A blog about miniatures, wargaming, and the people driven to ruin by them....

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Napoleonics: Fuentes de Onoro


Our original historical miniatures gaming group, formed about 12 years ago in York, PA, was based on me gaming 15mm Napoleonics with one person, and me gaming 28mm and 20mm WWII with one other person (Keith Stine of Iron Ivan Games one of my two partners).  Over the years the club grew (and shrunk and grew again), incorporating many different gaming genres and periods.  While I stuck with WWII gaming for these many years, developing the Disposable Heroes and Coffin for Seven Brothers system with Keith, at some point as my gaming time dwindled I drifted out of Napoleonics.

Well, recently I have been making some attempt to get back into it.  I love the spectacle of a Napoleonics battlefield (well, the miniatures wargaming version anyway, the reality would have been no more pleasant than a modern battlefield), I like the movement, the colors... the pageantry if you will. 

In July, I gamed the Battle of Wavre with the author of these free Age of Eagles scenarios  (amongst other things), a long time gaming friend and one of the few people left in our group with a serious interest in this era.  Just this week, we decided to meet again to game the battle of Fuentes de Onoro (as described below).  I hope to make gaming Napoleonics a habit again, fitting it in with my Cold War era land war, WWII, and modern naval gaming.  I have a very good start on my late war Prussians (painted by me!), and a decent start (almost entirely bought already painted... some great, some not so great) on a Anglo-Portuguese army for the Peninsula.  Another gamer has a nicely painted batch of Spanish, hope to see them soon too!

Why the long prelude?  One, I like to talk too much :)  Two, you will be seeing more posts about 15mm Napoleonics... consider yourself warned.

Fuentes de Onoro....  this is a nice battle to game.  Its close.  The British and Portuguese (with a very small batch of Spanish) are in a defensive position, and are overall very good troops, but they are faced with a strong French force.  We used a scenario available from the "power is my mistress" on the Age of Eagles yahoo group.

The British positions at the start of the game (Crauford is in the back, along the ridge line).  I do need to improve my British mix, so not everything is what it should be, but the Ports are smoking great!
The French under Massena.... d'Erlon's corps specifically.... starts across from the town of Fuentes de Onoro.  As they move down from their hill position (what would be a flanking attack, not the main attack which will arrive later), and aggressive Crauford goes forward in an attempt to bloody the nose of the French advance.

This he does in spectacular fashion, not only damaging both French brigades, but smashing them and sending them running back up their hill.  On the breakthrough attacks, a French battery still in limber is overrun, but the other British unit is halted by a large French formation.

The French counterattack punishes the British for their aggression, sending Drummond running.
Meanwhile, on the French left (British right), a small band of Spanish arrives to "support" the allied effort.  The French cavalry under Montbrun advances, hoping to bypass the British and Portuguese flank.

Eventually, the main thrust of the French attack begins to arrive... a mighty body of fighting strength...

The Anglo-Portuguese advance somewhat, taking up a thin defensive position.  Back on the British left, the French cavalry (Fouornier and Walther) have destroyed Drummond, but are being attacked by Salde's cavalry (von Arentschild remains to counter a potential breakthrough by Montbrun).

A critical, truly critical, problem for Massena is that the Old Guard cavalry under Lepic refused to obey orders from anyone other than Bessieres.  Historically, Bessieres was inspecting ditches (or latrines), but really, it was likely more to do with Marshal infighting than sanitation needs.  In the scenario, the French commander (Massena) needed to pass a roll to be able to use those OG cavalry.  He was unable to do so the entire game.
In a spectacular feat of arms, Salde was able to obliterate (killing or capturing them all) the first French cavalry unit that had over run Drummond, withstood an attack from the other French cavalry unit, recover and then smash that one also, sending it running across the board.  The British and Portuguese infantry poured from the town itself to assist the beleaguered Crauford, pushing back the French infantry with telling fire.

This all occurred while the OG cavalry polished their saddle horns and looked on.  The French right was not just mauled, it was almost entirely destroyed, for the loss of one British brigade (Drummond). 

We unfortunately had to call the game at this point (7 turns in, I think) as we ran out of store time (we talked about re-fighting this same battle somewhere with more time... we needed another 2 hours to really complete it).  Our agreement was that if the French had been successful on their right, it would have been very difficult (maybe impossible) for the British and Portuguese to fend off the main French attack.  If the French right had been held, then the game would have continued with some balance... either side being able to win.  However, with the severe damage inflicted on d'Erlon, the British would be able to shift their strength on their left into the center, bolstering their defense.

I had already began to "back up" my forces in the center, seeing that if I could gain a little time, I would be able to in fact redirect my left flank into the center.  I felt VERY good about how the rest of the battle would have proceeded.  My French opponent agreed, this would make if very hard for the French to still win... but, we both agreed, it would not have been impossible.  He could have still won the battle, it just would be harder.

We called it early, with the battle so far a very impressive Anglo-Portuguese victory.

The most valuable British unit:  the Old Guard cavalry.  There was a 3-4 turn window in the game where, if the OG cavalry could have moved off their asses, the British left would have been absolutely desperate.  The French did nothing wrong, the British were a little lucky in places... if those OG cavalry had hit Crauford (or, later, Salde) I suddenly would have had 2-3 French cavalry units running amok behind my defenses.  Not good!

This was a great, tense, exciting game, looking forward to another one soon.


Chalfant "Fuentes" Conley

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