Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Battle of Dettingen Refight

In 1743 His Majesty George II took a massive train of servants and gear and joined his army in the field to aid the Austrians against the French in the War of Austrian Succession.  After a lot of differing and indecisiveness he found himself trapped by the French army and only a colossal blunder likely saved him and his army. 

Our refight was based on the excellent article in the March, 2012 issue of Wargames Illustrated.  Their game was played in "God's Chosen Scale" of 28mm figures on an 18' table, while ours was in 15mm on a 9x6' table.  The commanders for each side were given a briefing a few days before and had to give precise orders to different elements of their army as well as develop a plan for the battle.

After many e-mails flying back and forth and each side was ready.  In some cases making remarkably similar decisions to their historic counter-parts but in other cases feeling no obligation to copy their mistakes.

A bit about the table, because the terrain was of major importance.  The Main River ran the length of the long edge of the table and was impassable except at the pontoon bridge the French erected near Seligenstadt.  The Dettingen River split and had swampy ground between the branches.  For our chosen game system, Final Argument of Kings by Dean West, this meant rough ground and slow going.  At the far end of the table (see picture below) was the town of Kleinoshein which had a bridge over the Kleinoshein River.  Both the Dettingen and Kleinoshein Rivers could be passed, but basically just moving from one side to the other.  The camp of the "Pragmatic Army" lay between the two rivers, historically having exhausted both forage and resources.  Failure to get off table via Dettingen or the swamps or the loss of the wagon train would result in starvation and surrender.

Opening positions.  I've occupied Dettingen and the high ground
while another brigade waits to cross the pontoon bridge.

From the other end a French infantry and cavalry brigade will
enter turn one.  Facing what?
The Pragmtic Army with their Austrian allies had a slight numeric edge over the French.  Historically the French out-numbered them but a great many never came close to getting engaged.  The French army did not march in cadence nor emphasize musketry so around half of the line battalions were rated poor with a negative shooting modifier.  However, we had four battalions of the Gardes Francais, plus three battalions each of Irish and Swiss troops.  George had his British and Hanoverian Guards, and a pair of elite Austrian battalions, but the rest was remarkably average.

A view of the Pragmatic camp and rearguard moving out.

Lots of swamp to cover.  French guns are lights but the Gardes
Francais (not pictured) and others await.

From the safety of the far side of the Main, French medium guns
enfilade the advancing British and Hanoverians doing steady damage.
The French artillery park of 6 pounders, generally firing at long or extreme range did much better than historically, due in part to the stubborn decision to continue the advance and give up flank shots.  Eventually they all ran themselves out of ammunition and were starting to replenish when the game ended.

In the distance the French cavalry face their counter-parts.  The
Austrian contingent is at top of the picture.

Squish, squish, squish...  The brigade that crossed at Seligenstadt
is racing for the far left behind the ridge and out of picture.
As the Austrian cavalry and Pragmatic infantry prepared to emerge from the swamp, we were faced with a timing and terrain question.  My cavalry, being part of the Maison du Roi, had an easy decision, charging and routing and eliminating the Austrian horse.  At this time the Austrians were still wedded to the notion of firing pistols at point-blank.  So they receive no charge bonus but do get the firing, which in our case dropped a gentleman from the household troops.

Shooting uphill is tough in FAoK but I decided to
come down and try to pin the Pragmatic Army
against the swamp.

The main French army, starting on the wrong side of the river,
split and sent half to cross at Selingenstadt and half at Aschaffenburg. 
Here some arrive and start to cross the bridge.

The nearly abandoned camp, with cavalry racing to and fro.

Despite facing the British guards the numbers begin to tell and
the Pragmatic army is ripped up.  Yellow markers indicate shaken
units, red ones routed.  All units start with four stands each.

Routers have disordered the second line as George himself
begins to wade the swamp.

The garrison brigade at Dettingen charged and captured 24 allied
guns at bayonet point.

The pursuit force had to sort itself out and fend off allied cavalry.

The cavalry to the rescue of the guns, but too late.

One rule in place was that British cavalry in the WAS was
required to charge in column of squadrons.

George II about have runners race past.  Seeing no practical
option, he chose to ask for terms.

So ended the hard-fought game.  Without the obligation to repeat the French mistakes and with more effective artillery, the out-numbered and split French prevailed.  The Austrian infantry was intact and the rear-guard barely engaged, but needing to get out through the area where the French guards and now Irish were positioned was highly discouraging.  The Wargames Illustrated game also ended with George II being the guest of King Louis, but ours was a bit more decisive in my opinion.

Six stalwart gamers meant the game clipped along and we were done after about three hours.  We are still play-testing 2nd Edition of Final Argument of Kings with the minor amendments added at the Seven Years War Association convention in South Bend, IN last March.  Hopefully we will see it released yet this year.



  1. A great looking game, nice units...and camp!

    1. Thanks Phil. It's all in the details! Todd has a lot of battlefield props to really enhance the table.

  2. Thank you for sharing Michael,
    Vive le Roi,