The Peninsular War has been raging for three years and the country has been ravaged in many places. The better supplied British know that the overstretched Imperial Army can be brought to its knees by denying them of local provisions while their not always so reliable Spanish allies attack their supply lines. Now word has reached them that the French are planning to plunder the fruits of the great estates of Granja de l’Abundancia, well within the British area of control. Peasant informants have reported that a division-strength force is moving to contest the area. Such impertinence can not be tolerated!
The scenario pitted two opposing divisions against each other, each entering along a road on opposite short ends of the table. The battlefield was quite symmetrical and points would be awarded for control of hills, farmhouses and for destroyed battalions. Particularly the large manor-house and large hill in the middle were worth fighting for. The British force consisted of two brigades of line infantry and a third brigade with numerous light infantry and skirmisher elements (the damned 95th rifles again!) with one battalion of cavalry. The French had only two brigades of infantry, though both were a bit larger than their British counterparts. However the French had two battalions of formidable cuirassiers and two more battalions of artillery than the British.
The game began in fits and jumps for both sides. The Brits got all their battalions onto the table on their first turn, but largely thanks to the automatic move granted by march columns. The performance didn’t much improve over the next couple of turns, due partly to the fact that the general Poultry, commander of the “light brigade” that was tasked with advancing up the middle, was hesitant (we rolled on the general traits and “hesitant” meant that he had to re-roll all orders that gave three actions). Most of the other commanders only had a command rating of 7.
On the French side the supreme commander, general Grenouille was the only one with a command rating of 8, which really hurt the French manoeuvering during this game. The cavalry didn’t show up during the first turn and the rest strolled forward in casual fashion.
The situation on turn 3 can be seen below. The British were sending a brigade in march column towards the Granja (at the end of the road on the left) while the rest of the force was advancing to hold the large hill commanding the crossing. The French were doing likewise, with one brigade of infantry and the cavalry brigade advancing for the hill (in march columns) while the other brigade was moving for the Granja in attack columns. The French infantry only started moving after the supreme commander, general Grenouille took command of them personally. On the next turn he returned to command the cavalry personally, getting them to move 3 times also. “Must I do everything myself,” the CiC was heard cursing.
The French were the first to reach both objectives, with their cavalry and cannon taking up positions on the hill while the infantry took up line formations two battalions deep. The infantry on the left were advancing nicely four attack columns abreast, though they somewhat stupidly marched past the Granja they were meant to occupy. It seems that once you get the French advancing it’s hard for even their own commanders to stop them!
As the British left flank brigade advanced towards the hill the cavalry, ever impetuous, charged them. This forced two of their battalions to squares before the cavalry retired, only to reveal that the French had brought artillery forward to batter the squares at close range! It was to be a while before the cavalry would charge again, as their commander, général la Peur proved to be quite hesitant in risking the lives of his prized elite cuirassiers (the cavalry general managed to roll a trait that gave him a minus to all charge orders!).
On the British right flank the French were advancing unto the hill beyond the Granja with banners fluttering magnificently in the wind. However the brigade commander, caught up in the beauty of the advance (and pausing to think on how it would look as a painting in his salon), did not manage to react in time to the British cresting the hill in their neat lines, advancing to within musket shot and unleashing a dreadful volley with great precision.
As the dust cleared, both the battalions on either end of the formation had been badly mauled and were on the brink of breaking.
Things weren’t going much better for the French on their right flank. The British had finally got their act together and were advancing in neat lines on the hill. Their first volley did great hurt on the cavalry brigade, disordering both cuirassier regiments and shaking the horse artillery. Meanwhile the French infantry on this flank did not seem to understand the complex formations they were being ordered into, as it was only on the third command (when CiC général Grenouille showed up to give the command) that they finally moved to engage the enemy.
On the French left the situation was starting to look desperate. The brigade commander had moved up to rally the shaken battalion on the brigade’s left – just in time for a second devastating volley from the British which killed him and routed the battalion. A second battalion was disordered while the battalion on the right had suffered heavy casualties and had annoying snipers firing at them from the rear and a battery of 6 pounders firing at them from the front.
We decided that the brigade would receive a replacement commander, but that this would take one turn and that the commander would then be one rating lower than his predecessor (now being of rating 6 – quite shit).
The brigade’s position didn’t improve in the devastating volleys of the next turn after which the brigade decided to charge the enemy in desperation. The charge failed, after which the brigade was broken and they spent the rest of the game retreating in disorder. Fortunately the brigade’s performance improved in retreat (or the British got cocky), and they managed to break the British brigade bearing down on them also.
On the French right the French infantry finally moved to engage, giving a good volley to the British. The British replied in kind, though the effect was minimal this time.
The second volley of the French was much more devastating, breaking two battalions. Meanwhile the French cuirassiers charged the British on their own initiative, who formed squares. One of these squares was shaken so the cavalry hit home, doing great carnage but not breaking the resolute British. The other square found itself in the unenviable position of taking close range canister fire from two batteries of French artillery. Unsurprisingly they broke.
With the extreme casualties caused in these last few turns both the British brigade on the left and the one on the right broke. This meant that in a surprising turn of events the British army was broken and the French had the field!
This was a great game and played in a good and (thankfully for me) forgiving spirit. The game changed dramatically two times – first the French seemed to be doing good by getting to the objectives before the British, but then getting blasted to pieces. After this the French couldn’t hit a barn door and seemed to fail every command roll, but once they started to understand their order the tables were turned again with a torrent of fire paid in kind.
This definitely inspired me to paint more troops for a bigger game next time. Hopefully the next game will be soon!