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Botchas Jobbas, 1809


The Napoleonic Wars, Black Powder, 28mm

As I’m up in Orkney, this game report comes to you second-hand – the tale recounted by the victorious French commander Dougie Trail. The game was a Peninsular clash. fought between “Don” John Glass’ Spaniards and Dougie’s French. Both commanders had deputies – Brian Phillips for the French (see his painting website in the links page), and British sub-commander “JP”, who did little during the game but turn up! The Spanish were defending again, and Don John was hoping to break his run of defeats by holding a nice-looking hilltop position. Read on to find how it all panned out.img_0337The French decided to launch the bulk of their force in a flank attack. This game was loosely based on the scenario by Charles S. Grant in his Scenarios for Wargamers (1983), an old classic based on Leuthen (1757) that we play about once a year. Brian commanded the flanking force, but in the first couple of turns he rolled terrible dice. Not only did his flankers not turn up, but the troops on the table supporting them performed a “blunder”, and promptly retired from the field for several turns!img_0348 Meanwhile the Spanish commander realised he was outnumbered and exposed, and called on the support of a British brigade that was in the vicinity. The British commander duly appeared, then for reasons known only to himself “JP” formed a defensive line on the edge of the table. He placed it as far away from the French flank attack as possible. No doubt he had secret orders from Wellington to preserve his men for a “real battle”, but it didn’t do the Spanish much good. Effectively they were left to fight the French on their own.img_0346All of a sudden Brian’s luck turned. His French flanking force flooded onto the table, and the French infantry columns advanced on the Spanish-held ridge. Meanwhile a French cavalry brigade supported the left flank of the advance, but after coming under fire from the Spanish guns one of the two regiments – the Chasseurs a Cheval – broke and ran. That left the now rather battered 2nd Hussars to face the Spanish cavalry, who had worked their way into a position to charge. This was the clash that would decide the fate of the exposed Spanish flank. In previous encounters the brown-coated Hussars have always emerged victorious. This time though, they were disordered by artillery fire, had taken casualties, and were outnumbered two to one. Would this be Don John’s lucky day?img_0347Apparently not. Against all the odds the 2nd Hussars broke and routed first one Spanish unit (known as the “downhill dragoons” ’cause of their unusual basing), and then the lance-armed picadores. While the French cavalry were left to mop up the artillery on the Spanish right flank, the infantry columns reached the ridge, and piled into the hapless Spaniards. I say hapless because the dice were not in John’s favour that day, as one unit after the other broke under the pressure, and fled the field.img_0344Just like the Prussians at Leuthen, the French were able to concentrate their attack against one flank of the Spanish line, then work their way along the ridge, overwhelming Spanish battalions as they went. Eventually the Spanish commander ordered a general retreat, and the survivors fled the field, while the British marched off in good order, having barely fired a shot in anger all evening.img_0349As the British commander, “JP” complained he hadn’t really had much to do in the game – hardly surprising when he deployed on the unthreatened flank of his Spanish allies. While the Spanish player was unlucky, full kudos goes to the French players, who took full advantage of their flank attack to wreak havoc on the enemy. As usual with a Black Powder game the whole thing flowed quickly and smoothly, and took less than two hours to play from start to finish, despite the large quantity of lead on the table. Even my own preferred set General de Brigade would be hard-pressed to match that speed of resolution.

 

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