Chris Harrod and I played the Maipo Scenario from the Liberators book using the Liberators Quick Play Rules. We rolled for sides and Chris got the Royalists and I got the Patriots.
Based on my experience in the Alternative Chacabuco game, where it took a long time to manoeuvre to contact I chose to cut down the Maipo table to just 4′ x 4′. In hindsight that might have been a mistake.
We used an updated order of battle for the Patriots (see Liberators QPR Maipo Scenario). For this game I made this mistake of making the Argentine Cazadores a Caballo de la Escolta del General Elite rather than Regular; this was a typo when I made the unit cards.
We agreed to abide by the, more or less, historical deployment. For the Royalists this meant mixed infantry, cavalry and artillery across the front line. Chris wasn’t sure about aspects of the historical deployment, for example having two batteries of artillery on the small hill on his left flank and having the Frontier Dragoons in the open space between his two hills, but went with it to see how the game played out.
View of battlefield from behind Royalist line
View from the north, i.e. behind Royalist line
View along the Royalist line
starting with the Grenadier Battalion on the left
Like Chris I opted for a more-or-less historical deployment. Like the Royalists this involved mixed infantry, cavalry and artillery across the front. San Martin also mixed his veteran Argentines amongst the raw Chileans.
Patriot battle line
One of the key features of the battlefield was the large hill on the Royalist right. The following photos highlight the hill nicely. We, perhaps, made it too high (four DVDs high). Certainly we found as the game progressed that it was difficult to get stands to stay in place on the steep slope. But it does look impressive.
Battle lines from Patriot side
View of battlefield from Patriot centre-left;
The hill on the Royalist right is obvious
I intended to attack on both flanks but the main thrust was to be on my left. The gap on the Royalist right flank looked very tempting. If I could turn that flank then I could, hopefully, roll up Chris’s line.
View from behind the Patriot left
I also intended to attack on my right flank. I was a bit nervous about the Royalist batteries on the small hill so thought I’d use the wood to shelter my troops as long as possible. My plan was to send my infantry through the woods against the Royalist Grenadiers and hold the Argentine Horse Grenadiers back until there was an opportunity to exploit.
View from behind the Patriot right
Based on my experience in the Alternative Chacabuco game I cut down the Maipo table to just 4′ x 4′. That meant I had to compress the Patriot deployment area. As you can see from the photo above this caused a problem on the Patriot right flank. The only was I could get all of the Argentine Horse Grenadiers on table was to put them at an odd angle behind the infantry.
The first turn saw the Patriots surge forward along the entire line. The centre was constrained by the movement of the artillery but the wings pushed forward as far as they could. In particular the left flank advanced briskly towards the open wing of the Royalists. Chris began to redeploy his right flank cavalry towards the right to counter this threat.
Patriot left surges forward as artillery opens up
The artillery on both sides opened up. The Patriots focussed their attention on the right flank Royalist battery plus the Conception and Arequipa battalions. The weaker Royalist artillery aimed at the Argentine 11th Infantry Battalion on the Patriot left, plus the Chilean battery of 4 lb guns on the Patriot right-centre.
The first turn saw the Patriot right wing advance in the cover of the woods. The Argentine Horse Grenadiers moved towards the end of the wood to put them in a position to sweep around the edge when an opportunity presented itself. The infantry on this wing, led by the Argentine 11th Infantry Regiment, headed for the wood itself and the Royalist infantry on the far side.
Patriot Right advances towards wood
Perhaps fearing the four squadrons of Argentine Horse Grenadiers on the far side of the wood, Chris formed square with the Grenadier battalion on his left flank.
Royalist Grenadiers form square
The artillery duel continued as the Patriots marched towards the Royalist line. Following the lead of the Grenadier battalion the Arequipa battalion in the Royalist centre also formed square. This was a response to the threat posed by the Argentine Horse Grenadiers. However, it made the battalion more vulnerable to the Chilean artillery fire.
Royalist Battle Line
With all of the Patriot artillery able to fire the Royalists quickly began to take casualties. Initially the Conception and Arequipa battalions, being larger, could soak up the punishment. However, the small battery on the Royalist right was destroyed.
Patriot artillery destroys Royalist artillery in centre
But one of the quirks of the Liberators Quick Play Rules is that routed units can rally on the General. So moments after being “destroyed” one gun reappeared almost in the same position.
Royalist artillery rallies near Osorio
As the artillery duel continued in the centre my left flank pushed forward aggressively. All that was facing them was a sole squadron of the Arequipa Dragoons. I thought I’d leave them to my cavalry to deal with and send the infantry up the hill.
Patriot Left advance along side of hill
On the other flank the Argentine Horse Grenadiers had reached their launch position and paused. They were waiting for the infantry attack to their right to unfold.
View from Royalist Left
With my centre advancing at the pace of the man-handled guns my wings quickly rushed ahead.
Patriot’s advance everywhere
My left flank in particular made good progress in the open. With the Arequipa Dragoons looking pretty lonely on that flank Chris began moving the Lanceros del Rey in support.
Royalist Battle Line
After the next turn I fancied myself a Hannibal replicating his envelopment at Cannae. The photo below shows my two wings pushing forward with my centre held back to pin the Royalists. Of course we hadn’t actually closed so it was possible my self-flattery was a little premature.
Envelopment ala Cannae
Chris, having realised that charging down hill gave him no advantage under the rules, rode the Arequipa Dragoons off the hill to face the on-coming Patriot horde. In fact the Dragoons faced my own cavalry. By this stage my left flank infantry had spread out to start their climb up the hill.
Royalist Arequipa Dragoons takes on Patriot left flank alone
As the flanks advanced my centre continued to edge forward at the speed of the man-handled guns. Every turn saw a frenzy of shot flying across the field. Royalist casualties mounted with little damage being done in return.
Artillery battle continues in the centre
I had six guns – 4 x Chilean 4 lb and 2 x Argentine 8 lb – firing at the Royalist Conception battalion on the hill. In the centre I had four Chilean 4 lb guns firing at the Arequipa battalion. Arequipa was in square so I could, in this case, ignore the penalty for long range which meant more casualties.
The Royalist Arequipa and Conception Battalions take a pounding
On my right flank the Patriot infantry were making their way through the wood.
Patriot right flank infantry enter the wood
The Patriot right flank infantry were led by the Argentine 11th Infantry Regiment. This unit was on a par with their Royalist opponents – the Grenadiers – and superior to its own supporting units (Chileans).
Argentine 11th Regiment advancing towards the Royalist Grenadiers
The next turn saw our first melee. Chris decided to charge his Arequipa Dragoons into the Argentine Horse Cazadores facing them. The Dragoons took casualties and bounced.
The charge of the Arequipa Dragoons
Meanwhile the Patriot left flank infantry continued to climb the hill towards the lone Royalist gun at the top. The Lanceros del Rey were nearby but really provided back up to Arequipa down on the flat.
Lone Royalist gun attempts to hold back Patriot left flank infantry
Finally, after many turns, the Royalist Conception battalion broke under the Patriot artillery fire.
Royalist Conception Battalion routs
On the far flank the Argentine 11th Infantry Regiment finally closed with the Royalist Grenadier battalion. The former in column and the latter in square. The melee would take several turns to resolve.
Argentine 11th Regiment closes with the Grenadiers in square
On the my left flank the Patriot infantry continued to chug up the hill. The Argentine Horse Cazadores also counter charged the Arequipa Dragoons. And bounced. But this freed up the Chilean Horse Cazadores to accompany the infantry and protect them from the threat of the Royalist Lanceros del Rey.
Patriot left: Argentine Horse Cazadores counter-charge Arequipa Dragoosn
On the Patriot right flank the Argentine 11th drove the Grenadier battalion backwards.
Argentine 11th Battalion drive Grenadier battalion backwards
With the right flank infantry out of the wood, and the Royalist Arequipa battalion near breaking from my cannon fire, I thought it was time to throw in the Argentine Horse Grenadiers. All four squadrons merged from the cover of the wood and made for the Frontier Dragoons in the gap between the two Royalist hills. Unfortunately I had misjudged the distances and the lead squadron was closer to the Royalist batteries than the Chilean infantry emerging from the wood; despite being elite the lead squadron got routed in one cannonade. Ouch.
Royalist artillery destroyed lead squadron of Argentine Horse Grenadiers
To give the Patriot left flank infantry more time to climb the hill I charged my Chilean Horse Cazadores into the Lanceros del Rey. They bounced. To their rear the Argentine Horse Cazadores were still locked in melee with the Arequipa Dragoons. The Dragoons were getting the worst of it (two casualties) but were holding their ground.
Cavalry melees on the Patriot left
In the centre the Chilean artillery finally broke the Arequipa battalion. Nearby the second squadron of Argentine Horse Grenadiers charged the Frontier Dragoons.
Royalist centre crumbles as the Arequipa battalion routs
Having seen both the Conception and Arequipa battalions break under the weight of the Patriot cannonade, the Burgos and Don Carlos battalions began to edge backward, seeking the shelter of the hill’s crest line. Behind them one squadron of Frontier Dragoons was making its way over the hill to assist the Arequipa Dragoons and Lanceros del Rey on the Royalist right.
With no visible targets I limbered up the Chilean and Argentine guns on my left-centre to redeploy. My right-centre Chilean guns still had visible targets and I left them unlimbered.
On the Patriot right the infantry battle continued. The Royalist Grenadier Battalion pushed the Argentine 11th Regiment backwards. The Royalist Cazadore Battalion charged the Chilean Cazadores – inconclusively. This was the moment when I decide to sacrifice the the Chilean Infantes de Patria Battalion. I pushed the Chileans out in front of the Royalist guns to draw their fire away from the nearby Argentine Horse Grenadiers.
Infantry battle on the Patriot right
Back on the Patriot left the Argentine Horse Cazadores finally routed the Arequipa Dragoons. It took a while but quality eventually told over quantity.
Argentine Horse Cazadores rout the Arequipa Dragoons
On the hill the Patriots who have finally reached the summit and shot down the gunners of the lone Royalist battery facing them. But General Osorio has managed to rally elements of both the Conception battalion and Arequipa battalions to face them. Nearby Chilean Horse Cazadores drove the Lanceros del Rey backwards.
Patriot left takes summit of hill
On the Patriot right Chilean Infantes de Patria Battalion charged the Royalist artillery but broke in a storm of canister. Nearby the Frontier Dragoons drove back one squadron of Argentine Horse Grenadiers but this just left them facing two instead of one.
Royalist Artillery breaks Chilean Infantes de Patria Battalion
But it isn’t all gloom for the Patriots on the right. After a long fought melee the Argentine 11th Infantry Regiment broke the Royalist Grenadier Battalion thus exposing the flank of the Cazadore Battalion.
Argentine 11th Regiment breaks the Grenadier Battalion
With mixed results the battle on the Patriot right could still have gone either way. One battalion routed on either side. The Royalist Cazadore Battalion left to face two enemy battalions (Argentine 11th and Chilean Cazadore) – which looked good for me. But Chris was looking forward to the next Artillery Fire phase when his two batteries on the hill could shoot up another squadron of Argentine Horse Grenadiers.
The last photo shows the final positions, and the most last moves of the game. It also shows my planned moves (in purple). As you can see I still had quite a lot of troops to attack with but Chris felt his line buckling. So at midnight real time he called it a day and conceded.
Final positions when Chris conceded
The game was great fun and looked good.
We didn’t play to conclusion but it looked like a historical result was unfolding. I was winning on the Patriot left and had a good chance of winning on the right. The Royalist centre had the intact Don Carlos and Burgos battalions; I could imagine them conducting a fighting withdrawal to the Espejo farm for a last stand.
Despite the name, the Liberators Quick Play Rules are not “quick”. Now 1 hour for set up and play is “quick” in my book. HOTT and DBA can be played in an hour; that is “quick’. But this game was six hours from set up to storing everything away. Four hours of actual game play. This was similar to my experience in the Alternative Chacabuco which also had four hours play time. However the Maipo game, although not played to conclusion, was fairly decisive whereas I’d been forced to leave the Alternative Chacabuco game in a fairly inconclusive state. Six hours is, well, “normal” play rather than “quick”.
Based on my experience in the Alternative Chacabuco game, where it took a long time to manoeuvre to contact, I chose to cut down the Maipo table to just 4′ x 4′. In hindsight I regret this. It forced me to compress the Patriot deployment area. Chris also complained about having to send troops over the big hill rather than along the road to its rear … which was off table in our game. Next time I’d play with John Fletcher’s original map on a 6′ x 4′ table (or 3′ x 2′ for Liberators HOTT).
We quite liked the “feel” of Liberators Quick Play Rules but the game raised a number of questions about the rules:
- Difficult terrain
- Elevations halve speed. Does that mean the whole hill or the bit on the map that has an contour line? We played the whole hill. That makes all hills difficult terrain which might be a bit harsh.
- What, if any, are the benefits for troops defending a hill? All we could find where that the crest blocks line of sight. Blocking line of fire was certainly a historical benefit – Wellington was keen on it – but should there be other benefits for being on a hill?
- Why aren’t infantry better off in difficult terrain than cavalry? For example, infantry hiding in difficult terrain – up hill or in woods – to avoid cavalry. This seems to have been a feature of warfare through the ages and of the Liberators period in particular. Under the rules both troop types are equally disadvantaged and the cavalry would just go in for the kill.
- “A unit stays disordered for one full turn.” For example, if disordered in Musket Fire, when can it Rally? In the Rally phase of the next turn or must it skip a turn? I suspect it is the former but “full turn” suggests Musket Fire phase to Musket Fire phase. Or to put it another way, does the reference to “full turn” just mean it cannot rally in the turn in which it was disordered.
- Is it possible to rally from disorder when in contact with enemy?
- Similarly, is it possible to change formation when in melee?
- Can troops fire into melee, i.e. fire at enemy units in contact with friends?
- The rules say that corner contact doesn’t count for melee so how are units expected to line up? Presumably the normal change face rules … which seems quite difficult and hence a bit odd.
- How does a square behave in melee? How many stands fight? Particularly if charged at a corner? What happens if the square has to withdraw from melee?
- Are there really two ways to enter melee? Charging (requiring a morale test and giving a bonus) and just moving into contact. The two ways to achieve melee contact are mentioned in the first paragraph on charging. How come two ways?
- The rules has a complicated section on charging cavalry pursuing after destroying enemy. When using the no casualty removal house rule (recommended by John) this clause can no longer apply. Is there as substitute or just ignore it?
- The melees in our games were slow and indecisive. Seems odd for the period. If troops got into contact the melee was quick one way or the other.
- Why is there no rule for defendering troops stopping a charge with fire?
- Melee has three independent outcomes: casualties, disorder and retreat. Seems odd that you can inflict more casualties and disorder the other guy but still be forced to retreat leaving them holding the ground.
- We suspect it is possible that a player with a 3 stand unit can position them in a gamey way against a two stand enemy to enable all three of their own stands to fight but prevent other enemy units coming to the rescue of the two stand unit.
- Any overhead fire? Particularly artillery firing from higher elevation.
- Cavalry felt slow compared to infantry. Obviously they had a faster movement but it didn’t seem much faster. Inf Line, Inf Col, Cav Line, Cav Col = 4″, 6″, 6″, 9″. So an infantry column and cavalry line have the same movement rate. Not sure if this is realistic or not.
- Rallying routed units that teleport and reappear immediately after routing does seem a bit odd.
We were not sure whether the scenario was balanced or not. I define a scenario as balanced if both players (as opposed to armies) have the same chance of winning. In this case we’re not sure the Royalist player has the same chance of winning as the Patriot player. Swapping sides would be revealing.
We used the traditional method of putting things under the base cloth to get the big hills. This gave the hills oddly rectangular edges and also made them quite high. I hope next time I’ll have some separate and gently sloping hills next time.