Sunday, June 19, 2011

A sort of Fuentes d'Onoro: 1811

So here we are, in June already, and I've only just got round to my first big Napoleonics bash of the year!

We wanted to christen the relocation of the Sunday club to the LWGC with a big game, full of proper spectacle, and so  I put together the rudimentary organisation of a game of Black Powder; My old oppo Neil was going to be up for the weekend too; so on top of the opportunity to see his ludicrous dancing once again, the night before, we would if needed have access to his many French.

In the end we had no shortage of troops, with four players out of the 8 involved fielding models (the majority being mine and Laurie's, but with contributions from Martin and Jez too).  As Neil arrived unavoidably late, his troops sat on the bench all game!

The battle was loosely inspired by the situation at Fuentes d'Onoro; but was not a faithful recreation.  I simply  didn't have time to arrange it, and wanted to keep the size of game manageable to boot!

In the end the scenario was thus.  The British were tasked with defending the road north, passing through the village at the top of the shot above.  A large ridge covered most of their front but fell away to the village beyond some open woodland.  Marshes divided their deployment zone, whilst the French benefited from a high spur of land projecting towards the village, Nave de Haver.

Each side had to map out their deployments in secret, and had ten minutes to formulate a plan of action.  The only limitation being that one allied brigade of Spanish and Portuguese troops and artillery was already deployed in Nave de Haver, well forward of the allied lines.  This reflected the questionable decision of Wellington in the actually battle of leaving some of his weakest troops exposed to protect his flank.

The French plan on paper was sound, using all their artillery in a Grand battery on the heights to support an attack on the village by two brigades of infantry and one of heavy cavalry, whilst a brigade of infantry and one of light cavalry screened the ridge.  Initially they stuck to this plan, despite communication failures.

For their part, the British deployed three brigades of infantry behind the ridge; placing only their remaining artillery and an allied light cavalry brigade beyond the marshes in a position to immediately support the village.  They were it seemed relying on their cavalry and guns to disrupt any attack on the village; whilst exerting a hammer blow to any French daring to come over the hill.

The French sent line units into the village with initial success, the leading Spanish battalion scattered before a French column.  Curiously ,the placed their only Grenadier battalion (their best troops by a country mile) out of the fight in a square on the flank, in case of charging cavalry.  The British ignored them and instead went after the French columns, catching them exposed but with limited effect.

The Spanish infantry in the village crumbled as their cavalry support recoiled; and it was left to the more valiant Spanish artillerymen, and their Portuguese brothers to defend the walls.

Meanwhile in the centre, the French heavy cavalry tried to break through, but were beaten back in considerable disorder, their second cavalry brigade tried to come across in some form of support, but it was confused.  As the sun rose towards noon, the British and Spanish began to advance up the hill.

Finally the French infantry reacted to the din of battle; large parts of their initial plan not having survived the morning or contact with the enemy.  Firefights and cavalry charges were conducted at a lethally short range as both sides at times blundered into one another over the crest of the ridge.

Over at the village the French were still relying on a battle weary column to smash into the village; it had it's chance when the Spanish artillery laid exposed to a flank charge through the streets of the village.  But by some miracle (i.e the French only rolling one hit and the Spanish matching it, whilst having supporting troops) the Gunners put up a spirited enough defense to break the column.  Still the Grenadier Guard stood and watched.

But in the centre a rallied heavy cavalry brigade began to advance, to support a now fierce battle in the open woodland on the flanks of the ridge.  Tragically for the French there was disaster in the trees, when their Commander in Chief, Massena led a battalion to shore up a gap in the line.  His attacking battalion collapsed in combat, and in the ensuing confusion he was captured by men of the 3rd line Battalion and escorted back to Wellington's headquarters to watch the rest of the battle from his opponents lines.

By now the British had crossed the ridge and were making headway down the opposite side, where the French were now too thinly spread to realistically hold them up.  Although their heavy cavalry was making an impact in the centre, the valiant Portuguese had seen off a third assault on the village, and as the sun sank to the horizon, with their Marshall of the Empire lost to the enemy, the French decided to disengage.

It was a tiring epic of a game, but a great and heroic victory to the British, with chief plaudits on their side going to the valiant defenders of the village, and the lads of the 3rd Foot.  For the French their Cuirassiers took a lot of damage, and eventually made their point, but it was the poor command of their left (sorry Neil!) that led to their failure.

Out of the game came some points on the rules, that I'll mention here in brief.  I changed the application of charging cavalry and evading skirmishers on the fly as umpire when the British light dragoons charged; it just seemed in their nature to carry on into whatever was behind the screen.  Similarly, if troops tried to form square as a charge reaction, I make them take a straight command roll if they pass, they form up; if not they are caught in their current formation.  on a double 6 it would be a disordered square as described in the rules.  To balance this, I don't allow charging cavalry to evade a formed square, let them take the pain!

The last major adaption I use is to the rules for Broken formations.  In the rules, once a formation is broken there's no coming back.  But I find this a little final.  Rather, if more than half it's units are destroyed (i.e  removed or routed from the table) then it is finished, otherwise the brigade's general can try to rally shaken formations, and if by so doing returns the formation to having half or more of it's formation unbroken, then it is no longer broken as a whole. 

This gives a bit of a chance to return units to the battle, but in practice will usually removed the whole frm the fighting line for a turn or two.  more than enough time for an aggresive enemy to take advantage.  I also only count a general as a unit, it in some way lost in battle.  Then they effectively become an extra unit in the brigade, which immediately and always counts as lost...


  1. Excellent game report. A bit rough for Massena though. Very nice looking game too.

  2. shall try same variation to BP rules too. Ciao