Wargaming an Alternative Battle of Chacabuco on 13 Feb 1817

The Liberators supplement (Fletcher, 2006, p. 10-11) has an Alternative Chacabuco scenario. It poses the question what-if, after crossing the Andes from Argentina, the patriot army advances more cautiously giving the royalists time to bring up reinforcements from Santiago.

Historical Situation

Setting: Chacabuco Farm, Chile; 13 Feb 1817

9 Jan 1817

San Martin’s “Army of the Andes” left Mendoza for Andean passes and Chile (Fletcher, 2005; Marley, 1998). Small detachments of patriots crossed at six Andean passes to obscure where the main army was crossing. San Martin and the main force crossed on the Los Patos and Uspallata Passes and descended into the Putaendo Valley. They defeated unwary Royalist outposts at Salala, Copiapó and Vega del Campeo (Chile). Once over the mountains the patriot army reunited at San Felipe.

11 Feb 1817

The Royalists began to concentrate their forces at Santiago and sent Brigadier General Maroto to slow up San Martin’s advance. On 11 Feb 1817 Maroto was taking up positions blocking the road through the hills just north of Chacabuco when the Patriot advance guard approached.

12 Feb 1817: Battle of Chacabuco

San Martin defeated the royalists under Brigadier General Maroto near Chacabuco (Fletcher, 2005).


What-if, after crossing the Andes from Argentina, the patriot army advances more cautiously giving the royalists time to bring up reinforcements from Santiago. That is the essence on the The “Alternative Chacabuco” scenario.

In reality, after crossing the Andes from Argentina, San Martin managed to engage and defeat a small royalist army defending the foot hills on 12 Feb 1817 before they could even be reinforced. The action took place just north of the Chacabuco farm.

The key aspects of the alternatives are that the battle:

  • Happens on 13 Feb 1817, the day after the real battle.
  • Is more evenly matched. The Royalists, supplemented by reinforcements from Santiago, have a comparable force to the Patriots
  • Takes place further along the road into Chile in the surroundings of the Chacabuco farm, south of the real battlefield.

Scenarios, Games and Battle Reports

The original Alternative Chacabuco scenario is by John Fletcher and features in the supplement to the Liberators book (Fletcher, 2006). It assumes the Quick Play Rules (Liberators QPR) in the same book but can easily be transferred to other game systems. I can’t reproduce the scenario here – you’ll have to buy the book.

The two variants are for different rules sets:

The Lasalle Scenario is by Francisco. His assumptions are slightly different to John Fletcher’s. I have massaged Francisco’s content to fit my scenario format.

The Liberators QPR Scenario and the Liberators HOTT Scenario are my interpretation of John Fletcher’s scenario for two rule systems. I’ve played both and have written up Liberators QPR Battle Report and a Liberators HOTT Battle Report.


I asked John Fletcher for some clarifications about this this scenario:

Q: The map seems to show two rivers and the text refers to the dry river bed. We assumed that both rivers were dry. Correct?

The word “dry” to describe the main waterway is an error. This is a stream and water was running in it. Today there appears to be a lot of undergrowth in the channelIn the actual battle it acted more as broken terrain than any kind of “impassable water obstacle”. It affected unit cohesion as troops crossed it, ie. it “disordered” them.

Q: The table is 6′ x 4′ but I think it could be successfully played on the central 4′ x 4′. Thoughts?

Probably. Each time I have run the battle it takes place in the middle. However, I like giving players flanks to work with. I personally hate “edge of the world” and the limitations it puts on our games. I think a clever Patriot player can take advantage of a flank in this scenario but, yeah, you could run in on a 4×4 and get away with it no problem.

Q: Wow what a lot of little fields. I merged a couple of the smaller ones for the purposes of the game.

Those fields were rough transpositions of data from Google Earth. I don’t have a 19th century map of Chacabuco farm and have no idea what the field layout was. Whatever you laid out was probably just as viable as what I did. There was a farm there. That’s about all history tells us.

Q: Andrew wanted to know if hills have crests or were flat. Given an “elevation” block LOS we decided each elevation was flat so there were no crests as such. Correct?

The main hill in this battle is very difficult to depict in game terms. It is a rather large, conical hill; much like those styrofoam model railroad hills you see. It must have 30 degree slopes. It would make for some nice exercise. The other two hills are very much crestline type hills: long and gently sloping with a crest that runs along the lengthwise spine of each.

This same problem presents itself in the historical game. I have never been to the battlefield but the hills are considerable. A good way to picture them is in modelling magazines where they show the technique of rolling a newspaper and then covering it with plaster. They have a certain rounded or “loaf” like appearance to them. Real world hills are always a problem in our games as our rules and our table representations usually do not do them justice.


Fletcher, J. (2005). Liberators! Volume 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.

Fletcher, J. (2006). Liberators! Supplement 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.

Marley, D. (1998). Wars of the Americas: a chronology of armed conflict in the New World, 1492-1997 [2nd ed.].

Leave a Reply