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.

Thursday 1 January 2015

The Relief of Hostalrich - Cuesta's Triumph!

The Relief of Hostalrich , early January 1808

General Situation: The Spanish Army of the Centre under General Cuesta, transported by the Royal Navy in December to Tarragona, has advanced north along the coast to try and impede the operations of St-Cyr's VII Corps as it attempts to reduce the fortresses held by the Spanish in Northern Catalonia.  Ignoring Barcelona as too strong - despite its garrison of poor-quality Neapolitan infantry - Cuesta has taken the rather bolder option of marching to the relief of the fort at Hostalrich, held by only a couple of thousand men against Chabran's veteran French division.

The Forces:

Imperial Forces:

Chabran's Division of the French VII Corps (CinC General Chabran - Capable)
Chabran's Division: 6000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns

Spanish Forces:
Army of the Centre (CinC Gen Cuesta - Capable)
Zayas' Division: 4000 Infantry, 2000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Morretti's Division: 5000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns

Spanish Totals: 9000 Infantry, 3000 Cavalry, 12 Guns

The Set-Up:

The Spanish of Moretti's Division at the bottom (Southwest) facing the French.  Zayas' Division was marching separately to reduce the logistic burden, so would enter the battle at a later moment*.  Until the arrival of the second Spanish Division, the numbers were more or less even on both sides, with the French having a distinct qualitative advantage: however, a bold attack might leave the French open to a devastating and irresistible Spanish attack when Zayas arrived on the field.  Chabran had a difficult decision to make initially: how aggressive to be?

Same position showing a slightly wider field.  Cuesta decided to concentrate on the right initially, with Zayas' units able to go to left or right upon their arrival, as required.

A closer view of the main infantry positions.  The French units to the right with the white flags are 'Trained' units, all the others being Veteran.  Most of the Spanish facing them were raw and so, when an opportunity arose, Chabran decided to attack!
 Chabran's Attack...

The high watermark of French success.  The French battalions have routed one Spanish battalion and the other raw Spaniards facing them are under severe pressure (red counters indicate 'shaken').  However, a Spanish flanking force is about to surround the advancing French if they fail to defeat the Spanish in front of them...

...And Defeat!

...which they fail, by the narrowest of margins to do!  Attacked on two sides, the French regiment surrenders and Chabran (centre of shot) only just escapes!  French reserves rush to plug the gap (top right).

...Meanwhile, on the Spanish right flank, the Spanish light cavalry enjoy the unusual experience of having achieved total victory over their French opposite numbers: the red shaken markers indicate where the French cavalry was before it routed!  This combat was epic: the intial clash, lasting around three phases (10 minutes) was indecisive, but the Spanish, although disordered, were slightly better off than the French chasseurs, launched another charge and this time broke the French brigade in short order.
The French Retreat

A shot indicating the final stages of the battle: the French withdrawal.  The French infantry did actually manage to successfully break contact without suffering further significant losses, despite the arrival of Zayas' division (left).  However, Zayas was able to preserve his 2000 Dragoons for the pursuit...
A clear French defeat, although it is difficult to say if the French fought badly - they had a 2:1 chance of breaking one of Moretti's brigades and lost the 50:50 cavalry combat but lost out both times.  On the battlefield, Spanish casualties amounted to about 1200 infantry and 100 cavalry, whereas the French lost 1300 infantry and 750 cavalry.  However, although the French infantry withdrew from the immediate battlefield in good order, the fresh Spanish cavalry was able to successfully pursue the retreating French off the battlefield and take another 2000 prisoners from Chabran's infantry.  Chabran's division has thus lost around 50% of its effective strength and been forced to withdraw on the main body of VII Corps, and Hostalrich has been successfully relieved.

Game Notes:
The brigade morale check continues to be the single most crucial roll in these games: Moretti was really lucky to save his infantry brigades under Chabran's attack, but it is these tense dice rolls which are one of the best bits about gaming!  The campaign rules really reward a general for keeping some fresh cavalry and although the French rearguard did successfully disengage, it did not stay round long enough to engage the Spanish cavalry, which would have greatly eased their pursuit.  However, since the French cavalry had been driven off by this point, staying longer might have meant the destruction of the whole French force.  Mechanically, I need to re-examine the rules for moving backwards.  Infantry can move 1 base depth (i.e. 3cm) facing the enemy, or, for double the orders points, can effectively "reform" two base widths (i.e. 12 cm) back.  I think the author suggested only allowing "reform" moves if one element of a brigade remained stationary (or changing position, but some part of it must remain in its former position).

*The campaign rules seem to allow much reduced logistical impediments if troops are activated separately.  I'm not totally convinced by this, but I have played along with it.  However, I have ruled that such forces need to make a Commander's initiative test to arrive, and then only actually come onto the battlefield when a 6 is rolled on a D6, rolled every turn after the first.  This has worked well so far, providing an appropriate risk/reward for the decision.  It came off for the Spanish in this battle, but it cost the French badly in the bigger battles against the Allies in December.

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