A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Trouble at t'Mill - Solo CCN with miniatures


The Battle of Fuentelolmo

Last night I played a Commands & Colors (CCN) battle, using my home-brewed tweak to allow solo play. I took the Spanish side, and played the French (no cheating), using a blind hand of Command Cards. Not only did the game go well, it was actually very exciting, which is unusual for my solo wargames - they are often interesting, but seldom gripping. It was finished in about 2 hours, which is good, considering the time taken for photos and talking to myself...

The OOB

French force (Abbé)

Flying column (reserve):
2 bns of (dismounted) 1er Dragons Provisoire, plus 1 Bataillon d'Elite (Line Grenadiers)
French foot battery

Neuenstein's Confederation Brigade
4 Bns

Leberknödel's Vorpommern Brigade
4 Bns
Vorpommern foot battery

Kleinwinkel's Vorpommern Lt Cavalry Bde
1 & 2 Chevauxlegers

[Neuenstein's and Leberknödel's brigades are classed as line infantry, though each also has a small light infantry "battalion" formed of the combined voltigeur companies]

Spanish force (De España)

Spanish regulars
3 bns line infantry, 2 of light infantry
Foot battery

Voluntarios (Pardo)
2 bns light troops, 2 of militia
Volunteer Foot battery

Cavalry (Sanchez)
2 units of Lanceros de Castilla
Perseguidores del General (who are irregulars)

Partidas (Perez - "El Barbero")
4 small "bns" of guerilleros

Portuguese (Otway)
2 regts Portuguese dragoons
Thomar militia bn
Foot battery

The Scenario

Background is that local partisan irregulars under the command of the noted Don Alonso Perez (known as "El Barbero" because of his skill with a razor) have had considerable success in and around the little town of Fuentelolmo, driving out the French garrison. In response, General Jean Abbe has been sent to recover the situation with a couple of German brigades (including the previously untried Pommeranians, the contingent of the Duchy of Stralsund-Rügen), and a token force of Pommeranian light cavalry. His best troops are French, intended as reinforcements for the Armée du Centre, but borrowed to provide Abbé with some grenadier-quality infantry. Abbé is disappointed to discover that his column has been well publicised, and the Spanish forces are greatly stiffened by a line Division under Carlos de España, a good volunteer brigade and even some Portuguese troops under Col Otway.

The French have a numerical disadvantage in cavalry and artillery. The Spanish have some disadvantages in the unpredictability of their troops - the line troops will fight well, but suffer double retreats, the militia/volunteers suffer triple retreats, and any retreat at all by any of the guerilleros will eliminate them. They will come back and fight again, but not today.

The terrain is fairly open, with some small hills, a couple of them very rocky, and some small areas of woodland. The Spanish have taken a position with their right on the town of Fuentelolmo, held by the Volunteer brigade, with support from Sanchez' cavalry. The line troops and the Portuguese hold the more hilly area on the left, and El Barbero's more volatile irregulars are held in the rear of the centre. The intention is to defend the position, and allow the French to attack. Abbé has his Pommeranians on the right, the rest of the Germans on the left, and holds the "flying column" as a reserve behind his centre.

The French move first, 5 Command Cards each, and victory requires 7 "banners".

The Narrative (brief)

The day began tentatively, both sides deploying carefully and weighing up the opposition in each area.

Not for long. On his first move De España played a "Grande Manoeuvre" card, which allows a turn of very rapid movement - there is only one of these in the game, I think. Pardo's volunteer brigade rushed to its right, occupied the farm buildings at San Baudelio and deployed the volunteer artillery company of Avila to very good effect. The initiative on this side was suddenly with the Spanish - their defence had become an attack so quickly that I had some difficulty keeping track of what I was doing!

More lucky card drawing resulted in the French playing a "Counter Attack" card - again a rarity; this card allowed the French commander to repeat the Spanish "Grande Manoeuvre" - so once again troops were running across the table. Now the French reserve rushed to seize the mill at Demonio and its surrounding buildings - they were now opposed only by the guerrilleros, and also offered a threat to the left flank of the advanced brigade of volunteers.

The action was bloody and very evenly balanced. Both sides suffered from having left their artillery out of position as a result of the rapid advances - especially the French - and both commanders must have regretted the lack of horse artillery. Early on, the French suffered very heavy losses as they advanced across open ground in support of the position at the mill, which was gallantly held by the foot dragoons.

The Spanish line troops fought bravely but unsuccessfully to take the mill, and lost heavily - including a serious wound to their commander. De España was rushed from the field, and is expected to recover.

Now the cards turned things around again - the foot dragoons would not be dislodged, but eventually lack of ammunition forced them to retire - the dreaded "Short Supply" card sent them to the rear, and the battered remnants of the Cazadores de Castilla captured the position. Now - belatedly - the Pommeranians came into their own. One spectacular turn of firing from young Major Nyudrev's battery wrecked a Spanish line battery which had been causing considerable damage, and finally Graf Leberknödel led his two fusilier battalions out of the woods to excellent effect - they routed the remains of España's light troops, destroyed an unfortunate Portuguese militia battalion which got in the way, and - taking advantage of a valuable "Leadership" card - captured the Portuguese howitzer battery. Game over - that was the 7th victory banner. The French edged it, 7-5, though they were 5-3 down at one point. It could, in truth, have gone either way very easily.

I don't know why I am so elated - I lost. Losing a solo game is quite an achievement, I guess. Anyway - it was excellent fun. The solo tweak works well and without difficulty - you just have to remember to ditch the "First Strike" card if it appears, since it cannot be used in a solo game.

The Pictures

The Vorpommern brigade on the French right

General view at the start - the town is in the top right corner, the mill in the dead centre of the table. The Spanish forces are set out down the right hand side, with Portuguese cavalry in the foreground

The French "reserve" (ha ha) in the centre
Pommeranians - the Chevauxleger regiment "Herzogin Katrin" - they had a bad day on the left flank

Confederation troops on the French left

Spanish right and centre, on the outskirts of the town

Voluntarios

Otway's Portuguese cavalry - on loan for the day

The ill-fated Portuguese howitzers

Guerrilleros - were successfully kept out of harms way for the most part. Father Francisco working on Divine intervention

The trouble starts here

Spanish central defence suddenly becomes the right flank...

The boys done good - Graf Leberknoedel brings up the Pommeranian fusilier battalions

Now things get really silly - the French are rushing about too

The critical fighting around Molino Del Demonio

Foolhardy - the "Herzogin Katrin" cavalry fancy their chance against the volunteer artillery - Julian Sanchez' lancers are about to make short work of them

Nyudrev Pulls It Off - Pommeranian artillery puts paid to those pesky Spanish 8pdr boys - and not before time

The Joy of Command Cards - you can fight as bravely as you like, but you'll need ammo

"Tulips" - the Pommeranian grenadier battalion "Zum Alten Greif" puffing their way up a hill - they never got into action

The Thomar militia in the wrong place at the wrong time - eliminated (streaky dice)

And that is that. Leberknoedel with the remnants of the IR "Graf von Grimmen" just about hung on to capture the howitzers, and that was the 7th victory banner

10 comments:

  1. There is nothing like seeing one's troops arrayed across a well laid out table and then having an exciting game with them. Looks like you nailed it on all three counts. I'm also very envious of your wonderful collection of Napoleonics. Never quite managed to do it wth my own forray into the Waterloo-era of the period. Still, maybe one day?

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

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  2. Hi Tony - losing a solo game is indeed very clever. I must say that I really like the whole look of your troops and terrain, very smart. Must be a bit awkward when you sit down to dinner though...

    Ian

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  3. Hi Ian - you can either just use it as a conversation piece (oh, my dear! - you mean you haven't got one of these?), or else put up with the mysterious lumps in the tablecloth.

    In fact, I've got pretty good at putting everything away - this morning we were back to dining mode by 10am - you would never have known that 100s of guys died there last night. Mind you, the CD of the Garde Imperiale on the HiFi is a bit of a clue. I have to make sure that any wargamers who come to stay realise they'll have to eat in the kitchen for the duration.

    Some people think we're strange but - well - they're probably right! It's all right for you guys with dedicated war rooms (mumble mumble).

    Cheers

    Tony

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  4. Stokes - thanks for the appreciation - appreciated!

    I find myself constantly attracted by the more exotic bits of my armies, or the units I have recently added. Of late, the Rheinbund and Italian troops have been getting more than their fair share of coverage. I am hoping to start up an extensive solo campaign shortly, so the vanilla French line troops should be more in evidence!

    Cheers

    Tony

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  5. The French line are heavily, one might say overly represented in my armies. I remember one friend of mine being completely incredulous when he discovered I owned no Guard at all.

    You'll have to raise a regiment of Irish and Swiss troops.

    A beautiful setup , very clean and "old school".

    I look forward to seeing more of these reports.

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  6. Troops and table both look good, sounds like fun and the Verpomeranians seem to have done themselves credit. What more could you ask?

    -Ross

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  7. Ross - thank you - well, I could have won, I suppose. In fact this kind of a solo game is, as you know better than I, more of a facilitation than a competition. The only element of partiality in my solo CCN game is which side I play blind cards for - I could even play both blind, it might add a little to the unpredictability of the game.

    Mr Kinch - thank you also. The Swiss had mostly gone back to France by the period I'm concentrating on, but the Irish Regt Etranger is certainly a possible candidate - I have the Regt de Prusse to keep them company. I have an additional (fourth!) line division waiting to be painted, but they are a low priority at the moment - current distractions in the paint queue are the Garde de Paris, the Chasseurs des Montagnes, possibly the 4th Vistula...

    I need to get the campaign going, or some of my troops may never see the light of day again!

    Cheers

    Tony

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  8. Tony,

    All is well, just working away from home from Sunday evening till Friday evening (no computer available)and short but busy weekends with the family. Thanks for asking.
    you see...the Nyudrev's always succeed. That's why they were such a well known family-dynasty. Even now, I gather, they are preparing world domination as the by now world wide family ties are being brought together and planning enters it's final phase.
    No, really, first class report of a first class setup. I'm not a fan of your hexes, but I love the look of the the setup as a whole and as you will later see, it will form the basis of the things to come in the DDU.

    Pjotr

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  9. When I've played solo it is hard to try and play the Spanish to act in a professional and aggressive manner because it isn't really historical. I think them losing battle after battle is historical, but having small raids or small French garrisons under assault by guerrilla bands would be more in the favor of the Spanish. Good read and enjoyed it, thanks for posting it.

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  10. First Class! There is really "something" about French Foot Dragoons...

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