Ian Spence, Des Darkin and Martin Gane of the South London Warlords put on a demonstration of the Battle of Araure at Salute 2015. It was great to see Liberators featured at the premier show in the UK. However, the stand out feature was the table itself. Very effective and terribly simple. And as a bonus we had a mystery guest from the USA.
The Historical Battle
The battle was fought south of the town of Araure on 5 December 1813. Boliver led a poor quality Patriot army, albeit with some battle experience, against an larger but even poorer quality of Royalist army under José Ceballos. The battle lasted for about six hours and resulted in a Patriot victory.
As Spence, Darkin and Gane point out in the article that accompanied the demonstration, Araure is notable for the range of troop types. The battle involved militia (some with combat experience), peasants, Llaneros, Spanish, Americans and even infantry with lances.
Llaneros appeared on both sides in large numbers. They were cattle herders that were born to the saddle. Given their combat ability Llaneros were a significant aspect of the war in Venezuela.
I was most interested to find the Batallón sin nombre (Battalion without Name) in the Patriot line up. This unit was formed with survivors from an earlier defeat near Barquisimeto (specifically the battalions of Aragua, Caracas y Agricultores). Boliver punished them by arming this unit with lances rather than muskets. At Araura Batallón sin nombre had its chance for redemption when they charged and defeated the Numancia battalion (one of the best Royalist units, and I believe, peninsular troops). For their part in the victory this unit was renamed Vencedor de Araure (Victor of Araure). Given the combination of Napoleonic style uniforms and spears, this is a modelling challenge of some order – a challenge the South London Warlords rose to.
Teddy Bear Table
The most impressive thing about the demonstration was the table. Specifically the teddy bear cloth. I’ve written up various ways to make a wargaming table and/or terrain cloth including using teddy bear fur but I’ve never actually used teddy bear fur myself.
Apparently Des Darkin is responsible for the cloth used in this game. Green teddy bear fur from Craft Fabrics, cropped to 14mm, sprayed with an yellow ochre colour and then highlighted with yellow. Very effective it is too giving the effect of lush grass land typical of the Pampas.
Stones were scattered over the cloth to give some texture.
The combination of lush grass and gentle contours really was visually impressive.
The battlefield featured a lake, now called Largo de los Muertos (Lake of the Dead).
This was a piece of MDF, painted, and then placed on top of the teddy bear cloth. The paint job was very effective with a nice shine to show light reflecting.
As the demonstration progress the lake settled into the teddy bear fur and looked even more natural.
The battlefield had two hills. To the east was a long ridge called “La Galera”. The Patriot army marched on the table along the road on La Galera
On the far side of the lake was a smaller hill where part of the Royalist force started. The players used scattered rocks to indicate the edge of the hills.
The hills were made very, very simply. Just rolled up cloth under the teddy bear fur to create the contours. Most of us have used books under a cloth however because the figures were plastic this game could use cloth instead. It gave a very natural effect.
A road stretched the length of La Galera and beyond.
This was an area of the teddy bear cloth that was trimmed to ground level and sand clued onto it.
There was also a mystery guest. I was bending over the table peering at the Royalists when a friendly voice said “Hello Mr Thomas”. John Fletcher of Grenadier Productions had come over from the USA to show support for a Liberators game. Always a pleasure to meet John in person.