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 4 September 2016

Polemos General de Division AAR: Battle of the Gebora 1811

This morning I had a go at re-fighting the Battle of the Gebora, a Peninsular War battle which took place between a French Army commanded by Marshal Soult and Marshal Mortier and a Spanish Army under the command of General Mendizabal.  I used the scenario first published in Miniature Wargames 333, published Jan 2011.

The scenario gives all the details necessary for a refight of the battle.  It has a clear, straightforward map (with a map scale thankfully!) and simple orders of battle.  I then supplemented this scenario with a few details, particularly concerning troop quality, to this scenario and refight of Gebora using the General de Brigade rules.

And here is a link to Oman's description of the battle.

Imperial French Army

C-in-C: Marshal Mortier (Decisive)

Mortier's tactics in the battle were masterful

Infantry Division: Gen Girard (Capable):
Phillipon's Brigade: 6 Infantry Bns (6 bases, Trained SK1) (working as two separate regiments)
Gaud's Brigade: 3 Infantry Bns (3 bases, Trained SK1)
Artillery: 2 x 8lb Foot Btys

Cavalry Division: Gen Latour-Maubourg (Decisive)
Briche's Brigade: 2 Veteran light cavalry bases, 3 Trained light cavalry bases, 1 Raw light cavalry base (Juramentados cavalry)
Eclat's Brigade: 5 Trained dragoon bases, 1 Veteran light cavalry base
(n.b. I messed this up in the game and attached the Raw LC to the dragoons rather than the Veterans)

Spanish Army

C-in-C: General Mendizabal (Plodding)

Mendizabal was humilitated in the original battle, but later redeemed his reputation

2nd Infantry Division: Gen Virues (Plodding)
Espana's Brigade: 1 Trained SK1 Infantry base, 2 Trained SK0 infantry bases, 2 Raw SKo Infantry bases
Virues' Brigade: 1 Trained SK1 Infantry base, 4 Trained SK0 Infantry bases, 3 Raw SK0 Infantry bases
Artillery: 1 x 8lb Foot Bty, 2 x 6lb Foot Btys

1st Infantry Division (counted as a brigade due to its small size)
1 Trained SK1 infantry base, 4 Trained SKo infantry bases

Spanish Cavalry Division: Gen Boutron (Plodding)
Cavalry Brigade: 3 Raw Dragoon bases
Dragoon Brigade: 3 Raw Dragoon bases
Light Cavalry Brigade: 2 Raw Light Cavalry bases
Hussar Brigade: 2 Trained Light Cavalry bases
Portuguese Brigade: 5 Raw Light Cavlry bases

The Deployment:

View from behind the Spanish position (i.e. West to East).  Spanish infantry hold the ridge, whilst the Allied cavalry are in the rear.  The tents and so on are the remnants of the Spanish camp.

View along the line from the South.  Girard's Division are approaching from the East, whilst the French cavalry have completed an outflanking movement through the morning mist and are approaching from the North.

The view from behind the Spanish infantry, looking at the French fusiliers down the slope

And lastly the view from the North, with the French cavalry emerging onto the table from out of the mist.
 The Battle

The French cavalry advance along the ridge so the Spanish infantry rush into position to secure their left flank

The view from behind the French cavalry: the Spanish cavalry have quickly formed lines to try and offer resistance

The French infantry advance up the hill towards the Spanish defences

First clash: French Dragoons crash into raw Spanish light cavalry

The wider context of the clash

The Spanish cavalry are quickly routed and flee

The French Dragoons maintain their perfect order

The Spanish 1st Division infantry prepare to receive the French infantry, reserving their fire..

French infantry and cavalry advance to threaten the Spanish left, which maintains its determination to hold on

The Spanish Horse and Dragoons form a line to try and restore the situation

The French cavalry fearlessly crash into the Spanish cavalry

Most of the Spanish cavalry flee, but the central Spanish regiment holds on - and pushes back their French opponents

The Spanish light cavalry attack, hoping to regain the initiative

The French Dragoons, victorious but scattered, are engaged by the Portuguese cavalry

The Spanish light cavalry flee when they realise that they are left alone

The swirling cavalry battle continues, with regiment after regiment of Spanish cavalry fleeing the wrath of the French Dragoons!

The Spanish and French infantry face off

A Spanish infantry counter-attack causes severe losses to the French left-hand attack and throws it back down the hill

The last Iberian cavalry holds out against the French Dragoons

The overall situation: the Iberian cavalry is on its last legs (foreground, note the red shaken markers amongst the Portuguese cavalry); the Spanish infantry on the right is advancing; the Spanish infantry on the left is suffering from the French artillery, but holding on with some determination

A last hurrah for the Spanish Dragoons! They charge home but cannot break the French Dragoons - a melee ensues.

However the remainder of the Spanish and Portuguese cavalry is defeated...

A closer view of the French Dragoons, scattered after their multifarious successful combats

The French cavalry reforms, nearly surrounding the Spanish infantry

The pressure increases...but the French infantry are disordered as they puff and clamber thewir way up the steep slope...

So Mendizabal launches an audacious counter-attack in the style of the British Guards! The central French regiment is utterly routed!!  The right-hand regiment (left of picture) just manages to retain its morale...

This forces Mortier to thrown in a big cavalry charge to restore the situation...which is in turn entirely successful! The left-hand Spanish brigade is destroyed and its guns overrun.  Spanish morale collapses and those who can't flee surrender.

A wider shot - the battle is over
A decisive French victory, just as occurred in the real battle.  However, the Spanish really did nearly pull off an unlikely victory by unleashing the charge down the hill against the French infantry.  The Allied cavalry was marginally more effective than in the historical prototype, although this only meant that some units charged home before being defeated, rather than routing without much of a fight.

Game Notes:
A very interesting game - more interesting than I had perhaps guessed.  This game brought home quite a few points to me about scenario design and effects calibration.
The MW scenario did (very usefully) rate the commanders, but didn't rate the troops directly, so I used the ratings from the General de Brigade scenario, converted to Polemos.  However, Polemos uses fewer classes than General de Brigade, but relatively the differences are stronger.  Also in Polemos, slopes are considered very important (the same effect size as artillery support).  Steep slopes are even worse for an attacker.  So whereas in the original battle, the French infantry could engage in a protracted firefight to weaken the Spanish, here the French were too vulnerable and the Spanish duly attacked successfully.  The French were literally 1 dice 'pip' away from a possible defeat at one point.  I imagine that in many current rules, certainly in rules I have played in the past, the odds would have been less in favour of the Spanish at this point.  Conversely, cavalry in Polemos are brittle.  The cavalry engagement came out reasonably similar to that of history, but cavalry must either surprise infantry or wait until they are disordered to charge successfully.  The French light cavalry were quite lucky that their charge came off in this refight.
If I do this one again, I may experiment by making the French infantry veteran.  Certainly, this would make the infantry fight more equal (essentially compensating for the slope, to some degree).  The mechanics would also allow more granularity in troop quality, if required.  As written, the basic factors in the rules are:
+2 for Veteran
-2 for Raw

So a veteran unit has a base 4-point advantage when attacking a raw unit, and 2-points when attacking a trained unit.  This is quite a significant level of modifier when the basic mechanic is an opposed D6 roll.

I used the Polemos General de Division rules on a 5'x3' table, using Baccus 6mm figures.


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