strong, French battalions 3 bases (12 figures). A cavalry squadron was represented by one base of 2 figures. This made for a very manageable 28 mm game and more than covered the number of troops needed for the opening moves.


The Attack on Eyne
The Attack on Eyne

The Allies moved quickly to attack the Swiss forward position at Eyne. The attack was conducted by Sabine’s English brigade with the Prussians moving up to the west of the village and the Allied horse extending their line even further to the west.


The Allied Foot Advance
The Allied Foot Advance

The Swiss put up a tough fight and it took the personal intervention of Cadogan to steady the English ranks even though one of the lead Swiss battalions decided to retire rather than stand firm — this due to a test I had introduced to reflect the historical battle when only one battalion held and the other three decided to retreat.


Ranzau (bottom) and Biron (top) come to grips
Ranzau (bottom) and Biron (top) come to grips

Biron, commander of the French cavalry on table sent off a message to Vendome to inform him of the developing situation. He advanced cautiously against Rantzau’s Hanoverian horse near Diepebeek. He was worried about the potential disorder that the streams and reportedly boggy ground might cause him. It was Rantzau, however whose men suffered most from the terrain. As he was re-dressing his ranks the French cavalry attacked, getting the better of the engagement and wounding Rantzau. The commander of the Prussian foot brigade was also wounded as his men took fire from a battery of guns deployed to the south of Mullem.


Vendome takes command of the French Horse
Vendome takes command of the French Horse

At this moment Vendome arrived on the table and personally took command of Grimaldi’s brigade of 16 squadrons that Burgundy had sent south to test the Allied positions and see if the ground was suitable for cavalry. As Biron’s cavalry rallied back, Vendome advanced forward to follow up his success.


The Prussians Advance
The Prussians Advance

At the same time the lead 10 squadrons of Natzmer’s Prussian cavalry were moving up to support Rantzau. Full of élan and being personally led by a Marshal of France, the French horse made short work of the Prussians, scattering them to the south.

The French Horse Breakthrough
The French Horse Breakthrough



The Scots and Irish form up to assault Heurne
The Scots and Irish form up to assault Heurne

The French defenders of Heurne
The French defenders of Heurne

The Allies take Eyne and Heurne
The Allies take Eyne and Heurne

The Allies, however, were not disheartened. By 4:30 pm the English had taken Eyne and the Scots and Irish had formed an assault column to clear Heurne.





Marlborough takes command of the Prussian cavalry
Marlborough takes command of the Prussian cavalry

The second line of Prussian horse were well positioned to close in on the flank of Vendome’s pursuing French horse while Rantzau stopped them in front. To make sure that this could not possibly fail Marlborough himself led the Prussian charge. Then the Allies snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by rolling two ‘ones’ on the dice. Vendome’s cavalry saw off their attackers and pressed on to continue their pursuit.


The French foot advance south from Mullem
The French foot advance south from Mullem


Overview of the table at the 5pm move
Overview of the table at the 5pm move

At 5pm (historical time) we called an end to the game. The Allied foot had been successful in clearing Eyne and Heurne and would have been in a position to attack Burgundy’s left flank had it not been for the sight of large numbers of French reinforcements coming down from the northeast.

Burgundy had sent a brigade of 6 battalions south of Mullem to block the advancing Prussian and Danish foot and and Irish brigade in French service had also moved south towards Diepenbeek.

Flushed with the joy of victory Vendome’s pursuit led him headlong into Ouwerkerk’s Dutch who were advancing in column from Oudenarde.


The wider situation as of 5pm ready for the next game
The wider situation as of 5pm ready for the next game

The game felt very much like a French victory, however, the outcome will not be decided until we fight out the next 10 turns (using 15mm miniatures). This will take place sometime next year.






By smacdowall, Feb 11 2017 04:07PM

Moving on from James Stuart's early career at Mardyke (1657), yesterday the Royal Army encountered Monmouth's rebels in a re-creation of the Battle of Sedgemoor (1685).


Taking the role of Colonel John Churchill, I was officer of the watch as the Royal Army prepared for a restful night. After a quick look out over the drainage ditches towards the village of Chedzoy, I retired to my into my tent certain that we will catch and crush the rebels the following day.


At an ungodly hour of the morning I am awaked by a sentry reporting noises. As I go out to investigate, taking a troop of dragoons as escort, I hear shots and then see our piquets galloping out of the night gloom. The night gloom being admirably represented by a dark blue sheet which separated the playing table so that neither side could see what was going on more than a few feet away.


Narrowly avoiding capture by a troop of Lord Grey’s rebel horse, who suddenly emerge form the darkness, I have my trumpeter sound ‘stand-to’ and beat a hasty retreat over the drainage ditch known locally as the Bussex Rhine.


Our men stumble out of their tents trying to get their bearings in the early morning haze, mist and gloom


Unbeknownst to me, on the other side of the table hidden by the ‘sheet of night’ the full rebel force is advancing on us in two columns, the Duke of Monmouth on the left and Lord Grey on the right.


As our men rush to form hasty firing lines the enemy are only a few yards away!



On our far right a devastating volley in unleashed into Dumbarton’s regiment out of the dark. Many men are killed, others run and it takes the Earl of Feversham’s brave personal intervention to steady them.

Taking command of the Coldstream Guards, with the First Foot Guards to their right, I push across the ditch with as dawn breaks, intending to blast the rebels away from the centre of their line with our superior musketry.


Unfortunately the enemy give as good as they receive while the Duke of Monmouth joins their ranks to keep them steady.


Forgetting about the fearsome scythes carried by many rebels, I order the guards to fix bayonets and close in for the kill, supported by a troop of Horse Guards.


The rebel line holds steady while the Royal Horse Guards are driven back. It had been a mistake to move into close quarters as inevitable superior discipline would have won a prolonged fire-fight. Now committed I had no choice but to continue fighting at close quarters.



The enemy foot on our far left also hold firm in face of repeated attacks while my supporting battalions become bogged down as they stumble across the drainage ditch. While I am busy fighting in the centre, Kirk’s Lambs and Trelawney’s Regiment are unsure of my intent so they halt, awaiting further orders.


Despite the superior training and mounts of our Horse and Dragoons, they take a mauling from Lord Grey’s Horse supported by a small battery of light guns.

Eventually the superior discipline and training of our men in the centre overcomes the valour of the rebels. Worn down they break and flee. Monmouth goes with them doing his best to rally them but without success.


When the routing rebels reach Chedzoy, Monmouth is advised to flee the field and save himself. This he does. Although the rebel units on the flanks still hold firm, with their centre blown apart and Monmouth gone, the rebel force disintegrates.


It was a great scenario designed and umpired by Gary Kitching with his troops gracing the table. With a relatively small number of troops there was plenty of scope for two players on each side. Although a rebel defeat was probably inevitable there were enough unknowns to keep it gripping right to the end.


The rebels did much better in this game than they did historically. The breakthrough in the centre eventually won the day for us but as one more comfortable commanding cavalry I made a mistake in fixing bayonets to get stuck in so soon. A better tactic would have been to wear the enemy down in a protracted fire-fight and then clear them away with a timely charge. By getting stuck into the combat my reinforcements were unable to get into the battle. The rebel commanders, on the other hand , deployed well and made the most of their lesser quality troops.


The rules we used were my Close Fire and European Order (17th C version) which are available as a free download here.


I doubt that Judge Jeffreys will take the valour of the rebels into account at the Bloody Assizes. I only hope that the executioner’s axe will be a little sharper than it was when the historical Monmouth met his end.


























By smacdowall, Nov 11 2016 03:59PM

I seem to be managing quite a few games of late. Yesterday it was back to the Wars of James Stuart with a most interesting encounter set during the Monmouth rebellion of 1685. Tomorrow it will be back to Ancients (in 6 mil).


Monmouth occupied the village of Philips Norton and was planning on extricating his forces to move on Bath. I played the Royalist forces led by the Duke of Grafton and John Churchill. My intent was to cut off and destroy the rebels before they could withdraw.


Grafton’s Horse. backed up by a detachment of grenadiers and supported by dragoons galloped towards the village, hemmed in by hedges and quite unaware of what would greet them.


The rebels had a detachment of gentry mounted on horseback and a light gun protecting the rear of their column.


The Royalist Horse drove back Monmouth’s local gentry only to find themselves cut off and surrounded. Monmouth’s men rallied and the Royalist cavalry were then cut to pieces.


Monmouth himself took command of his Blue Regiment which held the houses and hedgerows on the outskirts of the village. Unable to deploy, Grafton’s grenadiers fixed bayonets and attempted an assault. Raked by fire on the approach, the grenadiers were cut to pieces as they tried to hack their way into the village.


In the nick of time. John Churchill led the main body of the Royal army up the road to rescue the situation while Grafton dismounted his dragoons and deployed them into a firing line to keep the Rebels occupied while Churchill organised a second assault. Monmouth deployed his Red Regiment off to the flank of the village to counter the Royalist dragoons.


Taking personal command of Kirke’s Lambs (The Queen’s Regiment), Churchill led them against the village. Thanks to the support of Grafton’s dragoons the rebel fire was less effective than it had been against the grenadiers and the light gun made no impression. None-the-less the Royalist foot were forced back after a fierce hand-to-hand combat against men armed with scythes, pitchforks and muskets. A second assault fared no better but while the better trained Royalists were able to re-dress their ranks, the hastily raised rebels were being worn down. Monmouth was wounded and a third assault managed to take the rebel position.



But it was too late. With darkness closing in and the rain getting worse there was no no chance of inflicting a serious defeat on the rebels. Our men had taken horrendous casualties — a regiment of horse and composite battalion of grenadiers had been wiped out. Apart from a few gentlemen of horse the rebels had taken very few casualties and there was nothing more we could do to stop them from making a clean break to advance on Bath


The figures are all from Gary Kitching's 28 mm collection. Most are from Front Rank.




By smacdowall, Jan 17 2016 04:56PM



Next month I will be staging a re-fight of the Battle of Ramilles -- perhaps Marlborough's greatest victory. We will be using a 20 x 6 foot table with every battalion and squadron represented in 15 mil.


Having just gone through the orders of battle and matching them up with the available figures I can draft in from 5 players, I realised that we had a rather gapping hole.


None of us had any Gardes Suisse and there were three battalions of them on the French side. While a few substitutions will be unavoidable I could not imagine having no Swiss guards at all so I hurriedly sent off an order to Caliver Books for some 15mm Minifigs.


Minifigs?


Yes Minifigs. I have some Dixon and Blue Moon units but I still think Minifigs look the best when painted up and deployed on the table. Furthermore they have a huge range of figures including a Gardes Française model with lace on his coat and ribbons on his shoulders. This was just what I needed for a suitably impressive looking Garde Suisse.


After years of painting only 28 mil the miniatures looked incredibly small and I wondered if my ageing eyes would be up to painting them.

In order to pick out the detail to aid painting I first gave them a very thin wash of raw umber over the white undercoat. This was a trick I learned when painting 6mil figures and I find it also helps greatly with all smaller scales. I usually don’t bother to do this with 28 mil figure
In order to pick out the detail to aid painting I first gave them a very thin wash of raw umber over the white undercoat. This was a trick I learned when painting 6mil figures and I find it also helps greatly with all smaller scales. I usually don’t bother to do this with 28 mil figure


After my first sitting I now have the base coats and buff belts done.



I have also painted the white lace on their coats which was made much easier by the fact that the models have the lace marked out on the coat.


Next step will be to do the blue linings, breeches, waistcoat and shoulder ribbons. But that can wait for another day.







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