Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Barrosa 200th Refight

On Saturday the 'Gong Posse met at my place to refight the Battle of Barrosa using Black Powder Rules. This battle has an Australian connection in that the veterans of the Peninsula campaign who settled in the free colony of South Australia named the Barrosa valley after this battle after seeing a resemblance to the Southern Spanish locale.

This is a particularly easy battle to recreate on the table top as the scenery is simple and relatively few troops were involved: a couple of Brigades on each side, once the Spanish Forces had decamped in the early stages of the Battle.

The Bn of Flankers advances suicidally to take on the French Bde...
The idea was to play a wargame recreating the Battle of Barrosa on the actual day of the Bicenntennial, which happily fell on last Saturday, the 5th of March.
Since we use Black Powder rules, which we believe can give a fast but reasonably historical game, and Barrosa was a relatively small battle, a couple of Brigades on each side, we decided to play two games, with the players swapping sides. The first game would be for 8 moves, the second for 6. The disparity is explained with the attacking, British side, having a better understanding of the tactical situation and perhaps learning from the first game’s mistakes…

I obtained my information about the battle from the excellent Osprey Peninsular Atlas that has just been published, and from Albuera 1811 by Peter Edwards. Additionally, Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’s Fury’ give a thrilling account of the battle and is neatly interwoven with historical events. I decided to concentrate on the action on and adjacent to the ground of tactical importance, the Cerro de Puerco hill, the only eminence in the vicinity.
The Cerro de Puerco, thought to be securely held by a Spanish Bde to the rear of the advancing Allied Force, has actually been abandoned by the Spanish at the sight of an oncoming French Bde. Another French Bde is advancing from the coast. Apprised of the impending disaster to his rear by Spanish irregulars, General Thomas, Commanding the British contingent, throws Colonel Browne’s Provisional Bn of Flankers in desperate bid to retake the Cerro, since it is the rearguard unit. He orders a second Bde to retake the hill, and his last remaining Bde to ambush the remaining French bde advancing to support the French already on the hill.

Dilke's Bde advances up the Cerro.

The game.
So essentially the game would represent 2 linked Bde on Bde actions, one a straight forward attack on the hill, another an ambush to intercept  the second French Bde linking up with the first.
The Victory conditions for both games was identical, for the British to take the Cerro de Puerco within 8, then 6, moves. ‘Take’ was predefined as there being no formed French units remaining on the hill that were not disordered or shaken.
The game started with a French Bde in situ on the hill, in the corner of the 12 foot by 6 foot table, and the other Bde advancing on the opposite short table edge. The two British Bdes are lined up, disordered along the opposing long table edge, but disordered and so they have to spend their first orders phase without moving.
How the games played.
On both occasions the British teams immeadiately appreciated the importance of preventing the relieving French Bde from making it to the hill, and so moved one Bde forward to intercept. In the first game poor command throwing by the French players meant that the relief column was held up well short of the hill.
Desperate fighting on the Cerro as the 2 French columns attempt to link up.
Meanwhile Brigadier Dilkes, aka John, was employing a cunning and deliberate approach to attempt to outflank the French line on the hill, with some initial success...However some dynamic leadership by Mark meant that the attacking British victory conditions were not quite met as some French Bn's in good order remained in possession of the hill, unlike in real life...
The 95th Move to intercept the French relief column
In the second game, one of the British players failed to match the aggression of his orders with the command skills to launch his Bde forward as dynamically as he had hoped (OK - it was me...) However his fellow Brigadier, Mark, managed to deploy his light troops well forward and it seemed as if the French relief column of Leval's Bde might not reach the Cerro in time to influence the victory conditions. However, Ross came up with some inspired leadership, or superly low die throws to allow his Bde to fight through and link up with the French on the hill. Despite some hard fighting, the French held on by the skin of their teeth to win a second victory.

Overall a very enjoyable game, well thought and well fought. If you want to refight a historical battle with limited troops, you would do well to research the Battle of Barrosa...

Looking forward, the Bicenntennial of Albuera falls in May...


  1. Oh no - another blog to track! No wonder I never get anything done. Well it's a damned fine excuse anyway!! 8O)

    But seriously welcome to the world of electrons Mr Sparker. The Barrosa looks like an interesting scenario to move to central Europe for me and my gang of carefully selected gamer associates.

    I'll be watching for the next installment.

    von Peter himself

  2. Thank you for the kind comments Gentlemen!

    And yes this interesting tactical problem would be worth translating to Central Europe - the slopes of the Erzgebirge in the Autumn of 1813 for example...lots of isolated Brigades trying to marry up there if memory serves.

  3. Welcome to the blog-o-sphere, Sparker! Like von Peter himself, I curse you for adding another interesting blog to follow!

    Great AAR. Looks like a fun battle. Is the cloth you use custom made or shop bought? It's quite effective.

  4. Thanks mate. The cloth is shop bought, 'Russian Steppe', but a bit more creased than your average piece of steppe owing to being shipped out from the UK in a box -D'Oh!

  5. The creasing will be from earthquakes. There seem to be a few of them around at the moment! 8O)

    von Peter himself