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Ciudad Vieja del Guadiana, 1811


The Napoleonic Wars, General de Brigade, 28mm

The guys decided they wanted another Napoleonic game, so this week I staged another “tabletop teaser”, filched from Charles S. Grant’s Scenarios for Wargames (1982). This was another one that involved a river – in this case spanned by two bridges. In this game the defenders had a small force in the town, while the attacker was approaching from the east with a much larger force. The defender got reinforcements though – entering at 1,2 or 3, depending on what die he rolled. In our game the Portuguese were the defenders, with two infantry battalions, a single gun section (one model), a detachment of skirmishers and a regiment of British cavalry. The reinforcements consisted of another cavalry regiment (the elite KGL Hussars), two British infantry battalions, a detachment of rifles, and a small battery of two gun models.The French outnumbered them, with six infantry battalions, three regiments of cavalry, and a full battery of four 6-pounders. Joe and I ran the Anglo-Portuguese, while Alan and Gyles were Frenchmen for the evening. I didn’t have the terrain to replicate Charles’ map exactly, but I laid the terrain out as best I could, on a 9 x 6 foot table. The game began with the French coming on from the eastern table edge, with the force split into two roughly equal halves.On the left Gyles advanced along the road and to the north with the 7th Hussars and three infantry battalions, supported by the guns, while Alan advanced on his left – south of the road – with the 15th Dragoons, the 19th Chasseurs-a-Cheval, and another three infantry battalions – two of which were from the veteran 57th Line Regiment. To face them Joe placed the gun in the town, pointing down the road towards the French, one battalion in the walled vineyard to the north of the town, and the other in the buildings on the town’s eastern edge, supported by skirmishers from the Loyal Lusitanian Legion, deployed in a little olive grove. Eventually the advancing French came within range of the defenders.  The solitary Portuguese gun section covering the road banged away at the advancing French columns, but on the French right the cavalry and an infantry battalion cut across the open ground to reach the vineyard. Only the back portion of it had high walls – the eastern side where the Portuguese line battalion was standing was only covered by low-standing stonework. Gyles decided to launch a charge by the 7th Hussars. Now this was the first time they’d been on the table, so I had low expectations for them. Fancy uniforms – first outing – bound to go horribly wrong! Sure enough they took sufficient casualties to force a morale check and they faltered. However, the infantry battalion was sneaking along the northern table edge, and clearly it planned to charge the defenders in the flank. Meanwhile the battery of French guns had unlimbered, to cover both the approaches to the town and the vineyard. Things were starting to look a little dangerous for the 2nd battalion of the Portuguese 1st Almeida Regiment!Over to the south the French sent one infantry battalion through the wooded hill on the southern table edge, while the other two battalions linked up with those from the northern brigade to form a four battalion assault force in the centre of the table. Its job was to storm into the eastern side of the town, defended by the Almeida’s 1st battalion. The skirmishers of the Lusatian Legion did what they could and then pulled back to the cover of the buildings. To the south of the town two regiments of French cavalry deployed for the attack, but were unable to prevent a sneaky charge by the British 16th Light Dragoons. They assaulted the French infantry battalion of the 25th Line as it emerged from the wood, which failed to form square in time. Half the battalion were ridden down, and the rest fled back through the trees. First blood to the Allies.Back in the vineyard the hussars tried again, but once more they faltered as they went in, having taken a couple more casualties. That was enough for the Portuguese too. Not wanting to tempt fate they pulled back through the vineyard, and then ran hot-foot into the town, where they occupied an “L-shaped” building on its northern edge (the white one  in the photo up above). Back in the town itself the French attack began to go in. Giles’ two battalions of the 85th Line advanced through a small olive grove to reach the buildings, but Alan’s pair of battalions stayed back in reserve, largely because he was worried about the British light cavalry. He needn’t have concerned himself too much – it was reforming on the southern table edge, where a road left the table. This was after it had sparred with the 20th Dragoons, and bested them. The dragoons then rolled a terrible morale check and fled the field. So far the British cavalry were having it all their own way, but that was about to change.The 19th Chasseurs-a-Cheval had reached the southern edge of the town by now, and launched a charge up the main street, to smack into the flank of the Portuguese gun section. The gunners fled into a nearby building, but that was the end of the threat from the gun. That freed up the 85th Line to launch their assault, and they carried the day. The Portuguese were bundled out of the building – the skirmishers withdrawing across the street to the church, the line forming up to withdraw over the bridge. Meanwhile the British reinforcements had arrived, and the leading unit – the KGL hussars – had reached the southern bridge. They crossed it to cover the withdrawal of the Portuguese, but having just cantered over the bridge they were still in column of companies (or half squadrons – march column if you like). Seizing their chance the 19th chasseurs charged back down the street and into the flank of the elite German hussars. They were bowled back over the bridge, leaving the French light horse in possession of the eastern side of the bridge. They didn’t stay there long though – Alan rolled for a pursuit test, and found he had to launch an uncontrolled advance at whatever enemy unit lay to his front. That was the 16th Light Dragoons, who were still reforming. They got caught in the flank too, and were promptly forced off the table.Three successful charges in a row – the orange-faced French chasseurs were on a  roll! This came at a cost though – they were now almost down to half strength. In the centre, having taken the eastern portion of the town the French closed in on the northern part, where the Portuguese from the vineyard were now ensconced. The French 6-pounders were manhandled forward into close range and began pounding away at the white house. By then though the French were also taking casualties. The two British foot battalions had lined up on the western side of the river, covering the two bridges. North of the main (northern) bridge a small British gun battery was firing into the flank of a  French infantry battalion, while riflemen from the 5/60th were adding to the weight of fire. So, as things stood the Allies still had a tenuous hold on the town, with the British holding the far bank of the river in strength. The impetuous charge of the chasseurs allowed the 1st Almeida’s senior battalion to make a break for the safety of the bridge, but their second battalion in the white house was now totally surrounded, and in a bad way.As the French reformed in the town’s main street to assault the church the 7th Hussars decided to make one last bid for glory. Led by General de Brigade Pire they  formed into column of companies and launched a charge over the northern bridge. The waiting Buffs had a field day, shooting up the hussars and forcing them to take another morale check., For the third time that evening the gaudy hussars failed to charge home, and ended up retiring a foot down the table. They too were almost at half strength. So with both cavalry units blown, the French would have to rely on their infantry and guns to take the bridges. That though proved a game too far. Back in the real world it was now 11pm, and so we decided to call it a day. The objective of the Anglo-Portuguese was to hold the town and the bridges, while the French didn’t care about the town, but wanted the two crossings. So, when the game ended both sides were still contesting the bridges, but the town was effectively in French hands. We therefore decided to call the game a draw. Everyone enjoyed the game-  and the rules – so much they elected to play a similar Napoleonic game next week. It seems Orkney is now a hotbed of First Empire activity!

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