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...
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
Leberknödel's Vorpommern Brigade
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)
3 bns line infantry, 2 of light infantry
2 bns light troops, 2 of militia
Volunteer Foot battery
2 units of Lanceros de Castilla
Perseguidores del General (who are irregulars)
Partidas (Perez - "El Barbero")
4 small "bns" of guerilleros
2 regts Portuguese dragoons
Thomar militia bn
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 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
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