The Army of Louis XIV vs The Grand Alliance: January 2013

Each year I try and get a very large game in with my Marlburians. At this point there are 52 Battalions of Infantry and 50 squadrons of cavalry....and still growing. I try to get as many on the table as I can depending on the number of players and the scenario. This time, in January  of this year, I decided to base the scenario on the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. Now that was a later war- not my usual fare of Spanish Succession but it is a fascinating tactical situation.  In my game the armies were switched and the names of the historical places changed and it was Marlborough' s army of the Grand Alliance that  was attempting to trap the Army of Louis XIV.

Both players were given the same initial scenario outline:

The French Army, under the command of his Grace the Duc de Vendome has been steadily marching west to return to French territory at the end of the campaign season. Due to ill health, Vendome relinquished commanded to the young Dauphin who proceeded to change the direction of march and led the French army along the Klostersuben river and into the narrow pass between the river and the  range of large impassable hills known as the Fliescherhoff. After passing the town of Auffersburg the French commander realized that he was being pursued by His Grace, the Duke of Marlborough’s forces and was in danger of being trapped. Vendome, despite his illness, dismounted from his carriage and after a fierce argument with the young French Prince, prepared to fight against the encircling Alliance forces.

The eastern end of the table with the tailing Danish/Imperial/Hanoverian troops under Eugene.
The French were given this briefing:

The Dauphin in his wisdom chose a route that the Duc disapproved of.  It became obvious two days into the march that the French force was being followed by troops of the so called Grand Alliance.  These would not be a problem as they are numerically inferior. Of greater concern are the forces assembling on the southern bank of the Klostersuben river. It is important to not allow them to impede the westward march of the army. Your Mission must be to defeat the alliance army and force your way past the town of Zonhoven in order to continue the march west.
While the Allies were handed this:

The Army of Louis XIV has allowed itself to be trapped between the two towns and the river and the Fliesherhoff.  His Grace, the Duke of Marlborough feels that he has the French army trapped and could perhaps inflict one of the most crushing blows against the forces of the Sun King. The Danish Contingent with Imperial Support and commanded by Prince Eugene has been following the retreating French Army and is now in position to strike the French Rear. Batteries have been deployed on the southern bank of the Klostersuben river and are able to enfilade the retreating French columns. His Grace has sent his other forces racing ahead to cross the river upstream, size the town of Zonhoven and seal the French in.  Your mission must be to block the enemy from moving east or their retirement west and destroy the French army.  God be with you and may he grant you the greatest Victory!

The western edge of the table. The Prussians and Redcoats advance across the French front at the top of the photo. The massive Dutch contingent is to the left of the river. To the right is the foreign brigade of the French army

The Maison du Roi- Two battalions of the Garde Suisse and two of the Garde Francais as well a squadron of the Grenadiers a Cheval. Now the purists among you will probably point out that by the war of the Spanish Succession the Grenadiers a Cheval wore blue tunics.....yes I know...but I had originally got them for the period of the Dutch War of 1670s- and then they had red tunics!

Overview of the French army. A brigade of infantry and one of cavalry faced the east- the rear of the table. The rest pushed to the west- the near side. The village of Zonhoven just to the right of the picture.

Prussian Cavalry in the foreground...and the Prussian Infantry in column in the background
So the scene was set for a very interesting tactical conundrum! The Allies -commanded by Paul- had a sizeable tailing force (commanded by Liam) about to launch itself at the French rearguard- commanded by Roger. Overall command of the French went to Ralph who gave command of his dragoons, a cavalry brigade and an infantry brigade to Phil ( the advance guard) and his Royal Highness, the Dauphin, commanding the Maison du Roi in the center of the the French Army was played by Chris....and rightly so according to him! He also commanded a brigade of foreign foot. The Foreign Brigade was to take the village of Zonhoven and use this to anchor the Maison du Roi on the edge of town to hold of the allies who were pouring across the bridges to their left front.

On the eastern edge of the battlefield  Roger and Liam quickly came to blows as Roger was ordered to deal quickly with the threat of Liam's forces. Liam advanced rapidly to pin the French rearguard down. He launched his Imperial Cuirassiers and things went downhill so rapidly that we thought that someone was using loaded dice. Liam won his first melee against the French Cuirassiers......but then Roger didn't lose another melee against the hapless allied commander. Liam's troops were kicked from pillar to post with the Cuirassiers du Roi causing enormous carnage amongst the Imperial Cuirassiers and the supporting Danish Cavalry. Once poor Liam's cavalry had been stripped away, the Danish and Hanoverian Infantry were defenceless against the swirling mass of French Cavalry and their supporting infantry. By day's end, Liam's force was completely wiped out- he never even had the opportunity to retreat! This prompted Chris to comment: 'Well Roger, normally I consider you a liability on the wargames table...but today you've proved me wrong.'
I'm not sure what Roger's response was....but I think he told Chris to go and engage in some sort of sexual activity.
More Prussian infantry advance across the front of the French Army in a race to cut the Army of the Sun King off!
The western edge of the table was where the really decisive action would be- and it did not disappoint. Marlborough's thoughts (Paul) could only be imagined when he received this message AFTER all the British and Prussian contingents had been deployed on the north bank:

The Deputies General in view of the tactical situation, although at first glance appears favourable, have in their considered opinion decided NOT to commit the troops of the United Provinces to this ensuing engagement. Their Honours believe that there is insufficient open ground to deploy adequately to the west of the French forces and fear that the French may seize the crossings, in which case any or all forces on the northern bank of the river and to the west of the hostile French forces risk annihilation. Their guns will deploy on the southern bank and enfilade the French but the infantry and cavalry- the finest in Europe in their considered opinion- will not be employed in today’s engagement.
I am sure he told the umpire (me) to go and do something unpleasant as the Dutch made up just over 50% of his troops, So, with over half his command refusing to engage, and his remaining British, Prussian, Danish, Hanoverian and Imperial troops committed, he had no choice but to get stuck in!

One of the French Dragoon squadrons that provided the reconnaissance to the west for the French

First Clash! The Imperial Cuirassier Regt. Cusani launches its squadrons at the French Cuirassiers de Roi. The Austrians (commanded by Liam) had a very bad day- the French Cuirassiers not only beat them, but sent them packing and then tore into the ranks of the supporting Danish infantry.....Roger , the French commander at this end of the table, was delighted!

The French cavalry of the center rumble forward- these troops were commanded by Phil, performed well but failed to break out of the Allied trap.

The French Dragoons pass through their guns to slow down the advancig Prussian cavalry on the extreme end of the battlefield.

Second Battalion of the Garde Swiss- with the Dauphin just behind!
The crucial point of contact took place around Zonhoven(on one end) at the south western end of the French line. A very close fought and bloody action took place inside the town of Zonhoven with the town changing hands several times as battalions were fed into the attritional bloodbath that ultimately was still undecided by game's end. The real decision was determined on the other end of the French line furthest from the river where the French troops failed to break out and Phil's French command were hemmed by Ross' Prussians, thus failing in their overall mission. That said the Allies had suffered some pretty serious casualties and on the second last move of the game when it looked like Marlborough was going to trap the French he received a final despatch:

In light of the fact that His Grace , the Duke of Marlborough has performed so well, the troops of the United Provinces will now engage the enemy to assist the Duke in driving them from the field. It is acknowledged that His Grace will welcome these reinforcements and will make sound tactical use of them to ensure a greater victory.
Go Figure. What Paul wanted to tell the Dutch commanders was unprintable...suffice to say that it recommended that they leave very quickly. The Dutch behemoth slowly started to grind forward....but the game was done!

The Garde Francais!

The bloody fighting for Zonhoven

The second squadron Cuirassiers du Roi. This Squadron, as part of Roger's command was responsible for destroying TWO Imperial Cuirassiers squadrons, chasing off a third, destroying  the First battalion of the Danish Regiment Jydland and capturing its colours!         

The Dutch finally get their act into gear and begin to cross the bridges- on the second last move of the day!

The British Battalions take on the Maison du Roi and the Foreign Brigade.

Cavalry clash on the far edge of the battlefield.

The Dutch contingent

The main battle lines around the the town of Zonhoven.



  1. John,

    Where did you get the modular boards you are playing on, they look great!

    1. Hi Jason,
      thanks for looking in! I made them! They are all particle board 12mm thick. I put down masking tape to mark out the roads etc and them paint over the whole board with textured paint. When it's dry I rip the tape up and paint in the road. Then it's just a matter of flocking and/or dry brushing.