As discussed in my initial review of Wellington's War by Pacific Rim Games, I've really been drawn to this game as much for its figure campaigning potential as for its attraction as a straight up board game.
One way to test that potential is to play the game and see what scenarios/battles it throws up and the historical context it generates through the events and leaders that add to the background to any tabletop encounters generated.
So Tom and I sat down and set up the campaign game starting in May 1808 and ending in Spring 1814, with the Allies looking to emulate the success of Wellington by hitting the twenty plus point victory point total by the end of the war.
The map above shows the situation at the end of 1808 with the British under Wellesley and Moore having cleared out Junot from Lisbon and pursuing the dastardly Loison into the Algarve.
General Dupont decided, on hearing of the revolt in Madrid, to pull back over the Sierra Morena from Andalusia into New Castile and avoid a Bailen style clash with Castanos and leaving poor old Loison to his own devises.
Meanwhile the French are ominously building up their strength around Bayonne and Perpignan and setting about clearing Spanish garrisons on the French side of the River Ebro. The victory point tally rests on ten points to the allies.
|The British occupy Lisbon and pursue Loison into the Algarve (left) as Dupont drops back towards Madrid (right). The Anglo Portuguese bring the French garrison at Elvas under siege (hex to the left of Badajoz)|
|End of 1808 - The French secure the south east coast and Catalonia up to the Ebro as Soult closes in on Saragossa|
|Strong French forces build up around Bayonne in the winter of 1808|
As the French commander I immediately felt the difficulties of controlling ground and victory point tallies, calculated at the end of each year with the need to attack and destroy enemy force build ups, particularly British forces. The French are forced to occupy all Spanish yellow marked towns to claim control of a region and its victory points. As soon as they vacate them to fight an allied force, the towns revert to Spanish control and if both sides hold towns in a region the area is contested with no points awarded to either side.
In addition the need to watch the size of a force not falling foul of the foraging rules in a given region particularly in winter added truth to the saying that in Spain small armies get beat and large armies starve.
The allies, whilst being aware of the foraging limits, had no concerns about holding territory and so their ability to gather in any given area and strike was greatly enhanced over that of the French.
The cautious strategy by the French of holding Madrid, securing all regions north of the Ebro and then driving along the northern and southern coastal regions had the effect of reducing the allied advantage in victory points from ten to level by the end of 1811.
On reflection, it would be interesting to adopt a more typically French strategy in a future game by ignoring victory point control in say the first two years prior to any likely Austrian revolt and driving a large force forward to grab Portugal before the Lines of Torres Vedras and a sizeable British force could be established there, thus undoing the Wellingtonian strategy. This might have some benefits in disrupting allied military plans early on but likely leaves the French a large hill to climb in pulling back allied victory point advantages from those first two years, whilst fending off allied incursions.
|Anglo-Portuguese forces (Beresford had trained the Portuguese to British methods) gather on the northern frontier towards the end of 1810. The Lines of Torres Vedras have still not been built.|
By the start of 1811 the Anglo Portuguese were massed on the northern Portuguese frontier with Spain and Napoleon with his Guard were positioned in Burgos with strong French forces occupying the northern Spanish towns up to Astorga in Leon. A major struggle for the north of Spain and rights of access into France or Portugal looked set for the coming year.
|The French by the end of 1810 have a strong hold above the Ebro and the north down to Madrid and New Castille|
|Victory points level and all to play for in 1811, with British trained Spanish troops set ready to go in the reinforcement pool|
|The Allied forces gather in North West Spain, with Napoleon occupying the central position at Astorga (top left of map). The French have pushed into and occupied Valencia as well as Catalonia and are poised to invade Murcia (South East Coast)|
|End of 1811, Napoleon has fallen back to Burgos after narrowly avoiding encirclement by Wellington at Astorga. The French position in Old Castile is finely balanced and the last thing the French need now is a war with Austria!|
|End 1811 - The French have a secure hold on the South East coast, but Madrid has fallen as Wellington threatens in the north|
|Map to illustrate the battles generated between 1808 - 1811 and the forces involved. In addition to these field battles there were multiple sieges not shown.|
Napoleon his Guard and two French blocks were immediately removed from play and the French position looked decidedly less certain.
|Battles fought in 1812 with the surprise Spanish victory by Cuesta over Ney at Peniscola on the south east coast|
|Just two more turns to play and one victory point advantage to the French|
|Wellington and his army hold the initiative in the north and threaten the French border and the supply line to Madrid|
|Winter 1813 - Is this the high-water mark of French ambitions in Spain with one victory point favouring the French, but with the Emperor fighting in the Tyrol and the initiative with Wellington|
|The final position of the forces at the end of the War with Austria brought to heal the same year, 1814 and the Emperor secure on his throne.|
|Five victory points to the French seals their win with Wellington achieving a twenty point victory historically.|
|Andalusia under Spanish control but Marshal Soult glowering from the border of Murcia|
|Stalemate in the north with Wellington and Marmont facing off at San Sebastian and French garrisons holding the principle towns|
|French garrisons along the south east coast to prevent incursions from Home-Popham's Royal Marines|
|Battles fought in 1813-14 with two more Spanish victories added to the tally at Cuidad Real|
|The game has great potential for putting tabletop games into campaign context and has provided much food for thought.|
The play test has given me plenty of food for thought and added impetus to complete my campaign lists that I covered off in my previous post back in December last year that looked at my ruminations on the campaign itch then.
Based on the ideas from Napoleon at War, I have completed my own divisional list with the inclusion of the Spanish incorporating points values from Carnage & Glory. All the major powers, Britain, Portugal, Spain and France are done and I just need to make a few additions to the French lists to allow for French allies to turn up under certain commanders named on the Wellington's War blocks.
These lists will allow me to generate generic armies for the period and should work well with the pips and blocks used in Wellington's War which will enable force ratios to be constructed around these listings. Thus it should be simple to decide to play any size of game from brigade up to multiple corps size actions that typified the battles in Spain and Portugal and have been represented in our play test.
With the Talavera project reaching a culmination my mind is turning to those few additions to the collection that would allow for fighting any battle generated through this game on the table. What fun!
Thank you to Steve M for stepping in so ably to take over from Tom so I could show you a full campaign game played from start to finish.
Lots more stuff to come on JJ's this month, with the 3/95e Ligne completed, a project started last May is finished and Marshal Victor's I Corps d'Armee will be on parade with the final battalion.
Also Tom was busy on his short visit home and turned out another Roman unit together with a well known Antipodean commander as a tribute to his home for the next six months, finished off by his Dad, rather as with this game report.
Lastly but by no means least I hope to introduce a new roving correspondent with other history/wargaming related stuff to entertain you with.