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"Spanish Campaign Army " Topic

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thistlebarrow209 Dec 2017 1:27 a.m. PST

I have always found the Spanish Army to be the most difficult command in a campaign. Historically they were a weak army, and in most wargames are set up to lose by poor combat and morale gradings.

I started my fictional 1813 campaign in order to provide good wargames, and this is particularly difficult when the Spanish are involved.

Over the years I have developed the campaign rules to give them, or rather the player commanding them, at least a chance of holding their own on the wargames table.

I hope that my experience might prove useful to anyone considering fighting a campaign in the Iberian Peninsula.

I have just started a series of blogs dealing with the campaign rules and order of battle which I have found allows me to command the Spanish Army without the frustration of endless defeats.

I would stress that this is a wargame campaign, not a historical one.

You will find the introduction to the series here

21eRegt09 Dec 2017 5:58 a.m. PST

I've enjoyed playing with my Spanish over the years, even won a time or two. The biggest liability is their woeful cavalry.

I'm never a fan of manipulating rating to make them competitive. I prefer to try to use whatever strengths available and enjoy the challenge.

You just need to know what you can and can't ask of them.

Best wishes on the campaign. I've run a couple set in Spain before and they can be great fun.

huevans01109 Dec 2017 6:26 a.m. PST

In 1813, the units attached to the British army would probably have been somewhat decent – i.e. could drill, maneuver, had competent officers, acceptable uniforms and equipment.

I'm not sure there were any large Spanish armies operating elsewhere by that time. You would be talking about guerilla bands fighting with garrison troops and convoy escorts.

thistlebarrow209 Dec 2017 11:01 a.m. PST

I am no expert on the Spanish Army, and what knowledge I have has come from English language sources. But I imagine that there must have been large numbers of Spanish troops not directly under Wellington's command? I recall reading somewhere that he was given formal command of the Spanish Armies in 1813/1814, but that he felt they were more of a liability than an advantage. I also recall when he entered France he sent back the Spanish troops under his direct command because he could not control them and prevent them taking revenge on the civilian population for what the French army had done in Spain.

However my campaign is not an historical one. It is only designed to provide interesting wargames. It was loosely based on late 1813 when it started, but has since taken on a life of its own and produced a completely fictional narrative.

I have however designed the Spanish order of battle to include a large proportion of milita infantry. These start as town garrisons, but become guerrilla bands when the town is occupied by the French.

I have then designed the campaign phase objective to force the French commander to advance and create long lines of communication, requiring isolated garrisons and depots. This reduces the French field army and offers good targets for the guerrilla bands.

I do understand that most serious wargamers would not want to manipulate combat and morale ratings. In the past two years we have fought 16 games involving Spanish v French. The Spanish won seven. There are only two of us to game all of the battles, and it would have been very discouraging for the Spanish commander to have fought, and lost, most if not all.

Quebecnordiques Inactive Member09 Dec 2017 11:38 a.m. PST

The Spanish army had certainly been good enough to defend itself during the Anglo-Spanish War (1796–1808) and even defeat the British army at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (1797)

Further defeats for the British occurred at Buenos Aires in 1805 and 1807, so it seems a substantiated fact that the Spanish Army could certainly fight without being attached to the British Army. People tend to forget that they were the first army ever to inflict an open field defeat on the Napoleonic army at Bailén in 1808

in 1813, there were 160,000 Spanish soldiers in the Spanish army. There were a further FOUR field armies operating in the Peninsula during the Spanish War of Independence and TWO in reserve, and the Spanish troops fighting with the British were but a third of the total.

Hope this helps to stop perpuating the suppposed incompetence of a nation which has certainly managed to hold its own against both England and France. Guess what? In the different wars throughout history England hasn't beaten Spain more times. That's a little known fact happily omitted by English historiography…I wonder why? ;-)

Lilian09 Dec 2017 11:54 a.m. PST

Buenos Aires it is more a campaign giving credits to the militias of Argentina than the Spanish army itself, and I think that people forget mostly that the spanish army was certainly not the so-called first army to defeat the napoleonic army in 1808 on the battlefield as repeated hasta la sopa by the anglo-spanish propaganda for 210 years including in this forum, if there is something forgotten here is Vertières, Maida…

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 1:01 p.m. PST

Rules should give quantity a chance against quality, an even chance if you have a well tested points system.

David F Brown

Quebecnordiques Inactive Member09 Dec 2017 3:40 p.m. PST

Spanish Militia units in Argentina under Spanish Military comand if you don't mind. ;-)

Vertières? What, the defeat of a French garrison of less than 2000 French Colonial troops against 30,000 brave Haitians?

Maida…ok that's true….but if it hadn't been for the Allied Sicilian intervention….;-)

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2017 10:10 p.m. PST

A number of Spanish cavalry units did good work during the wars. For example,before Albuera, Spanish cavalry spent several days skirmishing with the French and kept them away from the Allied army.

The Spanish army gets a bad reputation at times because of the British writers. For instance Napier states that the Spanish routed facing the French at Albuera, as if Zaya's brigade and other Spanish units never stood for an hour facing the French V Corps.

At Ocana, a number of Spanish units did very well until the entire army was outflanked. The Spanish cavalry had been fighting the French for two days before the battle and had been badly handled by the Spanish officers.

The Spanish army got better as the 1810-11 reforms took hold. The Spanish army wasn't great, but it really was a question of which units we are talking about and when.

Teodoro de Reding Inactive Member11 Dec 2017 5:08 a.m. PST

By 1813-14 the Spanish armies operating with/near the British (in Vittoria, Castalla, Pyrenees, Toulouse) were really pretty damn good. The army was rebuilt under Wellington's instructions for 1813. The main fault was apparently that many of them were very young (= would probably not stand winter campaigning). They performed exceptionally well at San Marcial and Toulouse (Wellington being pretty callous with their (young) lives at the latter.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2017 2:16 a.m. PST

Section 6 of the napoleon series section on Spain link tells that there were more spanish-french then english invovled battles

To my surprise there was a high number of battles, sieges, combats and actions fought between the Spaniards and the French. Actually more than between the French and the British.
- 26 battles, combats and sieges in 1807-1808
- 19 battles, combats and sieges in 1809
- 13 battles, combats and sieges in 1810
- 21 battles, combats and sieges in 1811
- 10 battles, combats and sieges in 1812
- 9 battles, combats and sieges in 1813
- 1 battles, combats and sieges in 1814

About relative casualties? read the article. not just guerlles

thistlebarrow217 Dec 2017 3:54 a.m. PST

This week I explain how to set up the basic campaign.

Using my current campaign, which is set in Southern Spain, I illustrate the initial deployment and both French and Spanish objectives. I also explain Spanish militia and guerrilla bands.

You will find the blog here

thistlebarrow206 Jan 2018 10:26 a.m. PST

The French are stronger, have better morale and combat ability than the Spanish. If they can force the Spanish to fight in the open they will probably win. However they have a major problem with resupply.

This week I explain how my simple supply rules recreate the historical strategic problems which forced the French to disperse to live and concentrate to fight. I also explain why they have to detach infantry brigades to form garrisons along their line of march.

You will find the blog here

Glenn Pearce07 Jan 2018 5:42 a.m. PST

Hello thistlebarrow2!

I think most English authors and rule writers are a little too hard on the Spanish. They had some good troops and some bad troops and some decent commanders and some poor ones. Some of their armies were okay and others not so much. It seems that a lot of people have just ignored or are not aware of all of the variables within the Spanish armies and have just bought into the myth that they are all poor troops. Your record of 7 wins out of 16 games is pretty close to 50%. So I would say that your balance seems reasonable. Well done.

Best regards,


thistlebarrow208 Jan 2018 9:06 a.m. PST

Hi Glen

As I run a campaign to produce good wargames I want both sides to have a chance of winning. I defend the apparent eveness of French v Spanish on the historical background that many of the best French troops were withdrawn from the Peninsula in 1813 and replaced by poor quality allied or conscript troops. At the same time Wellington exercised an ever greater influence on the organisation and deployment of the Spanish army in general.

In most campaign phases the Spanish are usually in defence, hence they have a slight advantage. In early battles the French tend to win, because they are at full strength. As they advance they have to detach infantry brigades to secure their lines of supply. If the Spanish can hold out long enough the balance swings in their favour.

Incidently my wife likes to command the Spanish. If she loses it is because they are Spanish troops, if she wins it is because she is a great commander. So it is a win-win situation.

I usually command the French. If I win she can dismiss it because I am fighting Spanish. If I lose I must be a dreadful commander to lose to Spanish. In fact a lose-lose situation.

In fact the outcome is largely based on good or bad dice throws. It is particularly irrating to lose due to poor dice, and then be accused of not being able to beat even the Spanish!

thistlebarrow214 Jan 2018 3:57 a.m. PST

In our campaign each Spanish corps is weaker than a French corps. The brigades have lower morale and inferior musket and skirmish ability. In addition they can carry less supplies, and therefore cannot move as far or fast as the French. So far they sound much like your normal Spanish wargame army.

However they do have a reserve or irregular army. The militia and guerrilla bands do not come under the command of the Spanish CinC, but he can take advantage of them to strengthen his position.

You will find the blog here

huevans01117 Jan 2018 4:29 p.m. PST

A number of Spanish cavalry units did good work during the wars. For example,before Albuera, Spanish cavalry spent several days skirmishing with the French and kept them away from the Allied army.

The Spanish army gets a bad reputation at times because of the British writers. For instance Napier states that the Spanish routed facing the French at Albuera, as if Zaya's brigade and other Spanish units never stood for an hour facing the French V Corps.

The Spanish army got better as the 1810-11 reforms took hold. The Spanish army wasn't great, but it really was a question of which units we are talking about and when.

I just picked up "Wellington's Navy" by Christopher Hall from my alumnus library. The book is mis-named. It has little to do with Wellington and covers the RN everywhere in Iberian waters during the Peninsular War. It also deals considerably with land operations. The siege of Cadiz (almost 3 years) was a "sea siege" as Cadiz was an island surrounded by marshes, canals, rivers and water channels. Almost all of the siege fighting was done by gunboat flotillas, landing parties and launches and the RN played a major role.

But to the point: – The Albuera Spanish appear to be mainly former Cadiz garrison units which had been properly trained and equipped and drilled for a couple of years. They were veteran line quality infantry and were accustomed to working with the British.

Another proof that different Spanish armies could be much different in character and quality! The Albuera units had nothing in common with barely trained and half-equipped Spanish armies from other parts of the country.

huevans01117 Jan 2018 6:03 p.m. PST

Since writing the above post, I have found an excellent link which deals with the Spanish army at Albuera.


thistlebarrow221 Jan 2018 3:21 a.m. PST

This weeks blog deals with militia and guerrilla formations.

Used correctly these poor quality troops can make the difference between victory and defeat for the Spanish regular army.

This week I explain how they can be used and illustrate the deployment of both regular and irregular Spanish troops on day nine of the current campaign.

You will find the blog here

thistlebarrow228 Jan 2018 2:06 a.m. PST

When the French advance they have to establish supply depots to receive supplies. To do so they have to detach a full strength infantry brigade to provide the garrison.

Each Spanish held town has a militia garrison of a local infantry brigade. When taken by the French they move to the nearest village and become a guerrilla band.

The main role of these guerrilla bands is to attack isolated French garrisons and supply columns.

This week I explain how this works

thistlebarrow204 Feb 2018 6:59 a.m. PST

The second role of guerrilla bands is to attack and capture French supply convoys.

As the French advance they rely more and more on supplies forwarded from their main base. They can move up to four days supplies (each sufficient to supply one corps for one day) between depots each day. Supplies move at the same rate as a corps on the march.

If a supply convoy enters a map square adjacent to a guerrilla band the guerrilla may attack. The rules for such attacks are discussed in the last of this series of blogs here:


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