23 October 2019

Napoleonic Peninsula War Campaign: Part 1

Over the last month, John and Gav at the club have been playing a Napoleonic campaign in the early years of the Peninsula War in Spain. To add to the fog of war I volunteered to moderate for them and deliver them the results of their blind map moves to help build a campaign narrative.

We have been using Sharpe Practice and the Dawns and Departures campaign supplement, which we enjoy and they have worked extremely well.  The campaign context has been late in the campaigning season with the French collecting fodder and supplies from the recent harvest, in order to prepare for winter cantonment. The British, along with their Spanish guerrilla allies, mean to stop them.

The French Commander (Gav) went with a more numerous force of average and some lesser quality troops - this would allow him to occupy (and plunder) a number of Spanish villages and "acquire" the supplies he needs. The British (John) took a smaller but high quality Regular force, supported by the guerrillas, so he could strike hard. It was an interesting matchup and there were 3 days of map moves  in which I really played out some fog of war, vague scouting reports and the like - all adding to a sense of tension, before the battle was joined.

The British went on the offensive and pushed north to find the French main body, with a flank security force of light troops on their west flank towards indication of a smaller French force in that direction. This second French force was larger than expected, comprising of Voltigeurs and Dragoons was indeed moving in their direction but without expectation of contact. This resulting engagement was played out on a club night and as expected the British Riflemen and light bobs fells back before the stronger French, but giving the British Commander warning of what was coming.  The scene was set for a nice big weekend game.
The Commanders gather to do battle at Gav's Palace of Gaming - French would enter from the left on the flank of the British marching down the table
Flank Attack
The first big game was the contact of the French recon force hitting the flank of the British main column. They hoped to sack the baggage and do some damage while hoping for reinforcements from the French Main force, now alerted via dispatch rider, and thus catch the British from 2 directions.  The British commander hoped to repel this flank attack, crush it in isolation and then turn back to the main force to defeat it in detail.  Note that neither commander knew the exact size or composition of the enemy at this stage.
The British in march column 
John's newly painted Light Dragoons, under the command of young Lieutenant Overbight, scout ahead and on the flanks
The French advance from the left and the forewarned British deploy from the road to meet them
The British Regulars move forward into the French fire, undeterred by casualties from enemy fire
Musketry exchanged both at the farmhouse and in the vineyard (not shown)
About to be overwhelmed, the French light troops start to fall back from the farm, just as the Dragoons start to move in...
On the Northern edge of the Battlefield, French reinforcements begin to arrive - but are they in time to make a difference?
The French light troops deliver defensive fire into the Dragoons, but the cavalrymens' blood was up... 

And in 2 turns it was over. This French unit was cut down by galloping sabres and the remainder sensibly retired to the west.
A most enjoyable and thematic battle with some masterful handling of the Cavalry by John. The French reinforcement arrived too late to swing the odds, but the scene was now set for a major engagement in the afternoon. The French Commander, now aware of the location and disposition of the British, was bringing his main force to bear and while his reinforcement had arrived too late for this battle, they seized the key terrain to support the guns and infantry of the main force.

The afternoon would be hotly contested indeed...


  1. What an amazing set up! Sounds like a great campaign and looking forward to hearing how it plays out.

    1. Thanks Michael! Just writing up the next battle - it was a cracker!

  2. Got to love those Light Dragoons. Heroes to a man! Go you fine Englishmen!
    (This was a paid political broadcast, normal programming will now resume)

  3. Cracking setup! Looks like a blast. Blind movement is great fun.

    1. It certainly makes a big difference when you lose the 'God's eye" view and somebody enforces realistic communications!