Maurice: Boyne Playtest & Battle Report

At the Amsterdam6shooters premises Maarten and I tried & tested the 'Maurice' Renaissance rules, now for a big battle.

Maurice is a mix of a miniature wargame, with standard dice rolling, and a cards game. Late 17th and early 18th century William III, Louis XIV and Frederick the Great battles. The players pick action cards from a deck every turn and use them during play. They can use either the numerical value on the card (for moving one or more units, the longer the distance between commander and unit, the more or higher cards you need) or the ability on the card, a dice bonus on defense or attack. So if you want a distant wing to attack with a dice bonus you spend several cards and place them on the discard pile. With his cards your opponent can improve his defense or block certain of your actions. When the cards are laid down for the attack, both players roll the dice as in a regular wargame.

After the turn you draw one or more new cards, more often than not less than you just spent. But then it's your opponents'turn. He can play his cards, and then fire, withdraw, countercharge. Same as you. Then you again. If you have more or better cards than your opponent you can continue your charge, if not you risk a counterattack while you have to pass to replenish your hand. The quick planning of each turn is reminiscent of poker (will I win with Two Pairs or do I need Five of a Kind), the table top game is standard dice rolling. It's quick. Play/draw cards, move a few units, roll dice, other player, next turn. The cards that you have (or not anymore) simulate 'momentum'.

Nick The Lemming wrote:

If you want to march or charge your force, then you have to use action cards – each card as a particular ability on it which you can use in the relevant situation (some give bonuses to melee combat, others to shooting, others to movement, or stop your enemy from doing something nasty to your own troops), and each also has a number. If your commander is close at hand, you can get away with spending a low-numbered card; if he’s on the other side of the table, however, you will find yourself spending your better cards, and several of them, in order to get your force to act. This is where some hard choices have to be made. Do you use up 3 of your cards marked 4 in order to charge home, including one which would give you a bonus in that combat, or do you use the one card you have marked 16, which you could otherwise use to see your opponent’s cards and take one of them for your own? (...) Even the victors in combat are likely to be fatigued or suffer some casualties, so even though your elites are likely to win against conscripts or trained troops, the fact that they have more units means they can wear you down bit by bit – again, small elite armies, masses of conscripts and irregular armies are all perfectly good choices to have depending on your style, with none really proving to be innately superior.

The game is not new, Sam Mustafa designed it five years ago. But the concept is quite unique.

It's not the first time that we played this game, but for the first time we had enough units for a large battle with cavalry wings and irregular (light) cavalry and infantry. We used a Grant/Asquith scenario from their famous Scenarios for All Ages book, a river crossing scenario.

The red player defends the north side of the river. He has a smaller force but defends the river bank from an elevated position. The blue player attacks with his larger force and can spread out. Just crossing the river is not enough, he must utterly defeat the reds otherwise it's a draw. And a draw with a larger force counts as a defeat, imho.

We christened this 'Maurice' river crossing battle the 'Battle of the Boyne'; my blue William against the bloody red Irish catholics. The Dutch were given two elite units (the famous 'Blaauwe Garde', the SAS of the 17th century) and the Irish the 'clerics' national advantage, a limited number of extra dice bonuses that a player can use to simulate frantic, religiously inspired, fighting. 13 Dutch units against 7 Irish.

Irish cavalry in the hills here. Below: the fearful Blue Guard, ready to mincemeat them.

Here the battle. I failed 'in the grand manner'. Pyrrhus would look down on me. The bloody Catholics won.

I tried a pincer movement. Attack with my elite on the left wing (moving to A) and with a strengthened right wing (moving to C). Cross the river and crush. I weakened my center and moved my artillery closer to the river for a close range bombardment..

The Maurice system with the limited number of cards made it difficult for me to adequately coördinate the movement of the right wing and the left wing. My right wing was slow. When my center finally approached the river, my opponent Maarten surprised me with an attack. HE crossed the river and threatened my guns. AAAARGH!

I rushed my cavalry in, totally forgetting what Mustafa wrote in his book: "This is not Napoleonic cavalry: it does not have much chance of breaking a line of regular infantry from the front". So I stupidly attacked a row of pikes with two cavalry units, and lost one unit, had the other severely wounded, and couldn't prevent the destruction of my artillery (orange explosion, above). My tin soldiers stared at me with disbelief. Morale dropped enormously.

(my counterattack, above)

I crossed the river at A, threatened C, while he withdrew his troops to B. Finally, some pincer! In hot pursuit my cavalry attacked his infantry from behind (blue explosion), but the river and Help from God (he used his clerical advantage) saved the Irish. I didn't have enough cards anymore to withdraw my horses out of firing range and no cards to block his salvo. Dead horses everywhere. Morale dropped to zero and my tin soldiers surrendered to the Irish. Blue lost. Farewell, my lovelies! Farewell!

Conclusion:

  • The game system is truly 'tactical'. We were both forced to make tactical choices
  • The rules are clear. We recommend them. However, we missed an index sometimes.
  • 15mm is king. With 15mm on a 6x4 (120x180) battle mat you have to maneuver. 28mm is just kiss kiss bang bang.
  • The Grant/Asquith scenario is fun. Not an easy walkover, as I first thought.
  • We will try the same scenario with a different ruleset, probably Pike & Shotte and/or Field of Glory Renaissance.
  • Big battles with loads of miniatures a big fun. I want more, more, more!