Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vila Velha 1810

So after our delays we finally got to try ‘Napoleon’ on the table; thanks to Lauries classic tin tool boxes of classic Hinchliffe and Minifigs French, we were able to assemble two decent sized forces, even if a little proxying of troops was going on.

The armies were assembled from the mid war Peninsular lists in the rules and ran down as follows:


  • Blakes Division: 2nd Queens; 3rd Buffs; 9th East Norfolk; detachment of Riflemen
  • Poutney’s Division: Spanish Patria; Spanish Muertes; Portuguese 1st Regiment
  • Howlington’s Brigade: 16th Queens Light Dragoons
  • Cortes’ Brigade: 7th Portuguese Light Dragoons
  • Portuguese Foot Artillery Battery


  • 1er Division: 24th, 37th, 71st Ligne
  • 2em Division: 38th Ligne; 3rd Westphalia; 11th Neapolitan
  • 1er Cavalry Division: 17th & 19th Heavy Dragoons
  • French Foot Artillery Battery

Broadly speaking the French were a more steady bunch and blessed with universally high quality commanders, the Anglo Iberians were a more mixed bunch, with elite infantry, lots of militia and some less than capable commanders.

Whilst Neil set up the terrain, myself and Laurie assembled the troops, of the two options I decided that all units should occupy the same footprint on table of a standard based unit. This meant that Lauries French on the old standard frontages of thirty year ago put 32 figures into the space of my ‘Napoleon’ standard formations

The two armies deploy; The French arriving from the hills, the British defending a farm

As a result we began the game with 450 models on table, probably the most 28mm models our club has seen whilst I’ve been there (certainly three times the average for a Warhammer game) on one table.
Classic Hinchcliffe French artillery, which once belonged to the great Peter Gilder!

So we began in Earnest; at first the rules give the French the advantage of good generalship and some free moves, Neil set to stealing a march on the British with his infantry. At the end of this he had come into engagement range on my right flank with my Portuguese cavalry, and so when the first turn started this side was straight in to using command cards.
The artillery opened up after this and proved effective if immobile for the rest of the game. Then we resolved our command cards, Neil had no difficulty rolling under 11 to form squares with his infantry, but I’d second guessed that and elected not to charge anyway. As I was then and subsequently to discover, low command values were not a game breaker, close generalship reduced the number of dice needed to pass tests and kept most of the British army operating as the French came on.
The thin red line prepares to face the French onslaught
As I teased the Right flank, and formed squares on the Left flank refusing his cavalry, Neil focused on the centre. Rather carelessly he advanced column on the artillery, and soon learnt the error of this! They quickly accrued 19 casualties from case shot and routed.
The casualty/morale system works, only the very unlucky will panic and run from light losses, but as they build up the failure of the unit becomes inevitable. Quickly I found myself gauging the losses on my units and nursing those that needed protecting from greater losses.

Anyway Neil began to redeploy the Right to out flank my advancing centre, sensing my Cavalry could be held by a single square. However the real test was to be my left, where I had no space to avoid his attack. The 17th and 19th Dragoons, supported by the Neapolitans assaulted the Spanish and Portuguese as they tried desparately to form square. My cavalry put up a valiant struggle, as did most of the infantry.

It would have been a great time to move my guns, and fire on the flanks of the French, but as the rules stand I couldn’t see how to do it. This was one of the vagaries that really was noticeable, and a sign that some consensus on the gaps in the rule book will surely come. However by this point, we’d been joined by an extra player and were finding the process of running a turn much quicker.

The British were on the ropes, but then the remarkable happened; the Queens Light Dragoons beat the 19th Dragoons, who fled the field with more losses than they could stand. The squares broke the other Dragoon regiment and the assault on my left collapsed. In the centre I’d lost one elite regiment of my own, but had managed to counter the French Thrust, throwing my Portuguese cavalry on their flanks. The right had become a quiet plain occupied by a solitary French regiment.
In the end it was a British victory pulled from the jaws of defeat, the French simply wore themselves out in a frontal assault across the whole field. The rules showed themselves to function, though with some more reading I’m sure it would be easier to run a game, there was much uncertain flicking through the rules. As it was we had five hours and wasted the first hour of that on assembling troops and setting up. A small game would come to a decision in 3-4 hours, which is not as quick as some systems out there, but it felt like classic games of yore in many ways, whilst having the elegance of more moderns rules (no huge tables of modifiers or casualty indexes to refer to, for example).

We are already planning for a rematch in the new year, with hopefully a few more players and a few more units too.

Elsewhere it was a good day for games, with a variety of Fantasy, Historical and card games going on. My eye was caught by Mark’s Thirty Years War miniatures: Revell 20mm plastics. The rules being from the Perfect Captain website:

1 comment:

  1. 3-4 hours sounds like a reasonable game length given the number of units being pushed around.
    Sound like an interesting set of rules that may deserve further study - 28mm Naps have fallen out of flavour in the \grimsby club recently.