Saturday, April 13, 2019

Somewhere in Spain 1808

I solo-played a divisional level Over the Hills game in my first attempt at a serious playtest of these rules. I was excited to try these out as up to now I had mostly played games where the brigade was the key game element and I was looking for something a bit less abstracted for smaller engagements that would give the feel of an actual Napoleonic battle. I had read that OTH fit this bill.
 It was a fictional scenario, set in the Peninsular War, with the British on defence on the high ground and the French attacking.
The forces were roughly equal, the French having a battalion of infantry advantage, one more battery and two regiments of horse to the British one.
British on the high ground to left, French attacking from right

The British strung out in supported lines across the high ground, sending a battalion of Rifles to hold a forward position in the centre, in skirmish formation in a woods bordering the stream that traversed the battlefield. The French elected to send the bulk of their force against the British left (employing two brigades, one very strong) while the third brigade and cavalry tied down the British right.

British right
Rifles in skirmish formation deploy in the woods in the British centre, with the remainder of the brigade behind in reserve.
The British left, two battalions up, one back.

The French advanced in column, ranged behind two battalions of light in skirmish formation, screening them from the enemy cannon. 
French right skirts around the village.

French centre advances in column.
As they approached the stream, the skirmishers converged on the Rifles along the stream, attempting to drive them from their forward position. This was the first surprise for me wearing my French general’s hat, discovering that open order skirmishers along a steam and in cover of woods are not so easily dislodged!
Two French battalions of light infantry fail to dislodge the Rifles in a tough skirmish battle.

As the French light infantry hit this speed bump the bulk of the French cannon unlimbered on the right, keeping the British guns engaged as the French columns advanced towards the high ground. 
French guns deploying to the front take fire from the British cannon.

British cannon engage enemy batteries as they advance.

French centre skirt around the right flank of Rifles to press home the attack.
Overview of battle. Lower left Hussars come face to face with the French cavalry as they form up on the near side of the stream. In the centre the left flank of the French attack holds back while the light infantry try to dislodge the Rifles from their woods while at the top the attack on the British left and centre left prepares to go in.
The French centre became a bit tangled up with the skirmish battle going on here, but their right brigade (with a battalion each of Poles and Wesphalians) made good headway and closed with the British far left. Initial success sent the British brigade here reeling back, but they managed to rally, with the battery on this flank sending a devastating load of canister at short range into one of the victorious French columns, causing it to rout.

Poles (foreground) and a second French brigade slam into the British left, driving it back.

Short range canister fire routs one of the brigades and the British right holds.
Wellington surveys the battle as it unfolds.
French cavalry advance to the stream in line.
On the British right things began badly for the defenders. The two cavalry forces played cat and mouse as the French horse crossed the stream, having formed up in columns of squadrons first. 

Forming into columns of squadrons before crossing.
Two battalions of British infantry, seeing the horse, wisely went into square, while the British cavalry held back between them looking for an opportunity to engage the French horse on favourable terms.

KGL Hussars take refuge behind infantry squares.
The British, however, had left their cannon vulnerable to attack. The Vistula lancers charged the battery which, after debating the merits of the crew fleeing to a nearby square, opted to stand by their guns in the hope of stopping the charge dead with canister at close range. This didn’t happen (despite the strong odds) and not only was the battery ridden into the dirt, but the third British battalion in this brigade, thinking itself safe, also was destroyed in the charge. (Lesson 2, never underestimate how much damage charging horse can do!)
Vistula Lancers ride a British battery into the ground and scatter a battalion of infantry on the British right.

The charge, however, drove the lancers deep into the enemy line, and, receiving more hits from flanking fire from the squares they were forced to retire and the flank held.
Meanwhile, on the French right, the foreign brigade was in trouble, as the stubborn British battalion on this flank refused to give up anymore ground. The Rifles, too, held fast against repeated attempts to flush them from their central position in the woods. The French finally pulled back their skirmishers and brought up cannon to try and drive them out. 

French light infantry are driven off by the Rifles...
And a French battery is brought up to try and drive the skirmishers out.
The French commander, wanting to support his struggling troops on his far right decided that, rather than have these irksome Rifles hold up the attack any longer, he would throw his strong brigade across the stream to hit the British line on the enemy’s centre and bypass them completely.
The enemy battalion facing this threat, let loose a devastating volley and then charged the enemy, throwing him back down the hill and into the following line, destroying it as the two battalions became interpenetrated with one another.

Huzzah! British fire and charge French centre.

As if things weren’t going badly enough for the poor French, a brigade was also marching into disaster on their far left. With the British cannon destroyed on this flank and now the entire British brigade in square, the French columns, thinking themselves now safe and supported by cavalry, skirted around the Rifles in the centre to bring pressure on the British right. 

French march on British squares.
Hussars charge into the french columns.
But lurking between the squares was the British cavalry, which charged the lead French battalion. It failed to form emergency square and was destroyed, the spent lancers next to them were caught flat-footed and routed, and then the second French battalion also ridden down before able to form square. In an instant the French attack on the left was annihilated, and devolved into fruitless charges and countercharges between the remaining French hussars and their British counterparts.
Lancers rout from the field, despite the best attempts from their officer to stop them.

With the French left decimated, the British commander could begin to move his centre and right over to help his left. The Rifles were pulled back from the stream, continuing to skirmish with the French light while in a series of subsequent attacks, the French were driven off the British high ground. 

Huzzah again! A second French battalon is scattered.
Wesphalians make one last attempt at cracking the British right.
The only final success on the part of the French was the destruction of a second British battery by artillery fire, but as two or three more French battalions were routed or destroyed, there were no troops left to exploit the French advantage in guns.

British battery silenced by French fire.

The final butcher’s bill was one battalion and two batteries lost for the British to six battalions of infantry and a brigade of horse lost to the French. So a resounding victory for the British.

French hussars also routed form the field.

Post Mortem

The game was a lot of fun and I loved this rule set. I’m thinking that there are two or three optional rules I may let go as either too fussy or just too hard for me to remember (for now at least!) but overall I loved the look and feel of this game. I wasn’t using Orders either, which would make a huge difference, but I wanted the freedom to simply try things out. Employing entire battalions as skirmish screens looked and felt right on the table and made skirmishers seem a bit less abstracted than they are in the core rules. I loved the interaction between horse and infantry squares, the vulnerability of infantry not in square, and how in this game the British right simply formed into a series of squares with interlocking fields of fire as the only reasonable response to enemy horse. The British ability to volley and charge against the French (mostly attacking in columns) was devastating for the French and felt right.
So eager to have another go!


  1. That was a good read. I've recently bought the rules but have yet to play them.

  2. Game looks terrific, and sounds like you had fun!

  3. I did! And I think you will enjoy the rules, Uidach OB. They definitely ticked all the boxes I was looking for in a rule set.

  4. Really great Bill,
    Has the look and feel of a real Peninsula battle.
    Next time maybe try sending in a column of grenadiers to charge the "Rifles in he woods." But I wonder how that would fare under these rules - as they would of course become unformed by the terrain while charging.
    The cavalry action looks superb - Vistula lancers (beautifully painted) covering themselves in glory as usual against infantry and then getting whopped. Sound familiar?

  5. Thanks for the after action report. Over the Hills is new to me. But unfortunately I missed the kick starter on v2. Hopefully I'll be able to pick them up some other place.

    1. Thanks, Steve. I wanted to say what a great help your Peninsular painting guides were, especially for the Spanish, when I first got into Napoleonics a few years ago.