‘Affair’ at Le Cateau- 100th Anniversary of World War One

As part of the 100th anniversary of World War one, the Legati group decided to present at least one game a year commemorating the action that took place. The first of these games was a refight of the 1914 “Affair at Cateau.”
Exactly 100 years ago to the day, British troops were retreating from Belgium through France under the leadership of General Smith-Dorrien – World War One had begun. For this game we focused on an action of the British II Corps, who are retreating towards le Cateau closely shadowed by the German First Army. On the 28 August during the Battle of Le Cateau, German cavalry contact the retreating British near the village Moy in Cerizy, a small ‘Affair’ is about to breakout. Luckily, a plucky British journalist was on hand to record the events with his trusty camera.
Sides were: Peter taking charge of the British retreat, and Clay managing the German advance on the village of Moy. The game opened with British troops retreating down a small track winding through the French countryside towards the small village, with the objective of holding off German forces until they could regroup.



On turn one the British went first, and the infantry retreat continued. Other British forces remained concealed awaiting the German advance. On the German turn, three platoons of dismounted cavalry marched in formation across the rolling hills with the objective of taking the village. On their right, mounted German lancers on the road caught up with the British stragglers and melee ensued.


The British held the lancers off well, and on the next turn they were able to disengage and withdraw to the cover of hedges along the roadside for protection. At the same time, a British gun began opening fire across the small valley into the densely packed German ranks across the way.


This British artillery fire was not enough to make an impact though. The German ranks seemed to shrug off the gunfire and marched merrily on their way to Moy.


Meanwhile, the German lancers on the road charged again into the British infantry. This final assault finally witling the infantry away into a disorganized rabble.


Turn three opened with the German cavalry identifying the gun’s potential disruptive effects on the German advance, and so with few men they bravely charged uphill onto the undefended British gun. British troops stoutly defended the gun not willing to give up their lives without a fight. Meanwhile the German dismounted cavalry continued their march on across the hill towards their objective. One their right, one platoon disengaged and moved down onto the road.


On seeing this, the British turn opened with a charge of the 12th lancers, out of cover and down the road bringing the fight to the Germans. Unfortunately for the lancers, their charge did not come off as expected. The Germans, no-doubt stirred by their fellow’s success, proved a better than expected foe, and held the charge.

Final turns, were again better than expected for the Germans. Another squadron of 12th lancers charged out of the trees into the German left but failed to make a significant impact, before being pushed back by a hail of bullets from the remaining platoons of German dismounted cavalry. On the road the British lancers’ charge had also failed, and another withdrawal was made, allowing the Germans to advance. Weiter nach Paris! (Onwards to Paris!)

Overall, the game bucked the lessons of history and playtesting. In play tests the game had unfolded exactly as the real battle, the British lancers were just enough, and held the Germans back from their objective of taking the village. So it was a surprise that the Germans defeated the British this time, and all credit must go to Clay and his Germans for changing the course of history! Rules were Trench Wars by Old Glory Corp, a “beer and pretzels” quick play rule set that allowed the game to flow without being bogged down in page-turning. Although as the title suggests, the rules are not designed for open warfare, they seemed to match well the rapid ebb and flow of cavalry action in the French countryside. Lots of positive comments were made about the armies and terrain, and Clay was kind enough to say he really enjoyed the game. Forwards to the trenches!