Sunday, February 27, 2011

Battle of St. Helene

John R. was responsible for a highly enjoyable Peninsula War scenario (based on a Sharpe story, apparently, but I find that all stories featuring Sharpe blur into each, so I can't say whether or not I've read it!). The rechargeable batteries were on the way out because after ensuring I had full charged batteries in the camera, when I switched it on, they were flat! Luckily Robin came to the rescues and took a few photos on his camera which you can see below. Cheers, Robin!

The story was that the villagers were in possession of the Banner of St. Helene which, if raised on her saint's day (after 12 turns), would spark the whole province in open revolt against the French. The French, obviously, were keen to prevent this from happening and were making a bee-line for the village faced only by a motley band of Spanish guerrillas (me!) and townsfolk who had dragged out the 300 year old gun from the town square to protect their saint's banner (Pete E.). Because the gun was such an antique, when firing it had a chance of exploding on a double 6 or misfiring on any 5 or 6 after rolling 2d6 when the intention to fire was declared! Plenty of misfires but luckily no explosions!

The Spaniards weren't alone, however; The British were coming on a parallel path to the French. Quinny and Garry were the allies coming to our relief, and Tim, Jim and Geoff were the dastardly French come to spoil the party. Each British and French player had a couple of battalions of infantry and a small number of cavalry and a small gun battery. I had a large horde of Spanish guerrillas (24 figures) to do with as I wished, so I deployed 12 in 2 groups of 6 concealed in woods forward of the village, while the main force of 12 remained behind a hill forward of the village. The 2 groups in the forward deployment tried to ambush the approaching French and hassle them as they marched, but both units were quickly wiped out when they left the woods and exposed themselves to French cavalry in open skirmish order. They hardly acted as a speed hump, let alone inflicted any damage. Not an auspicious start for the gallant partidas!

Each turn both the British and French rolled 1d6 and on a roll of 6 had to draw a chance card, which usually resulted in something bad indicated by the chorus of groans from the players affected, usually something like half movement per turn or something similar. The inordinate number of sixes rolled led to a snail's pace race to the village between the British and the French, but Jim's dragoons and guns turned up on the village flank fairly quickly, but isolated from any close support. His dragoons charged the villagers' gun which caused them to flee behind the village's walls after they failed to hit anything with their fire. Jim's gun unlimbered and fired at the wall, but he'd chosen the thickest part of the wall and made no impact with his little 4lb-er battery. Jim then dismounted his dragoons to protect his battery. Meanwhile, I'd formed my guerrilla band into line from skirmish order, as Jim had totally ignored the puny threat my force represented as skirmishers. Quinny's cavalry formed up behind me and suddenly Jim was confronted by a double threat and had no option to form his just-dismounted dragoons into square, presenting me with a lovely target I couldn't miss.

Now, you must understand that in our rules guerrillas are rated as untrained militia. This rating doesn't even get its own firing table; It just uses half Landwehr factors, they're that bad. The truly miraculous happened as if St. Helene herself were smiling down on me: I fired in my turn forcing the horse handlers and the horses to flee and taking off a figure from the square which was now down to 3 figures. I survived the square's answering fire and in my next turn, charged! I expected my brave boys to melt like the snow in spring, but they weathered the defensive fire and hit home, forcing the square to retreat. Not only that, but their breakthrough move took them into the French battery. I took the breakthrough, thinking that there would be no way my command could survive, but in they went and forced the gunners to retreat as well! Bold guerrillas acting like grenadiers!

My general was joined by Quinny's British general during these attacks, so I had his bonus added to my troops as well. While the 2 generals were in proximity I communicated the location of the flag to him so that he could send his infantry straight to the right building to protect it. Initially he was going to stay outside the building so as not to offend local sensibilities with their holy relic being guarded by unbelievers until I pointed out that his regiment were the 88th Connaught Rangers, all good Catholics to a man and gave him permission to occupy the building. How this communication occurred was not spelt out; maybe my man could speak English or his, Spanish; maybe they both communicated in French; or maybe his general was the only native of the British Isles who successfully communicated speaking English vvveeeerrrryyy ssslllooowwwllllyy and VERY LOUDLY while adding 'o' to the end of every second word. "Whiiiich house-o iiiis the flag-o in-o, por favor, senor?"

Anyway, my boys were performing herculean tasks with ease and Quinny headed straight for the village building with the flag, while Tim and Geoff were bringing up their infantry expecting to have to muscle Quinny out of the way. Garry was still some distance away due to being slowed down by Geoff's dragoons, but after knocking a couple of figures off with his artillery, managed to break the dragoons with infantry fire from the edge of a wood. Geoff had also got his light infantry into the village by running them in skirmish order around the far, undefended, side of the village. He then had the job of playing 'find the thimble' in the village, but Quinny had ensconced himself in the correct building giving the French no chance to evict him before turn 12.

Jim extracted some revenge by trundling his pop-guns up onto the flank of my guerrilla line and firing. They lost a figure and just squeaked in on their morale test, but were looking pretty brittle. I then did what I should have done earlier and broke them up into skirmish order, when Jim fired again. This time there was no mistake and my brave band broke and ran!

Tim's infantry and Geoff's artillery had dealt with Quinny's cavalry, then focused attention on Pete's museum piece. Although it didn't explode, it misfired regularly through the game. When it didn't misfire, it hit absolutely nothing! Tim charged the gun and for the second time in the game, Pete ran to the cover of the village wall. By that time it was over and the flag was hoisted signaling bloody revolt throughout the land and Death to the French!

My brave guerrillieros carry their charge into the teeth of death!
Victory! The guns flee past the ragged square of dragoons who have already suffered at the hands of Spanish anger!
Viewed from the French side. My line behind the hill is my attempt to protect the village gun's rear and flank. Quinny's infantry head straight for the village while the French lines suddenly find nothing in front of them.
At the bottom of the picture you can see Jim's battery positioned extremely close on my line's flank about to give me a shot I thought I couldn't recover from. I lasted one more turn!
Los hombres in skirmish order about to be broken by one gunshot too may. Quinny has occupied the house containing the saint's flag, while Geoff futilely occupies the house at the top of the picture.
Garry about to break the dragoons who'd been dogging his every step.
The village gun about to be neutralised by Tim's infantry.
All the action in one shot; Garry's combat at the top of the picture, Tim's troops in front of the village gun, my partidas about to be obliterated and Quinny's and Geoff's troops in the village.
Holy Banner raised in defiance of the godless French! The Latin inscription reads "Semper in Excretum, Sed Sole Profundum Variat"
The translation!


  1. M. Rosbif,
    John certainly is the King of scenarios. The performance of the guerrillas forming line and driving off the French was a moment to savour.


  2. Yes, Tim, John certainly is the undisputed Sultan of Scenarios! It surely was a highlight of my wargaming career. Because their chances of success were so low, they exceeded all expectations spectacularly! Now, if only I could translate that to playing better troops...

  3. Hi
    Don Julian and 'El Empecinado' would be very proud of the performance of 'los hombres' although the battle was won thanks to St. Helene's intercession!


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