Somewhere on the border of France and the Low Countries . . . .
As it's been a shocking amount of time since my last post here, I thought I'd make up for it with a doozy. Relative silence on the inter-tubes notwithstanding, I have been puttering a bit here and there with hobby stuff. Mostly GW (given the local gaming context), but also some terrain, both 28mm and 6mm. Having put together some of the latter, and having (mirabile dictu) a free day, I put together a solo game of Maurice, taking my beloved French up against my Anglo-Hanoverians on the latter's first outing.
|Anglo-Hanoverians, under the command of the Honorable Sir John de Bueffe|
|The French, under the Sieur du Scarberri|
As it's been something like 5 years since I played the game, I kept it fairly simple. Armies had the same number of units, everything was "trained", with the French having the cavalry edge, and the A-Hs the infantry. I fudged terrain a little, choosing "Plains" as the most flexible (and suitable to my terrain collection), and set up a board that got to use my recently completed buildings, roads, stream, and woods. And hills. French won the scouting roll, and chose to defend. The town on the French side of the table was the objective.
|Lines from the French side.|
|Lines from the AH side. Generally like how the terrain turned out, but will need to tone down the fields - the yellow seems more pronounced in these pictures.|
The opening stages of the battle saw a race for the small village at the crossroads, Bijou St. Croix. Although both sides of the table were passable (the stream had 2 fords, and there was room to manoeuver a battalion in line), the town and field in the centre would be key, and a prime defensible anchor for a line. The AHs, who'd deployed a small contingent in line, raced it forward in an effort the seize the village. In response, the French advanced their entire line. This challenged the AH for control of Bijou St. Croix, (I couldn't find the rules, so decided that no one could garrison the town as long as the opposing player also had a unit in it), but it also meant the ability of the French to coordinate was compromised; with different units in different kinds of terrain, they wouldn't be able to activate as a single force.
The AH brought up the rest of their infantry line to support the fight for Bijou St. Croix, as both sides struggle in fierce, close range firefights across the village. The French cavalry on the left, led by the cunning Russian renegade Boris Kutusov, begin a long march around the flank of the Anglo-Hanoverian army in a bid to catch them unguarded.
After several rounds of volleys, the Hanoverian regiment Ledebour Sporken broke under fire, and left the French holding the town. The victorious unit (the name of which I failed to note - obviously not led by one of the peerage) quickly moved to garrison the town.
At the same time, the Anglo-Hanoverians' refuse their right, and redeploy their guns, in a bit to counter the French flank march under Kutusov.
With their flank stabilized for now, General de Beuffe swung his left in an oblique march, attempting to bypass Bijou St. Croix, and seize the village behind it, Ville de Charles (the objective of the game).
|The British line advances.|
|View from Bijou St Croix. The Sieur du Scarberrit notes the perfidious English trying to turn his flank.|
A savage firefight broke out as the lines engaged on the outskirts of Bijou St. Croix. The Artois regiment, raked by fire, held off an initial ferocious charge by the 87th and 88th Highlanders, but collapsed under the sheer weight of claymores and kilts. The way combat works in Maurice is that regardless of whether you win or lose, combat causes some damage ("disruption"). Artois actually won the fight, but because they started at 4 Disruption, it was a pyrrhic victory, in that they took 1 for being in combat, and broke.
The French, seeing an opportunity, crashed their cavalry into the weakened Highlanders, and a melee broke out across the Anglo-Hanoverian left. The highlanders, flush with victory over Artois, went down under the hooves and sabres of the Archiac regiment.
This, however, left the French cavalry sitting out in the open in front of an Anglo-Hanoverian firing line, who were happy to take advantage of the situation.
Some of the rhythms of Maurice began to make themselves felt at this point. The game is card-driven, and there's usually a point in the game where both sides run out of enough cards to mount a coordinated attack, and the lines stall for a bit, with musket duels ongoing, and both players trying to build up their hands. In this game, that moment came when the French had one cavalry wing out in the open, and the other stranded across the table. Although the French flanking force had an attached Notable (Kutusov), he only offered advantages when activating to March. There were several turns where the French could have gotten off a beautiful flank charge on the British (sweeping past defenders, taking out guns, and catching the AH line from behind), but lacked enough cards (and command range) to order it!! Meanwhile, the British kept hammering the French cavalry on the other wing, until they were forced to withdraw out of musket range and regroup.
The French inability to coordinate allowed the AH to redeploy their guns, and begin pounding the stranded cavalry on the AH right. They were now in a position to being their assault on the French centre, splitting the garrisons at Bijou St. Croix and Ville de Chareles apart.
At this point, the soldiers of the Wagenheim-Stolzenburg regiment lost their heads, and went charging willy-nilly across the wheatfield int he centre of the table (the French played the event card "In the Heat of Battle", forcing a charge). Disrupted by fire, the muddy field, and the combat, the Hanoverians broke and fled. On the other side of the field, however, the British guns flayed the French cavalry, shattering the unit led by Kutusoz (though the wily Russian lived to fight another day). The blow to French morale was significant (3 morale points lost!), and cursing could be heard from French headquarters.
|Kutusov rides hard for the French lines.|
It was at this point, that the British notable, Augustus von Theisling, established his value. He provides a +1 to rally, which meant not only that the AH line had more muskets firing, they were also better at rallying off the resulting disruptions. After a few grinding rounds, the French centre was disrupted enough that two Hanoverian regiments charged in.
Combat disruption mounted to the point that the regiments at the center of the French line, Jenner and Foix, crumpled, blowing a hole through the middle of the French position. Morale was rolled for both, and I got box cars! With only 5 morale left (the french had also lost their guns in the firefight), the resulting loss of 6 morale was enough to break the French army. The day was won for King George.
To be honest, I was kind of shocked by how much fun this was. I love Maurice, and despite having to play against myself, there's just enough unpredictability in the game mechanics that I was still surprised by game events. The mechanics came back fairly quickly; despite not having played in 5 years, and not having done the obvious, and read the rules again before play, the whole game took about 3 hours from set-up to break-down. The Beloved asked me if I thought it was "worth it" to have painted all the toys up (i.e., a second army), and the answer was an unequivocal yes.
I think that while the AH side had an advantage at the end, the game could have swung. The French still held both towns, and winkling out a garrison is tough, even with artillery support. While the AH horse spent the game un-engaged, so did a chunk of the French, and it's possible they could have stabilized their position. If the AH side took enough casualties assaulting either town, the French could still have pulled out a win. The moment when the AH broke through the French centre felt like a shock, as did the sudden collapse of the army in response. Good game all round.
I'm largely happy with the terrain I put together, though the fields need some work. The roads and streams are just sponge-painted felt, but seem to work, and I'm chuffed with the forests. Terrain played a role in this game, in that it kind of "pushed" the action towards the more open ground on the one side of the table. I'll have to try and set up another game when I get a chance, and maybe paint up some more buildings along the way. All I need is an afternoon free of obligations, and with limited distractions about . . .