A couple of weeks ago full of hope and anticipation I posted that our Peninsular War campaign. had finally thrown up a battle A week later I was less than enthusiastic about the whole situation. The Anglo-Portuguese had marched to relieve the siege of Cuidad Rodrigo, got there and discovered that a reasonably similar sized force of French were there. Both sides were set up on the table and then….nothing. Neither side felt they needed to attack, both knowing that reinforcements were bound their way and would arrive the next day. A total non event. To say I was unhappy is an understatement.
Last week however we rectified my bad humour. After the previous battle had paused the system, I ran the next day and indeed more troops arrived for both sides. This time however both commanders were minded to be a bit more aggressive.
The armies lined up were similar in numbers of infantry, but the French had more artillery and no cavalry, a situation Marechal Victor kept excusing! The French had to set up first, and chose to spread their initial two Divisions across much of the frontage, while the Anglo-Portuguese concentrated their forces into a much smaller frontage opposing a single French Division. This would cause Victor and his stand in General Musnier problems right from the start as pips to change Lapisse’s orders were never available in quantities.
Knowing that they’d start rolling for reinforcements to arrive after turn 6, the players started tentatively but we were making good progress. Even so, I worried that the game wasn’t going to finish in the time available, so I made my decision to allow rolling from turn 4 for reinforcements. I later redeemed this mistake by cutting the number of turns for the day by 2 to compensate.
On the Anglo-Portuguese left, their cavalry made a limited but highly successful attack, forcing units into square in front of their artillery and stalling Musnier’s attack through pip burn unshaking and dealing with these threats. When his troops did get close, cannister ripped into his sole attack column and caused high casualties. By the end of the game Musnier had lost over half of his starting SP’s, only consistently jammy low morale rolls kept his force on the field.
Then on turn 4, the tide turned. French reinforcements arrived and although they’d take a couple of turns to reach the front with order changes required, they brought with them Victor who took charge of the battle.
Anglo-Portuguese reinforcements also arrived, in time to shore up their right flank which up till now had been vacant and facing a French Division just given Engage orders.
On the French right, the reinforcements flowed forward, pushing the enemy cavalry back and relieving their battered comrades. On the French left, the Anglo-Portuguese reinforcements marched forward and deployed into line, in the nick of time they were in position and as the day came to a close, skirmish and close range artillery fire was just beginning to ripple along the line of the Anglo-Portuguese army. One unfortunate new arrival unit threw a 20 for their first morale check and routed having taken zero casualties.
In the end, for the rout of 2 units, the Anglo-Portuguese had caused a high level of damage to one French Division, a smattering of casualties across another 2 and routed several units of artillery which from a campaign perspective will be invaluable. At the end of the day, Wellington and Beresford elected to cede the fortress to the French and retreated to Fuentes de Onoro, taking the extra fatigue points in return for the safety of the mountains.
Since this battle we’ve played another couple of turns, and by the looks of it so far, both sides have been licking their wounds and considering their options. Elsewhere in the Peninsular, the fortresses of Vigo Galiza and Badajoz are under siege, so the French grip on the country is tightening, and Portugal is facing a three pronged simultaneous invasion. In that event, I don’t hold much hope that the Anglo-Portuguese players will be able to stem the tide, but I might be mistaken. Matt and I spent this Wednesday night in mathmatical contortions reinventing the method of converting men to strength points which is a big success and I think will make a difference for future games.