Monday, April 30, 2018

Cinco de Mayo: Puebla, 1862 via BBB

We tested my scenario of the 1862 Battle of Puebla last Thursday. The game was last played in 2016, with the game favoring the Mexicans too heavily. The report was delayed by the passing of a dear friend. Here’s the report, a tad late. Be warned, the Mexicans look like Confederates with Yankee artillery and 1866 Austrians as Zapadores. The French are in 1870 uniforms. If that offends your sensibilities, avoid this article. Oh yes, the French sailors are based on snow stands for the winter of 1870-71.

The rules were Bloody Big Battles, as usual. Jay and Bill played the French, further aided by Andrew after dinner. Rick played the Mexican commander Zaragoza and I his subordinate Porfirio Diaz. My scenario is largely based on this article by Arofan Gregory . Mexicans deployed first, French moved first. French units and leader are in italics from here on and in pictures.

French artillery bombarded Fort Guadalupe, knocking out Mexican guns and gunners.

The first serious rush stormed into Fort Guadalupe, the Mexicans managing to withdraw their remaining guns.

Andrew arrived and we broke for dinner. We had played 5 turns, 3 to go. A bit over an hour later we returned to the fray. Dice placed Andrew in the French ranks, commanding the infantry that had seized Fort Guadalupe. Pressure built up against Diaz on the Mexican right.

The French infantry in Fort Guadalupe made a series of attacks, each repulsed. This gave the Mexicans a better chance of retaking the fort. Perhaps the potent beer we had with dinner had some part in this. The Mexican counter-attacks failed to get back into the fort.

A spirited charge by the 1st Chasseurs threw my Mexican Rifles out of the La Ladrillera brickworks. After this my position deteriorated rapidly and Mexican losses mounted.
Each attack out of the fort was followed by an attack trying to get back in, all failing.
Diaz had his horse shot. Overrun, he was taken prisoner, later exchanged for Lorencz. Would he later become dictator of Mexico after being thrashed at this battle?

Another fierce French attack smashed through Mexican lines.

The Colonial Marines in Fort Guadalupe made yet another attack and were thrown back into the fort disrupted. The Mexican infantry rallied and came on supported (or was that prodded?) by cavalry and stormed back into the fort.
BBB rules say that objectives must be taken by infantry or cavalry. Hence, the presence of French artillery in Fort Guadalupe (after being hauled up the hill and into the fort) did not prevent the Mexicans from claiming the fort. Had they not been masked by their own infantry, the Mexicans might well have been blown away before getting into the fort. The scenario says victory depends on how many objectives the French take. This was a Mexican victory. But when we totaled up the losses, half of the Mexican infantry were hors de combat and French losses much lower. Since this is my scenario and a work in progress, it seemed that such heavy losses would break Mexican morale. I declared the game a French victory. We played 8 turns in slightly under 3 hours, 30 minutes, abut 25 minutes per turn.

The scenario needs serious work. Last time it favored the Mexicans too heavily, this time the French had it all their way, and not a result explained by the dice. Both sides had good and bad runs of luck. Most telling, the French stormed Fort Guadalupe with two battalions after pounding the fort with artillery fire. In the actual battle, the French never got into either fort. That was where their main effort was made. The artillery was deadly. 6 of the 18 French guns were heavy 12 lb guns, the rest 4 lb. 6 of those were mountain howitzers, not noted for power. Perhaps the artillery needs to be taken down a peg. The French also suffered from a shortage of artillery ammunition in the battle. Perhaps there is a simple way to represent this.

Treating most of the French as aggressive, while almost all of the Mexicans are fragile may be too much. Both added up yields a +2 assault modifier, a serious advantage. Of course, this may swing the balance back too far in favor of the Mexicans.

We all had fun with the game and the scenario looks good on the table. I’ll have plenty of time to think about this since the Fencibles are standing down until late June.

In Memoriam
Kurt Hoss
1951 - 2018