Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Battle Of Araure

Llaneros at Las Queseras del Medio
Painting by Arturo Michelena
Introduction

The Battle of Araure was fought on December 5th 1813, in Venezuela. Republican troops under Simon Bolivar defeated a numerically superior Royalist force under Jose Ceballos, in what accounts describe as a set-piece battle.

Aside from the date and the orders of battle for both sides I have no other information for this battle, and can't find anything on the internet either. But that didn't stop me from having a quick refight, using my Liberated HOTT variant (which you can find on my Free Stuff page). As with the Huaqui scenario I scaled the armies so that the smaller is 12 elements and the other proportionally larger (15 elements in this case). Both armies had one general.

I used a 2400p x 2400p board. There is no mention of any significant terrain in any account I can find, aside from it being fought on a plain, so I assumed that most of the battlefield is flat good going. However I couldn't resist three or four small areas of bad going, or even steep hills, on the flanks of the battlefield just to add some interest.

The Game

The two armies deploy 600p in from their edge. Roll a dice to see who deploys first; that side also takes first bound.

The armies are as follows:

Republican

2 Elite Infantry*
6 Regular Infantry
3 Regular Cavalry
1 Regular Artillery
Total - 12 elements (24AP)

Royalist

8 Regular Infantry
1 Regular Cavalry
5 Regular Llaneros**
1 Regular Artillery
Total - 15 elements (30AP)

*This infantry is the Battalion Sin Nombre, made up of troops which had failed Bolivar at the earlier Battle of Barquisimeto. They were punished by being forbidden a battalion name, number or colours, and denied firearms until they redeemed themselves. They fight as normal infantry elements, but cannot fire.

**Treat Llaneros as Cavalry, but they always pursue a recoiling or destroyed opponent. Llaneros are the Venezuelan equivalent of the Argentinian Gauchos, and they played a key role in the liberation of their country - on both sides.

The Refight

The Royalist deployment - infantry in the centre, the Llaneros on the right flank and the other cavalry on the left. As ever the figures are from various Irregular Miniatures 6mm ranges. They are done in generic uniforms, so they can be used for battles throughout the conflicts. Indeed the Llaneros are designed as general purpose Latin American irregular cavalry, and may see use in my Maximilian Adventure games as well.


The Republicans placed their cavalry on the opposite flank to the Llaneros, opposing them instead with the Battalion Sin Nombre and the artillery. Again the centre was infantry.


Simon Bolivar surveys his dispositions.


Opening moves; the Llaneros push forward on the Royalist right.


The Llaneros hit the Republican line, but poor PIP rolls mean their attacks are piecemeal.


The Llaneros are broken up as Bolivar leads a cavalry charge on their flank.



But Bolivar comes under fire from the fast approaching Royalist infantry, and is killed. However Royalists losses are higher than those of the Republicans, so his army fights on.


And they fight on with great effect, virtually destroying the Royalist right flank.


The two infantry lines close, and volleys of musketry are exchanged.


The end of the battle; both infantry lines are broken up, but the exposed Royalist general is attacked by part of the Battalion Sin Nombre.


The death of the Royalist general. Having taken more losses than the Republicans, his army then routs.

The Republicans win, but at what cost? The Liberator is dead.

Royalist losses - 5 Llaneros elements, plus their general
Republican loses - 2 Cavalry elements, plus Simon Bolivar

Notes

The Royalists lost this one through throwing forward their cavalry unsupported and then not getting the PIPs to make the final charge to combat. This left them to be picked off by Republican fire. Losing Bolivar was bad, but the Royalist general was equally exposed and also paid the price. In Liberated HOTT I run the generals as a special element type; This may create more problems than it solves. I may move towards something closer to the original HOTT system, where the general is part of an element; for this period, though, I don't see him as being permanently attached to a particular group of troops.

The truth is that I can't see how Bolivar won this in reality and no historical account suggests where his 'edge' lay. In many of his victories  he overcame difficulties to turn potential defeat into a win, but there's no suggestion he did that here. Obviously he could just have got lucky on the day, but accounts don't seem to suggest that either. On paper the Royalists should pretty much win this every time; bear in mind that I have probably downgraded the quality of the Royalist Llaneros cavalry - there's a suggestion that they should be Elite, which gives the Royalists a serious advantage that I can't see Bolivar overcoming. Indeed I tried this battle several years ago using a different set of rules, and the large Royalist cavalry force overwhelmed the Republicans with frightening ease. A quick run through of this battle yesterday using Liberated HOTT and grading the Llaneros as Elite also saw the same result - Bolivar's army destroyed with virtually no Royalist loss.

Even with the current setup, if the Royalists keep their army together they should roll over the Republicans pretty much every time.

So how did Bolivar win? What am I missing from this scenario?

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