Sunday, 12 September 2021

The March on Oporto, Part One, Retreat to Albergaria - Tiny Wars Played Indoors

Time to get the collection of French supply wagons out on the table as the Retreat to Albergaria gets played at Tiny Wars Played Indoors.

If you've been following Bill Slavin's playthroughs of the scenarios in O'er the Hills, you might be interested to know he has now progressed into the spring of 1809 with his latest game recreating the French retreat from Albergaria, pursued by a British army under the newly arrived Anglo-Portuguese commander-in-chief, Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley, recently cleared of allegations at the hearing convened to look into the controversial 'Convention of Cintra' that saw the removal General Junot and his French army from Portugal in 1808, repatriated to France in British ships.

I have attached a link below if you would like to follow Bill's highly entertaining account of their play with excellent pictures of his 1:72 - 20mm collection of Peninsular Napoleonics and appropriate terrain to match.

Tiny Wars Played Indoors - The March on Oporto, Part One, Retreat from Albergaria

If you are just picking up this series of games you can follow the link below to Bill's other renditions back to the start at Rolica and through to Corunna.

Tiny Wars Played Indoors - O'er the Hills Scenarios

Scenario 5, The March on Oporto, picks up the the story of early British involvement in what became known as The Peninsular War, following the death of Sir John Moore and the evacuation of the main British army in theatre from Corunna in Galica in January 1809.

It wouldn't be until the 8th February that Marshal Soult's battered II Corps, following the pursuit to Corunna and the battle, was restored enough to begin the French advance back into Portugal via the tortuous roads through the Galician mountains into the north of the country seeing him taking the city of Oporto on the 29th March after a decisive battle with defending Portuguese forces under the Bishop of Oporto who were routed and suffered some 8,000 casualties in their retreat from the city.

The theatre of operations in May 1809 as Wellesley commenced his offensive
from Lisbon in the south to drive Soult out of Oporto in the north and hopefully
destroy the bulk of his forces in the pursuit.

Sir Arthur Wellesley landed with fresh British reinforcements at Lisbon to join the British garrison together with the first elements of the British trained Portuguese army on the 22nd April 1809 and in his characteristically determined approach to demonstrate to the British government the practicability of his plan for holding Portugal as a base of operations for aiding and supporting the guerrilla war in Spain; he immediately activated plans to drive Soult and French II Corps out of the country that would see his spearhead formations clash with a French advance party somewhat unaware of his presence near the village of Albergaria, hastily forced to prepare a rapid withdrawal back to Oporto when they realised the strength of the force that was attempting to envelope them from the south.

The scenario starts with the French march column set up on the road 
through Albergaria ready to march north to Grijo

This scenario is part of a two part series, with the results potentially impacting on the second game as French General de Division Jean Franceschi attempts to pull his cavalry and infantry forces back in the face of a rapid Allied pursuit whilst ensuring the safe passage of his baggage train on a thirty mile journey back to the village of Grijo where he might hope to receive help sent out from Oporto to stem the Allied pursuit as the French fall back over the River Douro.

Bill's representation of the French march column as illustrated in the scenario map above. 
Perfect, what could possibly go wrong?

Steve and I had a lot of fun play-testing this series of two games, working out the tweaks to allow the results to be linked into a mini-campaign game which is all about retreat management in the face of the enemy, possibly the hardest military manoeuvre to conduct and one that produces a game totally different from the usual 'set 'em up and start charging and firing' affair but no less exciting and interesting. 

This series of games gives a good excuse to get some French wagons built and out on the table, which only adds to making the game look a lot different from the usual Napoleonic set too.

As you will see from Bill's account his game mirrored much of our own experience with the French commander reaching decision points in the game as to when and who to turn about to make a stand covering the retreat of others, ready to in their turn, turn about and cover those behind them.

For the Anglo-Portuguese it becomes a balance of rapid pursuit, aiming to keep the pressure on whilst not overextending elements of the force that could be overwhelmed piecemeal, and always with an eye to taking advantage of an enemy mistake.
The fox is in sight and the horns sound 'view-haloo' as the Allies press their pursuit hoping not to encounter a 'stag at bay'.

Again, as I discussed with Bill, these scenarios, and indeed I would recommend all of them, repay the players for including the Brigade Morale and Orders rules in Over the Hills as the added pressure of brigades with decreasing morale levels that threaten that they might break off, together with orders going astray or being misinterpreted at a vital time, with all times in a retreat like this often being vital, add a whole new level of interest and simulation without, in our experience, much effort and we played all the games that way because of the fun they generated as best laid plans fell apart or better still came to fruition.

Thanks Bill for a very entertaining series so far, I know Steve, I and others have enjoyed the read throughs and personally has refreshed my enjoyment of putting these games together and I'm looking forward to your next production.

Finally I should mention that not unsurprisingly Bill's posts have reignited an interest in playing the scenarios in O'er the Hills, and enquiries to me about getting hold of a copy, with the book being currently out of print.

Stand to Games Shop - O'er the Hills, Early Peninsula War Scenarios pdf Version

I have been in touch with Adrian McWalter at Stand to Games and would direct you to the pdf copy of the book in the link above which I see is on offer at £9.60 and if plans progress to a reprint I will update any confirmation to do so here on the blog.

Over the Hills - Facebook Page

In addition I would highly recommend joining the Over the Hills Facebook page for the latest updates and information, with lots of input from Ady McWalter and other folks interested in playing Napoleonics with the rules and scenarios.

I hope that helps


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