Corunna Bathtubbed

The Battle of Corunna 1809

Some years ago, after retiring from active battlefield service with the 45eme Regiment de Ligne re-enactment unit, I set myself up on the campsite as a Pensionnaire des Invalides, the French equivalent of a Chelsea Pensioner.  The fact that at the time I would have been disqualified for having four working limbs was overlooked. 

I developed a game using wooden troop blocks on a basic wooden terrain that I later claimed that I had shown to a visiting Prussian officer called Reisswitz, if I recall.  He then developed the game for the Prussian army staff, and thus I could claim to be the true father of wargaming.  I called my game “Est-Il-Heureux?”, after Napoleon’s supposed question about his new generals.  Is he lucky?  The elements of randomisation by die roll after issuing orders meant that you had to be lucky.

Later, for simplicity I adapted the game to be played on a 24” x 24” card table, divided into 2” squares.  It was much simplified and owes a lot to the ideas of Richard Borg in his “Commands & Colors” series of games.  My adapted game, later played with young re-enactors to great enjoyment, used metal 6mm models on 2cm square metal bases, and thus could still be interpreted as a public display in the early 1800s.

We have played Waterloo several times, but I have now resurrected the game for a new battle.


I have recently subscribed to the magazine “Military History Matters” and have resolved to fight every battle covered in the magazine in some shape or form.  This may be difficult for the latest edition, covering Pearl Harbor.  The previous edition focussed on Corunna 1809.  Coincidentally this was the first ever wargame I fought, solo, about 50 years ago, using Airfix Waterloo figures on a 6ft x 2.5ft ex-door as a game board.  My source material was Christopher Hibbert’s book, one chapter of which I translated into French as part of my “A level” course work in 1972.

I replayed the game using the “Commands & Colors” scenario, but was disappointed by it.  I decided to reconstruct it for the “EIH squares” game.


My first task was to find a suitable map.  The one in the magazine was unsuitable for a simple board adaptation, so I searched the internet.  The most appropriate was this one, which is clear and concise.

My next task was to convert this to a 12 x 12 layout.  Clearly from this map it was not possible to extract a section, so I decided to stretch the horizontal perspective, resulting in this:

I don’t believe the adjustment will adversely affect the battle game.

The next stage was to add a 12 x 12 grid to the map:

This map was imported to an Excel spreadsheet as a background, the Excel cells adjusted to fit the sheet and some drawings added.  Here is part of the field as work in progress.

Removing the background gives the playing board:

The armies

The next step was to set the troop deployment.  In my game the default unit strengths are 4 Infantry bases, 4 cavalry bases and 2 artillery bases.  This battle was fought after a long retreat and pursuit in winter, so numbers were reduced.  Looking at the map and the order of battle this would need to be adjusted.  After some calculations I came up with:

British:  28 Infantry bases, 2 artillery bases.  The minimal remaining cavalry element was ignored.

French: 36 Infantry bases, 9 cavalry bases (6 dragoons, 3 hussars), 6 artillery bases.

They are deployed as on this map.

Next step: playing the battle. I can either use my default red army vs blue army models from the original period set-up, or I think I have sufficient correct 6mm soldiers to play with. We shall see.

Published by

General Whiskers

Wargaming butterfly (mainly solo), unpainted model figure amasser, and Historical Re-enactor of the black powder era.

3 thoughts on “Corunna Bathtubbed”

  1. Good Lord.
    It was a month ago that I published this, and apart from buying new “stream” material I have made no progress.
    Right. Nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel, etc., etc….

  2. p.s. Your claim to have invented the forerunner to Kriegsspiel sounds entirely plausible to me, in the same vein as Asterix introducing tea to Britain. (It’s true, I read it in a book) 🙂

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