Saturday, August 27, 2011

Montblanc town released!

Montblanc, 4th October 1713

Finally, we were able to find a day in last week suitable for playing the battle resulting after the Catalan moves of this 12th campaign turn. That turn's initiative had been won by the Catalans, who had moved their armies first and performed a 2-horns approach to Montblanc town, thus blocking the scheduled Spanish withdrawal from that risky, unprotected place. This way, Spaniards were to perform in battle as defenders, while the Catalans were expected to attack from two different sides, at two different moments of day.

The battle was to be fought following Beneath the Lily Banners -our first trial of this ruleset-, albeit played in 15mm instead of the provided 28mm.

This one was a hard-to-play scenario given the dramatic unbalance of forces, that were overhelmingly favourable to the Catalans; so that we essayed to balance the clash a little bit by giving two different objectives to each side. The Spanish Army occupying Montblanc (deployment area A in the schema above) was given orders hold the town, as well as to take and secure the bridge at area D. This alternate target would have granted them communication with Tarragona city, and therefore could eventualy allow a safe retreat from battlefield if needed. No withdrawal was possible for them except through that bridge, for a huge mountain range behind the town blocked any retreat through their own deployment side.

This force was lead by an over average general (Vallejo, +1) assisted by an average sub-general (Velasco, +0). They shared command of a small force consisting of 1 Line Cavalry regiment in fairly good condition, 2 Dragoons regiments under strength and 3 Infantry battalions -two of which had been so heavily battered by previous fightings than were merged into a single battalion before battle. The Spanish commander main goal was to have 3 batteries at hand -one of them, heavy.

On their side, the Catalans (all whose regiments were at 100% strength!) would enter battlefield in two separate columns, the earlier one by point B in march column, the latter by point C deployed at will. Their battle targets were slightly differing from those of the Spaniards, because they had logically orders to take Montblanc town, but they were not given explicit orders to prevent an eventual Spanish retreat instead. Otherwise, their second objective was no other than capturing the Spanish batteries -a major goal to the Catalans, whose army is still lacking artillery enough... Such difference of objectives would theoretically allow the Spanish side greater chances to get a decent result from such an unbalanced clash.

The first Catalan column was lead by an average general (Nebot, +0) and consisted of Nebot's own regiment, 2 Mountain Fusiliers battalions, 2 Line Infantry regiments and no artillery. They would appear by point B at first turn in march column. The second Catalan force was commanded by an above average leader (Bellver, +1) who was assisted by a second-in-command (De Ramon, +0). Under their orders were 1 Line Cavalry regiment (St. George's), 1 Mountain Fusiliers battalion, 1 Line Infantry regiment (the hardened Valencians of Desemparats Regt.) and the elite regiment of Royal Catalan Guards. Besides, they enjoyed the support of 2 batteries -one of which was light. That force was allowed to enter already deployed, but their arrival moment was uncertain. It was agreed for them the arrival system followed in FoW: at each consecutive turn after 4th, it should be rolled an increasing number of D6. On a 6, the column would finally arrive.

We also rolled die for the hour-of-day start of battle. To our surprise, it resulted to start at 1:00 PM! Given the period of year, first days of October, we concluded that night would fall upon battlefield before 20 turns -at a rate of 15 minutes per turn... It was for sure an unexpected, additional complication for the Catalan side.

The Spanish C-in-C decided to assign his second in command a small force defending the town (the reformed Infantry battalion, with support of one of the Dragoons regiments and one field battery) while making the rest of his army to march towards the bridge in the following order: Dragoons first, the Line Cavalry just behind and the Infantry afterwards. Although assigned to himself, he left inside town his two batteries, in order to prevent eventual Catalan progressions by the center of battlefield. Although it seemed to work quite well at first, this later proved to be a fatal error, because at a later stage he'd have no chance to simultaneously give orders to so distant units. He'd better have split his own force into two, leaving command on one of them to a promoted colonel.

As said before, the Spanish initial deployment -with three batteries hampering any movement by the center of battlefield-, seemed to work quite well at first. The first Catalan column suffered heavily from the artillery fire and spent most of the first hour trying to form under fire. Nebot was an experienced cavalry general, but his lack of experience at leading foot units contributed by no means to soften his troops situation (repeated very poor command dice results). However, he had been wise enough to split his own command into two, so that Colonel Amill was given command of a brigade formed by his own regiment and that one of Colonel Molins. Amill proved to be an excellent Mountain Fusiliers brigadier (+1), as honestly reported by Nebot himself. Thanks to his initiative, the Miquelets brigade was able to evade the artillery fire and reach to the bridge environs just in time, when the Spanish Dragoons were about to secure it by crossing.

The rest of Nebot's column had to bear a stopless artillery fire for almost two hours before general Bellver column finally arrived. The flanking force entered table completely deployed, with St. George cavalry at left, a Mountain Fusiliers battalion at center and a light battery at right -with the two Line Infantry regiments and field artillery just behind. The Spanish line had no chance to conform to such irruption and their dismounted Dragoons suffered a flank cavalry charge that very same turn, with quite expectable results. The Spanish left flank then seemed to be dramatically close to a collapse, but the converged battalion of Toledo Regiment managed to close the gap, in spite of their depleted ranks, thus allowing the routing Dragoons to rally and re-form, while their own field battery not only kept the Catalans away for a good while, but even succeeded to silence the enemy light cannons. Both sides then suffered heavy losses from repeated musketry volleys, with the Spaniards slowly giving terrain, albeit too slowly for General Bellver's aims...

Such extraordinary sacrifice should have sufficed to allow the Spanish main force to take and secure the bridge, and afterwards to start a general withdrawal off table towards the safety of Tarragona city... But at this crucial point is where the supposedly clever dispositions of general Vallejo proved to have been a fatal mistake: had he split his own force into two commands, he'd have had time enough to directly manage the bridge fight, while a promoted colonel would have started in time withdrawal of the batteries remaining in town.

Therefore the Spanish right wing was incapable to secure the bridge by keeping away the Miquelets, who had time enough to reach close musketry range and pin the enemy Dragoons. Had the Spanish Line Cavalry regiment been given in time orders to cross the bridge, they would have easily swept those ragged bandits away... But now any crossing attempt would mean falling into the deadly volley of an entire brigade. Even worse, general Nebot finally managed to dispatch all his Line Infantry behind those brave Mountain Fusiliers, thanks to the presure relief after the dramatic events on the opposite flank. The Spaniards were now holding the bridge, but had no crossing chance.

Sunlight was about to fade behind the horizon, when both commanders dispatched couriers to each other. After a long, intense negotiation, general Vallejo was conceded to leave Montblanc town at the sound of drums and fife to the safety of Tarragona city, with the condition to leave on the battlefield one medium battery (already abandoned by their crew) and the heavy siege cannons -a major prize for the Catalans! However, this time their units had suffered quite severe losses, so severe than some Miquelets regiment will likely have to be re-formed or disbanded shortly...

In the end, it was a thrilling and fun experience for both players (Jordi and myself), who have enjoyed the tested ruleset so much that we're likely adopting it from now on. It means a lot of supplementary work for us, because our small 9 figures Foot battalions must be doubled in size, and all our 3 bases Horse units must be added a fourth stand... but we believe it worth the effort!


abdul666 said...

Obviously an enjoyable, exciting game and a new Galatan victory -hopefully not a Pyrrhic one despite the heavys losses.

Jordi said...

It must be counted the real losses, but I thing it was a strategic goal if Galatans succeed in moving quickly.

Capt Bill said...

A wonderful battle report. General Nebot has been invested into the Military Order of the Golden Crown as a result of his victory over the Spanish General Vallejo. Best regards Reich Duke Wilhelm...

Justin Penwith said...

Great battle report!