Friday, February 12, 2016

Topsy-Turvy Bloody Peninsula Battle

The heroes of the day: The Sagunto Dragoons played a blinder!
Last Saturday meeting's game (2 weeks ago now!) saw me taking on Andrew B. in a game set in 1813 Spain, based on the formations of the Battle of Vittoria. Andrew used the Army of Portugal (minus the dragoons) as the basis for his formation, while I used Hill's 2nd Division plus a healthy smattering of Spanish. We both settled on 2000 points (plus force differential; in my case an extra 200 pts) which provided a fairly crowded battlefield!

From the outset it was obvious I was outmatched in cavalry, but I was hoping that the quality of my cavalry would cancel out his numbers, at least til my infantry had done the job. I kept my heavy dragoons in the centre as a threat to the enemy infantry in an attempt to create a combined arms threat (the old scissor, papers, rock trick, where your enemy has to match you or be crushed!). I gambled leaving the heavies there instead of boosting my cavalry defense on the wing. It almost paid off, but as you'll see, almost isn't really good enough!

I packed my Spanish division on the right, planning to occupy the village on the extreme right flank as an anchor for the rest of the division. My Portuguese brigade provided the link between my British and Spanish contingents.

My plan was to go in aggressively with my best troops, the highlanders and light infantry, using the British line units and Portuguese as a reserve/holding force to protect the line and conform with the Spanish. My light dragoons were to hold the left flank from the French light cavalry force massing there, until the infantry had done their work. Unfortunately, that wasn't how things panned out.

Still, I forced a change in his plans by going on the offensive with my British forces; he'd initially been going to hold my left flank and concentrate on my hapless Spaniards, but my aggressive start changed his plans; he changed to holding the Spanish and countering the British attack. This allowed the Spaniards to live another day and even try a little aggression themselves!

My hordes. Surely this would be enough to drive off the French?

The Army of Portugal. Look at all the horseflesh closest to camera!

The bold Spaniards!

Britain's oldest ally holds the centre, while the Spanish head towards the village on theright.

The British fan out into line

The small rifle detachment leads the way, while my heavy dragoons back up the artillery.

Things already looking precarious on the left flank. Note the big gap where I assumed the broken ground to be impervious!

Infantry on the left are already in closed column in case French cavalry get through. Andrew is massing his infantry in the center.... my artillery and cavalry are focused on the threat.
The Spaniards have taken the village, while the cavalry head on out to threaten the French flank.

The cavalry dance continues. I thought I was so clever anchoring on the broken ground, but Andrew's limbered guns are about to spring a surprise!

My cacadore line takes the brunt of the French artillery fire.

A second battery moves up and the Portuguese line melts under the attention.

The Spanaish dragoons fan out into line ahead of the village, followed by the grenadiers and light infantry; my best Spanish troops

The big Spanish guns lend a hand!

The first casualties were the Portuguese cacadores who bore the brunt of Andrew's artillery fire. In the first of several failed morale tests, the cacadores couldn't take the pressure after suffering 30% casualties and retreated, forcing themselves through the reserve line behind them and causing further disorders to both units. However, the Spanish 9lber battery beside the cacadores was also dishing out its own destruction on the French infantry to its front.

The cacadores have had enough! Run away!

The reserve steps up, though they've suffered disorders as the cacadores forced their way through in their retreat.

On the left flank, I was finding out what masses of inferior cavalry could do to outnumbered superior cavalry. Trying to use the broken ground as a pivot point, I failed to consider that Andrew's horse guns could traverse it and fire from within it. After suffering a flank shot from his puny 4lber pop-guns, one of my light dragoon units failed the morale test and retreated, exposing my own horse gun battery to the tender mercies of a chasseur charge. They stood to and fired at the attacking cavalry, hoping to knock off a figure and spoil his pre-melee roll, but I missed and suffered the consequences: The battery was ridden over and effectively destroyed! Even though the retreating dragoons would be back, shortly, for the moment it was one against five, and no artillery support!

Light dragoons can't withstand close range flank fire from artillery!

My horse gunners look around , suddenly feeling lonely  "Where'd the cavalry go?"

"Here is ze cavalry! Ze Cavalry Francaise!"

Moving up the 92nd Highlanders and the 50th Foot behind a skirmish screen disjointed the line, which was linked only by the foot artillery battery. I used the heavy dragoons to dissuade any attack on the battery, but things went a bit awry when I provided a flank shot to the French artillery when I pivoted my battery to fire on the advancing enemy infantry when I really didn't need to, as they were in the battery's arc of fire anyway.

Skirmishers make way for the line and a firefight ensues. I was betting on superior firepower against superior numbers, but it was a long odds bet!

The fateful maneuver of my artillery: Unnecessarily exposing their flank to their counterparts!

The result: fleeing the field with only 50% of their guns intact

In an attempt to plug the resulting gap in the line from being exploited by the French infantry, which was advancing on the flank of the 92nd's line in closed column, I charged my heavy dragoons. Against an advancing closed column, a cavalry charge is rarely successful, but I was just aiming to bounce against them, ending up where I started from, but stopping the infantry for the moment. What I wasn't expecting was the worst eventuality: knocking one figure off in a lucky piece of supporting fire and then rolling poorly resulted in me disastrously failing my pre-melee. The dragoons broke to the rear in panic. For shame! At least the object of the attack was achieved; Andrew's momentum was checked for that move, but at great cost.

Andrew's lucky die roll which spelled doom for my charge

The charge falters as it goes in...

To paraphrase Monty Python:

"The Brave dragoons ran away

Bravely ran away away
When danger reared its ugly head
They bravely turned their tails and fled"
Since the light dragoons had recovered their composure after their encounter with French artillery on their flank, they launched a balls-out, death-or-glory charge from near maximum range on Andrew's most threatening cavalry unit. My charge was outside the target unit's charge arc as well as that of his supporting unit, so my charge got in without being counter- or opportunity charged. Very satisfying! Still, it left my victorious light dragoons hard up against the broken ground, blown and with disorders, while Andrew's remaining chasseur unit was able to easily manoeuvre into my exposed flank.

"Yoicks and away! Tally ho!"
"Oh, bugger!"

While that was happening, the 50th Foot and 92nd Highlanders were getting into a tight spot, entering into firefights with the opposition, but taking the brunt of it, as the British infantry didn't have the numbers to absorb the punishment. even though I was inflicting more casualties, I couldn't afford those I received in return. Coupled with close range artillery, the pressure was too much: The 92nd were forced to retire, while the 50th broke and ran! While the 92nd soon rejoined the line, the reserves had to called up to protect the flank and fill the gap left by the routing 50th. A shaky line was re-established, but with only a couple of Portuguese line battalions left in reserve, things were looking dicey!

The 50th blaze away in woods, whittling the enemy, but being whittled in turn.

Artillery at close range causes the 92nd some grief

They are forced to retire after just failing their morale test caused by 30% casualties.

The opening allows the French to charge into the open flank of the suddenly isolated 50th

It's all a bit much for the beleaguered Dirty Half Hundred and they break for the rear!

Time for the Buffs and the 71st highlanders to do the heavy lifting

A line is re-established, but there's no reserve left!

The Spanish, however, had been enjoying a dominance out on the right flank. In a surprising turn of events, I managed to pull off the holy grail of horse and musket era warfare; the combined arms assault using infantry, artillery and cavalry against an enemy unable to counter all ramifications of the triple threat. Go into square to counter the cavalry leaves you at the risk of artillery fire and infantry attack. Stay in line, you can counter infantry, but suicide in front of cavalry. Andrew chose to protect the flank of his artillery by moving up infantry in closed column. But when he attempted to form square I took the opportunity charge, passed the requisite dice roll and charged his column in mid-maneuver. The Spanish cavalry engaged, forcing the French infantry to flee! That's how my much better British dragoons should have done it! The French artillery lay open to a flank shot from the Spanish light infantry, who, underwhelmingly, couldn't persuade the artillerists to budge. Meanwhile the Spanish grenadiers protected the cavalry's right flank by engaging the lurking French infantry.

WHAM! Take that, Frenchie!
"Viva Fernando, el Deseado!"

My combined arms formation (guns, infantry and cavalry) keeping Andrew pinned (for the moment!)

"Arriba! Andele!"

Andrew's flank is threatened, but his infantry columns are just winding up. I should've moved my guns to face the danger!

Grenadiers engage in firefight to keep the French from attacking the cavalry's flank.

The cavalry situation on the left went to pot now, with the blown cavalry charged in the flank to flee to the edge of the board, awaiting rallying by the busy cavalry general who had only just managed to rally the fleeing heavy dragoons. My infantry square on the far left flank stopped any further advance by Andrew's victorious chasseurs, but it was now time for my last light dragoon regiment to earn their salt. Andrew hoped to capitalise on his momentum by charging his other chasseur regiment at my light dragoons. I beat them, but only just, and ended up right where I didn't want to be: with my flank exposed to his hussars! He flubbed his charge, rolling a 1, while I couldn't do any better than my 6! Instead of being wiped off the table, I retired to my starting point, plus disorders and a blown marker.

My blown cavalry are in all sorts of bother!

The result after Andrew charges. Run away!!!!

His victory leaves his cavalry unable to fit between the broken ground and the square... he turns to threaten the square.

Meanwhile, Andrew charges the remaining British cavalry. With friends breaking and enemy in flank and rear, it was a fairly good bet that my cavalry would run...

...but they didn't! To everyone's surprise, they saw off the chasseurs, but ended right in front of the hussars...

...who charged into the flank of my blown and disordered cavalry. Surely this time...

But wait! Things are looking up! I rolled a 6 for my melee score...

...while Andrew rolled a 1!

What should have been total disaster for my cavalry ends up a draw! My cavalry live to fight another day!
I need to make a sacrifice to the Dice Gods in thanks for that one.

Andrew wasn't going to let a little thing like a threatened flank cramp his style and unleashed his infantry on the hapless Spanish. His approach brought his charge outside the guns' arc of fire, so the gunners scattered, leaving his charge to clip the Portuguese line. The Portuguese rolled abysmally for their pre-melee and fled, so the charge carried it's merry way into the Spanish columns. Because they has a couple of friends fleeing around them, their shaky morale was even more brittle, resulting in their disintegration as the French contacted. Andrew followed this success with another charge on the other Portuguese line; Same story! Their shaky morale couldn't withstand the French charge with so many friends running screaming to the rear. Suddenly there was a big hole in my centre with nothing to plug it!

The funny thing was, though, that Andrew's French couldn't press home the attack as they failed their pre-melee check and stopped short in confusion! He luckily didn't have a lot of reserves in the vicinity to exploit his success, and a quick flank fire from my remaining Portuguese saw them on their way.

The head of Andrew's columns charge at the Spanish guns...

...whose gunners have fled behind the infantry.

After seeing off the Portuguese line, the French columns send first one...

...then two Spanish battalions packing.

Another French charge at the remaining Portuguese line

Even though their pre-melee failed, so did mine.

The result... a big gap opening in the centre with 4 routing units fleeing to the rear!

Back on the left, Andrew piles on the pressure

My valiant Spanish cavalry succumb to flank fire from an approaching French infantry column.

THis was followed up by a charge on my Spanish light infantry, who crumbled under the pressure.

Andrew has successfully extracted his left flank from danger. No Spaniards to be seen besides the grenadiers, still blazing away on the right.

My cacadores return to pour some flank fire into the columns which attacked the Spanish, putting the nearest one to flight!

The remaining battalion, however, ploughed on into the luckless Spaniards on their next turn

The remaining Portuguese line troops also put the nearest French column to flight with a little flank fire.

Out on the left flank, the infantry square advanced on the cavalry, blocking its approach and firing away. I think I actually managed to inflict a casualty!

The Buffs under pressure from close range artillery.

The main pressure was still applied to the 92nd and its neighbour. Two French lines advanced and engaged in a firefight.

One of the French lines failed their morale test and fled, but note the reserves at the rear. My troops won't be able to cope with this pressure in the long run!

I ended the game in typical fashion: tripping over my own feet! In an example of bad judgement, I formed one of my infantry squares over on the left flank into line, right behind my remaining light dragoon regiment. It now had nowhere to go as Andrew closed in for the kill, but forward. In Andrew's last charge, his hussars fought me to an inconclusive draw, which was a surprise for both of us, but his follow-up with the chasseurs did the trick and smashed my cavalry, which blundered through my infantry, causing disorders. That doomed the infantry in the face of Andrew's breakthrough, which took the chasseurs straight through the line and into the rear of my line. Game over!

Andrew's horse-guns come into action again at close range against my remaining light dragoons.

In a final act, Andrew's hussars charged my light dragoons.

They're a tough nut to crack! They were forced to retire, blow and disordered.
Note the infantry line directly behind causing a bottle neck! I'd deployed them into line behind the cavalry mainly to counter the approaching infantry. That left the dragoons nowhere to go but forward!

When one of Andrew's many chasseur regiments then charged my worn out light dragoons, the result was a foregone conclusion! 

After dealing with the cavalry, it was now on into the infantry line and victory!

In a strange turn of events, it would have been up to the Spanish to form the rearguard in an attempt to cover the routing British. The majority of the Spanish were still in good order, while my Anglo-Portuguese were in a bad way.


  1. I really enjoyed this back and forth battle, it must have been even more fun to play, with much nail biting on both sides. Terrific to see your figures on the table en masse.
    Brilliant stuff.

  2. I don't think you can blame the 50th for running, those Frogs are HUGE...


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