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

Sunday 30 April 2017

Battle of Uclés - 13th Jan 1809

Artilleryman's view - near the end of the day, the boys of Vilatte's battery can still
see the Spaniards on the south end of the ridge opposite - unlike the real battle, in
which the Spaniards on that flank melted away like snowballs in Hades
The scheduled game based on Uclés duly took place yesterday afternoon, and it was the most excellent fun. My visiting generals were the famous Stryker and the rather more shadowy (though equally intimidating) Goya - splendid fellows, both, and more than ready to accept the eccentricities of the house rules and generally muck in, in the interests of the game.

Our game was not an attempt to replay the actual B of U, of course, but I shall refer to the real battle here and there, to set the context. Let's start off with some historical scene-setting... [there are pictures at the end if you can't be bothered with this bit]

When Sir John Moore and his army threatened the French communications at the end of 1808, Napoleon diverted a great many troops stationed in central Spain to support Soult in the pursuit which eventually ended with the Battle of Coruna and the evacuation of the Brits. One side effect of this was that for a while Madrid was relatively lightly defended, and there was a real chance for the Spanish Ejercito del Centro (commanded, briefly, by the Duke of Infantado - why do so many of the Spanish generals remind me of Gilbert and Sullivan?) to take back the capital. Infantado wasted a lot of time, pondering over alternative grand strategies which included marching off to attack the French lines of supply in the north, and by the time he actually did something it was too little, and far too late.

He detached two sections of his army, which got as far as Tarancon and Aranjuez, at which point they found that the French had recalled much of the missing manpower and that any action against Madrid was now impossible, so they combined and withdrew to Uclés. The commander of this expeditionary force, Mariscal de Campo Venegas, placed a small advanced guard in the little village of Tribaldos, and lined up the rest of his army along a north-south ridge which is bisected by the monastery town of Uclės and by a ravine containing the (fordable) Rio Bedija.

Marshal Victor, with his I Corps (one division absent) and the dragoon division of Latour-Maubourg (detached from the Cavalry Reserve) arrived on the field at 8am, brushed the Spanish advanced guard out of Tribaldos, and sent his infantry forward in two wings - Vilatte's Division attacked the Spanish left (and rolled it up very quickly), while Ruffin's marched around the Spanish right and intercepted the fugitives as they retreated. Infantado never appeared with the promised reinforcements - the Spanish army lost something like 6000 prisoners and was effectively wrecked. Infantado was relieved of command, and history proceeded...

For our game, we started with the position as the French arrived at 8am - Ruffin's (left flank) force was kept off the table, to be marched on as Command Cards allowed. To give the Spanish (me and Stryker) rather more than their customary zero chance, their infantry battalions were at full strength (many of the units on the day really had less than 200 men) and we adopted a scenario rule by which militia units did not count for a Victory Point if eliminated - this justified by the fact that the Spanish army would be neither surprised nor demoralised if the provinciales left early. We used a hybrid form of Commands and Colors, using the updated card packs from the Generals, Marshals & Tacticians Expansion (#5) and, since we had a big battle in hand, on a stretched table (17 x 9 hexes), we also borrowed the idea of the extra Courier Rack command hand from the Epic Expansion (#6). 10 Victory Points (VPs) to decide the day. There was an extra 2 VPs available to the French for each of the town hexes of Uclés which they captured, but this was always unlikely to happen, and in the event they never got close.

Rather than ignoring it and advancing around it to attack the Spanish left flank, Victor attacked the village of Tribaldos immediately - forcing the Spanish advance guard to remain and contest the place. That rather set the flavour for the rest of the day. Instead of being a brief mopping-up operation, this sector began to look more like La Haye Sainte, and, though the French did eventually take the village - eliminating Venegas' only unit of line grenadiers and the 2nd Bn of the Regto de la Reina and killing Brigadier Avellano (who was only painted a week ago!) - it cost them a lot of time and men - the sweeping right flank attack which won the day in 1809 never really got under way at all (not, of course, that we were intending to replay the historical battle).

Turning his attention to his left, Victor brought on Ruffin's Division, and managed to draw some very helpful cards to speed this process up. Thereafter there was a bloodbath on the French left - it has to be said that Ruffin did not have any luck at all with his dice-rolling mojo, the Spanish light cavalry (which was not very formidable) caused more of a nuisance than we expected and slowed things down by forcing units into square. In particular, the despised milicias provinciales on the northern ridge performed heroics - remarkable shooting, for one thing.

At this point, I regret to report, we ran out of time. The VP count stood at 7-all, and the French looked likely to pick off a few more, but my guests had to catch a train, so the deadline was not negotiable.

We had been fighting for about 3½ hours at this point, which by C&C standards is quite a long time, but Baron Stryker was making his first venture into the world of C&C, and, though he picked the game up commendably quickly, necessarily we still spent some time on explanations and conferences over card play etc. We probably made a rather stodgy start after lunch anyway! Though we agreed an honourable draw (an astonishing success for one of my forays with the Spanish army), in truth I think the French probably edged it because they had also eliminated a non-scoring militia unit, and were certainly well placed to finish things off - though it might have taken a little time, since they had lost momentum on their left. Also they had such appalling dice that they deserve a little extra credit for what was achieved. However, in my role as General Venegas, I shall graciously acknowledge all applause and honours which may come my way - to quote Bernard Montgomery, the boys done exceptional.

Afterthoughts? Hmmm - it was always possible that the game was too big to play as an introduction, but I picked it because the ability to play out a large action logically and with clear development is one of the strengths of the game system. Given the size of the action, we might have done better to use the original Command Cards - they are quicker in use, less longwinded, and require a lot less reading than the new ones! I wasn't convinced that the extra Courier Rack hand was much of a help, but Goya thought it worked well, so the jury is out on that one.

The double-retreat handicap rule for the Spaniards actually produces interesting results - on one occasion a battalion of Regto Ordenes Militares, about to be blown to pieces by a massed musketry attack, retreated out of range at the first volley without suffering any casualties, to the fury of Marshal Victor, and it is a commonplace for the French to be unable to catch up with Spanish units retreating from melees.  

All in all? Excellent - I had a great time, and we have agreed to reconvene soon for another fight - next time I fear there will be a mighty Austrian-Prussian coalition - I believe there is painting going on as I write. I am pondering the logistics of taking my French troops and my wargame on the road - should be OK. My van should do the job nicely - just have to put the troops securely in magnetised A4 boxfiles and, if we are to play C&C, I must wrap the battleboards in old duvets (my van is often mistaken for a travelling doss-house), and secure everything with bungee cords. Right.

My thanks, once again, to my colleagues - a lot of fun.

***** Late Edit *****

By special request of Mr L Gunner, here's a game OOB [note that the Spanish army is the actual units I have available, which is not hugely dissimilar from reality; the French army is the historic one and, since my cupboard armies are mostly VI Corps and the Armée du Centre, the parts of the various units were played by similar units with different numbers!]

(Part of Spanish) Ejercito del Centro (MdC D. Francisco Javier Venegas)

Adv guard in Tribaldos (Brig Beremundo Ramirez Avellano)
Combined grenadier bn (Regts Reina & Africa) & 2/Reina
Husares Españoles & Granaderos a Caballo Fernando VII

Right Flank (MdC D. Augusto Laporte)
1/Murcia; 2/Guardias Walonas; 1/Irlanda
2/Granaderos Provinciales de Andalucia & Bn de Campo Mayor (ligero)
Milicias Provinciales de Cordoba, de Granada & de Jaen
Foot battery

Centre (in and around Uclés) (Brig D. Pedro Agustin Giron)
Burgos (2 bns); 1/Reina; 1er Voluntarios de Cataluña (ligero)
Caz a Caballo de Olivenca & "Voluntarios de España"
1er Husares de Estemadura (Maria Luisa)

Left (Brig D. Antonio Senra)
1/Cantabria; Ordenes Militares (2); La Corona (2); Africa (2)
Bn de Ribeiro (ligero) & Mil Prov de Ciudad Real
Foot battery

French I Corps (Marshal Victor)

Division Ruffin
Brigade Barrois: 96e Ligne(3)
Brigade Lefol: 9e Léger(3); 24e Ligne (3)
Art à Pied

Division Lapisse (absent)

Division Villatte
Brigade Pacthod: 27e Léger(3); 63e Ligne (3)
Brigade Puthod: 94e Ligne(3); 95e Ligne(3)
Art à Pied

Corps cavalry
Brigade Beaumont: 26e Chasseurs à Cheval

From Cavalry Reserve: Division Latour-Maubourg
Brigade Perreymond: 1er & 2e Dragons
Brigade Dolembourg: 4e & 14e Dragons
Brigade Digeon: 20e & 26e Dragons
Art à Cheval


The struggle for Tribaldos - the French got bogged down a bit here - the elegant
white Lego block marks the flank section

Venegas' cavalry took this strange position - mainly to oppose the French
dragoons - there weren't many left at the end, but  they did all right

General view from the Spanish right flank, prior to Ruffin's arrival - units with
yellow cube markers are the militia...

Rather odd picture of Tribaldos, with the Spaniards gone, but a lot of time lost

Ruffin's Division appears on the French left...

...more and more of it...

...and things get very sweaty here for a while - the Spanish light cavalry look as if
they are on a suicide mission, which ultimately I suppose they were, but they forced
a couple of battalions into square and slowed the attack down...

...view at this stage from behind the French left attack - the town of Uclés
is in complete calm in the background...

Shrewdly, Venegas withdrew some militia from the end of his line, and replaced them
with the more warlike Regto Irlanda (light blue uniforms) as the French gained a
foothold on the ridge; the Irlanda were destroyed, very quickly! - overall the militia performed better...

As the day came to an end, the French were well positioned to make further progress
on their left, and the Spanish were getting a bit sparse at this point...

...but we ran out of time! Venegas might regard himself as lucky to achieve a draw,
but he will certainly dine out on his success for years. 7-all - you can see the VP markers.

Here are a few incidental pictures, commemorating a wonderful event in the history of the Spanish army's adventures at Chateau Foy:

Since some of the Spanish artillery wore red waistcoats, and since some of the
NapoleoN figures are without jackets, it amuses me that I have a battery of
gunners in what look like Arsenal strips - non-British readers, do not worry about
this - British readers, worry if you wish

Here are some of the Milicias Provinciales - they may be the regiment of Cordoba,
 or maybe Granada - it doesn't matter - whoever they are, they were great

Some of the French units which were badly damaged attacking Tribaldos, resting
at the rear. The more observant students of military history may note that Marshal
Victor and generals Pacthod and Vilatte are also resting at the rear. I have nothing
further to say about this.

The town of Uclés, on its hill, with light infantry in the town and line infantry in
the woods. No rape or pillage today - it would have been a good day for a picnic. 

Since they didn't get mentioned much, here is the Spanish left flank, still in place at the end.

Good company, an entertaining game of toy soldiers, complete with Bellona bridges and Merit trees - what more could you ask?

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Uclés - Set-Up (2)

This is an approximate kick-off position for Saturday's game. The French are on the right hand side, marching on to the field at 8am - Marshal Victor will probably wish to adjust his positions a bit, and he still has another division to appear on his left sometime later. From left to right on the French side you see Latour-Maubourg's dragoon division, and Pacthod's and Puthod's brigades of Villatte's division. The backward-facing artillery are on the march (I may sneak a limber team on there, for appearances).

The Spanish army has an advanced detachment in and around the small village of Tribaldos (historically they fell back on to the main position pretty smartly once the French appeared - they may well do the same again). The deployment on the ridge line is a reasonable representation of where they were - Laporte has their right flank, Senra the left and the commander, Venegas, the centre. The odd positioning of the cavalry is authentic, though Venegas might reconsider it this time.

So this is a tweakable approximation to our starting situation on Saturday.

The white plastic ruler on the far side of the table is an accidental attempt to pacify proper wargamers, to distract the eye from all those dreadful hexes. Just count your beads, sisters.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Something for the Weekend - The Battle of Not-Quite-Uclés, 13 Jan 1809 - set-up

On Saturday I have guest generals coming to play at Chateau Foy, so this is a special occasion, especially after the recent panic involving the cancellation of the Siege of Newcastle.

Work on the set-up is proceeding...
Our scenario for the day will be something rather similar to the Battle of Uclés - not too similar, naturally. A Spanish army under Mariscal de Campo Venegas, comprising 23 battalions, 5 regiments of light cavalry and two foot batteries will defend the formidable ridge which the town and monastery of Uclés bisect; the opposition is a French force commanded by Marshal Victor, who will have available 21 battalions, 5 regiments of dragoons and 1 of chasseurs à cheval, 2 foot batteries and one horse battery. I shall use the largest of my available table configurations - any larger and we need to find a bigger venue.

The Spanish Army is assembling on the Plastic Canteen Trays of Mars, as you see...

...while, in the interests of security, the French are marshalling in another room,
on the official ironing board (has it been pressed into service?) - formidable, n'est-ce pas?

I expect we shall have rather a lot of fun, but if anyone out there fancies a bet on the result, I would suggest a sporting 10 pence on a resounding French win. Some of the French are to arrive a little late, subject to the whim of the dice, as a consequence of (allegedly) taking the wrong road, but I fear this will not affect the result.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

1809 Spaniards - Beremundo

The loneliness of command - under revised house rules, brigade commanders still don't get an ADC
Another senior officer for the Spaniards. This chap is a spare from a stock of Spanish cavalry I've had for a little over two years, waiting patiently in the paint queue. These are some of the figures I commissioned from Hagen - they paint up all right, I think?

This is Colonel Beremundo Ramirez de Arellano of the line cavalry unit Reina, who had the (brief) pleasure of commanding the brigade of cavalry at Uclés (13th Jan 1809).

Since he is a colonel, much of the prep work consisted of carefully filing off his epaulettes - hands are still sore this morning!

Sunday 16 April 2017

1809 Spaniards - More Leaders, and a Possible Outbreak of Creeping Elegance

You know you get a sort of half idea, and you quite like it, and before you know what's happened you find you can't get it out of your head, and you have a new project starting up...?

For example - years ago, I once found that I had acquired a couple of mounted infantry colonels from somewhere, so the next couple of French battalions I painted up had a mounted figure in the command, just to try it, and I liked that a lot. It looked just like the pictures in the old Charles Grant book - splendid. It was really just to use up the spare figures, but I knew almost straight away that eventually I would end up rebasing all my Napoleonic armies and adding mounted colonels throughout. It took ages, but I got there in the end, and now I never think twice about it - it's a house standard.

This time it's generals. I have my generals based individually, except for army commanders, who are on a rather larger stand, and have an ADC attached. I have a growing box of attractive staff-type castings waiting to be painted - generals and aides and adjutants and all that - the availability of new figures from Art Miniaturen and elsewhere makes this hard to resist. I like painting generals and ADCs - small jobs, lots of fiddly bits - ideal for short paint sessions, and I am looking at painting up a special new staff group for Marshal Suchet, and I have some more Spanish generals on the bottletops at this very moment, and - O Lord - I've just seen the latest post from History in 1/72. I think I would like to have a little collection of celebrities and other oddballs to grace a suitable occasion. I already have a Spanish division commander who is based with an ADC, which is non-standard but looks pretty good (not least because Goya did the painting...). As of this morning, I am beginning to sense that a new house standard is sliding in from left field. I think I'd really like to move to brigadiers based on their own (as at present), division commanders with a single ADC, and army commanders or other special bods based with 2 supporting staff. Brigadiers will be on the standard 30mm x 45mm bases, division doubles will be on 50 x 50, and I need a new size for the triples - maybe my ECW 60 x 60s would do for that.

Three new Spanish generals - two brigadiers (one in his regimentals) and a
division commander (with the gold lace) - in fact they look a bit shiny - better get
the next coat of varnish matted down a bit.
So - anyway - it looks like a period of progressive rebasing and sorting out (and painting) is coming, to get my staff to the new standard. It doesn't have to happen all at once, of course, but I have some very nice unpainted ADCs just looking for a gig somewhere, and I have some of Jorg Schmaeling's latest Art Miniaturen French generals and aides, itching away in the French Command box. Yes - it feels like a good idea, and it's not too disruptive in the short term. Rebasing generals is a doddle, really. If I order in a supply of pre-cut MDF 50 x 50s from Uncle Tony Barr at ERM then that will get me started.

No rush. Looking forward to it. Creeping Elegance - you know it makes sense.

***** Late Edit *****

Now have the chaps based up, and have added a converted Hinton Hunt ADC to the division commander. ADC is in non-regulation uniform, you're right. Some quick pics in the garden...

This brigadier is dressed as colonel of the Regto de Africa (Antonio Senra)

Tuesday 11 April 2017

The Serial Turncoat

Always striving to get ahead...

This chap has been featured on this blog before. I bought him, a good while ago, as part of a job lot on eBay - he was sold as a mounted British infantry officer - apparently an old Hinton Hunt OPC, and I put him away in the spares box for a future refurb.

British officer - as purchased

When I had time, I had a good look at him, decided it would be best to strip and start again, and consigned him to the Nitromors (hand-remover). It shifted the paint, but also shifted his head...

Carrying on heedless
...and it became obvious that in a previous tour of duty he had started life as a Hinton Hunt Austrian general - AN 102 - like this one:

Origins - photo borrowed from The Hinton Hunter 
It seems a pity to waste a useful figure, and his Austrian origins, and consequent lack of epaulettes, suggested a possible conversion to a Spanish general officer. As is the way of these things, the headless horseman has been kicking around my painting desk for three years now, but I am trying to move my Spanish army towards some kind of complete state, and I am always short of generals and staff officers - in particular, I need brigadiers - quite a few of them - and since there are precious few suitable castings around it becomes a very attractive idea to produce some conversions. Not many things look as limp as a complete set of identical officers - a matching battalion is OK - I have plenty of those - but matching officers are not so cool.

Righto then - there was a pequeño uniform for Spanish generals - single breasted, like a French surtout, and I gave my adventurer a head from a miscast Spanish fusilero from my NapoleoN spares, who had a missing foot. Better and better - nothing goes to waste here, if I can avoid it. As always, he will win no prizes for beauty, but he is a unique figure, and I need all the characters I can get for my Spanish army.

Hola! (I think a brigadier would probably say "Hola!" in a suitably deep voice.)

By the way, you will observe that the base of the original figure has been built up with lead sheet, which is a bit serious for my collection - if anyone recognises this fellow - in any of his past personae, please do get in touch!

Friday 7 April 2017

1809 Spaniards - Better, but Still Digging Furiously

The carpet remains a job in hand, so today's first mission is to clear the decks a bit to get that sorted out.

In the meantime I shifted my painting/carpet-soiling operations into the dining room, and now have the first battalion of Granaderos Provinciales - complete apart from the flag, which should follow in a day or so. The flag, since I mentioned it, is going to be a bit of a flight of fancy - units of granaderos of the line were normally assembled on campaign from the grenadier companies in a division, which means that, as provisional entities, they did not have flags unless someone lent them one. Not so for the Provinciales - the grenadier companies were supplied by the Provincial Militia units of a particular - erm, province, I guess - but they were then given a permanent identity and treated as a distinct regiment. Thus they had a flag, I understand.

These chaps, then, are the 3rd "Division" of Provincial Grenadiers - namely those of Andalucia (other "divisions" were for Galicia, and New and Old Castille). As grenadiers they manage to avoid categorisation as militia in my rules (with all the potentially disastrous implications that would bring), and count as bog-standard line infantry. They are not without a certain prestige, in fact the colonel at the Battle of Ucles would be Pedro Giron, who later was C-in-C of one of the main Spanish field armies. They will form part of the Reserve division of the Army of La Mancha - in company with various guard battalions and the very attractive Irlanda.

Granaderos Provinciales de Andalucia - short of a flag

...and, of course, they have to look good when retreating - note minimalist flammes

Their flag will be some fairly generic coronela - if anyone knows better, please feel free to shout. I'll provide a more official picture when the flag is issued and the chaps are ready for action.

The other such battalion is partly complete - thus far they have their command finished, and the rest of the chaps are undercoated and have had the white paint done (lots of white paint) - they can go back in the Really Useful Box for a respite period, while we sort out the domestic collateral damage.

Oh yes - figures are Falcata castings - the rank and file laboriously (and grumpily) fettled and cleaned up prior to painting - they came out OK, I think - the mounted officer is a conversion involving a Kennington Frenchman and other bits, and the standard bearer is by NapoleoN.