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Castello Mendo, 1810


The Napoleonic Wars, Black Powder, 28mm

Our last game of the year was a Peninsular affair, with the British, Portuguese and Spanish defending, and the French assaulting their positions – or trying to. I say French, but one of the two attacking infantry divisions was a Bavarian one. I know they never really appeared in the Peninsular, but after all this was a fictitious battle, and Bill Gilchrist was keen to use them. The defending line up consisted of the Spanish on the far left, a Portuguese brigade on their right, and two British brigades holding the right flank, all commanded by General “Daddy” Hill. A small Spanish cavalry brigade marked the extreme left end of the Allied line, while a British light cavalry brigade was held in reserve. Marshal Ney attacked with the French on the left, and the Bavarians on the right, with his cavalry deployed behind the French division.peninsular-02From the Allied side it didn’t look too promising for the attackers. For starters the two sides were fairly equal in numbers, although we did notice boxes filled with French horse and foot on a nearby table. Was this part of a cunning plan to embroil us in a fight to our front, while another French division worked its way around our flanks? Actually, the answer to this became apparent as the game progressed –  but more of that anon. Ney launched his attack with the troops he had available. The French had to cross a wide stream, which is where things began to go a little awry for them. The right-hand of the two French brigades “blundered”, and retired  from the table for two moves. This messed up the timing of the assault, as the French columns on the left waded the stream and continued with their assault.peninsular-016It also allowed the British to sneak forward a “forlorn hope” of riflemen, who occupied a farm enclosure in the centre of the table. Strangely, the British foot also advance for a turn, largely because the guns on the hills behind them needed a clear line of fire. This also brought the British into musketry range, and soon the brigade on the British right was blazing away at the oncoming French. The brigade to its left formed up in three successive lines, ready to react to whatever the French did when they recovered from their blunder.peninsular-033Further to the British right the two large Brigades of Bavarians came forward in style, but again thanks to poor leadership the advance was ragged, as some units held back, and others bounded forward. This suited the waiting Portuguese and Spanish perfectly well, as when the assault came it was piecemeal affair, and the Bavarians were met by a wall of levelled muskets. he Portuguese skirmishers were driven in, but the foot behind them blazed away, disrupting and then breaking one Bavarian unit after another. In this sector the Bavarians only managed to get into contact with one of their assault columns, at it was repulsed after a short bout of hand-to-hand fighting.peninsular-009On the Portuguese left the Spaniards also held their ground, where a combination of well sited guns (including the near-compulsory over-sized antique piece, based on the one in The Pride and the Passion) and a good defensive position thwarted all Bavarian attempts to carry the position. Incidentally, John Glass who owns the Spanish is still trying to find a Sophia Loren figure to join his gun crew. If you know of one, please let me know!peninsular-029What then of the French reinforcements? It turned out that this was something of a bluff. The figures belonged to Dougie Trail, and rather than waiting for his chance to come on as reinforcements, he became embroiled in a 15mm Second World War game using I ‘aint been shot, Mum! rules. Consequently Ney’s reinforcements never appeared, and the Allied line was never outflanked! Still, the game had its moments. While the Bavarian assault came to naught, over on their left the French finally overran the riflemen and captured the farm. The French suffered though, and in the centre the attack never really amounted to anything.peninsular-034It was a different story over on the French left though, and here the assaulting columns performed well – but not well enough to break the defenders. In the end it was clear that Ney wasn’t going to achieve anything, and victory was duly awarded to the Allies. That more than made up for the Borodino defeat the day before, even though poor Bill Gilchrist was on the losing side in both encounters. As ever, Black Powder produced a fast-moving and enjoyable game, and allowed us to deploy more lead than we normally could on a regular club night, and still achieve a result by the end of the evening.peninsular-019

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