So a week after our first game Cam and I set about a second – the plan this time to start to try and be a bit more savvy and also Cam decided on a gimmicky “All Infantry” army to see how it’d do! Note that as I did with the previous game I’ll generally talk in terms of Maurice Lite (as that is what is currently published) but we were using aspects of the full game as referenced throughout the Maurice Lite rules (and I’ll note in the narrative where they occur). The game commenced with us determining a battle in the Tropics (this is a full game feature that determines type of terrain and how much can be selected, what type of troops aid scouting to gain the initiative, etc), Cam won the scouting (with the help of a special ‘Notable’ espionage card) and chose to Defend (another full game feature). Normally the players would then now determine and place the terrain but I had pre-determined it’s type and location randomly to save time prior to Cam’s arrival – so instead Cam chose which side he wanted. As Invader I then deployed first…
Once again we were using Napoleonic figures for the War of the Spanish Succession – I know Marlborough would be turning in his grave over such a thing – so please forgive and bear with us… The British Army deployed with 8 Battalions in 3 Lines (of 4, 3, and 1 respectively) supported by 1 Artillery on their left, and with 4 Cavalry Regiments split 3 on the left in 2 lines and 1 on the right as a flank guard and reserve. The defending French army meanwhile rolled out 14 Infantry Battalions in 2 Lines (8 & 6 respectively), although one battalion was of raw recruits (with no Cavalry or Artillery). Both sides featured a ‘Notable’ of some type serving as a sub-commander, each having their own unique personalities (Cam’s fellow was rather low-ranking and had little direct affect on things, while mine was a bit more higher ranking gentleman and had some beneficial ability on rallying my troops under his command and even more so the unit he was personally attached to). So now the battle was afoot…
As Invader for my first round I thought I’d try something a little funky – so using a special event card (“That’s Not On The Map” – see the Maurice Lite card deck) I slapped down a patch of previously undetected rough ground directly in front of the centre of Cam’s line; this was in theory a cunning attempt to force him to break his army into two wings, to move around the bad going (no one ever ever ever wants to go into rough terrain with Regular troops in Maurice), and thereby preventing him from using the force activation system to activate his entire army simultaneously – you can judge later how well this was achieved…
Cam responded by immediately activating his Infantry (as one entire force) advancing his right wing, but doing so in a way to maintain communications with the rest of the army – he also tried some fancy manoeuvring in the centre to work a way around the scrub, again while maintaining his communications. On the other flank (the French Left) the performed a wonderful series of pirouettes and turns, marching off in unison for the apparently sacred animal pens on the British right…
For my second round I responded by declining a volley phase (it was only going to allow Cam’s Infantry to shoot up my cavalry anyway), and then charging Cam’s Infantry that were threatening my Cavalry – his advance had brought him into musketry range (just) and my cavalry was likely to get decimated over the following 2-3 rounds by volley fire if it did not react… Due to his proximity it could not use it’s speed to try and evade off to the flank (and anyway doing so would have just exposed my entire line for Cam to roll up in short order). However I managed to manipulate a 2:1 on one of Cam’s units, and with the help of an Action Modifier card it at least giving me a hopeful 25% chance of outright destroying it if a rolled high (but at the cost of one of my units being similarly outnumbered)!
Combat Example: In combat every unit fights every other unit that is facing it. So you sometimes need to compare a units combat result with multiple enemy units, and as mentioned above it means you can potentially outnumber one enemy while also being outnumbered yourself. My cavalry charge was a fairly straight forward combat, as none of the units had yet suffered any damage (DISRs), and all units were equal quality so had a base value of 6, the other pertinent modifiers were one unit on each side was effectively outnumbered (i.e. contacted or faced by 2 opposing units – the negative modifier is the number of units facing you within 1BW or directly contacting you) so suffered -2 each, my two cavalry received +2 from a charge modifier card, and all units added the result of a die roll for the variable component. You can see the results in the photo above (the 2 dice are used for each unit to show the total reached after die roll & modifiers).
So now we needed to determine the results – Cam is the defender so the French go first – the unit on the French left (8) is beaten but not doubled by one opponent (9) and tied with the other (8), so it suffers the beaten but not doubled result of 2 DISRs (Disruptions – a unit is destroyed when they exceed the number of bases), this is the unit I had 2:1 on and had hoped to get lucky and double it. The French unit on their right (9) was equal or greater than it’s sole attacker (8) so only suffers 1 DISR (all units involved in combat always suffer at least 1 DISR). As a result neither French unit is destroyed (either by doubling or accumulated DISRs reaching 5).
On the British side the right hand unit (9) is greater than it’s sole opponent (8) so suffers 1 DISR, while the left hand unit (8) has drawn with one opponent (8) and been beaten by the other (9), in either case it suffers 2 DISR as it failed to beat both the enemy. As their opponents have not been destroyed the cavalry must now full back 2BW, before initiative passes back to the French…
Correction: We misread the fine print of the Outnumbered Rule - it states that “if a unit engages multiple enemies, then it gets a -1 for each unit that engages only it“, the last two words being the key bit – so in our combats above we should of only had a -1 each on the outnumbered units, and therefore all 4 units would have scored ’9′ and all combats would have been drawn. So we should have finished with both French Infantry on 1 DISR (for Defenders who are equal to or greater than their attackers), and both British Cavalry on 2 DISR (for Attackers who are equal to or less than the defenders).
Needless to say Cam immediately followed up with a Volley Fire phase inflicting a third DISR on the left British unit, as well as one on the neighbouring artillery, However the right hand British cavalry unit escaped without further harm (this time) – he also had his C-in-C relocate his headquarters forward to a point behind the scrub…
Cam followed up his firing (my response had been the lonely bark of my Artillery unit) by endeavouring to Rally his left flank infantry, something he wasn’t overly successful at – but it did mean he was able to draw fresh cards into his hand to replenish it (what I did not know at this time was Cam was holding a fistful of very good cards and was desperately trying to avoid using any unnecessarily)!
My next round started with again skipping the volley fire phase (I needed to avoid any opportunity for Cam to shoot up my cavalry before I could rally it and get out of his musketry range), and like Cam I opted to rally my troops, alas my card draw immediately brought about a Mandatory Event – which resulted in the loss of 1 Morale for the British (this card is not part of Maurice Lite). However my rallying was extremely successful - thanks to a ‘National Advantage’ (an army trait card not present in Maurice Lite that can give an army a unique characteristic or characteristics) which made my army very good at rally attempts – and all 4 DISRs were rallied off my 2 Cavalry (see below – note I could not rally the Artillery unit nearby because it was not part of the cavalry ‘force’ I activated).
The next couple of rounds consisted of Cam volley firing on my cavalry while I rallied to remove the next lot of inflicted damage and then the next round manoeuvred my cavalry (essentially the supporting 3rd unit and the right front unit retired via retrograde leaving the remaining unit to redeploy from Mass – i.e. echeloned squadrons – to Line); by getting into line it became a harder target to hit by volley fire (both our armies had a +1 to firing as a ‘National Characteristic’ so with the bonus for shooting at a Dense Target that Mass provided Cam he was hitting my Cavalry on anything but a ‘1’), and could cover both the other units from any continuing volley fire. While I was doing this Cam used his rounds to attempt to rally the remaining DISRs off his right flank infantry opposite my cavalry, and to endeavour to sort out his centre behind the scrub. My next round (my sixth) finally saw the British Infantry lurch forward – my cavalry had finally survived a round of Volley Fire from Cam that didn’t need immediate rallying, thanks in part to getting into line formation (see below)…
Cam’s response was to rapidly get his troops back into a firing line on his left (where you recall they had been somewhat mesmerised by the animal stalls), while on his right his infantry began to aggressively advance on the British cavalry, and ion the centre some new fancy manoeuvres were attempted to try and bring the 4 battalions there into the action (see below).
So finally I figured I’d get a chance to inflict some damage on the French – with a devastating Volley of British fire – however Cam had been patiently waiting with a fistful of cards for just this moment, while my hand was almost depleted and lacked anything to modify firing – first he hit me with “First Fire”, grabbing the chance to fire first, and inflicted numerous DISRs on my troops, then when I returned fire he hit me with “Thick Smoke” disadvantaging my firing (which was further disadvantaged for the units he had already inflicted 2+ DISRs on, as multiple disruptions on a unit cause a -1 to its firing) – so while he had hit me on 3+ this round I was only hitting on 4+ or often only 5+! Needless to say the British firing was rather underwhelming!
The Action Phase of the turn was then consumed rallying the badly shot up infantry - who had got the worst of things. With Cam’s next round (his seventh, so effectively turn 14 of the game) there was more deadly Volley Fire, if I recall correctly Cam played yet another fire modifier card for his shooting, and having the initiative he shot first again too - decimating the British troops who were left with 2 battalions and a cavalry regiment all on 4 DISRs, and another battalion on 2, while the worst the French had was 1 battalion on 2 DISRs. Cam promptly followed this up with a charge on the French far left, hitting 2 British battalions on 2 and 4 DISRs respectively - the latter unit effectively being automatically destroyed (as you always suffer 1 DISR in combat regardless, and 5 DISR break a unit) although it did get to attempt to fight back for what it was worth. The other British battalion did much better repelling the charging French battalion (see below) – but the rot had started on the British right and both Cam and I were conscious of how a seemingly small advantage in Maurice can snowball quickly…
Next round I took the risk of initiating more Volley Fire – as I hoped to get accumulated effects on a couple of Cam’s units – but came off second best, destroying 1 French Battalion for the loss of 1 British battalion and 1 British cavalry regiment. My remaining activity was more rallying to try and shore up the surviving units and replenish my hand with more cards.
More volley firing initiated by Cam saw both sides have units heavily hit with DISRs - lacking my ‘National Advantage’ for rallying Cam had found it harder to rally these off his troops as the game progressed and this was probably all that was keeping the British in the game at this point. Some lucky firing from the British however wiped out the damaged French battalion that had won the previous charge combat – bringing the casualties to British 3, French 2, although I also had the -1 Morale from the Mandatory Event Card (effectively making it actually 4 to 2). Cam followed up his firing with more movement, his 2nd line on his left advancing to fill the place of the just destroyed battalion (see below).
In the next pair of rounds 2 more British battalions (both on the right) and the artillery were destroyed versus 1 more French battalion – making the losses 6 British (7 with the Event Card) versus 3 French. My primary action was rallying to stave off the complete collapse of the infantry, thereby preventing me from taking any action to have my cavalry try to intervene – they stood by and watched as the infantry were crumbled away. The game was now almost over as the British Morale was almost depleted and the French still had about half of theirs. It was just a case of Cam finding the right place to make the final attack to break the British (see below).
The next pair of rounds saw some desperate Volley Fire and British initiated charges – somehow the British hung on and managed to destroy another French battalion.
It was only a moment before another British battalion on the right was destroyed (and yet another was on 4 DISR about to collapse), and the British morale finally gave out and the army was broken. The French had won – final casualties being British: 5/8 battalions, 1/4 cavalry regiments, 1/1 gun, and the dreaded -1 Event Card; versus French: 4/14 battalions. The game had lasted about 10 (or perhaps 11) rounds each (i.e. 20 or so ‘turns’ in total).
Was playing the ‘magic scrub’ in front of Cam on round one a good idea? Cam didn’t think so and chastised me for not holding it for a key moment when he charged or such like – as once declared a charge must proceed even if into rough ground/bad going (the latter inflicts 1 DISR on a Regular unit every time it moves in such terrain plus reduces it’s firing & combat effectiveness – you normally do not want to ever voluntarily enter rough with regulars in Maurice, which is a good effect for 18th Century troops) – however my plan had been to disrupt Cam and break up his ‘one force’ army – in some ways it worked (4 of his battalions never participated in the battle), but in others it failed (it never actually broke up his army so it had to be activated as 2 or more forces – so probably was a wasted use of a very strong card).
Having Cam’s infantry almost chasing my cavalry was a bit strange – however it wasn’t so much that they were pursuing them but rather advancing generally on their position – albeit in Cam’s strange oblique way – and that caused me problems, as there was just no easy way to get the cavalry out of that position even before he advanced, once you are in musketry range it’s pretty hard work for the cavalry to do anything but retire via retrograde in the face of the infantry… And its the cavalry that’s proving the challenge to get on top of.
Once again it was an exciting tense fun game – even when Cam had me more or less on the ropes the challenge was for him to maintain it – and there was one small slim chance late in the game I might have dealt him a blow that would have evened the odds, and given us another neck-n-neck nail-biter finish like the previous game… Note also that we are using a play-test version of the card decks – so obviously the final versions Sam releases might vary from anything I’ve described here (and hence I’ve generally tried to not be too specific about individual items).
Maurice is definitely a game that creates a snowball like effect as I mentioned above – if you can gain a small advantage and keep the pressure on the advantage grows, once your opponent is on the back foot (as I was in the latter part of this game) they will have no opportunity to perform decisive actions without sacrificing something elsewhere – in this game I spent my last 4 rounds simply conducting Volley Fire and then Rallying (other than one round where I did do a desperate charge due to Cam having several units with lots of DISRs that were vulnerable) – as to do anything else would have risked several units being destroyed in Cam’s next round – which helps create the sense of being under pressure when the enemy has his boot on your throat. Conversely it’ll also create the reverse effect of letting the enemy off the hook if players relent and decide to have some passive rounds while they rally and draw extra cards – how often did the fate of a battle swing on someone not pushing the advantage that one last step and letting a near broken enemy recover or counter-attack…?
We haven’t quite got our heads around Cavalry as yet – it is very 18th Century like (i.e. a bit toothless and stodgy near enemy) but it’s getting the right way to operate it in Maurice that is the challenge. Putting equal forces on either flank is sometimes going to be necessary (to counter enemy cavalry) and anytime you can get onto the flank or rear of the enemy you will be able to roll up their line fairly promptly (as charge combat rewards this), but once your cavalry is split that way it’s unlikely you’ll be able to activate both forces regularly, if at all – and until we get a couple more games under our belt we aren’t sure if that’s any sort of issue or just an idiosyncrasy of the rules to get used to (for example this game we started to use our C-in-C’s a little more dynamically, as we slowly discover it’s sometimes worth sacrificing a card to relocate your C-in-C close to the key scene of the action).
We have yet to try anything significant with Artillery, or to try placing large Cavalry forces on the outer flanks to try turning attempts. Overall we are both enjoying the game – even Cam, who has never been a huge student of the 18th Century, is starting to enjoy them and is even planning to purchase some Wargames Factory WSS figures!
A scaled down historical refight of either Blenheim or Ramillies with Maurice – hopefully in a couple of weeks! And in a few days I’ll finally start assembling the first of my Wargames Factory plastic WSS figures, ready for painting up as the first units of my 28mm Maurice Grand Alliance & Franco-Bavarian armies. I hope to post a few initial pics soon…
Post Script: Read about our subsequent ‘refight’ game Blenheim 1704: A Maurice Historical Refight.