Monday 23 May 2022

The Battle of Casa Amarillo, with Soldiers of Napoleon

This was a game of SoN, set at 850 points, 4 brigades each, using play-test army lists for the French Army in Spain vs the Spanish.  Here are both side’s force lists, In the end, both picked similar forces: 2 infantry brigades, one strong, one weaker, a light cavalry brigade and, in reserve, dragoons. Both chose the use them very differently though.

Guivarch’s French Division

Deschamps’ Infantry Brigade (centre)
Light Infantry Battalion - 6 stands
Veteran Line Infantry Battalion - 6 stands
Line Infantry Battalion- 6 stands
Line Infantry Battalion- 6 stands
Foot Battery

Lizarazu’s Light Cavalry Brigade (right)
Hussars Regiment- 5 stands
Line Lancers Regiment- 5 stands
Chasseurs Regiment- 3 stands
Horse Battery

Maldini’s Neapolitan Brigade (left)
Line Infantry Battalion- 6 stands
Reserve Infantry Battalion- 6 stands
Reserve Infantry Battalion- 6 stands
Reserve Infantry Battalion- 5 stands
Foot Battery

Barthez’s Dragoon Brigade (reserve, in centre, Turn 2)
Dragoons Regiment - 5 stands
Dragoons Regiment- 5 stands

Zorrozaretta’s Spanish Division

Morientes’ Light Cavalry Brigade (forward screen)
Hussars Regiment- 5 stands
Light Horse Regiment- 4 stands
Lancers Regiment- 5 stands
Horse Battery

Abelardo’s Infantry Brigade (left)
Light Infantry Battalion - 6 stands
Grenadiers Battalion - 6 stands
Fusiliers Battalion - 6 stands
Militia Battalion - 6 stands
Militia Battalion - 3 stands
Foot Battery

Campo’s Militia Brigade
Militia Battalion - 6 stands
Militia Battalion- 6 stands
Militia Battalion - 6 stands
Militia Battalion- 6 stands
Fusiliers Battalion- 6 stands
attached Partisan band - 5 stands
Foot Battery

Nadal’s Dragoon Brigade (reserve, centre Turn 3)
Del Rey Dragoon Regiment- 5 stands
Dragoon Regiment- 5 stands
Horse Battery

My (French) plan was for a attack up the centre, with the French infantry supported by the dragoons. Timing would count, as I’d have to wait for the dragoons to arrive. In the meantime, my light cavalry on the left would demonstrate and harass, drive in skirmishers and, importantly, draw his cavalry to them, thus clearing them from the centre for the main event. Hopefully, my light cavalry could match or hold up anything they threw at them, and if it was weak, beat it as well. On the right, the Neapolitan brigade would again demonstrate, come forwards, threaten, draw Spanish troops to them and skirmish at the village. I had no intention of pressing hard, but I wanted the attack to be large enough that he had to react. Any Spanish units draw to the flanks would help when the punch up the centre hit. So harass and harry on the flanks, only attack if they looked too weak, draw in enemy reserves. Then, go! Up the centre with the good French infantry, with a light infantry screen in front of the attack columns that I would drive on and break his centre, with the dragoons pitching in as well. (Pity there is no heavy cavalry in Spain, they would have been perfect for this mission, but dragoons would suffice).

Using the scenario ‘Special Circumstances’, we generated that this battle (part of a battle) was actually only a demonstration attack by the larger Spanish force. Captain-General Zorozaretta would gain extra VPs for drawing in French reserves and keeping Guivarch busy.

The Spanish plan, I think, was to hold on their left with the militia brigade and attack on the right with the regular infantry and dragoons, whilst the light cavalry supported with harassing, spread out in a screen, one unit on the left (light horse), one in the centre (lancers) and one on the right (hussars). 

French line lancers and hussars lead on the right.
Deschamps' strike force in the centre, light infantry screening the columns.
Maldini's Neapolitans, working through the rocky ground.

The Spanish Line, with the village at the far end.

 Once deployed, we were ready for the action.

It began with the light cavalry, the French advancing and the Spanish hussars coming forward to meet them and, in a complete surprise, using a ‘fierce cavalry charge’ to attack the enemy hussars. The first early melee saw the French hussars counter-charge, meet the Spaniards and drive them back. Meanwhile, my line lancers moved quickly (at the gallop) up the far left flank, where a militia battalion quickly formed square. Too late, I also had a ‘fierce cavalry charge’ card and used it so the lancers ploughed in. The militia’s square was not solid and it shattered under the lancer’s impact and the battalion routed… hurrah! It hadn’t gone so well for my hussars though, they had pursued the Spanish hussar and charged again, only to be defeated and driven off (5 attacks, all rolled 1s and 2s!), then hit by cannon crossfire as well, my hussars were in a mess, withdrawing fast and had to rally, losses were heavy. That ended their battle. As they did, the chasseurs came forwards too and used ‘Harass’ order to drive-in Spanish militia and partisan skirmishers - that was their job today - anti- skirmisher duty. Whilst all this early cavalry action had been going on, the Italians on the right had moved out, but were slowed by the rocky ground over there, it would take a while to get the columns forward and get their skirmishers deployed.

End of Turn 1, and the French had the early lead.

Turn 2, and more of the same. The Neapolitans got forwards and into position, skirmish companies out and closed on the village, where Spanish militia were now occupying the buildings (and claiming them for the ‘Take a Strong Point’ objective they had taken).

I pondered hard at the prospect of turning the Spanish right flank with my triumphant lancers, but they were now over 20+ paces from their command stand, so lots of orders required, they no longer had their lances (one-use in the charge) and would have to negotiate a wood and an area of rocky ground (it would not be quick). I decided instead to pullback, job done, regroup and threaten any Spanish that tried to advance through the woods (one militia battalion was in there, but I wasn’t going in to get them out). The cannons roared back and forth, and the Italian gunners (having a very ‘on form’ day) broke his light horse with repeated accurate firing, they withdrew from the field. End of Turn 2 and it was going well, the French had increased their lead on VPs and their dragoon’s brigade arrived, in columns of march, ready to speedy ride up on the left centre and join the main attack.

Turn 3, time for the main attack to begin. Beating the Pas d’Charge the French infantry marched as the dragoons rode up along side. The Italians started skirmish firing into the village (not much effect) and their line unit deployed into line to face his light infantry, deployed in extended line, we were almost in volley range. The cannons thundered again, doing disruption to my dragoons, as did Spanish skirmish fire. His grenadiers advanced to meet the French advance head-on, the best of his infantry in a melee, as other Spanish battalions formed from line of march into attack columns. Then, his dragoons arrived as well, behind his centre. It was all poised for the main event on Turn 4. It looked ominous for the Spanish though. The French VP lead wasn’t any bigger though, he had claimed two battlefield objectives now.

Now the full fury was unleashed, and the French started with a ‘whithering volley’, which smashed into his grenadiers (from the French light infantry line screening the columns) and then the Neapolitans into his light infantry. That forced rallying, but it wasn’t over, I had another ‘whither volleys’ card and did it again! It was carnage. More skirmish fire, more cannon fire and the French dragoons moved up again, but still needed to change formation for an attack. Both sides rallied and then, things started to change as the tide turned. First, the Spanish played 'senior officer arrives' and his Army commander came to check on the field and make sure the line held here. Also, divisional commander Guivarch was wounded (me) and removed from the field (perhaps a cannonball had killed his horse and he was trapped under it). Anyway, I lost an Orders card, the Spanish had gained 1 and now would draw 8 cards to my 6… a big advantage. They needed it. Seeing his left centre in big trouble under the raking volley fire, the Spanish dragoons moved up behind them and deployed their small horse battery (1 gun only). The French were still ahead on VPs, but the Spanish had claimed 2 battlefield objectives (the village and the special circumstance, French reserves deployed) and those VPs were keeping them in it as we got to the crunch!

Turn 5 and the Spanish had lots of cards to play, I needed to be careful, but still press. His grenadiers, rallied now and having taken losses, made a surprise counter-charge (enraged by the accurate volleys) and defeated my light infantry screen sending it running. In reply the French veteran column charged back and defeated the grenadiers and drove them back. Then, another disaster, ‘command confusion’, and I lost 2 cards from my smaller hand, I was down to just 1 and he still had about 6! The Spanish got busy, returning fire, his lancers tried to charge and refused (militia cavalry are not reliable). His guns hammered my dragoons with round shot, and forced me to rally them. Ahh! the attack was going wrong. I could not rally and save my light infantry or one of the Neapolitan battalions, both broke! And suddenly the Spanish were in the lead on VPs. Terrible Turn 5, just when I was pressing to win it. My dragoons had done nothing this turn but get shot.

It seemed, given both sides were close to breaking, this would be it. The Spanish, now with the initiative, sent in the dragoons, led by the Del Rey regiment, then played an ‘at the gallop’ move card to race up then straight away charged, leaving no time to respond for my Italians and they took the brunt of the Del Rey regiment’s sabres… a battalion cut to ribbons by them, and running. The other Italians charged into the village and drove his militia out of the first buildings, a small win though. He had the cards and could afford to rally, often, and did. More fire into my stalled dragoons from cannons and skirmishers meant I had to rally here again, dooming the Italians, who were charged again by dragoons and driven back or ridden down. In return, fire from my veteran’s skirmishers broke his lancers and he couldn’t save them. The French final charge saw the veteran column overrun his guns. But again, I couldn’t get my dragoons in (too much Disruption now and in disorder)… and the Italians on the right had been badly smashed by his cavalry.

We added up VPs and both sides had broken. The Spanish by -2 VPs, the French by -6… so a marginal victory to the Spanish, they somehow had saved the day, his dragoon’s swift action had edged him the win, glory to the Del Rey!. My dragoons, well… just hadn’t been able to get going, I always need just 1 more card I didn’t have.

So, a narrow win to Spain, with General Guivarch carried wounded from the field and his Neapolitan brigade almost destroyed. But so had theSpanish centre been, his light, fusilier and grenadier battalions were all down to 2-3 stands and retreating fast in disorder, I had punched a hole, if only my dragoons could have helped and ridden through it

Great game, furious action at the end, no holes barred and it was tense and great fun. For most of the battle the French were bossing it, but the Spanish had a dramatic comeback in Turns 5 and 6. Playing with less action cards it is a real uphill struggle. Beware of that.

Here are some more shots of the action at Casa Amarillo. 

Lancers attack and break a Spanish militia square - a rare event. 
The Spanish attack, trying to get started. Never got far.
The militia on the right, advance to form their line and hold.
Neapolitan's skirmish with the militia in the village on the French far right.
Deschamps' brigade's assault closes in.
The Dragoons arrive and speed along to catch-up.
The crux of the battle, the infantry clash in the left centre, the French with overwhelming firepower, the Spanish, a gritty resolve to weather the storm. The grenadiers took a brutal battering, but did not break!
French columns' fire break the Spanish lancers, Disruption (green dice) is building for all.

Dragoons final deploy into line, but it is too late.

The saviors of the day, the Spanish Dragoons and the Del Rey (what remains) after clearing the Neapolitans from the edge of the village. The French retreat...