Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Battle of the Coa

The French first line advance, unsupported by the second

As I've been accused of having no wargaming in my blog, I decided it was best to get the finger out...

Last week was a great week for my gaming. Firstly, my frequent email chum John C came over from Wales for a look at Dublin and secondly, I finally managed a game of Command & Colours: Napoleonics in my new games room. It was the christening of the games room and things were a bit rough and ready, but the company made all the difference. As we've been experiencing a certain amount of difficulty on the domestic front with builders and other such persons of little consequence; the whole enterprise was a little more rushed than I would have liked, but the table held up.

I don't actually have a wargames table yet, but I found a metal frame in the shed and that coupled with two doors from a wardrobe that I'd taken apart furnished a serviceable table. Not quite as sturdy as I would have liked (que much swearing and breaking of Lidl drill bits), but solid enough.

General Creanor expresses his full confidence in his Portuguese allies

John and I had an all too brief time in Dublin as he had to scurry back to Wales in relatively short order. We took in Collins Barracks, St. Patricks Cathedral, Christchurch Cathedral, Marshes Library, Trinity Library, the Garda Museum, Dublinia, the Chester Beatty Library and Dublin Castle. It was all a bit rushed, but I like to think that John got some idea of the city. My history as a tour guide came in handy.

That and a trip around the bookshops (which John liked, but not the prices) rounded out the trip and back to home base for a game. Generals Gorman, McCarthy and Creanor were in attendance, so after a quick game of the Battle of Maida to get John used to the rules, we played the Coa scenario several times.

Generals Gorman and Cunningham are unimpressed by these "zilly Eeenglesh"

We played the scenario four times and the French were hammered on each occasion, one of the most notable instances being here.

For those of you unfamiliar with the battle, here is a rough idea of what occurred. Portugal is seperated from Spain by a large mountain range, in fact the existence of this mountain range probably has rather a lot to do with why Portugal isn't just more Spain. There are points where the range can be crossed, but unsurprising some enterprising fellow built a series of fortresses to guard them. In 1810, the British were falling back into Portugal after a disappointing showing in Spain. Marshal Massena was advancing and wished to take the fortress of Almeida as he had so lately taken Ciudad Rodrigo. A British General by the name of "Black Bob" Crauford had been given orders to hold the line of the river Coa and threaten Massena so that he couldn't take Almeida. Wellington gave him strict orders not to cross the Coa and not to engage the French, but Crauford went ahead and did it anyway; that he won is probably more due to the fighting qualities of his troops than anything else.
Essentially the scenario as written for Command & Colours: Napoleonics is as follows, the outnumbered British must evacuate their position and get back across the river without taking too many casualties before they are crushed by superior French numbers.

A slightly more grown up history can be found here.

An RHA battery drives part of the French line back.
General McCarthy is slightly pensive, perhaps Black Bob is in one of his moods again?

As we had four players rather than the more usual two, we played a modified version of the Memoir '44 Overlord rules, officially known as making it up as we go along. Shortly after Messrs Creanor and McCarthy had made the goodbyes we realised that the layout of the scenario was incorrect and that the British had three more light infantry units than they ought to have had. As light infantry are very powerful troops (these were the famed Light Division after all), this may have contributed to the thrashing the French received.

General Gorman of the Kings Malabars realises that his position is less impregnable when defended by mere mortals rather than Light Infantry supermen

A final replaying of the scenario as written resulted in a French victory at a decidedly more even 4-6, rather than the 9-0 savaging they received first time around. Fortunately it meant that our guest managed to take one win away from the table, though it must be said, he took defeat like a gentleman.

A wonderful evening and I hope only the beginning.


  1. God bless the Kinch Wargames Parlor and all who sail in her!

    It must be a pretty zippy set of rules if you can have 4 games in one sitting. Looks like fun, though.

  2. Congratulations! Sounds like a cracking way to break in the new room.

    And effective improvisation, a good strart indeed!

    May there be many more good games and good friends over the years to come.

  3. Sounds like your wargames room is getting more use than mine lately. Well done for getting it up and running so quickly and not being distracted by trivia like kitchens and decorating.

  4. Happy gaming!

    'The King's Malabars'... Maybe I'm biased / overoptimistic, but this sounds like the name of an imaginary unit: could we learned a little more? Are they brigaded with the 'Halberders'?


  5. Hi Conrad,
    Your perserverance has been rewarded with a great 1st gaming session.

  6. Mark Urban's 'Rifles' describes the battle rather well.

    Crauford was universally hated by his subordinates and infantry. By all accounts he was lucky not to have a Baker Rifle ball in his back on several occasions.

  7. Rosbif - the rules were Command & Colours Napoleonics, which are pretty damn nippy.

    Ross Mac - I certainly hope so.

    Tim Gow - Well admittedly there was a certain amount of kitchen (Mrs Kinch's Death Star of a gas cooker installed for exmaple) stuff done, but it is good to have made a start. I think I may have to take it apart to make it a bit more stable.

    Abdul - The Kings Malabars are very real I'll have you know. They may have on occasion been brigaded with the Halberdiers.

    Ferryman - It was good fun.

    Phil B - I quite liked "Rifles", it's a good one. Certainly an antidote to the "special forces with muskets" of the Sharpe novels.

  8. See the Dubs have caught the C&C bug as well as your Northern brothers.


  9. Absolutely Declan, we'll have to meet up for a game sometime. Have you been playing Napoleonics as well as Ancients?

  10. Conrad that meet up sounds like a good idea. Have played C&C NAPS only 4 times to date. Need to get some figs to really get stuck in. Played C&C A endlessly. Have two campaigns on the go at the minute.

  11. I never really took to ancients. Not really my period - though I suspect that the blocks didn't help. What campaigns do you have on the go at moment?