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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Action at Villa Verde, 1812

The Napoleonic Wars, Black Powder, 28mm

It was a rare event – Dougie Trail and I haven’t played a game together for ages – since his move to Helensburgh, and my seasonal one to Orkney. As we were both in Edinburgh at the same time we decided to stage a small Peninsular War game, with my Anglo-Portuguese against his French. We both had similar-sized forces – six infantry battalions, two guns, a brigade of light cavalry and some skirmishers. We laid out the table, and diced to see who came on where. Fortunately my force got to enter the table closer to the little hamlet of Villa Verde than Dougie’s one, and so gained control of this potentially useful little stronghold. I used it to anchor my line, with one three battalion brigade drawn up to its right, another in the village and to its left, and the cavalry on  my far left flank. Dougie’s deployment was similar, but he bunched his infantry on the left, hoping to launch a powerful left hook against my right flank. While he grouped his guns in the centre, I sited mine in support of each of my two infantry brigades. The table was an 8×6 foot one, and we were using 2/3rd ranges and movement distances (ie a third less than called for in the rules).The French infantry began advancing from the start, preceded by skirmishers. In the small wood on my right flank my own riflemen broke their French counterparts, with the help of supporting fire from one of my British line battalions and a gun. That still left the block of French columns, who advanced steadily towards the wood and into the trees, driving my riflemen back. In the centre, the two remaining French battalions deployed into line, to screen the village. They also screened his guns from the troops of my left-hand brigade, while my gun battery could fire unhindered on his infantrymen. By contrast the larger French was free to play its fire along the ranks of my right-hand brigade, but thanks to some poor die rolling its gunners didn’t achieve very much during the game.One of my wargaming weaknesses is my ability to keep cavalry waiting patiently on the sidelines. In the reckless tradition of British Napoleonic cavalry commanders I launched them towards the enemy horse, but didn’t reach them in one turn. My right-hand unit soon came under fire from one of the French infantry battalions, who pivoted round to pour fire into their flank at point-blank range. I was lucky I didn’t suffer more casualties, and pulled back my cavalry brigade to lick its wounds. Presented with a French line at right-angles in front of them, I ordered one of my own battalions to do the same to the French as they’d done to me. Instead they failed their command dice, and steadfastly refused to budge!Still, things were starting to move. By Turn 4 the French left hook had reached the wood, and the riflemen had been pushed back. Dougie tried to launch an attack into the right flank of my line before I had a chance to turn to face the new threat, but he didn’t roll low enough, and his troops only shuffled forward one moves-worth, rather than the two or three he had hoped for. This gave me a chance to refuse my right flank, and present a wall of troops to the enemy. Better still, one of the four French battalions had suffered heavy casualties during the advance, and a morale test was forced upon it. It promptly broke and ran, which left Dougie with just three battalions left to take on the three battalions of my defenders. I also had a gun battery in close support, and the riflemen.Over on my left flank my cavalry were now ready to go in again. On Turn 6 I launched another charge, this time keeping well away from the enemy infantry. My KGL hussars smacked into the French chasseurs-a-cheval, while my light dragoons took on the enemy Hussars. Both the hussar regiments on either side were rated “crack”, which gave them a slight advantage over their opponents. In the first round the light dragoons and the Frnech hussars fought each other to a standstill, and pulled back to reform. However, my German hussars won their melee, and forced the chasseurs to retire. The Germans duly followed up, and charged in again by way of an exploitation move. This time the dice went against them, and they in their turn were forced to retire. Then the French countercharged, with both units – the brown-coated 2nd Hussars hitting my German hussars in the flank. The KGL unit was forced to retire again, this time off the table. While according to the rules it could have come back on the table, this would take time, and it didn’t bode well for the 16th Light Dragoons, who were now outnumbered two to one.In the centre things were looking a bit better for the British, as their firepower proved sufficient to break another French infantry battalion. Dougie had now lost three units, for the loss of one of mine driven from the table. Unfortunately thanks to a very late start it was now time to pack up, so the game wasn’t fought through to its conclusion. The French still posed a serious threat to the Anglo-British force around Villa Verde, but their infantry was now outnumbered, and the French force divided, which was beginning to cause command problems for his centre and right, as his divisional commander was on the left flank. To counter that my cavalry were now in real danger of being swept away, which would have forced my left-hand brigade onto the defensive, just at the time when it should have seized its opportunity to drive off the sole remaining French battalion in the centre, and capture the French guns. So, the game was eventually declared a draw, albeit one where the British had the edge. We used Black Powder for the game, which worked well, providing a fast and action-packed game.



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