Alternative Chacabuco – A Bolivar’s Very Bad Day Battle Report 1

Jamie came over to play test my rather raw variant of Tilly’s Very Bad Day for the South American Wars of Liberation. We played John Fletcher’s Alternative Chacabuco scenario, my go to for testing out rules.


The rules – Bolivar’s Very Bad Day

I’ve been searching for a set of rules to use for the South American Wars of Liberation for a while. I’ve tried a bunch including Liberators QPR, Liberators HOTT, Live Free or Die, plus others in the Napoleonic mode. I need battalions in line, column and square. I need dashing cavalry charges and rather pathetic cavalry retreats. I need guns. Tiny guns – 4 pounders were common – but lots of them.

Now if you look at Tilly’s Very Bad Day, you’ll see it is for the Thirty Years War and has brigades as the manoeuvre unit. But both Jamie and I were convinced it could form the basis of a set of rules for Liberators. So I drafted something. This set of rules is tentatively called “Bolivar’s Very Bad Day” due to Simon Bolivar’s defeats at the Battles of La Puerta and Aragua de Barcelona, after which he was arrested by the Patriots. These rules are so rough we shouldn’t have tried them, but given Jamie likes Tilly’s Very Bad Day and is happy to have a bash, so we gave them a go anyway.


Deployment

I play Alternative Chacabuco so often I got custom pieces for both Tahuilaca Hill and Los Tauretes Hill. I also made some new fields and enclosed field pieces for Tilly’s Very Bad Day.

Chacabuco-702 Table
Chacabuco-702 Table

As per the standard deployment, the Royalists (Steven) had Maroto’s division on the right in front of Chacabuco Farm and the Santiago Division further back on the left around Los Tauretes Hill.

Chacabuco-701 Royalist Deployment
Chacabuco-701 Royalist Deployment
Chacabuco-703 Royalist Right - Maroto's Division
Chacabuco-703 Royalist Right – Maroto’s Division
Chacabuco-705 Royalist Right - Maroto's Division
Chacabuco-705 Royalist Right – Maroto’s Division

The Talavera regiment was the mainstay in Maroto’s Division.

Chacabuco-704 Talavera Regiment
Chacabuco-704 Talavera Regiment
Chacabuco-706 Royalist Left - The Santiago Division
Chacabuco-706 Royalist Left – The Santiago Division

I put the Chillan Regiment on Los Tauretes and hid my horse on the far side of the hill. I had the slightly better Frontier Dragoons at the front (Ordinary Horse) and inferior Concordia Hussars behind. I didn’t fancy their chances against the superior Patriot horse.

Chacabuco-707 Royalist Chillan Regiment on Los Tauretes
Chacabuco-707 Royalist Chillan Regiment on Los Tauretes

The Patriots (Jamie) also had the standard deployment, with O’Higgins’s Division in front of Tahuilaca Hill on the left, and Soler’s Division on the right.

Chacabuco-709 Patriot deployment
Chacabuco-709 Patriot deployment

Actually only O’Higgins’s foot was in front of Tahuilaca Hill.

Chacabuco-712 Argentine 7th and 8th Regiments ready to climb Tahuilaca Hill
Chacabuco-712 Argentine 7th and 8th Regiments ready to climb Tahuilaca Hill

O’Higgins’s horse was the right, where it could head for the more open ground.

Chacabuco-713 O'Higgin's Horse
Chacabuco-713 O’Higgin’s Horse
Chacabuco-714 Soler's Division
Chacabuco-714 Soler’s Division

Turn 1

The Patriots advanced.

Chacabuco-717 Patriot movement
Chacabuco-717 Patriot movement

O’Higgins’s foot marched up Tahuilaca Hill in column so they could move faster.

Chacabuco-718 Argentine infantry on Tahuilaca Hill
Chacabuco-718 Argentine infantry on Tahuilaca Hill

O’Higgins’s horse in the centre rushed toward Chacabuco Farm, past Soler’s foot.

Chacabuco-719 O'Higgins's Horse rushes past Soler's foot
Chacabuco-719 O’Higgins’s Horse rushes past Soler’s foot

The rest of Soler’s division, with General San Martin, stayed near the small stream.

Chacabuco-720 The rest of Soler's Division
Chacabuco-720 The rest of Soler’s Division

Turn 2

O’Higgins’s horse got close enough to the Royalist Chiloe Regiment that they could open fire. Sadly without much effect. Note: Chiloe Regiment was in square – one of the rule changes.

Chacabuco-721 Royalist shooting
Chacabuco-721 Royalist shooting

Turn 3

Jamie calmly rode his Cazadores a Caballo de la Escolta del General (Hunters on Horse of the General’s escort) across the front of my massed Royalist guns. And I couldn’t affect him – something to think about.

Chacabuco-724 Royalist shooting
Chacabuco-724 Royalist shooting

The Royalist Frontier Dragoons countered Cazadores a Caballo de la Escolta del General, by charging them. But Jamie then sent the second wave, of Granaderos a Caballo, into the nearest battery. The Chiloe Regiment was firing into the Patriot cavalry’s flank but did nothing – something else to think about.

Chacabuco-725 Charge declarations
Chacabuco-725 Charge declarations

Granaderos a Caballo eliminated the guns, as per standard Tilly’s Very Bad Day – something to think about.

Chacabuco-727 Granaderos a Caballo charge down the guns
Chacabuco-727 Granaderos a Caballo charge down the guns

The Royalist Frontier Dragoons and Patriot Cazadores a Caballo de la Escolta del General charged each other and got locked in melee.

Chacabuco-728 Cavalry melee on left
Chacabuco-728 Cavalry melee on left
Chacabuco-729 Cavalry locked in melee
Chacabuco-729 Cavalry locked in melee

On Tahuilaca Hill the Patriot regiments had shaken out into line before advancing towards the Royalist in the fields. To their right more Patriot horse and foot advanced on the farm.

Chacabuco-726 Patrios approach Chacabuco farm
Chacabuco-726 Patriots approach Chacabuco farm

Turn 4

By game turn 4 O’Higgis’s Division was spread quite a long way across the table. The foot were coming down Tahuilaca Hill and the horse were fighting in front of Los Tauretes Hill. I suspect command range should have played a part but we didn’t notice at the time.

Chacabuco-731 Table
Chacabuco-731 Table

I had to counter Jamie’s bold move with the Patriot horse, and unhappily brought my own forward.

Chacabuco-732 Royalists movement on left
Chacabuco-732 Royalists movement on left

On the Royalist left there seemed to be a big space between the Royalist line and the bulk of Patriots facing them. But distance can be deceiving in Tilly’s very Bad Day.

Chacabuco-734 View from Royalist left
Chacabuco-734 View from Royalist left

The Patriots of Soler’s Division – both horse and foot – advanced towards Los Tauretes Hill.

Chacabuco-737 Patriot movement on left
Chacabuco-737 Patriot movement on left

And suddenly my Frontier Dragoons felt a bit nervous.

Chacabuco-741 Left flank
Chacabuco-741 Left flank

And my second squadron of Frontier Dragoons counter charged a squadron of Granaderos a Caballo. I just knew that was going to hurt.

Chacabuco-745 Charges declarations on left
Chacabuco-745 Charges declarations on left

Meanwhile the original squadron Granaderos a Caballo eliminated another battery of guns. Hmm – I really have to think about that.

Chacabuco-746 Patriots ride down another battery
Chacabuco-746 Patriots ride down another battery

On the right, Jamie had brought the Cazadores de los Andes battalion to the edge of the fields. They were supported by horse on their open right flank. To the left the 7th and 8th regiments were preparing to march down the hill.

Chacabuco-733 The calm before the storm
Chacabuco-733 The calm before the storm

And sure enough the Patriot marched on the Royalists lining the fields.

Chacabuco-735 Patriot infantry advance on the fields
Chacabuco-735 Patriot infantry advance on the fields

I’d set up the Royalist foot to defend the edge of the fields. It was only during the game that I realised this gave them no advantage in the draft rules – something to think about.

Chacabuco-738 Valdivia Regiment waiting in the fields
Chacabuco-738 Valdivia Regiment waiting in the fields
Chacabuco-739 Talavera Regiment waiting in the fields
Chacabuco-739 Talavera Regiment waiting in the fields

The Mixed Grenadier and Cazadores battalion – formed from combining the flank companies of the 7th, 8th and 11th battalions into a adhoc formation – started flanking the fields along the road. That forced the Chiloe Regiment out of square and into column.

Chacabuco-740 Chiloe Regiment waiting in the fields
Chacabuco-740 Chiloe Regiment waiting in the fields

The Royalist muskets roared and inflicted some casualties on the advancing Patriots.

Chacabuco-742 Royalist shooting on right
Chacabuco-742 Royalist shooting on right

The Argentine 7th Regiment and Mixed Grenadier and Cazadores battalion both charged – no surprise there. But the other two Patriot battalions also charged. Shooting had reduced the 8th Regiment to 2 resolve and the Cazadores de los Andes to only 1 resolve, but they charged anyway.

Chacabuco-744 Charge declarations on right
Chacabuco-744 Charge declarations on right

Mixed Grenadier and Cazadores battalion routed the Royalist Chiloe Regiment. And they killed the Royalist general. The Royalist division was going to suffer.

Chacabuco-748 Argentine mixed Grenadiers and Cazadores rout Chiloe and kill general
Chacabuco-748 Argentine mixed Grenadiers and Cazadores rout Chiloe and kill general

The Argentine 7th Regiment drove Valdivia back.

Chacabuco-749 Argentine 7th Regiment drives Valdivia back
Chacabuco-749 Argentine 7th Regiment drives Valdivia back

The Argentine 8th Regiment was locked in melee with the Talavera Regiment.

Chacabuco-751 Talavera and 8th Regiment locked in melee
Chacabuco-751 Talavera and 8th Regiment locked in melee

After the morale phase you can see the Patriots were in a shaky position.

Chacabuco-752 After morale phase
Chacabuco-752 After morale phase

Turn 5

Soler’s Division rushed towards the Royalists. Specifically the Frontier Dragoons.

Chacabuco-754 Looking bad for the Frontier Dragoons
Chacabuco-754 Looking bad for the Frontier Dragoons

I found my inferior horse facing equal numbers of superior horse. Somehow I didn’t feel good about that.

Chacabuco-758 Cavalry Battle
Chacabuco-758 Cavalry Battle

The charges were predictable.

Chacabuco-760 Charge Declarations on left
Chacabuco-760 Charge Declarations on left

And the deaths also predictable, starting with another eliminated battery.

Chacabuco-762 Another battery eliminated
Chacabuco-762 Another battery eliminated

Then a squadron of Concordia Hussars routed.

Chacabuco-763 Concordia Hussars rout
Chacabuco-763 Concordia Hussars rout

And both squadrons of Frontier Dragoons. Ouch.

Chacabuco-764 Cavalry battle - A whole lof of Royalist pain
Chacabuco-764 Cavalry battle – A whole lot of Royalist pain
Chacabuco-765 Cavalry battle
Chacabuco-765 Cavalry battle

On the right the Patriots closed in on the fields. In particular the Mixed Grenadier and Cazadores battalion turned to face into the fields and formed line. Things were looking bad for Talavera.

Chacabuco-755 Patriots close in on the fields
Chacabuco-755 Patriots close in on the fields

Valdivia kept up a brisk fire and got the 7th Regiment down to 1 resolve.

Chacabuco-756 Valdivia musketry hammers the 7th Regiment
Chacabuco-756 Valdivia musketry hammers the 7th Regiment

Talavera’s musketry also hammered the 8th Regiment.

Chacabuco-757 Talavera musketry hammers the 8th Regiment and Cazadores de los Andes
Chacabuco-757 Talavera musketry hammers the 8th Regiment and Cazadores de los Andes

And the Patriot battalions shot back.

Chacabuco-759 Royalist musketry
Chacabuco-759 Patriot musketry

Jamie declared his sole charge on the right – the Mixed Grenadier and Cazadores battalion going into the flank of the Talavera Regiment.

Chacabuco-761 Charge declarations on right
Chacabuco-761 Charge declarations on right

And Talavera routed.

Chacabuco-766 Talavera routs
Chacabuco-766 Talavera routs

And that was the game.

Chacabuco-767 Battlefield
Chacabuco-767 Battlefield
Chacabuco-768 Battlefield
Chacabuco-768 Battlefield
Chacabuco-770 Battlefield
Chacabuco-770 Battlefield

Observations and conclusions

My rules were far too draft to realistically give a sensible game. But we knew that and did it anyway. Despite being raw they gave a good fast game. We both enjoyed it.

Jamie really liked the game. He said he preferred this variant over the original Tilly’s Very Bad Day. In particular he liked the tactical choices offered by the formations a battalion can take: line, attack column, square or march column.

Jamie also appreciated the speed of the game. It only took his attack columns three turns to march over Tahuilaca Hill and attack Chacabuco Farm. And that includes changing from attack column to line. The whole game was over in 1 1/2 hours.

Now Jamie’s cavalry attack on my grand battery was far too effective. Cannon in the Thirty Years War are pretty ineffective and Tilly’s Very Bad Day reflects this. But artillery was much improved by the Liberators period. What Jamie tried – running two squadrons against four batteries of guns – shouldn’t have worked. Artillery of this period need to be better in both shooting and melee.

Quite a few new rules emerged from the play test. All of these are Liberators period differences from straight Tilly’s Very Bad Day for the Thirty Years War:

  • Artillery:
    • Artillery should have a wider arc of fire than straight ahead
    • Pivoting should not prevent artillery from shooting
    • Artillery fire canister at short range
  • Battalions:
    • Battalions should get a bonus when charging – we played they hit on 4-6
    • Battalions are supported when both flanks have adjacent battalion or horse or difficult terrain
    • Battalions get cover from shooting
    • Battalions need improved fire power, either more shooting dice or better to hit
    • Battalions can change facing with a change of formation
    • I had a square that shot, then changed formation into column … should that be allowed?
    • Some battalions should have fire discipline (think British red coats in the Peninsular)
  • Horse:
    • Normal Tilly rule that Horse are supported by other Horse to rear is fine
  • Commanders:
    • Brave and impetuous O’Higgins could get a bonus in melee by hitting on 3-6 instead of 4-6
    • My tweaks to Commander Casualties might have made this too unlikely

As I mentioned, this game featured my custom made models for Tahuilaca Hill and Los Tauretes Hill. I play this scenario so often I figured I should just get the appropriate models rather than making do. It makes setting up so much easier. Probably not in time, but definitely in saved brain power.

4 thoughts on “Alternative Chacabuco – A Bolivar’s Very Bad Day Battle Report 1”

  1. Great little battle and AAR
    You certainly serve as an inspiration and know how to put on a show

    Apologies if you have already answered this in another post
    The troops for these South American “Napoleonic” period .. are you just using mainstream recycled Napoleonic’s or are these from a specific range?

    Reply
    • Hi Mark. A fair few of these are specialist South American Wars figures from Grenadier Productions. They are just about to be re-released by Eureka Miniatures.

      A fair number are Peninsular War figures e.g. late war Spanish for Royalist infantry and British rifles for Cazadores de los Andes. I tend to use Fantassin / War Modelling for these – unfortunately they seem to have fallen down a hole due to an ownership dispute and aren’t available just at the moment. I hope they return.

      I know many folk just use normal Napoleonic figures. Of which there is a vast variety that are pretty close.

      Have a look at my post on 15mm Wargaming Figures for the South American Wars of Liberation

      Reply
  2. Very interesting Steven. I’ve my eyes on your experiments with Tilly’s… er, Bolivar’s Very Bad Day. It’d be useful now that I finally own a copy of Liberators (thanks to your help!).

    One nitpick: there’s a typo which I think you’re carrying over from Liberators, where it happens frequently: in Spanish it’s “Cazadores”, not “Cazadore” (which sounds vaguely Italian to me). It’s “cazador” singular, “cazadores” plural 🙂 Yes, Fletcher makes this mistake as well!

    Reply

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