Thursday, 3 December 2020

Battlereport: Santarem 1810 Playtest

Another playtest of a scenario from Michael Hopper's upcoming Peninsula books (see last battlereport for details of these books, here). This time the French defending the town of Santarem in 1810, and the British and Portugese attempting to capture it across some difficult terrain.



French (Defender) - Reyneir

Sarrut: 3 Light, 1 Recruit Light, 3 Line, 6 Skirmishers, 1 Foot Artillery
Graindorge: 3 Light, 6 Skirmishers

Foy: 3 Light, 3 Line, 1 Recruit Line, 6 Skirmishers
Arnaud: 3 Light, 1 Recruit Light, 3 Line, 1 Recruit Line, 6 Skirmishers

Soult: 2 Light Cavalry

British (Attacker) - Wellington

Pack (Portugese): 4 Line, 1 Light (Cacadores), 4 Skirmishers

Turn 1 (Craufurd - Light Division)
Beckwith: 1 Veteran Rifles (3 bases - 95th), 1 Light (5 bases) 1 Light (Cacadores),   
Barclay: 1 Veteran Rifles (3 bases - 95th), 1 Light (6 bases), 1 Light (Cacadores), 1 Line (Brunswick)

Turn 2 (Wellington)
Stopford: 2 Elite Line (5 bases each - Guards)
Blantyre: 1 Veteran Line (42nd), 2 British Line, 4 Skirmishers (Rifles),  1 Foot Artillery
Lowe (KGL): 4 British Line, 4 Skirmishers 

Turns 2-10 ( Flank Marching)
Slade: 1 Heavy Cavalry, 1 Light Cavalry
Anson: 2 Light Cavalry 


I won't detail the full scenario, but will highlight the main points. The French hold the town of Santarem, and the British/Portugese force is attempting to get troops into at least part of it. The town walls are in disrepair but still offer a minor defensive bonus. Neither side wants to take significantly higher casualties than the other side.

In terms of other terrain, it had rained heavily for several days beforehand, and the ground near ther river was very muddy.  The scenario special rules proposed for the mud is a very tough one - no cavalry or artillery movement in it, formed infantry can only move on a "1" on a D6, and skirmishers move at half speed. All the Southern attackers have to move on through this mud, or across the one narrow causeway in sector D3. Additionally there is chance of heavy rain (on a "1" on a D6 each turn), which will mean no shooting for that turn. The British Light Division is present to help attack through the mud and historically Craufurd was keen to press the attack, but Wellington called it off.  This scenario then represents a "what if" he had continued with the attack.

The scenario specified 12 turns, but using 321 Fast Play Napoleonic Rules, we made this 10 turns.

Both Army Commanders were rated Strategists and all Generals rated as Competent.

The Game

Here's the setup. Looking towards the south of the table. Please excuse the architecture as I don't have Peninsula style buildings (yet).

Looking towards the west. (Matt commanding the British - note clothing choice from here!)

Portugese approaching from the west. First of Matt's Portugese force painted :)

The British Guards attempt to force passage from the south across the causeway. The French of Arnaud's Brigade try to contest this and keep the British stuck in the mud. The first charge is thrown back despite the Guards being at an advantage against the disordered French line  (which had taken rifle fire). The French struggle to get reinforcements up to help their shaky defenders at the causeway.

Eventually the British secure a bridgehead, and begin to move up reinforcements. Skirmishers plod through the mud, and even the formed Highlanders manage some forward motion.

To the north and west of the causeway, the battle between Pack's Portugese and the French involves some back and forth as swarms of skirmishers seek to gain an advantage. Charges of French Light Cavalry slow the Portugese advance but are repelled by squares. 

View from the south.

A combination of infantry and cavalry charges during a downpour of rain on turn 6, inflicts heavy casualties on Pack's Portugese Brigade, and they lose two Battalions.

Meanwhile the British now have a firing line established and are inflicting heavy losses on both Arnaud's Brigade and some units of  Foy's Brigade who have been moved up to support them.

To the west, just in time to save the disintegrating Portugese of Pack's Brigade, Slade's Cavalry Brigade  arrrives, with heavy dragoons leading the way. 

The French guarding this western approach, fall back towards Santarem, not wishing to tangle with the British cavalry.

The Light Division, Guards and Blantyre's Brigade force back the French in the south. After losing a Light Battalion in an inital assault (despite having a 2-1 advantage!), the Light Division finally takes the Hamlet before Santarem. Arnaud's Brigade has now lost 3 battalions and its skirmish screen.

The French continue to fall back towards Santarem from the west, pursued by the British cavalry.

The British Guards pursue the retreating French, despite still being in some disorder themselves.

A French Cantiniere and Artillery Officer watch the action from Santarem.

Arnaud's brigade falls back turn 8, another downpour of rain occuring during this turn, sparing them temporarily.

But turn 9 the rain stops, and the British advance and two more  shaky batttalions from Arnaud are lost to British volleys. This breaks Arnaud's Brigade.

Looking at the situation we call it there as there is little the French or British will be able to achieve in the time remaining. French have lost Arnaud's Brigade (5/8 losses), and a couple of other units. British have lost a Light Battalion and two Portugese battalions. Skirmish screens on both sides are also very spent.


Matt and I agreed that this "stuck in the mud" scenario was more fun than it first appeared and it became quite tense in the second half of the game. Still we did think that less harsh mud rules would probably improve it as a game! My standard rules would have classified the mud as rough terrain, meaning half speed for units except skirmishers, cavalry units suffer large melee disadvantage, and long range artillery fire effect is reduced across entire battlefield. The river itself would take a turn to move into and another to move out of, with no firing in the turn the river is moved into. This may not be enough to match the problem this mud caused historically, but the 1 in 6 chance of moving is very tough for the British! The British KGL Brigade and artillery didn't make it onto the table, as it took too long for the Guards to get a bridgehead established. One can understand why Wellington called this one off!

We also used my existing rain rules which still allowed cannon fire at short range, but no other fire, and foot units have some extra vulnerability to cavalry in rain too, but these differences are minor ones.

Holding the British at the mudline seems like a good idea for the French with the existing mud rules, but unfortunately I took too many casualties from a single Brigade in the process. I should have either reinforced Arnaud more heavily so they had more immediate reserves to call on, or fallen back more quickly. These moves needed some careful timing! Of course co-ordinating this from a command perspective is also easier said than done.

Michael commented that in previous playtests (I think using Shako rules, and less harsh mud rules also), the two large British Guard battalions carried all before them and were basically unstoppable. Their performance depends on how powerful they are in the rules you use of course, and how difficult it is to carry out a successful assault across a causeway. Guards have been downgraded in my own 321 rules but they are still powerful as they demonstrated here. They did get unlucky in not establishing the bridgehead immediately on turn 3, and losing their general, and they had to spend some time reforming after this setback.

Anyway, this was another interesting game, and we are hoping to do another Peninsula scenario playtest next week.


  1. A very nice looking game Chasseur, lovely armies and buildings!


  2. Mark, great fight! Capturing a bridgehead and storming a settlement is a very interesting idea!

    1. Thanks Dmitry, yes it's something different, recommend giving it a try!

  3. Fabulous gaming! Very impressive number of excellently painted troops - terrain is great as well.

  4. Great AAR Mark...... may I ask how do you deal with combats across rivers/streams and across bridges, formations allowed and combat/firing stats.
    I have found some opponent literally line the edge of the straps banks oe bridge edge so you can't get out to combat =realistic?

    1. Thanks Peter, You should be able to try and charge into combat I think. Charging across a river or bridge in my rules you are at a disadvantage (-1 to hit on all dice rolls), same as charging enemy behind an obstacle. A bridge has to be charged across in March Column formation but not suffering all the usual penalties for March column because it's flanks are protected by the bridge and river.
      Crossing a significant but passable river is worse than a bridge because you also have to spend a turn in it taking fire without being able to do anything. Ideally river crossings are done at a natural concave in the river which makes it hard for the defender to defend it, and with lots of fire support for your assaulting troops before they head across! A battery or two of guns firing canister should clear the opposite bank!

  5. sorry for predictive text
    that should have read line the edge of the streams banks or bridge edge

  6. oh and lastly where did you get your river/stream and road sections please

    thanks Peter

    1. Rivers from Pegaus Hobbies, but repainted. Roads from Miniature World Maker (Australian company I think).

  7. That looked like fun. We have tried introducing variable open terrain and rain etc into our games several times rather than just flat good going, but each time we have done it found it overly frustrating. It just proved to be a couple of additional variables too many and turned battles into too much of a slog.

    1. Cheers Lawrence, yes I like to keep rules simple, but also not to leave out such effects, though those are kept simple too. I think for historical battles you do need to account for such factors like mud and rain, so I included rules for them which are fairly standard.

  8. Very nice battle report I have shared your post here

    Feel free to join and share your work

    Take care


  9. Another good looking game Chasseur - glad someone's writing batreps at the moment... I just can't seem to get around to it! Keep up the good work, best wishes,

    1. Thanks for dropping by Jeremy, a long as you are still playing some games between lockdown, that's the important thing I guess!

  10. Fantastic game! Terrain and miniatures are just a feast for eyes!

  11. Lovely looking game and interesting scenario! Sounds like it played out about right to be honest, oh and nice church!
    Best Iain

    1. Cheers Iain, church is a cheap but large one from Amera. :)

  12. This is a great looking game, Mark, and an interesting tactical problem. Very enjoyable battle re report. Are you playtesting all of these scenarios.

    1. Thanks Jonathan, only a few of the weirder scenarios being given some more testing by us, first books are due early 2021 :)

  13. Looks great, Mark, and an interesting scenario indeed, if one youb wouldn't want to play every week! Moving only on a D6 roll of 1 is indeed harsh, but I suppose it forces alternate plans!

    1. Thanks Peter, yes I like something different like this, but as you say, not every week! :)

  14. Wow, an impressive looking game with beautiful miniatures - can't ask for any more than that!