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"Justifying troop uses in Counterfactual Napoleonic Games" Topic


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MiniPigs20 Dec 2019 10:19 a.m. PST

For me, the fact that there were several depots cuirassiers squadrons from different regiments in Spain is all I need to justify several cuirassiers units for hypothetical Peninsular tabletop battles. I guess I am just mad about cuirassiers!

Same for the Old Guard in Spain who regularly tangle with the British.

What level of authority do you need to use a given troop type or regiment in a theatre where it really didnt saliently feature in historical combat?

Or, do you throw caution to the wind and unleash the Austrians against the British on tabletop?

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2019 10:45 a.m. PST

No need to justify anything. They're your toys, do with them as you please (or are forced to by circumstances). If people give you grief about it, don't play with those folks – life is too short.

Remember: they're ALL fantasy armies.

mad monkey 120 Dec 2019 10:46 a.m. PST

Throw caution up against a wall.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2019 11:18 a.m. PST

I did a lot of stuff in my 20's I tend not to do so much these days. But I think there's a worthwhile distinction between troops available but not historically sent--multiple cuirassier regiments in the Peninsula, for example--and armies and terrain a force was never intended to fight or fight on. I try to avoid those.

Not that this doesn't happen historically--see the Braddock Expedition for a classic--but game days are limited, and no one much cares to spend one of them in command of an army completely out of its element.

Nine pound round20 Dec 2019 11:33 a.m. PST

The question you have to ask is, "why wasn't it done?" I suspect the cuirassiers never went to Spain en masse because there was never an opposing army of sufficient size to justify sending the cavalry that would be needed when confronting a central or Eastern European army away from the likely theater of war for two years (and consuming precious men and horses on the way). Larger horses consume more forage, and the terrain in Spain wasn't particularly suited to mass cavalry action, just as it was a perennial logistical desert. Both of those things argue against large cavalry formations.

The Guard, OTOH, did go- two divisions of the Young Guard, which puttered around northern Spain without ever seeing serious action. They came tantalizingly close in late 1811, when Dorsenne and Marmont were sparring with Wellington. So that's a great What If: what if they had United the Armies of Portugal and the North, and lunged after the British? Dorsenne had a composite regiment of Guard cavalry, two divisions of Tirailleurs and Voltiguers, and the guard fusiliers, too.

Those divisions were sent, I think, in anticipation of Napoleon's return, so it seems plausible to me that you could bring in the Old Guard and play a scenario where Wellington meets Napoleon a bit earlier.

advocate20 Dec 2019 12:15 p.m. PST

I suspect a Cuirassier Division would have been very hard to remain effective in Spain. I'd rather choose a theatre where the troops I wanted were used: and if I want cuirassiers and the Guard to face the British, then I'd fight 1815.

Mserafin is right, it's all fantasy, but you can get closer or further away from the historical basis. If I'm saying it's a Peninsular battle, I'll try and use troops that were there. On another occasion I might put down "French v British" and not care what troops are there.

But hey, I'm talking about my personal preferences. They are your figures, and if you put on the game, I'd play.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2019 1:42 p.m. PST

The point is well made: your troops, your table, your conditions. But I'd also suggest it can be more or less satisfying depending on the specificity of the rules. If the rules are Peninsular War, those Austrians may be awkward. If the rules are "horse & musket" things should be more open.

Lascaris21 Dec 2019 9:49 a.m. PST

I'd have no issue with Cuirassiers in the Peninsula. Call it "Napoleon turns West instead of East in 1812" and it's all good. With hindsight, he might have been better off taking the Grande Armee to Spain as opposed to Russia anyway!

MiniPigs22 Dec 2019 7:26 a.m. PST

I've noticed that of all the counterfactual possibilities in the Napoleonic Wars, Cuirassiers in the Peninsula causes the most upset. Not sure why. There were in fact many cadre or depot cuirassiers squadrons in the Peninsula at one point and their depiction on tabletop is not as far fetched as one might think.

I think another reason the cuirassiers never went to Spain en masse is because Napoleon thought they were more valuable and considering how much micromanagement he could demonstrate with an oddball unit like the Berg lancers, it isnt that much of a stretch to imagine him keeping the "Best" cavalry for his own use.


One of the most common dystopian deployments for the Peninsula is using Prussians as Confed of the Rhine troops.

SHaT198422 Dec 2019 3:12 p.m. PST

>>were in fact many cadre or depot cuirassiers squadrons in the Peninsula<<

Perhaps several- my memory says 4 regiments (so 25% of) march squadrons were formed. This is merely a continuum of ad-hoc formations, far greater than 'designers' can be bothered or rules can cope with.

And the dickering detail of Nap_le_Grande is not insignificant or to be dismissed. His 'office' of secretaires who had to maintain daily the detailed filing cards of regiments, locations, strengths and marches, officers and generals, wounds and proposed and actual promotions, demotions or 'side steps' etc was phenomenal.
And this just the public information. Imagine the 'spy and security' paperwork as well (ie Fouché and Savary)!

What I don't quite understand is how he could underestimate resistance from the Spanish/Portugues populace. His own Corsican upbringing about 'invaders'; plus Italy from 1800 on; then central Germany/ Prussian/ Tyrol all experienced significant population uprisings and threats.

I chose French to model, simply because my first experience at a club was a sight of a dozen Brit armies fighting each other, 1 Russian, 1 French and an unknown germanic force. Clearly clubs evolve from their base members, and that can be a bad thing, but unlikely to happen these days thankfully with the choice available.

Even as a purist I'd have no problem if asked to combat a French force with a cuirassier unit; or some guards. The geographical nature of the land meant the French placed units at great risk and frequently would be outnumbered by Spanish alone.

Personally I think the emphasis on [gaming only] the big 'British' led battles denies a lot of what attrition the French suffered in small bites in the Peninsular.
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ThePeninsularWarin15mm22 Dec 2019 7:37 p.m. PST

I wonder if it would be the idea of cuirassiers or the concept that it didn't happen? Most British players tend to ignore the Portuguese troops who were frequently present. Those troops might not have been as hardened early in the war but it's ignored.

I suppose if I were playing someone and they pulled out troop types that were not present in such a theater, it wouldn't stop me from playing. A plausible explanation might be in order.

MiniPigs22 Dec 2019 8:17 p.m. PST

Wait, but it DID happen. There was a cuirassiers regiment and it fought quite a bit. The problem is not whether cuirassiers charges happened, the problem is they dont like massed cuirassiers charges in the Peninsula because it didnt happen and theyre lethal. Even that isnt a really good reason because it could have happened.

Like Lascaris above said, consider it Call it "Napoleon turns West instead of East in 1812"

But what if you are playing a Peninsula game and you have no Dragoons, just cuirassiers? Pretend they're Dragoons?

I didnt know the British ignore the Portuguese on a regular basis but I know we did too and we ignored the Spanish as well. In those days, not only were the Spanish not that easy to come by but no one wanted to paint them and everyone wanted to paint the French and the British. We used Austrians for Confederation of the Rhine units.

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