Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

The Battle of Denain (Conclusion)


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The Battle of Denain was fought to conclusion at Chez Jones this last Saturday, March 15th, between 12:30 and 4:00 PM. By the end of the battle, Over 60 units of 28mm figures had been engaged in the two part engagement. (See the Battle go Denain -Advance Guard- of April 24th, 2014 for an account of the initial clash between the two advance guards that preceded the main engagement.)

Folders with complete sets of scouting reports and telescope views, OOBs, and other materials are located in the Files Section of the Yahoo! site under The Battle of Denain.

THE SET UP

This set up was very different from past games. After the clash of the Advance Guards in our last game, that battle gave a substantial gain of 80 dice to the French, and indicated that a number of Allied Units were eliminated in that battle. This put the allies at a starting deficit in numbers and total dice. The OOBs for both forces are found, as stated above, in the Denain Folder at the Yahoo! site. There are Folders for both the Allies and French that list the troops, their Type and Quality, their Dice contribution, elimination and black dice penalties.

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Repiquerules/info

I also tried to give a modest advantage in terrain to the Allies as it would be highly likely they would retreat until they found some modestly good defensive ground. The terrain set up gave them a couple of ridge lines on either flank, and some wooded ground that would break up and channel the French attack. A small shallow stream helped guard their Right Flank. The terrain gave the Allies at least some cover for their deployment, and some advantages in defense.

Overview looking South


I required the Allies to deploy first-and they could deploy the remnants of the Advance Guard and their entire first line. I then took photos of their position from table height using my iPhone camera that I sent to the French. The photos were deliberately “foggy” in an attempt to recreate the lack of resolution-even with telescope of a distant enemy line.


Hill on Right FlankLeft of Village
More Photos at Yahoo! Site



After perusing these photos, the French then deployed-just their advanced guard- and suitably vague photos were sent to the Allies of that end result.

The French had to declare prior to any further actions exactly what road entrance the First line deployment would be centered upon. I asked them for a written set of orders as to the nature of that deployment. They were placed on the table by me, and a confirming photo was sent to the French Command. This Deployment was not sent to the Allies, but they would see it on the day of the game. The French First line could not move on the first turn (they were going through their elaborate WSS deployment) , so the Allies would have an opportunity to react to this appearance.

For a complete description of this Scouting and Deployment procedure read the Battle Continuation rules in the Denain Scouting Reports Folder at the Yahoo! Site. That folder has many more examples of the telescope “views” that both sides had prior to the battle.

SPECIAL RULES

Many of the special rules from the earlier Advanced Guard action were also extended to this game. These special rules covering Black Dice, Battalion Guns, Howitzers, etc. are also found in the Denain Scouting reports Folder.

INITIAL DEPLOYMENTS AND MOVES

The Allies deployed with the former Advanced Guard on their right flank. Using the stream, woods, and the windmill hill as a compensation for their reduced numbers and losses from the previous engagement. The First line was deployed across the center facing the village of Denain that had been occupied by the French Advance Guard. This force was primarily Dutch and English and among the best troops they had available. They made sure no coup de main was possible up the center, but that left only a few units of English and Danish horse to cover their left flank, with no Infantry to stiffen their defense, and most of their guns were placed so as to limit their targets to very close ranges.

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The Left flank was just dangling in air, awaiting their Austrian Allies to secure that area.

The French had deployed so that their first line was entirely opposite this exposed flank. Their horse was on the road and they had their light guns limbered and ready to advance! It appears they had stolen a march on the Allies and were going to press the matter! This was compounded by the player in command of this force was Ray Levesque who was renowned for his eagerness to close with the enemy. And close he did!

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THE MAIN ATTACK

The French right flank surged forward with the Garde Francaises and Suisses infantry advancing in close step with the Dauphin Regiment availing themselves of mutual support (best roll rule for movement of the line) as they strode determinedly toward the Hill to their front. On the road the Gendarmes Ecossais and the Mousquetaires galloped forward into the unoccupied ground on the Allies Left Flank. Levesque’s movement rolls added to his reputation for the rapid attack!


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The French Line Advances!

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The Gendarmes turn the Flank.


The Allies immediate saw that their flank was in great danger of being collapsed. CIC-Shockey immediately wheeled the English First Foot Guard about and headed it to its left flank. The Danish horse was refused back to stop the French flanking maneuver. Cadogan’s horse took the hill to stop the French infantry attack. The first indications of the Austrian arrival bolstered the Allied spirits.

The French Gendarmes sped down the road and wheeled into formation to attack the Allied flank they were closely followed by the Mousquetaires, while the French Regiment Royal Italien and Soissonais entered the wood at the edge of the battlefield.

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Gendarmes attack The Danish Horse. Note the Foot Guard flank beckoning!



The Danish horse turned to face the Gendarmes. The English Foot Guard headed in that direction, but paused, and then the commander wheeled them to face the hill not the eminent threat from the French Horse. Now their flank was exposed to the Gendarmes, only masked by the Danish horse. Several in the ranks questioned this dependence on a single horse regiment of unknown capability.

The Allies did have a few good moments on that flank, as the arriving Austrians clumsily sorted themselves out-with the Austrian Hussars and Piedmont Dragoons racing down the road to protect the village, and the Austrian line moved unto the table. The Walloons on the Austrian left wheeled to face the threat from the woods and with a good volley sent the Royal Italien regiment scurrying away. The Soissonais also retired back out of the woods.

This led to a controversial moment as the Mousquetiers du Roi opted to retire behind the Gardes rather than support their fellow horsemen, the Gendarmes! As they retired back up the road there was many a Gallic curse hurled after them by the brave Gendarmerie! (There will be brawls in the Tavern in the next few days between these units!)

But the Gendarmes were not deterred! They slammed into the Danish Horse and literally blew them away! As they rode the 2nd Jyske under, they immediately saw the exposed flank of the English Guard. On they rode!

At this exact moment the French Guard units made the crest of the ridge and volleyed into Cadogan’s Horse. The horse was sent reeling in disorder back into the mass of troops below, including into the Falkenberg cuirassiers rushing to the aid of the English Guards and Danish horse. This was not looking good for the Allies.

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ELSEWHERE ON THE FIELD

In the center, the French had a formidable column of cavalry led by the Carabiniers du Roi, who had performed so spectaculary in the advance Guard action, but they dare not charge the Allied line thanks to the English gun battery firing down the road toward Denain. A flank shot from artillery would inflict grevious losses.

That gun battery was now occupied in delsutory firing at the village of Denain, but with little effect on the Listerois Dragoons or the Bouffrement Dragoons that held the village. The center seemed relatively free from action as the Allied forces, including the Orkney First Foot, made no effort to advance, and the French seemed content to hold the village.

On the Allied Right, at the Southern end of the battlefield, Hay’s Dragoons advanced to the edge of the Chateau grounds, but then saw a large force approaching. It was the French second line, made up of Bavarian and Spanish troops. They began crossing the stream and surging toward the forests beyond the Chateau. Hay’s retired upon the small support force behind him.

THE BATTLE COMES TO A HEAD ON THE ALLIED LEFT

The English error in turning to face the hill and presenting their flank to the Gendarmes now exacted a deadly price. The Gendarmes, fresh from their victory over the Danish Jyske horse, now hit the first foot guards in the Flank, and sent them reeling in full retreat (many dice were lost).

Then the French Maison Rouge Guard infantry on the with two excellent volleys pummeled Cadogan’s horse and sent them in disorder back into the milling mass of English Guard infantry. Even the Austrian Falkenberg Cuirrasisers, who were attempting to stabilize the flank were swept up in the general chaos. Trapped between the Gendarmes and the French and Swiss guards the flank totally collapsed. A second line of infantry and the Mousquetaires was close behind the Guard in support of the attack.


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The Austrians were having a lot of difficulty deploying in the restricted area around the Northern village, and could not offer much help to their allies to the South.

At this point the French attack in the far South was forcing the Allied Right Flank back to to the Road entrance, and some of the troops from the reserve were beginning a general assault on the Windmill hill held by Seymour’s Marines.

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Losses everywhere were heavy. Counterattack was out of the question and catastrophe threatened. The Allied commander placed the Concede Card in his deck.

THE ALLIES CONCEDE AND WITHDRAW

The game continued through three more card phases, with additional losses to the Allies as the Falkenberg Cuirassiers were also destroyed, and the Right flank woods were abandoned by the English dragoons. Finally the Concede card came up and the Allies retired, as best they could, from the field. They hoped to regroup as they retired back toward the Dutch fortresses.

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Gentlemanly Concession! (L.to R.) John Mumby, French Commander Greg Rold, Ray “ High Roller”Levesque, Ed Meyers, Allied Commander Terry Shockey, and Chris Caudill

It was a smashing victory for the French, flowing from their earlier success in the advance guard action. Marlborough was sorely missed and The Duke of Argyll was clearly not up to the task on this day.

CONCLUSIONS

1. The Allies should have chosen a more balanced and compact defensive formation. Expecting horse to hold an entire flank without adequate infantry support was not wise.

2. The French followed excellent tactical practice. They had a concentration of force, and a simple and direct battle plan. Turn the Allied left flank and roll up their line. It was to be done quickly before the Austrians could effect the action. The double edged attack of the French Guard Infantry and the Gendarmes was devastating (even more than expected thanks to some excellent movement and combat rolls by Ray Levesque).

3. Conservation of dice for the Allies was paramount. They started, thanks to the earlier action, with a deficit, and their horrendous losses of dice in the flank battle soon left then with an empty bucket that could not be helped by reserve dice-which were also depleted.

4. The game also brought up the necessity of very carefully siting the artillery. The Allied guns were often in a cramped and limited position with few lines of fire. There were no guns on the left flank that could be brought to bear with much effect. Since the French were in an all out attack mode-they seldom waited for their artillery and used almost none of it in forcing the battle decision.
Artillery in this period is not what it would become in the next century, but neither side used it to much effect during this game. The sole exception was the restraining effect the allied battery in the left center had on the Carabinier led French cavalry in the center by firing down the road toward Denain.

GAME PLAY OBSERVATIONS

1. The game played very well. The entire game lasted from 1:00 PM to resolution at 4:30 PM. Everyone was headed home for dinner by 5:00 PM.

2, The new special rules all worked as intended and many are sure to become “Standard.”

3. The mobility of horse, and the relative weakness of artillery were both underscored by the battle play. The most telling aspect was the comparison of the cavalry ability on the attack, but its crucial weakness on the defense against infantry. You are hard pressed to hold ground with horse.

4. The French used the linear advance rule, where the contiguous line gets the best roll for distance moved by any one unit-applied to the entire line. It worked very well, and looked impressive as their lines stepped off toward the enemy.

5. The Allies, apart from horrendous dice lost to combat on the left, were not as careful as they could have been in the dice use. Too many long distance shots for no effect by artillery. A lot of movement on the right flank by the Windmill hill and the adjacent woods that had no focused purpose.

6. The Two commands were well matched with a slight advantage to the French in terms of having a good day. Oddly enough, every wood rolled for became a Class III, not one Class II!

6. NEVER, I mean NEVER, deliberately turn an infantry flank to horse-even when there is one cavalry between you and the enemy. Pursuit will occur and a flank attack by cavalry is simply devastating!

All materials concerning the game and several additional photos may be found in the Yahoo Battle of Denain Folder.

Next Game: April 19, 2014 at 12:30 PM