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

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Solo Campaign - Ambuscade near Olias - 31st March 1812

The larger-than-life Ximenez brings his loyal troops to meet the accursed French - my thanks to Iain, who did the super paint job on the leader 

The scenario is the most basic imaginable - a French force in column of march has to pass through a defile in a forest. Spanish irregular forces are concealed in the trees, and their presence is unknown until they choose to attack. Maucune's column marched onto the table in an organised manner, light infantry followed by artillery followed by the line battalions, with light infantry bringing up the rear.

I used Commands & Colors:Napoleonics rules, as usual, but - since all the action was to take place in the centre of the field - I abandoned the use of the Command Cards. I had considered just retaining the Tactical (as opposed to Field Sector) Cards, but felt this might give an unbalanced game. My solution was to require each side to roll 2D3 at the start of each turn - that gave the number of units they could give orders to this turn. Since there was virtually no cavalry involved, squares were not really a consideration, but the idea was that forming square would require that side to give up one of their activation dice - yes, this is excessive - deducting one from the total might have been better. Whatever, this battle involved a great many Spanish guerrilleros, who are not allowed to do anything as formal as deploying into square.

The Spanish irregulars are handled by my own tweaks to CCN - guerrilla infantry may move 2 hexes and battle, and built-up or forest hexes have no effect on their movement. They may move into a forest hex and battle immediately. They do not count crossed sabres in melee, and they are deployed in small units of 2 blocks/stands each. A single uncancelled retreat will eliminate a unit at any time - this is critical - so it is important to keep them well supported, keep generals with them, move them out of the firing line as soon as they take losses and become marginal.

Maucune's column, headed for Aranjuez, was attacked by a force of irregulars under Don Antonio Ximenez, "El Gigante", the clothes-horse of the Junta de Castilla. The Spaniards probably opened fire too early, but Ximenez was keen to get the action under way while the bulk of the French force were still some distance away. The French artillery caused some panic among the leading units on the Spanish left, even though they did not cause a great many casualties, and a couple of these units were eliminated straight away, Don Jorge Maxwell, one of the leaders, being killed in these first exchanges.

It cost the French a great many killed and wounded - the 15e Ligne being particularly badly damaged - but eventually they managed to penetrate into the woods on both sides of the road, and after that it was merely a matter of time before the Spanish force gave way. Handling the guerrilla bands is interesting - they are very mobile, and have a big advantage in rough terrain, but are also very brittle. A single hit will reduce such a unit to a state in which they cannot harm anyone in a wood (for example), because the terrain effect cancels out the only remaining combat dice, and a further hit to themselves will eliminate them and gain another Victory Banner for the enemy. Thus it was constantly necessary to retire worn units and bring up fresh ones. Six Victory Banners were required for a win, and the French had an extra one available if they pushed through the defile to the far end. In the event they didn't need to push that far - they won 6-2 on eliminated units after about an hour, and Ximenez withdrew, his little army melting away into the forest.


French Force - Gen de Divn Baron Maucune's division, Armee de Portugal - approx 7800 men - 8 guns
Brigade d'Arnauld - 15e & 66e Ligne (5 Bns) + combined tirailleur bn
Brigade Montfort - 82e & 86e Ligne (4 Bns) + combined tirailleur bn
11/8e Artillerie a Pied (Capt Genta)

Loss - approx 2600

Spanish Force - Don Antonio Ximenez, army of the Junta de Castilla - approx 4350 men - 3 guns
10 small "battalions" of irregular infantry, brigaded under Don Jorge Maxwell (k) and Don Xavier Gento
Small irregular cavalry unit
Volunteer artillery battery of 3 x 4pdr guns

Loss - approx 3200 - mostly missing

Maucune's column marches serenely into the woods

It's amazing what you don't see when you aren't looking for it...

What lies in wait on one side of the road

...and there's more of the beggars in reserve

After heavy loss to musketry, the French set about clearing the woods

Almost the end - by this stage, most of the guerrilleros had thought of somewhere else they would rather be


  1. A good fight anyway, although 'the mine' did lose
    Regards from Spain

    1. Hi Rafa - short but frenzied! I've only started playing with guerrillero units in the last year, but am learning that it is exciting stuff. When the action starts, you have to keep it moving, keep those fresh troops coming in. If you let French line troops organise themselves, you are doomed!

      There will be a smaller battle this afternoon, again between Spanish irregulars (this time from Navarra) and French troops. This one is a more conventional frontal battle, and I do not expect the Spanish guys to do quite so well. Of course, luck helps!