Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Battle of Bocacara 1812

Huzzah!  More Black Powder action, and my first Napoleonics game in, well, years!

My opponent was to be Gav, taking his traditional role as the British.  It's always good to see Gav, and alongside the game we caught up and chatted amiably.

The game itself, I lifted from the Charles Grant Battlegames book 'Tabletop Teasers volume 1', the battle for the pass.  This I translated to a steep sided river valley somewhere in Spain, where a broad river offers one vital crossing at a decent road suitable for moving artillery.  Each side would be tasked with gaining control of the ford in the village.

We were trying a new venue, the Aireborough Community Gamers; a venue that doesn't generally do miniatures games, but has an advantage of space and generous opening hours.  We were able to set up a 9 x 5 foot table with my modest scenery collection and a stash of magazines and the like making the hillsides a bit more significant.  With all the time we could need to play we drew up map deployments and then set up our troops

 I of course had to take on the French, appearing on the table for the first time without need of German allies or Spanish regime troops.  Two Infantry Brigades supported by a Cavalry Brigade:

Gav's British, however, had to rely on the aid of Spanish allies.  All three of his Brigades were ostensibly infantry with small cavalry contingents.  Gav decided to deploy his Spanish on the opposite side of the river
 With our orders clear, we rolled for initiative and I was to open battle.  The French quickly seized the initiative, making rapid infantry brigade orders (a successions of five's rolled for orders) to advance to the west of the village, before the British had made any decisions!

 The British countered aggressively, but were unable to make as good going across the valley.  Their Light Dragoons became part of a confusing advance up the road to Bocacara.

 After a fast start though, the French became tied up in deciding how to take control of the village; I tried to spread my cavalry strength to occupy the village, but nobody appeared to wish to advance further.
 Meanwhile the British cavalry could not resist charging, giving the French Cuirassiers a bad mauling and falling upon some of my skirmishers in succession.  Fortunately I had no shortage of reserves, but this was an upset and a general would have to be dispatched to save the situation.

 On the opposite flank the Spanish made generally slow progress towards the ford, with the exception of their artillery.  The Spanish gunners were easily the most valiant troops they had, and their guns were unlimbered on the east bank of the river where they could sweep the opposite side with fire.

I response I was able to throw my Chasseurs over the ford in an effort to threaten their flank or rear.

 Gav was able to command forward his token Portuguese unit - the Loyal Lusitanian Legion, who took up a square formation on the right of the Spanish guns, blocking my cavalry.  Meanwhile in the village I was able to occupy the Church, and march several regiments to the river.

However, I was making no progress to the west, where the firepower of British infantry was stalling my progress.  Even as the Spanish cavalry received confusing orders and blundered to the rear.

 The British began to concentrate fire on the Church and the field to the west of it.

 The Spanish attempted to advance their infantry, whilst their guns consistently stopped my infantry from crossing the river, their fire was simply too withering.  I withdrew my cavalry to allow my own artillery to fire, though to little effect, on the Portuguese square.  By now I'd restored control in the rest of my cavalry, but the central infantry brigade was now appearing under threat.

 A brisk cavalry action between the French and British Dragoons finally saw Gavs cavalry off, and allowed my foot dragoons the chance to attack his artillery.  But at the same time my cavalry were also expended, and the West became largely static.

 The centre, and the village battle was becoming more important now, and the British made a move with a concerted attack on the church and the walled fields beside it.  Under a pressure of fire and with a lack of confidence, the French infantry at the church broke; whilst only the personal intervention of one of my generals was holding the troops at the river bank in the firing line.  But their sacrifice had at least permitted other troops the time (two full turns) to wade the deeper river and make landfall on the eastern bank.

Skirmishers tried to take the Spanish guns, but a round of canister at point blank range put paid to the attempt.  The Portuguese reformed to line and tried to hold off the French in column of attack.   In the west, my cavalry recovered, but only to place themselves dangerously in the firing line.  In the village my first brigade was now irretrievably broken and began to withdraw.

 By this stage, each side had a broken brigade, and both had a second within a hairs breadth of breaking.  The final blows would be in the desperate battle for the ford itself.  The Portuguese were broken, and the Spanish cavalry, badly outmatched by the French Chasseurs, soon followed.  Part of the British line had collapsed due to sheer weight of losses, and this allowed the last of the useful French troops to line the river and pepper the hapless Spanish infantry with fire.

Their artillery stood firm to the last but Spanish infantry could not bear the pressure and soon fled.  With two broken brigades, Gav had to concede the field, even though I too was hanging on only by the personal courage of my generals in rallying wavering troops all over the field of battle.

Glory went therefore to the French; but it was undoubtedly a bloody victory.  Both sides were exhausted, it was simply that the allies blinked first.  Certainly not everything went my way, most of my artillery sat out of range for the entire battle, and my reserve Grenadiers were never even committed, their Brigade breaking before they had even made it to the front.  

Another excellent scenario, and another good outing for Black Powder.  I used the special rules - almost without modification - from the Albion Triumphant supplement for this game, though I still feel their version of the Pas de la Charge rule is too weak, so I tweaked that up a bit.  It's good to know that I have enough models on my own to put together a decent game, and it is also gratifying to find a usable venue for longer games; I think we spent five hours on this little affair.

The next one hopefully won't be too long away now either.