Sunday, 24 February 2019

Campaign Lessons

Spanish Army

Our 1813 campaign is organised in five campaign areas, one for each of our allied armies.   We fight a campaign phases in each of the campaign areas in sequence.   Each phase is a mini, stand-alone campaign.   We are about to start the 29th campaign phase, which is set in southern Spain.

At the end of each campaign phase I consider how the phase has played as a wargame experience to see if there are any lessons to be learnt.  This will consider both campaign and wargame rules.   As the purpose of the campaign is to provide good wargames both serve the same purpose.

The end result is usually a little fine tuning in one or two rules.   However by far the campaign area which requires the most adjustment is southern Spain.

I am not trying to achieve historical results for either the French or Spanish armies.  Almost all formal battles were won by the French and usually resulted in the destruction of the Spanish field army.  This would not work well in an extended wargame campaign.
Fifth French Army

Most of the flavour of fighting in the Peninsula is to be found in the map campaign, rather than on the wargames table.

Over the years I have developed simple rules for guerrilla combat, which are resolved off the wargames table.   Each town has a Spanish militia brigade as garrison.  When the town is captured by the French the garrison take to the hills and become a guerrilla brigade.   They must remain within range of their original town, and can attack any French brigade, whether garrison or escort for supplies.   One D6 is thrown to decide the outcome, and the odds are always with the French.  However if the guerrilla get lucky it can have serious consequence for the French lines of supply.

Three of the four French corps are as shown in the photo.   Each have four infantry brigades, one cavalry brigade and corps artillery.   The fourth is a reserve corps of four infantry brigades, but no cavalry or artillery.  They are usually used as garrisons behind the French main army.

The Spanish Army has four corps.   Two are the same as the French corps, though not such good quality.  Two more have three infantry brigades and corps artillery.   Only in southern Spain are the French and allied armies of different strength at the start of the campaign.

At the start of the campaign the Spanish field army must hold their objectives until attacked and forced to retreat.   This follows the historical habit of the Spanish being over confident at the start of a campaign.

The French will usually win the opening battles, and the Spanish retreat and concentrate.    As the French advance they must establish secure lines of communications.   The more they advance the more garrisons are required, and the more Spanish militia brigades who become guerrilla.

The French can only carry four days supplies, and have to halt for one day to resupply. This often allows the Spanish to break contact, retreat and take up a strong defensive position.   If the French can hold their lines of supply they will be able to pursue the Spanish.  But by detaching infantry brigades to establish supply depots they become weaker.

The table top battles are less historical.   Although the Spanish infantry are mostly C class, many of the French are the same.  This reflects that Napoleon moved many of the best troops in Spain to rebuild his armies in Germany after the disaster of 1812.   At least half of the French infantry in Spain are also C class.  

However the French do have greater numbers of cavalry, and this is very decisive on the table top.   Poor quality infantry find it difficult to respond to fast moving cavalry, and in particular Spanish artillery are very vulnerable.

The overall result is a campaign which has a real feel of the historical fighting in the Peninsula.

The introduction to the Albacete campaign phase is on the 1813 campaign diary.   It includes maps, orders of battle and background to the campaign.    You can find it here


  1. Looking forward to this new campaign, I've enjoyed reading up on the previous one in southern Spain, Linares. The French really have a devil of a time dealing with those pesky guerillas! I wonder if Suchet will have learned a lesson from his previous misadventure. Maybe detach a cavalry brigade or two to guard the supply lines?

    Have you considered gaming out the fights with the guerillas? Looks like there's ample opportunity for some small(ish) unit actions there.

  2. Hi Yuri

    Thanks for your comment

    To be honest I have never considered gaming the guerillas as a skirmish game.

    I did try skirmish gaming many years ago, back in the 1970s I think. It was a set of rules which were converted from a Wild West Skirmish set. I recall painting up some 54mm Airfix French guardsmen and British infantry for a game. I must not have enjoyed it much, because I only tried once.

    I might be tempted to try a skirmish game with Sharpes Practice some time in the future

    Thanks for the suggestion




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