A Blast from the Past

One of my roles in re-enactment is that of a pensioner of les Invalides at the time of Napoleon I.  It is a totally inaccurate representation as I still own two arms and two legs, and thus would be disqualified!

In that role I like to demonstrate, and to encourage visitors to play, a small game whereby I relive my past glories and try to rectify the errors of the past. This game has evolved over the years and is now played in a form akin to chess, on a card table ruled into 144 squares.  I can set up a fictitious battle or a stylised representation of any of the battles of “my youth”.

Today I played a solo game of an actual battle – or as near as I could represent it.  The original battle was fought between less than 700 troops, so it could be represented on my table almost on a 1 figure:1 soldier basis.

Here is the latest version of the rules, updated after this battle ton reduce infantry firing range.  The latest version restricts infantry shooting to one square range, but differentiates between moving to attack or shooting without moving.  Unlike many wargames, shooting without moving is less effective than when moving.  This is because the first reperesents trading volleys while the second represents a column attack.Battle Chess 1800

And here is the report of the skirmish at Rumégies in May 1792, played to the above rules. Rumegies 17920519

An interesting exercise, taking a couple of hours from start to finish including the reporting and photography, all done on an i-Pad in my ManCave.

 

 

 

Battle of Valencia 6 July 1808

This is one of those really annoying newspaper reports that gives no map and no pictures, just in the style of “The Times” in the early 1800s.

Marshal Moncey with 9,000 French approached the outskirts of Valencia with orders to take the city.

Don Jose Caro, commanding a militia force of 7,000 men defending earthworks to the north-west of Valenica, somewhat rashly decided to attack the French.

(The wargame was fought using the “Commands & Colors” system with house rules for roads, etc. and for the campaign rating of generals and unit commanders. The main rules amendment was that a cautious officer would refuse to move on a D6 roll of 1 and a rash officer would exceed his orders on a D6 roll of 6.)

From “The Trumpeter” 7th July 1808

The battle started with an advance in the centre by Brigadier-General Perdiguero with his 2nd Brigade.

On the French side General de Brigade Dubois attempted to advance on the right flank with 35eme de Ligne and 2eme de Ligne. His intention was to capture the village on the right flank. The officer of the 2eme being somewhat cautious decided to hold back and the 35eme advanced alone.

The Spanish retaliated by sending their cavalry to hold the village. The Valtueña cavalry entered the village from the south.

The French then ordered attack in the centre, hampered somewhat by the rugged hills. Two light infantry regiments (29eme and 41eme Legere ) struggled to move forward in the poor terrain while the 111eme de Ligne made no attempt to move.

On the Spanish side General Perdiguero advanced with the regiments Talamillo del Tozo, Valle de Tena and Alemanas. This was a somewhat foolhardy move, abandoning the defensive earthworks that had been so painstakingly constructed over the previous weeks.

The French struggled forwards in the centre, the 29eme Legere making some progress.

The Spanish abandoned the fortifications on their right, general Ribagorda ordering the regiments Vales, Valdeavero and Torres de Segre forward. This was countered by an advance through the woods by the French 2eme Brigade commanded by General Mousseaux-Neauville, who ordered three light battalions (38eme, 64eme and 62eme) to advance through the woods.

The French artillery, despite not having fired a shot, decided that this was the time to retire to the rear to replenish their ammunition, but at the same time their infantry advanced on both fronts. 24eme Legere entered the village on their right flank, while the 62eme and 142eme legere advanced through the woods on the left. Once again the 35eme Legere refused to move forwards.

The 24eme Legere drove the Spanish cavalry out of the village and took possession of the western side.

The Spanish now made an all-out push forwards. The regiments Pantá de Sau, Talamillo del Tozo, Valle de Tena and Valdeavero advanced on a broad front. None of these regiments were able to find a reasonable target so fire was withheld.

The French moved forward in the centre, the 41eme Legere driving the Talamillo Regiment back to the rear. The 29eme Legere also managed to score decisively against the Valle de Tena Regiment.

On the Spanish left an attack by the Pantá de Sau battalion failed against the village, but on the French left the 64eme de Ligne, 62eme Legere and 38eme Legere advanced through the woods. The 62eme came against the Spanish Valdeavero Regiment and destroyed them.

The Spanish response was an attack across the whole line with the Generals at the forefront. Panta de Sau attacked the 24eme Legere and the Torres de Segre regiment killed many of the 62eme Legere.

The French countered with an enveloping attack. On the right the 73eme de Ligne and 5eme Cuirassiers advanced, the Cuirassiers coming against the Andrés del Rio light cavalry and winning the fight.

On the left flank the 38eme Legere and 64eme Ligne advanced against the Vales and Valle de Tena regiments, forcing the Valle de Tena to retreat.

The Spanish now went on to a defensive footing standing and firing against the French attacks. Torres de Segre held off the 62eme Legere and the Vales regiment sored equally against the 38eme Legere.

The French now switched their attention to their left flank. The 64eme de Ligne, 62eme Legere and 38eme Legere attacked the Alemanes and Torres de Segre regiments, causing many casualties.

The Spanish made a limited attack across the entire front. The Almensa regiment drove the 29eme Legere back with many casualties, and the Torres de Segre regiment caused the 62eme Legere to retreat.

The French attempted to mount an attack on their left flank, but a party of guerrillas intercepted and killed the couriers with the orders.

In the centre the Spanish prepared a new attack. The Alamenes regiment fired at the 41eme de Ligne and inflicted several casualties.

The French replied on their left with considerable success. The 64eme de Ligne destroyed the Vales regiment, while the 38eme Legere forced the Torres de Vedra to flee the field.

The Spanish finally employed their artillery against the 5eme Cuirassiers south east of the village and wiped them out. The French attacked on their right towards the village. The 24eme Legere killed many of the Pantá de Sau Reiment and the 73eme de Ligne drove back the Andres del Rio cavalry. General Morera de Monstant was forced to flee.

The Spanish regiments Panta de Au and Torres de Segre recovered and were able to reincorporate many of their men who had run from the field, but the French kept up the pressure with an attack by the 41eme Legere against the Alemanes Regiment.

The Spanish made a desperate counterattack in the centre. The only success was the Alemanes Regiment against the 41eme Legere.

Against this the French made an all-out attack. The 29eme Legere attacked the Valle de Tena and the 38eme de Ligne and 64eme de Ligne attacked the Torres de Segre.

The Spanish line broke and retreated.

The Trumpeter 4th July 1808

Here is the latest published edition of “The Trumpeter”,  the newspaper that brings news of the goings-on in the Iberian Peninsula during the play-by-email campaign.

1808 07 04 Trumpeter

Note: The map shown in this issue was created using the American Civil War board game “Battle Cry”.  The actual battle was fought on the wargame table but sadly no pictures exist.

Warfare 2015 – a shopping expedition

Back from the wargame show “Warfare” at Reading.

I bought exactly what I set out to buy, and then several other things caught my eye.

So the final haul was:

3 x Morris 15cwt Radio trucks and 2 x 75mm German Mountain Howitzers from Heroics & Ros for my Sealion campaign. (pre-ordered)

Army painter Satin spray varnish and two new brushes (pre-planned)

Four packs of green plastic bases made by Renedra Limited.  I have never seen these before but they appeared to be on every second trader’s stand throughout the show.  They are perfect for my 6mm wargaming and will save endless cutting of thin MDF. (Impulse purchase)

A whole lot of World war Two Infantry from Adler Miniatures to accompany my new GHQ tanks and equipment.  It’s looking like my entire WW2 stock will gradually be replaced with slightly larger, better sculpted figures. (Impulse purchase)

Three MDF 10mm Adobe Fort sets from LaserCraftArt.  These look like the solution for building city walls for my 6mm Peninsular war campaign.  About the right height with wide walkways for my 2cm bases. (Impulse purchase)

6mm Armoured train from Heroics & Ros bought second hand from Colonel Bill’s.  Planned for later purchase, but grabbed when available.

I ogled lots of other pretty things but thankfully the scale was too large.

There were some interesting demo games.  Unusual topics were Hyboria in the style of Tony Bath using similar flat figures (as seen in Donald Featherstone’s “War Games” book) and what appeared to be a snowball fight for Santa’s Grotto as a participation game for younger gamers.  The RAF Wargamers were playing an assault on a farmhouse (La Haye Sainte?) with on the sidelines a model film crew and first aid station.  I’ve played that before in 1830mm scale.

At 11:00 the entire show stood silent for one minute in tribute to the victims of yesterday’s atrocities in Paris.  A very good indication that most of us deplore actual violence while striving for it’s perfect representation in miniature.

“The Trumpeter” 3rd July 1808

Henceforth in my play-by-email campaign, instead of sending reports of activity elsewhere in the peninsula by courier, a “Newspaper” will be published to all and copied to my blog.  This “red-top” rag rejoices in the name of “The Trumpeter”

I hope this will eventually provide an alternative history of the war as played.  Here is the latest edition.

1808 07 03 Trumpeter

Two small battles and some conclusions

Yesterday I was lucky to have my old re-enactment friend Chris Scott available to play out a couple of actions from the Peninsular War campaign.

In the first he had a personal interest.  He plays the role of Don Cristobal d’Escozia, the renowned commander of all guerrillas in Spain (and the only fictitious overall commander in the game).  One of his sub-commanders with orders to capture some French cannon decided to ambush them en route in broad daylight.

We played the game using 6mm miniatures on a hexagon terrain board, using Commands & Colors Napoleonics rules.  I had to invent characteristics for the guerrillas, and as they would be outnumbered 4:1 I was generous.  They had all the advantages of light Infantry in firing, the advantage of French Line in mêlée and could use rugged hills (normally prohibited) with the same protection as villages.  Also, they has one base per 12 men whereas their opponents had one base per 24 or 36, according to type.

I was disappointed that I had not had time to paint up the Neapolitan Light Infantry from my Baccus collection, but I had loads of Irregular Miniatures chaps based up as French Light Infantry, so with a quick flag repaint they were ready, and due to scale differences I used the same manufacturer throughout, except the Guerrilla leader who is a splendid chap by Heroics & Ros that I bought, fully painted complete with leopard skin cloak, in the distant past.

Guerrillas in the mist. The commander with some of his brave chaps.
Guerrillas in the mist. The commander with some of his brave chaps.

And so to the game.

Both sides were given the same territorial objective.  To get the two gun models and two caisson models under their own control beyond the river using one of two bridges.  Each would count 1 Victory Banner.  The game would be won by the first to gain five banners, so at least one enemy unit had to be eliminated.

Chris insisted that this battle would not have happened, but I replied that he himself had ordered the capture of the guns, and his subordinate had decided an ambush would succeed. (Under my campaign rules with those odds, rash temperament and with imperative orders he needed to draw an ace or a two from “Señor Decacardes” and a two was drawn.)

The French column marches into the trap.
The French column marches into the trap.  The Guerrillas start to search for a better mousetrap.

Despite routing the first two Neapolitan companies in the column, the ambush party was surrounded and annihilated in the woods.  The other guerrillas moved into the village in blocking positions, except one company that (due to the lousy hand of cards held by Chris) was left out in the open to be picked off.

I drew a lucky card allowing a strategic move and got the guns onto the hill overlooking the village.  Two guerrilla bands attacked them (before they were deployed) but rolled appallingly and failed to hit anything, while in both cases the guns replied with devastating effect.

We both agreed that the rules for this cannot be correct.  Even allowing for the effect of canister at short range if frontally attacked the artillery have too much power.  We were playing with miniatures, so the tactical situation was different to that of the board game, but I ruled that in future.

“Artillery when battling back in mêlée, unless attacked frontally and having already fired from their current position, will battle using only one die.”

The final result was that the Guerrillas lost three units (11 of their original 16 bases).  One company of Neapolitan troops was destroyed and a second ran for the hills (overall French loss 7 of 24 bases).  The Guerrillas withdrew from the field, so technically it was a draw.

Following this engagement I have also changed the way that Guerrillas will operate in the campaign.

If they encounter a lone ADC or a party of enemy less than half their own strength I will adjudicate the event with a couple of card draws to determine losses (if any) on each side, as I previously did whatever the odds.

Otherwise if a party of guerrillas is in the same map square (10 miles x 10 miles), the enemy will be moved backwards along his intended route by 1 mile per 25 guerrillas (actually calculated with a finer degree of accuracy in my records).

This will represent the delays caused by ambushes, the necessity to scout ahead for ambushes and other disruptive activity.

As an example a band of 100 guerrillas could slow an unencumbered infantry battalion from 20 miles per day to 16 miles per day on good roads, and from 12 miles per day to 8 miles per day in the mountains.

And so, having very quickly resolved this encounter, Chris offered to assist with another that had arisen in the previous 24 hours.

In this battle the vanguard of an Anglo-Portuguese Force has approached a well-defended town in Portugal. They have observed and fallen back to await the rest of the division.

However the French spotted the column and have sent a strong battalion out to investigate.  They know there are wagons to be captured (but the British officer has withdrawn them to safety).

Both commanders gave orders to try to outflank the enemy to the east side of the approach road, which was an increasingly steep ridge. And so the situation is that a battalion of around 600 Portuguese infantry, with separated pickets on the hills, faces a battalion of around 1100 French, of whom one third have been ordered to outflank the enemy by using the hills

The opening move with Portuguese pickets on the slopes and the French starting their flanking manoeuvre
The opening move with Portuguese pickets on the slopes and the French starting their flanking manoeuvre

Although the Portuguese had orders to hold the position, seeing the isolated French force, I sent them forward.  They had some success, but Chris moved the rest of the French battalion to the left and drove them back with heavy casualties.

In the nick of time a British battalion arrived on the road from the south, and a second arrived beyond the ridge to the east (unseen by the French).  The French decided that enough was enough and withdrew

The end of the affair. The Portuguese have fallen back defeated, the British are advancing and the French have quit the field.
The end of the affair. The Portuguese have fallen back defeated, the British are advancing and the French have quit the field.

Last week I have been mostly – drawing maps

I have recently revised my approach to the Peninsular War e-mail campaign to try to engage the players a bit more.

Rather than insist they sit in their HQs awaiting reports of engagements they never saw, now whenever there is a contact on the master map between any more than scouts and messengers I will prepare a detailed game map of the 10 mile x 10 mile map square.

My copy is gridded in hexagons so that any part may be quickly copied to a wargame table or the Commands & Colors board as required.  The player in residence or who has scouted the area will receive a tracing, gridded in 1 mile squares.  The player entering the area will receive a tracing of the main roads and rivers, town and hilly areas.  The players are then demoted to the position of the senior man on the spot and asked for orders.

Results of any ensuing conflict will not be known to the player until he receives the local commander’s report or reads about it in the newspapers.

Sample map for the occupying player
Sample map for the occupying player
Sample map for invading player
Sample map for invading player

Added to this activity I have (some might say foolishly) started up another campaign to umpire.  Trying to get away from always playing Napoleonic games I resurrected my Operation Sealion campaign.  I started to play this solo some time ago, but thought an opponent would be a good idea.  Then I realised that there could be no secrecy, so I found a second player and I am now the umpire.

This campaign is run using a linked area system with 65 defined 6ft x 4ft tabletops.  I have a campaign book with the orders of battle and small maps of the areas.  I have started to create the maps for the game using the drawing tools in Microsoft Excel.  I use this tool because it enables me to add positions of troops later and to annotate the map using the “comments” function. Also I can keep all the maps, orders of battle, timelines and notes in one editable file.

Here is a sample map, gridded in 1 foot squares for the players and hexagons for me.

A wargaming map created in Excel
A wargaming map created in Excel