The Battle of Blenheim
by Richard Hartland 

The Alliance plans:
There is debate around this, but the basic allied plan was for Eugene to tie down the Franco Bavarian left wing under Marsin and the Elector. The terrain here was rough and favoured the defender far more. Similarly, Marlborough planned to draw off French reserves into the village of Blenheim by assaulting the place. This would leave the Franco Bavarian centre dangerously weakened where Marborough planned to outnumber them.  To achieve this superiority of force, Marborough needed to get the bulk of his cavalry and infantry across the Nebel between Oberglau and Blenheim. Therefore to keep the French in either location occupied and prevent them from interfereing with the crossing of the Nebel, he attacked both places.

The Franco-Bavarian plans:
It seems that the Franco Bavarians did not expect an attack from the Allied army. Although they could discern the Allied army moving in the distance across an intervening ridge, they believed their enemy to be retreating, so it came as something of a shock when the Allied army suddenly appeared on the ridge on the opposite bank of the Nebel to them. This surprise led to a hasty and ultimately flawed deployment. On the left Marsin deployed his infantry to the west with his cavalry on his wings. Tallard sent the bulk of his infantry to his right wing and added his right wing cavalry to his centre. This left some 27 infantry battalions concentrated in or near Blenheim and only 9 battalions on the plain in his centre in support of the vast bulk of his cavalry.  The result of this was that Tallard’s first line of infantry moved into Blenheim and fortified it with his second line (excepting the 9 battalions in the center) located behind the village. This meant that the bulk of Tallard’s infantry was not in a position to contest Marlborough’s crossing of the Nebel.

Battle Time Line

The Cannonade began at around 0800. Marlborough had to wait until 1230 however, before launching his attacks, top ensure Eugene was in position.

1230 - The Attack on Blenheim
Lord Cutts commanded the initial attack on Blenheim village which was launched at about 1230. The first brigade, under Rowe crossed the Nebel undisputed. But the French opened fire when it was about 30 yards from the barricades blocking the entrance to the village. Losses were heavy and despite pressing the attack, the brigade was ultimately forced to withdraw. At this point 3 french cavalry squadrons attached the retreating Rowe’s brigade. The fight now escalated as the second brigade positioned near the Nebel fired on the French squadrons forcing them to withdraw. The English were then reinforced by 5 squadrons of cavalry who were in turn attacked, by gun fire, from Tallard’s 8 squadrons of Gendarmerie. The English Cavalry charged the Gendarmerie pushing them back behind Blenheim where Tallard was apparently wounded. The second line of French cavalry now joined in and forced the English squadrons to retire.

Lord Cutts, rather than attempt another direct assault of the village, drew up his troops at musket shot distance from Blenheim. From there small parties continuously moved forward and fired on the village. Under cover of the resulting smoke more and more Allied troops deployed to his right onto the plain, bypassing Blenheim.  The French command, at this time made the first of two big mistakes. Almost immediately after the first attack Marquis de Clérambault (commanding the French wing in Blenheim) ordered 9 battalions into Blenheim from the reserve posted behind the village, bringing the total troops in Blenheim to 27 battalions. The effect of this was simply to hinder the defence not strengthen it as now it was dangerously overcrowded. The second implication of this was to deprive Tallard of all but 9 battalions to support his centre. The centre was dominated by the French cavalry rather than a solid line of infantry.

1230 - 1600 The Attack on the Plain
The centre and right wing of the allied cavalry crossed the Nebel preceded by 8 infantry battalions in the centre.  The allied right wing cavalry had to fight hard after it had crossed and was twice repulsed to or across the Nebel by Marsin's cavalry. Franco Bavarian infantry fire from Oberglau also contributed to this. In the centre the French made their second mistake; they allowed the allied cavalry to cross the Nebel unopposed. Thus the centre of the allied cavalry calmly deployed across the Nebel.

1230 - 1500 The Attack on Oberglau
The infantry attack on Oberglau, meant to prevent the Franco Bavarian troops stationed there from interfereing with the Allied crossing of the Nebel in the centre did not go all that well for the allies. When the first 2-4 allied battalions crossed the Nebel they were immediately attacked by 9 French battalions. Allied losses here were heavy and the Allied commander of this wing, Holstein-Beck was wounded and captured. Marlborough had to intervene personally. He led three battalions, some dragoons and field guns forward. This was still not enough and more cavalry and battalions had to be brought up to withstand the enemy cavalry and push the enemy battalions back into Oberglau. By 1500 this had been achieved.

1330 - Eugene's First Attack
Eugene launched his first attack between 1300 and 1400. His right wing infantry advanced and captured ground near Lutzingen. The cavalry did well initially and broke through Marsin’s first line, but was thrown back to the Nebel by the second line. After that the infantry was also pushed back some by a counter attack. Eugene’s first attack petered out.

1430 - Eugene's Second Attack
At about 14:30 Eugene launched a second attack. Again the cavalry was repulse after some initial success.  Flanking fire from the villages helped the Franco Bavarians repulse the cavalry. Then in following up Eugene’s repulse Marsin’s cavalry attacked Eugene’s infantry. The infantry held on and retained their position close to the Franco Bavarian line.

1630 - 1830 Eugene's Third Attack
By 16:30 Eugene was ready to launch his third attack. This time his cavalry succeeded in overthrowing the Franco Bavarian first line, but was again pushed back to the Nebel by the enemy's second line. By now Eugene’s cavalry was completely exhausted. Eugene’s infantry under Leopold von Dessau, continued to push forward and ultimately reached close to Lutzingen by the time the battle closed. The Elector was unable to counter the advance of the infantry fully because by then the battle had already been decided in favour of the Allies, and both Marsin and the Elector had to retire.

1600 - Completion of the Allied Deployment
Progress in the south eastern half of the battle looked to be slow. However, Marlborough had been concentrating on building up his forces on the southern side of the Nebel. By 1600 he had succeeded in deploying the bulk of his forces on the plain between Oberglau and Blenheim. The Franco Bavarian troops bottled up in both Oberglau and, more disastrously, Blenheim were quite powerless to prevent this as were the bulk of Tallard’s cavalry and pitifully small infantry force deployed in the centre opposite where Marlborough was deploying. By 1600 the Allied forces deployed between Oberglau and Blenheim were superior in cavalry and greatly superior in infantry. The Allies had approximately 16 battalions and 80 squadrons to the Franco Bavarian 9 battalions and 55 squadrons.  Marlborough deployed his cavalry in two lines with the infantry behind them in support and providing a safe have for the cavalry to recover behind should the need arise. The Franco Bavarians deployed their forces similarly.

1600 - 1730 Tallard's Counterattack
At 1600 Tallard finally called for a general attack on the Allies now fully deployed south of the Nebel. The cavalry led the attack supported by the 9 battalions of infantry. The attack, outnumbered, was defeated. The Franco Bavarian cavalry fled behind the relative safety of the stream between the Nebel and the Danube, leaving the French infantry to retreat unsupported. The French infantry was surrounded and most failed to escape; Marborough brought up his infantry and guns and cut them down. The Allied cavalry finished them off when they broke and ran.  The Allied cavalry now regrouped ready to finish off the Franco Bavarian army.

1800 - Allied Charge
At about 1800 Marlborough's cavalry, about 80 squadrons, launched a charge against the disorganised and demoralised Franco Bavarian cavalry in front of them. The Franco Bavarian cavalry turned and fled. About 30 Allied squadrons pursued the Franco Bavarian cavalry that fled towards Höchstädt. Marlborough led the rest in pursuit of the Franco Bavarian cvalary that fled in the direction of Sondersheim and the Danube. Many of these Franco Bavarian cavalry were reportedly drowned while attempting to swim the river or while their horses plunged from the 6 metre high river bank. Tallard was captured near Sonderheim.  The utter collapse of the French centre between Blenheim and Oberglau forced the the retreat of the army of the Elector Max Emanuel and Marsin.

1830 - The Capitulation of Blenheim
The only Franco Bavarian troops left on the battle field were now the 27 battalions of infantry in Blenheim. They were now surrounded. No attempts were made to break out and at about 2000 they surrendered

The allies had lost about 6,000 dead and about 6,500 wounded. The French had lost about 11,000 prisoners.  Their total loss in soldiers from all causes (killed, wounded, missing) was estimated at 30,000.

Seven Hex System: Design Philosophy
by Steven Pole

Combat Example #1 -- Combat Example #2 -- Combat Example #3

The seven hex system ["SHS"] is not new. It began life about thirty years ago when I was a teenager who spent (too) much of his time playing Avalon Hill and SPI games. I really loved those games, but I always felt that the way in which they simulated conflicts was skewed for reasons which I set out below, and which I sought to redress when designing SHS.  The reaction amongst my friends, who ranged from hard core to occasional wargamers, to the scenarios based upon SHS was generally very positive. Buoyed by this, I submitted some scenarios to publishers. To say their response was unenthusiastic is a bit like saying the Romans were not terribly keen on Hannibal. The game was absolutely slaughtered; it was described as a akin to Risk, far too simple to be taken seriously by proper wargamers. Collapse of cocky teenager.

Family and career developments meant that until a few years ago I had little time to spend upon board wargaming. When I meandered back into the hobby I was pleasantly surprised to find that simple games were not just accepted, but had become popular. After a while I dusted off the rules and scenario notes for SHS and invited friends to play. Again, everyone seemed to enjoy the experience so I again submitted the game for publication. This time the reaction was completely different. The game was well received, and Legion Wargames said that they would be willing to take it on.


What then is SHS trying to achieve?

For me, one of the difficulties with the Avalon Hill and SPI games mentioned above was the place of the wargamer within the context of the simulation. In theory the wargamer is supposed to be the senior commander. In practice, in most games they seemed to be omnipotent; controlling not only grand strategy, but also the actions and re-actions of individual units which, invariably, carried out their orders to the letter. In real warfare the senior commander may be responsible for the overarching plan; for ensuring in broad terms that formations move in accord with this; and, for where and when to launch major attacks, commit reserves etc. However, the degree to which his or her instructions permeate to any given unit is likely to depend upon factors which are outside his control during the combat itself; the way in which the army is organized, the extent to which it has been trained, his relationship with subordinates, and sheer luck, to name but four.  

The SHS is intended to go some way at least towards replicating this situation. The senior commander (wargamer) can, of course, plan his or her strategy and, until the conflict develops, the strategic movement rule allows him or her fairly free rein over the movement of units. Once battle is joined, however, and less units are able to make strategic moves, the commanders control is restricted and increasingly dependant upon luck as represented by the order values rule, combat outcomes, and morale tests.

At a micro level, to approximate reality each individual unit would be commanded by a different wargamer whose clarity of communication and relationship with the senior commander might be somewhere along a spectrum ranging from excellent to non-existent.  Unfortunately this is not possible. The nature of boardgames is such that generally the senior commander (wargamer) also takes the part of each unit commander receiving orders from himself, as it were. I hope the elements of luck mentioned above go someway to replicating the difference between what the senior commander intends to happen and what actually takes place.

However, between the strategic planning and tactical combat there is another level to engagements which comes out clearly in the memoirs and journals of military men, but which, I feel, is absent from many games. This is the local/tactical consequence of the overarching strategy. Units do not just occupy space, they do so in a way which reflects the commanders intent. For example, if a commander's plan is to hold his left flank he might well position units there in a formation which best enables them to receive an attack. The SHS reflects this by allowing the units to be placed upon the outer hexes of the areas in question to increase their DVs. This is fine so long as the attack comes from the anticipated direction. If it doesn't and the attack comes from a different angle the (now) badly deployed defenders will be at a serious disadvantage. Also, if the commander changes his mind and decides to advance his left flank the fact that the units in question are deployed defensively will introduce an element of delay as they will need to re-organize themselves before marching off.

In a nutshell, therefore, SHS is intended to be a simple and intuitive means of replicating the essence of combat from the point of view of the supreme commander, and rewarding an approach which embodies the following elements.  

1. A reasonably straight-forward strategy with clear objectives and a generous margin for error and ill-fortune is more likely to succeed than a complex plan dependent upon choreographed maneuvers and timing. The sound positioning and decisive commitment of reserves is also important.

2. At a micro level random events play more of a part, but the commander can still influence proceedings by using wisely the limited (and uncertain) number of orders available. He or she should ensure that troops are only used in combat where they are likely achieve a specific aim consistent with the overall strategy, rather than being frittered away to no real purpose. Whilst the element of luck means that success cannot be guaranteed, as with the real thing the side which launches attacks which are well thought out, co-ordinated, and supported so that even if the objective is not attained the advancing units not left isolated and vulnerable to a stinging counter offensive, is likely to come out on top.        

3. The flexibility permitted in the deployment and demeanor of troops within areas allows strategic thinking to be reflected at the tactical level and tends to reward the commander who has the clearest idea of how an engagement is likely to develop. I think it was Frederick who described this as the key to success in battle.