Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Battle of Cambrils - 26 May 1813


Tactical Map 26 May 1813

Cambrils is a small village on the military road from Tortosa to Tarragona. It is the most direct road from Reus to the river Ebro at Vandellos.

1st and 4th Spanish armies are making a dash for Vandellos to avoid the wrath of Suchet.

4th Corps has been ordered to move south from Prades, take Cambrils and cut the Spanish escape route.


Photo 1 - table at start of game. 4th Spanish approach Cambrils

Top of table is north.

Right is the road to Reus

Left is road to Vandellos

Top is road to Prades

Map squares

D10, E10, F10

D11, E11, F11

D12, E12, F12

Spanish objective (Jan) is to get both armies off road left

French objective (Paul) is to take Cambrils and stop them

5th French Corps (Paul) enter in column of march on Prades road (top)

4th Spanish Army (Jan) approaching Cambrils in column of march

1st Spanish Army (Jan) enters on Reus road (right) behind 4th Army


Photo 2 – French start to deploy behind cavalry screen

4th Spanish started the game approaching Cambrils in a long column of march. 1st Spanish were behind them, but off the table.

French moved first and immediately sent forward their light cavalry to make 4th Spanish deploy and block the road. This would mean that the remainder of the French would be slow to deploy as they would have to pay pips for each move

Photo 2 is the position at the end of move 3. 4th Spanish have failed to move at all due to the Poor Card. 1st Spanish have moved around them to prevent the French from attacking the vulnerable column.

Photo 3 – 4th Spanish are moving behind Cambrils to secure the road to Vandellos

4th Spanish finally get to move, and roll a 6. They are more than 16” from the nearest French so they can make multiple moves. They use all of their movement to pass behind Cambrils to reach the Vandellos road. They can now either make a dash for the river, or deploy to hold this vital road.

Photo 4 – 1st Spanish rout

4th Spanish halt and deploy along Vandellos road. They open fire on the approaching French and cause casualties in the leading infantry brigade.

French artillery fire on Spanish dragoons and rout them. Supporting infantry all have to test morale. They already have casualties from Prades and each break and rout in turn.

Photo 5 – All Spanish rout

With 1st Spanish in rout the French redeploy to engage 4th Spanish. Hussar brigade move forward, Spanish artillery open fire but miss. Hussars declare opportunity charge on flank of infantry column, make morale and rout infantry. Two further brigades join them in rout and the remainder of 4th Spanish are shaken.

At this critical point Marshal Suchet arrives on the battlefield. He can see at a glance that the Spanish are on the point of complete rout, but he orders 4th corps to halt and not pursue.


Two Spanish armies are cut off from the safety of the river Ebro, but two more are secure behind the river barrier.

Marshal Suchet is aware that an attack on the strong river line could easily result in heavy French casualties. He has a “clever plan”. He will pin 1st and 4th Spanish armies on the west bank in the hope that Captain-General Copons will be tempted to cross to the west bank to rescue them.


Game played July 2009. Paul commanded the French. Jan commanded the Spanish.

There would be no blinds in this game.

Both sides enter the table with figures in column of march in the the march order written before start of game (to avoid reaction)

As long as the corps or army remained in one long column they could move 8” per turn for the cost of 1 pip. However if they deployed a single brigade, normal movement costs would apply.

4th Spanish army failed to move 3 moves out of 7, a good result as it portrayed the difficulty of Spanish command and control and their inability to react to changing circumstances.

On the other hand 1st Spanish army (with the Average commander) managed to place themselves between 4th Spanish and the French to allow them to deploy. However they paid a heavy price.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Battle of Prades - 24 May 1813

Tactical Map 24 May 1813

Prades is a small village in the mountains between Tortosa and Tarragona.

3rd Spanish Army are deployed to hold the village and stop French advance

1st Spanish Army are marching from Vals to support them

4th French Corps must break through to relieve garrison of Tarragona


Photo 1 - table at start of game.
3rd Spanish deployed in Prades

Top of table is north.

Top is road to Lerida

Right is road to Vals

Bottom is road to Tarragona

Map squares

D7, E7, F7

D8, E8, F8

D9, E9, F9

French game objective is to break through to Tarragona

4th French corps (Paul) enters on blind on Lerida road (top)

1st Spanish army (Jan) enters on blind west road (left side)

3nd Spanish army (Jan) is deployed in Prades (centre)


Photo 2 - French cavalry (hill right) have spotted 1 Spanish who have to deploy

The Spanish occupation of Prades dominates the pass out of the mountains, so the French move into the mountains to their left. They send their cavalry forward to spot the Spanish reinforcements.

1st Spanish manage to deploy before they are spotted, they are almost in position so it makes little difference. They send their heavy cavalry forward to try to spot the approaching French.

Photo 3 – The French have been spotted in column of march

As the head of the French column nears the front of the hill, the cavalry is moved to the left to allow them to deploy. Before they can do so the Spanish cavalry advance and spot them, forcing them to deploy in column of march. This is dangerous for the French, because they can not fight in this formation, and the enemy cavalry can Opportunity Charge them. It also means that it will take a long time to properly deploy and bring up the tail of the column.

The Spanish cavalry roll to Opportunity Charge, but fail to do so by rolling a 3 when a 4 is required. Having done their job of spotting the enemy, they withdraw to their own lines.

Photo 4 – Spanish complete their deployment, French struggle to do so

All movement on hills is at half move rate, so the French take four moves to bring up their infantry and deploy. The cavalry have to remain to protect the artillery until this is done. One brigade (right) is left in the pass in case 3rd Spanish come forward from Prades and threaten the French right flank. The corps commander is riding around like a madman trying to sort out his corps.

Photo 5 – French ready to engage Spanish, hussars move forward

It is almost dark by the time the French have reached the crest of the hill and deployed ready to engage. Their artillery opens fire and routs a square, this results in a second Spanish brigade being Shaken. The French hussars move forward ready to attack any Shaken target.

1st Spanish are now in a desperate position. They lost their artillery at Reus, and have nothing to reply to the French artillery. Many of their infantry are in square for protection against the advancing enemy hussars, however this makes them more vunerable to the French artillery.

Photo 6 – French cavalry about to rout Spanish 1st Army

As night fell the French hussars tested to Opportunity Charge the Shaken Spanish infantry in line. They made their morale and routed the Spanish, who took the other two Shaken brigades with them. The Spanish right flank had ceased to exist. The Spanish were lucky that it was now too late for the French to take advantage of the situation.


The Spanish have failed in their best opportunity, which was to stop 4th corps as it tried to exit from the mountains. However they could still fall back on Reus and again offer battle to maintain their siege of Tarragona


Game played July 2009.

Paul commanded the French.

Jan commanded the Spanish.

The rules worked very well. The Spanish CinC had to miss his go 4 moves out of 11 due to the Poor Card. This meant he was unable to change the orders of 3rd Army and get them to attack the open flank of 4th French corps. Instead they sat in and around Prades and played little part in the battle.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Battle of Reus - 20 May 1813


Tactical Map 20 May 1813

Reus is a small town just north of Tarragona. It commands both the main military road along the east coast, and also the approach to the city of Tarragona.

5th French corps have taken position there to keep open their lines of communications between Tarragona and Barcelona and also to defend Tarragona itself.

1st and 2nd Spanish armies are determined to destroy the French before they can be reinforced.


Photo 1 - table at start of game

Top of table is north.

Left is road to Tortosa

Top is road to Lerida

Bottom is road to Tarragona

Map squares

F9, G9, H9

F10, G10, H10

F11, G11, H11

Game objective is to destroy the enemy

5th French corps (Paul) is deployed in and around Reus

1st Spanish army (Jan) enters on blind west road (left side)

2nd Spanish army (Jan) enters on blind on north road (top)


Photo 2 - French right. As 1st Spanish approach Reus, the French dragoons and two infantry brigades move forward to engage them The gun remains to cover the Spanish cavalry.

1st Spanish was commanded by the best Spanish commander. They approached the town in good order, with cavalry on their right flank to protect the infantry. They deployed their artillery under the protection of an infantry square.

The French changed their orders to Engage and sent their cavalry, supported by two infantry brigades, against 1st Spanish. The remainder held Reus. The dragoons drove the enemy gunners into the square and the infantry advanced to engage them.

Photo 3 - French right. Two French brigades hold the town, 2nd Spanish approach slowly

The French are content to hold Reus on this flank, and delay the Spanish advance.

2nd Spanish have a Poor commander, and he has missed a couple of moves due to the Poor card. The CinC has been busy riding from one to the other to change their orders as necessary, and was not available to give his move when the Poor Card was drawn.

Photo 4 - French left. The French and Spanish engage in firefight

The French approached the Spanish on Engage orders, so they could skirmish or firefight, but not attack with the bayonet. At the end of their move, only one brigade was within skirmish distance (4”). They inflicted one casualty on the Spanish, who made their morale. The French cavalry advanced on their right to hold the Spanish cavalry at bay.

The Spanish were on Hold orders, so they could not advance to engage the French. However when the Spanish CinC turn came, he changed their orders to Engage.

The French moved into firefight distance (2”). They were surprised that the Spanish held their own (due to very poor French dice roll).

When the Spanish turn came they continued the firefight. One of their brigades were in line, against a French column, so they had a slight advantage. However their luck ran out and they failed the firefight and received 3 casualties.

Photo 5 – French right. Spanish slowly approach Reus

The Spanish have been very slow to approach Reus, mainly due to missing a couple of moves due to the Poor Card. The French redeployed their artillery to cover this flank. However the Spanish never approached within long range.

Photo 6 – French left. Spanish break and rout, covered by infantry squares and cavalry

Both Spanish brigades involved in the fire fight lost their morale and routed, taking the artillery with them. The remaining infantry and cavalry made their morale, and were able to cover the rout.

This happened on move 11 of a total game of 12 moves. It was considered too late to nightfall to continue the game


Although defeated, the Spanish are still an effective fighting force. Only half of 1st army broke and ran. The remainder, and nightfall, prevented a French pursuit. 2nd army were not engaged at all.

The French had held Reus, but failed to break the whole Spanish army. Now that the Spanish were united on the battlefield they would be unable to hold Reus, and would have to retreat into Tarragona


Game played June 2009. Paul commanded the French. Jan commanded the Spanish.

We had a lot of problems making it possible for both the Spanish or French to win. We played three games, and each time the Spanish won. So we had to amend the rules. This is the first game to try them out.

The main rule changes are:

CinC can not issue orders direct to brigades

CinC can give his move to a Poor corps commander

He must be in base contact

It will take three Pips

The corps commander can then use the remaining Pips for his turn

Spanish corps commanders must be in base contact to issue orders to brigade

French corps commanders must be within 8” (no change)

We were very pleased with the new rules for the Spanish.

First it slowed the approach of the Poor commander

Second it made it more difficult to issue orders

Third it made it more difficult to pass command from CinC to commander

The result was a wargame which we felt reflected very well the historical difficulties experienced by Spanish commanders.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Campaign Diary

7 June – End of Campaign

Spanish settle down to blockade of French garrisons and the rest and recuperate from the campaign

French are secure in their garrisons, but have lost all control of the surrounding area.

6 June

Spanish now control all of the roads between Lerida, Tarragona and Barcelona

French garrisons of Tarragona and Lerida are isolated, but have sufficient supplies to last for at least 21 days.

5 June

Spanish tighten blockade of Lerida and Tarragona

French 15th corps continues towards Barcellona

4 June

Spanish approach Tarragona and Lerida

French 15th corps continues towards Barcelona.

3 June

Spanish cautiously recross the river Ebro and follow French retreat

French hold Lerida and Tarragona, 15th corps continue towards Barcelona

2 June – start of French withdrawal

Spanish continue to hold their positions on west bank of Ebro

French 5th corps enters Tarragona, 15th corps starts back to Barcelona and 4th corps holds line of Ebro.

1 June

Spanish hold their positions on the west bank of Ebro

Marshal Suchet receives news of guerrilla activity between Barcelona and the French border and issues orders to hold Lerida and Tarragona, but orders 15th corps back to Barcelona

30 May

Spanish complete their withdrawal behind the river Ebro and deploy to cover the bridges.

French recce the river but fail to find an undefended bridge or ford.

29 May
The Spanish withdraw over the river Ebro and take up defensive positions at Vandelets and Mora. 2nd Army covers the retreat.

The French enter Cambrils and Prades and regroup.

28 May – Second Battle of Cambrils – see battle report

All four Spanish armies are concentrated at Cambrils and about to retire over the river Ebro, when they are attacked by the three French corps.

The first French attack is by 5th corps on the left. They storm the village, but the Spanish hold their own, counter attack and rout the French. Suchet has no option but to halt the remaining two corps until he can rally 5th corps. By then it is nightfall and too late to attack again. Under cover of darkness the Spanish slip away and cross the river Ebro at Vandelets

27 May

Captain-General Copons sees a chance to destroy the isolated 4th French corps. He orders 2nd and 3rd armies to cross the river Ebro and close on Cambrils. When he arrives he finds that the French have retreated towards Reus. However he has rescued 1st and 4th armies and prepares to retreat back across the river Ebro.

Marshal Suchet has concentrated his three corps at Reus and orders them to advance and engage the Spanish with their backs to the river Ebro. The critical battle of the campaign is about to be fought

26 May – Battle of Cambrils – see battle report

4th French corps ordered to take Cambrils to prevent 1st and 4th Spanish armies retreating to Vandelets They both reach the battlefield in column of march, but the French are quicker to deploy, advance and pin the leading 1st Spanish army.

4th Spanish move to engage the French flank, but the are attacked and routed. 1st Spanish has started to deploy, but are also routed.

At this stage Marshal Suchet arrives on the battlefield and orders 4th corps to halt. He wants to lure the remaining two Spanish armies, safe behind the river Ebro, to move forward to the east bank so that he can destroy all of the Spanish armies, not just two of them.

26 May 1813 - Battle of Cambrils

25 May

With the loss of Prades, Captain-General Copons decides he is no longer able to maintain the siege of Tarragona, and orders a retreat to the river Ebro. 1st and 4th Armies will cover the retreat, 2nd and 3rd will secure bridges at Mora and Vandelets.

24 May – Battle of Prades – see battle report

As Munsier approached Prades he finds the pass blocked because 3rd Spanish hold the village, and he has to move over the mountains. In doing so they engage and defeat 1st Spanish who are moving to support Prades. Because of the detour the battle starts late in the day and the French are unable to follow up their victory

23 May

Munsier enters Juncosta and finds a large Spanish force blocking his road south at Prades. He orders an immediate attack

O’Donnell’s 4th Army moves south and occupies Vedrell on the coastal road to prevent Suchet reaching Tarragona

22 May

Musnier is aware that a battle has been fought near Tarragona, due to the sound of cannon fire on 20 May. He is also aware Roche is at Flix, between himself the Tarragona. He has received no orders since leaving Barcelona 8 days earlier. He decides that he should march to the sound of the guns, and moves to Flix.

Suchet leaves a small garrison at Barcelona, and marches towards Tarragona with 15th Polish corps.

By late afternoon Captain-General Copons is aware of all of these movements at his headquarters at Vals. He orders 4th corps to move to Vedrell and prevent Suchet from reaching Tarragona. He will concentrate 1st and 3rd Armies at Prades and prevent Musnier from reaching Tarragona.

21 May

General Musnier has taken Lerida with 4th corps, but is disappointed to find no trace of the General Roche. He rests his corps, but orders his cavalry to find where the Spanish have gone. At nightfall he receive confirmation that they have moved to Flix, on the mountain road to Tarragona.

General Habert is isolated in Tarragona. The city has sufficient rations for 10 days, but will have to surrender is not relieved or resupplied by then.

General Hairspe arrives at Barcelona, where he is allowed to rest his weary Poles for 24 hours, but must be ready to march at first light.

Captain-General is pleased that his army has performed so well at Reus. He orders 2nd Army to occupy the town and impose the siege on Tarragona. 1st Army is ordered north to Vals to prevent Musner from marching on Tarragona.

20 May – Battle of Reus – see battle report

4th corps enter Lerida and are not too surprised to find the city empty. Measures are taken to punish the local junta as they are assumed to have supported the Spanish occupation. 3rd Spanish army are known to have retired south, and patrols are sent to discover their exact whereabouts. 15th corps reach Barcelona and are ordered to prepare for an immediate move towards Reus.

At Reus General Halbert realizes for the first time that he is outnumbered 2 to 1. He garrisons the town with two infantry brigades to delay 2nd Spanish army. He then advances against 1st Spanish army with the remainder. General Del Parque is the best of the Spanish commanders, and holds his own against the French. At nightfall General Halbert orders a retreat to Tarragona.

20 May 1813 - Battle of Reus

19 May

3rd Spanish army vacate Lerida as 4th corps approach, they move south to put themselves between Lerida and Tarragona. 15th Polish approach Barcelona, still shadowed by 4th army. With only the weak garrison of Barcelona, Suchet must wait for the Poles to arrive before he can take any action to support 5th corps at Reus.

Copons orders 1st and 2nd armies to attack Reus. Orders are sent to 3rd army to take up position at Flix and to delay any attempt by the French at Lerida to march towards Tarragona. 4th army is ordered not to make any move against Barcelona, but to be prepared to block any attempt by 15th corps to march towards Tarragona.

18 May

4th corps are now reaching the open terrain north of the mountains, and within a couple of days march of Lerida. Suchet is aware of Spanish activity to the south, but does not consider it a major threat. 15th corps increase their rate of march, still unaware of the Spanish presence in the mountains to their north.

5th corps move to Reus to protect both the main road to Barcelona and the approach to Tarragona. They report to Suchet at Barcelona that they expect to engage at least one Spanish army.

2nd Spanish army halts at Prades to allow 1st army to draw closer in preparation for their advance on Reus.

17 May

4th corps continue their march towards Lerida.. 5th corps patrols report Spanish activity around Prades, and this news is forwarded to Marshal Suchet at Barcelona. He orders 15th corps to increase their efforts to reach the weakly held city.

1st and 2nd Spanish armies cross river Ebro and march towards Tarragona.

16 May

As 4th corps continue their march through the mountains towards Lerida, local guerrilla groups close the roads behind them and they lose communications with Barcelona. This was expected and is not a cause for concern. 15th corps meet no opposition on their march to Barcelona., and are unaware that the 4th army are moving parallel to them.5th corps patrol north and west of Tarragona but find no trace of the enemy.

The Spanish CinC issues order to 1st and 2nd armies to move on Tarragona. 3rd army will remain in Lerida until the French approach and 4th army will continue to keep a close watch on 15th corps. No move is to be made against Barcelona, as nothing must prompt 4th corps to abandon their march on Lerida.

15 May

At first light 4th corps depart from Barcelona and enter the mountains on their way to Lerida. By midday 15th corps commence their move from Girona to Barcelona. 5th corps at Tarragona are ordered to increase their patrols both north and south of the city.

By nightfall Copons is aware of the French activity. Orders are issued for 4th army to shadow 15th corps as it moves west, but not to engage them. The remainder of the Spanish armies will wait until 4th corps is well into the mountains before they start their move on Tarragona.

14 May – Start of Tarragona Campaign

At his headquarters in Barcelona Marshal Soult receives news of the fall of Lerida and the loss of communications between Barcelona and Zaragoza. He immediately orders 4th corps to march from Barcelona to Lerida, destroy the Spanish army there and open communications again. 15th corps at Girona is ordered to move to Barcelona.

At Tortosa Captain-General Copons waited anxiously to see how the French would react. He ordered his four armies to keep a low profile, and for a careful watch to be kept on the three French garrisons.

14 May 1813 - Start of Campaign