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Subject: Medellin - a first play through rss

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Andrew Hobley
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The Spanish Army

Napoleon’s Quagmire has not only the usual excitement in setting up a scenario for a battle you have never wargamed before, but includes a brand new participant – the Spanish Army. What are their strengths and weakness? (spoiler alert – mostly weaknesses.)

For ‘Quagmire’ the Spanish are organised into divisions – depending on which scenarios you play there are between five and nine of these. Most have two infantry brigades and artillery, some have cavalry as well, and each is commanded by an officer. There are also brigades of just cavalry. So far so good, and very similar in composition to Anglo-Allied forces in ‘Last Gamble’, or Russians in ‘Coming Storm’.

The problem is the quality, both of commanders, officers and men. All the Spanish commanders have a command rating of one. A ‘Quagmire’ only special rule (which appears in update 1.51) says any formation with four or fewer units counts as half against a Commander’s rating, so these commanders are guaranteed to have two divisions in command. As the officers have ratings of 2 or 3 then the other formations are only guaranteed to be in command one in three or two turns. So this is not an army to try any fancy manoeuvres with. [NB This change came in after I played both the games below].

Secondly the individual units are not very good quality. Compare Montoya’s Spanish 3rd Division - some 1,885 men, three units and a combined SP of 7 – with Barrois’ 1st Brigade of I Corps – some 1,880 men, three units with a combined SP of 11. And Barrio’s Brigade is one of the weaker French ones. In his note Kevin makes the point at this time of the war in Spain the French army was of very good quality. And it shows in the unit strengths. There are too many 7 strength French infantry brigades in I Corps for the Coalition’s liking.

So we have Spanish divisions of weaker quality than French divisions; the French divisions are sub units of a Corp and only need one Command Point to get them all in motion, whereas the Spanish divisions need a lot more help and one French brigade is almost equal to one Spanish division. Oh, and the French have generally much better initiative than the Spanish, mostly 3 or 4; the Spanish are mostly 2, 3 if lucky, 1 if unlucky. This, for the Spanish player, is going to be difficult ….

Medellin – day of battle


Chronologically the first battle is Medellin, fought 28 March 1809. All the battles in ‘Quagmire’ are part of the campaign in Extramadura which in essence were the French attempts to take the south of Spain and their response to a Spanish counterattack aimed at Madrid. Before Medellin Marshall Victor was driving south and seeking to catch and destroy the Army of Extramadura under General Cuesta. At Extramadura Cuersta decided to stop and fight.

The key points are the Rio Guadiana which protects the French left and Spanish right and the Rio Ortiga (represented as a stream) which should provide an anchor for the Spanish left. South of the Oritiga the terrain rises gently towards Don Benito, but there is nowhere I would call a strong position. Orchards cover the centre (cavalry and horse artillery find these harder going and shock combat can result from an Attacker retreat) with the Arroyo del Regaio stream fringing them.

The Day of Battle scenario opens at 10am. The French (I Corps, a division from IV Corps and the I Cavalry Division) are bringing to push south of the Ortiga. The Spanish are in a semi-circle from the Ortiga south of Mengabril, towards Don Benito and then north to Don Larente.

Medellin DoB setup

The first turn mode cards found Victor ‘asleep’ and the lead infantry and cavalry from the Spanish vanguard looting in Mengabril. This was unfortunate as the French 1st Division had been ordered to march there. Rousseau’s brigade evicted the Spanish at the point of the bayonetted, the Spanish counter attack was unsuccessful. This battle activated Victor who advanced his 3rd division over the stream towards the slowly advancing Spanish centre. On the Spanish left the Vanguard was pushed back and retreated over the Ortiga.

The Spanish right had failed to move and at noon Alburquerque’s Andulucia division panicked and refused to leave its positons [French play of the Panic card – one leaders initiative reduced for several turns]. Victor brought his men into line, sending Latour-Maubourg’s cavalry out to the right. Cuesta extended the Vanguard to the left to counter this.

At 1pm Victor attacked. The French1st Division attacked the Spanish 1st across the Ortiga, they were thrown back and Barrios’ brigade routed. But in the centre the French 3rd Division eliminated the artillery and one Brigade of Trias’ 2nd Division and broke open the Spanish centre.

Medellin 1pm French attack

Victor left his Corps cavaly to cover the immobile Spanish right while swinging the 3rd Division right to take the Spanish in the flank and the 1st Cavalry crossed the Ortego to attack the Vanguard. The cavalry were repulsed, but the Spanish 1st Division lost its flank unit. Cuesta at this point ordered a general retreat.

The Spanish fell back slowly; their right wing finally moving to cover the hold in the centre. The Spanish 3rd Division successfully held off the French Corps cavalry and 3rd Division for several hours before being surrounded and overwhelmed. The French 1st Cavalry Division failed to take advantage of the open Spanish flank until 5pm when it overwhelmed the Spanish Vanguard. Henestossa and Trias were both wounded but survived.

The Spanish lost 30 SP and had four Division’s demoralised, the French lost 7 SP. The French VP were 4 for losses, 10 for demoralisation, 20 for controls of VP locations and -4 for card play, total 30. The Spanish were 1 for exiting units and -3 for card play, result a French strategic victory.

Medellin – day of battle

As everything was set up I decided to try the Approach to battle scenario. This starts at 5pm with the only units on map Henestrosa’s Vanguard approaching Medellin. Al the Spanish arrive at 5pm south of Don Benito, the French from 5pm on the other side of the Rio Guadiana. Looking at the terrain I could not see any obvious defensible position for the Spanish in the south. So I decided to try and block the French around Medellin, so preventing them exploiting round the Spanish flanks.

Both sides headed for the bridge across the river (in ‘Quagmire these are stone bridges and cannot be destroyed). The French crossed the bridge twice, but both times were thrown back. Night ended with the Spanish Vanguard controlling the town and the bridge with the rest of the army hastening up the road, and the 4th Division a welcome reinforcement. Victor’s men were gathered across the river.

Having set up his artillery overnight Victor opened the morning with a bang, driving back Spanish cavalry and artillery and panicking the Vanguard, Victor himself led the 3rd Division across the bridge and into the town. The Spanish counterattack degenerated into house to house fighting. The rest of I Corps crossed the bridge, overran the Vanguard’s cavalry and artillery, but could not shift the Vanguard from the town outskirts. In the fighting the town caught fire.

Medellin 9am Fighting in the burning town

Finally at 10 am Victor brought up the corps artillery to blast the Spanish at close range. It was a contest the battery did not survive – neither did the remnant of the vanguard. With the town clear Victor could not deploy his forces. The Corps cavalry headed towards Mengabril, emerging from the orchard to find the Spanish 1st Division which stood form and routed the French.

At 11 am all three French divisions plus the IV Corps unit attacked. The Spanish 2nd Division was routed and Trias killed; but in revenge the Spanish overran the Baden/ Nassau infantry from IV Corps. Despite this success the French force was too great and for the next two hours the Spanish were slowly pushed back. As the French I Cavalry entered Mengabril (starting another fire) Cuesta realised he was in danger of encirclement and ordered a general retreat.

Medellin 2pm Spanish clean break

The Spanish make a clean break form the French. The French cavalry were held up by the fire [failed command rolls] and the rain in Spain fell mostly on the plain most of the Spanish were able to march off, only the Andalucía and 1st Divisions being caught.

The Spanish lost 25 SP, the French 17. The VP for the French were 1 for losses, 10 for demoralised Spanish formations, 20 for controls of VP locations and -9 for card play, total 20. The Spanish had were 6 VP for exiting units, 2VP for demoralising IV Corps and -10 for card play, total -2. So another French strategic victory.

The French had a much harder time getting across the bridge and breaking out from their bridge head, so I think this maybe a tactic worth trying again. But once they break out they can spread out and swamp the Spanish.

The game has a low unit density and so is quick to play. I am not sure what the Spanish can do for the Day of Battle, and the Approach may also be tough for them. Given the imbalance in the forces I suggest if playing with an opponent you play twice reversing sides and see who does best. And if initiating a new player please give them the French!

Now on to Talavera and the arrival of the British.
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Adam Parker
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Great game design makes the complex simple, replayability maximum, and abstraction credible.
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Andrew thanks for the AARs and for one other thing especially. Your first pic made the terrain pop in my mind’s eye. In fact, Quagmire's maps may be the clearest of the entire TLNB series.

I really like the look and feel of this title. One to pick up this year I hope. Cheers!
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Gabriel Gonzalez Pavón
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Medellin - a first play through
Excellent replay!.

As short comment, in teh day of battle the Spanish Army advanced resolutely toward Medellin from Don Benito in an almost single very long infantry line without reserves. Making good progres at first, attack got bogged down in the hills on the North (left side of map).
Disaster came, however, on the South (rigth side) by the river, with French cavalry defeating, as usual, Spanish cavalry, and then breaking and finally turning the long infantry line. What followed was a hellish slaughter. I see in the map maybe too many olive groves, but it is a beauty to behold, and very accurate...
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Kevin Zucker
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Hi Gabriel,

> I see in the map maybe too many olive groves, but it is a beauty to behold, and very accurate...

We used a map from the 1880's as our base map, and we filled in details from earlier maps where these were available. Good engineer's maps do not exist prior to about 1870-80.

Also, we used the same symbol for both olive groves and vineyards. We thought the effect would be about the same for movement and combat.

We noticed that in Google Earth the trees were always laid out in rows, but the older trees appeared as larger circles.
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