Antti and I played another great game of Black Powder several weeks ago. This time we re-played the historical battle of Arroyo dos Molinos 1811. The real battle occurred when a French detachment that was rampaging in the British rear was surprised by a British force that had made a three-day forced march to intercept them. The real battle was actually quite dull, as the French were surrounded and caught completely unawares. For our battle we decided to replay the battle as if the French had received advance warning of the attack and were trying to withdraw from the far larger British force.
A full description of the historical battle can be found at: http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/virtual/c_molinos.html
And a map of what really happened (which acted as inspiration for our scenario):
The French objective was to get as many units out of the village and via the Truxillo-road off the eastern board edge. They would get 2VP for each unit to exit the board in this manner, in addition to which each side would gain 2VP for each destroyed enemy unit and 1VP for shaken units. The only catch was that the French could not start to withdraw before turn 6. The OOBs were not quite historical.
Overall commander General Hill (C8, “decisive” trait (can re-roll failed command, but if this fails then blunder))
Howard’s Brigade (C7) – 3 battalions line (1 Scottish), small unit of 95th rifles (skirmish), 1 artillery battery
Wilson’s Brigade (C7) – 3 battalions line, 1 artillery battery
Ashworth’s Portuguese Brigade (C7) – 2 battalions line + 2 small Cacadore battalions
Long’s Cavalry Brigade (C8) – 2 regiments of British Dragoon Guards, 1 regiment of KGL light dragoons
Mirillo’s Spanish Brigade (C7) – 4 battalions of Spanish line infantry
Overall commander General Girard (C8)
Dombrouski’s Brigade (C7) – 3 battalions line, 1 artillery battery
Remond’s Brigade (C7) – 3 battalions line
Bron’s Cavalry Brigade (C8) – 2 regiments of cuirassiers, 1 regiment of hussars
To reflect the forced march taking it’s toll on the British, the French had the “Tough Fighters” special rule (can re-roll one assault dice). The Spanish infantry were quite crap, having the “Unreliable” and “Wavering” special rules (might run away when taking casualties and commands fail on equal roll). To represent the surprise and chaos, the French could not start withdrawing from the village before turn 6. Additionally on the first turn none of their generals could give brigade orders and would get -1 to commands. On the second turn they would just get -1 to commands.
Below can be seen the initial deployment, looking from the northeast. The French are garrisoning the village with the cavalry just outside of it. The British are entering from the road to the West with their cavalry entering behind the river.
The French generals hold a quick conference in the middle of the village. Mon dieu! Where did those Brits come from!?
The Portuguese were on the British left and the Spanish on their right. All troops were ordered to march as far forward as possible and then form into brigade lines (with some reserves) some two moves (24 cm) from the village. The British commands went ok for the first two turns, with nothing spectacular but no absolute fails. The CiC kept galloping back and forth to command personally any brigades which were falling behind.
The first two French turns saw very little movement due to the massive command penalties. The cavalry did manage to take up positions just south of the village. Their objective was to hold that flank long enough for the rest to be able to withdraw. By turn 3 some of the battalions from the village had also been mustered in attack columns touching the south edge of the village. The cannons refused to move!
Scots greys? In Spain? The British cavalry moved forward at a brisk pace, but waited for the infantry to catch up.
Below is approximately round 3. The lines are starting to form, though the British changed from march columns to line a bit too early and their advance was thus slowed down considerably. The Spanish are advancing in attack columns on the far right, but a bit too slow. Meanwhile a firefight is starting to erupt between the village and the British line. Some long range artillery fire from the British together with the 95th rifles manage to disorder both French forward garrisons (in the buildings) and one of the Cuirassiers.
The British go for a quick resolution on the north edge of the village. Two Portuguese battalions march around the village while one Portuguese and one Scottish battalion attack the building with one battalion in support. Unfortunately the assault was an utter failure. Defensive fire disordered both battalions, the defenders didn’t suffer any casualties and managed to rout both attacking battalions!
On the French left the cavalry commander had clear instructions to delay the British but not do anything foolish. “Damn caution!” General Bron exclaimed and ordered a charge on the British cavalry. The range was too much on the first attempt and the cavalry didn’t close. The next attempt saw the hussars successfully charge the British infantry and force them to a square while the cuirassiers failed to charge. The French infantry tried to follow up, seeing as they had a temporary superiority. Unfortunately they just barely failed to engage the British who were disordered or in square formation. After this show of aggression, the British decided to act themselves charged the cuirassiers with their cavalry. Meanwhile their infantry opened up on the French infantry and the hussars, which both suffered huge casualties.
Not a good place for hussars to be left in:
The cavalry engagement was quite a nailbiter. The French cavalry had 9 attacks, 1 re-roll, a D3 combat result bonus and a 3+ morale save. The British had 8 attacks all with a re-roll and with the support from the aptly placed Spanish battalions, +2 and +3 bonus to the two cavalry combats. The combat went well for the French, who beat one Scots Grey regiment and got a draw with the other. Both British units and one Cuirassier unit were shaken and thus the British cavalry threat to the retreat was neutralized. The French general rallied the Cuirassiers next turn so they were both in working order. The second unit managed to charge the British infantry in the center, who got into a square but failed to prevent the charge. The charge decimated the unit who broke and the Cuirassiers pursued into the next unit, who were also forced into a square! The hussars also kept on harrying the British center. The result of these two turns cavalry actions were that the British cavalry was effectively neutralized while the British infantry center was also blocked.
While the cavalry action was going on, the French infantry in the center was able to creep backwards under cover of the cavalry “shield”. The infantry was getting ready to retire from the village and the route was pretty clear, except for a single Portuguese battalion that had bypassed the village.
A successful combined brigade order from the CiC general Girard proved decisive. Three French battalions and the artillery battery made a rapid retreat and engaged the Portuguese blocking battalion, which was brushed aside with ease. Meanwhile the cavalry covered the retreat together with the last three battalions. Out of these three, two more were extricated on the following turn with successful “follow me” commands from their respective brigade commanders. Unfortunately the cavalry and the last garrisoning battalion had to pay the price. The infantry battalion was unable to leave the village as it was almost constantly disordered. The cuirassier regiment that had charged the center was gunned down without remorse and the other two cavalry units were left behind with their general dead and both units shaken. However their sacrifice had given enough time for the main body of the French to retire, giving a clear victory (in retreat) to the French.
A view of the battlefield as the French main body makes its escape:
The French column retreats in good order:
The British cavalry has finally regrouped and are looking for revenge. With British artillery also brought forward, the situation of the French cavalry rearguard doesn’t look enviable:
The last French infantry garrison is overwhelmed:
A final view of the battlefield:
Post game mumblings:
A fun and once again different sort of game. In hindsight the scenario seemed a bit tough for the British, due to the long distance their infantry had to cover to outflank the French. The game was pretty much determined by the cavalry encounter on the flank, since had this gone for the British, they could have easily cut off the escape route. Now that they failed at this, the French cavalry was free to slow down the British infantry long enough for the rest to escape.