Sunday, 29 May 2016

Sharp Practice: A bridge at Cacabelos

We are currently working on a small campaign based on the retreat to Corunna by Moore forces for Sharp Practice. The campaign rules are not ready yet and Richard Clarke already warned that we should dump away the Chain of Command mentality, as in this period battles are less important than outmanoeuvring your foes in the field. For this reason, the plan is to play four interlinked scenarios instead of a full campaign with the same forces. Eventually (...this is our intention..) the campaign will be published in the Summer Special 2016.
The game today was the action taking place on 3 January 1809, a rearguard defensive battle of the British at the town of Cacabelos in El Bierzo (Leon) area. It is a well known action because the French commander General Colbert was killed by a British rifle marksman called Thomas Plunkett killed at an uncertain distance. There is some confusion about this event, but likely a known impatient Colbert risked too much when reconnoitring the advanced outpost and rifleman Plunkett took his chances... and hit bang on target.

Dashing French Dragoons
 The pursuing French in this scenario are cavalry heavy with two formations made of two Dragoon and two light horse (chasseurs/hussars) groups, supported by a column of light infantry (see the French Light Column 1812 of the rules book). We had 8 support points that invested in a gun. The defending British had (as I saw this morning) two Dragoon groups, 4 line infantry groups, a gun and a couple of Rifles groups.
French win if they cross and secure the bridge over the river Cúa. British win retaining the bridge. The table can be seen in the photo below, with a road exiting from a small village (Frend tactical edge, left of photo) towards the bridge and the outskirts of Cacabelos (British tactcal edge, right of the photo).

The opening French move saw the light cavalry attempting a quick dash on the bridge, followed by a strong infantry column moving along the road. Unluckily, the second card hand allowed the British to quickly deploy its artillery and cavalry, threatening the French horses flank before they could activate again.
Thereafter the game slowed down and soon all troops were on the table, with the British deploying a strong line along the river banks, the infantry on the left of the road, the cavalry and Rifles on the right and the artillery to the other side of the river over a hill.
The British line

The French Army
The French light horses caught in a very difficult position (flank threatened by cavalry and front facing the murderous Rifles’ fire) decided to die trying to break the deadlock, charging to the British infantry and attempting to create a gap in the line. Of course suicidal, rejected with heavy casualties, broken and the leader wounded.

French Chasseurs
The French Dragoons that were manoeuvring on the right side of the road, seen the Chasseurs charging, broke discipline and also charged... with the expected outcome when attacking a well formed and solid British red line... unit wiped out (sigh). 

Through the Valley of Death, the Dragoons...

At this stage the Force Moral of the French army had fall to four and with no units in reserve and the cavalry formations severely mauled, decided to retreat.
Rationally, I should have never charged; on the contrary, we should have brought forward the artillery (un tres belle fille 12pdr piece) and deployed the infantry in firing line to soften the British... but it’s funny how one let himself being carried away by the heat of the action... some may say a pretty historical and accurate simulation. I won’t deny that I enjoyed soooo much charging with my Dragoons.
In any case, nice scenario, kudos for my mate and designer Alfredo and looking to repeat it again with some minor adjustments discussed in the after action meeting.

View of the battlefield earlier in the game


  1. Really brave the cavalry charge. In fact cavalry is in this word to charge!

  2. Lovely stuff! The mad decision to charge a line of steady formed-up foot certainly had the air of an arrogant cocksure Beau Sabreur of the period.

  3. Great report :)
    I'll pinch that idea for a scenario...

  4. Nice! I'd be very interested in your OOB's.

  5. Lovely stuff, I was only thinking in our first encounter that Cavalry seem to last a little longer in SP2 - I think I just changed my mind.
    Thanks for posting.