Sunday 21 July 2024

Review of Santander Campaign


Battles fought during the Santander campaign phase 

The campaign covered the period 19 to 25 July 1813, and took seven weeks to complete.   It was set in northern Spain and provided six battles to wargame.  Campaigns set in Spain include guerrilla activity, and this has proved one of the most difficult things to get right.   It also included a new method of deciding who won the game, namely three game objectives set in the middle of the wargames table.

Getting the balance right in Spain has always been difficult.    In northern Spain it is British v French, and in southern Spain Spanish v French.   Historically Wellington always outfought his French opponent in battle.   He often had to retreat, even when he had won a significant battle.   This was caused by the strategic situation in Spain, where the French greatly outnumbered the British army.  

Regional map of Europe

The regions shown in this map are my fictional military regions, which has no historical basis.  The map is designed to divide Europe into five campaign areas, each of which has 27 military regions, each of which is a campaign phase.  

The whole campaign is designed to provide wargames in which both sides have an equal chance of winning.   The campaign has now produced 92 campaign phases and 482 battles to wargame.   Every single battle has achieved the major campaign objective that both sides should have an equal chance of winning.

This has proved particularly difficult to achieve in northern Spain.    It is generally accepted that Wellington was the best commander in Spain, and his army superior to his French opponents.   Certainly he won most, if not all, of the battles he fought.   He often had to retreat either before or after a battle, but that was due to strategic rather than tactical reasons.   Throughout the Peninsular War the French outnumbered Wellington’s army.   Whilst Napoleon would accept large numbers of casualties, Wellington has to avoid a major disaster at all costs.

Throughout the 14 years we have been running this campaign, getting the balance right in Spain, and particularly in the north, has proved one of the most difficult problems.  

Our latest solution is to allow the British element of Wellington’s army to be better troops than the French.   However each corps has three British and one Portuguese infantry brigades.    The Portuguese are graded as low quality troops.   This is unfair from a historical point of view, but necessary from a wargame one.

Wellington has two British armies and one Spanish.   The Spanish are generally low quality troops, though each of the four corps has one average infantry brigade.   On the wargames table this means that on the wargames table Wellington has to protect his Spanish army, as he also had to do at Talavera.

Another major factor in our Spanish campaigns is the guerrilla bands.   In our campaign each of the 12 cities and towns has a garrison of one Spanish infantry brigade.   When the town is taken by the French that brigade becomes a guerrilla band.   The more towns they capture, the more guerrilla bands attacking their lines of supply.   The outcome of such combats is decided by rolling one D6.   The guerrillas need a roll of 6 to take the convoy.   In this campaign, for the first time, they were particularly lucky and caused critical problems for the French.   In fact largely due to their success the French had to retreat just as they were about to capture the campaign objective of Santander.

The second big change in this campaign was creating three game objectives to determine the winner of the game.   These were villages, farms, hills or woods.  One was situated on each of the three middle terrain squares.   The defender usually occupied them at the start of the game.   The attacker has 12 moves to take at least two of the three.   This has prevented the defender from slowly retreating throughout the game, forcing the attacker to deploy to attack only to find the defender out of range.   It has worked very well in this campaign, and I have high hopes of it in the future.

Sunday 14 July 2024

Santander Campaign – Day Seven


Campaign Map
French forced to retreat to river Ebro due to lack of supplies
Siege of Soncillo abandoned

10 French army – retreat to Laredo to resupply
11 French army – defend river Ebro
12 French army – retreat to river Ebro

1 British army – rally and hold Santander
2 British army – hold Medina
3 British army – raise siege of Soncillo

All brigades stood down to rally, regroup and resupply


The French won the wargame of the battle of Santander, by taking two of the three game objectives. However Wellington still holds the city of Santander and the villa on the main road east of the city. To take the city would require a second day of fighting, this time to take the villa and then the city.

10th French army group was reduced to one days supplies per corps when they started the battle of Santander. By nightfall they were out of supply. The campaign rules state that any corps out of supply must immediately retreat to its nearest supply base. Each corps would also lose 10% of one corps for each day they were out of supply. Soult therefore had to order an immediate retreat to Laredo.

This left 11th French army group (in the centre) with an exposed flank, and open to attack from both 1st and 2nd British army groups. They were also down to two days supplies for each corps and the supply situation was becoming critical. Soult ordered them to retreat to the river Ebro, but to hold the west bank of the river.

In the south 12th French army group had laid siege to Soncillo for two days, and the garrison was running short of supplies. Wellington had ordered 3rd British army group to prepare to attack and raise the siege. He now ordered that attack, in the knowledge that the French would not dare to risk a battle with the other two French army groups already in retreat. Soult ordered them to also withdraw to the river Ebro and hold the west bank of the river.

This is the first time that guerrilla activity has had such a dramatic effect on either of the campaigns in Spain. There are nine active bands in this campaign. They have a maximum of 3 days supplies, so they can attack a convoy once every three days. In a campaign which normally lasts 6 days, this means each one can attack twice.

When they do so the outcome is decided by rolling 1D6. They need to roll six to capture the supplies and rout the convoy escort. This means the immediate loss of those supplies. On the next day the same number of supplies are received at the main depot, in this campaign that is San Sebastian. They then have to be moved to the army group concerned.

Each corps has a maximum of four days supplies, but these are reduced when they are moving or fighting. It is not unusual for a corps to be reduced to one or two day’s supplies at the end of a battle. If they capture a town, they also capture the supplies held there. This is usually sufficient to keep them going in the latter stages of a campaign. However in this case they failed to do so, and suffered the consequence.

I am quite pleased that this campaign has shown that with more than average luck the guerrilla can have a decisive effect on the outcome. I would not want it to happen too often, but the chances of rolling so many sixes are pretty slim.

Sunday 7 July 2024

Santander Campaign – Day Six

Campaign Map

Day 2 siege of Soncillo
Battle of Santander
British occupy Medina

10 French army – attack Santander
11 French army – rally and regroup
12 French army – siege of Soncillo

1 British army – defend Santander
2 British army – occupy Medina
3 British army – hold Soncillo

13 brigade – attack convoy, capture 9 days supplies, escort routed
14 brigade – attack convoy, routed with 10% casualties
16 brigade - attack convoy, fail, retreat no casualties
21 brigade – attack convoy, routed with 10% casualties

Battle of Santander – End of Move 2

Once more the French have to cross the river Ebro, this time to reach the city of Santiago which is the campaign objective. The British army hold a position just in front of the city, which consists of woods on the left and right and a villa in the centre. All three are game objectives, and the winner will hold at least two of the three.

The French send their cavalry, supported by artillery and infantry, to secure three bridgeheads. British cavalry move forward to threaten them, but do not attack.

The French move forward, with the first attack against the Spanish held woods on the left. The Spanish fight hard, and gain an early advantage, but are eventually driven from the woods. They attempt a counter attack, but it is quickly repulsed.

2nd British corps holds the villa in the centre. They are never in any danger of losing the villa, not even when the Spanish rout on their right.

1st British corps holds the woods on the right, the woods itself held by the Guards brigade. The French attack is supported by artillery from 29th corps. The British are forced to withdraw, leaving the guards in the woods. With artillery fire from both corps they eventually withdraw. However as soon as the French enter the woods the British guards counter attack. After a close fought melee the French finally take the woods.

With two of the three game objectives securely held by the French they have won the game.

French have lost 5 infantry and 2 cavalry casualties (2200 men)
British have lost 6 infantry and 2 cavalry casualties (2600 men)
Spanish have lost 2 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (900 men)


10th French Army Group have suffered extreme loss of supplies due to Spanish guerrilla activity. At the start of Day Six their three corps are down to just two days supplies each. Marshal Soult has a difficult decision to make. He can attack Santander and hope to end the campaign with a great victory. Or he can order 10th Group to retreat to Sarautz, where there are nine days supplies have just arrived from San Sebastian. He orders 10th Group to attack Santander. At the end of the day they will have just one days supplies. But the supplies from San Sebastian will arrive the following day

Whilst he is attacking Santander the supply convoy from Sarautz to Laredo, with nine days supplies, is attacked by 13th guerrilla brigade. The escort is routed with 10% casualties and the supplies are captured.

The French have clearly won the first day of battle. However the British hold the approach to Santander and the city itself. A second day of battle is required to determine who will hold the city, and thus win the campaign.

Sunday 30 June 2024

Santander Campaign – Day Five


Campaign Map

Day 1 siege of Soncillo
Battle of Medina

10 French army – rally and regroup at Laredo
11 French army – attack Medina
12 French army – lay siege to Soncillo

1 British army – rally and regroup at Santander
2 British army – defend Medina
3 British army – siege of Soncillo

20 brigade – attack convoy, fail, routed with 10% casualties
15 brigade – attack convoy, fail, retreat no casualties
18 brigade – attack convoy, fail, retreat no casualties
Battle of Medina – End of Move 10

Both armies start the battle with campaign casualties. This makes them vulnerable to morale tests, so they must avoid unnecessary casualties. This applies particularly to the French, who have to attack.

On the right the British cavalry charge the French as they cross the river. The French cavalry lose the melee and rout back over the bridge, taking the gunners and one infantry brigade wit h them. Without cavalry and artillery it is impossible to continue to attack. By the time they have rallied, and returned to the corps, it is too late to initiate an attack

In the centre the Westphalian corps has no cavalry support. Their cavalry brigade has been used to replace campaign casualties for the French and Italian brigades. The British cavalry take full advantage of this, and pin the Westphalians to the river bank.

On the left the Italian corps press home their attack on the Spanish held farm. The Spanish put up an unexpected determined defence, and almost win a critical melee. However eventually the Spanish break and rout. General Hill makes repeated attempts to rally them, but is unable to do so

The French have taken one objective, but the British hold the other two
The British have won this battle

French have lost 5 infantry casualties (2000 men)
British have lost 1 infantry casualty (400 men)
Spanish have lost 3 infantry and 1 artillery casualties (1300 men)


This game has highlighted the difference between a campaign game, and a “one off” wargame. In a campaign it is really important to conserve your troops. High casualties in one battle to achieve a victory will often result in comprehensive defeat in the next.

Both armies started this game with moderate campaign casualties. By this I mean that about half of the brigades have 10% casualties. This meant that their combat ability and morale was reduced by a factor of 1 on all combat or morale tests. With the use of just 1D6 to determine the outcome, that can be significant.

This is a particular problem for the attacking player. He usually has to accept some artillery and skirmish casualties as he moves into contact with the defender. When a brigade suffers casualties they have to test their morale. If they rout, all brigades within 4” also have to test. There is a real danger that just one casualties can cause two or three brigades to rout.

This is why I (as attacking player) had to play such a cautious game. I had to protect my advancing infantry from enemy cavalry and artillery fire. In one of my three corps I did not have any cavalry, but the defender did. In another I lost the initial cavalry melee and my routed brigade took my gunners with them!

With these dice driven rules you come to dream a roll of one, and are overjoyed when a six lands. And they do keep you on your toes. Even when you have achieved an initial success you can always be cheated by a particularly low roll during the final melee combat.

We like them, but appreciate that not everyone will

Sunday 23 June 2024

Santander Campaign – Day Four

Campaign Map

French attack Soncillo
French occupy Laredo
British retreat to Santander

10 French army – occupy Laredo
11 French army – rally and regroup at Ramales
12 French army – attack Soncillo

1 British army – retreat to Santander
2 British army – rally and regroup at Medina
3 British army – defend Soncillo

13 brigade – return to village
14 brigade – return to village
16 brigade – return to village
17 brigade – capture convoy and 6 days supplies
19 brigade – attack convoy but routed with 10% casualties

Battle of Soncillo – End of Move 2

The French had to cross the river Ebro to reach the walled town of Soncillo.
Crossing a defended river line is one of the most difficult military tasks.
Fortunately the allied army were deployed near the town and out of artillery range of the river.

The French managed to cross the river, behind a cavalry screen
They quickly drove back 6th British corps in the centre and occupied the hill
It took longer to drive the Spanish out of the farm on the left, but they did just before nightfall

5th British corps fought hard to hold the woods. At nightfall they held the top right hand corner, but had lost three quarters of the woods.

The French occupied two of the three game objectives and won the battle

French have lost 4 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (1700 men)
British have lost 9 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (3700 men)
Spanish have lost 2 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (900 men)


The table consists of 3x3 two foot scenic squares. The top three have Soncillo flanked by two woods the centre three have the game objectives of farm, hill and woods. The bottom three have the river Ebro, with one bridge in each of the three squares. The river can only be crossed by one of those three bridges.

Third British Army occupies the three centre squares. If they deploy as far forward as they are usually allowed their guns would be within range of the three bridges, as would their cavalry. This would make it impossible for the French to cross.

I decided that the British and Spanish would deploy on and around the three game objectives. They would therefore be out of both artillery range and cavalry range of the three bridges. This worked well, though 24th French corps cavalry did suffer casualties from the British artillery in the woods. Fortunately they passed their morale test and continued to screen their infantry and cavalry as they crossed the river.

The river caused a delay in the French advance, and would have caused serious problems if any of the French brigades had routed during the early stages. Fortunately this did not happen.

The game worked well, though the large woods on the right did cause a problem. Normally the four sections are too close to allow artillery to deploy and move around. I made an exception for this game. The problem was that the four sections became four individual strong points. So the French had to regroup to attack each section. This took so long that they only managed to take three of the four sections. By holding one quarter the British held the whole objective.

It’s interesting that despite the 477 battles we have fought as wargames since this campaign started in 2009, we still learn something new from almost every game.

Sunday 16 June 2024

Infantry Rules for Army Level Wargames

Typical Army Level Wargame

I don’t get nearly as many comments on this blog as I would like, but a recent one from Archduke Piccolo caused me to reconsider one element of our current wargame rules.   The blog commented on was about hills in wargames, but the comment was about skirmishers in different levels of wargame.   For example how to represent them on the table at brigade level, division level, corps level and army level wargames.

My own wargames are currently army level, with three corps per side.   The above photo will illustrate what I mean.   All games are a maximum of 12 moves, to coordinate with the campaign 12 hour day.  I have written the rules to allow for fast and fun games, but also I want to reward historical tactics.  I also want to achieve a clear winner within this relatively short number of moves.   And most important I want a large element of luck, because my wife is my regular opponent and having gamed together for more than 50 years we can anticipate what each other will do in almost any wargame situation.

The campaign includes all of the major Napoleonic armies, and many of the minor ones.  I wanted to give an element of national strengths and weakness, for example the British were well known for their effective volley fire and the Russians for their stubborn fighting style.   Equally important I wanted to avoid making any one brigade too powerful, for example British Riflemen or French Imperial Guard.   I wanted to ensure that whilst elite formations had an advantage; it was not so great that they would always win.   And at the same time historical poor performers, such as the Spanish, should also have a chance to win.  

To this end I created an order of battle which gave infantry brigade’s three combat abilities.    These are skirmish, firefight and melee.   Each brigade is graded A, B or C in each of these functions.  

A British rifle brigade would be class A skirmishers, B class melee and C class firefight.  

A French guard brigade would be C class skirmishers, A class melee and B class firefight. 

A Spanish line brigade would be C class skirmishers, B class melee and C class firefight.

Each corps has four brigades, and most have at least one class A brigade in one of the three combat types.  The exception is the Spanish, who are lucky to have more than one B class.   They always have to rely on a good defensive position, such as a village, woods or hill.

This allows the player to decide which brigade is most suitable for which task.   And even more important which brigade is weak, and must not be exposed too much.

The distance of a brigade from the enemy will determine what type of combat takes place.   If 2 to 4” it will be a skirmish combat.   0 to 2” will be musket volley.   Base contact will be melee.   A rifle brigade would pick skirmish combat; a British line brigade would prefer musket and a Spanish brigade would have to try for melee.

However it is not always possible to ensure the type of combat you want.  The move sequence is determined by drawing a poker chip from a bag, each corps has a chip.   Your rifle brigade may halt at 3”, but if the Spanish chip is before them in the next round, the Spanish brigade can charge into contact and decide the outcome by hand to hand combat.   The brigade which charges into contact gets a plus one for impact, which gives them a slight advantage.

It all sounds complicated, but it’s really quite simple and fast flowing.  The element of luck, in the form of the 1D6 and drawing a chip for who goes first, is what makes the whole game so unpredictable and enjoyable.  

I suspect that for most wargamers our reliance on the dice would be unacceptable.   I went through many different types of rules over the 54 years I have been Wargaming.   All tried to reward historical tactics.    The early ones were very simple, and then came very complicated followed by moderate complexity.   All were enjoyable, at least to start with, but lost their appeal through frequent play when the shortcomings became obvious.   Most, if not all, did not have a time limit on the wargame.   This resulted in very long games with the complicated rules, which were often abandoned due to loss of interest.

We are very happy with our current rules.   Having written them myself, and only having to keep both of us happy, I can change them at will.   So when the failings become obvious I can just tweek the rules to overcome the problem.   Will not work for everyone, but works well for us.

Sunday 9 June 2024

Santander Campaign – Day Three

Campaign Map

French attack Laredo
French occupy Ramales
10 French army – attack Laredo
11 French army – occupy Ramales
12 French army – rally and regroup at Villacayo

British retreat to Medina
1 British army – defend Laredo
2 British army – retreat to Medina
3 British army – rally and regroup at Soncillo

14 brigade – abandon Ramales
16 brigade – capture convoy outside Sarautz
18 brigade – return to village
20 brigade – return to village
21 brigade – return to village

Battle of Laredo - Move 12

By day three the Wellington has had time to redeploy his army, and in particular deploy his First Army in a strong position in front of the port town of Laredo. 1st British corps hold the woods either side of the main coastal road leading to the town. 2nd British corps hold the village in the centre, 7th Spanish corps hold the extensive woods on the left of the allied position.

30th Polish corps attack the Spanish held woods. Their cavalry charge the Spanish guns, but fail to take them and retreat shaken. However their infantry take the woods section by section and hold the entire woods by nightfall

29th French corps attack the village in the centre. Their cavalry lose the opening melee rout and take the nearby gunners with them. Neither take any further part in the battle. So the French infantry have to attack the village without either cavalry or artillery support. They finally take it just before nightfall, and their light brigade beat off a determined British counter attack despite receiving 30% casualties.

28th Young Guard corps are given the most important task, the woods protecting the road to Laredo. It is held by the elite 1st British corps and fighting continues throughout the day. For most of that time the British hold the left half, and the French the right half. But in the last two hours of the battle the French finally take the left half

Having taken all three game objectives, the French have won the battle.

French lost 4 infantry. 4 cavalry and 1 artillery casualties (2100 men)
British lost 12 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (4900 men)
Spanish lost 7 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (2900 men)


This was a well balanced wargame in which the French had the advantage of slightly better quality troops, but the Allies had a strong defensive position. Even the poor quality Spanish corps were able to hold their own for most of the battle holding the large expanse of woods.

The French cavalry performed badly and the Polish lancers took their routed early in the game. They managed to rally and return, but lost a second melee in the closing moves of the game. In doing so they unmasked the Polish gunners, who were then routed by the British cavalry. The nearest infantry brigade failed their morale as a result and joined the rout.

The British infantry lost 12 and the Spanish 7, against 4 French infantry. But the French cavalry lost 4 to 1 British and 1 Spanish. In subsequent battles the French would miss their cavalry losses more than the British their infantry casualties

And interesting wargame, in which the dice once more played a leading role. It was surprising how often the winners of a melee would roll a 6, and the losers roll a 1 when testing their morale as a result of casualties received.

I am very pleased with how the new rules are working out. It can be very annoying to roll a 1 at the wrong time, particularly if it results in nearby brigades also rolling low to test their morale. But it adds to a fast moving and very unpredictable game. And so far the good, and the bad, dice have been pretty even over the 12 moves of a game.

Sunday 2 June 2024

Wargame Objectives

Battle of Ramales

We recently changed the game objective from the town or city to three objectives in the centre of the table.  This was to deter the defending player from slowly retreating as the attacker deployed to attack.   The defender could inflict casualties on the attacker, but retreat before the attack could be delivered.   In addition it took so long for the attacker to pursue that nightfall usually prevented any attack at all.

However our recent battle of Ramales proved that this might not be as easy to achieve as I had expected.

The game would be decided by three separate combats, one for each of the game objectives.   On the left was the hill, in the centre the woods and on the right the farm.  Although this was an encounter battle, the British and Spanish troops would reach their defensive position well before the French attackers.

The Hill

This was held by the Spanish corps, by far the weakest of the three allied corps.   However it was attacked by the Italian corps, the weakest of the French corps, and not a lot better than the Spanish holding the hill  

Hills are best held, and attacked, by infantry.  So the British Army commander took command of the Spanish cavalry and artillery and deployed them between the hill and the woods.

The French Army commander also took command of the Italian cavalry and artillery, but that was to support the Westphalian attack on the centre.   It also countered the Spanish detachment, but that was not the intention.

The attack on the hill was an easy victory for the Italians.    They used their two best infantry brigades to spearhead the attack, and routed one Spanish brigade by skirmish fire.  The remaining three Spanish infantry brigades quickly followed suit.   They ran to the woods in the rear, where they eventually rallied.  But they did not make any counter attack on the hill.

The French had taken their first game objective

The Woods

The 4th British corps, who held the centre, included two rifle brigades which represented the famous light division.   The senior brigade held the woods, supported by the second brigade and the corps artillery between the woods and the hill.

The Westphalian corps was given the task of taking this objective.  They were better quality than the Italians, but only just.   They could not risk an attack on the rifles in the woods, at least until they could drive back their supports and attack the woods from at least two sides.   This proved extremely difficult.

Supported by the Italian cavalry and artillery they easily outgunned the weaker British 6pdr guns, and also the poorly trained Spanish gunners.   However it requires a roll of six on 1D6 to hit a gun, so they would have to be very lucky.   Their reinforced cavalry should also be able to defeat the British hussars and Spanish irregular lancers.   However their artillery failed to roll any sixes, and eventually turned their attention to the supporting infantry.   Their cavalry finally won the cavalry combat, but not until they had lost one brigade.

It took 10 of the 12 game moves, but eventually the rifle brigade were driven from the woods.   The nearest infantry rushed the woods, but were halted by a counter attack by the supporting British brigade.   At nightfall only two British brigades still remained, but they continued to contest the woods.

The Farm

3rd British corps had one elite infantry brigade, and a heavy cavalry brigade.   Apart from that they were two line and one conscript Portuguese brigades.   However the foot guards held the farm.

The attacking French corps was young guard.   Not only good infantry, but also a 12 pounder artillery battery and a brigade of heavy dragoons.   Their attack should have been the easiest of the three combats.  It was not to be so

To attack the farm they had to secure at least one side as well as the front.  They could then attack with two brigades against one.   They would also hope to weaken the garrison with artillery and skirmish fire.   But first they would have to persuade the British supports to retreat.   The dragoon brigade was sent to drive off the British cavalry.   Due to really poor dice the French not only lost two cavalry combats, but they routed with 20% casualties without inflicting any casualties on the British horsemen.

The attack turned into a real slog, and by nightfall the farm was firmly held by the British.   The French managed to get into the farm, but a prompt counter attack resulted in a stalemate.

So at the end of the game the French held one objective, but the other two were still held by the British.   Victory conditions were the side which held two of the three game objectives.

The British could claim that they still held the woods and farm, even if they were contested.   Had the game gone on for another two or three moves the French would probably have taken the woods, but they would have been drive out of the farm.   But the deciding factor was that the French clearly held one of the three objectives, and contested the other two.

I gave the game to the French player.  

Sunday 26 May 2024

Santander Campaign – Day Two

Campaign Map

French attack Ramales
French occupy Villacayo
10 French army – hold Sarautz
11 French army – attack Ramales
12 French army – occupy Villacayo

British move up to border
British retreat to Soncillo
1 British army – move up to border
2 British army – defend Ramales
3 British army – retreat to Soncillo

18 brigade – attack convoy outside Beasain
20 brigade – capture convoy outside Tolosa
21 brigade – move closer to border.

Battle of Ramales - Move 2

This was an encounter battle, once again on the border between Santander and Dan Sebastian districts.

4th British corps start the battle deployed either side of the main road to Ramales. 3rd British and 8th Spanish corps are just behind the town.

The French enter the table at the start of move 1.

The game objectives are the hill on the left, the woods in the centre and the farm on the right. At the end of move 2 the Spanish are climbing the hill, and 3rd British entering the farm. The French have entered the table and are advancing towards the allied army.

On the left the Italian corps quickly takes the hill, and the Spanish retreat in some confusion. The Spanish do rally, but are never able to launch a counter attack.

In the centre the British corps includes the light division, who occupy the woods. They are a very difficult objective for the Westhalian corps. The Spanish commander takes command of the Italian artillery and cavalry to support the attack in the centre. After a hard battle the woods is still disputed at nightfall.

On the right 31st French corps is a young guard formation, and should be able to take the farm. However at nightfall fighting still continues and the farm is firmly held by the British corps.

At nightfall the French have taken the hill, but the other two objectives are still contested. The British can claim victory because they still hold two of the three game objectives.

The French have lost 3 infantry, 6 cavalry and 1 artillery casualties (1900 men)
The British have lost 11 infantry and 3 cavalry casualties (4700 men)

As the French advance their lines of supply become more vulnerable to the Spanish guerrillas. There are two attacks, one convoy is captured the other drive off the guerrillas. The loss of 3 days supplies will take a few days to affect the corps concerned, but affect them it will.

This wargame was interesting. The combat ability of the six corps involved was very different.

On the left the Italian corps was only very slightly better than the Spanish corps holding the hill. But they could choose their point of attack, and ensure that their best brigades led the attack. Just one routed Spanish brigade led to the breakup of the whole corps.

In the centre the Westphalian corps slightly better than the Italians, but only just. They had to attack the famous light division, who held the woods. Despite having the support of the Italian cavalry and artillery they were hard pressed. They could not afford to attack the rifle brigade holding the woods. So they concentrated their artillery on the gap between the woods and the hill. This was held by the lighter British 6pdr guns, who still managed to hold their position until just before the end of the game. At nightfall only two of the four British brigades remained, but the rifles still held the woods.

On the right the French young guard corps should have taken the farm without any difficulty. However they lost two cavalry melee, resulting in the rout of their cavalry. This made it very difficult for the infantry to attack the farm, which was held by the elite Guards brigade. At nightfall the farm was still held by the British.

A great wargame, full of interesting decisions about which brigade to lead the attack, and when to order the attack. Not at all helped by the roll of (it felt like) a LOT of ones or two.

Sunday 19 May 2024

Hills in Wargames

Battle of Gadebusch

Hills have always played an important part in my wargames, and particularly since I started a campaign to provide battles to wargame.  

In a campaign it is difficult to recreate mountain ranges, such as the Alps.   To do so would require the whole table being covered in terrain which was impossible for corps and divisions to deploy on.   In Napoleonic campaigns these large areas were obstacles to be crossed, rather than areas to deploy and fight battles.   In some campaigns, such as the Iberian Peninsula, they would be the scene of small scale guerrilla combat.   More suited to skirmish type wargames, rather than corps sized games.  

In my campaign wargames hills are represented by largely flat topped oblong shapes, looking more like a series of ridges rather than mountain ranges.   This is because I wanted to allow my corps to deploy and fight, rather than struggle through a table where they could only follow one narrow track and fight a series of skirmish actions.

All arms are allowed to cross these obstacles, but at half movement rate.   Combat is usually fought as if on a ridge.   The defending artillery usually deploy on the forward edge facing the enemy.  The infantry usually slightly further back, to avoid the attacking artillery.    This makes them a very difficult target to attack.  

It also creates a lot of debate about whether attacking artillery can hit troops who are not at the front of the ridge, and therefore not in direct line of sight.   And if that is allowed why not defending artillery deploying in a similar position.   Then there is the question whether cavalry can charge on a hill, or up or down from a hill.   All of this would be allowed on a flat topped ridge, but would not be possible on a mountain range.

We have struggled with these questions for quite a long time.   One obvious decision leads to a less obvious one and so on.   Finally we have decided to redefine who can do what on “hills”.

In future only infantry will be allowed to engage in combat on “hills”.   Infantry, cavalry and artillery will all be allowed to move across hills, but at half movement speed.   However only infantry will be allowed to fight, and will do so exactly the same as on flat ground.  Artillery will be allowed to deploy on the forward edge of the hill, but nowhere else.

It will be interesting to discover whether this clear cut decision actually results in a series of unintended consequences.   This often happens when we bring in a new rule to overcome problems resulting from long time game play with two players who both know the rules extremely well.                     

Sunday 12 May 2024

Santander Campaign – Day One

Campaign Map

The campaign opens with a surprise French attack on Villacayo

10 French army – hold Sarautz
11 French army – hold Bergara
12 French army – attack Villacayo

1 British army – hold Laredo
2 British army – hold Ramales
3 British army – defend Villacayo

Battle of Villacayo - Move 8

The battle opens with 35 French corps attacking 6 British corps in front of the town
34 French and 36 Vistula corps arrive on the table at the start of move 2
5 British and 9 Spanish corps are allowed to move at the start of move 2

5 British occupy the farm on the right
34 French attack but are driven off

35 French corps attack in the centre, supported by artillery from 34 corps
6 British retreat slowly towards the town to avoid combat and delay the French attack

36 Vistula and 9 Spanish arrive at the hill on the left at the same time
The Poles storm the hill, and the Spanish retreat to avoid combat

At nightfall the French have taken two of the three game objectives and won the game

The French have lost 6 infantry and 2 cavalry casualties (2600 men)
The British have lost 3 infantry, 3 cavalry and 1 artillery casualties (1600 men)


The French have lost more casualties, but the British have lost more cavalry and gunners. They also have two brigades in rout.

The heavy French casualties is because the British in the centre, and Spanish on the left, have retreated to avoid casualties. In doing so they abandoned two of the three game objectives, leaving the French the winners

However there was more to it than that.

The British cavalry suffered heavy defeat due to really poor dice throw. This allowed the French to advance their cavalry and threaten the allied artillery.

The French suffered a similar defeat, again due to poor dice, on their attack on the farm on the right. They should have won the attack, but they rolled 3x1 and 1x2 out of 6 dice.

Although I would prefer that the dice did not play such an important role in the outcome, it is not too bad if it happens to both sides. It is also the only way to achieve a fast flowing game when both players understand the rules, and each other, so well. If neither side make a mistake, and if both can anticipate what the other is likely to do, the result is often a very slow moving and boring wargame.

This strong influence of luck, in the form of the dice, helps to add an element of unpredictably and total surprise to a game. Normally the attacker, usually me, is very cautious in the opening part of the game. Hoping to achieve casualties with his artillery, or cavalry, before risking his infantry in a frontal attack. If I can achieve this, the attack usually wins. It is pretty unusual to roll such poor dice, but it can (and did) happen in this game.

This is not a style which would suit everyone, but it does suit us.

Sunday 5 May 2024

Santander Campaign in Northern Spain

Campaign map of Northern Spain

This is the fourth campaign phase to be fought in Northern Spain.   As you can see from the map the British won two and the French one.

Santander is Wellington’s main supply base.   If the French can capture it, he will be forced to establish a new base at Llanes, causing considerable disruption to his lines of supply.   It will also allow Soult to establish his own base there, and shorten his lines of supply to France.

Example of a British corps

Wellington has nine corps under his command, but only six are British.   The remaining three are Spanish.  The three armies under Wellington’s command each have two British and one Spanish corps.    All nine corps have four infantry brigades, one cavalry brigade and corps artillery.   

There are also 12 Spanish militia brigades, one for each of the 12 cities and towns in the campaign.   These are not under Wellington’s command.   Each one is the garrison of a city or town.   When it is occupied by the French the garrison becomes a guerrilla band.   They must remain within the same district (nine squares on the map) and will carry out irregular operations against the French.   Mostly this will be attacks on convoys.   The outcome of such attacks will be decided by 1D6, and may result in casualties or the loss of the supplies.   Such loss will be deducted from the field army concerned.

Example of a French corps

Soult also has nine corps under his command.   There is one young guard corps, four French corps and one Polish, Westphalian, Italian and Vistula.   The non French corps have more conscript troops than the French ones.

There are also six reserve infantry brigades.   These are all conscript and provide the garrison of the six cities and towns in San Sebastian region.   They also provide the escort for supply columns moving through their district.

Any towns captured within Santander region must be garrisoned by a brigade from the occupying French army   This will weaken the French as they advance towards Santander.

Map of Spain

The two campaign areas in Spain present more problems than the three in Germany.   This is because of the difficulty in trying to recreate interesting wargames where there are such unbalanced armies facing each other. 

In northern Spain Wellington’s army has a history of wining almost every battle.   In southern Spain the Spanish army lost almost every battle they fought.   In a wargame this would result in very unhappy French players in the north, and Spanish ones in the south.

In northern Spain I have weakened Wellington’s army by making one third Spanish troops.    They are the best three corps in the Spanish army, but far below the combat efficiency of the six British corps.

In southern Spain the French have to garrison the six towns on their side of the map by detaching brigades from their field army.    They also have to detach further brigades as they capture Spanish towns.

Throughout Spain the French also have to protect their lines of supply from the many guerrilla bands.   Getting the balance right has proved very difficult.   Each combat is decided by rolling 1D6.   A low score will see the guerrilla rout, possibly with casualties.   A high score will result in them capturing the convoy, and possibly inflicting casualties on the escort.

This simple method works well, but can result in unwanted results, particularly if the Spanish are too successful.   The aim is not for the guerrilla to win the campaign, but rather to detract from the combat effectiveness of the French   But it is not possible to control the outcome of rolling one dice.

Usually at the end of a campaign phase in Spain the rules are reviewed to determine how well they have worked.  I have to be careful not to change them too often, as they often result in unexpected consequences.

All of this makes the campaigns in Spain must more interesting, and challenging, than in northern Europe.    So I am particularly looking forward to this next campaign phase. 

Sunday 28 April 2024

Review of Wismar Campaign


Battles fought during the Wismar campaign phase

The campaign covered the period 11 to 18 July 1813, and took eight weeks to complete.   It was a fairly uneventful campaign, which provided seven battles to wargame.   Most campaigns have six battles, but this one had a two day battle.

Most campaigns raise some issues, which often result in amendments to either the campaign rules or the wargame rules.    This one had three such issues.

The campaign is designed to provide interesting battles to wargame, there are no strategic objectives and consequently the main focus is on the battles, and their effect on future battles in the campaign.  

Wargame casualties play an important part in subsequent battles.   As in most wargame rules there tends to be a high percentage of casualties.   I have tried to control this by the morale rules.   All tabletop casualties are 10% of a brigade.   They result in an immediate morale test and usually cause the brigade to retreat.   If both sides make their morale a second round of combat is fought, resulting in a further 10% casualties.  It is unusual for a brigade to make their morale with 20% casualties or more.  At the end of the battle the casualties are recorded on the campaign data.   To reorganise a corps has to be out of contact with the enemy, in supply and stationary.   During reorganisation casualties can be concentrated in one brigade, but 10% always remains with the brigade which suffered them.   This can result in corps starting a wargame with a high proportion of brigades having 10% casualties.   This reduces their combat ability, and also their morale.   It makes for a game in which one rout can quickly spread to all adjacent brigades.   In this campaign I allowed all infantry casualties to be concentrated in one brigade per corps.   Cavalry and artillery were concentrated in one brigade per army.   This has worked really well, and I will continue to game test it in the next campaign.

Supplies have also caused some problems.   It takes a lot of administrative work to keep track of supply columns and the amount held at each depot.   This has become more of a problem since I increased the size of battles from one corps per side to three corps.   I have reluctantly decided to remove supplies from the campaign, except in Spain – where they played an important role.   In Germany each corps starts the campaign with four days supplies.   To resupply they must be within one day’s march of a depot, out of contact with the enemy and stationary for the whole day.   This restriction still applies, but it is assumed that the nearest town has sufficient stores to resupply the corps.

The final problem was completing each wargame within 12 moves, to correspond with the 12 hours per day in the campaign.   It works quite well, providing that the defender stands to fight.   In general there are four moves for the attacker to deploy within long range artillery of the defender.    Then four moves of artillery fire, and often cavalry melee.   Finally four moves for the attacker to reach the defender and engage in close combat.    If the defender retreats after four or six moves there is insufficient time for the attacker to pursue and have the close combat to decide the winner.   The game objective is always a town or city.   A good garrison is difficult to overcome, especially if there is not enough time for close range artillery fire.   As a result games often end with the defending army being beaten, but still holding the town or city and thus winning the game.   To overcome this problem I have made each of the three centre squares of the table a game objective.   The winner is the side which holds at least two at the end of move 12.

Future campaigns will prove whether I have the balance right or not.

Sunday 21 April 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 8

Campaign Map

Prussian army abandon Wismar
French win campaign

1st Prussian Army – retreat
2nd Prussian Army – retreat
3rd Prussian Army – retreat

3rd French Army – occupy Wismar
1st French Army – occupy Schwerin
2nd French Army – occupy Ludwigslust


For those of you who read the post on Day 7, this might seem an unexpected and abrupt end to the Wismar campaign. Looking at the photograph at the end of the battle of Wismar it might seem that the Prussians held a strong position. They had lost the battle because they failed to hold two of the three game objectives, namely the inn in the centre and the hill on the right. However they did hold the third objective, the woods on the left. They also held the city of Wismar.

However not quite so obvious from the photograph is that the Prussians had lost all three of their corps artillery, either captured or abandoned. And although they had won two cavalry melee, they were still outnumbered three to two in cavalry brigades.

By far the most serious problem was their lack of artillery.

Without artillery, or cavalry superiority, it is almost impossible to win a game. If Blucher had decided to fight a second day at Wismar there was nothing he could do to stop the French deploying all three of their corps artillery at short range of the city. Firing three guns each move they would only need 4 or more for a hit on the garrison. Their cavalry could easily keep the weaker Prussian away from the guns. Their infantry could wait out of range for the garrison to be whittled down.

So it is not surprising that Blucher ordered Third Army to abandon the city and retreat with the loss of the capitol there was no point in First Army holding Schwerin. Second Army had already abandoned Ludwigslust.

The French won the campaign.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 7

Campaign Map

Third Prussian army left campaign
Battle of Wismar

1st Prussian Army – defend Wismar
2nd Prussian Army – redeploy at Schwerin
3rd Prussian Army – left campaign

3rd French Army – attack Wismar
1st French Army – retreat to Gadebusch
2nd French Army – regroup and reorganise at Ludwigslust

Battle of Wismar – Move 12

The city was the district capitol and the main Russian supply base
It was also the campaign objective

The Prussians deployed just west of the city in a strong defensive position
This consisted of woods on the left, an inn in the centre and a hill on the right

Each of these was a game objective and the winner would be the one who held at least two of the three at the end of 12 moves.

Both sides started the battle with only minimum casualties.
The French had three cavalry brigades to the Prussian two
However the French also had 10% casualties on one of their three corps artillery

The main French attack was in the centre, where Murat formed a cavalry reserve of the brigades from 7th and 8th corps. He would use this reserve to support 8th corps attack on the inn in the centre.

The French artillery was very effective, and caused casualties to the Prussians in the inn and the woods in the early moves of the game. This allowed the French infantry to take the inn and the top left section of the woods.

1st Prussian corps deployed in the middle of the hill on the right. They were out of sight of 7th French corps artillery, who engaged the infantry between the inn and the hill. The French infantry attacked the hill and a prolonged skirmish, musket and finally hand to hand fight took place. The Prussians fought hard, but eventually abandoned the hill and retreated to the road on the right of the city.

In the centre the reserve cavalry under Murat played an important role. The leading brigade routed the gunners, but was in turn routed b y the Prussian cuirassiers. However the second French brigade routed the Prussian cavalry. This allowed 8th corps to deploy between the inn and the city

9th corps occupied the top left quarter of the woods, and sent two brigades to attack the top right quarter. This was held by a Prussian grenadier brigade, who fought off both French brigades. The Prussians then counter attacked and occupied the whole of the woods.

At night fall the French held two of the three game objectives, namely the inn and the hill on the right. The Prussians held the woods, which was the third objective. They also held the city, but this was not a game objective. The French thus won the game.

The French have lost 6 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (2500 men)
The Prussians have lost 9 infantry, 1 cavalry and 5 artillery casualties (4600 men)


This is the first time that we have allocated game objectives, rather than the campaign objective – which was the city of Wismar. This forced the Prussians to hold the three objectives in the centre of the table, rather than retreat half way through the game to hold the city or town.

For some time I have been frustrated that the attacking army would take casualties approaching the initial defence positions, only to have the defenders retreat before they could be attacked. In a game of 12 moves there would then be insufficient moves left to allow the attacker to regroup and pursue the retreating defenders.

By the simple method of naming three objectives in the centre of the table, and making the winner of the game the one who held at least two of the three at the end of the game, I seem to have solved this problem.

Strange how the answer to a long standing problem is so often very obvious once identified.