Monday 6 January 2020

The Battle of Turcoing, 18 May 1794 (18 Floreal II)

The first game of the year took place on Saturday. I'd promised a while back to set up another French Revolutionary War game using General d'Armée. Any actual resemblance to the real sprawling two-day battle was largely in my head apart (mostly) from the troops involved and the general layout of the terrain. I'd just received the latest offering from Vae Victis that focussed on Turcoing and included a board game, which was helpful in the set up stage. An account of the actual battle can be found here. I chose to attempt the attack by the Duke of York's Anglo/Hanoverian/Hessian corps on Day 2 as I could almost recreate it battalion for battalion. Orders of battle for the game are at the end of this post.

The lads at the Durham club have been trying out the rules without much in the way of universal acceptance so far, while John and I had played them a fair bit when they first came out and quite liked them. John the Red and Paul Stevenson took the French while Shaun and I were the Allies.  In time honoured fashion the photos below will hopefully show how the game developed. As usual, neither commanders' plans stood up to first contact with the dice. For reference North is roughly where the French right wing were deployed. Obviously South is the opposite corner. The figures are all mine, and yes I know some of the movement trays have yet to be "scenified" but there's a limit to what can be done and my priority had been reflagging some British battalions as Hanoverians.

The armies at the start. The French on the left . The Allies chose to leave the Hanoverians off as a reserve. All our cavalry was on our left, the English foot in the centre and the Hessians on the far right. 
The French right, a brigade of veteran infantry (legere and grenadiers) sported by a brigade of light cavalry.
Facing the troops in the picture above were two  brigades of Allied horse; one English, the other Hanoverian (with Prussians standing in as Hanoverian dragoons).
The English cavalry, r-l: Light Dragoons, Dragoon Guards and Household Cavalry.
This French horse battery started knocking lumps off my cavalry, while Paul immediately ordered all his infantry into square. The French cavalry hid.
In the French centre six battalions of infantry began a slow advance covered by a swarm of skirmishers.
On the Allied right the Hessian brigade would, I assumed, make short work of the French opposite them as they were all classed as recruits.
The French Levée cross the stream behind another swarm of skirmishers and a battery of 8pdrs.
Stung by the artillery fire the English cavalry charged the enemy and succeeded in driving the French skirmishers back so I ended up right up close to the French squares and their cannon! The Household Cavalry actually hit a square but bounced off. I'd taken pretty heavy casualties on my cavalry for no obvious nor immediate gain, but we jumped a few hedges, caught a fox and even after the cavalry withdrew the French remained in square for the whole game just in case I tried it again.
The Royal Horse Guards bounce off the French square.
The Hessians were struggling. Their pitifully small number of jager had been dispersed by the more numerous French skirmishers, leaving the line battalions vulnerable to an intense and costly exchange as the two leading Hessian battalions were worn down. The Hessians repeatedly threw badly and lost fire discipline to add to their misery.
An overview of the battlefield about half way through the action.
Back over on the other flank the Hanoverian brigade had already been summoned from the reserve and was advancing very slowly towards the enemy, hindered by the Allied cavalry that was trying to reposition itself. At least the Hanoverian light infantry were able to engage in some long range fire with the French skirmishers and whittle their numbers down significantly.
The French right and much of the centre was pinned by the presence of the Hanoverian dragoons brigade to their front.
Shaun's Hessians were in danger of being overwhelmed as their casualties mounted. I thought the effect of swarms of skirmishers on 'old school' lines of infantry seemed pretty accurate as with the demise of their own skirmish screen there was little the Hessians could do by way of an effective response. This allowed John's columns of Levée to get dangerously close.
The leading Hessian battalion taking all the damage was effectively pinned and its losses soon exceeded the magical '12' resulting in their dispersal (rout). This made the brigade 'faltering'. 
To add insult to injury the French had pushed their artillery right up in support of their attacking infantry.  All now hinged on whether Shaun would pass the Faltering Brigade test at the start of the next turn......
Back over on the left, the Hanoverian dragoons were ordered to charge the French in order to buy some more time. The skirmishers were driven off and as expected, the dragoons bounced and were forced to retreat.
The English cavalry had finally sorted itself out and were filtering around the left of the advancing Hanoverian infantry.  The light infantry were supported by a battalion of combined grenadiers, but the rest of the brigade (which included an Emigré regiment, were lagging behind. At least the Hanoverian artillery had been able to deploy and was taking pot shots at one of the French squares.
The faltering Hessians failed their test so it was 'Sauve qui peut!' The brigade legged it rearwards.
The table at the end of the game.
We had managed eight or nine turns as we bumbled through the game and the rules. The end result was a marginal French victory. The Hessians did rally but were obviously very brittle but generally the rest of the army was in good condition. OK, the English cavalry had taken heavy losses, as had a battalion of English flank companies holding the centre all the while bombarded by a battery of French 12pdrs.  The Anglo-Hanoverians in the centre and on the left (12 battalions in all) could have launched an attack but with the demise of our right wing, that didn't seem to be such a  good idea, especially as the French skirmishers had pretty much dispersed our screen and their admittedly poor cavalry were not yet committed to the battle. It was a good time to conclude the game, and I doubt anything significant could have been achieved by an advance at this late stage, even one led by the Brigade of Guards!

With hindsight I know we got a few things wrong with the rules (let alone tactically) but I enjoyed the game thoroughly. I am of the opinion that they do produce a good game and there is plenty to think about. Black Powder, (which I have no real issues with and they remain my 'go to' set for really big multi-player games) General d'Armée are not, but once you get into the flow and become familiar with the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the General d'Armée they provide the basis for a really challenging game. They take a bit of getting used to but thats why were using them for this game. I like the ADC tasking rules as well as the way charges are resolved prior to contact (if indeed there is any contact). The ADC availability rolls at the start of each turn usually saw fewer French than Allied aides being on hand to deliver orders, something that disrupted the French a fair bit. That said, despite having the ADCs, our ability to throw 1s and 2s during the activation phase meant that much of the Allied army was hesitant when we actually needed to do anything! Amusingly, the battery of Royal Artillery and the Hessian battery lost more men to fatigue (i.e. resulting from very low dice scores) than enemy fire. Actually it wasn't very funny at all. The French seemed intent on giving their artillery bombardment orders whenever they could, which was especially annoying on our left flank.

Anyway, I enjoyed the game and like the rules, and everyone else enjoyed the game too, so thats what is most important. We learnt some stuffs the next game ought to flow much faster........I hope.

As promised here are the OoB used in the game. I deliberately made the English cavalry pretty good and the French pretty poor. Obviously each infantry brigade had the appropriate number of skirmish bases as their integral screen.


Cavalry Bde (British)
Light Dragoons, Elite, Battle Cavalry
Household Cavalry & Kings Dragoon Guard, Elite, Hvy Cav.

Cavalry Bde (Hanoverian)
Dragoons x 2, Hvy Can

Infantry Bde (British)
Footguards x 3, Elite, Flankers Btn, Elite, 6pdr battery

Infantry Bde (British)
Line Btns x 3, Flankers Btn, Line

Infantry Bde (Hanoverian)
Guard x 2, Elite; Line x 2, Grenadier Btn, Elite, Emigré Btn, Large, 6pdr battery

Infantry Bde (Hessian)
Line Btns x 3, Fusilier Btns x 1, 3pdr battery


Cavalry Bde:
Cavalry x 2, Battle cavalry, Recruit
Carabiniers, Battle Cavalry
4pdr Horse Battery, Elite

Cavalry Bde:
Chasseurs a Chevel & Hussars x 3, Campaign Cavalry
4pdr Horse Battery, Elite

Infantry Bde:
Combined Grenadiers x 1, Veteran
Demi-Bde Legere x 3 btns, Veteran

Infantry Bde:
Demi-Bdes x 2 (6 Btns), Line
12pdr Foot Battery

Infantry Bde:
Levée Btns x 7, Recruit
8pdr Foot Battery


  1. Lovely looking game Colin. Inspiration to get gaming this year.

  2. Fine looking game, again. You have more energy than me right now!