With the British retreating before the French, Captain Fondler was resolved to defend the outskirts of Varitas de Merluza as a final stop point. The day before he had sent the party of Spanish guerrillas under Los Incontinento into the cultivated land to the North East of the town and to these he now sent word to rejoin his main force in the town. Throughout the campaign, the British had a group of Light Dragoons which had been variously scouting and screening the main body. These had been ordered to assemble with the main force and had now joined them as they marched Westwards across the open plain. The entire allied force would come together to stop the French crossing the river and interfering with what remained of General Crauford’s main column.
In fact, Crauford’s column had arrived at San Dore de Merluza two days previously and had been winding its way up the Western bank of the Merluza River in its advance northwards. The torrential rain had not hampered the two infantry Brigades, but the train, with baggage and artillery had been delayed when the torrential rain made the roads around San Dore impassable. Now the train was just arriving in Varitas de Merluza as the second Brigade was leaving the map northwards. Captain Fondler now merely had to ensure the safety of the train and the only known crossing of the Merluza was the bridge at Varitas.
For Capitaine Piece de la Merde the news that the enemy’s main column could have slipped out of his grasp saw him spurred into action. His column had been accompanied throughout by three groups of dragoons, some of which had fought the enemy but others, and at times all, had been scouting ahead of the main force. As indeed had Parnell, the exploring officer. The French commander now retained one group of cavalry to scout and screen his force while his main body moved into the sparsely cultivated farmland to the North East of Varitas which had only that morning been evacuated by the Spanish guerrillas. Ahead of them rode Parnell, expressly ordered to find a crossing over the Merluza.
As midday approached Captain Fondler was on the plain with the hills surrounding Varitas to his front. His cavalry were with him, so he had no scouts out as eyes and ears and, as a consequence, was unaware of the French moving around his flank to the North.
At the same time that Captain Fondler was pushing on for the town, Capitaine de la Merde was receiving a report from Parnell. The Irishman had been lucky and had indeed found a crossing over the Merluza and, he was sure, could lead the force across so that they could strike against the British train.
Moving through mountains off the main track is a difficult thing to do and the chance of his force being lost in the many valleys and gulleys was high, but de la Merde had no choice. He ordered his force on into the mountains. Parnell was as good as his word. The French harassed the column spiking a few guns and destroying some supply wagons as well as making off with several remounts. It was a gesture rather than a mighty blow, the small French force was always going to be limited in what it could achieve. However, General Crauford, commanding the column, was obliged to send his second Brigade back to escort the train northwards, gaining two days for the French in Galicia to strengthen their defences. With the last throw of the dice, Capitaine Piece de la Merde had seized some laurels, bringing the campaign to an end.
Throughout all of the campaign I have been limited in what could report as both sides had limited information. The British never knew that the French had been obliged to lose one of their infantry groups to escort a wagon train through the area, whilst the French had no idea of the whereabouts of the main British column for most of the campaign. Both sides spent much time fencing with their cavalry scouts, at various time deploying them ready for battle or as reserves ready to kick a defeated enemy when he was down. Indeed, the French saw good use of just that tactic when they turned a minor victory into a decisive one when they released their reserves. In the end the French selection of an exploring officer paid off hugely. Without him they would have achieved very little.
What was nice was that we played the campaign through in just three games, but with lots of interesting map manoeuvre for the players to immerse themselves in and lots of command decisions to be made. There was no grand finale battle with this campaign, but a quick outflank and a lucky discovery of a ford in the mountains. As stated in Dawns & Departures, each campaign is merely a chapter in a story. In this case we have played that through in a few weeks and can now dive straight into the next chapter by rolling up a new campaign, or we can head off and play something else before we return to the Iberian Peninsula once again.
With the campaign now over, we need to do some final housekeeping. Let’s run through that.
The French gained a 50% victory by catching the British train. That gave them 3 points. Their secondary victory claimed, the escorting of the wagon train, gave them a further 1 point. Casualties were fairly light so there were no points for big enemy losses or, indeed, anything else. The French player rolled 2 on a D6, two below the points scored, so his personal reputation with the Army goes up one level to make him “the most Upright officer in the Army”.
The people de la Merde met in the campaign was limited to Sergeante Aubergine, the Dragoon leader he selected as a support option. Not surprisingly, Aubergine has no influence in Paris so the Capitaine’s reputation has not increased at all in the Tulliers or Les Invalides, but Aubergine has become a good companion whom de la Merde can add to his pocket book. In future campaigns, selecting Aubergine as a support option can be done at half the normal point cost.
Finally, the French did not have time to forage during their advance across the table, no werewolves were chased off; however, they did take one British Leader prisoner and they also encountered a baggage train. Sadly, rolling for these saw the French Capitaine gain no wealth from this adventure.
On the British side, they too achieved a 50% victory (being whatever the French failed to achieve). This resulted in Fondler also gaining a point of reputation, also being viewed as Upright by the chaps in the mess.
Fondler met both Doctor MacKay and Los Incontinento, the guerrilla Leader. Apparently the good Doctor has some influence in royal circles and word of Captain Fondler’s exploits have reached Royal ears. This has no impact now, but when the Captain gets to a point where gongs are dished out or elevations considered, such influence will most certainly count. Unfortunately for Fondler, neither MacKay nor Los Incontinento have formed much of a friendship with him, so if he wants them as support options in future it’ll be full price!
So, something for both parties from the campaign with both reputations enhanced and contacts established. Going forward we can look forwards to these characters developing further.
In the end the total “paperwork” was a totting up of supplies for the French less than 25 characters long. All movement happened on the A4 size map with just a couple of random campaign events to add colour, namely the French column in need of an escort and the torrential downpour which ruined powder and slowed wagons.
Great news for those who have been awaiting the re-release of le Feu Sacre, our Napoleonic wargames rules for Division and Corps sized actions. We are very close to getting these to the printer, just some final formatting and proof-reading to be done. As a taster Darren, the rules author, will be running a refight