Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Campaign Battle 13: The Second Battle of the Duero

Second Battle of the Duero, Mid-December 1808

General Situation: Upon hearing of Marchand's defeat on the previous day, Lefebvre seized the initiative and resolved to do it right this time.  Calling upon Moncey and Marchand for aid, the French are marching upon the Allied Anglo-Portuguese and Spanish armies whilst they remain on the battlefield.  Moncey has advanced with his whole Corps with the exception of Barbou, who in a manner reminiscent of D'Erlon, have contrived to miss both battles.  Marchand has left the battered divisions of Villatte and Lapisse within Valladolid to recover.  Lefebvre has arrived on the field first, but is assured of the imminent arrival of his comrades.  Moore and Venegas meanwhile occupy the same position as in the previous day's battle, but Espana's decimated units are recuperating some way in the rear and are in no fit state to take part in today's hostilities.

The Forces:

Imperial Forces:
I Corps (CinC General Marchand - Plodding)
Ruffin's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Treillard's Division: 3000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
I Corps Artillery: 24 Guns

III Corps (CinC Marshal Moncey - Capable):
Gobert's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Merlot's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Wathier's Brigade: 1000 Cavalry
Grouchy's Division: 3000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Clausel's Division: 3000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Musnier's Division: 3000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
III Corps Artillery: 60 Guns

IV Corps (CinC Marshal Lefebvre - Plodding):
Sebastiani's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Leval's Division: 6000 (CoR) Infantry, 6 Guns
Maupetit's Brigade: 1000 (CoR) Cavalry
IV Corps Artillery: 24 Guns

Totals: 36000 Infantry, 8000 Cavalry, 162 Guns

Spanish Forces:
Army of Andalusia (CinC Gen Castanos - Capable)
Venegas' Division: 5000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Coupigny's Division: 5000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Reding's Division: 4000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Jones' Division: 4000 Infantry, 6 Guns

Anglo-Portuguese Forces:
The British Army (CinC Gen Moore - Decisive)
Anstruther's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Spencer's Division: 7000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Hope's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Baird's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Paget's Division: 3000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Artillery Reserve: 36 Guns
Loyal Lusitanian Legion: 3000 Infantry, 6 Guns

Allied Totals: 52000 Infantry, 4000 Cavalry, 96 Guns

The Set-Up:

The initial deployment from behind the Allied line: from the left there is Wilison's Lusitanian Legion, Spencer's Division, Hope in reserve behind, Baird's Division and the majority of the British artillery on the centrall hill, Paget's cavalry behind, Anstruther's Brigades in reserve, Venegas on the right of the hill, Coupigny's Division then Jones' Division on the extreme right, with Reding's Division in reserve for the Spanish.  Lefebvre has elected to advance against the Spanish whilst awaiting the other French Corps.

A close-up of the Spanish right.  Sebastiani's veteran French infantry is on the right opposed by Jones' Division, a brigade of Leval's German infantry is in the centre opposite Coupigny's Division.
 Lefebvre's Attack:

"Ah! This is Warfare I Understand!" - Lefebvre leads the French attack in person, as Sebastiani's Infantry push back Coupigny's and Jones' Divisions, some Spanish brigades are in rout.

Same position.

The Panic on the Right:

Reding's troops and British reserves from Anstruther's Division rush to the right to try and contain Lefebvre's breakthrough.

A wider shot of the situation.  Lefebvre has made good progress but urgently needs his rear brigades to catch up.
Marchand & Moncey Arrives - the Crisis of the Battle:

Over the net few turns, Marchand and Moncey reached the battlefield.  Initially the British looked exposed, but some well-directed artillery fire and a prompt forward movement by Baird's units - led by Sir John Moore in person - has put the Imperials on the back front.  Note the stabilization of the situation on the right - but Jones' Division has routed from the battlefield, a spent force.  However, Coupigny's units are fighting like lions and have routed one of Leval's brigades and Maupetit's cavalry.  The panicky Nassauers are attempting to form an emergency battle line...

Hope's units move up on the left to prepare to assault Moncey whilst the massed squares of the British - led by the footguards - advance on Treillard's Dragoons into a storm of ineffective French roundshot...
After one of the most intense individual combats of the campaign, Sebastiani's lead brigade has surrendered, after routing twice their number of Spaniards and throwing back two British assaults (note the red shaken markers around the British).  Eventually the fire of the Spanish and the charge of British Heavy Cavalry proved too much.  And much more heroically, Spanish infantry managed to defeat a second brigade from Sebastiani's Division in the enclosures at the right - this led to the collapse of morale in Sebastiani's division.  Simultaneously Coupigny's other units haved defeated half of Leval's units and the rest are withdrawing...

Lefebvre's Corps has more or less evaporated...

Triumph in the Centre:

Hope and Spencer's units advance to combat Moncey.  In the end, there was only some indecisive skirmishing and artillery fire in this sector of the battlefield, Moncey refusing to commit his quite motley force against his strong British opponents.

Moore's triumph!  Recalling Minden, the British infantry have driven off the French cavalry and are now in the heart of the Imperials' which point, a musketball from a French skirmisher kills Sir John Moore!!  This temporarily paralysed the British Army.  Marchand and Moncey briefly considered renweing their attack, but the odds of success seemed low with their left flank now hanging in the air and their forces split in the middle, so they were able to successfully extricate their divisions from this difficult position without further significant loss...

The Final Position:

The position just before the successful French withdrawal.  It took the British four(!) turns (about an hour) to appoint a successor, this delay probably saving the French.  Moncey's powerful uncommitted cavalry overmatched the British pursuit and the French infantry and artillery retired without further molestation.
 Result: Another bloody business, with Lefebvre's and Castanos' forces suffering extensively.  Overall casualties were in the region of 7300 infantry, 1100 cavalry and 24 guns for the Imperials, with losses of about 5500 infantry and 150 cavalry for the Allies; and of course, the death of the British commander.  Lefebvre incidentally was injured four times in the course of the battle but suffered nothing worse than scratches!  The French force was in bad shape but it could reflect that it might have been much worse.  Castanos' Army has fought heroically over two days, but three of its five divisions are now out of the fight.

Game Notes: The French came within an ace of winning this one.  Castanos held on just enough for British succour and then Sebastiani's troops fought so hard for a moment I thought that he was going to win regardless!  The French superiority in skill and in particular, their veteran SK2 units, especially when led by a general in person, are very difficult for Spanish trained SK0 infantry to stop, even in decent terrain.  On the other hand, the British performance in the centre was a textbook success: disorder the enemy with artillery, drive them off at the point of bayonet and sabre.  In retrospect, although Lefebvre's attack nearly worked, it was launched too early: it should have been delayed until one of the other French Corps had arrived, in order to divert the attention (i.e. the tempo points) of the Allied generals.  As it was, they were able to focus on threats in succession rather than facing them concurrently.

But overall, another really enjoyable game.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Neil Thomas' One-Hour Wargames

I've generally enjoyed Neil Thomas' various rules so I was looking forward to his latest ruleset, One-Hour Wargames: Practical Tabletop Battles.  It promises quick battles on small tables with a small number of figures.

It sets out in the first chapter what the author is aiming to achieve.  It also gives an admirably short summary for beginners of how to get started getting figures or making markers, painting those figures (or not!) and getting hold of terrain.

In the main part of the book, there are sets of rules for the following periods: Ancient, Dark Age, Medieval, Pike & Shot, Horse & Musket, Rifle & Sabre (i.e. C19 Europe), ACW, Machine-Age (WW1/Interwar), WW2.  All of the rules are similar but contain period differences, such as different troop-types, ranges and abilities.  For instance, none of the Medieval units can move through woods but other units in other periods can.  Each period is described briefly, with an emphasis on what facets of warfare the author feels were decisive in the period and is then followed by a set of rules which has incorporates those features within the generally similar framework.

For these basic rules, Thomas favours very simple concepts.   The game is an IGOUGO game, without any additional command and control rules.  There are no basing requirements, Thomas simply says that the game is designed to be played on a 3'x3' table with up to six units a side, each with a frontage of 4"-6".  For my playtest, I ignored these gargantuan proportions and played it on a 36cm x 36cm table with 6mm figures based on a 60mm x 30mm base.  It worked fine:

Romans (foreground) face Gauls (distance).  The total size of the board is c.36cm x 36cm.  The Roman Army consists of 4 'Infantry' units, a unit of 'Archers' and a unit of 'Skirmishers'.  The Gauls consist of 4 'Infantry units, a unit of 'Archers' and a unit of 'Cavalry'.
The turn sequence is always:Move - Shoot - Hand-to-Hand Combat - Eliminate Units (who have taken too many casualties).  There are no additional morale rules, for instance.  Typically of Thomas' rules, there is very limited interpenetration of units and no wheeling (units pivot on their centre point, instead).  Both rules are admirable examples of the author's rule-writing ethos: rules which don't quite replicate what happened on a real battlefield, but which adequately reproduce similar problems in a very simple way.
Combat is based on a D6 roll with the result being the number of casualties.  Additional casualties are added or subtracted depending on the troop types and terrain involved.  Units only fight in their own turn - this is to give an impetus advantage to the attacker (and works really well).  When a unit's casualties reach 15, then a unit is removed.  All this is so simple that it can be remembered very quickly without referring to the actual rules.  In fact, this applies to the rules as a whole. 

After the various period rulesets comes an army generator and a selection of 30 scenarios.  The army generator works from a D6 roll which gives a selection of various units.  If your army has 10 appropriate units, then it can cover every possible combination given in the generator.  These lists are entirely generic and don't reflect any particular army of the period.

The scenarios all look good and are given in a standard format of:
Situation (general comments on the scenario)
Army Sizes (whether a unit consists of 3,4 or 6 units)
Deployment rules
Reinforcements (in some scenarios not all of an army's units start on the table)
Special Rules (for instance some hills may be impassable mountains, some units may be elite (+2 on all die rolls; and so on)
Game length and turn order
Victory Conditions
Inspiration (which historical battle or previously published scenario inspired the author)
Further reading (about the historical battle or where to find the source scenario)
Map (all the scenarios have simple, easily produced/bought/improvised terrain)

It is clear from the various special rules that Thomas positively encourages the use of special rules to further define units and terrain for individual scenarios, or as needed to reflect the characteristics of particular armies.  It is very easy to do so without affecting the game inadvertently in unexpected ways.

The book concludes with short chapters on solo and campaign wargaming and then an extensive reading list of military history and wargaming books.

My test game was quite good fun, simple and basic but with a challenge or two nevertheless.  I didn't find anything particular to break the rules.

Friday 19 September 2014

Campaign Battle 12: Battle of the Duero

Battle of the Duero, Mid-December 1808

General Situation: Three French Corps (Moncey's, Lefebvre's and Marchand's) were concentrated around Valladolid, facing the Spanish armies of Castanos and Cervellon and the British Army under Moore.  A period of protracted maneouvring took place, with both sides trying to gain a positional advantage to concentrate their entire force against some portion of their enemy's.  However, with the remainder of the Imperial forces continuing their march southwards, the onus was on the Allies to precipitate action or withdraw.  The Allied forces advanced with Castanos in the lead, supported by Moore and Cervellon to try and attack Lefebevre to the East of Valladolid or Marchand nearer the city.  Marchand, seeing the opportunity to catch the Allies seized the initiative and marched to the south to attack, appealing to his fellow Marshals for help.  However in an unfortunate example of inter-Marshal acrimony and lethargy, Lefebevre refused to help at all whilst Moncey sent only the two divisions nearest (Barbou's and Wathier's).  Marchand, with his strong veteran corps, was left to come to grips to Castanos almost alone: could he destroy the Spaniard's army before Moore could succour him?  The other spanish army was too far away to reach the battlefield in time.

The Forces:

Imperial Forces:
I Corps (CinC General Marchand - Plodding)
Ruffin's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Villatte's Division: 7000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Lapisse's Division: 8000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns,
Beaumont's Brigade: 1000 Cavalry
Treillard's Division: 3000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
I Corps Artillery: 24 Guns

III Corps formations:
Barbou's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Wathier's Brigade: 1000 Cavalry

Totals: 27000 Infantry, 5000 Cavalry, 48 Guns

Spanish Forces:
Army of Andalusia (CinC Gen Castanos - Capable)
Venegas' Division: 5000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Coupigny's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Reding's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Espana's Division: 3000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 18 Guns
Jones' Division: 4000 Infantry, 6 Guns

Anglo-Portuguese Forces:
The British Army (CinC Gen Moore - Decisive)
Anstruther's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Spencer's Division: 7000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Hope's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Baird's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Paget's Division: 3000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Artillery Reserve: 36 Guns
Loyal Lusitanian Legion: 3000 Infantry, 6 Guns

Allied Totals: 57000 Infantry, 5000 Cavalry, 114 Guns

The Set-Up:

Position from behind the Spanish centre.  Unfortunately the other deployment photographs were just unuseable, but this one show Espana's Division occupying the hill in the Spanish centre.  The right-hand elements of Reding's Division are in the field at the left, whilst Coupigny's Division is just off the picture to the right.  Venegas' Division is further back on the road in reserve, Jones' Division back and left.  Opposite Espana can be seen Lapisse's Division, supported by Treillard's Dragoons.  Villatte's troops are to the left (i.e. the French right), supported by Beaumont's troopers, whilst Ruffin's Disivion is on the other flank.

 First French Assault:

Villatte's Division breaks Reding's right-hand brigades, creating a gap between Spanish centre and left.  Castanos is compelled to bring Jones' infantrymen in to contain the advance.
Lapisse's Infantry do just as well, breaking Espana's left-hand brigade.  Venegas advances in support, but all the Spanish reserves have now been committed!  Marchand's plans are going extremely well: the veteran French units appear unstoppable...

A close-up of the same incident.

Same situation, with Venegas' column in the foreground.  The leading brigade is shaken as a result of Espana's units rushing past.

Further French Success on their right!  Ruffin's troops assault across the stream in textbook fashion and Coupigny's defence looks to be in tatters...and there are no Spanish reserves to help him!  Where is Sir John Moore??

The Spanish brigades have fought vigorously, but there is no stopping the veteran French infantry led by their skirmisher swarms.  Note the broken Spanish brigade running away in the foreground and the shaken left-hand brigade.
"I had lost the battle at twelve..."

The remnants of Espana's Division hang on grimly to their portion of the hill!  The Spanish artillerymen make life difficult - sometime impossible! - for the French infantry contesting it.  But another French wave is approaching...

It is a grim fight, but the French veterans appear to gave got the upper hand.  Espana's Division has thrown back another assault, however!

Lapisse victorious...?  The last Spanish gun has been captured, but still Espana's remaing two brigades fight on!  Venegas simply cannot get up that hill to support him.

Same position, but this time showing that the French infantry have now cut-off Espana's remnants entirely.  Coupigny's forces have regrouped into another battle-line to resist Ruffin.
 "...but won it back again at three!!" - the British arrive

Sir John Moore's army arrives on the French right flank.  Can he intervene decisively before the final Spanish collapse in the centre and right?

View from behind Reding's remnants.  Note that Beaumont's troopers have turned to face the oncoming British, and the massed British guns ready to batter the French right.
The British cavalry charge, huzzah!  The French right is in a terrible muddle...

And then routs and is gone!  Marchand forms another line to try and stabilize the situation.  But he can't be everywhere at once and his attack on the centre has stalled as he is forced to defend himself against this new threat.
Espana's Division has finally been defeated by the French, but Venegas remains to plug the gap.  Meanwhile, the massed redcoats are arriving from the left to succour the centre and exploit the success against the wilting French right, although Reding's surviving infantry can be seen too, acting against the French artillery.

Venegas and Lapisse square-off on the central hill.
 The Allied Victory:

A combined assault by Spanish and British infantry force the French light infantry out of the the farm enclosure, whilst Anstruther's and Reding's brigades push the French right back on the centre.  At this point, the morale of Villatte's troops collapsed.  The French reinforcements actually arrived at this point but Marchand declined to bring them on, feeling that they were strong enough to add to the extent of the defeat but not strong enough to avert it.  As Barbou's troops were exclusively raw recruits, he may well have had a point.
The French rearguard under pressure.  Ruffin's troops break-off ocntact cleanly, as Coupigny's troops had already withdrawn themselves (on the Spanish right).

Sir John Moore, at the head of his light infantry, defeats the remaining French infantry in the centre after a fierce fight (they had resisted two assaults from the Spanish and British troops in the foreground already) and Lapisse's division is broken.  The remainder of the French troops have escaped already.

The situation at the end of the battle.
 Result: Another sanguinary conflict.  The Spanish lost very heavily in the first half of the battle, the French in the second.  The Spanish lost around 6500 Infantry, 300 Cavalry and all 42 guns, although they are hopeful of recovering at least some of these from the defeated French.  The British in turn lost around 700 Infantry and 150 Cavalry.  The French lost around 7000 Infantry too, plus 1200 Cavalry and 12 guns.  At least the powerful French cavalry are preventing any pursuit.

Game Notes: Strong shades of Waterloo here, with an inferior army holding on just until the arrival of another army.  Marchand was very unlucky: his conception of operations was bold, entirely let down by terrible die rolls made against the initiative of all the other French commanders to see who would make the battlefield in time!  In contrast, the French troops fought superbly all over the field - the report doesn't do justice to how efficient the French attack was and how difficult most of the Allied attacks were: the French consistently seemed to roll better than their opponents and given the entirely veteran nature of their troops, made them incredibly difficult to move.  Furthermore, Espana's and Reding's troops managed to make crucial morale rolls - they could just as easily have cracked early in the battle, which would probably have led to the disintegration of Castanos' force just as Moore arrived.  Although Castanos' position was strong, the French advantages of skill and initiative nearly brought them victory in the face of quite heavy odds.