Alcolea 1808 is an interest small scenario far from the typical napoleonic battle played by the majority of napoleonic miniature gamers. Different from the norm of two sides, lined up facing each other, in that one side (the French) has a mixed collection of grab bag units, good overall in combative power and morale, marching along a dusty Spanish road towards Cordova. The other side is a rag-tag group of poorly armed, recently pressed, civilians with some Spanish regulars for backbone.
The initial scenario deployment has the Spanish in three groups; at the river stone bridge crossing, another group standing well behind the bridge defenders position hoping that they won’t be involved, and across a river, on the French side, they watch the French march across their front from a low hill. The French, for their part, are stung out marching in their road columns towards the Spanish defended bridge. Unit for unit, the French are superior, generally disciplined, and have four provisional cavalry regiments. The Spanish, except for the small number of regulars at the river bridge crossing, are mostly poorly armed civilians, some with muskets or firearms, others with pikes or farm tools. Their cavalry is two groups of collected squadrons from different regiments. The armed civilians cannot even form squares against the French cavalry, a scenario ripe for Spanish disaster when four provisional French cavalry regiments are present on the battlefield. The French need to march and assault fast…. sending the Spanish army morale “into the river” in quick order. Cordova is their target for the evening looting festivities. The scenario question is can the Spanish hold them up, prevent the sacking of Cordova that night, and maybe change history. But… if no sacking of Cordova occurs, would the Spanish be so outraged which led directly to the Baylen campaign next month and the Dupont surrender. A pondered question but for now the present scenario narrative commences.
Scenario design and additional information found on WR’s Alcolea 1808 post. In addition there is another previous Alcolea 1808 AAR written about this scenario battle with a different flow of activity and result.
After some French player discussion, Paul and Daniel elected to storm the river defenses and just screen off the low hill Spanish levy defender. Easy to do with a few cavalry regiments since the Spanish levy battalions across the river, on the low hill position, has almost no defense from the sharp charging swords of the French provisional cavalry. They cannot form square formation and half the miniatures don’t even have a firearm to shoot at the French. Eric and WR played the poor Spanish basically without a plan since they basically react to the French assault. Both Paul and Eric are new to the game rules and systems of play and generally easy to pick up on the march so to speak. Paul while marching into the Spanish musketry, Eric hoping that the French stay away…. while hearing the Spanish levy knees knocking out of unison.
Scenario starts with the French infantry charging over the bridge. Column battalion formations, marching in step, over the bridge hump, and into the Spanish cannon fire. The Spanish skirmisher screen popping off a few musket balls too. Opening dice throws… French bodies fall rapidly on the bridge, the leading French General of Brigade Pannetier himself is hit and rolled to be mortal. Spanish player morale notches up.
While the French infantry meet unexpected resistance at the bridge by the Spanish regulars (5 battalions), Eric moves over the “supportive” Spanish levy behind the Spanish regulars. Supportive in name only. If pressed expect them to find other pursuits for their attention.
Disordered from the Spanish round shot passing through their ranks, the French infantry chases away the Spanish skirmishers for the moment. A long-range volley from the Grenadores Andalusia battalion leaves empty barrels and worse, empty cartridge boxes.
Note: the Spanish have no ammunition train present on the battlefield so every close order musketry volley roll a d6. If a one rolled, the unit becomes low on ammunition for remainder of scenario. Low on ammo means the unit fires at 1/4 effect. Spanish artillery has a fixed number of rolls then they become low on ammunition too with no train resupply present.
The Spanish firepower is too much when the 1st assault is pressed home. With their commanding general of brigade lying on the bridge, the leading French 3rd Legion of Reserve battalion breaks and flees back, pushing through the supportive battalions. French artillery unlimbered across the river. A Spanish cheer is heard.
Arriving on the battlefield the four French provisional cavalry regiments ride towards the low hill defenders. 1st and 2nd Provisional Dragoons and 1st and 2nd Provisional Chasseurs a’cheval out of their storage box. WR even has these units painted up, with their different miniature facing colors, for his Spanish peninsular battles. The Spanish low hill levy infantry looks on, hiding behind a few dry orchard tree trunks, while their converged Spanish squadrons ride out to protect the open flank. Reading the square formation manual and procedures, poorly translated from a French version no doubt, The levy cannot understand the process.
After a turn lull reordering the French ranks from their first repulse, the French battalions charge across the bridge again. Spanish round shot rips into their ranks, causing a greater pile of bodies on the bridge. the Spanish skirmishers recovered from their last retirement and meet the advancing French with more musket balls. One of the Spanish Grenaderos Andalusia provincial grenadier battalions finds out their ammunition supply is limited just as they stand to facing the French column. Got any powder and shot ask many in the ranks.
The Spanish Grenaderos Andalusia think twice… onrushing French column and we have almost no ammunition. No glorious Spanish defense today, they turn around and flee, passing through the startled levy linear ranks behind them. French control the barricade position while the Spanish artillery pound their exposed flanks, reducing their available ammunition supply in the process.
Riding their poor horses, the Spanish hill cavalry trot forward. French sharply form up, trot and then sound the charge. One Spanish cavalry regiment turns tail and bolts for the rear. They were the “good” ones according the scenario roster. The second Spanish regiment of converged dragoons shows a front…. the French are satisfied for the moment, but soon send the dragoons to join their fleeing countrymen.
The French columns advance from the bridge end. They force one Spanish battery (4 cannon) to limber up and retire into Alcolea village due to limited ammunition left in the battery. The Spanish reserve, the last battalion of Grenaderos Andalusia marches up to plug the bridgehead. Several levy units lend their morale courage to the enterprise. Why are these Spanish holding their positions…. the answer… face-saving dice roll and prayer (dice blessing). French foot artillery send round shot pitching into the Spanish ranks.
Time to summon the last Spanish reserves holding the rear? Looking at the Spanish roster, the Spanish players think they are more a liability. These guys are one morale d10 test to go… as in flee the field en-mass. After all, their leader is the same Spanish commander nominated to command this battle and he is a lawyer by trade, with some long ago forgotten history in the Spanish army. Gamers love the phase “bottom of the barrel”. Well these Spanish units are found “under” that barrel.
Fight at the bridge crossing is fierce. The Spanish prayer and priest miniature is working overtime to hold the reduced regulars and Spanish levy in place. The French 1st Brigade is shot up and generally now out of the fight. So their 2nd Brigade, which includes the French Guard Marines detachment battalion, advances across the bodies covered bridge and assault the Spanish defense.
The leading 4th Legion of Reserve battalion assaults the “resolved to hold” Spanish Grenadores Andalusia as the Guard Marines pick on the nearby Provincial de Ecija battalion. Easy victory for the Guard thinks the French player team. Not so fast. While being shelled by French artillery into their flank, the Spanish volleys bite into the massed French ranks. This Spanish Ecija Provincial battalion can roll their firepower dice throws. The Guard Marines are shattered, they turn and flee with over half their number lying on the Spanish ground with their commander just escaping from the Spanish bayonets. Next up are the 4th Swiss Line in their fashionable red coats.
French player morale recovers after seeing their Guard Marines hightail it out of the battle. 1st Brigade is shattered with 60% losses, the 2nd Brigade is fighting for their life and the Guard Marines just took off. Time to bring in the Swiss on these Spanish devils. The 4th Swiss Line battalion crashes into the toughen Provincial de Ecija battalion, stepping over the Guard Marine bodies. The Spanish levies are facing down the other French 4th Legion of Reserve battalion, exchanging unequal volleys at point-blank range.
Back at the low hill a stalemate occurs. The French cavalry holds in place the Spanish levies from descending from the hill. The Spanish levy has no desire to advance. The French cavalry can ride them down at any moment.
One tough Spaniard battalion those provincials. They repulse the attack of the 4th Swiss battalion. That’s it. The French team remembers their special event card and plays the French “Heroic unit” event card for their leading 3rd / 4th Legion of Reserve battalion. They are going through the Spanish defense this time.
The battle is total confusion near the bridge. Smoke, musketry, death seeking round shot gives the taste, smell, or sound on the battlefield. The French advance their 3rd “Swiss” Brigade across the bridge. Team Spain was waiting for this movement. They play their special “Swiss” event card to determine if a Swiss battalion will change sides, exit the battle, or become enraged and fight the Spanish with increased verger. The card is played on the tabletop.. d6 rolled and a Reding Swiss battalion elects to leave the battlefield and become neutral till the victory is determined. Historically these Swiss were “recruited” from the Spanish army early in the revolt by the French. Later at Baylen they changed paymasters back to the Spanish purse. Love or hate them… they are mercenaries.
Even with that Spanish “diplomatic” coup over the Swiss battalion, the Spanish bridge defense cracks wide open. The Spanish levy took one to many musketry volleys and they shatter. The remaining Spanish regulars file off into the village of Alcolea, taking the cannon with them. The battlefield smoke clears a bit after a weak hearted 4th Swiss Line assault on the exposed building.
Two turns of French movements have them attacking the Alcolea village in force. The 4th Swiss Line, recovered from their earlier retirement, have successfully occupied half the village buildings while the Spanish player team wasn’t looking. Seeing the Swiss holding half the village, the Spanish find one last attempt to counterattack. The Spanish play their last “Heroic” unit event card. The other battalion of the Grenadores Andalusia tries to hold the small church with bayonets.
Seeing the Spanish counterattack column, the French form their own column and march against the Spanish infantry on the roadway. First assault goes to the Spanish, they evict the Swiss battalion. Now to defend against the massed French infantry. The pathetic Spanish “armed in name only” levy from Cordova watches…. their knees tapping out “supportive” sounds.
Last Spanish success. The French column is repulsed by the heroic Spanish grenadiers. For the moment a brief Spanish success but the Spanish army is now morale exhausted. The slow decline on the tabletop starts… one CMR step per hour. Morale tests are a deadly fear in the Spanish ranks now.
Spanish cannot hold. Any morale tests will cause more fleeing units so the Spanish team elect to march from the field. The French have their bitter victory but cannot exit the required three French or Swiss commands before nightfall. Thus the Spanish have a minor victory to start the long Peninsular war.
Fun scenario. The Spanish win a minor victory with their stubborn defense at the bridge and lucky d6 or d10 rolls at crucial moments. The French certainly placed their column heads into the Spanish defense many times. Their higher CMR values pulled them through the bridge battle overall and into the village of Alcolea. Still, the French missed their golden opportunity to crush the Spanish army by their brittle Army morale. The previous Alcolea 1808 AAR write-up had the French attack the low hill defenders, sending them off the table in quick order and causing the Spanish to suffer army morale and fatigue failure by their cumulative losses and unit routs. In this scenario play, the Spanish defended on a narrow front at the bridge, so their losses were steady but not massive early on during the battle. This prolonged the Spanish army morale to force dogged delay on the French. Still, the French could have won the scenario except for the “dice roll prayers” regularly chanted and answered by Team Spain.
Thanks to Eric, Paul, Daniel for their playing the Alcolea scenario.
Cheers from the plains outside Cordova.