Aug 21, 2017

Peninsular War - Spaniards vs. French

For either lack of interest or determination, we kept delaying a Napoleonic game for a while. To keep my mind off other pressing matters, I finally sat down, wrote two scenarios, and set up a table - the first scenario was selected, a battle in the Spanish hills between a French and a Spanish division. I did not regret my choice as this became a very entertaining game, full of twists of fortune.

The rules are the amended Victorious Eagle Warfare set.

Orders of battle:

Spanish CIC (3) - defending
Artillery bty 3 guns

Brigadier (1)
Infantry brigade - 4x4base infantry É2 FI2 FP2

1x4 base Guerrillas - either a 4 base unit É1 FI2 FP1, or remove them from the table and also remove a non-veteran French unit occupied with holding them back

Brigadier (2)
1x 4 base Hussars É2 FI3 FP1
2x 4 base Heavy dragoons (untrained) É2 FI2 FP1

French CIC (4) - attacking
Division reserve artillery 2 guns

Brigadier (2)
1x4 base Westfalian infantry É2 FI2 FP1
2x4 base Line infantry É2 FI3 FP1
1x4 base Voltigeurs É2 FI2 FP2
1x4 base Veteran (reserve) infantry É2 FI3 FP2
Attached artillery 1 gun

Brigadier (1)
Dragoons 4 base É2 FI2 FP1
CAC 4 base É2 FI3 FP1
Vistula Lancers 4 base É2 FI4 FP0
Attached horse artillery 1 gun

I took command of the very pretty but less skilled Spanish force, and began an aggressive move on the relatively open right with my cr*p cavalry. The regulars had to abandon the hill very early, as the French 12pdr battery deployed right in front of them.

The French had trouble advancing through the broken terrain - as a wise leader, General Despacito chose to leave the Guerrillas on the table, and they were sent ahead to pester the enemy skirmishers.

The Spaniards had a disadvantage in both quality and quantity - they had to be very careful.

This is a nice pair of photos in sequence - the Hussars charge the French dragoons fanning ahead to prevent them overruning the battery, while the two dragoon units strike the Vistula Lancers and the light horse battery in direct support.

The hussars fall back after a bloody melee; one dragoon unit receives canister in the face, but manages to kill the crew of the battery; all Spanish horse falls back shaken after charging the Poles.

A rare moment in recorded history - the Spanish infantry abandon their entrenchments and march to attack.

That mass of blue uniforms on the hill does not look half good. The French hesitate to assault the battery en masse - canister fire sends a few of them flying.

These infantrymen were the true heroes of the battle. They formed square and repelled four cavalry charges, then stood two turns of bombardment. Retreating in march column, they halted the Vistula Lancers for a moment, but then they disintegrated. They received a well deserved battle honor.

While the French right is in a rather confused state - ordre mixtre in this case meaning half of the infantry is always on the rout -, the Vistula Lancers finally wreak havoc on their left, killing and capturing many of the Spanish dragoons.

With their flank threatened and the possibility of a crushing infantry assault on their left, the Spanish general decides to extricate his remaining forces - the Guerrillas and an infantry square remain to fight a rearguard action.

Lessons learned:
  • With the fresh reaction system, combats are bloody and less predictable. 
  • An infantry square is virtually impossible to break with cavalry - it has to be softened up by musketry and cannon fire, and then, maybe...
  • Combined arms brigades are the thing - they make the game so much more exciting. I think we should break the small brigade rule entirely and allow any units (infantry, cavalry and artillery) in close proximity to act together - this is sort of the Napoleonic way after all.
  • Close range canister fire is equally devastating - the French mistake was not to form advance column and hurl themselves at the position battery immediately. They would have sustained losses, but staying in the open in a stalemate halted their entire advance.


  1. Enjoyable battle report. It is not generally appreciated that the Spanish, unaided by allies, on three occasions defeated their French foes. On one of those occasions the french were commanded by no less a personage than General Suchet - the future Marshal.

    1. Thank you - these seem to be fine soldiers, and with a more or less adequate commander, they can evenly match the French.

  2. Great to se you troops in battle András.