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.

Friday 8 January 2016

Peninsular War Campaign Battle 17: The Battle of Caspe

The Battle of Caspe, early February 1809

General Situation: Palacio is attempting to get to the coast after his defeat at Belchite. but General Junot has been relentless in his pursuit.  Not wishing to risk his horseflesh, Junot has left his cavalry and artillery behind, only to be called on in need, whilst he reduces his logistical problems by using only his infantry.  Palacio, never the most dynamic of leaders, has been caught to the south of Caspe.  He must delay Junot and give himself a chance to break off.  Junot, by contrast, is hoping to entirely destroy the remnants of the Army of Catalonia.  Kellermann's cavalry and the Corps' artillery have sent word they are marching to the sound of the guns...

Order of Battle:

Spanish Forces:

Army of Catalonia (PALACIO): 
Caldagues' Division: 3000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Jacome's Division: 2000 Infantry, 6 Guns 

Total: 5000 Infantry, 12 Guns

Imperial Forces:

VIII Corps (JUNOT): 
Delaborde's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Travot's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns 

Total: 12000 Infantry, 12 Guns

The Deployment:

French in the foreground, Spanish to the back.  Jacome's Division is on the right (Spanish left), Caldagues' Division to the left, centre and rear.  For the French, Travot's Division is to the left, Duhesme's Division is to the right.

View from behind the French left (Travot) towards the hill on the Spanish left

A closer view of the centre: the French numerical superiority is obvious

Duhesme's Division on the right is ready to assault Jacome's Division

And Travot's Division, ready on the right.  Two Irish battalions face them on the left, other Spanish infantry gather around a small farm ready to resist the French.
 The Battle:

As Delaborde's troops move forward, the Spanish withdraw and reform in strsngth on the hill

Travot's troops move slowly forward through the rough fields

The numerical overmantch is greatest on the French left: 8 against 1.  Can the Spanish Irishmen resist??

Duhesme prepares to bludgeon his way through; his artillerymen's aim is true, causing severe casualties to the Spanish infantry

Same position, but you can just see the second red 'shaken' marker through the Spanish ranks indicating the cannonballs striking into the Spanish rearmost battalion

The French take the hill and push the Spanish into the valley below, but at some cost: the veteran French light battalion was devastated and broke as the Spanish infantry delivered a volley worthy of the British guards.  Luckily the second French light battalion was able to carry the summit and the Spanish withdrew to conform....

A mainly artillery duel in the centre, with the Spanish gunners being driven back to avoid the French fire; the supporting Spanish infantry move back slightly too, as Travot prepares to assault.  However, Travot's assault was thrown back with heavy loss, the heaviest loss being Travot himself, grievously injured by Spanish cannister fire.

Delaborde then begins phase two of his assault.  Carried out more neatly than the first assault, the Spanish infantry suffer severely and are wavering...

And collapse! Trapped against the river, two Spanish battalions surrender!  The remainder rout or withdraw to avoid the French, who have suffered some casualties in their turn.

The Spanish left flees the field!

A couple of pictures went awry but on the right (red markers) you can see where the French flank attack went in to break the Spanish brigade in the centre.  The Irish on the left have managed to hold off their French opponents by a judicious mixture of fire and withdrawal

A better shot of the outcome of the French attack in the centre.  The Spanish can clearly be seen in full retreat!
 Results: As predicted perhaps, the Spanish were soundly defeated although Kellermann's dragoons never did reach the battlefield in time: their presence in the pursuit might have resulted in the surrender of the entire Army of Catalonia.  A mixture of good luck and hard fighting staved off total disaster, however.  The Spanish did lose c.2200, 1000 of whom were unwounded prisoners.  The French lost around 450 casualties, including General de Division Travot.

Game Notes: A more interesting game than it threatened to be on set-up.  I had been on the verge of just letting the Tomb for an Empire rules handle it automatically but decided that I might as well play it out, just to get back into the swing of the campaign and using the rules.  It played quite quickly on a 4'x3' table, lasting 15 or so moves (c.75 minutes of "real-life").  I am beginning to wonder if the rules for attacking which give +2 to veterans and -2 to raw are perhaps a tad too strong and +1 would be a more appropriate modifier. 
In fact, although I like the Polemos rules a lot, perhaps it is time I reviewed the whole thing to see if there are a few minor tweaks I can make to closer reflect my own views of how Napoleonic warfare "worked".  After all, for this campaign, I have no-one to please or convince but myself...


  1. Good stuff. What do you think of the Polemos rules. We hated them and just couldn't seem to get them to work. Seemed really badly written.

  2. I do like them and I have stuck with them for quite a while now - getting on for 8 years I think. I like not having to do formation changes and think this is much more realistic than doing formation changes for every unit. I generally (but not always) agree with the modifiers used and I memorized most of them quickly. I think the Polemos tempo system is a reasonably fun command and control mechanism, both solitaire and face-to-face.
    OTOH...I don't think they are very well written. I think that the bases, especially in combat and in outcome moves (falling back, pursuing etc.), interact in complicated ways that aren't clear in the rules. I think the way rallying interacts with the turn sequence is either badly explained or broken or both. I think that introducing "order points" to further develop "tempo points" in General de Division was a mistake (and is why MdE gives a smoother game). I'm not convinced that skirmishers are represented brilliantly (although I don't think that many rules aimed at the same command level do so much better). There are a couple of rules where the intent is fine but obvious exploits are possible by the letter of the book.
    The first couple of games I played with them were horrors but I could tell there was a good game in there, which I found quite quickly, as opposed to some rules, much better written, which I didn't think could ever give a good game even though I did understand them.