The Battle for Rocroi

It has been 5 years in the making but finally I had painted up all the troops I needed to refight the battle of Rocroi (1643) between the French and Spanish at a scale of 1 figure to 80 men. And so fight it we did!

Taking advantage of the death of King Louis XIII (14 May 1643) and the turmoil in France as the 5 year old Louis XIV ascended the throne, the Spanish invaded France and laid siege to Rocroi on the border with the Spanish Netherlands. Louis de Bourbon, Duc d’Enghein (later known as Le Grand Condé), led a French army to relieve Rocroi on 19 May 1643.

I laid out my 28mm miniatures on a 10 x 6 foot table as they were deployed historically. Thereafter the players were free to make their own decisions unbound by historical precedent. The game was played using my Close Fire and European Order XVII rules (PDF available from my website or hard copy on Amazon).

The Spanish were deployed with 4 lines of foot in the centre with cavalry more or less equally deployed on each flank.

The slightly outnumbered French infantry were deployed in two lines with a significant reserve of both cavalry and infantry.

The French right flank cavalry was heavily weighted with their first line making its way around the gaps in the woods on the Spanish left (unbeknownst to the Spanish players).

Worried about their left flank and the superior reputation of the French cavalry, the Spanish players decided to pull back their cavalry from that flank and re-deploy the infantry from their second and third lines to cover their left.

The Spanish had deployed arquebusiers in the woods in front of their left. The French cavalry on that flank were supported by commanded musketeers and the French player sent them forward to clear the woods. The Spanish arquebusiers put up a stiff fight, drove the French back and continued to harass and hold up the French cavalry advance.

It was only when the French King’s Musketeers dismounted to join in the attack that the valiant Spanish arquebusiers were finally driven out of the woods.

Concerned that their left flank cavalry was too weak to hold the Spanish on that wing, the French released the Gendarmes from their reserve to reinforce it. Henri de la Ferté-Senneterre, commanding the French cavalry left led a number of valiant charges suffering first a flesh wound and then a more serious one as he and his men held the Spanish right wing cavalry to a stand-still.

The arrival of the Gendarmes from the reserve turned the tide in favour of the French and the Spanish right wing cavalry were driven back.

Seeing that the Spanish had thinned their centre to reinforce their flanks, the French decided to attack with their infantry. Taking heavy casualties from artillery and musketry the French first line wavered so they pushed forward with their second line.

When it came to combat the results were more or less even but the Scots in French service held firm and pushed forward.

With the Spanish infantry now falling into disarray the French brought up their infantry reserve to reinforce their centre. The Spanish could not do the same as their centre had been thinned out to reinforce their flanks.

At this point the Spanish players conceded and were allowed to march back to the Spanish Netherlands with full honours. It was time for a beer and what could be more appropriate than a Rocroy (17th century French for Rocroi). I purchased this from the tourist information centre in Rocroi on a recent visit and it is a most wonderful tipple!



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