Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Over the Hills Playtest - Rearguard at Grijo

This final scenario play test carries on where the previous 'Retreat from Albergaria' left off and is designed to allow both to be linked up.

Retreat from Albergaria

General Franceschi skilfully fended off the British pursuit and the French troops marched overnight and up the Lisbon road to join forces with General Mermet's troops positioned in the hills covering the road at the little village of Grijo.

To quote Napier:
The French were posted across the road on a range of steep hills, a wood, occupied with infantry, covered their right flank, and their front was protected by a village and broken ground, but their left was ill placed."

The road leading to Oporto with the village of Grijo astride it

As before, a key responsibility of the French command was to ensure safe passage for Marshal Soult's baggage wagons as well as getting the bulk of the French force safely back across the River Douro and into Oporto to join the rest of the army.

The countryside characterised as rolling hills with small open woods

This second scenario differs in that the Anglo-Portuguese crossed the River Vouga below Albergaria and regrouped before setting off in pursuit of Franceschi, now with flanking columns of infantry looking to cut in behind the French as Wellesley attempted to pin them with a close pursuit using the bulk of the allied army.

The picture below shows the two forces arrayed with the French preparing to move out through Grijo and with Wellesley, two infantry brigades, one of guards and artillery ready to press the French rearguard.

The two armies drawn up with the French holding a ridge in front of Grijo

Now with Mermet's brigade of infantry, Franceschi's force of cavalry and legere posed a significant force to be used to keep the road open and escape via the northern end of the table.

Sir Arthur Wellesley inspects the French position before giving the order to advance

However with two brigades of allied infantry marching to intersect the road at various times through the game the French cavalry would be kept busy trying to stem the allied attacks and allow their infantry and wagons to get clear.

The French drawn up to hold their position as the wagons and other elements prepare to march

This was the last games in our series of play tests and we aimed to play this one right through to completion and it was important to have everything set up ready to go when needed.

Pre-game preparation with all the forces laid out by command and the force morale cards set up

We have got into a set up routine, be the game large or small, and we like to have all the force cards set up with the orders allocated and the dice towers primed for action.

The Anglo-Portuguese set up similarly prepared

The French were tasked with setting up first and then Wellesley could arrange his force accordingly to prepare to attack or move or both depending on the French set up.

All is set and ready to go - turn one

In the last game I played the French, so this time we switched things and I played British to Steve's French.

The 31me Legere are in reserve following their gruelling march from Albergaria the previous day

On observing the French looking to make a fighting stand below Grijo, to allow their wagons to get a good start, I immediately put my battalions into line and moved my guns to the flank, to allow them to rapidly move on to a nearby hill and get a good view of the French sheltering on the ridge line opposite.

Franceschi's cavalry on the flank and able to police the table for the French

The Royal Artillery boys duly did their stuff and managed a few early hits with a bit of plough through onto rear units. With drums beating and fifers playing the redcoats advanced into the attack.

The RFA move on to a nearby hill and open fire on the French ridge as the British line advances

With the British intention obvious the French threw forward their cavalry on their right flank to threaten the British lines, which forced the infantry to push out a couple of squares to cover the exposed flank and slow the attack.

In response to the British move the French throw forward their cavalry to threaten the British flank

Meanwhile two French infantry brigades and the wagons headed off down the road towards Oporto, with Franceschi detaching two squadrons of dragoons to shadow the road as they did.

As the opening shots are traded, the legere escort the wagons along the road to Oporto

As the rearguard started to exchange musketry with both sides light battalions closing, the French force on the road were suddenly faced with several British battalions in column of companies making best speed to cut the road.

These troops were Sir John Murray's KGL and their light bobs, some armed with rifles, soon started to take telling pot shots at the French wagons as the dragoons came across to instill a sense of discretion into the German troops as the legere quickly looked to cover the road from the new comers.

First surprise, General Sir John Murray and his KGL brigade threaten the road

As the French battled to pin down Murray's brigade along the road, the French rearguard started to draw down on its force in and around Grijo as three battalions formed into column and st off to catch up the wagons.

The French are midway through their withdrawal using cavalry to stymie both British threats

Eager to prevent ideas of further withdrawal, the British moved up onto the ridge over Grijo, calling forward the guns to begin a softening up of the French rear units with massed musketry and artillery rounds.

The ground prevented Franceschi's cavalry from intervening and so they pulled back to cover the escape route should the French infantry feel so compelled.

The KGL deploy rapidly with rifle armed skirmishers moving into the woods to attack the French wagon train

The move to bring the dragoons over to cover the wagons had been a good one and so Murray's troops had to content themselves into pouring volley fire into each and every unit that tried to pass their position.

Meanwhile the 1st KGL move towards the road countered by French dragoons in the distance

The French start to draw down on their rearguard in Grijo

With the game past the halfway stage the French were eager to get their force into the second half of the table whilst the British were still looking for Hill's brigade to appear.

The KGL fire starts to cause casualties on the French troops trying to get to the Oporto crossing

The legere battalions were doing a grand job fending off Murray as the first elements of Mermet's rearguard infantry started to pass behind them, and with the wagons almost clear the French could congratulate themselves on a good job so far.

The French dragoons menace any further advance on the road

Then General Hill decided to show up with his brigade coming in from the opposite flank, just behind Grijo.

With their wagons safely withdrawn, the French cavalry hold back Murray's KGL as the French try to extract their rearguard

Suddenly an opportunity presented for the British to snatch a result from a game that was slipping away from them with the bulk of the French force sitting pretty on the road to Oporto.

Wellesley forces the Grijo position as the 1/2nd Guards storm into the village and rout the 2/47me Ligne

Not needing a second invitation, the 1/2nd Guards charged into the little village and smashed the French battalion trying desperately to resist, but breaking in rout after the first shock of combat.

The position around Grijo becomes untenable as Hill's brigade move in to cut off the road and hope of escape

Meanwhile the foot guns sent a few rounds of round-shot up the road to dissuade any French cavalry of thoughts of a rash move to rescue the beleaguered garrison.

Franceschi is stranded as his force looks on at the beleaguered rearguard

With just one move remaining the British brigades moved in to cut off the 47me Ligne from any escape, as Franceschi and Mermet had to settle for a withdrawal less two battalions as part of the bill.

The two battalions of the 47me Ligne fight bravely as the trap closes around them

The 1/16th Portuguese Line join Hill's brigade in the advance to seal off Grijo 

The British main force advance as the Guards close in

Steve's rearguard had lingered a few moves too long and the arrival of Hill's brigade sealed their fate as the first tentative steps backward were being contemplated towards the waiting cavalry.

Sir Arthur Wellesley oversees the taking of the village

General Franceschi prepares his cavalry to withdraw

The game proved to be an interesting challenge to both sides with the French doing an excellent job fending off the early threats to their column and getting the wagons off save a few musket hits, and the attack of the Guards nailing a better result than Wellesley managed by snipping out two battalions that wouldn't feature in the 2nd Battle of Oporto.

The British line advances on both sides of Grijo as the envelopment develops

The 1/2nd Guards mop up in Grijo

We hope you have enjoyed this series of game reports even though I have been frustratingly sparse on the details. I hope to remedy that situation soon.

In the meantime I have made available the play aids we created for these play tests and hope you will find them useful in your own OTH games.

If you want to check out all the posts referring to these OTH play-tests and other related OTH stuff then follow the link below.

Over the Hills

Next up, bows and arrows and Vikings and Saxons.


  1. Enjoyed, thanks. is General Hill guaranteed to enter play at some point?

    1. Thank you. Yes General Hill will appear but the French won't know when or where exactly and I didn't get the best possible result in this game.

  2. Great battle report as always! It's nice to see the British guards getting their licks in!

  3. Hi JJ,

    I have read a lot of your scenarios and your tables always lookalook beautiful. Can I ask which building manufacturer you use?

    I'm looking to start getting Peninsular terrain together and I would really appreciated a steer...Thanks

    1. I used several manufacturers for my terrain, by which I assume you are mainly thinking of the buildings.

      If you want to anything about my terrain you can follow the label terrain in the right side bar where I usually provide links to products and go through how I have made other pieces.

      I have attached it here to save you looking, and if you flick through to the early posts you will find everything relating to my Napoleonic collection.

      The buildings are varied and collected over time, but I did do a big build project for the Oporto game which stood me well for all the other games requiring buildings.

      The main supplier Rus, I think they were called, I believe have gone out of production which is disappointing as I loved their Peninsular style houses and walls.

      Anyway I attach some links from the terrain section that might help;