Sunday 29 May 2022

Llanes Campaign – Day 5

15 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 5

Soult is concerned about guerrilla activity against his lines of supply

He is also concerned how widely dispersed his three armies are

10th army is ordered to occupy Comillas

11th army will hold Reinosa

12th army will hold Soncillo


Wellington is also concerned how dispersed are his three armies

1st army has to retreat to Llanes

4th army is ordered to move up to the border to threaten Reinosa

2nd army will hold Aguilar

7th guerrilla attack Torrelavega, repulsed with 30% casualties



After four days of fighting both armies are widely dispersed and unsupported.


In the north 1st British army has been forced to retreat to Llanes.

10th French army have pursued them and are at Comillas

The French are now overextended and their lines of supply under attack

Their southern flank is open and in danger from 4th Spanish army

They have a chance to take Llanes, which is the campaign objective

But to do so  they have to attack over a defended river line.


In the centre 4th Spanish army hold Cabezon

They are ordered to advance to the border and prepare to attack Reinosa

11th French army have halted at Reinosa

Their southern flank is open and in danger from 2nd British army

However their lines of supply to Medina is secure


In the south 12th French army have been forced to retreat to Soncillo

They occupy a strong position and their flanks are secure

Their lines of supply to Medina are also secure

2nd British army have advanced to Aguilar

Their northern flank is exposed to 11th French army

Their lines of supply are overextended.


Both commanders are aware that they must concentrate their armies

However neither want to retreat.


If Wellington orders 2nd army to retreat to Camon he can secure his flanks.

He can then concentrate on driving 10th French army back over the Llanes-Santander border.


Soult is in a more difficult position.   His strength is in the centre and south, where 11th and 12th armies support each other

However his real advantage is in the north, where the capture of Llanes would give him the campaign objective.

10th corps have long supply lines, open to attack by the guerrillas

And a defeat at Llanes would put 10th army in real danger of being cut off and forced to surrender.


Only 4th Spanish army and 11th French army are currently operational.  

If the French could take Cabezon they would be in a strong position to win the campaign.   However their lines of supply would then be more open to attack.


If the Spanish could take Reinosa Wellington could move the centre of operations into Santander district.   This is clearly his intention, because he has moved the Spanish forward to the border, placing them within attacking range of Reinosa.


This has been one of the most complicated campaign phases for a long time.

Caused mainly by the lack of French success and their inability to move into Llanes district.


Day 6 should bring another battle, either for Cabezon or Reinosa.  

And the result will have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the campaign.

Sunday 22 May 2022

Llanes Campaign – Day 4

14 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 4

 Soult orders 10th Army to attack Comillas

11th French Army rally and resupply at Reinosa

12th French Army retreat to Soncillo


1st British Army defend Comillas

4th Spanish Army regroup and resupply at Cabezon

2nd British Army occupy Aguilar and take possession of 2 days supplies


8 guerrilla capture convoy to Medina with 2 days supplies

10 guerrilla attack town of Medina, forced to retreat with  no casualties

Battle of Aguilar

The French plan was to pin the centre and south, and attack Comillas in the north

Soult commanded an attack force of 2 infantry, 1 cavalry and 1 artillery brigades

He defeated the British covering force, but left it too late to take the town


In the centre 10th French corps defeated 1st  British corps, but were unable to take the farm


In the south 20th Westphalian corps defeated and routed 2nd British corps


The British lost 7 infantry, 5 cavalry and 1 artillery (3400 casualties)

The French lost 6 infantry. 2 cavalry and 1 artillery (2700 casualties

10 British brigades were routed, 5 French brigades



Despite having the advantage of attacking, the French have lost the first two battles of this campaign

For most of this game it looked like they would lose the third also


The main attack was against the town, and the French had a mixed force of infantry, cavalry and artillery

The British has a smaller force of infantry and cavalry, including one Spanish brigade

It was necessary for the French artillery to weaken the enemy cavalry, and this took longer than expected

It was move 6 before they were able to advance to attack, and they did not have sufficient time to take the town


In the centre 10th French corps took casualties as they approached the farm

They were unable to take the farm, but they defeated the British troops outside


In the south 20th Westphalian corps were outnumbered and had to advance through the woods

Their artillery were routed before they could even clear the woods

However the 2nd British corps gunners routed when the nearby 1st corps gunners routed into them

This allowed the Westphalian infantry to press home their attack and they routed the British infantry


The game was very enjoyable, because the advantage kept moving from one side to the other

And right up to the last move either side could have won.


In the campaign the guerrilla are starting to have an effect on the French lines of supply

This problem was eased by the general French retreat following their earlier defeat


Despite this victory things are not looking good for the French

However the British were deployed to defend, and are having difficulties following up after winning the first  two battles

Sunday 15 May 2022

Llanes Campaign – Day 3

13 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 3

 Wellington orders 2nd army to attack Aguilar

1st army to hold Comillas and resupply

4th Spanish to hold Cabezon, rally and regroup

Battle of Aguilar

The French occupy a very strong defensive position between Aguilar and the Llanes-Santander district border.

No attempt has been made to garrison the town itself.   23rd French corps occupies a hill to the north of the main road, 24th Italian corps occupies the hill south of the main road.   General Leval has created a strong reserve of the artillery of both corps, and an elite brigade from each corps, in the centre to hold the road and town.

General Hill deploys 3rd British corps against the northern hill, and 4th British corps against the southern one.  He has also created a reserve of the artillery and cavalry of both corps, plus an elite infantry brigade from each, also in the centre.

Hill is aware that a frontal attack down the main road would lead to heavy casualties.   His plan is to attack the two hills, and only when one or both is taken will he attack in the centre.

Each French corps has its cavalry brigade under command, Hill has concentrated all of his cavalry in the centre.  So the infantry approach both hill in line, with one brigade on the flank in square.  They halt out of musket range, and send their skirmishers forward.   After a prolonged skirmish fight they eventually take both hills.   The French suffer more casualties on the southern hill, where 4th British corps has two rifle brigades

The French retreat and abandon Aguilar, leaving the British with a convincing victory

The French suffer 11 infantry, 1 cavalry and 2 artillery casualties (4700 men

The British lose 5 infantry casualties (2000 men)



The French position was one that Wellington would have been proud of.   Two low hills either side of the main road, which would provide excellent cover from artillery fire.

However this was not a tactic which my French troops are particularly suited.   They have average skirmishers, good musket skills and are better suited to column attacks

The British, and particularly the two rifle brigades, have excellent skirmish skills.  But they are poor at volley fire and only average at hand to hand fighting

In addition the French have longer range guns, which give them an advantage over the smaller British guns.

It was clear to the French that one or both of the hills would have to be taken before the main attack could be made on the town.   However a considerable force would have to be allocated to hold the main road, otherwise the British could bypass the hills and go straight for Aguilar.   The French commander created a separate command of the artillery of both corps, supported by an elite infantry brigade from each corps.   The cavalry were left under the command of their respective corps commanders.

The British commander felt confident that his infantry could take the two hills.  He expected the French infantry to deploy behind the ridgeline, out of artillery range.   This would mean that he would be unable to use his guns to soften up the French.  But he was confident that he could win the skirmish battle, and inflict some casualties on the main battle line.   He would attack both hills at the same time, and attack in the centre only when one or both of them were taken.   For the attack in the centre he took command of the artillery and cavalry of both corps, plus an elite infantry brigade from each.

It came as a nasty surprise to find that the French cavalry were not deployed either side of the road, so they must be with the infantry behind the hill ridge.   This would make an attack in column very difficult.  

He also found that the French 12 pounder guns could hit his own 6 pounder guns before they could get within range of the French gunners.  So softening up either the hills, or the centre, was no longer an option.

He ordered both corps to approach the hills in line, with a strong skirmish line in front.   The British cavalry in the centre would offer some protection, but one of the three brigades of each corps would also form square on the flank to protect the British lines.   As the British infantry approached, the French infantry moved to the front of the hill.   By this time the British guns were unable to fire on them due to their own infantry being too close.

So the battle would be decided by an extensive skirmish battle.

This went well on the northern hill, where the French infantry were shaken and retreated from the ridge.   The British infantry would have to form column to attack, and the two British brigades got bogged down in hand to hand fighting.   The Portuguese brigade, which had been in square against the French hussars, now formed column to attack the flank of the French infantry.  As they did so the French cavalry charged, but were unable to break the Portuguese.  Both brigades broke cover to regroup.

The battle was decided on the southern hill.    Here the British had two rifle brigades and one Portuguese cacadore brigade.   They also halted out of musket range and sent forward a strong skirmish line.   One French brigade was routed.   However one French brigade moved forward in column and charged the right hand rifle brigade.   The riflemen came off worse, and retired shaken.   The second rifle brigade formed column and attacked the winning French brigade, which was now disordered.   The British won the melee, but only just.   However it was enough to force the rest of the French corps to withdraw.

It is very unusual for skirmish fighting alone to win a battle in my rules.  This is because skirmish fire is very uncertain.   Each brigade rolls one D6, and needs a total of 6 for a hit.   Trained troops add plus 1, riflemen add plus 2.   When they fire we place smoke in front of the brigade, and it is only removed if they don’t fire again next time.  If they do it is minus 1 for a hit.   So even the elite riflemen need a dice throw of 5 or 6 to hit.   Trained skirmishers need a 6.   Poorly trained skirmishers can only fire on alternate moves.   So this is not a tactic you would normally use, and particularly if the enemy were supported by cavalry.    However as the British player I could not see any better option.

It is always easy to remember when one player rolls a 6, or a 1, at a critical part of the game.   It is more difficult to remember the balance of luck throughout the whole game.   I suspect that we both rolled good, and bad, dice.  But my good ones were at the critical point, and Jan’s bad ones were when she really needed a good one.    So I won the game.

Sunday 8 May 2022

Llanes Campaign – Day 2


12 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 2

Wellington orders his army to advance to the border

But to avoid combat unless the French cross into Llanes district


Soult orders 3rd French army to attack Cabezon

He considers the Spanish held centre to be the allied weak point

The Spanish army are advancing as part of the main allied advance

Battle of Cabezon

The French had to advance, in three columns, through the mountains to reach Cabezon.   This made coordination of the whole army very difficult.

The French commander created a reserve of two infantry brigades in the centre to attack the town.  However the Spanish garrison had been increased to three brigades.

The two corps kept their artillery, but were expected to support the attack on the town.  However they found it difficult to advance with the guns supporting their own columns.

At nightfall the Spanish still held the town and won the battle


As this is the opening battle of the campaign there are no previous battle casualties.   All brigades are therefore full strength, and morale does not play such an important role.

Two things decided the outcome of this battle.

First was that the French would have to approach through the mountains.  This, combined with the campaign rule that there can only be one command in each map/wargame square, made it very difficult to coordinate the three columns.

Second was that the Spanish had 12 pounder guns, the French 9 pounder.   So the French could fire further than the French.   This allowed them to deploy to cover the mouth of the three valleys and engage the French before they could deploy.   The Spanish gunners were not as well trained as the French, but the longer range more than made up for that disadvantage.

In this game the Spanish actually outnumbered the attacking French.  This is because they had a militia brigade in garrison.  In addition the garrison was increased to three brigades, and the French had only allowed two brigades to take it.  So the attacking column would have to rely on artillery support from the two corps either side of them.

Being pinned at the entrance to the valleys the French artillery had to first engage the Spanish corps opposite, only then could they afford to concentrate on the town garrison.    This all proved too difficult, and the French gunners could not pull it off.   The garrison did eventually suffer casualties, but it was too little and too late.  

At nightfall the Spanish still held the town, and therefore won the battle/wargame.

You will see from the map that there is a lot of hill ground either side of the border, so this is a problem which the attacking player will encounter again and will have to be solved.   Fortunately I usually command the attacking army, and Jan the defending one.   So I will have to come up with some solution.

Sunday 1 May 2022

Llanes Campaign – Day 1

11 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 1

The whole French army advance to the border

This unexpected move takes Wellington by surprise

The French also start to move supplies to the forward depots




The French advance has taken Wellington by surprise

The Anglo-Portuguese corps are still in their garrison locations

This ensures that each corps is within one days march (3 squares) of their depot


The French corps are now out of range of their three eastern depots

Already supplies are being moved to the forward depots

The French movement has also disrupted the Spanish guerrilla bands

The three rear depots are now vulnerable to guerrilla attack


The yellow markers are Spanish troops, both regular and guerrilla

You will note that there are six allied corps, four British and two Spanish

The two Spanish corps are in the centre, with British support on both flanks


The French will still consider them to be the weak link in the allied position

However this is no longer the case, these two are the elite of the Spanish army

They are not quite up to the standard of the British brigades

But they are the equal of the Portuguese infantry

And both are at least as good as the French conscript brigades


There have been changes in the morale, firing and skirmish ability of all brigades

Generally all have been made slightly better, to avoid too many routs too easily

But the Spanish in particular have gained from this reassessment


It will be interesting to see how this all works out in practice