Summary: Good game. Infantry slog felt like an Napoleonic style infantry fight. Columns pushing through lines in a bloody and extended battle Cavalry fight was brutal and heroic, more Lord of the Rings than South America, and took too long.
Chris had the Royalists. He put the bulk of the infantry and guns on his right around Chacabuco Farm. The bulk of the cavalry were on the left of Los Tauretes Hill, with a small supporting force of infantry and guns on the hill itself. By the way, for the version of the scenario we played, Chris got to organise the Royalists as he chose and divide them into two divisions.
Ooops. I got confused at a critical moment and swapped O’Higgins’ and Soler’s deployment zones. Ah, well, never mind. So Adam got San Martin and Soler’s division and lined them up to go over Tahuilaca Hill on the left. The infantry were in columns and the horse and guns lined up nearby. I got brave O’Higgins and deployed him with the cavalry on the far right to face the Royalist horse near Los Tauretes Hill. My infantry we going to attach Chacabuco farm at an angle.
The Argentine Patriots are fighting from the short end of the table, with the Royalists waiting for them in the middle and far end.
It was only after the battle we realised I’d made some mistakes. First mistake is I swapped the deployment of Soler’s and O’Higgins’ divisions. O’Higgins is meant to be in front of Tahuilaca Hill, but I put San Martin and Soler’s Division there.
O’Higgins deployed out on the right, where Soler was meant to be. I put his foot in the fields pointed at Chacabuco Farm and the horse in the open facing Los Tauretes Hill in the distance.
Chris had the Santiago Division around Los Tauretes Hill.
And they had a lot of cavalry.
On the other flank Chris placed the Maroto Division, with the bulk of the infantry, around Chacabuco Farm.
The deployment meant the battle was fought in three parts: Charging the Grand Battery, Infantry Battle and Cavalry Battle. Although these mini-battles were simultaneous, it makes a better narrative to consider them one at a time.
Charging the Grand Battery
I’ve played this scenario before and I always, alway, have some Argentine battalions trudging across fields towards a Royalist grand battery in the fields in front of Chacabuco Farm. True to form, this is what happened again. It doesn’t matter what the rules are but Infantry columns walking into cannon fire is not fun. And to really rub it in, Chris had a grand battery of four guns. Luckily the first shot just got a recoil.
But the next one got a kill.
And then another kill.
This actually took a while. The battle was raging elsewhere, to the left and right. By two thirds of the way through the game my four elements were reduced to one. And that one was shuffling sideways as fast as possible to get out of line of fire of the grand battery.
The story of the grand battery continues in the Infantry Battle.
The Infantry Battle was Adam’s battle. He took San Martin and Soler’s Division over the top of Tahuilaca Hill.
Chris tried sheltered behind the crest of the hill. That might have worked for British in the Peninsular War but not here. The Argentine’s peaked the hill then crashed downhill into the Royalists, gaining a +1 in melee.
The Patriot infantry pushed the Royalists back.
And then pushed them back some more.
And finally pushed them off the hill entirely.
Chris had to reform his troops to brace for the next Patriot assault.
But first the Patriots demonstrated they were not a one trick pony (charge with the bayonet), but could also use their muskets.
The unstoppable Argentine infantry pushed into the fields and vineyards in front of Chacabuco Farm.
It got a bit messy, with Chris retaining a battalion near the stream and the Argentine is a large salient into the Royalist lines.
Adam had some cavalry in reserve and sent them down Tahuilaca Hill to deal with the pesky Royalist infantry hovering near the stream. But horse don’t fair so well against foot in Liberators HOTT and the Patriots got killed.
Unfortunately General San Martin had been attached to the Patriot cavalry and he got killed too. The course of South American history would be changed forever. But for the moment, this meant that every move in Soler’s Division (Adam) took 2 PIPs not 1. As you’ll see this didn’t really slow the Argentines down.
This is the moment in the battle where the earlier account of charging the grand battery finished. The story of the grand battery continues as Adam had deployed his guns on Tahuilaca Hill and started pounding the Royalist artillery.
The Argentine infantry kept advancing despite having those pesky Royalists behind them.
The Argentine infantry got to the edge of the fields and found themselves facing them Royalist horse. A bit of Patriot musketry showed Chris’s troopers what was what.
The Patriots started fanning out in the fields.
The Argentine artillery on Tahuilaca Hill finished off the Royalist battalion near the river.
The Cazadores de los Andes assaulted and destroyed the remaining Royalist battalion shielding the grand battery.
Now the only occupants of the fields were Patriot infantry … and Royalist guns.
And the guns stopped the advance of the Cazadores de los Andes.
But then suffered at the hands of the Patriot artillery on the hill.
That that brought the infantry battle to a close. The Argentines had managed to redeem themselves and exact some revenge for the columns the grand battery had destroyed in the centre.
The battle on the left flank was all about cavalry. The Royalists had more elements. But the Patriots had two heroes: General O’Higgins and the Colonel of the Horse Grenadiers (Granderos a Caballos). The Argentine Horse Grenadiers were the best cavalry in the War in the South but Liberators HOTT doesn’t distinguish on troop quality and I saw this as an excuse to make one stand, nominally the Colonel, a hero in HOTT terms. And the battle on the left was truly heroic.
The Royalist cavalry rushed forward from Los Tauretes Hill.
The Royalist artillery caused one of my cavalry to recoil, straight back into the side of a infantry unit. Which in DBx is a kill. Mutter. Mutter. I’m out of practice with DBx games and should have been more careful about geometry.
Then O’Higgins lead the remainder of the Patriot horse forward.
And O’Higgins promptly killed Mariscal Marco del Pont. Wow. That was quick. The Royalist Santiago division didn’t break and so only suffered the +1 PIP for an absent General.
And then we fought.
Eventually the only Patriot cavalry were the Heroes themselves. By this time O’Higgins division had broken and I had to use PIPs to hold or move every element, but as there was only the two Heroes and the surviving infantry element facing the grand battery.
And the battle raged on.
Finally O’Higgins and the Colonel killed enough stands to break the Santiago Division.
And Adam and I, with the Patriots, took the game.
Conclusions and observations
It was fun. And that is always good.
HOTT Mass Battles
This was the first time I’ve played the Mass Battle advanced rules within HOTT. They worked quite well. I thought the rules for command breaking was very clever. These rules came into effect three times:
- Mariscal Marco del Pont died but his command did not break.
- General San Martin died but his command did not break
- O’Higgins survived the battle but his command broke through losses
All quite simple to calculate but quite nerve wracking and flavourful. I liked it.
Simulation offered by Liberators HOTT
HOTT is an odd choice for a historical period, particularly for the South American Wars of Liberation. I did have to draft some house rules to make Liberators HOTT. So the question is, how did it play out as a simulation?
The Infantry slog felt like an Napoleonic style infantry fight. Columns pushing through lines in a bloody and extended battle. Not a bad simulation by HOTT. And my Liberators HOTT house rules gave nice effect with columns being punchy in melee but vulnerable to shooting. Quite successful really.
The Cavalry fight was brutal and heroic. But it was more Lord of the Rings than South America. And it took far too long. Cavalry battles in general, and certainly in the gunpowder period, were short and sharp. One of the drawbacks of the DBx family of rules is that cavalry fight like Hoplites. We saw this effect in this game. I think that was a fail.
On balance, Liberators HOTT offers a fun game but I do think there is a better simulation out there so I’ll keep looking.
Now you might have noticed something odd about our deployment. The scenario specifies that both Tahuilaca Hill and Los Tauretes Hill as bad going and impassable to cannon. Oops. We accidentally ignored that for this game. Chris deployed cannon on Los Tauretes at the start of the game and Adam sent his guns over the top of Tahuilaca Hill. One to consider for next time.
Chris also deployed his artillery in the fields. Strictly speaking these should have been disadvantaged by the bad going, but we ignored that too.
And, as I mentioned above, I got confused at a critical moment and swapped O’Higgins’ and Soler’s deployment zones. This does highlight a question for scenario design … should they match historical deployment or should the players get more discretion?
In this game, the Patriots had pre-defined divisions and deployment zones (although I got confused on those in the game). The Royalists could organise themselves as they wished and deploy anywhere. So we have the extremes. After the game I decided to stick with the pre-define option for the Patriots. I have also imposed divisions on the Royalists (Maroto’s historical division, and the reinforcements from Santiago under Del Pont). For the moment I’ll let the Royalists deploy as they wish, but it is likely that Maroto, with the bulk of the infantry, will be around Chacabuco Farm, and Del Pont on the open flank.