Category Archives: Maurice

Maurice (02/09/12 – Nick)

Some days games just don’t go as well as you expect them to – this was one of those days. I wasn’t going to report on this game at all until the issue before last of Battlegames landed on the doormat in which Henry has very sportingly given Sam Mustafa (the author of “Maurice”) the chance to respond to a negative review of the rules published in the previous issue. The review had pointed out that when it comes to casualties, disruptions and rallying, Maurice was different to most rules in that there were no actual casualties removed, just disruption caused which could be rallied off  and the author of the review didn’t like that. I hadn’t really worried too much as we really enjoyed our first game, but during the second game it became evident that even among friends the rules do seem to be a bit “Marmite” – you either like the system of disruption / rallying or you don’t – read on for an account of a game between a player from each camp…

French deployment

In a reversal of roles from our lasting outing with Maurice, Nick was Marlborough and I was Marshall Tallard. We used the terrain placement system from the rule book this time and as the British won the scouting roll and I didn’t have any 15mm buildings he plonked a hill down on the very edge of my deployment zone knowing this would be the objective. I put a wood in front of the hill in his deployment zone to disrupt his deployment and his solution to this was worthy of Marlborough. With the hill as the objective I was left with no option but to defend it, so the Garde Francais infantry formed up to advance on to the hill in the middle of a two-ranked line of infantry flanked by cavalry and artillery.

The British decided to assault the hill (something I had declined to do in the last game with the Garde on it) with his 6 British battalions, placing 2 cavalry on his right flank and 2 Dutch battalions with 2 cavalry and all his artillery on his left.

British deployment

The British national advantage in musketry failed to make an impact and surprisingly I was able to keep up with the lost disruptions by rallying actions which also gave me 2 cards and enabled me build a hand to counter a lot of the cards which the British were playing to force me off the hill. The French Guard knew they may not stand much chance in a firefight so charged the first unit on the hill, doubling them in melee and wiping them out. After cancelling the next volley phase through the use of a card, the Guard fell back to the top of the hill, forcing the British to follow them to get in to musket range.

So the British became fixated on the hill which was the objective and the game degenerated into a series of frontal assaults by his infantry with my French infantry rallying off the disruption from British lethal volleys then following up with the bayonet national characteristic when his rally failed (a pretty sound tactic I thought and not something I could complain about as it was burning through the deck). Even when a British cavalry unit intervened, I luckily had a “That’s not on the Map” card to play, which ruined their chance at a flank charge on one of my infantry units supporting the Garde. Eventually, the British attack on the hill ran out of steam with the French infantry more-or-less intact. To be fair, I was lucky that the British “lethal” volleys were somewhat less than lethal but assaulting French guard on a hill might be a bad idea under any set of rules.

British prepare the assault

At the end, I was thanking my lucky stars that the British did not use the Great Commander card to move his general out to flank for free having pinned me on the hill – he outnumbered me on the flank, and had concentrated all his artillery there. The one turn he did bombard he put 2 disruption on a cavalry unit which is hard to rally off (5 or 6 needed) and even harder to fund with cards if they are 16″ from the general – a couple more turns of that might have really paid off. Also, my general had to discard cards to move so it would have cost me to move to the flank. Morale at the end was 11 for the French from a starting 15 while the British were down to 3 having lost 5 infantry and 1 cavalry unit and rolled high on the morale loss table.

British assault goes in

Anyway, there was a bit of post-match debate with the British commander convinced that rallying is too easy and the lack of real casualties in the game is a weakness as it means that units can rally to fresh state and still get 2 new cards (unlike Field of Battle 2 where the loss of UI, though it can also be rallied off still gives loss to army morale). I on the other hand just put it down to bad dice rolls for the British shooting and good rolls for my rally rolls, though I do accept that perhaps getting 2 cards for a rally makes it too much of a no-brainer for the defender. However, a British attack which rolled up my flank while pinning me on the hill might have succeeded and possibly broke my morale  – concentrating on attacking the hill allowed me to use all my cards for rallying if I chose.

So the up-shot is that I’m not sure that we’ll be using “Maurice” again which is a real shame – a case of I liked them but my regular opponent didn’t. Our search for a rule set we both like for the period continues and will visit Field of Battle 2 in the near future. On a brighter note, Sam Mustafa has announced “Longstreet”, an ACW ruleset which is brigade-level and card-driven and I have shed-loads of Reb and Yankee troops already painted and ready to go – can’t wait!

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Maurice WSS (05/08/12 – Nick)

So finally we get to have a face-to-face game of Maurice – anticipation has been high for this set of rules, and I’m glad to say they didn’t disappoint. The rules and cards are pretty intuitive and a seasoned CDG player like Nick was soon twisting the knife into me with clever use of his cards – I on the other hand couldn’t seem to draw a high command value card to save my life on the first trawl through the deck – excuses, excuses! Anyway, after a die roll for randomising sides, I was fated to be Marlborough (though no French general was ever going to see the inside of my coach) and I chose to attack after winning the scouting roll. A random generation of terrain produced 2 swamps, a hill and a forest in my central deployment zone, a forest in my left-hand deployment zone and only a hill in the French right deployment zone, which promptly became the objective.

The French general deployed his Guard infantry behind the crest of the objective hill (100 years ahead of Wellington!) with his Guard cavalry and another unit of cavalry supporting them on their right between them and the board edge. The rest of the French force was strung out to the mid-point of the board, where their flank was anchored on another 2 units of horse.

The objective hill (avec les Gardes Francais)

I took one look at that hill and thought “nah” – Guard infantry on a hill would be on a basic factor of 10 and attacking infantry would be on a 5 for starters – even a 6 on the dice verses a 1 in return would be a draw and a loss. Hiding behind the crest prevented me disrupting them through bombardment, and they would easily have rallied any disruption off anyway, so there had to be a plan B. Stupidly, I chose to try and overwhelm the Guard horse and their supports beside the hill with a mixed force of infantry and horse, but due to the forest in my left flank deployment area I had to set down 2 units of infantry in march column – they were there to support my main thrust of 3 units of horse but later spent vital time fannying about trying to deploy from march column into line. The rest of my infantry and all my artillery deployed to distract the French centre, whilst a lone Dutch unit of horse were drawn up beyond a marsh on my right flank (why you ask? More on this later…)

The central deployment

The British flanking force made good progress, but due to a lack of high value cards Marlborough had to stick pretty close to them, leaving him unable to co-ordinate the simultaneous central infantry thrust as I kept drawing low value command cards. I suppose I could just have bombarded and kept drawing until I got a decent hand, but my initial cannon aim seemed to be a bit off, so I chose to press on with the flank attack and hoped the central assault could catch up later (fool!). Even outnumbered 2 to 1, the French guard cavalry just refused to die over numerous rounds of combat, and kept rallying off the resulting disruption (we played the outnumbering rule slightly wrong here – we were subtracting 1 from the French combat score, whereas it should have been 2 due to both British units engaging ONLY the French Guard horse).

The unbeatable French horse

I managed to work my spare horse unit around the French flank to take out 2 French cannon, but they were then stung by Guard infantry musketry into charging the horse supporting the Guard horse. In a marginal call we decided that my horse hadn’t flanked his, and they bounced off even though they won the melee (though luckily they were now out of fire arc for the pesky Guard infantry on the hill).

To flank or not to flank

At this point I woke up and realised that all this charging about with horses (glorious and honourable though it was) was just burning through the deck and not sapping the French Army morale much at all, so I activated the central infantry and started the long march towards the French lines. During this lull the French rallied their 2 units of horse and put in a charge against my 3 damaged units of horse. The beastly French Guard horse took on 2 units of my horse, and rolled a 6 to add to their impressive 10 combat factor – predictably both my horse rolled 1 or 2, were promptly doubled and auto-broke taking 6 points of British Army Morale with them. A follow-up volley took out the third unit of my horse, so my left flank was now held by a single unit of infantry! Luckily, I had an event to help me out – with a cackle I plonked down a marsh between the triumphant French horse and the single infantry unit left on my flank using the “That’s not on the map” card (even though a lengthy, swirling cavalry melee had taken place over the very same ground beforehand, miraculously none of the horse units involved had stumbled into this huge morass).

The mystery of the marsh

Meanwhile in the centre I had finally got my infantry into small arms range and a large-scale musketry and artillery duel had started. Infantry units were broken on both sides by fire, but even with my advantage of re-rolling missed disruptions I couldn’t silence the French artillery with musketry and they did terrible execution in my packed ranks. In a attempt to break the stalemate I summoned the Dutch horse I had unwisely placed far out on my right flank (I still don’t know why) – this move burned a few high-value cards and we were already on the third run-through the deck, so time was running out. A combination of volleys and the Dutch horse broke both the French horse units but at minimal loss in French Army morale – the further loss of the last French artillery battery didn’t even impact on their morale at all, so clearly these Frenchies were made of stern stuff!

The final British attack

With 3 cards left in the deck, the French could have practically ended the game by passing and drawing all 3 cards, but sportingly they charged the Guard horse and their supports across the mystery marsh into my waiting infantry. They couldn’t make a dent in my infantry, bouncing back into the marsh and taking further disruption in the process, but the lack of cards meant this was literally the last roll of the dice – my remaining 2 cards were value 4, so I quit the field and it was game over. Army morales were actually quite close at the end, with the French having 5 remaining and the British 4, but I think I would have been really lucky to win as my attack was spent and there were 3 French infantry units who hadn’t even been engaged as yet (never mind the Guard on the hill who were back at full strength). Though the re-shuffle card did come up very early in the second deck meaning the game was shorter than expected, I don’t think my army morale would have lasted much longer even if I did get a few more card plays.

There were lots of other fun moments during the game – for instance, the play of the “Confusion” card when the French forced a disrupted unit of my horse to charge a fresh unit of their horse. My horse were so confused that they inadvertently clipped one of the French artillery batteries on the way in and wiped them out in the fighting – a bit of a result for me as the main cavalry melee was indecisive. And speaking of confusion, the merry dance my infantry in march column supporting the left flank cavalry performed in deploying from march column into line had to be seen to be believed – in true period fashion, you have to march parallel to the enemy, then left turn to form a line – I had skipped over this bit in the rules, so ended my move with the head of the column facing the enemy – ooops! By the time they had formed up facing the right way, my cavalry had been routed and were mere specks on the horizon.

So, at just over 3 hours to play to a conclusion with one of us never having played the rules before, this was a fun experience. Maurice gets a thumbs up from us.

Maurice WSS (03/08/2012 – Solo)

On Friday evening I had a try-out of the Maurice rules before my up-coming game with Nick on Sunday. Although Maurice units in their raw form are a fairly generic representation of 18th century armies, there are National Characteristic cards which allow you to modify the units to represent the strengths and weaknesses of the nations in the war you are simulating. As my armies are for the War of Spanish Succession, the British/Dutch had Great Captain (for Marlborough) and Lethal Volleys (representing platoon firing) characteristics while the French had A la Bayonette (better in hand-to-hand combat) and Maison du Roi (giving them 2 Guard units).

French camped on the objective

The objective was on a hill which French chose to camp 2 infantry battalions and some artillery around, so the British decided to concentrate their force on the opposite flank while holding the objective flank in place with 2 infantry battalions and 1 cavalry squadron (all Dutch), all the while pounding the enemy on the objective with a grand battery of 4 guns.

British infantry attack goes in

After an ineffective opening bombardment (despite some +1 bombardment cards), the infantry assault kicked off with 6 British battalions facing off against 4 French. Things looked to be going badly for the French until a marsh appeared in front of one of the leading British battalions (the hilarious “That’s not on the map” card), who then rashly charged through it but were driven back in the ensuing melee into the marsh to rally and lick their wounds. This front descended into a fairly ineffective fire fight while each side collected cards, until the British decided to force the issue with their cavalry. The plan was for 2 squadrons to engage the 2 squadrons of French cavalry, and at the same time the 3rd British squadron would attempt to take the end French infantry battalion in the flank.

Unfortunately, one of the French squadrons was the much vaunted Maison du Roi, and as the initial combat totals with the addition of a cavalry combat card show, they are not to be toyed with ….

I don’t fancy those odds much!

Luckily the British rolled high while the French rolled low, so the result was a bit of a Mexican stand-off as the British drew off.

Cavalry melee

However, the 3rd British squadron did get the charge in on the left-most French infantry battalion, but remarkably they withstood the charge, drove the cavalry off then followed up with a volley to add insult to injury.

Flanked, by Jove!

Meanwhile, the French general had quietly been marching his cavalry in the opposite flank towards the Dutch contingent. Even though they were quite a distance away from the general, a couple of cards which allow you to activate any force on the battlefield regardless of distance allowed them to get within charge range of the patrolling Dutch cavalry. The British general was distracted by having to perform a rally action on his depleted cavalry facing the French guard, so this allowed the French the opportunity to declare a charge on the Dutch cavalry.

French cavalry sneak around the flank

In a decisive melee, the Dutch cavalry disintegrated, leaving the British grand artillery battery exposed. Forced to burn cards to perform a bombardment action, the artillery inflicted some disruption on the cavalry, but not nearly enough. The French had just enough command span on his remaining cards to order a charge, and in a one-sided fight, the British artillery were wiped out.

British army morale was now down to 5 (started at 16) while the French was still just in double figures at 10, and as I had tried out most aspects of the rules I left it at that. Initial impressions are very good – Maurice reminds me a bit of Command & Colours Ancients with the hand management and mad bits of action in an area followed by lulls as players seek to rebuild their hands up before attacking again. It’ll be interesting to try the card mechanics against a canny opponent like Nick.