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.

Monday 26 December 2016

Polemos General de Division AAR: Action at El Bodon, 25th Spetember 1811

This morning I had a go at refighting the Peninsular War Action at El Bodon on the tabletop.  I used the scenario from Miniature Wargames 005, written by wargaming legend Terry Wise.

El Bodon is quite an interesting scenario, because it features British infantry attacking French cavalry and then conducting a fighting withdrawal against constant attacks from that same cavalry.  It requires more space than troops, as the forces involved were small but the retreat was carried out over a considerable distance.

Imperial French Forces:

C-in-C Montbrun (Capable)

1st Dragoon Bde: 2 x Veteran Dragoon bases
2nd Dragoon Bde: 2 x Veteran Dragoon bases
Lamotte's Light Cavalry Bde: 3 x Trained Light Cavalry bases
Fournier's Light Cavalry Bde: 3 x Trained Light Cavalry bases
Artillery: 1 x 4lb Horse Artillery base

Allied Forces:

C-in-C Wellington (Decisive)

3rd Division: Picton (Decisive)
Wallace's Bde: 2 x Veteran SK1 Infantry bases
Colville's Bde: 2 x Veteran SK1 Infantry bases
Div Artillery: 2 x Trained Portuguese 6lb Foot Artillery bases

Alten's Cavalry Brigade: 1 x Veteran Light Cavalry base, 1 x Trained Light Cavalry base

The troop ratings are very speculative.  There is a good argument for making all the troops Veteran (or all Trained).  As the Polemos rules work on opposed rolls, there is literally no difference.

Objectives: The objective for the Allies is to withdraw via the road on the left-hand side of the table or break the Imperial force.  The objective for the French is to prevent this or break the Allied force.

The Terrain:

This is Terry Wise's suggested terrain:

Used with permission

And here is the Google Earth view (for comparison with the terrain on the table)

 The Battle:

The Allied force is on the near side of thestream, the French on the far bank.  The Allies have veteran KGL Hussars on the left, the Portuguese artillery in the front supported by British infantry, British Light Dragoons on the right.

The French have the light cavalry on their right (left as seen), the dragoons on their left (right of shot)

View from behind Wellington's command post

Bold French moves to start the battle.  French Hussars have advanced across the stream to attack their German counterparts (I'm in mid-move here, the other Frenhc Hussars were just about to come across the stream!); French Chasseurs à Cheval attack the 1/5th Foot over the stream, led by General Montbrun in person.

The French Hussars enjoy some success in the initial melée, disordering the KGL horsemen on the left (note single figure denoting shakenn status); however the 5th, although showing some signs of nervousness (see the single figure by the infantry adjacent to the bridge), delivered a textbook, crushing volley at pointblank range, devastating the leading French Chasseur squadrons and disordering their supports.

A closer view

Picton arrives with elements from Wallace's brigade

The French 2nd Light Cavalry brigade fails its morale check and is spent, out of the battle

The ebb-and-flow of the cavalry melée on the Allied left now moves in favour of the KGL Hussars - the French become shaken in their turn and are pushed back

The combat is over: the French retire over the stream to reform

The direct assault having failed, Montbrun leads one of his brigades of Dragoons round the Allied right flank; the Light Dragoons advance to counter this move

A couple of missing pictures before this one unfortunately: on the Allied left, the KGL Hussars have more decisively defeated another French attack.  The French brigadier has therefore pushed a regiment further round the flank to try and force the KGL into retreat by manoeuvre.  On the Allied right, the French Dragoons have defeated the Light Dragoons and Picton hastily moves a battalion to the right to protect against this.

On the right, one can see more clearly the progress of the French Dragoons and the routing British cavalry (bottom right); note bottom centre-left that the British infantry reinforcements are about to reach the junction

The position on the left flank - the KGL Hussars have forced their opponents across the stream, whilst one French Hussar regiment has broken

Fearing the double-envelopment, Wellington orders his forward infantry and artillery to retire; the KGL Hussars on the left retire slightly and the French Hussars gingerly follow

The Allied column has retreated a fair distance (just over 1km) but now the French Dragoons are ready to charge; French Hussars are trying to outflank and stretch the Allies (top-right)

The 1/5th Foot sees off the French attack with another pointblank volley!  Both sides are somewhat shaken and need to reform.  Wellington was lucky to survive an encounter with a French Dragoon!

The British foot changed positions so the 77th faced the French Dragoons (to take advantage of first volley); however, Montbrun lead his Dragoons into success and the 77th have broken (top-left)!  The Dragoons are about to hit the Portuguese guns...
The French Dragoons overrun a Portuguese battery, but the 1/5th again succeed in blunting the French Dragoon attack - this time the French sustain enough casualties that their courage fails them and they fail their morale check

The Allied position: the 77th rout, but the remaining British troops hold on

Position from the second French Dragoon brigade: at this point, the Imperials failed their army morale and the battle was over!

Same position at the end of the battle

Game Result and Notes:
A very exciting game! More exciting than I expected perhaps, but a tribute to the scenario that it provided such a tense conflict.  The Polemos General de Division rules performed admirably - I know a lot of rules would struggle with this action, because they wouldn't allow the British to move in square but would make them very vulnerable to cavalry otherwise.  This would make the long retreat almost impossible.  Because Polemos makes troop morale and support the key tactical factors and doesn't fuss at all about formations, it doesn't suffer from the same problems.  More of an issue is that cavalry combat is quite deadly in Polemos GdD, whereas the real action apparently witnessed "forty French charges".  One assumes (following Rory  Muir) that many of these charges were feints, and thus are represented in the rules by some of the movements of the French Hussars in the game, which forced Allied reactions without actually being attacks.
Overall, the game reflected history quite closely, although with slightly higher casualties on each side.  This was partly as a result of my (bad) initial tactics as the French, although I was considering that a quick success would really help the French cause, before the British infantry reinforcements could take effect.

The game used the Polemos General de Division rules and was played on a 5'x3' table with a home-made mat.  In retrospect I think I used the wrong mat: I have a greener felt cloth which I think looks a little less good but being softer, would probably have contoured better along the steep hills.  My homemade cloth with the caulk base was maybe a little too stiff!  Figures from Baccus 6mm's Napoleonic range.
This scenario would be a good one for starting players, as sufficient forces to play are very cheap.  It could be played from the forces contained in a Baccus starter army, for example.


  1. Thanks for putting this up - I have never thought of Polemoss as being suitable for so few units, makes small games look very interesting.

    1. I really like them for this size of game actually: they are a good "1-hour" ruleset if used in this way. The only thing to take care about is the formation morale rolls - they make divisional formations quite brittle sometimes, although to be fair, this seems much more realistic than in some rules.

  2. I echo Norm's comments: good to show that Polemos scales down as well.

    1. Thanks Dale.

      A few years back I fought quite a series of such battles:

      The Polemos rules generally held up very well at this size of battle

  3. Good report and sounds like an interesting set of rules. I've considered getting the Baccus ECW and / or ACW starter sets (inc. the Polemos rules) at various points. Would you have any thoughts on them?

    Cheers, Aaron

    1. I do indeed have some thoughts on the ECW set: please see my review here
      I've refought a number of actions of various sizes using the rules, with generally very good results: