Denain 1712 (Vae Victis 20)


Playings 2, (1 French win, 1 draw), 3 hours


Planning to try out the Moments in History Spanish Succession games I dug out this Vae Victis game as an introduction and a possible source of alternative rules. The rules are not available in English on the web but those of the related game Fontenoy are. The bad news is that there are quite a few changes not all of which are clearly marked in the French rules. Denain occurred late in the war with the British and French having negotiated a truce as the last of the Treaty of Utrecht was sorted out. At the time the British and Imperial army was invading France/Flanders again. The French moved up side-stepped the British who had orders to remain neutral and whipped the Imperialists.


The game is pretty zippy but suffers from a lack of replay value. Much of the Imperial army is garrisoning Denain and victory is based on losses, control of Denain and 2 bridges. More Imperialists and a few supporting Frenchies will turn up but the crux of the game will be the French going up against the Denain defences and winning or otherwise. This is much as happened historically after some pussyfooting around one of the river bridges which may or may not be represented in the game. There is also a cavalry battle to the East of Denain that the French are likely to win. The remaining French cavalry will then move against Denain although with only 10 turns there may not be enough time for this. The Imperialist has more choices, the garrison of Denain is not large enough to an all the walls and if it moves around to better cover the works some flanks are going to be presented to Frenchie for at least 1 turn. There are a large number of Imperial reinforcements that can either beat off the French reinforcements or move into the town. There is only a single bridge in and units from separate commands cannot stack making any movement of new units into Denain hard. If the reinforcements split into 2 groups it will be hard to command both groups preventing 1 from attacking.


Command is pretty standard with overall and line commanders and the usual ranges with extensions for nice neat lines. Some of the overall commanders must be line commanders as well because their unit colours match up and this is the only way that a lot of units are going to see any fighting. The set up means that most units will always be in command apart from a section of the Imperial army (2 units) that will really want to succeed in an initiative roll on turn 1 to march into Denain and the cavalry of the garrison who are likely to be cut off after a few turns. The only problem the French may face is with their artillery who are in the same command as the cavalry. As the cavalry charge off these guns will be going nowhere. The infantry will probably move in front of them for the assault by then anyway.


Combat is fire or melee both of which are voluntary except that most of the French infantry cannot fire. Fire is low risk, low chance requiring a D10 score under the firer's combat factor (1-3 for all units), adjusted for defensive a terrain. A hit will disorganise the enemy and a straight 0 will cause a step loss. If the Imperialist defenders in Denain roll low for fire they will go a long way towards winning the game for them. Melee is the usual odds adjusted for terrain and morale. The defender gets a defensive fire before melee (all French units can do this) although there is no defensive fire and hence no risk from straight fire. The most common result is disorganisation which has no effect except that a 2nd disorganisation will lead to a rout test. These are usually failed and cause a withdrawal of 1 hex and another rout test at the end of every turn. Units are more likely to fail than not and will have to rout another 3 hexes every time they fail. Disorganisation can be freely removed from units that do not end their turn in an enemy ZOC. It is possible to withdraw 1 hex back from enemy ZOCs during movement giving a nice effect as units are pulled out of the line to recover and then go back in if there are units spare to cover for them.


There are a couple of problems with victory as it is based on possession of certain hexes and on losses. If a unit is in a hex there is no doubt but a rule must be agreed on as to who controls empty hexes. I defined control as being in the hex or exerting a ZOC into the hex when the enemy does not or having no unit exert a ZOC into the hex but being the last to pass through it. The Imperial baggage also must be controlled but no unit can voluntarily stack with so I used the same rules of control. It also appears to be possible for cavalry to breach fortifications. This will usually occur next to unoccupied defences and is just about acceptable. If it is not allowed the Imperialists will have a much easier job of holding Denain as when the French cavalry are victorious there will be very little left for them to do.