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

Monday, 6 July 2015

1809 Spaniards - A Run Out at Last - (2) Whitewash

Yesterday we went for a walk up in the Lammermuirs, taking advantage of a (mostly) dry afternoon, so the Battle of Not-Really-Espinosa took place in the evening.

I had done some reading on Really-Espinosa, and the first thing to note is that it was a much bigger battle than the CCN scenario, on terrain that wasn't quite the same either. The second thing is that the historical action lasted two days, the French spending one day struggling against determined resistance from the Spanish left wing, then rather quickly mopping up the rest of the army on day 2.

The miniature Battle-of-Somewhere-Else turned out to be a rather more one-sided affair. I used the scenario's initial deployment, as shown in the previous post, and I learned quite a bit more about the use of an unsupported Spanish army under these rules. I have to say that the French were a bit lucky with the cards, but the Spaniards had some fundamental problems which they were always going to struggle to work around:

(1) In this game, Spanish troops suffer double retreats (triple retreats for militia), and their lack of skill in manoeuvre is reflected in a combat penalty if they fire on the move or if they move into melee. They fight well enough if they stay put and defend.

(2) The double retreats are a killer - the units have to stand close together to provide support to reduce the number of individual retreats, but if anyone is forced to fall back, and if they do not have space to do so, then disorder and loss of morale cause a further loss of bases (runaways and troops losing motivation, rather than straight casualties).

(3) In this battle, General Blake had placed his right close-packed because of the restricted space, with an unfordable river behind them, and his left contained a large proportion of pretty shaky militia. Naturally, I will blame the scenario for this...

Straight away, the 1er Voluntarios de Cataluna (lights) demonstrate the Spanish problem;
a bit unlucky to get two retreat flags from artillery fire, they have enough friends
behind them to ignore one flag, but the other requires a retreat of two hexes, and those
same friends prevent their retiring, so they must lose two of their three bases. This is the
unit on the end of the right flank, alas.

The French had pretty good cards throughout. Ignoring history, Marshal Victor
gets his left wing moving up fast.

Due to a miscalculation, General Ruffin gets rather ahead of the advance
with the 2/69e, but they get bonus dice because of the Force March card, and
eliminate the unfortunate 1VdC.

Ruffin (Rod, is that you?) did very well - his boys took heavy casualties, and were
pushed back off the ridge, but the Spanish right had now called up its reserves to
repair the line.

Now, of course, the rest of Ruffin's men arrived, and the Spanish right flank
was looking very precarious indeed.

Quite quickly, the fresh French troops cleared the Vols de Guadalajara and the
Regto de Murcia off the high ground (and, presumably, into the river), and the
Spanish right suddenly consisted of the Walloon Guards and a couple of very nervous

Blake, the Spanish CinC, pulled back the remains of his flank, and created a
new defensive position outside the town of Not-Espinosa, while the
French caught their breath.

Here is Blake himself, reorganising things - very cool under fire...

...though his efforts were not helped when one battalion of the Regto de la
Reina panicked and retreated into a position which masked their own guns!

Blake planned to keep up as much fire as he could from this new position, and bring
some reinforcements, by pulling in his unengaged left wing 

So, over on the other flank, the Italians under Lapisse suddenly found their
enemy marching across their front, and thus advanced to attack, as it says
in the manual. This view is from behind the Italians, with the Spanish troops
moving right to left in the background.

One of the few minor Spanish successes of the day came when the 1er Voluntarios
de Aragon gave a battalion of Italian light infantry a good seeing to in a melee, and pushed
them back, thus securing the new Spanish left flank

So, seen from behind the French right, Blake had a new line established, comprising
the troops withdrawn from his left.

The bad news, of course, was that many of the troops in this new front were militia, and
they really couldn't stand a firefight. The white counters on the right edge of the photo reveal
that the French had won 8-0 on Victory Points, which is a bit of a hammering, really. I didn't work
out the actual casualty figures, but the French losses were relatively light and the  Spanish losses,
I would guess, would be mostly runaways and troops lost through the double retreat rule.
Mental note - never mind what the scenario says, give the boys room to fall back in
future. You can see that all the Spaniards have left at this point are the remains of the
artillery in front of the town and - in the distance - a crumbling line of militia on their left.  


  1. 8-0 to the French? That is more than a bit of a hammering!

    Great looking game.

    1. All right, I admit it - it was a major hammering. I was attempting a classic, stoical, laconic British understatement. We are, as you know, a bit embarrassed about stuff like that. Well, very embarrassed, really.


  2. That retreat rule does seem like a bit of a problem for the Spanish. Is this another example of Napoleonic rule 'Spanish bashing' or do you think this is historical in comparison to how other units behave under these rules?

    1. Interesting - I'm not sure. The triple retreats for militia applies for all nations in CCN, but the double distance retreat for all Spanish regulars is definitely severe. Normally to give the Spanish army a chance I give them a big numerical advantage - I thought this scenario might effectively do the same thing, since the French were attacking with almost the same size force, but the the old knife-through-butter thing was in evidence.

      It's strange - maybe this sort of game is ideal for solo play, since no-one is going to whinge about getting an inferior chance (probably), but when the game is going on it doesn't feel like the Premier League against amateurs - the game appears fairly sensible, until you realise the Spaniards are losing units fairly steadily. Maybe the victory conditions should be stacked a bit, so that the Spaniards can expect high losses without necessarily conceding. Maybe more emphasis could be given to objective-related victory points - maybe even conducting a controlled withdrawal or avoiding a complete thrashing might get them some bonus. Suggestions would be welcome.

      The first pic in this post shows the unit with the two retreat "flag" symbols, which came from artillery fire they were subjected to. That's not a very likely result, but at 2-hexes-retreat-per-flag that's a serious morale hit. You can ignore one flag if you have a general attached, you can ignore one if you have two friendly units adjacent to you, and there are some cases where you can ignore one just because of who the unit is - grenadiers and guards, I think. If the 1st Vols de Cataluna had had no friends next to them, they would have had to go back 4 hexes. If they have to stop when they get to the river, or the table edge, they lose one base for each hex retreat they were unable to carry out. So it could have been worse, while if they'd had a general attached as well as friendly support they could have ignored both flags. Yes it is harsh, I guess.

      My house variant CCN rule for guerrillas/partidas on the table is that any retreat at all which they have to carry out eliminates them. Now that IS harsh!

  3. A name check? I'm flattered. Ruffin is actually our Golden Retriever, so if there was lots of running around and getting nowhere, that is very a very accurate depiction.

    1. Ruffin, Francois-Aimable - born Bolbec (Seine Inferieure) in 1771, General of the Army of France, Baron of the Empire, died on board the British ship "Gorgon" in 1811 from wounds received at the Battle of Chiclana.

      Ruffin, Jimmy Lee (1939-2014) - American soul singer.

      Ruffin (dob unknown) - dog.

  4. Wonderful pictures Tony, and a very good write up. It certainly highlights one of the key skills of C&C N game play, ensuring room for depleted units to fall back whilst keeping as much support as possible to enable fresh troops to feed through is vital as you illustrate. A four hex retreat on two flags is tricky to handle. I wonder what the stats are on the official scenario you based the game on, and how they achieved balance? Given that French infantry attacking other infantry always get an additional battle dice I would expect this kind of result.

    Great stuff and the soldiers and terrain are just beautiful :)

    Spent 20 minutes writing an email to you yesterday Tony and managed to delete the lot! I'll try again later.

    1. Hi Lee - good to hear from you - it must be strange to see your lovely paintwork getting humiliated on the tabletop! Yes - I feel that I have succeeded in providing a very fair explanation here of exactly why the Spaniards got hammered!

      The answer would have been to give them about 60% more troops, and space them out more intelligently, but then the French would have been daft to attack. Not so straightforward, this wargame thing...