Friday, January 11, 2019

Bailen 1808, BBB

Our first game of 2019 was Mark Smith’s draft scenario for the battle of Bailen, July 20, 1808, wherein Napoleon’s Imperial forces had their first serious defeat. I wanted to play the French since I thought them the underdogs and Rick wanted to play the Spanish so he could command his 1808 figures (aided by some others, including Vendee rebels). Ken decided to go with the Spanish. (All Spanish leaders and units are in italics here and in the photos. Spanish infantry figures are double-ranked on slightly smaller bases. It worked fine.) Dice decided Bill would join me and Jay would be Spanish. The rules were Bloody Big Battles, with a period rule for shock cavalry; such cavalry get an additional +1 in assaults.

Bill got Schramm’s brigade and a cavalry brigade to guard the baggage train (full of loot from Cordova), a thankless task. He also got Dupont to aid his movement rolls. I took Chabert’s and Pannetier’s brigades, Dupre’s cavalry brigade and 3 of the 4 batteries to smash Coupigny’s Division, picked because they only had one battery of guns, where Redding’s Division had two.

Rick played Redding, on the Spanish right, Jay had Coupigny and the left, Ken had Redding’s rear guard. The deployment is below.

A small, veteran French unit was blown away in the fighting. The Spanish suffered too.

All reinforcements on both sides arrived promptly, starting with Cruz-Murgeon’s light infantry on our left flank. There were ominous dust clouds behind us.
The Spanish in front of me were fighting hard.
And now our troubles began.

We broke for dinner, a bottle of wine and the birthday cake my wife had baked for Rick. We then returned to the fray for the last three turns of the game. My photo-journalism wasn’t as tight. Blame the wine. Vedel erupted into the Spanish rear. Bill took over there (definitely more fun than Schramm's last stand) while I directed all of Dupont’s troops. Likewise, Ken moved behind me to command Pena’s Division which was snapping at my heels. I have not seen a scenario before where both sides have major forces arrive behind the enemy.

On turn 7 Vedel was shot by the retreating Spanish rearguard. It was a light wound and our house rules determined he would be back in action in a couple days. I didn’t get the photo, but on turn 8 Vedel’s cavalry charged up Zumacar Grande, rode down a flanked Spanish battery (seizing the objective) and exploited into another Battery and put paid to that. Redding was unhorsed during this charge but he managed to escape. That left them isolated far forward. Schramm’s brigade had been destroyed by this time, so the French cavalry was swarmed but managed to drive off the attack.
The Spanish attempt to recapture El Cerrajon collapsed under artillery fire and a mixed cavalry and infantry charge. Dupre’s cavalry exploited but was repulsed by spent Spanish infantry on the lower slopes of Zumacar Grande.
Hit from all sides, most of Coupigny’s Division was destroyed. Coupigny was badly wounded, out of action for two months. We now had four objectives. If we could hold all four for another turn we had a victory. All of the baggage train was taken by the Spanish. I had forgotten to move Dupont, who was amidst the wagons. His horse was shot but he escaped. I will not dignify the preposterous rumor that he was disguised as a vivandiere with an answer.
I seem not to have taken any pictures of the last turn. Vedel’s cavalry, beset on all sides, turned about and charged Cruz-Murgeon’s Light Infantry, driving them up the hill. This put Zumacar Grande back into Spanish control. Dupre’s tired and disrupted cavalry was hit front and flank by a swarm of Spanish infantry and routed. The game ended in a last-minute tie.

We had played 9 turns in a little under 4 hours. The game moved slowly because we resolved one action at a time, first because the situation was so unusual that everyone wanted to see what was going on. Later on, that and the wine may have slowed us.

French losses were 7 infantry stands gone, 2 more run away, 1 cavalry gone, 1 run off, 1 battery overrun, all baggage lost, Dupont unhorsed and Vedel lightly wounded. Spanish losses were extreme; 18 infantry lost with 3 run off, 3 batteries overrun, Redding unhorsed and Coupigny badly wounded. Before dinner the French losses were higher. The attack by Vedel turned it all around. We had a blast. Everyone enjoyed the highly chaotic game. There was such an array of uniforms on the table that we nearly had "friendly" fire several times. My wife remarked on all the laughing emanating from the room.

I have a couple minor issues with the scenario. In the actual battle, Vedel appeared and was doing serious damage to the Spanish rearguard when a messenger from Dupont arrived to tell him an armistice had been declared. I can’t figure out how to represent that in the game, but having Vedel go amok sure helps the French. Of course, if he had showed up a turn later… The shock cavalry rule certainly gives the French cavalry the kind of wallop they seemed to have had in most of the French-Spanish battles. I do think this should only be effective in open terrain. Last, I’m not sure that the hills Redding deployed on were steep hills. But these are all minor quibbles and I’d rather not spoil the broth with quibbles.

We have played a scenario for Bailen previously with Le Feu Sacre, battalion based rules. I left off Vedel’s and Pena’s troops, ending the game when Pena arrived behind Dupont. That was a good game, but this really opens up the whole game.

We have a game coming up in two weeks, likely a French and Indian War game with Keith Flint’s Simple Seven Years War rules. I have to get working on my proposed BBB scenario for Gaines Mill, 1862. Until then, good gaming to all, may you roll sixes (unless facing me).