Saturday, 19 December 2020

The Leopard's Debut - Battle of Rolica 1808 from O'er the Hills at Tiny Wars Played Indoors

One of the best parts of blogging about wargaming is that you get to chat with people interested in the hobby from all over the world and to see the distinctive way they engage with the hobby which can only add to your own insights and view point.

About a week ago I had a very pleasant exchange of emails with an old friend and correspondent with the blog, Mr Bill Slavin, from Canada who hosts the 'Tiny Wars Played Indoors' blog and who has been in touch with me via our shared interest ever since JJ's Wargames got going back in 2012-13.

Bill's games and tables have always grabbed my attention with their rolling terrain and restricted lines of sight from ground level that when seen from the models eye view perspective really seems to capture the problems faced by the metal warriors having to manoeuvre and fight over it that their real life counterparts would have similarly had to deal with, an aspect I have always tried to bring to my own tables.

Bill's rolling terrain with restricted lines of sight seen on the recent refight of the O'er the Hills scenario Rolica 

So I was really interested when Bill let me know about his plans to fight the Rolica scenario from O'er the Hills and to see how his game looked and played, as this scenario really stands out in my mind as a really interesting one to play and one that is completely different from the normal battle line versus battle line that one regularly plays in Napoleonic games.

The battle at Rolica on the 17th August 1808 was fought between Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley commanding an allied army of 14,500 Anglo-Portuguese troops and French General de Division Henri-Francois Delaborde, with a force of about 4-5,000 men, after the former had landed on the 1st of August on the coast of Portugal with orders to secure and liberate the country from a French army of invasion commanded by General Jean-Androche Junot, and the latter having been dispatched by Junot to delay the Allied advance whilst his commander pulled his forces together to resist the advance on Lisbon.

My own picture from the early nineties of the imposing ridge overlooking the plain of Rolica, with equally restricted lines of sight. 

Thus the scenario presents the French commander playing the role of Delaborde with the classic 'withdrawal in the face of the enemy delaying action' that can only be completed successfully by, in this case, doing a better job than Delaborde achieved on the day.

The map of the scenario illustrating the routes of march of the allies taken in Bill's recent replay

Thus, with a limited number of turns to play, the French force will occupy, in battle formation, various defensive terrain features, starting with Rolica Hill, looking to force the Allies to deploy off the line of march to give battle, before deftly pulling back to another feature and setting up to give battle yet again whilst avoiding being embroiled into a drawn out fight and being surrounded and cut off.

See what I mean about those sight lines Bill captures on his tables. The Allies close in on the French rear-guard position.

However the best laid plans can often go wrong under pressure from an advancing enemy in force and with the sound of cannon and musketry together with copious clouds of black powder smoke and the cries of the wounded adding to potential confusion when clear orders and instructions are needed to ensure pulling out from a position is conducted at just the right moment; something the 'orders' mechanism in the Over the Hills rule system models rather well and can lead to some interesting situations for both sides when units don't behave as their masters would have preferred.

Needless to say I smiled and winced with recollecting our own several play-tests of this particular scenario after reading Bill's equally entertaining account of his game, with some twists that seemed to mirror the historical battle that saw the death of a certain Colonel Lake and several of his men of the 29th Foot after a rather disastrous decision taken by him towards its end.

If you are interested in this period and would like to read on to see how the game turned out then just follow the link to Tiny Wars below.

I have also attached the link to my own set up that Steve and I played during the play testing for the scenario book.

And if you are interested in getting a copy of the scenario book O'er the Hills you can get one via Stand to Games in the link below or by clicking on the image, top right.

Thanks to Bill for the 'heads up' on his recent game and the link to his AAR and I look forward to seeing how Vimeiro plays out.

Next Up: The run in to the Xmas holiday starts this week and like most of us I will be looking forward to spending time with family and thinking about plans for the New Year ahead which is likely to hold plenty of surprises if this year has been anything to go by.

So before signing off for the holiday I will be posting a final book review for 2020 before reposting between Xmas and New Year with anything topical and of course an annual year review and look forward to plans for 2021.

More anon


  1. Hi Jonathan,
    I can only say again how much fun it was to pay through your scenario. Covid scuttled plans to play Vimeiro Hill over the holidays but hopefully we will get to that in the new year. It will give my me time to paint the fourth regiment of French dragoons I was needing!

    1. Hi Bill,
      Sorry to hear you have been similarly 'locked down' with Covid. We are currently all tied up with movement restrictions and limited mixing of households so face to face gaming has not really been an option for most of this year, although with the introduction of the vaccine light seems now to be at the end of the tunnel.

      Here's looking forward to getting back to some normality, but in the meantime keep on reading and painting and have a great Xmas.