Monday, 14 September 2009
The Battle of Dario - First Carlist War
Some weeks ago now, back at the end of June, "Eclaireur" and I went up to Nottingham for a couple of days to say hello to the Perries and take part in a large First Carlist War game. I bought a handful of my figures for the Isabelino side but the game mostly featured figures from their own collection painted by the likes of Javier Gomez, Jim Bowen and others. Each side had at least 15 units and I remarked to Michael that this game must have been the largest (at least in 25mm) FCW game the world has seen! I have delayed posting an AAR because first I wanted to post about the regiments I have been painting to set some kind of context for the game and so that readers can identify some of troops among what is probably a pretty unfamiliar set-up. The rules used were the forthcoming "Black Powder" set; I make a few comments about how they work at the end of the report.
It is summer 1837 and the Carlists, on their way back to their Basque heartland from the Royal Expedition around north east Spain, have found themselves intercepted by a combined force of Isabelino regulars and the British Auxiliary Legion. The scenario is straightforward: the Carlists, entering from the left in column of march, have to escort Don Carlos off the right edge of the table. This involves dealing with an Isabelino assult on their right flank and crossing a river on the other side of which is the British Auxiliary Legion. Alan Perry took the role of Don Carlos, Eclaireur commanded the BAL and I had the rest of the Isabelio force. Michael Perry umpired.
Here are the opening moves. The Carlist vanguard is advancing into the village of Dario whilst the Isabelino left flank is cautiously moving towards the main Carlist column. However, a brigade or two of Carlists are already moving to confront the threat on their flank:
A couple of moves in. The Carlist column is racing to the river whilst a sizable force is send out to deal with the Isabelino flank attack. My 3 brigades came on in column and were promptly caught out by the speed with which the Carlists reached them, so preventing a full deployment into line. Luckily, an attempt by the Carlist to outflank my left was dealt with by a 6-pounder and a sturdy battalion of regulars. Carlist cavalry exited Dario to race to the river; I combined the various Isabelino cavalry regiments into one brigade as a shock force that I could deploy into the area to the front of Dario should the need arise.
Meanwhile, the BAL moved into position on the right bank of the river, after taking some potshots from priests in the nearby monastery. Alan did in fact roll some dice to see whether the BAL took hits from these warmongering Catholics!
It became clear that Alan Perry's customary aggression had resulted in the majority of the Carlist army leaving the column to take on the Isabelinos main force. That gave Eclaireur the chance to quickly push the BAL across the river to assult the Carlist column head on.
Whilst he positioned his force to cross the bridge, I sent the Isabelino cavalry brigade on a charge against the Carlist cavalry that screened the crossing point. The Carlists were swept from the field and the crossing was cleared. Hurrah! The BAL crossed the river and the Rifle Brigade quickly deployed as skirmishers in front of Dario village.
Unfortunately, the Isabelino cavalry did a "Scots Greys" and found themselves thrown back by musketry and cannon fire; the light cavalry broke and fled the field. Back on the Carlist right flank, the Isabelinos had taken up a defensive position and found their entire line charged by the Carlists. The resulting melee was inconclusive for several turns. My plan here was to contain the Carlist counter-attack whilst the BAL got stuck in on the right. If the French Foreign Legion were here, I'm sure the battle would have been over by now...but Michael hasn't made the figures yet!
The BAL continued its assault on the front of the Carlist column, which had retreated back into the village of Dario, whilst the left flank of the Carlist attack, on the other side of the village, found itself exposed to the remaining Isabelino cavalry.
Eventually, the slug-fest on the Carlist right resulted in a key Carlist brigade failing a morale test and the entire army began to retreat. As the Isabelino army began a general advance, Don Carlos was spotted shaving off his beard and moustache and donning a peasant woman's clothing. He would have to fly south to raise a new army...
This was, obviously, great fun. Hopefully the pics convey a sense of what a colourful period this is and what excellent figures you can now use in 25mm. "Black Powder" gives an exciting, if rather frenzied, game. Some of the mechanics toook a bit of getting used to, such as the ability of units to "leapfrog" over units to their front. As noted above, the movement system means that units move around very quickly, once the orders reach them. I confess I can't quite remember how the casualty mechanics worked, but I think the attacker rolls and the receiving player has a savings throw - or something like that. "Eclaireur" noted that the rules on unit formation didn't allow for infantry to deploy into open order, which could cause difficulties in something like the AWI, and no doubt there are other points that more experienced gamers than I would niggle with. But overall "Black Powder" give a quick and exciting game. There is a reason why this fictional battle is called "Dario", but the reason is a matter of "what goes on tour stays on tour"....