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. 


  1. Thistlebarrow,

    Back to Spain! I must admit that your campaigns in Spain are of greater interest to me than your others … although I do enjoy reading about your other campaigns.

    I like the way that you are storing your individual Corps on their own trays. It must make it much quicker to set up (and take down) a battle. I’d love to be able to copy it, but my storage space isn’t suitable … at present. This situation might change if we move house once my mobility problems are solved.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob

      Nice to hear from you again.

      I must admit that Spain is also my favourite campaign area, both north and south. The buildings are more impressive, making the table more attractive. I like the variety of uniforms, which also adds to the visual effect. But most of all I like the challenge of trying to recreate the uneven combat abilities of the various armies. It helps that by 1813 the Spanish armies were better and the French armies much worse. However it is particularly difficult to balance Wellington's troops against the poorer quality French. In this particular campaign I have tried to do so by having Spanish as one third of the British army.

      The storeage stands are entirely practical, they are not at all pretty. But it does make it really to set up a game, and to take it down again at the end. It also makes it very easy to select the correct French and allied figures. I am very fortunate that we bought our house "off plan", so I was able to extend the downstairs utility room into a decent size wargames room, plus a separate storeage area for figures and buildings.

      Glad to hear that you are back home, and hope that all is returning to normal.

      best regards



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