Do forgive the title - we dined at Sydney's latest 'undiscovered gem - must be experienced' French restaurant last night, and I was torn between ordering the Chicken Chasseur or the Joue de Bouef. The beef cheeks won, and were as delicious as I'd thought, but the saute'd chicken wafted by our table on what was surely an unnecessarily regular basis has preyed on my mind...(Actually its probably the half dozen bottles of claret we scuppered that's been preying on my mind and body.)
In any case, the obvious title for this post has already been taken by another protagonist at Thursday's very enjoyable Maurice game, Freiherr Kaptain Kobold, he of the Austrian Imperial Yellow cardigan shown above, in his excellent write up of the game which can be found here: Maurice-Marengo
Something that should be made clear at the very outset, with no obfuscation or attempts to deceive whatsoever, is that most of the model soldiers you are about to see are shockingly out of uniform for 1800.
Rather than point out the most egregious offences against Grognard sensibility in the military tailoring department, it would be quicker, easier, and frankly less unsettling to those of us whose innards are a little queasy this morning after, to point out those few units which were not 'improperly dressed and accoutred in accordance with Part IV Orders', to whit; a smattering of Austro Hungarian Grenzer, Jaeger, Fusilier and Grenadier Regiments, and, of the entire French orbat, a handful of gunners.
Pretty rare for gunners to manage to turn up at the right place and the right time and in the right rig - anyone would think their CinC was an artilleryman himself...
Speaking of which, Marengo was the battle of which Napoleon was said to have claimed he had lost the battle by four o' clock and won it again by 7!
Of all of Napoleon's extensive rewriting of his battles, in which he rarely accepted blame for anything except the victories, Marengo is the one he changed the most; reworking the official history not once but twice - clearly it was a watershed moment for him and posterity had to tell the right story.
|The finger pointing begins...'The point of decision is on our left flank!'|
|'Or perhaps on the right...'|
It was Caesar - pictured in the Revolutionary French Blue jumper - who devised the scenario and orders of battle to enable this intriguing experiment, and the ever industrious Rittmeister und Kaptain von Kobold has replicated his work here: Maurice-french-revolutionary-and-early
As this is now the third blog post about this particular game, I shan't trouble you with a blow by blow battle report of the evening's events, even were my brain cells not more than usually eaten away by too many bottles of Sainte-Emilion's finest.
|There's more than a passing resemblance between the good Colonel here and your balding and rotund bloggist...|
I trust that amongst educated gentlemen of the right sort, it is now generally accepted that Maurice as a ruleset provides an elegant framework to recreate 18th Century linear warfare - the regular exchange of volleys by infantry in line forming an almost automatic and unconscious backdrop to the real gaming challenges of assembling and concentrating a puissant force at the point of decision without overtaxing the limited command and control mechanisms, all the while satisfying the needs of courtiers and the conventions of the time.
Cavalry is of little use against anything but other cavalry, and so does seem to have no other function but to add a little tone to what would otherwise been an unseemly brawl...
And irregular warfare forms a distinct, if exciting, sideshow to the main event.
The first thing that emerged from the experience concerns the scale of the battle. Whilst Maurice lends itself easily and quickly to scaling the size of the battle being refought up or down, with each 4 base unit able to represent anything from a battalion to a brigade, the game works best with no more than 2 players and an upper limit of about two dozen units within the 100 point constraint on paying for an army. That's not to say you can't restage the larger battles of the 18th Century, and indeed we have done so regularly, and I have commented often that, to my surprise, I have gotten that 'big battle' feeling from playing Maurice.
But for Napoleonics, I am nothing if not an megalomaniac - the bigger the better, and if there are not at least three players to a side, each commanding a division, if not a Corps, then its really not a Napoleonic experience! My default rules for such games are Black Powder for 28mm, and, latterly, Blucher for 15mm.
However, history is never clear cut, and the epic clashes of massed nations in arms which so quicken my blood - at a safe remove over the tabletop - didn't just happen from 1792 onwards. Marengo, a decisive and significant Napoleonic battle, had a total of just over 60,000 combatants, much smaller than the combined armies approaching 200,000 present under arms at Oudenaarde in 1708. So whilst the mid and later period of Napoleonic warfare featured armies the size of which would have shocked Marlborough, there was an early period where armies were on 18th Century scale, and where of course at least one of the protagonists clung to 18th Century linear tactics and organisation.
Size alone then is no reason for not extending Maurice into the early Napoleonic era, particularly with Caesar's thoughtful use of National Advantages and troop stats to reflect where changes in tactics and theory had taken place - most obviously of course as provided for by the A la Baionnette, Skirmishers, and Professional train attributes.
However, after what was a most enjoyable and exciting game, I begin to realise that for me, Napoleonic warfare is not only characterised by the size of the armies, more mobile artillery, the use of skirmishers and columns, and increased shock effect of battle cavalry.
Regressively, perhaps, Napoleonic warfare seems to be a distinct step on the road to massed, total warfare - fast paced, aggressive with few lulls in the blood letting, even more so than some of Frederick the Great's bloodier affairs. The very ebb and flow of 18th Century warfare, with frequent lulls, so well recreated by Maurice; with the need, just when great opportunities are presented, to 'pass' and replenish on action cards; seem to be the antithesis of the speed, prioritisation and brutal blowtorching towards the objective so necessary when playing Blucher or Black Powder. This was a great and enjoyable game, and, like Sam in the movie, I'd 'play it again', but, for me, it wasn't Marengo...