Sunday, August 11, 2013

An Affair of Outposts; Portugal 1810

I'm working on an Encounter for an upcoming game. The working title of the game is "Baker Rifle" however the published name will likely differ.

"Baker Rifle" takes the "Long Rifle" game play and ports it to the Peninsular War. In the game player's will command a section of infantry or cavalry while having to contend with the enemy, guerrillas/bandits, deserters, provosts, and hunger. Encounters will include the usual scouting, raiding (as attacker or defender) and a few other things like foraging and outpost duty.

This is my first go at the outpost encounter. The idea is that my section has been tasked with a section of regiment's piquet duty. This game takes place at night.

My force consists of one sergeant and sixteen other ranks. The sergeant and twelve men have taken up position by the farm house. Actually six of the men are sleeping in the farm house while the sergeant and six others remain at arms outside.

The other four men have been set out as videttes.

Brigadier Antoine Fortune de Brack, wrote that at night it is better to keep your videttes in hollows rather than on heights. In this way any approaching enemy will be silhouetted against the skyline as they approach.  As the dear Brigadier knew more about the subject than I could ever hope to, that is how I deployed the four men assigned that duty. While it would be hard to make a hard and fast rule for how sighting at night should be handled in a game, I decided to go with opposed challenge tests for sighting an enemy for the first time. If the figure being sighted is on higher ground than the figure trying to spot him there is a positive modifier for the spotting attempt. The  reverse also holds true so that trying to spot a figure at a lower height is more difficult. 

Having deployed my forces it was time to deploy the PEF's. One Possible Enemy Force was deployed per two foot of table frontage, giving three for this game.

That on my left was in line of sight but out of night time spotting distance of 12". The center and left PEF's were both out of sight behind hills and beyond spotting distance.

One last thing to mention is that for this game all light infantry and grenadiers were rated Rep 5, while all line infantry would be Rep 4. This allowed me to concentrate on play and not worry about what figure had what Rep. 

The enemy force table was heavily weighted to light infantry and grenadiers as these would be the most likely troops to be pushed forward first when moving on the enemy. 

I also rated all of the PEF's as Rep 3 to represent the difficulties of night movement and coordination.

The game started with the center PEF moving onto the hill top and into spotting range of my videttes.

 This turned out to be a party of 12 or so voltigeurs, the leader silhouetted against the skyline. One of the ever alert Rifles fired dropping his man and signalling that all was not well.

 Two of the Frenchmen moved to take care of their fallen leader while another two returned fire. One musket misfired but the second severely wounded the Rifleman.

 Following on from this the videttes fell back while the sergeant sent one man to wake the sleepers and set the other five out in a fan towards the front. Figured it was too soon to send word back to the grand guard without having assessed the threat.

 Firing continued and casualties fell here and there. The two flank PEF's remained fairly motionless for a few turns an then the left flank PEF moved forward.

This turned out to be a party of six grenadiers.

The right flank PEF also moved forward but no one was close enough to spot it.

At this point a couple of random events occurred with one affecting the French and one the British.

The voltigeurs inexplicably retired back behind the hill, giving my skirmishers a  much appreciated break.

Then my left most figures, blood up apparently, single-highhandedly charged the grenadiers, only t receive rough handling from their sergeant...

...and an escort back to French lines.

The voltigeurs reappeared and the firefight commenced afresh.

Casulties continued to mount and men were compelled to leave the firing line to prevent their capture.

The grenadiers continued to advance and were soon firing as well.

Another random event found one of my men getting lost in the darkness and wandering about quite uselessly.

Still the grenadiers were stopped in their tracks and the situation began to stabilize. 

That was when the right PEF was revealed to be a party of line infantry.

Now outnumbered two to one, I sent word back to the grand guard and made ready to withdraw.

The French proved none to willing to pursue and my section faded away into the darkness.

My losses were three other ranks wounded and three missing presumed captured. The French lost a similar number killed and wounded.

It was a fun game that spurred some other ideas regarding night combats in the game. The combat rules themselves worked well although here to there is an opportunity for tightening things up a bit.

Here is a photo of another go, this time on a 4x4 table. As usual the final game will be playable in on an area as small as 3x3 feet or even less.

To make for a faster game I have reduced the section size to 10 figures. Well when I say reduced rather it has no longer been augmented above 10 for this encounter. You see a proper small post should have 12 men plus videttes. Was going to presume that your section was given extra folks to fulfill the assignment but this seems to work just as well.

At this point all three PEF's have been revealed. One was just nerves, one was a half section of voltigeurs and the other a half section of grenadiers, leading to a fairly even fight unless either side is reinforced.


  1. These are some nice pics and those cliffs are well made.

  2. Thanks Anne.

    The terrain boards are from Old Glory. Had to have those hills when I saw them.

    The only things I painted and put together in this game were the birds and the barrels and the buckets...

  3. Looking sharp squire. What sort of board would one need for this sort of game? I'm quite limited in what I have access to at the moment.

    1. Always a pleasure old man!

      I just added a photo above of the game being played on a 4x4 board. THW titles are always written to accommodate a board of about 3 feet x 3 feet although I often play on a larger surface.

      Here is a link to a game of Muskets & Shakos, the battalion level cousin of "Baker Rifle" taking place on just such a 3x3 surface.

    2. Oh Bother. That didn't work.

      Let see if this does:

    3. Interesting - is the Peninsular variant in the works? Or are you just adapting as you go?

    4. "Baker Rifle" is in the works. That's the man to man skirmish game posted about above. This game will be specific to the Peninsular War.

      "Muskets & Shakos" is a game were each unit equals a battalion and that game covers all theaters of the Napoleonic wars.

      Hope that clears things up or did I misunderstand the question?

    5. Aha. That makes sense. I as looking at Long Rifle on the THW website (like I need another set of rules), but it occurred to me that the kind of scenarios that one would need for a Seven Years War game would be quite differant to something set in the Peninsula. But the ability to throw a few figures down and set a game in quickly, even solo is not to be sniffed at.

      I'll keep my eyes skinned.

    6. Ah yes, I see now.

      "Long Rifle" is very much set in the American frontier of the 1700's. War parties. hunting, canoes, as well as various regulars and irregulars all play a role. Not very Napoleonic even if one were to treat the Indians as guerrillas.

  4. Very nice report! I do like the battlefield, cliffs and hills are really impressive, as the minis...Great work!

  5. Thank you!

    The figures were painted by Alternative Armies and I have been and continue to be extremely happy with their work over the years.