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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!









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 15 2016 02:00PM

The battle fought at Ramillies in 1706 is generally thought to be Marlborough’s greatest victory. Attacking across streams and boggy ground on his right, he drew off French reserves then switched his main effort to the left and broke through.



Seven of us got together last week to see if we could do as well — or better in the case of the Franco-Bavarians.


We played it out on a 16 x 6 foot table with well over 1000 15mm figures on each side. The actual orders of battle I used can be downloaded from the Scenarios page. The rules used were Close Fire and European Order which can also be dowloaded from the Rules page of my website.


By gathering miniatures from the collections of 5 players we were able to represent each battalion, squadron and gun which took part in the actual battle on a rough 1:50 scale. I had to make some minor adjustments to fit the troops we had available. Most notably none of us had any Spanish and there were quite a few of the French side. We replaced them with additional French and Bavarian units. We were also short of French guards. At Ramilles there were 6 battalions of Gardes Françaises and 3 of Gardes Suisse. We only had two of each, and that only due to the last minute painting described in a previous post.


One of the great joys of putting on a big battle such as this is seeing all the troops laid out on the table. Here are the allied lines viewed from their extreme right with Lumley’s horse in the foreground.



The terrain layout, was drawn up by Dave Allen, originally for a 20 foot long table. The ground was relatively flat so all we really needed to represent were the villages of Taviers, Ramillies (shown above), Offus and Autre Eglise as well as the Petite Gheete stream and the boggy ground around it. I added a few undulations and fields to add interest but without any effect on manoeuvre.


Later when I overlayed the troops I realised that we only needed 16 feet and so scaled it down accordingly. The actual battlefield was a gentle crescent with the French curving forward and the Maritime Powers curved backwards. To facilitate the table set-up our map straightened this out somewhat.



To the south of Ramilles a furious cavalry battle developed with succeeding lines charging, countercharging and retiring.


On first contact the Dutch had the upper hand, throwing back the vaunted Maison du Roi while their infantry stormed the village of Taviers.



After several turns fighting back and forth over the same piece of ground advantage began to swing to the French, thanks to flanking fire from their supporting battalions of Cologne, Bavarian and Swiss foot.


The Dutch Guards and Scots in Dutch service launched a frontal assault on Ramillies itself which was defended by the Irish Regiment Clare and French Regiment Picardie, supported by the Royal Italien Regiment. The Dutch and Scots took withering fire on the advance and were repulsed as they closed on the edge of the village. They fell back to re-group and the flanking battalions took their place, meeting much the same fate.



To the north of Ramilles it was hard going for Tilly’s wing as they struggled over the Petite Gheete and the marshy ground either side. The squadrons of English horse and dragoons were decimated as they attempted to close with the enemy, their horses struggling through the boggy ground.



The English and Danish foot also had trouble crossing the stream under artillery fire from Autre-Eglise and Offus. By the time the English Foot Guards came into close fire range of the enemy, their ranks were in disorder and they had little chance of success.


As the tide was beginning to turn against Ouwerkerk on the Allied left, Marlborough himself rode over to that wing, ordering Dompré’s squadrons of Dutch Horse and Holstein-Beck’s German Foot to shift over from the centre to reinforce the Dutch and Danish cavalry on the left. This was what occurred in the historical battle but in our game the move was made too late. By the time reinforcing columns reached the open ground south of Ramilles, Württemberg-Neustadt’s Danes had been shattered and the Dutch were falling back. It was too late to turn the tide.


To cries of ‘Vive le Roi’ the French players celebrated their victory. Key to this had probably been their ability to support their massive cavalry wing with infantry. Although the Dutch had managed to take Taviers their were unable to influence the cavalry battle as they were bottled up by the French dragoons from the third line.


There was also a fair amount of luck involved. Although the allies had more guns in the centre they were unable to score any successes against the Ramillies defences while the French had more success with half as many guns. Likewise on the northern flank the allies struggled across the boggy ground, rolling consistency bad movement dice. This left them in no small amount of disorder by the time they came within musket range of Autre-Eglise.


In retrospect I should have compensated for straightening out the battlefield to ease play. In the historical battle, interior lines allowed Marlborough to shift troops quickly from his centre to the left. If I were to run it again I will give the allies the ability to move at triple speed beyond musket range to reflect this (the rules usually allow double moves). Had I done so in this game then the reinforcements from the centre would have arrived in better time.










By smacdowall, Jan 25 2016 02:36PM

Gardes Suisse 15mm Minifigs
Gardes Suisse 15mm Minifigs

Here they are painted and almost ready to march off to Ramilles.

All I have to do now are the bases -- a job I hate even more than painting hat lace!

In the background is the command stand for the Gardes Française which I painted up many years ago. I had them to hand as a reference so as to make sure that the two units match when deployed together.

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