Napoleonic, WSS & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday 29 September 2023

WSS: Battle of Oberglauheim - 1704

 I posted a note about setting up the field for this game (click here). Subsequently I spent an evening experimenting with some tweaks to the solo version of my rules (which went moderately well), and then had the pleasure of a Zoom game with Mark, the Jolly Broom Man.

This is a screenshot from Zoom; you can't count the buttons, but you can see enough to get an idea what's happening

As discussed previously, this is very closely based on the Battle of Blenheim, but it is definitely not the actual B of B, since the world is full of knowledgeable students of this very battle, and I would very justifiably be taken to task for my ham-fisted effort if it were.

First comment is that I was surprised by the number of units on such a compact front, and by the fact that both armies used so much cavalry in their front lines; I double-checked, and it seems that this is correct. This may have much to do with the fact that the French originally did not intend to contest the field, and the Allied army arrived in a set of parallel columns, some of which were cavalry. Anyway, I left it as it was, and decided just to go for it. Because of the size of the game, we spread the action over two evening sessions.

Again, because the action is so dense, there was little scope for exciting strategic manoeuvres or surprise attacks, so we expected a lot of attritional fighting, with the occasional significant morale collapse to enliven things. The outline of the action is quickly described, so let's start off with a complete spoiler:

On the Allied left, Lord Cutts' infantry assault on the (fortified) village of Blindheim made little progress, the French had huge reserves behind this position, so both sides took massive casualties in this area, but the French held on. There were 2 Victory Points available to the Allies if they took the entire village, but there was no chance. Charles Churchill's regiment (The Buffs) briefly fought their way into the place, but were promptly chased out again.

In the centre, both sides put together a mighty cavalry conflict. Initially the Bavarian cuirassiers rather battered their Austrian equivalents, but the Austrians pulled back to recover, the Bavarians were reinforced by French cavalry, the Austrians by British, and this action surged backwards and forwards throughout the day.

On the Allied right, the Austrian foot advanced, after some delay, against the Bavarians, who were established in some woods. This never really developed into anything decisive.

The armies ground each other down - there were a few surprises; amazingly, no General officers were lost on either side. The final surprise was that the Gendarmérie de France (King Louis' elite cavalry) were heavily repulsed by the Hessen-Kassel regiment Erbprinz, and were so shaken by the experience that they decided not to bother returning to the action. We do not know just what effect this episode had on the overall French morale, but it secured the 14th VP needed for an Allied victory.

Notional awards for outstanding unit and/or Leader? The performance of the French infantry at Blindheim was excellent, considering the tricky situation they started from. Bavarian cavalry was also very good, and their General Arco was always in the thick of the action, encouraging his troopers and steadying them in moments of stress. If we had an award for the outstanding name of the day, I would nominate the Furst von Holstein-Beck, whose family was obviously named after two bottles of beer.

This view is borrowed from the "set-up" post, to show the initial positions

The French got busy, pushing forward in the area around Blindheim, not least to clear some space for all the reserves they had crammed in behind the village

Bavarian cavalry (this side) have early involvement with their Austrian opposite numbers, and had the edge initially

Lord Cutts was surprised to have the French pushing forward out of the earthworks at Blindheim, very aggressive

Austrian cavalry wait for some support from the British - they look outmatched as things stand

Generals Cutts and Chas Churchill push forward to the breastwork at Blindheim; the unit nearest the camera is the Foot Guards - they were very disappointed to have so little success against the battered unit of dismounted dragoons who were holding the redoubt at this time

The Elector's Bavarian infantry hold the flank in the woods

So the Austrians across the table advance to meet them

The bloodbath continues at Blindheim

The struggle between Blindheim and Unterglauheim continued, and spaces were appearing as units were eliminated

Delays in the centre, as both sides work to bring up reinforcements

The swans are still on their pond; perhaps they are deaf? Whatever, they probably are now

A collector's item - the Elector brings forward some of his infantry

Now the cavalry reserves are arriving in the centre; British behind the Austrian cuirassiers on the far side, French behind the Bavarians near the camera

General view at the end of the first evening session. Things were starting to fizzle out around Blindheim, the cavalry action in the centre was building up again, and Bavarian and Austrian infantry were scrapping indecisively in the woods at  the far end of the table. The score at this point was 9-7 to the Allies, with 14 required for the win.

Things definitely fairly quiet around Blindheim, with the French in control there

The centre - heating up, but some of the units are below strength (4 white counters and you're out)

Not to be outdone, Prince Eugene is in the action too, bringing up the Austrian foot

Holstein-Beck with the Hessian contingent. Same again, please, barman

British infantry on their last legs at Blindheim, but the French are almost fought to a standstill here, too

The clincher; the Allies played a "Give Them the Cold Steel" card, which gives units a bonus dice in action this turn, and one result was that these little chaps routed and eliminated the Gendarmérie de France, a fine effort which made the score 14-12 to the Allies, and the game was over.

A lot of soldiers have been lost - a hard day's fighting

Over on the French left, there is still very little happening, apart from the Elector and Eugene posing for the official artists. Having said which, Marlborough kept a good distance between himself and the fighting all day.

It wasn't visible on either Zoom camera, but the faithful scoreboard keeps the tally, so it's official

My affectionate thanks to the JBM for his stamina and courage throughout the two sessions. It was a bit of a marathon, which we expected, but it was a test after all, and I am very pleased to record that the rules handled the big battle with no problems (apart from the occasional memory failure on my part).




  1. If you want a good old table-top scrap, Blenheim/Blindheim/Unterglau - or something like it - is a good one to pick!

    1. I believe you are absolutely spot-on, sir. Table-creakers like this are maybe not ideal for a social game, but the rules did need some stress-testing, and, let's face it, I'd have been disappointed with myself if I'd never tried it!

  2. Fantastic Big Battle, Tony. Fought over two sessions? How many total hours do you figure this fight consumed? Always enjoy seeing your toys, table, and especially your tally board.

    1. Hi Jon - we deliberately took it slowly (out of respect for the age of the organiser), especially once we had decided it should be a show of two acts. Also there was a lot of discussion, some of it about the rules and the battle, but also social stuff about wargames and people we once knew etc!

      Having stalled long enough, I reckon I would say the actual fighting took a bit less than 6 hours, which is quite heavy, considering the rules are simple.

  3. Excellent looking game Tony. That is most definitely Oberglauheim/NotBlenheim.
    I think Holstein-Beck deserves an award not just for his name, but also for one of his foot regiments berating the Gendarmerie. You could say he was Furst among equals.
    [Sorry, had to be done].

    1. Well played sir! My favourite commander of the period is the Marquis de Silly, but he was too junior to feature as a named entity on our table. We did have 8 Leaders on the French side and 6 on the Allied (I think). Old Arco (another Italian Bavarian) was probably hero of the day, though he lost his regiment on the way.

  4. A most impressive set up and an excellent game to boot. I’ve refought the real battle once in a multi player game and what a meat grinder that was too. Sounds like the rules stood up well.

    1. Hi Graham - yes, rules were fine. I think my next game will be rather smaller, or else use the extra extension to get the population density down a bit, but I was reassured by my researches (such as they were - Oberglauheim doesn't get a lot of coverage) that in the real action the boys were packed in like this. A splendid game, but the reality must have been absolutely horrifying.

      My next wish-list item for this period is a little campaign, with the troops spread over a map. I'm working on it!

  5. Fantastic game and as you say an absolute meat grinder. I went into it not expecting to win, convinced that with all my troops packed in behind Blindheim I was bound to lose a commander and then suffer a domino effect of morale failures and a wing collapse. Thankfully that never happened and my desire to cycle the backlog of troops through the village to avoid this led to a fixation on that particular flank. I was outplayed but at a couple of points it was closer than I’d dared to hope. Chapeaux sir.

    1. An honour and a privilege, Monsieur. Thank you once again.

  6. That was hard fought slogging match, but was always likely to be in a refight. Many of Marlborough's victories relied upon his insight into how his opponent would behave / react. When the French are commanded by Marshal hindsight, who can read the whole battle at a glance, they are much harder to outwit on the table-top.

    1. Hi Rob - that's very true. Always one of the great difficulties of any wargame replays of real history. Gives an added lustre to my decision to fight the battle as Oberglauheim; let's see 'em read about that... [heh heh]

  7. A grand affair indeed Tony…
    Lovely eye candy as always…

    All the best. Aly

    1. Heavy, man. I should be able to walk again in a few days.