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.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Polemos General de Division: Quilmes 1806

I recently bought the two latest Michael Hopper Napoleonic scenario books (long-time readers will remember I have used some of his other books extensively, primarily covering the Italian and Danube theatres of war in 1805 and 1809).  The latest two feature the British struggles around the world against the Imperial French and their allies, although there are also many scenarios featuring Spanish, Portuguese and Sicilian armies contesting French invading armies.


 For my first game I chose a small scenario from one of Britain's fairly woeful South American campaigns, in which they tried to defeat Spain in their colonial possessions.  This particular battle features a small British force facing a larger but very motley Spanish force trying to resist the British advance from the Rio de la Plata (the River Plate).  I used the Polemos General de Division rules.

 The Forces:

The British Army:
C-in-C: General Beresford (Capable)
Force Commander: Pack (Capable)
1st Brigade: 3 bases Trained Infantry SK1
2nd Brigade: 1 base Trained Infantry SK1 (Marines)
3rd Brigade: 1 base Raw Infantry SK2 (Sailors & Militia)
This unusual nominal brigade structure is necessary to make the British not at risk of collapse by getting a single 'Shaken' result. It is actually still just possible, but a lot less likely.

The Spanish Army:
C-in-C: General Sobremonte (Plodding)
Force Commander: Arce (Plodding)
1st Brigade: 2 bases Raw Dragoons
2nd Brigade: 1 base Raw Infantry SK0, 1 base Trained Horse Artillery 6lb
3rd Brigade: 3 bases Raw Irregular Cavalry (Guachos)
4th Brigade: 3 bases Raw Irregular Cavalry (Guachos)

The British win if they occupy the town that the Spanish are holding or defeat the Spanish Army.

 The Set-Up:

Beresford's small army is based around Quilmes (top) by the River Plate, whilst Sobremonte's troops guard the pass through the town of Recreation (bottom).

The majority of the Spanish force are 'Guacho' irregular light horse; an infantry battalion and a battery of horse artillery provide some stability.

A couple of regiments of regular cavalry are positioned on the right.

A closer view of Beresford's & Pack's troops; the majority are from the 71st, supplemented by some Marines, some sailors and some militiamen from St.Helena.

The Battle:

As the British marines push forward, the Guachos ride forward to meet them

A closer look at those advancing Guachos.

Although the Marines open fire perhaps a tad too soon, their fire is accurate enough to fell many of the Spanish riders

Advancing slowly forward, the Marines threaten the shaken Gauchos...

The dispirited Gauchos turn tail and flee!

However, not to be discouraged, the other group of Gauchos also charge in..

With mixed results! Some of the Gauchos are killed and others flee from the ferocity of the 71st Foot's fire, but the sailors and militiamen run for Quilmes!

The Gauchos have split the British line along the main track!

Beresford launched a charge directly at the Spanish infantry and guns at the head of his infantry (centre-bottom) but was beaten back with heavy losses (centre)!  He is now in serious danger of being encircled and destroyed...

However, Pack's infantry quickly attack and disorder the Gaucho in the centre

Whilst the Marines push the other Gaucho back up the slopes

The Marines' relentless advance cannot be stopped by the irregular horsemen

Realizing that his army's morale must collapse soon, Sobremonte orders Arce to attack the British flanking battalion with the regular cavalry

Arce gets his troopers to charge...

But the steady discipline and fire of the British infantry wins out

The routed Cavalry regiment rides for the hills...

Cumulative losses and disorder take their toll, and the Spanish Army reaches a state of sauve qui peut...

The position at the end of the battle, as the Spanish forces disperse

Game Notes: 

A little scenario to start me off and get me going with this book.  And a slightly unusual situation in terms of the types of forces involved, good to get those Spanish irregular cavalry onto the battlefield for a change!  The Spanish actually did rather better in this refight than they managed in real life and for a brief moment I thought they were going to pull it off - the smart infantry counter-attack against the just victorious second group of Guachos probably saved the day, otherwise it is hard to see how Beresford could have escaped...Polemos is quite an 'infantry-friendly' set, the Spanish may have had a better chance with a different ruleset.  But all good fun, the scenario worked really well.

Only three points of note from the rules: firstly, the army structure doesn't work amazingly well with low force levels, although that didn't end up mattering too much in this game.  Basically, when the sailors routed, the British immediately could have had a 1-in-6 chance of losing the battle, or a 1-in-9 chance, or no chance at all, depending upon how exactly things are organized.  On the other hand, it can be quite fun and does produce some historical possiblities impossible to recreate under other rules.  Secondly, I have never been a fan of allowing cavalry charge directly 'through' infantry and artillery, even though the rules do allow it, as written.  Lastly, the re-deployment order is quite powerful in these rules, it is usually preferable to wheeling or retreating and so on.  But none of these points is new, I think I have mentioned them all before.

So an unusual little scenario with a very low troop count for a quick game - recommended.  Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Total Battle Miniatures.


  1. Well, I never knew we fought in South America during the Napoleonic Wars, but then my knowledge of the period is rather sparse, but I certainly learnt something new today! A great little scenario for sure and look forward to seeing more scenarios from your new book.

    1. Thanks Steve! I was dimly aware of some of it (IIRC Arthur Harman wrote some multi-player scenarios for them in some early Miniature Wargames) but Michael Hopper has put them into some very workable traditional scenarios. Not the most balanced perhaps, but interesting nonetheless.

  2. That was very interesting. I knew there were some skirmishes in South America, but I never dreamt Beresford landed on the River Plate! Thanks for the heads up on those scenario books, I will take a look at them.

    1. You are very welcome - hopefully some more interesting scenarios coming soon.