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 2 June 2016

The Peninsular War Campaign - A Review of the First Game Year

I began my refight of the Peninsular War on 12th September 2013 so it has been going on for nearly three years now.  I haven't hammered it, having a large young family, an engrossing job and many other interests, both outside and inside gaming.  And this morning I completed the first year of "game time": the game clock has reached 1st July 1809.

The course of the campaign has been very interesting, both in the extent to which it has resembled the real thing and where it has diverged from it.  If you are interested in the course of the campaign but haven't followed my blogposts so far, then you can follow it here.

Overall, I don't think that the campaign has been too different from the original and nothing has felt too implausible: a credit to the Tomb for an Empire campaign rules.  Although there have been a couple of minor glitches, in general the campaign rules have been able to interface with the battle rules, Polemos Napoleonics, successfully.  The glitches, such as they were, have been:

Getting the correct, plausible amount of artillery on the map.
Deciding on how exactly one of the key attrition mechanics should work.
Getting the "march to the sound of the guns" mechanism correctly calibrated.

As a solo player, the basic mechanic I use to generate uncertainty is a card draw to activate formations of either side (although it has several nuances).  It has worked very well!

As for the course of the campaign, I think that overall, the Allies are just shading it.  The French have gained more ground in the East more quickly, with Zaragoza and the majority of the Catalonian forces in French hands already.  However, the Allies largely avoided the series of disasters which befell the real Spanish armies when Napoleon arrived in real life, by being a lot more defensive and being quicker to retreat.  And the key difference was that the British Army was able to retreat along a prepared route towards Lisbon, rather than a mad rush to Corunna to avoid being crushed by massively superior forces.  This has left a rather larger Allied army in being, which has been able to successfully fend off the main Imperial attack.

I don't know how the campaign will run from here.  I think that the situation in the East is fairly balanced and could go either way.  I think that the Imperials will have to await further reinforcements before making another serious attempt to complete the invasion of Portugal and attempt to defeat the Allied army.

The campaign has mainly been a very interesting and diverting experience.  I have enjoyed refighting the battles, which have been of vastly different sizes and force compositions and with different, nuanced aims.  But the best moment was a couple of months ago.  I was thinking of Wellington's next move, considering his options and the various possible French reactions when suddenly I thought of a passage from Petre's Napoleon's Conquest of Prussia.  This was the first 'serious' Napoleonic history book I read, taken from Peterlee public library in c.1987.  As I was going through the various options of Wellington's in my head, whilst staring at the game map, I felt myself thinking of it in the same way I had read that passage discussing Napoleon's plans and options those many years ago.  And that, to me, is what has made this a successful campaign game.  I don't think that a wargame can easily replicate the decisions an actual general makes: but it can replicate the way we think of those events as readers, perhaps even critics.  And that may be one of the virtues of a good historical campaign game.

I am looking forward to seeing where my campaign goes next!  I am hoping to get more game time this year, and perhaps next year too.  I want to try and improve both my terrain and my photography too, to make my battles and my blogposts more eye-pleasing.  And, of course, just add the odd new unit, here and there...

Thanks to all those who have read, followed and commented on the campaign so far.  In particular thanks to Paul Leniston, whose example inspired my own efforts.

Peninsular War Campaign Summary - end of June 1809

Situation at the end of June 1809:

Summary of Events:
Joseph initially began to move towards Elio's Fourth Spanish Army, based near Madrid but Elio's manoeuvrings convinced him that he would be chasing a shadow whilst moving many miles through hostile territory with Wellington's Allied army at his back.  He therefore returned nack down the Tagus, not knowing whether to attack Wellington or merely feint and then run back to Leon to regroup on Moncey and Soult.  Wellington was aggressive, threatening Joseph's lines of communication to the North so Joseph reluctantly committed to an attack.  Seeing a fleeting opportunity to attack Cuesta's small Spanish army he attacked, but the prompt arrival of the Allied forces led to a French defeat and the loss of Marshal Ney as a prisoner and the destruction of a large proportion of his army corps, although not before serious damage had been done to Cuesta's forces.  Joseph did at least manage to escape and has withdrawn to Salamanca.  To partly compensate for the disastrous Tagus valley campaign against the Allies over the last few months, Mortier was able to storm and capture Ciudad Rodrigo in a brilliant action, thus opening up an alternative invasion route for the French (n.b. see here for details of the actual taking of Ciudad Rodrigo).  Soult has withdrawn slightly from Astorga, to Benavente, in order to be in a better position to support Joseph if attacked by Wellington, whilst still being able to cover any advance by Mahy from Galicia into Leon.  Right at the end of the month, Moncey's III Corps carried out a lightning advance eastwards with the aim of checking Elio's advance over the mountains into the Segovia area.  Elio had no intention of fighting however and successfully covered by his stronger cavalry, was able to retire safely into the mountains.
On the East coast, St-Cyr withdrew from the Valencia area, fearing starvation in the desolated ground and the combined strength of the Spanish Armies of Valencia and Catalonia.  He carried out a storm of Tortosa as equally brilliant as Mortier's actions in the West, which cost the Spanish 5000 casualties in dead and prisoners.  A second attack on Tarrogona failed, however.

Imperial Order of Battle:

Army of Spain (Joseph) at Salamanca
Royal Guard: 2000 Infantry, 2000 Cavalry
Latour-Maubourg's Div: 5000 Cavalry
IV Corps (Lefebvre): 7000 Infantry, 2000 Cavalry, 36 Guns
VI Corps (MacDonald):  6000 Infantry, 24 Guns

I Corps (Suchet): 14000 Infantry, 3000 Cavalry, 48 Guns east of Salamanca

III Corps (Moncey): 15000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 24 Guns west of Segovia

V Corps (Mortier): 6000 Infantry, 3000 Cavalry, 36 Guns

VIII Corps (Junot): 5000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 24 Guns west of Barcelona
Decaen's Div: 3000 Infantry at Tortosa
Travot's Div: 5000 Infantry at Tarragona
Souham & Chabot'sDivs: 9000 Infantry at Hostalrich
Habert's Div: 9000 Infantry and siege train at Olot

VII Corps (St-Cyr): 16000 Infantry, 2000 Cavalry, 36 Guns at Tarragona

II Corps (Soult): 13000 Infantry, 3000 Cavalry, 24 Guns and siege train at Benavente

Rosas: 1000 Infantry
Figueras: 2000 Infantry
Gerona: 1000 Infantry
Barcelona: 1000 Infantry
Astorga: 3000 Infantry
Burgos: 3000 Infantry
San Sebastian: 2000 Infantry
Pamplona: 4000 Infantry
Tudela: 1000 Infantry
Zaragonza: 7000 Infantry
Valladolid: 3000 Infantry
Bayonne: 12000 Infantry
Zamora: 2000 Infantry
Perpignan: 2000 Infantry
Ciudad Rodrigo: 3000 Infantry

Allied Order of Battle:

IV Army (Elio): 20000 Infantry, 4000 Cavalry, 48 Guns in the passes NW of Madrid

Army of Andalusia (Castanos): 6000 Infantry, 2000 Cavalry, 24 Guns at Cadiz

Army of the Centre (Cuesta): 7000 Infantry. 2000 Cavalry, 12 Guns at Coria

Army of Galicia (Mahy): 29000 Infantry, 48 Guns at Lugo

Army of Valencia (La Romana): 13000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 36 Guns at Requena

Army of Catalonia (Sarsfield): 9000 Infantry, 12 Guns

Anglo-Portuguese Army (Wellington): 39000 Infantry, 6000 Cavalry, 72 Guns
Otway's Bde: 1000 Cavalry at Plasencia
Hamilton's Div: 8000 Infantry at Lisbon

Miller's Div: 8000 Militia at Almeida
Trant's Div: 8000 Militia at Elvas

Seville: 6000 Infantry
Malaga: 2000 Infantry
Granada: 1000 Infantry
Badajoz: 5000 Infantry
La Coruna: 2000 Infantry
Cartagena: 2000 Infantry
Valencia: 3000 Infantry
Sagunto: 2000 Infantry
Tarragona: 3000 Infantry
Hostalrich: 1000 Infantry
Tortosa: 4000 Infantry
Santarem: 2000 Infantry
Gibraltar: 6000 Infantry
Almeida: 1000 Infantry
Lisbon: 2000 Infantry