Wednesday 2 August 2023

We oohed 'n' aahed at Oudenarde

Having entertained us royally last year with his recreations of  Blenheim and Ramillies, Matt moved on to offer us Marlborough's third big battle of the War of the Spanish Succession: Oudenarde (1708).

Oudenarde is an exception to the conventional 18th-century simple line-out, being that rare thing, a genuine meeting engagement. Both armies are in motion, the French marching to seize the small fortress of Oudenarde and its bridges over the Scheldt, the allies racing to intercept them. Hence, only the two sides' small advance guards start the game on table, the main bodies having to march on over the first several turns.

Seven photos and captions tell the story of the game, followed by the usual post-battle reflections (and a link to the scenario).

Matt's games are always works of art. Here we see the fortress of Oudenarde. It played no direct part in the historical battle, nor in our game, but it does make a beautiful table ornament.

I commanded the French advance guard, seen here on parade before deploying: two Swiss brigades and some old-style caracoling cavalry. My role would be brief and inglorious. Admire Matt's handiwork - not only the beautifully painted troops but also the nice printed labels and a French royal banner to mark a French-held objective.


The enemy arrives! The allied advance guard has already raced off to the west. Here the allied right wing under Prince Eugene debouches through Oudenarde. It will follow the advance guard (and in doing so become the left wing).

My force concentrates in one of the village objectives, Eyne. 18th-century maneuver is slow and laborious, so it will take me another two turns to cross the stream in front of Eyne and take a second objective (Schaerken), despite being entirely unopposed. 

The whole battlefield, end of Turn 1 before the battle lines have formed. Essentially the battle will be fought up the middle of the table, from Eyne (foreground) through Schaerken, the high ground beyond, the orchards and farms surrounding that, and in front of Oycke (top left). Allied advance guard is in and approaching Oycke; the first of the French main body arriving from upper right. 

Several turns later and battle is well and truly joined. As massed allied infantry finally started to pay attention to my side of the battlefield, I launched a couple of spoiling moves. First my cavalry sallied forward into a gap in the allied line. The allied infantry responded by diverting left to drive them off. That exposed a flank, so I boldly pushed a Swiss brigade out of Eyne to enfilade them. Two volleys @ 42% chance failed to register any effect at all. By contrast, both large allied brigades then got the movement dice they needed to able to turn, assault and crush the Swiss. After that, they turned their attention to my remaining troops in Schaerken. Pic shows the ensuing assault, maneuver dice again favoring the allies. Top of pic, both sides' lines are forming up and preparing to contest Oycke.

Close-up of the assault on Schaerken. Yet another Swiss volley misfired, so the overwhelming allied numbers closed in, wiped out my second Swiss brigade and chased out the cavalry. That effectively ended my part in the game, so I'll have to summarise without further pics. Meanwhile, another chance to admire Matt's craftsmanship. Note how important it is to paint the lace on 6mm tricornes - very helpful to tell which way a unit is facing.

The conquerors of Schaerken turned their attention to Eyne and pushed Crispin's French out of there as well. However, he brought up more troops, including elite guard cavalry in the centre, counterattacked Eyne unsuccessfully, but retook Schaerken, where he fended off allied counterattacks in turn.

In the western half of the table, Dave's French maintained pressure on Oycke, could not take it, but obviated any allied attempt to take the central hill or interfere with Crispin's attack on Schaerken.

Thus, another seesaw game with objectives taken and retaken and several contested on the last turn. It ended, as so often, as an exciting and hard-fought draw.

My own early elimination from the game was fortuitous, as it freed me up to chat with a visitor from Yorkshire, Paul, who was checking out OWS for an Oxford friend. We had a good old natter but it does mean readers must forgive me for not taking more photos.


C18 maneuver constraints again. After both our previous WSS games I commented on how Matt's rule mods capture the limitations of linear warfare and force us players to think a bit harder and anticipate a bit more carefully. It was no different this time (in fairness it has been a year since the Ramillies outing). I'd just add that occasionally people forgot and tried to move a bit too freely and easily (including myself). Next time we should probably have a pre-game reminder briefing just to help cement the mods into our brains.

Never say die. My personal morale broke along with my command. My dice had been as dismal as Mark's were destructive. The allied line looked denser and more solid than ours. About halfway through the game I thought we had no chance and the French were just going through the motions before inevitable defeat. I reckoned without Crispin's spirited counter-attack and the quality of his elite guard troops that salvaged the battle for us and even gave a chance of victory.

Love the aesthetic. Matt's games are gorgeous: the figures, the custom hills and painted mats, the fortress, the printed unit labels, the flags for objectives, the figures for status markers. Just exquisite. Looking forward to his redoubts for Malplaquet already.

Seeing is believing. This was our visitor Paul's first chance to see BBB in action. A serious game designer himself, he commented favourably on the flow of the game, the level of player engagement, and the way it achieved its aim of rocking through an entire battle in an evening club session - sufficiently so that he told me he plans to invest in a copy. Cheers, Paul!


Scenario available from the BBB files.


  1. A fine game and that star fort really is a thing of beauty. No use in the game but who wouldn't want it on the table? I agree about the lace on tricornes, even in 10mm.

    1. BTW, I forgot to mention that the title made me chuckle:)!

  2. Thanks for all the nice comments. Steve, if you ever need a lame pun, I'm your man!


Comments welcome!