Sunday, 27 March 2011

Great Costa Rican Military Victories

As mentioned yesterday there's only one of these (or maybe two), and it occurred in 1856. The picture shows the monument to it in Parque Nacional in San Jose.

The War, such as it was, arose because of the Costa Rican President's concerns about the activities of William Walker, an "adventurer" from the USA who had made himself President of Nicaragua.

Walker - prior to the American Civil War according to Wikipedia - "enjoyed great popularity in the southern and western United States, where he was known as "General Walker" and as the "grey-eyed man of destiny."". He attempted to introduce slavery into several Central American States and then bring them into the Union to increase the salve owning vote in Senate and Congress. Without wishing to jump to conclusions he sounds like a fairly odious individual (he is finally arrested by the Royal Navy and handed over to the Hondurans who execute him).

Any how, Walker invaded Costa Rica with his force of "Filibusters" and holed up in a hacienda in Santa Rosa, known as La Casona. In a stroke of military genius he didn't post any guards and went to sleep.

President Mora of Costa Rica had raised an army that was given rifles but left them behind in favour of the machete (which most Costa Ricans seem to have lying around). Wikipedia & my travel guide says he has 9,000 men, our guide said 2,500. As he was a nice man and he lives there, I believe him.

On arriving at the hacienda Mora surrounded the building and called for a volunteer to set fire to the thatched roof. A young drummer boy called Juan Santamaria volunteered, succeeded in the act but died in the attempt. He is one of Costa Rica's few national heroes, and the airport is named after him.

The Americans fled after an engagement lasting 14 minutes. Depending on what you read (and this comes from Wikipedia) Mora followed up and defeated Walker again. Or Walker counter-attacked and got beaten. In 14 minutes. Again. Or it's the same battle described twice and there's 3,000 men involved.

What do you expect from a country that doesn't have an army now, combined with the academic standards the apply in Wikipedia?

Anyway, all a bit confusing and fertile ground for some completely off the wall campaign type game. The game would probably take longer than 14 minutes tho'.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Quiet, isn't it?

Haven't posted for a while as we've been on holiday in Costa Rica.

The military history of Costa Rica consists of one battle in the middle of the 19th Century when 2,500 machete wielding Costa Rican's defeated 45 Americans in about 14 minutes. Then in 1948 they abolished their army.

So, lots of inspiration for new games there.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Over the edge

As part of stated ambition to refight all of the battles of the English Civil War and the Bishops War using my “Victory Without Squares” rules we finally got round to Edgehill this week.

Not a big turn out from the Monday Night Group on this occasion, starting with me & Phil. At least I got to push my own toys around.

VWS has a ground scale of 1” to 250 yards, so Edgehill just about fits on my dining room table. A figure stand scale of 1:200 for the infantry and 1:100 for cavalry makes it quite a crowded battlefield, which I prefer. My reading of the ECW (and a lot of other wars) is that battlefields are mostly quite crowded places with not a lot of room for finesse. Here's a not very good picture of the set up. Royalists are on the right, so that means Rupert is in the distance.

On this occasion I took the Royalists for no other reason than I was standing on that side of the table, so Phil got to play with the forces of Parliament. Phil was joined later on by the Dormouse, who took over tactical control of Parliament’s right.

I started out following the historical tactics and tried to clear the enclosures on both wings with my dragoons. This became a protracted struggle that was only resolved in favour of the Royalists towards the end of the game. However I was unable to exploit this as my cavalry steadfastly refused to have anything to do with moving through the enclosures.

Next up I attacked aggressively on both flanks with my horse. On the left Lord Wilmot did a fine job, breaking the opposing horse and forcing Parliament’s centre to turn slightly to deflect the threat. I also managed to drawn in Balfour’s cavalry reserve from the centre which prevented them from performing their historical role of breaking up the Royalist infantry push.

On the right it has to be said that Rupert was a severe disappointment. A lucky cannon shot clipped the innermost unit and repeated attempts to get it to reform failed. The remaining units surged forward only to be met by a volley of pistol fire all across that wing that disrupted them and eventually lead to their being thrown back. No cross country romp to Kineton on this occasion. Fortunately Parliament’s horse was unable to exploit my discomfort on this wing.

With my horse effectively tying up the flanks (and at the time I felt bound to prevail) I launched my infantry attack. With my artillery pounding to rebel lines it seemed as if nothing could stop me prevailing. I had engineered a numerical advantage at certain points along the front line and was preparing to go two on one with Parliament’s men, so I expected Sir Jacob’s men to push through the centre and have the enemy fleeing pell-mell to the rear.

Alas they offered stiffer resistance than I expected, and my cavalry’s inability to get any traction on either flank left them secure. The one unit I did break was pursued, only for the pursuers to be caught by a unit in the reserve line and there were ominous signs that I might actually lose control of the right wing cavalry fight.

After a protracted struggle night started to fall and both sides were left to claim victory after an indecisive encounter.

So all in all quite authentic.

Following the post match discussion I’ve tweaked the rules slightly and clarified in my own mind a couple of points. I really like these rules as they give an overall really authentic feel. This view isn’t shared completely in our group. Phil prefers Armati, so I’m grateful to him as an opponent that he’s prepared to play my preferred system for these refights.

There’s quite a few smaller encounters which will end up with only one or two units a side, given my figure scale, so I need to give some thought to squeezing in a couple of these in an evening, or playing them solo.