Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Massena's Retreat - A Peninsular War Campaign

Even as we playtest our Grand Fleets 2 adaptation for use with the Dystopian Wars models, I am planning for the Peninsular Campaign project that we have been preparing for since the year before.

Between Martin and myself we have looked through a few sets of rules, and while he is painting up the Brits and Portuguese I have bought a painted army off ebay.

We still haven't decide on a set of rules yet, but a question regarding Realistic Modelling's ACW rules on TMP is making me look at using them as a candidate.

Now the rules come with a set of campaign rules and a set of tactical rules. The campaign rules have all the players playing Union commanders trying to defeat Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, bu each trying to outdo the other and win more Prestige form theselves, oftentimes at the detriment of their compatriots!

The campaign takes place on a map with node-to-node movenet, and the Confederate army's moves are determined by an algorithm that takes into account the size of the Union army that attempts to move into contact with it: if the opposition is strong, Jackson may decide to retreat or indeed move on to attack a weaker target nearby. The size of the Confederate army is also determined randomly, such that the Union player never knows whether or not he will successfully bring the Confederate army to battle, which Confederate general he is facing, or how many the enemy are.

Once a battle occurs, the action is moved to the tabletop, where a Union player not involved in the battle now plays the role of the Confederate commander!

The tactical rules are abstract, featuring brigades of around a dozen bases fighting over sectors of the battlefield which are depicted on-table, but whose physical relationship and distance from each other are not to scale - to me this is similar to the Dixie card game which I enjoyed more than a decade ago. Command is thus at a high level: as the Corps commander, you decide wich division commanders to activate and the division commanders in turn decide which sector to commit which brigades to, and which to hold in reserve. There are no rules for formations or tactics per se, and the player is locked out of the lower levels of decision. To me this is a good representation of warfare at this scale, but of course the commander can still decide to influencethings on the ground personally by leading a brigade/divison himself.

I then went on to read a little about the period to find a campaign that has a similar scope and setting, and decided that Massena's retreat from Portugal in 1811 may fit the bill. The retreat from the lines of Torres Vedras took place along a few axes which meant the French split themselves up and the Allies were not always sure where the French were, there were a few rearguard actions fought, and to the end the British still thought that there was a chance the French would still turn back and resume their invasion.

I found a map and translated the places of note and the routes between them into a node map, which gave in most places two or three lines of retreat with only one real choke-point.

Turning to the orders of battle I think a larger scale of 1 base = 1 battalion will probably be more suitable given the size of the forces involved (as well as the number of figures I have!). This will mean Ney's 6th Corps will consist of 1 Corps Commander, 3 Divisions of about 12 bases each, and a Brigade of cavalry and two bases of artillery... I should be able to field up to 2/3rd of the French army at one time.

Now things are still rather preliminary - we will probably require a couple of test games for the tactical rules and I may do a dry run of the campaign rules solo before deciding whether we should have a one or two-sided game, but it should be fun.

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