DERBY DEBRIEF: Neerhespen, 1693

Barry Hilton - Neerhespen is an old scenario. I wrote and played it originally in about 1992. It features in Beneath the Lily Banners First edition and may well at some point have been in Wargames Illustrated in the Duncan Macfarlane era although of that I am not certain. All of that said, it is still a good wee game and the players at Derby seemed to enjoy it.

The basis for the game is a 'fighting retreat' performed by written down elements of the Grand Alliance Army attempting to salvage some cohesion from the decisive defeat at Neerwinden/Landen on 29th July 1693. Two battered brigades of Allied Foot supported by  fresh Infantry, Horse and Dragoon brigades fight to hold off 4,000 pursuing French Horse and a similar number of Foot. The primary objective is to get a train carrying heavy artillery and another with valuables and mistresses over a bridge spanning the Geete stream before the victorious French can capture them. In addition, any troops who escape will add to the victory points of the Alliance.

The pursuing French have a tricky job as they have no idea how stiff resistance might be from the dispersed enemy units. With only cavalry in immediate positions to attack some hard choices must be made.

Two Allied brigades (one of three and the other of four battalions) deployed in positions nearest the pursuit secretly made two die throws each before the game started. The first was 2 x DAv. The resultant score was the number of battle casualties sustained earlier in the day during the main battle. The second was an odds/evens call. This determined whether the battalion gained the precious 'First Volley' bonus or whether their weapons were already dirty from action.  The reinforcing brigades comprised  3 battalions of Foot (1 x Elite, 2 x Drilled), 4 squadrons of Horse (2 x Guard and 2 x Cuirassier) and 6 squadrons of Dragoons (3 x Guard, 3 x Drilled). Two field guns were in position near the Geete.

The French began the game with 13 squadrons of Horse( 3 x Guard, 8 x Elite, 2 x Drilled) and 6 squadrons of Dragoons (6 x Drilled) plus 3 battalions of dismounted dragoons. In games 3 and 4; fourbattalions of Foot in one brigade started on table in march column. A further three battalion brigade arrived on T6. No Foot arrived before T6 during games 1 & 2.

Having visited Neerwinden I can verify that the real Geete is very narrow with steep V shaped banks impassable to any formed unit of infantry and totally impassable to horses or wheeled vehicles except across a bridge. We represented the river with something more scenic and easier to include on a wargaming table.

The French commander in the game could be Competent, Skilful or Gifted. The Alliance commander could be any level. During our four runnings of the scenario every Allied player diced as a Plodder!

Despite this, each game saw the Allies achieve a favourable result with two outright wins. This is not a scenario of annihilation but rather a very tactical game of MOVE or STAND. The wrong call can be very bloody.

The French pulled off some spectacular charges and dramatic destructions including capturing the colours of the legendary Gard te Voet in one game and routing them in another. Equally sacrificial heroics abounded on the Allied side. Importantly, not a single gun or wagon was lost by the Williamites in any game.Great fun was had by all.

 As an Addendum to the weekends proceedings:

Les Rumble came out on top as the man with the most victory points scoring 18 , Adam Hayes closely followed with 17. Warrior of the Weekend Award went to 'Killer' Colin Napier who managed to reach Sunday lunch time without firing a single cannon or volley of musketry! He had by that time launched numerous charges of Foot and Horse, captured and lost several colours and not surprisingly maintained his reputation by having three general officers killed under his command!