Saturday, 3 April 2021

Huerta de Pablo - Battle Report: Turn 4

 The initial deployment navigation photo so you can get your bearings:

The French of 3rd Division move on the waiting line of British and Portuguese infantry of 2nd Division - the French "in their usual fashion".

They are about to get close and personal.
At San Pablo the British decide that valour isn't everything and evacuate the town to buy time for reinforcement to come up from the south.
Except, that is, for the Gordons who decide to evacuate towards the enemy north of the town in, what would seem a suicidal charge.
It looks like the Guards are going to be in hot water, as the 20th Dragoons turn and threaten a charge.
South of Huerta de Pablo, British 3rd Division begin to deploy for action, as the French to the east of the town begin to crumble.
For the French, the next initiative domino draw is a killer. 21 initiative for the British.

They will win the turn, and end the turn, before the French can use the Melee card they turned with their last initiative point in the last phase.
When the turn ending British initiative is over, the French east of Huerta de Pablo have been put to flight; French 3rd Division has almost ceased to exist; the path north to High Farm Hill is open. 

The British have not come through the ordeal unscathed but, 2nd Division can be proud of itself, dealing a few sharp volleys into the French columns before dispatching the tattered remains with a timely bayonet charge by 97th Foot (Queen's German Regt.). 

Pressure has also been relieved on the 71st Highland Light Infantry, thanks to well aimed volleys by themselves and the timely arrival of 50th (West Kent).

For the 71st, the new granary model has been lucky.
At San Pablo, the Coldstreams have been forced into square and all but the Gordons are slowly falling back to buy time for reinforcement from the south.
The Gordons! 

The Gordons are on the rampage. They have cleared the French battery north of the town along with its supporting infantry. 

They too can now begin to fall back to join up with the Guards and Camerons. Job done nicely.
South of Huerta de Pablo, British 3rd Division is moving north to mop up what is left of French resistance in the town and, hopefully, join up with 1st Division at San Pablo. They have also cleared the French battery from Pine Hill - the honour falling to the 53rd (Shropshire).
Only in the northern sector, around San Pablo, do the French look to have the upper hand - at least in numbers. With the situation at Huerta de Pablo looking desperate, I rather suspect they will play for a draw. 

The French plan will be to take and hold San Pablo, destroy the Guards and Highlanders of 1st Division, and then hold the line between there and High Farm Hill. Possibly easier said, than done.

The main problem for the French is that their C-in-C is low on 'army morale points'.

Note: I'm not playing the classic Piquet morale system. All divisions have their own pool of morale points; the C-in-C has a small pool too. When divisions are reduced to zero morale points all of their units go shaken, all actions cost double initiative points and, more importantly, a point is deducted from the C-in-C's very limited pool (The French C-in-C started with four) and when he reaches zero the battle is lost. The French C-in-C is down to three points, 3rd Division having reached zero, and two other divisions are close to zero. A C-in-C can transfer his personal morale points (at a rate of 1 point for 3 points) to a division to 'keep it in the fight' but in doing so he seriously depletes his pool. This system seems to be working.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Huerta de Pablo - Battle Report: Turn 3

For orientation and navigation I'll start this part of the report with the photo of annotated initial deployment.

The turn started with a continuation of the stately progress of the Guards and Highlanders towards San Pablo.
Their supporting cavalry, 14th Light Dragoons, took an advance position at the foot of Spruce Hill. It was their last act before being blown away by artillery fire from the French battery hidden behind San Pablo and the withering musketry from 2nd Btn. 4th Legere.
French smiles did not last long. Outside the French camp at Huerta de Pablo, the 1st Hussars receive similar treatment from the guns and infantry of British 2nd Division.

The Guards and Highanders occuppied the southern half of San Pablo, the Gordons continuing the advance by evicting the 2nd Btn. 4th Legere after a short sharp melee. 
French artillery on Pine Hill was doing sterling work, routing it's second British unit (2nd KGL) with heavy loss. They would not be rallied.
French 3rd Division was now arriving at Huerta de Pablo, bringing considerable pressure to bear on 71st Highland Light Infantry.
And at San Pablo, the Guards and Highlanders began to look distinctly outnumbered by the arrival of 2nd Division.
Looking south from High Farm Hill, things looked rather more equally balanced...
...with the British of 2nd Division readying themselves for the French onslaught....
...and 3rd division coming up fast.
West of High Farm Hill, the 15th and 20th Dragoons of French 5th Division advanced, over Black Briar Stream, into the gap which had now opened between the two separate 'wings' of British 1st Division.

This picture shows the overall positions at the end of turn 3, the action is about to become general. 

Monday, 29 March 2021

Huerta de Pablo - Battle Report, Turn 2


Yours Truly, caught by Alex, with measuring stick in hand, towards the end of turn 2.
Hit me with your rhythm stick. Hit me! Hit me! Das ist gut! C'est fantastique! Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
All but two of the following shots was taken at the end of turn 2. This turn saw the continuing build up for the action with all but French 2nd Division making an appearance - and even 2nd Division is now active and about to enter via the NE road [point D].

I'll start with the initial deployment photo (turn 0) - so you don't get lost.

British 3rd Division makes its entry late in the turn. Its delayed entry isn't a bad thing as things are getting congested further up the SW road.
The Highlanders and Guards, with divisional artillery and cavalry support, approach San Pablo over Black Briar Stream. On the northern road, the French column of 4th Division is just visible.
At the northern outskirts of San Pablo, French 4th Division has made its entry via the northern road [E]. The fight for San Pablo may well come down to who can get a secure foothold first, and the French are leading with two battalions of veteran 4th Legere.

I think I've made a mistake with the French here. In retrospect, it might have been worth advancing the French cavalry (5th Division) to hold up the advance of the Highlanders and Guards. Only time will tell if holding them in reserve will prove a better option. The terrain is not cavalry country.
In the SE sector, British 2nd Division is now largely deployed and moving in to attack the southern outskirts of Huerta de Pablo. This might be a tough fight, two battalions of 4th Vistula are holding this sector of the town. 
The British have had much of the initiative in turn two. Before French 3rd Division can move to intervene, the British have attacked Huerta de Pablo from the highground (Cresta de Pablo) west of the town.

Consequently, they are beginning to deploy just short of the town, forming a line around High Farm Hill.
From Cresta de Pablo, the British (1st Division part) has swept down onto the western edge of Huerta de Pablo. Having got the better of the firefight, on the very last card in their deck - Melee Resolution - they charge home and fierce hand to hand fighting ensues in the houses and streets of the town.....
Neither side gets much advantage from the initial melee rolls (I roll until a conclusion is reached rather than have ongoing melee) but, after three rolls each, 71st Highland Light Infantry and 2nd Btn. KGL wrest the western side of the town from Legion du Midi (routed with very heavy loss) and Regt. Irlandais (falls back shaken with heavy casualties).

It was a tight fight, largely won by the British getting 22 initiative points to cycle through the last third of their deck, and being able to soften up the French defenders with several volleys of musketry to which the French could not equally respond. Drawing a melee card as their last card was simply icing on the cake - which they had, and ate.
It already feels as though the French in Huerta de Pablo are holding on by their fingernails. They are outnumbered 2:1. Can they hold on long enough for other French Divisions to get organised for a counter stoke: Will the French actually launch one even if they do? 

Part 3, coming soon....

Saturday, 27 March 2021

The Battle of Huerta de Pablo - Battle report, turn 1.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm going to play this game over the next few days and do short reports as I go. I played for about half an hour last night, and about the same today. Turn one has been concluded and the build up for both sides seems to be taking shape nicely. All of the following shots, except the initial deployment shot (first pic), were taken at the end of the turn.

Episode 1: The Build Up

The British stormed the early part of the turn with a first initiative of 16 points. Before the French commander's girlfriend could say "Oh là là!", both 1st and 2nd divisions (8,000 & 5,000 men) were arriving in the vicinity of Huerta de Pablo, the 2nd on the south eastern road [C].
By the end of turn 1, both had begun to deploy, and the artillery of 2nd division was playing on 2nd Btn 4th Vistula who had deployed in front of the French camp.
Meanwhile, French 1st Division was using what time it had to deploy in readiness for the upcoming British assault. They occupied all of the 'building sections' of Pablo de Huerta (including the orchard, which I'm using as a two section town piece - after all, it's walls look pretty formidable).

I have to confess, at this point, that I didn't have a clue what to do with French 1st Hussars which were retreating ahead of the British advance by 2nd Division. Initially I thought to concentrate them with the rest of their division in the NE sector of the table and moved them through Huerta de Pablo to get the road bonus but, then I had second thoughts (gave them fresh orders) and, having passed through Huerta' I had them circuit back round to take position on the eastern flank of 1st Division. A long, circuitous about face: it all looked rather graceful.
French reinforcements also began to arrive via the NE road [D]. This was French 3rd Division (5000 men). They headed south to reinforce Huerta de Pablo, taking the direct route via High Farm Hill.
The only moment of high drama in the turn, came when 13th Light Dragoons tried to take out the French battery on Pine Hill. It had been trained on Cresta de Pablo and the 13th thought to take it in the flank. They came so close to doing so. In the nick of time it redeployed to engage the oncoming cavalry with a blast of cannister. In the morale challenge that followed the 13th were halted, shaken (that's the broken wheel marker - because their wheels just came off).

Note that I'm testing some new rules regarding what constitutes a charge. Nothing gets to go straight in, everything has to stop at 2" before it charges home on a melee resolution, or vs flank, shaken or artillery on a fresh move card. It's all working rather nicely. Also note that I'm not allowing shaken units to charge - which puts the 13th in a bit of a tight spot. It's all part of a broader attempt to get the line Vs column thing to work at it's best. 
And that was that. Turn one, done and dusted. 

As for the wider British plan, with a lot of troops coming up from the south, I've decided to send half of 1st Division (Highlanders, Guards and the divisional horse artillery) to seize San Pablo, or at least contest it. If the rest of the army can throw the French out of Huerta de Pablo quickly.... 

Also, I'm trying this new font - Spectral - tell me if you like it. 

Friday, 26 March 2021

The Battle of Huerta de Pablo (A solo scenario)

 I've set this solo game up to test out my classic Piquet style rules (though they get less 'classic' by the day) for largish Peninsular battles.

The Table-top:
Above, a picture of the table-top (12 x 6) and the initial disposition of troops. Unfortunately my camera doesn't pick up 'depth' as well as the naked eye, so I have roughly drawn some contour lines around the high ground so that it is much easier for you to see: The first contour is drawn around the base of the hill; the second contour shows the upper shape of the hill; hills are 2" high overall.

This battle is (fictionally) set in the hills at the western end of the Pyrenees Mountains. A few days ago I spent an hour driving 'virtually' around these 'hills' using google earth street view. It's somewhere I've never been and it wasn't what I expected, being a lot less rugged and far greener than I had imagined. Indeed, a lot of it reminded me very much of the Yorkshire Dales, or the central belt of Scotland. I can see it being a favoured local for my Peninsular scenarios.

The British are attacking the villages of Huerta de Pablo, currently occupied by French 1st Div. (6,000 strong), and San Pablo because of their command of several strategically vital road junctions. The attack has been planned in haste and the consequent confusion means that the British divisional columns, each advancing on a different road, will arrive somewhat piecemeal. The plan has been further frustrated by the British cavalry arriving too early and far too 'loudly', and patrolling French hussars which spotted the two British columns approaching from the south. Consequently, the French are already on the move to counter the British threat and French reinforcements are speeding their way to the battle area from the north and northeast. Indeed, the French cavalry of 5th Div. (1,500 strong overall, including hussars) has already arrived.

Unit Scale: 
Units each represent about a 1000 infantry or 500 cavalry. The standard command (battle group) is the division - typically, for infantry, 4000 - 8000 men.
  • The British army comprises 18,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry and three batteries of guns in four 'divisions'. It comprises some of the best troops in the Peninsular.
  • The French army comprises 21,000 infantry, 1,500 cavalry and four batteries of guns in five 'divisions'. It comprises a 'mixed bag' of troops ranging from veterans to newly raised conscripts with little battle experience.
The arrival of British 1st Division, 8000 strong and comprising Guards, Highlanders and KGL, is imminent - it is 'activated', just off table, and can begin to move on table as soon as a move card allows. It is in column on the western road (marked A). 

The two other, more typical, British divisions (each 5000 strong), and three French divisions (4000, 5000 and 6000 strong respectively) get the chance to arrive as follows: 
  • I have blind placed two playing cards (British), or three playing cards (French) at each appropriate entry point (marked B-E on the photo above). One card at each of the British entry points is a dud. At the French entry points, one has one dud and one has two duds. The other cards at each entry point relate to a particular division. 
  • Each side has two Stratagem cards in its sequence deck. When one is turned the side can turn one of the playing cards at one of its entry points. If the card is a dud, it indicates extra delay. If the card turned relates to a division, that division becomes active and may begin to march on table on the side's next move card. All arriving divisions are assumed to be marching in column along the road - as this is a solo game, I don't need to worry about the other side 'access point blocking'.
Victory conditions:
To win, the British must seize and hold Huerta San Pablo and San Pablo. To count as holding, no enemy can be present in any of the town sections. Holding one will be a draw.
I have to say, I'm actually rather pleased with the look of this terrain. It's even allowed me to get my pine trees and tents out, and that newly made granary looks quite good too. 

In fact, there are four newish buildings on the table - the granary in Huerta de Pablo, the L shaped single storey cottage in San Pablo (with the broken wall), a two one storey 'tithe cottage complex', barely visible, just behind that, and High Hill farm. I've been a little short of one storey rural buildings for the Peninsular but, I'm slowly putting that right.

Grandest of the new terrain additions is something I knocked up last year but never used. It's the walled orchard in Huerta San Pablo (2nd photo). This was made with Snap Dragon Studio wall sections (including a large T junction) that I've had kicking about in my bits box for over twenty years: I picked them up out of an 'odds and sods' box at a show but Snap Dragon went defunct before I could buy the corner pieces to make them into anything. On a whim, I decided to use them to make a high walled orchard, using Milliput to manufacture the corner pieces and fill some holes after using a hammer as a 'wall cutting' tool - considering I cut the walls to length with a hammer, not too shabby a job, I think. 

So that's it. Next up, when I have time to play and type, I'll start doing the battle report: This may come as a series rather than one extended post. This is because I find myself playing solo games in fits and starts - a hour here, an hour there - and this might be an easier way to report the goings on. 

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Do you remember these 18th Century limbers?

In the summer of 2019 I made up some limbers, using converted Gribeauval limbers by Warbases, for my SYW collection. I painted them natural wood: They didn't look right, so I didn't post anything. 

I decided to buy some more and paint them up in national colours - Prussian blue; Austrian ochre; Russian red. Then, once done, I posted about them in March 2020.

A picture from the March 2020 post.
Four for each nation, with interchangeable teams of horses.

In the interim, I had taken one of the converted limbers to Fiasco, to show Martin  at the Warbases stand. He was interested enough to take a couple of pics. I picked up some more Gribeauval limbers, plus some windows and doors from him, and that was that. 

Then, last year (mid-summer?), I received a packet from Warbases with this addition to the Warbases catalogue. 

Unfortunately, after it arrived, I put it away and promptly forgot where. I came across it yesterday and thought I'd better do this much belated post.

I'm not sure it appears in the WB catalogue, at least I can't find it. But, for those who might wish to skip the conversion stage, Martin does have the pattern for some simple 18C limbers. He's always very approachable, so drop him an email if you want some. I'm sure he'll come back with a reasonable price to cut them for you - he's already done the donkey work.

EDIT: Martin has been in touch to say that the "c.18th Limber", as pictured above, will be listed on the Warbases web site soon. They will be priced at £1.20 each.