Friday, 14 October 2016

Game 47 : Bailen 1808

This battle had a number of firsts. It was the first Peninsular battle that has been played. As the Brits are yet to arrive, I decided to try the classic battle where the Spanish achieved their only sole noted victory. As usual,
I'll leave the reader to investigate the books at to what precipitated the battle and why. In a nutshell, a French Provisional Corps has to break through the lines of a Spanish army to escape back onto their supply lines. They have 600 wagons in tow and so the objectives are clear. The French need to clear the heights and main road in front of Bailen, then clear Bailen and then be able to march off the battlefield via the main and only road.
The Spanish have a good defensive line of heights in front of the town. In essence, if the hill is taken and the Spanish are in disarray, then the French objective has really been met.
Terrain considerations also require some thought. Maps of the battle are inconsistent with regards to how much area was wooded and how deep were the woods. I decided to adopt a simple solution to reflect lightly wooded and broken ground areas. I used the fields to represent an area where visibility was limited but infantry were not affected in terms of order/disorder. The same are would count all mounted troops or limbered artillery as disordered. This simple approach breaks up the terrain in a way where infantry are free to move and cavalry have to pick their ground. I used woods to represent woods as we normally understand them.
The next biggest problem is how to reflect the historic behaviour of the Spanish, with regards to their morale, without making the outcomes too predictable. For both armies I adopted a variable morale system and utilised the casualty roster sheets to reflect tenacity and effectiveness as attrition is suffered.
Every troop type, for each army, had a table where the morale of the troops was variable. I'll use the French as an example.
Take French line infantry. The basis is that the line infantry were raw conscripts that had been trained on the march. Their elan was reasonable.
So, as a morale test is required and not before, a 1d6 roll is made.
On a 6, the unit is Seasoned, 4,5 1st class, 2,3 2nd class and on a 1, militia.
This is done for each unit. Unit types had different ratings and chances.
French Dragoons had 5,6 Seasoned, 2,3,4 1st class, 1, 2nd class.
The last factor are the roster sheets. Irrespective of morale class, the roster used was for 1st class. The reason for this is explained at the end of the Spanish notes.
Using the same approach, the Spanish Infantry had the following, 5,6 1st class, 3,4 2nd class, 1,2 militia. The roster sheet used, irrespective of morale class, was for militia.
The morale ratings are based on my research on the troops at the time. The roster used reflects my view that the Spanish were, on the whole, more brittle. The effect would be that is a one to one trade of volleys, French troops would likely stay longer.
The beauty of the system allows many variations to be used and allows the designer to paint whatever picture he wants. Now the pics! 

This Bailen itself. The escape road exits at the bottom and in the distance can be seen the main defence line that the Spanish hold and the French must break. The exit road heads east.

This is the ridge line starting at the northern most end of the Spanish line.
This is to the south of Bailen showing the church as it is pretty!
The French tactic was to have a very weak centre screened with cavalry and strong flanks to try and turn the Spanish on both wings. The Spanish had elected for a right hook at the northern end of the battlefield with their strongest infantry formation and where possible engage the French cavalry to try and prevent the French from using combined arms. The above shows the Spanish and French both advancing.

This is the same action taken from the French side. This battle would rage all weekend. The cavalry from both sides would hew chunks out of each other without any great result. The Spanish infantry, without organised Spanish cavalry support would get nowhere, advancing a foot and then having to break off as their advance was checked and then thrown back by the French. In turn, the French infantry could not easily advance as their own cavalry was continuously engaged by the Spanish cavalry.

The action at the southern end of the battlefield was the same, except it was a major French push from their right flank with their best infantry (there is a Swiss brigade in the army).
The attack was checked by a large amount of Spanish cavalry and some infantry. The resulting engagement was bloody. The Spanish infantry were eventually driven back but the French infantry suffered when a Spanish Lancer regiment got in amongst them and broke at least 3 btns.

The above shows the overall result at the southern end of the battlefield. Their is an impasse as both sides regroup to have a go again. The French can still attack, the Spanish are still holding the line. 

At the top of the picture is the typical action at the northern end. At the end of the weekend , it looked like the troops were virtually in the same position that they had started in, especially the Spanish. Overall, the French had advanced by about 2 feet, but the Spanish line was still intact.

This is from the centre where I managed to get things lined up perfectly on about 4 occasions only for some Spanish unit to not do what was wanted. It appeared very apt and Spanish, if somewhat exasperating!
The end of the battle saw the French slowly forcing the southern end of the ridge but the remainder still under Spanish control. The Spanish line was also intact and continuous. The French flanks were secure but the weak centre was coming under pressure, albeit very slowly. So a draw really. Another factor that makes this interesting is that the game has been played again, with the players now on the opposite sides. That report will be next!!


  1. A good ding-dong battle. The Spanish army has had bad press due to the number of their defeats over the years, but they came back again and again.

  2. You'll be intrigued on the second report where it was replayed with the players on the opposite side. Just as interesting.

  3. How wonderful to see the battle that made me famous being recreated in such fine style! I look forward to the second report. I imagine everyone involved is having a great time.

    Stephen [who once got talked into painting some Spanish Troops for a game in which eventually they weren't used but has been gaming with an army of Spanish troops ever since. At least any success as a Spanish player is a notable occasion and mightily discomforts the French players]

    Stephen/ the Duke of Baylen

  4. Most impressive table, terrain is superb, the first picture is my favourite...

  5. Thanks. In the not too distant future I hope to do Dresden (my aim is winter 2017). I have all the terrain, including the Gross Garten. The feature, internally is a metre square in the same style as the first pic!! You can deploy Divisions in it!! which is exactly what happened historically. Glad you like it.

    1. The Spanish did well, mixing some aggression with a good defensive plan and more than one defensive line in case the first line crumbled. The second battle is just as good for completely different reasons. I'll post that in a week or two.