Napoleonic, WSS & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday 29 June 2012

Solo Campaign - Week 19

If You Can't Fight, Wear a Big Hat

Well, much to my surprise, the poll returned General Banastre Tarleton as the replacement for the unfortunate Earl Wellington. My personal vote was for Sir David Baird, but it became obvious very early that he was not in the running, and I became so convinced that Rowland Hill (the conservative historian's choice) would get the nod that I have prepared and undercoated a 20mm Minifigs OPC mounted Hill ready for the job.

I then took my eye off the ball for a few days and - crikey - Tarleton it is. Righto - I'm happy to go with that. If we are to invent our own history, then it might as well be fun. As part of my preparation for the handover, I also blew the dust off my unread copy of Wellington's Right Hand, the bio of Hill, and remembered why I had shelved it last time. A good general, Hill, a worthy, God-fearing man and concerned for the well-being of his men, but boring. Really not the sort of cartoon character I need to excite the campaign a bit.

Which leaves me with a slight problem supplying a figure for Tarleton. I could just use the Rowland Hill figure, but I would always know who it was really. Of course, it is more than likely that General Tarleton would make a high-profile return to active command in a smart regulation uniform, but that would also be boring, and fans of his eponymous helmet (I always wanted to use that word in a blog post) would be (literally) crestfallen. I had some wild ideas about getting hold of an AWI British Legion figure, but can't find anything the right size. So I am now thinking that Bloody Ban will wear some appropriate variant on his official uniform as colonel-in-chief of the 21st Light Dragoons - watch for developments...

Very many thanks to everyone who voted - I've never tried a poll before, and it introduced another dimension of variable into the game, for which I am very grateful.

Wellington, of course, doesn't know he's a goner yet, and is likely to go out with a bang, since there are two battles lined up for this campaign week. Just when I am going to get to fight these is uncertain, with holidays looming and a couple of other Real Life issues bubbling away, so the campaign will probably slip a bit further. Hopefully next week - I'll make a note to get them fought next week.

Unless there is a change in fortunes, Tarleton may have no army to command!

The Tarleton helmet, of course, has a great appeal, not least because it was just about impossible to obtain 20mm light dragoons wearing such a thing for a great many years. Elegant, it was (sadly) unpopular with the troops, it was expensive to manufacture, deteriorated in the field, and weighed about half a ton when wet. Smart, though, eh? Here's the nuts-&-bolts report - returns and maps will follow once the battles are done and written up.

Week 19

Random Events
After the British parliament’s decision to remove Wellington from the command of the Anglo-Portuguese forces in the Peninsula, it has been decided to appoint Sir Banastre Tarleton to succeed him.

A veteran of the American War of Independence, now 58, Tarleton is a controversial figure, and a surprise choice. With the rank of full General, he outranks all officers in the Peninsula and is expected to arrive to take up his appointment sometime in June. The powers-that-be [i.e. me] were so confident that Rowland Hill would get the vote that something of a scramble has started to get everything ready. To celebrate his new role – his first field command for over 20 years – Tarleton has also been created Earl of Aigburth by special order of the Prince Regent, a title which comes with an estimated income from the Aigburth and Grassendale estates totalling some 85 pounds per annum.

Wellington is not yet aware of the decision to remove him, so continues to command in the field.

The 3D3 activation throws give Allies 7, French 6 – Allies elect to move first.


Allies (7 allowed)
1 – Sp C (Morillo) march from Alcaniz into Zaragoza
2 – Sp E (newly defined group of approx 5000 irregular troops under local leader Saturnino Mira) move from Cuenca to Alarcon
3 – E (Clinton) march from Porto to Coimbra
4 – A (Wellington) splits off Graham with the 1st Division (as new Anglo-Portuguese Group B), and leaves this group at Braga with Sp B (De Espana).
5 – The reduced A then marches to Almeida – since this is a difficult road, the customary test is required:
2D3 = 4 +3 (Wellington’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 6   - march is completed with no problems
...and he moves to attack Clauzel’s force (French O), which is blockading Almeida.
6 – C (Von Alten, at Abrantes) is also ordered to Almeida to support this attack
 [Intelligence step –
  • no scouting orders]

French (6 allowed)
1 – E (Abbé, at Lodosa) marches to Tudela
2 – G (Lacharrue, with the rest of Abbé’s Divn at Roncal) marches to Sadaba – both these moves being to meet the threat of Morillo at Zaragoza
3 – N (Marmont, at Orense) marches over the mountain roads into Portugal, to attack Graham and De Espana at Braga. This march requires a test:
2D3 = 6 +3 (Marmont’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 8   - no problems at all
4 – K (Jourdan, at Ciudad Rodrigo), splits off two new Groups...
5 – H (Chassé’s brigade of Darmagnac’s Divn) is installed as garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo, where they commence work on the repair of the defences, and
6 – I (Maucune, with his own division plus Treillard’s cavalry) marches to Almeida to support Clauzel.
 [Intelligence step -
  • no scouting orders]
Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply. No-one is Demoralised.

(1) On Thursday 28th May, Clauzel, whose force is blockading the border fortress of Almeida, is surprised to be attacked from the north by Wellington himself. Clauzel, who has 7500 men, is driven into a position which is within range of some of the guns on the walls of Almeida itself. He has Wellington (12300 men) to the North, Almeida itself to the East, and Karl von Alten (with 4900 men of the Allied Light Division) marching towards him from the South West. Maucune, with a further 7500 men, has been sent to reinforce Clauzel, but will not arrive until a dice roll of 6 on or after turn 5,  at which point the reinforcements will be called onto the field as the Command Cards permit, with Leaders attached to units. This action is to be known to history as the Battle of Almeida.

 (2) Marmont, with a force of approx 17000 men, attacks the combined forces of Graham (with 7500 men) and De Espana (with what is believed to be 5900 regular Spanish troops) on the Northern border of Portugal, south of Orense. The Allies have a strong position in rugged country surrounding the hamlet of Balsa, near Vilaverde. The French advanced guard are in contact with Allied pickets early in the morning of Saturday 30th May. [The required dice roll for co-operation level allows the Spanish troops to integrate fully with Graham’s men]

Engineering at Ciudad Rodrigo
Each battalion present with the garrison roll 1D6 each week, giving 4D6 – every 6 rolled adds 1 to the Fortress Value, which has been reduced from an initial 6 to 1 by the siege.  This week, the dice come up 6 5 4 2, so the Fortress Value becomes 2. Keep digging, messieurs!

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Prize Giveaway at "Don't Throw a 1"

Congratulations to Ray at one of my favourite blogs, Don't Throw a 1, where he has reached 250,000 hits. To celebrate this, he is offering a giveaway prize of some painting, which is certainly worth checking out, so go and have a look at once!

White Mountain - 30 Years War Rules

Just a quickie (matron). This may all be well-known, but it is new to me. I came across a hex-&-command-card game for the 30 Years War (and, by implication, the English Civil War) called White Mountain. This is available for free download from Anubis Studios. It is very obviously a close relative of Commands & Colors, and appears to be played on a CCA board. The download includes rules (4 pages), QuickRef, text explanations of the cards (you have to make your own) and some pretty snazzy looking stickers to put on wooden blocks.

I had a quick squint last night - a little more of the philosophy behind the game would have helped, but there may be some of that on Anubis' pleasantly wacky website. At first glance, there are a number of interesting features in the game - units accumulate "disruption" points as well as losses, direction of facing is used to identify flank and rear attacks, command appears to be only at unit level. Some of it looks pretty clever, though it is possible that some of the simple elegance (elegant simplicity?) of C&C has been lost among the bells and whistles. The move sequence, for example, includes a number of options which I was still thinking about when I dozed off last night.

This has not compromised my devotion to Victory without Quarter, I hasten to add, but it is free(!), and may give an appetizer for Richard Borg's mooted prototype ECW Commands & Colors game, which I am definitely watching out for.

Having got a few decks clear, I hope to start painting my first ECW units this coming weekend, so am looking forward to that. A couple of fairly generic units of foot to start - one of Royalist blewcoats and some whitecoat Parliamentarians, I think. I have bought in a small stock of florist's wire for cheapo pikes, but I hear a rumour that they also make brown florist's wire, so am looking around for that. Painting wire is not hard, but it's dead boring.

Anyway - thought I'd mention White Mountain.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Hooptedoodle #56 - Levi

I’ve finished the Magnetic Sabots project, and hope to write up the Solo Campaign notes for Wellington’s last two weeks in charge in a day or two. Today’s more-than-usually-pointless Hooptedoodle is just a yarn – something I’ve been thinking about this week.

It’s probably a time-of-life thing. Sometimes I remember someone, or some event, that I haven’t thought about in many years. Mostly my recollection is crystal clear, but increasingly I find that it seems like some of the things actually happened to someone else or – occasionally – they seem so improbable that I wonder whether maybe I just read about them or dreamed them up. Tales from a bygone age.

A couple of weeks ago I did a stand-in job with a jazz group, and was delighted to meet up with my old mate Finn the piano player. We chatted about this and that, and then he said, “Did you know Levi died?”.

Wow. Levi – hadn’t thought about him for ages, yet for a short period of my youth he was the person I hated most in the whole world.

The first time I got married, both my wife and I were 22. I was a year out of university, an actuarial student, and she had a decent job in a bank. We had both had more than enough of student squats and shared bed-sits, and we rented a lovely little basement flat in a Georgian property in Edinburgh’s West End. It was more than we could strictly afford, but we felt that the comfortable surroundings would ease the shock of being newly-wed.

Levi was our landlord – he lived upstairs. I first met him when I went to sign the lease. My recollection is of a grey man – grey hair, grey face, grey suit, grey tie – in (probably) early middle age. He showed me into his sitting room, which was immediately above the flat and actually occupied the same area as the entire flat. You could have had a reasonable game of football in there, with spectators. It was furnished with exquisite taste – the whole place looked like something out of a lifestyle magazine. Levi himself was not very impressive, but he spoke like Earl Mountbatten. He lived with his mother – a surprisingly jovial, astoundingly Glaswegian lady whom we only saw once in the 2 years we lived there. We used to make up mysterious tales about how she was kept in a cupboard downstairs – certainly she was not much in evidence.

We called him Mr Toad, because he looked and dressed rather like the character from The Wind in the Willows. Levi would tell me elaborate stories about the people he knew and did deals with. He described himself, with practised vagueness, as “a sort of property developer, and a would-be patron of the arts”. He used to say things like, “Of course, I’m very friendly with the Steiners...”, which impressed me not at all since I had never heard of them, nor any of the other names he dropped.

The problem was that we only had the front half of the basement. Our half and his half were connected by a locked door, for which he had the only key. I installed my future wife in the flat in May, and I was to join her there after we were married in October. Immediately, I started getting panicky phone calls – someone had been in the flat, tidying up her clothes. Someone had walked through our flat and left through our front door, at 1am. Levi phoned me, too, to express his displeasure over the fact that my intended had moved a vase from the desk to the dresser – he had moved it back.

I went to see him, and said that the reason we paid him rent was because we were depriving him of the use of part of his property, so I would be obliged if he would stay out of the place. I told him that I intended to fit a bolt on my side of the connecting door, and henceforth it would only be opened by agreement between us. He went crazy. For a few minutes, he ceased being a grey man and became an extremely crimson man.

If I read the lease, he said, I would find that he was entitled to all reasonable access, and in any case the official fire-escape route for his basement passed through the flat, so this was a legal matter. What he didn’t say, of course, was that he paid considerably less in council rates since the flat was not actually separate, and no tax at all since the flat did not exist as a rentable entity. A couple of nights later, he showed some dinner guests and some people from a catering company out through our flat at about midnight, and I phoned the police the next day. The police said this was just a disagreement between a landlord and tenant, and they didn’t wish to become involved. I said my wife was frightened to be in the flat alone. That did it.

The police were round to see him next day, and then came to brief me. They gave me some useful ideas about things I could say to him which might carry some weight. So I rehearsed a bit, and I went to see him, and told him that it would be a most awful thing if I came across him or some of his guests in my flat one night, failed to recognise them and caused them serious bodily harm – of which I was quite capable.

We had no further trouble with the connecting door. Levi and I exchanged very few words during the two years before we left to buy a place of our own. I occasionally saw him in his big picture window, glaring at me as I came and went. I still imagine him like that – a grey man with the light behind him. He must have lived to a good age. Apparently he was still alone when he died.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Solo Campaign - The Poll - Know Your Candidate

Banastre Tarleton, circa 1790

This follows from an email I had from Ludovico, asking me who is this General Banister, and also from the Old Metal Detector’s last comment to the previous post, which rightly draws attention to the general confusion between the real Tarleton and the fictional Colonel Tavington (from The Patriot).

For anyone who really wants to know a little more about Tarleton, can I point you to a rather good, brief, pleasantly gossipy biographical note here. It hits on the main themes, the mixture of fact and legend in his reputation from the AWI, and his military isolation after he fell out with the Duke of York and Wellesley. In fact, BT appears to have fallen out with a great many people – he was an outspoken Whig, and the possessor of a sardonic and deadly wit. Anyone who invariably referred to Wellington as ‘The Sepoy General’ needed an element of – how would you say it? – bottle. His promotion to full General and his appointment as Governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1812 were worthless tokens for someone with his ability and experience

I fear that I misspelled his name – he was Banastre Tarleton. I was also guilty of prematurely giving Rowland Hill a knighthood. To preserve balance between the leading candidates, I had a brief look for an interesting bio for Hill, but am alarmed to see that, apart from his military career, his life seems to have been almost entirely free of anything interesting. Not to be defeated, I’m still working on it.

If you haven’t cast a vote in the poll on the right, I’d be very pleased if you would consider doing so. You won’t win a digital camera, but you might help the British Army to defeat the French in Spain and change history forever. That’s not an offer you get every day, is it?

Monday 18 June 2012

Solo Campaign - Situations Vacant - Poll

I need to appoint a successor to Wellington - I'd welcome votes in the little poll on the right, or comments or other nominations. All help and insight welcome. I reserve the right to ignore everything and make some daft, random appointment if I feel it's appropriate - the traditions of British government have to be observed. How about the Prince Regent as C-in-C, for example? Someone suggested the Duke of Brunswick. Someone even suggested Bernadotte, but I'll come up with some detail regulation to exclude him.

Friday 15 June 2012

Avec Mes Sabots – the attraction of magnets

This follows on from the Magnetic Spaniards post from earlier this month. So impressed was I by the sturdiness of wargame units fitted with magnetic sheet (stuck underneath the bases) standing on steel paper (fitted, and painted, on top of the "sabots") that I have immediately set about a whole new project (distraction) to extend this system to my entire Napoleonic collection.

This little sub-project breaks at least 3 well-established rules from Foy’s Book of Wargames Lifemanship for Boys, viz:

  • do not change your bases, and especially do not change your basing standard for an existing army – this is the road to heartache and depression
  • do not allow any fleeting idea to fire up a project which  diverts time and effort away from something you really wanted to do
  • if your collection contains something which you have had for a great many years, think carefully before you throw it out or replace it
However, I have convinced myself that it is worthwhile on all counts, so am going ahead. Thus far, I’ve done all the Nationalist Spanish, and am now about half-way through the French army. To illustrate what is involved, consider this example - I have my line infantry units mounted as 4 bases of 6 figures measuring 50x45mm standing on a 110x110 sabot, which sit well with my 7" hexes. Neat patches of mag sheet, cut to size with scissors, fitted to the existing bases, and a 100x90 footprint patch of steel paper on the sabot, painted in the baseboard/tabletop colour, requires a small investment in materials and time, but greatly simplifies handling both on and off the battlefield.

Naturally, any self-respecting hobby project has to sprout arms and legs, and in this case the add-on task is to replace the tattier specimens of sabot. Most of my troops have been rebased within the last 7 years or so, so the bases are very good, but the sabots are variable - recent ones are good MDF, but the older ones are horrible curly cardboard, and it would be foolish indeed to put steel paper onto these. So I ordered up some custom sizes of laser-cut MDF from the excellent East Riding Miniatures (which arrived within 24 hours, as always) and am taking the opportunity to replace any sub-standard sabots I come across while I am fitting the magnets.

My sabot sizes? I have 4 standard sizes:

Type A   (line infantry)        110 deep  x 110 wide
Type B   (skirmish units)     110 x 90
Type C   (light cavalry)       110 x 160
Type D   (heavy cavalry)    110 x 135

Each of these gives me 5mm spare on either side of the troops’ bases, to make it easier to pick up units by the sabot. There are other odd sizes, but I just cut those myself as required. Why no artillery sabots? – I don’t use sabots for artillery, and all the artillery has already been fitted with magnets in order to store them in box files.

In pricing this little “improvement” project, I am not going to include the cost of the replacement sabots, on the grounds that this is something that needed doing anyway – thus I estimate that the cost of the magnetic materials, including wastage, works out at rather less than £0.75 per unit on average, which seems very reasonable.

Because I promised to do it, I’ve featured a picture of some Sideways Frenchmen formed into line on the fridge door. OK - I've done it now - I do not wish to talk about it again.

Tips and things I’ve learned so far – not much, really:

  • you can easily mark the paper side of the steel paper with a pencil, but the mag sheet has to be marked out on the shiny plastic backing sheet, which is resistant to most known forms of writing medium. A very thin Sharpie marking pen does the job, but you have to keep wiping the ruler clean. Holding the ruler still on the slippy sheet is tricky, too, but a steel ruler will attach itself nicely (aha!).
  • the scissors get badly gunked up with the adhesive, so it’s necessary to clean up with Sticky Stuff Remover or isopropyl alcohol or similar every couple of hours
  • only observed practical downside of sturdily mounting figures on the sabots is that if you catch them by accident they will not tip gently in the traditional forgiving way, so watch out for those bayonets – if you have to wave your arms around while explaining a point of the rules, take care!
  • the magnetic sheet is glossy and slippery – if I put magnet-fitted bases on a non-steel-paper sabot, they are even less stable than they were, so this is an all-or-nothing effort 
And, finally, Avec Mes Sabots is the chorus line from an ancient French song, which I seem to have learned in my early childhood. Here you can join in and sing along – it’s through the Square Window, boys and girls.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Home Brewed Flags - More Spanish Units

Here's another of my occasional posts featuring home-made flags produced with PaintShop Pro - as ever, it's stuff I've been working on for myself. If these are any use to you, please be my guest. Right click on the image - open the link (bigger version) in a separate window and save.

If you print the entire image so that it is 120mm high, the flags will be the correct size for 1/72 or 20mm. These are deliberately far lower resolution than, and therefore inferior quality to, my previous efforts, but I found that at 20mm scale you can hardly tell the difference, so these are from Cheap'n'Nasty Productions Inc - not recommended for 54mm armies.

A few of these are specific units, as identified, some are pleasing generic things I borrowed and tweaked, some may even be from the wrong century - it's OK - Cheap'n'Nasty have a certain standard to maintain...

If you like them, you're welcome to use them. As ever, the tasteful green background is just to make it easier to cut them out!

Monday 11 June 2012

Solo Campaign - Weeks 17 & 18

Continued ill-fortune for the Allies - highlights of the two weeks are that Ciudad Rodrigo has been stormed and taken by the French and Wellington has been relieved of command by the British Parliament (though he won't know this for a week or two).

Marshal Jourdan receives a hostile reception from
Spanish prisoners at Ciudad Rodrigo

Week 17

Random Events

The 3D3 activation throws give Allies 6, French 5 – Allies elect to move first.
Lt.Col Beckwith has returned to field command of the 1/95th Rifles, replacing Lt.Col Barnard, who was seriously wounded and captured at Malpartida. He will assume command of the 1st Brigade of the Light Division, under Karl von Alten.
This being the middle weekend of the month, all missing blocks are diced for (except those for the garrisons of Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, who are under sieged and blockaded, respectively). [Campaign rules note – in future campaigns, blocks diced for should be those missing 1 month earlier, to avoid the situation where fresh losses from a recent battle may be returned to the ranks within a week]
French reinforcements and returns: +1 block – Franzburg Jaegers, 3/15e, 4/82e, 2e Leg Ital, 1/6e Leg, 1st Castilla LI, 1/25e Leg, 1/27e, 3/50e, Pinoteau’s combined tirailleurs, 15e Dragons, 13e Cuir, 11/8e Art a Pied
+2 blocks – 2/5e Ital, 2/76e, 1/50e, 2/59e

Total French increase = 3600 men

Allied reinforcements and returns: +1 block – 2/83rd, 11 Cac, 1/32nd, 1/8th Ptgse, 1/Cold FG, 1/3rd FG, 2/24th, 2/58th, 1/79th, 2/KGL Line, 2nd KGL Lt Bn, 68th, Ch-Br, 1/43rd, 2/95th, Blantyre’s light battalion, 3 Dr, 5 DG, 2 KGL Dgns, 11th Ptgse Cav, Elige’s, Gardiner’s and Ross’ batteries, Avila Vol Art
+2 blocks – 51st, 1/95th, 11LD, 1 KGL Dgns, 1st Ptgse Cav

Total Allied increase = 5200 men

Spanish Army now has the Division of Pablo Morillo available at Tortosa – 6 battalions of regulars plus a foot battery at Tortosa, freshly equipped and uniformed. Total strength 4000 men.


Allies (6 allowed)
1 – H (Brunswick Hussars) merged into C (K Von Alten, at Almeida)
2 – ...and augmented Group C retreats to Abrantes
3 – B (Graham, at Orense) retires to Braga – army is Tired after Battle of Allariz, and the road to Braga is difficult, so a test is required
2D3 = 3 +2 (Graham’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 4   - the march is completed, but the force arrives tired in Abrantes.
4 – Sp B (Espana, at Orense) also marches to Braga – test for difficult road:
2D3 = 5 +1 (Espana’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 5   - the march is completed without problems.
5 – Allies close down supply base at Vigo. Wellington’s force will be supplied from Porto.
6 – New Sp C (Morillo) formed at Tortosa.
[Intelligence step –
  • no scouting orders]
French (5 allowed)
1 – O (Clauzel) holds position and sets up “masking” blockade of fortress of Almeida.
2 – N (Marmont) rests his army at Orense.
 [Intelligence step -
  • no scouting orders]
Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply. No-one is Demoralised.

(1) The siege of Ciudad Rodrigo enters its third week.

(2) The fortress at Almeida is now blockaded – it is not under formal siege, but the roads from Braga and Abrantes are closed.

Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (Week 3)
Bombardment phase: Spanish now have a Garrison Value (GV) of 3, thus roll 3D6 - they come up 4 2 1 – no hits on either the besiegers’ Battering Value (BV) or their Assault Value (AV).
Simultaneously, the French battering guns (BV = 4) roll 4D6 – 6 4 3 2 – the 6 deducts one from the defenders’ Fortress Value (FV, the strength of the place itself), but there are no 5s, so no losses to the Garrison Value (GV).

Removing the losses, next week’s figures will be FV = 1, GV = 3 (total = 4) for the Spanish, while AV = 7, BV = 4 for the French. The walls continue to deteriorate under bombardment – again, the French opt to wait another week before attempting a storm. They have a strong superiority in numbers, but last week’s incident with the flag of truce and the dead chicken has confirmed that the garrison are prepared to fight to the last man, and there is a chance that the citizens may also contribute to the defence – either of these would add extra dice to the resistance to a storm.

Casualties for the week: Spanish defenders have suffered no loss in GV, so still have 2260 men, and the French besiegers suffered no deduction from their AV, so their strength is unchanged at 16330.

Week 18

Random Events
News of the defeats at Allariz and Malpartida, plus the expectation of the imminent fall of Ciudad Rodrigo, has reached Westminster, and a vote in the House scheduled. Opinion is currently 3:2 against Wellington, so a vote is required if a single D6 comes up 5 or 6 – it does, so the vote itself will play 3D6 vs 2D6 to reflect the balance of opinion.
If the pro-Wellington lobby get less than half of their opponents’ total, a further motion to call the British Army home from the Peninsular will be scheduled for the following week.
Otherwise, if pro-Wellington vote is less than anti-Wellington, he will be relieved of command of the army in the Peninsular with immediate effect, and a successor appointed.

The vote took place 20th May:

Pro-Wellington:    4 + 3 = 7                Anti-Wellington:     5 + 4 + 1 = 10

With effect from 21st May, Wellington is to be recalled to Britain, Sir Thomas Graham, as senior British officer in the Peninsula, will take temporary command until a permanent replacement C-in-C arrives. The army will remain in Portugal for the time being. In practice, since Wellington will be unaware of the ruling, he remains in charge until 1st June.

The 3D3 activation throws give Allies 5, French 7 – French elect to move first.
The Hon George Ramsay, Earl of Dalhousie, has arrived to take command of the Allied 7th Divn [previous commander, Sir John Hope, was only present as the result of an administrative error, since technically he outranks everyone else in the Peninsula!]

Spanish Army now has the Division of Pablo Morillo – 6 battalions plus a foot battery at Tortosa, freshly equipped and uniformed. Total strength 4000 men.

French (7 allowed)
1 – New Groups P, Q & R (National Guard units) are mobilised at Bayonne and Pau...
2 – ...P (3500 National Guardsmen under GdB Martinelli) march from Bayonne to Pamplona, where they relieve the garrison
3 – ...Q (3500 National Guardsmen under GdB Dujour) march from Pau to Jaca, where they relieve the garrison
4 – ...R (4000 National Guardsmen under GdB Paquerette) are placed in training at Bayonne
5 – E (Abbé) leaves the HQ of the Armee du Nord at Pamplona, and marches to Lodosa
6 – GdB Lacharrue travels from Pau to Jaca, where he takes command of Group G...
7 – ...G (Lacharrue) marches from Jaca to Roncal – this is a difficult road, so a test is required:
2D3 = 5 +1 (Lacharrue’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 5   - the march is completed without problems.
[Intelligence step -
  • no scouting orders]

Allies (5 allowed)
1 – Groups A & B merge as A under Wellington at Braga, and new Group E is detached – Sixth Divn, under Clinton, with Anson’s light cavalry bde...
2 – ...and E (Clinton) is ordered from Braga to Porto, which is a bad road, so a test is required:
2D3 = 4 +2 (Graham’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 5   - the march is completed without problems
3 – Sp C (Morillo) march from Tortosa to Alcaniz – test required
2D3 = 5 +2 (Morillo’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 6   - no problems
4 – C (Karl von Alten) rest at Abrantes
[Intelligence step –
  • no scouting orders]
Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply. No-one is Demoralised.

(1) The siege of Ciudad Rodrigo enters its fourth week.

(2) The fortress at Almeida is blockaded by the French – roads from Braga and Abrantes are closed.

Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (Week 4)
Bombardment phase: Spanish now have a Garrison Value (GV) of 3, thus roll 3D6 - they come up 5 4 4 – the 5 scores one hit on the besiegers’ Assault Value (AV); no loss to the Battering Value (BV).
Simultaneously, the French battering guns (BV = 4) roll 4D6 – 5 3 3 2 – the 5 deducts one from the defenders’ Garrison Value (GV); no loss to the Fortress Value (FV).

Removing the losses, the figures become FV = 1, GV = 2 (total = 3) for the Spanish defenders, and AV = 6, BV = 4 for the French. Jourdan, the commander of the besieging forces, decides to storm the walls on the night of Saturday 23rd May 1812.
During the week leading up to the storm, the Spanish have lost 1/3 of GV, which represents
1/10 x 1/3 of the 2260 men involved = 75 men, leaving 2185. The French have lost 1/7 of their remaining AV, and thus have lost 1/10 x 1/7 of the 16330 men employed = 233 men, leaving 16097.

The Storm of Ciudad Rodrigo
Under the inspirational leadership of General Reixas, the Spanish garrison qualify for the additional Suicide Dice – being prepared to fight to the last man. The citizens are heartily sick of being under siege, and there are, in any case, few able-bodied men of suitable age who have not already been called up to the militia – thus there is no addditional Agustina Dice available to the defence.

Jourdan uses the full force at his disposal for the attack (he has the choice to use only part of his AV, to keep losses down). According to my (newly revised) algorithmic system:

the Defenders’ Storm Strength, DSS =  FV + GV + 1D6 + the Suicide Dice = 3 + 4 + 1 = 8

the Attackers’ Storm Strength, ASS = AV + 1D6 = 6 + 4 = 10

Since ASS > DSS, the fortress falls. In the storm itself, the French lose 0.25 x DSS (= 2) from AV, so their final AV is 4. Thus they have lost 1/3 of their available AV, representing losses of 1/10 x 1/3 of the available 16097 men = 537 killed and wounded. Remaining strength is thus 15560.

The Spanish defenders lose 0.5 x ASS (= 5) from GV, so their final GV is -1. Thus they have lost 4/3 of their GV, and loss in killed in wounded in the storm is 1/10 x 4/3 of the 2185 men available = 292. The surviving 1893 are taken prisoner.

Total losses during the siege are thus


The Spanish force (Combat Group A on the map) is destroyed. The French have suffered a loss of 6 bases, which are deducted (at random) from the following infantry units:

Maucune’s Divn – 5/66e, 5/82e & 1/86e.
Darmagnac’s Divn – 2/4th Baden, 1/4th Hesse Darmstadt, 1/3rd Italian Line. 

Sunday 10 June 2012

Solo Campaign - Excremento Profundo

Spencer Perceval - recently assassinated Prime Minister
no longer available to defend Wellington

Weeks 17 and 18 of my solo Peninsular campaign are in the process of being written up. Without wishing to give away the exciting bits of the plot, let it be said only that the continued run of bad results for the Allied Army has eventually resulted in a motion being tabled to remove Wellington from command. Despite the extraordinary alarm and distraction provided by the assassination of the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, just a week earlier, a vote in the British Parliament on 20th May 1812 gave a substantial majority in favour of Wellington's removal. A further motion that the British Army be withdrawn from Portugal was defeated, however.

With immediate effect, Sir Thomas Graham, as senior British officer with the army will assume temporary command of the British and Hanoverian forces, until a permanent commander is selected and appointed. Here is a list, in seniority order, of the prominent candidates – some are unavailable through duties in remote parts of the Empire, many are in dubious physical health, some are plainly unsuitable for a major field command.

The successful candidate may be any of these, or may be someone else – the army works in mysterious ways. I have discounted the Duke of York himself from being seriously considered for the job. With all due appreciation of previous comments on this subject (most of which are reflected in the list) I would be very interested in any further nominations, applications(!) or comments.

Age @ May 1812
Rank / date
Current job
John Pitt, Lord Chatham
General, 1801
Governor of Jersey
Well connected politically, commanded army in Walcheren
Sir Banestre Tarleton
General, 1812
Governor of Berwick
Hero(?) of AWI, was strongly fancied to command in the Peninsula in 1809, but Wellington was preferred. Prominent Whig
Sir Eyre Coote
Lt.Genl, 1801
Governor of Jamaica
Another AWI veteran, unpopular
Sir David Baird
Lt.Genl, 1805

Highly rated, aggressive commander – was badly wounded at Corunna – health uncertain
Sir John Hope, Earl of Hopetoun
Lt.Genl, 1808
Military Governor of Ireland
Poor health – recently served in Peninsula
Sir Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge
Lt.Genl, 1808

Commanded cavalry under Moore with distinction – was unable to serve with Wellington because of family difficulties (having eloped with Wellington’s sister-in-law)
Sir John Stuart, Count of Maida
Lt.Genl, 1808
Governor of Grenada
Victor of Maida, but overall lack of experience and not rated highly – health not good.
Sir Thomas Graham, Lord Lynedoch
Lt.Genl, 1810
in Portugal
Competent commander, but (again) has repeating health problems
Sir John Murray
Lt.Genl, 1812

Very poor reputation – unable to follow orders
Sir Rowland Hill
Lt.Genl, 1812

Should be in Portugal, but he’s not in my campaign army(!). Wellington regarded him as the best of his subordinates
William Carr Beresford
Lt.Genl, 1812
Commander,  Portuguese Army
Wellington’s official deputy in the PW, because of his local rank. Good administrator but hesitant, ineffective battlefield commander.

Friday 8 June 2012

Spanish Army - Getting There

Since I made a decision to finish off my Peninsular War armies (or at least give them a finite scope), and start on the ECW before I disappear down the microscope, the effort to get things tidied up has kept spawning new subprojects and the flow of finished Napoleonic soldiers has actually increased. Strange but true.

There's always this faint anxiety that figures which are available at this moment will soon cease to be so, and thus a lot of feverish haste to get stuff finished off while the chance is there.

My Spanish army has always been something of a poor relation, not least because of the traditional lack of 1812-period figures on the market, and I have been working of late to get it up to a useful size. I'm very pleased to have a new division of line infantry ready. They will have to wait a day or two to get their flags, but otherwise they are finished and on the new-issue magnetised bases. Here are 4 line regiments - those of Leon, Bailen, 2nd Mallorca and La Union - and 2 light units - Voluntarios de la Victoria and Legion Extremena.

They also have an artillery battery in the pipeline, and I have some generals and ADCs on order from Falcata (just can't get the Staff these days) - things are shaping up nicely. My original plan for a Spanish force was just a wishful fancy, given the lack of suitable figures, and it's a real satisfaction to see the guys varnished and based and ready.

Since you can never have enough of a good thing, I've also ordered up some more voluntarios/milicias from Falcata's extending range, but the real shortage is cavalry - I have to get some cavalry. There was always a shortage of horses, so the cavalry brigades were small, but I do need more.

Falcata make some very nice 1808-period cavalry in bicornes, and I would love to have some yellow-coated dragoons on my tabletop, but they are not really correct for the later PW. Most of the units around by then seem to have been composites - squadrons from here and there, mostly provincial, variously called grenadiers, cazadores, perseguidores and mostly with shabby hussar-style affectations, as far as I can see.

Research isn't easy - until JM Bueno's lovely Uniformes Espanoles de la Guerra de Independencia, most reference works on the Spanish army took the easy option, and trotted out the 1806 regulations, with contemporary prints of Romana's Division and the works of Dighton and a few others. Things are a lot better now for the infantry of 1811-14, but the cavalry from that period is still pretty poorly understood.


Anyway - this is my version of Pablo Morillo's Division of 1812-13. A few educated guesses (or half-educated), and a pinch of wargamer's licence where it suits, but I'm pleased with them. The rank-and-file are Minifigs S-Range SN1s, the command figures are conversions from Art Miniaturen Belgians, and from Portuguese castings by NapoleoN and Kennington.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Solo Campaign - The Quarries of Malpartida

On Saturday 9th May 1812, Maj.Gen Karl, Graf von Alten - a Hanoverian in the British service, fought a defensive action at Malpartida, between the Portuguese-Spanish border and the fortress of Almeida. His little army consisted of his own Light Division - an elite force which had not thus far been involved in combat in the 1812 campaign - with support from a brigade of light cavalry, plus a battalion of militia and a howitzer battery seconded from the Almeida garrison. His force totalled some 5700 men, with 12 guns. The cavalry commander was his brother, Viktor, and one of the cavalry regiments, the Brunswick-Oels Hussars, had ridden a remarkable distance from Elvas to join him, but - since the cavalry played no part in the day's business - we shall not mention them again.

Initial situation, French on the left

His opponent was Bertrand Clauzel, with his own (2nd) Division of the Armee de Portugal, plus a brigade of dragoons and two batteries from the reserve of the AdP. Since these troops had already been involved in some of the heaviest fighting, Clauzel was forced to assemble some small units into provisional units to give them a useful combat capability. In all, Clauzel had rather more than 6600 men, with 24 guns.

[Though I gave serious thought to using some different rules for ths action, I used CCN again. 5 cards each, French to move first, 6 Victory Banners to decide matters.]

Von Alten took advantage of two ancient quarries (of Sant Iago and San Rafael) near the village - his troops were laid out with painstaking care, with riflemen in the two quarries, a horse artillery unit between them and reserves in support (notably the 43rd Foot). Vandeleur's brigade was placed on the left flank, an area where woods and the village would ensure a difficult assault for the French. Overlapping fields of fire were carefully worked out, and a frontal attack against the area around the quarry pits would be a hazardous undertaking indeed, across an open, stony area.

Clauzel placed Berlier's veteran brigade opposite the quarries, and Pinoteau's (formerly Barbot's) brigade on the right, where they were prepared for a long, difficult day, attempting to root Vandeleur's men out of the woods around Malpartida itself.

The action produced a quick and rather surprising result, in a game lasting a little over an hour. Clauzel opened with a Bombard card, which gave his artillery (heavier, longer-ranged and more numerous than the Allied) a further bonus, and in the first turn reduced the two Allied batteries to a very weak state. Von Alten's defence was not looking as strong as it had, but he prepared for the French to come on "in the same old way".

They did not disappoint him - on Turn 2, Clauzel played a Grande Manoeuvre card, and sent Berlier's troops in against the quarries. They covered the open ground quickly - a Grande Manoeuvre lets the troops get there quickly, but they have to wait until next turn to fight. The Allies, of course, let them have everything they had available (which wasn't helped by very poor cards for the Centre sector) - Berlier took some losses, as expected, and the 2/27e Ligne were driven back by rifle fire from San Rafael, but the remainder of the attacking force had reached the British lines in far better shape than Von Alten might have hoped for.

Then things happened very quickly - the 43rd Foot were routed and eliminated, the 3/95th Rifles were reduced, in their quarry, to a single "block" (at which strength they were unable to fight back), the 1/95th, in their own quarry, were driven out very easily, failing disastrously to re-take the position, Col Barnard, the brigade commander, was critically wounded, and men from the 25e Leger overran the remnants of Ross's Troop of the horse artillery. In desperation, Von Alten brought up the Thomar battalion of Portuguese militia - previously untried, and there only as emergency secondments from garrison duties at Almeida - and - unbelievably - they defeated the exhausted veterans of the 1/25e Leger and took back the Sant Iago quarry. But it was all in vain, the sixth Victory Banner was on the table. The cavalry, the complicated operations around Malpartida were completely irrelevant - a preliminary artillery bombardment and a rather crude frontal charge carried the day.

Von Alten withdrew his men, placed Vandeleur and the cavalry as a rearguard, and headed off towards Abrantes. Clauzel's next task was to mask the fortress at Almeida, so the Light Division were left to retire without further harrassment. Riflemen in quarries? - piff! French won 6-1.


French Force - Gen de Divn Bertrand Clauzel

Second Divn, Armee de Portugal (Clauzel)
            Brigade Berlier: 25e Leger & 27e Ligne (5 Bns)
            Brigade Pinoteau: 50e & 59e Ligne (4 Bns)
Brigade Picquet: 6e & 11e Dragons (4 Sqns)
15/3e Art a Pied (Capt Pajot)
10/3e Art a Pied (Capt Dyvincourt)
19/3e Art a Pied (Capt Gariel)

Losses - approx 800 men k/w

Allied Force - Maj.Gen Karl, Graf Von Alten

Light Division (K von Alten)
            Barnard's brigade: 1/43rd, 1/95th, 3/95th, 1st Cacadores
            Vandeleur's brigade: 1/52nd, 2/95th, 3rd Cacadores
Troop 'I', RHA (Maj Ross)
Cavalry (Maj.Gen V von Alten): 1st Hussars KGL, Brunswick Hussars
Attached (from Almeida garrison): Thomar militia & howitzer battery (4th Ptgse Art)

Losses - approx 1600 men k/w/t, 10 guns destroyed or taken, Col Barnard gravely wounded and captured.

Von Alten's "Hornet's Nest" - Ha!

3/95th in the quarry of Sant Iago

Opening bombardment - pretty much ruined the Allied batteries

Grande Manoeuvre charge by Berlier - crude but effective

...and suddenly the hornets had gone

Unlikely heroes - the Thomar militia briefly won back one of the quarries,
though it didn't affect the outcome