On a recent friday night, WR and his son Daniel went to the weekly Friday night Dice (FND) group in Sun Valley CA. Our “game plan” was to test the recent Battle of Alcolea 1808 scenario recently written up by WR.
See WR’s Battle of Alcolea scenario write up for game set up details: Alcolea 1808. A slide show to skip the storyline and game commentary is linked below for the quick of heart (near end of blog post).
Time 1300: The scenario begins with the French marching along or besides the road to Cordova. Near Alcolea, there is a long stone bridge which the Spanish defenders (blocking command) stood behind their barricaded position. Across the river there was another Spanish flanking command (heights command) positioned to flank attack the French while they were assaulting the bridge position. The French forces were formed into five commands; three small infantry brigades and two small cavalry brigade commands. The term “commands” in our rules is a flexible term…it can be a single battalion or cavalry regiment up to a divisional sized group of units, depending on the scenario or battle involved. Most games are brigade and divisional sizes commands, but this small scenario had all brigades.
As the French reformed their road march infantry ranks in battle formation (we call it “battle mode”), their cavalry brigades at the rear of the column entered the tabletop since they started in battle mode (ie…ready to fight). The leading cavalry brigade of provisional chasseurs a’ cheval ride forward, with the leading regiment in open order skirmisher formation.
As the French deploy their infantry into combative formations (stationary for one movement phase), the Spanish at the bridge await the upcoming assault. The Spanish regulars man the barricade position with skirmishers before them. Armed civilian militia march about behind the regulars to “impress” the French commander….ha ha said Daniel, playing Dupont.
Turn 1320: French chasseurs a’ cheval approach the advance Spanish “heights command” and sound a cavalry charge. The armed civilian militia saw the fast moving French cavalry and promptly bolted for the rear. Story of this scenario…the Spanish armed civilian militia couldn’t hold their ground from French cavalry charges.
As the Spanish militia rout, the regular cavalry sqns, converged into two regiment groups, deployed and countercharges the onrushing Frenchmen. Spanish cavalry, even with their second morale roll to close combat (national characteristic), won their fight and forced the French chasseurs a’ cheval to retire with loss.
View of the bridge position. The French infantry approach the bridge in battle formations of column and line.
Turn 1340: General view of the tabletop. Cavalry fights cause the French chasseurs commander to receive a light wound (out for 2 game turns). French provisional dragoon regiments arrive to support the chasseurs along with a 4 pdr horse battery. Spanish armed civilian militia enter the orchard and nearby positions.
The French infantry, all formed up in column, assault the Spanish skirmisher screen on the bridge. Spanish artillery (8 and 4 pdrs – each 4 cannon batteries) fire upon the onrushing French infantry. By advancing the Spanish “heights” command to the flat lands, the French commander reacts and deploys his 4th legion of reserve infantry battalions to engage the advancing Spanish skirmishing infantry. The Marins of the Garde led the French effort across the bridge.
Turn 1400: Punished by the Spanish regulars firing their volleys and the two small artillery batteries, the French Marins of the Garde, lead by their brigadier Chabert, still pushed into the spanish position and broke the Spanish regulars. During the volleys, one of the Spanish 3rd Audalucian grenadier battalions ran low on ammunition since the spanish had no resupply wagons on the battlefield (1 out of 6D). Note the “heroic unit” marker. Daniel played his heroic unit event card for the game to insure success on the bridge.
While the bridge assault was being conducted, the French 3rd legion of reserve infantry was engaging the Spanish militia skirmishers. French artillery (8 pdr batteries) unlimbered near the riverbank.
Things must be going well for the French….commander smiling. I am sure the – winner drives the “big carrot” corvette home reward – had nothing to do with Daniel’s tabletop actions.
Turn 1420: With the loss of the bridge position so early, the spanish position just gets worse. Losses are mounting among the Spanish “heights” command and even the Conde de Valdecanas cannot hold his ranks together for long and still engage the French.
Turn 1440: Wheeling right, the 4th legion of reserve infantry battalion rushes the flanked Spanish artillery batteries. The Marins of the Garde deploy into open order skirmishers to cover the flank of the French infantry column. French 8 pdr batteries bombard the village of Alcolea while the Spanish infantry… regulars and militia seek to reform and advance again. Several civilian militia battalions are already routing towards Cordova behind the small church.
The spanish on the heights are losing ground and battalions rapidly. French dragoons advance into the orchards to rout out the hapless Spanish militia.
Spanish regulars… some low on ammunition, join some “encouraged” civilian militia to force the Marin of the Garde skirmish line back. The Spanish artillery fire their last salvos (ammunition wise) then are overrun by the French legion of reserve battalion. Note the orange “DM” coin marker. That is a zonal radius marker for the spanish bridge command using their “Defend” order. There is another on the building in Alcolea. More on the game’s use of orders marker / commander base chits later.
Turn 1500: The French reinforce their Marins of the Garde skirmisher line with formed battalions. Seeing the massed french infantry, the Spanish regulars’ feeble counterattack fizzles out and the regulars, along with still more armed civilian militia battalions, retire to the rear again as the brave Lt. Colonel Giron falls to a french bullet (commander of the bridge command). Seeing the easy French victory so far, Dupont calls his brigade commanders to his headquarters and starts the process to issue new orders (change of order chits). French 3rd legion of reserve infantry clear out the last pesky spanish skirmishers nearby.
One must present a smiling face as a disaster unfolds….
Turn 1520: As French artillery bombard the village of Alcolea, the French infantry, lead by the 4th Swiss battalion, turn towards Alcolea. Spanish are milling about…trying to present any form of battle line to the french.
Note: A sharp eye to the pictures may see some miniatures “wrong faced” in a unit. We show a morale disordered unit by turning one or two miniatures backwards to reflect the morale status. There are three unit morale levels…good order, morale disordered and rout.
Turn 1540: French columns assault the outlying buildings of Alcolea while clearing the last of the spanish defenders nearby.
Since this was a game scenario play test, WR allowed all the Alcolea scenario options. This included the four “event cards” found in the scenario notes. Using the two French event cards, Daniel as Dupont, positioned his cavalry to locate a hidden ford. When ready, Daniel presented the event card, and reading the event card instructions, and a handy 6D, found a hidden ford near his cavalry along the river bank.
Back near Alcolea, WR presented his “heroic unit” event card to Daniel and assigned the event to the Provincial Alcazar de San Juan battalion defending the building (with DM marker). WR thought with this boast to marker (+2 CMR), the defenders will hold and repulse the French columnar assault. Well, typical to this battle, the Spanish “fortified with spirits” defenders promptly routed from the receiving morale check and Daniel just walked into the unoccupied building on his next movement turn using the reduced Marins of the Garde skirmishers.
Turn 1600: Frenchmen pouring into Alcolea village, Frenchmen crossing the newly found ford near Alcolea, Frenchmen crossing the bridge in strength…what is a Spanish general to do? Looking about the battlefield, the “heights” command is completely shattered with the remains hiding…praying that the big mean French dragoons stay away. The bridge command also is above 20% loss…going towards 40% soon. The last six battalions of civilian armed militia (support command) are behind the distance stream and too far away to influence this battle.
Only one last chance to turn the French rolling tide. Must hold the small catholic church from the French army and present a “roadblock” for a few turns. Retired Lt. Colonel Don Pedro Agostino de Echavarri, the senior Spanish commander, joins the defenders of the church as the Garde de Paris battalion column assault the other side. Fighting in the pews… the french eject the spanish defenders and brave (foolhardy?) Don Pedro falls in the combat.
Turn 1620: Game over and total spanish defeat. Nothing can hold any spanish unit if a morale check is required. Loss of the Spanish senior commander lowers morale. The present losses in the forward two commands are approaching 40% causing additional morale loss. Lastly, the entire spanish army has exceeded their Morale Fatigue Point (MFP) level (from actual miniature loses, order hourly usage and routing units from tabletop) causing a third level of negative morale tidings. All combined prevent almost all the spanish to break and flee the battlefield if any french unit applies slight pressure.
Spanish army flees the battlefield and the French, with plenty of time, march off the road exit and sack Cordova later in the evening. Welcome to the Spanish war of Independence.
Quick summary: 10 game turns played in about 3 1/2 hours plus some time for setup, take down, and game rule mechanics instruction.
Game played out to the historical result… ie Spanish lost badly. Loses near the historical numbers and overall a good play test of the scenario. Not much fun being a Spanish player…but if lucky, the results could have been a different at the bridge and Alcolea village. Excellent introduction for Daniel of the orders and MFP rules in the game. Normally WR has shielded him from those aspects to allow him to learn the basic game mechanics. Now he has been exposed, future games will include those higher game structure overlays.
Another Alcolea 1808 AAR write up on the “dusty” terrain look at GAMEX 2016 convention. Interesting comparison on two different French tabletop action and victory for the Spanish this time.
Basic notes on orders: Orders are used in our game to limit the capabilities and the allowed unit formations. There are three levels: Nation or Army level (not used in this game scenario), corp or large column (wing) level (called the Senior level orders), and the third level is Command level (brigade or divisional) in most games. The order selection comes from a table of choices….for the senior level there are two choices….Advance (black) or Hold (white) position. The choice of senior order determines the choices of the command level orders….which are Attack (red chit edge), Defend (orange), Engage (yellow), March (green) and Reserve (blue) for commands under that senior level commander. Commands under Advance position senior order cannot use the Defend choice. Hold position senior order prevents use of the Attack order choice. Nation or Army level commanders have the entire order suite for commands under their control but are hampered by the sheer size of the battlefield. The order selection chit is placed under the commander’s miniature to reflect that command’s current orders. The order choice and effect on MFP hourly cost, the restrictions on capabilities and formations, is summarized by this table: Orders Table
Additional game and rules, along with a collection of Youtube videos covering the game mechanics, can be found on this blog at: Napoleonic rules, files and videos
About Friday Night Dice (Sun Valley in northern Los Angeles) :
The Friday Night Dice (FND) group meets every friday evening, from 6 PM to past midnight, in Sun Valley California. Address and details can be found on their website Friday Night Dice. For a gaming venue, the FND group host an excellent air-conditioned venue, well lite rooms, with plenty of tables and chairs, and open to all forms of gaming. In general, the FND is a board game group but the miniature crowd is welcomed and is a small growing part of the FND experience.
Next planned scenario is the Battle of Voltri April 1796.
Cheers again from the warren.