Thursday, April 26, 2012

Negotiations: fifth round

Versailles, 8th November 1713

Once sorted the boundaries issue, negotiations with the French soon started to improve significantly their agility. Trade and customs agreements were committed, as well as the establishment of a fast Mail service linking Barcelona to Toulouse and Marseille, which would connect in turn with regular Couriers from these provincial capitals to Paris. Both would have a stop in Perpignan. Finally, both parties agreed to establish a procedure for the extradition of convicted criminals. It wasn't possible for the Catalan legacy to obtain an entirely free trade with French colonies in America --but somewhat reduced tax rates instead, which wasn't unimportant by any mean.

The French legacy made no further mention to the Roussillon issue for the rest of conversations, and this likely meant they had already made their choice face to the dilemma Princess Elisenda had posed to them. Such solution (or lack of solution to be precise) fitted pretty well to Marquis of Vilana's own provisions on the matter --for he had always asserted it was better not to sign anything than ratifying the Principality mutilation. Nevertheless, as logical as his reasonings might actually be, no less disappointing these were to Elisenda. Such deliberate undefinition from the French kept her deeply unhappy and frustrated, in spite of the undeniable successes the Catalan legation was achieving.

During those days, the personal situation of Princess Elisenda in Versailles experienced a radical change too. Replacing the rooms where she had been hitherto nearly confined, the Catalan Lady was hosted at a small yet comfortable pavilion close to Palace. Now that negotiations were nearly over, the princess had more spare time, although her above mentioned unhappiness prevented her from appropriately enjoying such new, privileged situation. Such unusual mood would extend still for a few days, until an unexpected event would change it all.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The escape (2): Fleeing from town

Lleida plains, some earlier (4th Nov. 1713)

It was dark night still when Pepon and Maurici stopped to observe the road bordering Segre river. Off the road there was a steep, broken area with a small forest in the vicinity, between a small hill and some rocky outcrops. All over the area some scattered shrubs could offer some protection.

Bourbon troops were distributed across the main road, cutting the way for our fugitives, symbolized by PEF markers (=Possible Enemy Forces) which an odd chance had got all them placed on the road itself --thus blocking our fugitives main route. The scenario offered pretty good areas to hide, but there were large blank areas too, that should be crossed in the open, at risk of a bad shot if they were discovered by the enemy.

Our protagonists are:
* Pepon, a
Miquelet reputed 4 (reputations ranging from 2 to 6) who also enjoys the fearless special characteristic;
* Maurici Madriguera, a soldier reputed 4, also enjoying fencing skills and high charisma;
* Maria Sauret, a female civilian reputed 4 who enjoys
melée bonus, and
* Josep Mallada, a male civilian reputed 2 with no extra skills

The fugitives decided to get out from the road and dodge Spanish patrols through open field. Chance would dictate whether they would be able to follow the roadside, or would be forced instead to enter the rocky broken terrain.

Taking advantage of a short period of Bourbon inactivity, the group try to reach the woods. If they succeeded, would have made half way without an incident. But of course, that much of luck would not last forever, so that a PEF got suddenly activated, taking the Catalans into their line of sight: a couple of Spanish soldiers on patrol emerged from behind bushes and asked them for the watchword. Pepon's rude answer echoed in the nightly silence: --Get fu**ed you and your frenchie king!!, just followed by a fast series of shots! The fugitives rushed into a rocky area, from where they started firing shot after shot until one of the soldiers fell badly hurt.

However, the shooting alerted the rest of PEF markers, which begun moving towards the fugitives and encircling them.

Just when they were about to get into the forest, a new PEF was revealed: two pro-Bourbon Miquelets who, alerted by the noise of battle, were trying to figure out what happened. Caught in the middle of plain, they were easily chased by our fugitives, who managed to kill one of them.

The Catalans then started a frantic race to the woods, with Pepon covering them --and risking being shot in turn by the surviving enemies. They reached their target just when a third PEF marker got revealed: six supplementary Spanish soldiers.

In the end, Maria Sauret and her friends had successfully evaded Spanish patrols --but the amount of active enemy soldiers forces our gamers to play a second scenario, under the significant title of "The Hunting".

Friday, April 20, 2012

Two Crowns' moves

At every turn start, both players simultaneously write our orders (Jordi for Catalan side, myself for Two Crowns), naturally hidden to each other. We afterwards throw a die for determining that week's meteorology (which can affect movement) and in the end determine by dice who wins initiative. This way, every one's orders are written before knowing who's going to move first, or even how will climate affect your orders.

It was Catalan side who won initiative and moved first this week, so that a number of the initially provided Spanish manoeuvres have been blocked by them. Therefore, almost all my critical moves in the "hot" Montblanc area have been cancelled --except for one: a massed advance onto Montblanc itself, from the Army straightly at south of town, with large reinforcements from the two sorrounding columns.

This allows me to foresee an unavoidable 3rd battle in that area, because the Catalan defenders there have no retreat route at hand. Besides, they've started to go unsupplied... Quite of a drama in this battle, I'm afraid.

On the other hand, there is another possible major clash some miles at North, in the main Lleida-Barcelona road --where the Catalans have unexpectedly advanced into contact with the Spaniards. Marquis of Aitona had already augured such move as likely, but his own reinforcement column has been hampered by the sortie of a Catalan Horse regiment from Montblanc town, thus being temporarily cancelled its movement.

A third possible clash --certainly smaller than the former ones-- involves a detachment of Spanish Dragoons and Miquelets who have been caught by the Catalan Royal Guards. They can for sure evade the assault, but their escape routes are restricted by Fiona Mc Gregor's Regiment brave girls. Well, no problemo.

It's time for us now to complete the turn with stated actions of particular characters, eventual civilian uprisings where appliable, and ultimately determining which of those 3 possible combat situations do actually end up in open battles, or if there are any evasions instead. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The escape (1): Evasion plan

Lleida, a few days earlier (3rd Nov. 1713)

This is the first one of a series of articles accounting an adventure run by a group of gamers from Lleida city, who volunteered for giving some kind of continuation to the urban revolt happened in that town a couple of turns ago, through a proxy gamed series of skirmish scenarios. This one is intended to giving readers a preliminary background of the story.

After the revolt outburst, the rebels of Lleida town had found themselves confined in a section of buildings enclosed behind barricades and rubble. And now, after a tough battle, the tense silence was broken only by some occasional shot from too a nervous sentry. Amidst the rebel area, the 15th century "Paeria" Municipality building showed little damage... however, everyone knew this could change quickly if the hitherto silent garrison guns started their horrifying song.

Inside, the rebels' most outstanding leaders were engaged in an endless debate about alternatives: whether a relieving army might be expected or not; if they should resist until death or not; otherwise, whether it would be convenient accepting the Spanish pardon in exchange for their leader Maria Sauret's head, just as Marquis of Aitona had demanded... Certainly, this last option was gaining adherents day by day.

None of them ever noticed that in a close small, dark room a very different kind of deliberation was taking place. There, two characters had met: Maurici Madriguera, a former officer of the "Coronela" militia of Lleida, who was now leading the defense barricades in Knights Street (="carrer cavallers"), and Josep Cassay --one of the main tradesmen in town, if not the main one.

--What do you want from me? --Madriguera abruptly asked-- I guess you wouldn't just recall me we're both going to hang from gallows side by side...

--Don't be that insolent and listen to me --Cassay whispered--. As you probably know, the betrayal to Maria Sauret can be taken for granted, for that bunch of cowards won't last long to find something to soothe their consciences, but their decision is already taken for quite awhile ...

--Don't you agree? How is it? --Madriguera asked with surprise, now in a lower voice.

--Due to my long relationship with the locksmiths family of Sauret, I could tell you. And you wouldn't last long to deduce it's a lie, so that I'm leaving it to her when the time is come... The truth is that (for reasons not concerning you) I wouldn't like to see her dead, because she's pretty worthier alive. She has already proved such in bringing together people around her. You have the necessary military experience, she radiates charisma and I have fundings enough for my plan... there's only one element missing from the equation.

--Taking her outside from town? --Madriguera said.

--It shouldn't be that difficult.

--True, we could use any of the numerous half-hidden gates of Gates Street (="carrer de les portes") and follow Segre River upstream.

The tradesman responded: --And turning eastwards later, to avoid the patrols of Balaguer town's garrison. It should be quite easier from that point on, because General Moragues has just expelled the Spaniards from Pallars county.

--A friend of mine who is an experienced miquelet could willingly help me. All right then --Madriguera concluded--, with his help I can easily take the girl out from this hell.

--Not just you two. A third person is accompanying you: lawyer Mallada. He'll be my man on the outside, who will provide for your fundings.

--Hey, taking a girl is hard enough! Will the old man hold up? --Madriguera protested.

Cassay replied with irony: --He must, for this time he wouldn't escape from gallows...

[We have chosen to represent Maria Sauret as a young woman for aesthetics and love for drama. However, it should be noted that the really scarce information on the Net about this local heroine suggests she was actually older than this, besides of having likely not survived the 1706 siege of the city. As there is no surviving depiction of her either, I've finally chosen assigning to her the image of another, different Historic character: that one of Katherine Ferrers, a reputedly criminal lady in English Civil War times. Beg your understanding fur such caprice.]

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Into enemy area

Vilafranca del Penedès, 8th November 1713

She was abruptly awaken by an assistant long before dawn. Half asleep, she dressed hastily and hurried toward the HQ building in downtown, where all garrison officers had been summoned. When she arrived, her colonel Loys d'Hauteville softly greeted her with a smile: --Hello, Foix.

--Hi, Loys. What's the matter? Do you know? --she asked.

--New orders, it seems --Hauteville whispered.

Someone coughed and required the officers attention: --I beg your listening, gentlemen --it was General Prado, who was in charge of Vilafranca del Penedès stronghold in the absence of General Basset. After looking around to check nobody was lacking, the man continued: --As you know, Montblanc town defenders managed last week to repulse a major enemy attack. Nevertheless, all roads leading to Montblanc are still blocked by King Philip's Army, so that our heroic comrades are in serious risk of running out of supplies.

Prado looked around once again before continuing: --We have been ordered to link up with them and, if necessary, assist them. As already known, we cannot use the main Tarragona road, because it's under control of important Spanish forces. Therefore, our best chance is sending one single battalion through paths beyond the coastal mountain range.

Signals of assent.

--After much thinking, I've resolved to assign such task to Fiona Mc Gregor Regiment.

Few hours afterwards, Lady Foix de Rovellats was already leading a small advanced detachment, half a mile behind of which the rest of Fiona Mc Gregor's female soldiers marched under Lt. Col. d'Hauteville. Making her horse stop on a bend in the road, she gazed restlessly the landscape in search for any trace of the enemy. Spanish dragoons and mountain fusiliers had been recently reported in their own direction, so that sooner or later they'd meet them. If such happened, this would be their very first real combat experience, and this made her feel very distressed.

She couldn't know yet, but her regiment's move was just one of a full series of concerted actions aimed at relieving Montblanc's suffering garrison. Not only these had split in all directions for foraging and assuring town's sorroundings, but some miles North, the Army commanded by the capable Marquis of Poal had advanced into contact with the Spanish main corps of Marquis of Aitona. Simultaneously, General Nebot's Horse Regiment had performed a daring, lightning sortie from Montblanc up to Cervera town, thus cutting the Spanish own supplies line. The city of Lleida was no farther away than forty miles westwards.

Was it perhaps some kind of preliminary of a more ambitious Catalan counter-offensive, few weeks lasting for winter start?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Negotiations: fourth round

Versailles, 7th November 1713

Conversations were retaken on Monday 6th, but all day passed away amidst neverending arguments and counter-arguments. It was a really disappointing session for both sides so that, on the next day, Marquis de Vilana asked for a short speech, to recapitulate his Legation position.

Once obtained the agreement of their French counter-part, it was Princess Elisenda who stood up to speak instead: --Dear gentlemen: never before in History our Western Pyrenean passages have been used for invasions, either northwards or southwards. Therefore, there are no reasons for France to fear anything from that side. In consequence, we firmly object any border modification is needed there, and will not consent the segregation of our northwestern counties from the Principality. Especially Aran Valley, our sovereignity over which is tied to their explicit will, and cannot be dealt without their consent.

--Listen gentlemen --she said--, the most outstanding disagreement between us is that one concerning the counties of Roussillon and Cerdaigne, where any concept of natural border gets virtually dilluted amidst a real labyrinth of easy passages, that have often eased attacks and invasions from either side.

Princess Elisenda stopped for a moment to look around. French legates remained motionless and attentive, with their glances severely fixed on her. She restlessly sought the gaze of Vilana, who nodded imperceptibly as a sign of encouragement. She then continued: --We do admit there would be strong objective reasons for France to assure such passages... provided the Nation lying at the opposite side of Pyrenees was hostile to you.

She then stopped again to glance at each one of the French legates: --However, I beg you to consider the real significance of the treaty we are suggesting to you: we are proposing not less than finally cancelling all vestiges of enmity between our respective Nations. You would have to worry never again about your south-eastern borders, because you'd have a friendly Nation defending them with determination. Our only condition for such to be achieved is the devolution of Roussillon and Cerdaigne --even if partially, as we already suggested.

A slight waving of the back room courtains distracted the Princess for a moment. Duke Philippe d'Orléans discretely entered the room and sat without a noise, far apart from his legates as not to disturb them. His glance was also fixed on her.

She noticed the accelerated beating of her heart, but forced herself not to panic: --Otherwise, it would be plainly useless to keep arguing about borders. Please gentlemen, let's omit such "small detail" off the treaty specifications, as if there were no disputes on the matter, and we shall eagerly sign the rest of agreements reached so far. For we have no intention of impeding the achievement of your so yearned peace with Austria...

--But if such the case --she lifted a finger in a theatrical gesture--, I'm compelled to warn you that France will forever lose a best opportunity to turn our traditional enmity into an everlasting friendship. For we haven't recognized so far the 1659 partition of our country --and shall never do it. There is nothing else we can say on this particular.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Unexpected visit

Barcelona, 7th November 1713

General Basset kept walking restlessly around his office room, like a caged beast. He disliked the luxury and comfort of the house he had been compelled to rent at his arrival in Barcelona. But he disliked inactivity even more.

A few days ago, he had been ordered by the supreme commander of the army General Villarroel to leave the Vilafranca town fortification works and come in Barcelona, without any explanation but all urgency. He was specifically instructed to carry his illustrious prisoner Marquis of Villadarias --the Spanish general captured in battle two months ago. He arrived in Barcelona a couple of days ago, but had received no new instructions since, and this kept him uneasy and worried. What the hell was going on at headquarters? What plans were there for him, and why so much secrecy?

Basset speculated for the umpteenth time what the sudden orders had to do with recent political events. It was publicly known his own connection to the "Busca" popular party, so that he at first suspected he'd been attracted into the City to be arrested. However, he soon discarded the idea. "No, it would have no logic, especially now that Barcelona itself is in hands of Busca party. It would provoke a terrible political crisis."

Now quieter, Basset continued wondering about other, eventually more subtle political manoeuvres. He suddenly realized he had no idea who was Villarroel politically aligned with. However, his brother Ignacio was rumored to be a member of the semi-secret Academy of the Distrustful, the main bastion of pro-Charles faction among Catalan nobility. "Hum, it's clear then", he thought, "Villarroel is essentially a Princess Elisenda's man".

At that moment a servant interrupted him: --Pardon Sire, there is a priest asking to meet you.

--A priest? --stunned, Basset answered. "Why would a Church man will to meet me, they who've labelled me as a menja-capellans (="priest-eater", literally)?", he thought.

--Well, more like a monk, Sire. He has introduced himself as Brother Joan de Fenollet --said the man, who afterwards added in a tone of confidence: --I believe he is a Valencian, Sire.

Increasingly curious, General Basset wondered what would a monk belonging to Valencian gentry explain to him: --Hummm... let's hold that meeting now, then.

Once having entered, the priest went on the matter without ado: --I'm coming on behalf of a group of Valencian exiles. It seems clear that General Villaroel has no intention of marching toward Valencia at the short-term, don't you believe?

Basset could not repress an angry gasp: --Enough we have now just to defend the Principality, for going and opening a front in Valencia right now!

--That's why we thought it might be a good idea to take some kind of action there.

Basset nodded energically: --I'm not going to leave the Principality for adventures, it's not the best time for everyone to make war on their own!

--We are fully aware. There aren't men enough to form an expeditionary force, we know. But there are men enough indeed for manning those two captured galleys dying bored at harbour! We know about quite a few juicy booties in Peniscola district, as well as other ill-garrisoned Valencian coastal towns...

--We haven't got money enough for purchasing galleys and carte-blanche altogether. --the monk continued-- That's why we're proposing you to share expenses. It might be a good investment if war lasts long enough. You'd have a good revenue source to keep funding your artillery regiment...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Safe from invaders

Tremp, 6th November 1713

--They're withdrawing, Sire!

--True --General Moragues simply responded. From his high viewpoint on top of Puigcercós hill, he could see the remnants of the Caraffa Regiment(*) fleeing northwest. They had reached Tremp town earlier than his own Miquelets column. But fortunately enough, the town had refused to open gates to the Spaniards, thus forcing them to face Moragues' column in open field.

The battle started early in the morning. A handful of Miquelets were no match for a well trained and commanded Line Infantry in the open, so that the Catalans soon began falling back. An excess of confidence on victory made the Spanish force pursue the retreating force up to a place called barranc de l'Espona (Espona gulley).

They should have noticed, they should have expected some kind of stratagem from the enemy --for it wasn't that normal for a Miquelets force to regularly deploy as if Line Infantry they were.

They didn't however, so that their carefree pursue lead them to being pitifully ambushed at Espona gulley by General Moragues' bulk force of Miquelets, who had previously taken best positions there.

After an almost point blank surprise volley, the Catalans rushed out from the bushes, charging fiercely with pistol and cutlass. It was a fast and furious carnage, with terrible results for the Spanish side --nearly 20% casualties, that is 4 out from 18 figures. On their side, the Catalans suffered about 5% casualties (1 out from 18).

The enemy nearly routed completely, but the Spanish commander Marquis of Bus managed to avoid the defeat to become a complete disaster. Anyway, his column would not stop withdrawing until crossing again the Aragonese-Catalonian border. It was a certainly small battle, but consequences of it were dramatic: the Pyrenees valleys would remain safe from invaders for a long while.

(*) Not Spaniards properly, but an Italian unit in Bourbon Spanish service.

[Not actually fought, as you can easily imagine. As Jordi and I had found no time to game it, we decided to link its development and results to those of the next FoW tournament game Jordi would hold. Well, his panzerabteilung literally smashed the Soviet battalion facing him by a crushing 6 - 1, so that I've felt comfortable enough to describe a similarly briliant Catalan victory in this other war! --OK OK, that was quite of an eccentricity.]

Monday, April 09, 2012

Cartographic interlude

Just took some advantage of Easter days interlude to widen a bit my National Library. I've added to it a new cartographic (and heraldic!) piece. Following the path of my first map plate, which showed the Principality of Catalonia, its administrative districts and each one's coat of arms, I've now made a second, smaller map plate showing the second main territory of my Galatan Commonwealth: the Balearic Islands, currently an Imperial vice-royalty ruled by Princess Elisenda on behalf of Archduke Charles --except for Minorca island, under British rule.
Please note that external charges of coats of arms are totally invented (just as in the Principality plate). I've designed these as a visible sign of each territory's legal status. Inversely, shields themselves are correct. Also, the flags attributed to Minorca island may seem likely, but have no historical backing actually.

As commented some days ago, I feel more comfortable at giving their actual names to real places, such as Spain, France, Majorca, Vienna, Madrid, etc --rather than masking them with fictional names. From now on I'm going to reserve the fictional name Galatan Commonwealth (or Galatea in short) to the whole, intricated Imagi-Nation our characters are slowly building, while each of its parts will keep its own, real name: Catalonia, Balearic Islands, maybe Sardinia and so on.