Sunday, December 09, 2012

Preparing the thrust

Spanish HQ, 28th November 1713

Fears of Catalan HQ proved to be certain. Under command of their capable leader Marquis of Aitona, the Spanish army displaced a significant amount of troops to the northernmost edge of the Catalan line of defence, up to a threatening few miles east to the fortress of Cardona.

At the centre of the line, where to major armies were encamped facing to each other, Marquis of Aitona ordered two Horse units to perform a two-sides flanking manoeuvre around the Catalans. The move was performed with no incidence, so that at the end of day a full Cavalry Regiment had taken positions in the plains of Bages county --just behind the enemy. On the Catalan left flank, a merged Dragoons Regiment stood on the hills, patiently waiting for further orders too. Meanwhile, the southernmost standing Spanish army had apparently abandoned any real intentions to get into full contact with the enemy, limiting itself to a number of small supporting and probing manoeuvres.



At the Spanish rearguard, there was a significant action indeed. Bored with the Catalan Infantry regiment threatiningly stationed on the hills NW of Montblanc town, Marquis of Aitona ordered a merged Dragoons Regiment to drive them out, with the support of a Mountain Fusiliers Battalion. Besides, some companies of Lleida city garrison were hurriedly dispatched to Cervera town, with orders of cutting off an eventual Catalan withdrawal by that side. The trap had been locked.

On the French side, there was only one visible move: the Dragoons detachment escorting Catalan prisoners had arrived in Hostalric fortress --just in time to meet their Catalan counterpart.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Gathering forces

Catalan HQ, 27th November 1713

Hurried by the growing threat of King Philip's armies, Catalan commanders moved fast in this last week of November 1713, so seemingly anticipating those of the enemy. This time, no daring manoeuvres have been performed, but a number of small moves aimed at gathering their so far dispersed forces around a few army cores: those defined, from South to North, by the Vilafranca-Bruc-Cardona edge of defence.



Meanwhile, Catalan forces in the northermost Pyrenean valleys have also experienced some concentration effect, mainly around Tremp town and Castellciutat fortress --whose garrison keeps being too small for such a large strongpoint, though. Concentration has also affected some units in the rearguard, as it can be seen on map; so it can be guessed that the Catalan High Command strongly believes that a major, decisive battle is about to happen before Winter comes.

There's one significant exception to this strategical chain of moves: early on Monday, a whole Squadron of Catalan Dragoons left Barcelona city with quite a particular mission: escorting all the French prisoners held so far toward the fortress of Hostalric --still in French hands.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Back to normal... hopefully

Well, it seems that my newly born Minairons Miniatures one-man company hasn't started that bad, after all... Some retailers and distributors already committed, either at home and abroad, and a few else from overseas in the process... Isn't that bad, after just a few weeks of life!

So that, with gradually descending stress levels in my veins, I believe I'll be able to come back to normal --that is, to our shared hobby. In the way of becoming a self-employed man I've had to drop off from my dialy agenda most of the spare time I formerly had, certainly; so that now I can only paint during weekends, and must grab nightly moments for keeping the rest of my wargaming related activities...

Nevertheless, I'm confident that in not too much time I'll be able to regain an acceptable level of activity. So far, we've just started a new weekly turn of our 1713-1714 Catalonian Campaign. Orders have been dispatched, dice have been thrown. For the moment, it seems that this week of November 27 - December 3, 1713 will be a rainy one in Galatea. Let's see what happens now.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Stolen secrets

Versailles, 24th November 1713

Marquis of Vilana was happy, on that day. He went down the streets of Versailles, unconsciously whistling while heading to the small palace that once had hosted Princess Elisenda --a building that now had become the central headquarters of Catalan diplomacy in Europe. A recent letter from Lord Dalmases, their Ambassador in London, was behind the evident happiness of our good Marquis: the new king George had summoned them for a formal audience.

When he reached the palace, however, he realized with surprise that the front door was oddly open wide. One of the front windows glasses were broken into a thousand pieces. Alarmed, he climbed the stairs two by two, while a confused butler hurried on to meet him: --Sire, oh Sire, what a disgrace!

Muted, the Marquis crossed the threshold, closely followed by an ever lamenting butler, and went to the place of dislocation: his own deskroom, where a bleaking outlook was awaiting him. It was as if a hurricane had devastated the room: drawers thrown violently to the ground, scattered papers, a broken pipeline on the Persian rug, books with torn pages, lying chairs... all lying on the ground in chaotic disorder, stirred by someone embedded in a devastating fury.

The Marquis then had an ominously bad feeling, so that his gaze went quickly toward a spot in the wall where a painting should be hanging. The canvas lying on the floor, the wall behind revealed a hidden cavity, where the Marquis used to store State secrets in a safe chest. The coffret had been forced and emptied of its contents.

Vilana turned pale: the contract and payment orders to the corsair ship carrying Princess Elisenda had disappeared. He then understood who had perpetrated the attack: agents of King Philip, no doubt. And now they would know the whereabouts of Her.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

State of war

[My most sincere apologies for my incapability of keeping a regular pace at posting on this blog, I've been thrown into a frantic life lately --permanently fighting against the odds to carry on my projected miniatures company. Always afraid of what else can go wrong, or what else won't be finished as scheduled, or who else will deceive expectations... Hard to be a newly born enterpreneur amidst a wholly troubled country, if you know what I mean. Such frenzy has even affected my biorhythms --I had never before suffered from insomnia, but now it's becoming a habit. As a result of all this, the calm moments necessary to continue weaving my stories are becoming more and more hard to find. I'd love to keep the rythm and speed compulsory for keeping it all alive --but I'm afraid not to be able to. Still, I'll try!]

[On the other side, I must admit that in nowadays' Catalonia it has become difficult to abstract yourself from "real life" and imagine tortuous fictional storyboards, while that very same "real life" is in fact offering everyday lots of quite more thrilling and scaring stories... Looking no further, yesterday a Spanish Army Colonel demanded for Catalonia to be put under state of war ("estado de guerra", he literally said), to prevent our secession from Spain. If I'm not wrong, this is the third Spanish high officer claiming for military action against us Catalans since September 11th, our National Day --and no one in the Spanish Government has disavowed him yet. There's no chance of such becoming real, I believe, but it's still an effective war of nerves, for many of us are old enough to recall the frightening 1981 military putsch.]

["OK men", I should say, "let's extract ideas for our Imagi-Nations from the real life, then"... But, after a little thinking, I've plainly discarded it. There's too much surrealism in nowadays Spain's politics for a plot based on it to become likely. Better to keep our own, original storyboard. So that... allow me a few hours and I'll draw something for the story.]

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Bay of Biscay

Bayonne, 23rd November 1713

When the corsair brig carrying Princess Elisenda sailed into the Bay of Biscay, a strong storm forced them to seek refuge. Due to obvious reasons, the harbour of Santander was not an option, so they headed back to Bayonne. Along their way numerous Spanish galleons were met but, as they were quite busy seeking a safe haven too, none did pay much attention to them --so they sailed undisturbed. However, Princess Elisenda got worried enough to share her fears with Claire Baizanville and the brig's captain.

--Certainly, I noticed it too, and was disturbing indeed --Claire said.

--They were scattered, but they all seemed to follow a similar route --the captain explained--. I bet it was a single fleet that, surprised by weather, could not avoid losing formation. I guess each one is now looking for any safe haven between Bilbao and Santander.

Claire did not respond, but once their ship had safely anchored in Bayonne, she hurriedly apologized and went away without a word throughout the day. She wouldn't board again until dusk --and she looked pretty serious. When anxiously questioned by Elisenda, Claire tried to look reassuring: --Do not worry, princess. They are'nt seeking us, they even have no idea we're here, so close to them.

--So?

--Well... it seems that, in compliance with the Treaty of Utrecht, King Philip ought to evacuate His troops in Flanders. And He has decided to do it right now, before winter is come. So in an hurry He seems to be, that all available ships in the Atlantic have been committed to this mission.

Elisenda stood silent for a moment, pensive: --I can recall that King Philip I was holding no less than 12 line infantry regiments in Flanders. Are all of them being evacuated?

Claire nodded: -Most of them. Apparently, there's only one left; most probably, this is the one reserved for garrisoning the principality eventually assigned to Princesse des Ursins. A confidant passed me the whole list, here you are it.

Princess Elisenda couldn't reprime a sigh while reading: --Storff, Bournonville, Coupigny, Treffer, Pasfeuquières, Scepeaux... That makes a total of seven Walloon, one Spanish and one botifler regiments, plus the Walloon Guards 2 battalions still remaining in Flanders, horse troops, artillery, engineers... Easy to imagine what is King Philip going to do with them when spring is come, right?

Claire simply grimaced.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An extended front

Central Catalonia, 22nd November 1713

So this is the campaign situation right now, at its hotest front:



Quite logically, Marquis of Poal has chosen to withdraw his army (A) face to Marquis of Aitona's superior forces (D) --thus denying them any immediate chance to fall upon and destroy those.

Balance of forces all along the front line --some 50 miles from south to north-- are as follows:

CATALANS

(A) Marquis of Poal at El Bruc heights, leading:
4 Dragoons Squadrons
2 Hussars Squadrons
4 Infantry Regiments
1 Miquelets Regiment
4 Independent Companies of Fusiliers and irregular Miquelets
1 Pioneers Regiment (a penal battalion in fact)
2 Light batteries

(B) General Prado heavily entrenched at Vilafranca town, with:
1 Horse Squadron
4 Infantry & Marine Regiments
2 Miquelets Regiments
1 Battalion-sized unit of Sometent (=peasant militia)
1 Medium battery
1 Light battery

(C) General Desvalls commanding Cardona fortress with:
2 Dragoons Squadrons
1 Infantry Regiment
1 Heavy battery

Besides, there are a few scattered units, like Fiona Mc Gregor IR (1), the Royal Catalan Guards lead by De Ramon (2), or Saint Eulàlia IR (3); or even smaller, hardly significant detachments all around.

SPANIARDS

(D) Marquis of Aitona at Igualada town, commanding:
2 Horse Guard Squadrons
2 Horse Squadrons
2 Dragoons Squadrons
2 Foot Guard Battalions
7 Infantry Battalions
1 Heavy battery
1 Medium battery

(E) General Areizaga at Montblanc town, leading:
2 Horse Squadrons
2 Dragoons Squadrons
3 Infantry Battalions

(F) General Lanzos at Penedès plains with:
6 Horse Squadrons
2 Dragoons Squadrons
4 Infantry Battalions

(4) General Carvajal at Cervera town with:
2 Horse Squadrons
2 Light batteries

Worth to be noted the presence of two armies else, out of map but very close to its area:

Duke of Popoli garrisoning Balaguer town (4 hexes E to Cardona fortress):
2 Dragoons Squadrons
3 Infantry Battalions
1 Heavy battery

General Velasco garrisoning Tarragona city (2 hexes S to Montblanc town):
1 complete Infantry Battalion
3 depleted Infantry Battalions

As you can see, this is a far from easy-to-handle situation. King Philip's forces do clearly outnumber those of the Principality --but these are holding strong points actually or potentially easy to defend, placed at key points in the Spanish route toward Barcelona city. Your thoughts and suggestions to either side are warmly welcome! (either public or private).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Déjà vu

Igualada, 21st November 1713

At the headquarters of Marquis of Aitona, commander of the Spanish army in Catalonia, a group of high officials are carefully studying a map spread on table.

At one point General Torremayor exclaims, satisfied: --We have the rebel army just a few miles away; when we catch them, it will be their end!

Contrary to what one might expect, Marquis of Aitona expression is stern and worried. He briefly shakes head to deny and replies: --We shall not be able to do so. They can slip from our faces without any difficulty. Their 2 regiments of Dragoons, as well as their Hussars, can hold our own cavalry with no effort, while the bulk of their army withdraws undisturbed. What does it mean, gentlemen?

The officers then look at the map again, perplexed. Its is General Bracamonte who finally responds in a low voice: --Well... they will get to El Bruc pass, where they can entrench themselves on the heights.

Marquis of Aitona sternly nods: --True. And now look at this, gentlemen. Look at the moves to their rear. Their Engineers battalion has just arrived in El Bruc, along with several batteries.

--Obviously, they intend to fortify their position there. --Torremayor says.

--And, as they have completely fortified Vilafranca too... that means...

--It means that they're about to completely block the two main routes to Barcelona. It's a repetition of the 1711 battle.

Silence hangs over the meeting attendees. Many of them still remember the terrible events of Prats de Rei, the most massive and terrible battle in this long war, which spread in a thirty miles front for over two months (September-December 1711). As on that occasion, the Catalans now intended to block them over a vast frontage --this time, without the Imperial assistance, though.

True that the front's northern flank was relatively unprotected --but there ominously stood, to perpetual ridicule of King Philip, the undefeated fortress of Cardona Castle.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lettre de marque (3): On sail

Balearic Sea, 20th November 1713

Antoni Ginard walked absently through the central gangway, both hands linked to his rear, while considering their next step. It was a brilliant autumn day. The southwestern cape of Majorca Island slid smoothly by the port side of the galley. A quick glance to the foresail confirmed him that a soft Mestral wind remained constant. Oars would not be needed until they reached Palma harbour.

He leaned on the rail, taking a look to the oarsmen deck. Just three feets under the gangway were the heads of the galliots. Two hundred and fifty-five oarsmen, one third of them, free men. These last occupied positions closer to the central line of the hull, in their respective benches, acting as bogavants and directing the efforts of all the people in his oar, when needed. One could barely distinguish between ones and the others looking for their chains. In any other aspect, it was a weather-beaten, homogeneous mass of stinky humanity, organized in the tight geometrical disposition dictated by benches, oars and narrow deck.

Ginard observed young Mateu moving among the resting oarsmen, making them drink some kind of beverage. Adding him to the galley crew had been one of his firstly decisions while still anchored in Mataró. Of course, he was not a real doctor. Or at least, not in the formal sense of word. But both his medical knowledge and his genuine will to relieve suffering of the others had nothing to envy to what any true doctor whom Ginard had ever met in the past could demonstrate. Not to say that true doctors would prefer solid ground to any hell-smelling galley. He knew he could consider himself fortunate to count with a man like Bernat in his crew. It would be needed to keep an eye on him, though. Sometimes, his dedication could border the obsession.

Ginard resumed his slow walking to the bow, while his eyes tried to perceive any unusual detail. The Americo Vespuccio galley proved to be in pretty good shape. He had taken this first journey from Mataró to Palma as a chance to get used to the ship. He had explored the different galley performances using either oars, sails, and combination of both. Galleys were not amongst his favourite vessels, but Ginard was pretty aware this galley would have to be his working tool in the next weeks.

Their first problem would be weather, of course. Winter was at the gates. The short freeboard of a galley meant that the ship could take water in even a moderately rough sea. And, even worse, when faced to significant swell the long and narrow hull of the galley could cause the ship to break into two. In winter, the yet hard living conditions of a galley crew would get worse, not to talk about all kind of diseases eventually falling upon the galliots, with their nearly non-existent protection against weather. As a compensation, this same shallow draft and oars would allow Ginard to take full advantage of their knowledge on Eastern Iberian coastal waters. They'd be able to navigate through obstacles that would be impassable otherwise, a useful resource to flee from heavier and more powerful ships, or for choosing any unlikely place to disembark. And, most probably, it seemed reasonable to consider that the Spanish galley fleet would remain inactive while in her usual hibernating season.

Considering all these factors, Ginard felt himself inclined to short sorties, perhaps no more than four days long, using quick hit and run tactics while trying to take profit of any good weather period, as well as keeping ship and crew in their best possible condition. Calm winds and shallow waters would be their allies. His galley would be as a glass knife, sharp but fragile. He ought to look for the right conditions to make every blow to count.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Dilatory manoeuvre

Madrid, 20th November 1713

As expected, King Philip held an urgent meeting with his Council of State to deal with the increasing diplomatical pressure on the Kingdom for putting an end to war. It was agreed that such pressure had become too insistent and risky to ignore. However, the recent victories of the Spanish Army on the field strongly suggested that Catalan resistance was close to breaking down.

It was finally agreed a dilatory manoeuvre, hopefully enough to keep calm the Chancelleries of Europe for a while: a formal request would be sent to Catalonian authorities for a first round of peace conversations, to be held at Cartagena in Christmas Day.

--Nothing must be passed to that Lady Elisenda, however --Alberoni remarked sharply--. She must be kept unaware of such invitation.

The French Ambassador, who was a permanent member of King Philip's Council of State, reluctantly agreed to send word to Versailles asking for Princess Elisenda to be retained in Paris with some etiquette excuses. Not without a previous bitter discussion, however.

Simultaneously, orders would be delivered to the supreme commander of the Spanish Army in Catalonia, so that a significant victory ought to be sought before Christmas Day, through an ultimate offensive over Barcelona.

So, following the orders received, Marquis of Aitona put his army on the march on Igualada, where the Catalan column of Marquis de Poal had withdrawn the week before. Reinforcement troops from Lleida and Tarragona were also called for, and the Spanish southern Army was mobilized again toward Vilafranca, where another Catalan force had entrenched itself deeply.

The cards were on table. The following month would be decisive.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

So no one's going to sculpt her...

Most likely few of you have ever heard the Catalan expression "fer-se't les dents llargues" --literally, "getting your teeth enlargened". It is used when something provokes to you an intense envy or desire, I guess the expression is intended to illustrate the kind of "hunger" you're assaulted by in such occasions. Such is the kind of wild hunger I've been possessed by after watching at Emperor vs Elector blog the Minden superb greens of mounted personalities.



This time it was enough, though. Is no one going to sculpt such lovely miniature in 15mm? OK men, won't beg for it any more! If you can't get it anywhere, let's make it by yourself, then! (grrrrrrrrrr...) Damned Supply and Demand Laws...

(Oh Lord, what did I say?)

Well, as a result of such temporary alienation, I started stirring my lead mountain in search for the necessary bits to build a gallantly mounted Lady Elisenda of my own, as a true Frankenstein apprentice: --hum, that Preiser plastic farmer woman might to the job, only that her torso... --well, maybe if combining her legs with that Peter Pig she-pirate torso... --Hey, wasn't this the so famous green stuff? --OK, a 1/87 lady will need a bigger horse, such as those of Black Hat...

Well, this is a first approach. Much to be worked yet, admittedly.




Sincerely, what would you do to improve her? (Besides of waiting until a professional does the job, I mean)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The boat

Versailles, 18th November 1713

Claire Baizanville would knock on the door, but hesitated for a moment. Pensive, she turned to watch the small garden, still undecided. After a while, she sighed and finally knocked gently.

A maid showed her the way. It was actually unnecessary, because the palace was quite small and she'd have been able to go all around it without any effort. When she arrived Princess Elisenda's deskroom, she knew there was Marquis of Vilana too. She was gently invited to join the meeting, and afterwards they continued their conversation:

--So, dear Marquis, has King George been finally crowned at Westminster?

--Indeed, Your Highness, according to our ambassador in London, Lord Dalmases.

Claire sat and watched at them in silence. Vilana radiated satisfaction, while the Princess was simply radiant. Biting her lip not to speak too soon, she tried to smile as well and buy some time to think how to start... Quite unsuccessfully indeed, because Elisenda noticed immediately that something had gone: --Claire, what's wrong?

Claire forced herself to use a voice the most professional possible: --Nothing good, Your Highness. Our Monte-Cristan network of agents have just got news that last week there was a big battle in a town called... Montblanc. One of your main armies was encircled there and annihilated by a superior enemy. One of your most valuable generals was taken prisoner, and there have been numerous casualties. It is feared that the enemy may force the road to Barcelona.

Vilana seemed as if suddenly petrified. Elisenda paled hard: --I am s-sorry, Your Highness --Claire stammered.

A thick silence filled the room for a long while until the young princess rose sharply, eyes twinkling: --It would be ineligible to stay here, doing nothing while so many people suffer from our cause. I'm going to Barcelona right now!

--Winter is about to begin, Your Highness. The road would be too hazardous --Vilana objected.

--Let's go to Netherlands and charter a boat, then --Elisenda replied.

--Too dangerous if unescorted --Claire intervened--, especially around Finisterre, where a Spanish warship could intercept you.

Claire's face suddenly lit up: --I've got a better idea. There is an unemployed brigantine at Calais harbour. A fast and well armed one. Her captain is a friend of old from Caribbean who owes me a favor... Her crew is rude, but trustworthy. Have you ever been on an... er... a privateer? --she mischievously smiled.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Greatest victory

La Panadella Heights, 17th November 1713

After the battle of November 12, where a Catalan column had been encircled and annihilated at Montblanc town, the Spanish High Command ordered their armies to massively scroll northwards, with the intention of opening the way for the Lleida - Barcelona road. If they managed to destroy the Catalan army blocking that area, the way towards the capital city of the rebel Principality would be finally open to them.

The targeted Catalan army was encamped at Panadella Heights. Lead by the capable Marquis of Poal, who was assisted by his brother General Desvalls and General Ortega, the force consisted of 4 squadrons of Dragoons, 2 of Hussars, 2 battalions of Line Infantry and 1 of Mountain Fusiliers, besides of a few independent companies of Foot. No Artillery was with them.

Facing to them, there was already encamped a Spanish column of similar size commanded by the Duke of Popoli, who was leading a force of 2 Dragoons squadrons, 4 Infantry battalions and 1 field battery. Both armies had been watching to each other from a close distance for some time, seeking an opportunity to unbalance the situation and attack.

Such opportunity was finally coming at a fast pace --but by no means in favour of the Catalans, but to their doom: on this day, a second Spanish column lead by the brilliant Marquis of Aitona went to reinforce the Spanish lines with 2 squadrons of Guard Cavalry and 2 battalions of Foot Guards. Marquis of Poal quickly realized the chances of being attacked in the short term had increased critically, and started pondering about a wise withdrawal in time.

It took little time to take a decision, after the scouts sent at dawn came back with alarming news: a third Spanish column was about to arrive in Panadella Heights too! According to the scouting reports, that new force consisted of 2 Horse squadrons, 3 Infantry battalions and 2 batteries! ...No matter how favourable to them terrain could be, if waiting for the arrival of that third column, the Catalans not only would become outnumbered by 3 to 1, not only would they harmlessly have to face 3 enemy batteries but also risked to be outflanked and encircled, just as General Bellver's army at Montblanc!

If such ever happened, 2 out of the 3 main Catalan columns on field would have been destroyed in less than one week's time! This time, choosing a gallant stand wasn't any option. Putting aside his self-pride, Marquis of Poal finally gave the order: --It's time for leaving this place, gentlemen --he told to his officers--. There's no victory greater than a withdrawal in due time.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Side actions

Around La Panadella Heights, 16th November 1713

Alongside with their big column moves, this 3rd week of November both armies of this unbalanced war had performed some minor actions, two of which gave as a result the encounter of adversary troops.

(1) On the hills east of Montblanc, a small detachment of botifler Mountain Fusiliers suddenly met the whole of the Catalan elite regiment of Royal Guards. Badly outnumbered and likely outperformed if caught in battle, the detachment has wisely chosen to flee away from reach of their dreadful adversaries --do they are going back to their starting position on the road leading toward Tarragona city (which is south of map).

(2) Fleeing from Montblanc area, a Catalan column consisting of the battered remnants of 3 Mountain Fusiliers regiments sought refuge in Cervera town, that had been captured by friendly forces last week. To their despair, at their arrival in Cervera they not only found no friendly garrison, but also watched a Spanish cavalry force quickly advancing toward the town. Exhausted and demoralized, they've tried to avoid the upcoming clash by withdrawing, but have been easily chased in the process by the enemy Horse --the 2 full squadrons of Pignatelli Regiment, who have inflicted heavy losses on the routing force. Naturally, Cervera town has been retaken by the enemy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Parmesan cheese

Madrid, 15th November 1713

Finally back again to my beloved what-if Principality, just in time to unveil a secret meeting at King Philip's Real Alcázar palace...

King Philip held closely the portrait and examined it: --So, what is this lady like? --he seemed evidently pleased by the sight.

--Oh Your Majesty, Elisabeth Farnese is just a good Lombard girl, whose main concern is no ther than Parmesan cheese --the man standing in front of Him answered in a smile.

The Princesse des Ursins, who had just entered the room, watched the man with lenience. For his descriptions, the candidate princess was an inoffensive provincial girl who would be easy to manipulate at her own will --even easier than the sadly passed Maria Luisa of Savoy.

About the man himself, Giulio Alberoni seemed so eager to please the Spanish Court than wouldn't dare to interfere with her own influence. She felt self-assured enough to interrupt the men: --Apologies, Your Majesty. Have you already examined the Catalonia portfolio?

King Philip's expression changed abruptly: --Yes I did. So...?

--Your Majesty, there is no chance of turning things. King Louis has formally acknowledged that rebel Principality as an independant state, with countess Elisenda of Cardona as its Princess under His protection. King Louis would love Spain also followed their example and signed peace with Catalonia.

--There are no real implications behind... --king Philip started.

--Yes there are indeed, Your Majesty. Moreover if we take into account that the just enthroned King George of Britain has expressed his commitment in the issue. There are rumours that Marlborough will be appointed again as Supreme commander...

--There is actually an implicit threat that shouldn't be neglected, Your Majesty --Alberoni intervened.

--All right, Princess --the King abruptly cut them off--. Please summon the War Council for tomorrow. --And the Princess left the room, internally exultant.

Once she had left, Alberoni continued in a lower voice: --Far from neglecting the threat, if appropriately countered we could turn the tide against those pretentious rebels...

--You've caught my attention, Alberoni. Please tell me.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pushing fast and hard

Main front, 15th November 1713

Accordingly to his outlined overall strategy, Marquis of Aitona has given little rest to his columns, after smashing one of the Catalan main corps at Montblanc. This way, he's ordered his Guard Brigade to quickly head northwards again, to join those of their forces currently facing a second Catalan big column at Panadella heights. Simultaneously, another Spanish column has left the just conquered town of Montblanc with the aim of joining these forces above. If nothing unexpected breaks the Spanish commander plans, when all three forces finally gather to each other, they would more than double the Catalans at Panadella heights. If the upcoming engagement was succesful, this would mean high chances of a second overwhelming victory in less than 10 days' time. The end of the Catalan Army would be closer than ever.



All the Spanish effort is now concentrated at such offensive manouevre, so that little moves else have been performed by them this week: the garrison of Lleida city has been reinforced with a couple of batteries, and small troop movements have been observed around Tarragona.

Worth to be noted one troop move on the French side: a small detachment of dragoons has been reported to march southwards from Perpignan --apparently carrying with them the Catalan prisoners captured at Girona some months ago.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lettre de marque (2): Sole with potatoes

Mataró, 14th November 1713

--About your Lettre de Marque, I’m pretty sure we can solve the issue. You need a new one --General Basset had told to his old friend Ginard.

Ginard snorted loudly while making a rejecting movement with his hand: --Wish this isn't the only reason for our meeting. The real issue is that I haven't money enough to pay for it, Joan. Not right now. I couldn't take such a risk.

--Er... well, let’s suppose I put the money, and we might also suppose the Catalan Government wouldn't object to issuing a new Lettre de Marque for someone like you...

--That's a damned lot of suppositions, my friend...

But Basset knew his friend good enough to perceive his own words had planted in Ginard's mind a little seed of interest. The seaman continued after a short pause: --All right, let’s suppose all these things do happen. I’ve just told you there are no longer preys in sight. It's said that the remains of the Spanish Mediterranean fleet are enclosed inside Cartagena, like chickens in a henhouse. With no preys we can get no money. With no money, all such suppositions are worthless.

The boy served to Basset a pair of appetizing soles, garnished with a generous ration of potatoes. The boy's face apparently showed no interest in the conversation of the two men.

--Mateu is the son of Bernat Capó, my old partner --Ginard explained--. He was only four when his father died... His mother passed last year too. He's been working for a merchant in Palma. This little devil managed to persuade me to add him to my crew... He can read and write, you know? ...and he has the most acute vision among my crewmen. --Ginard smiled proudly.

But the thoughts of Basset ignored the boy: --Tony, the deal isn't by any means about Spanish ships. We want you to... cause problems to the Spanish rearguard. Every men they were compelled to keep at rearguard would substantially increase Catalonia's chances of resisting their invasion. We want you to raid the Valencian coast once and once again. You know every town, village, beach, stronghold and sentry tower from here to Murcia, besides of local winds, reefs, tides and dominant flows. You're our man.

--What about the ships? --Ginard asked.

--Only one, to be precise. --Basset approved with a pleased smile the first sole's delicious taste. --And she’s right here, at harbour.

The mind of Ginard reviewed by mind all the ships arrived in Mataró harbour in the last weeks, as well as their patrons' names. His eyes opened wide, in a sudden expression of disbelief: --Don’t you mean that old rotten, stinky galley?

--Indeed. "Américo Vespucio" is the name she was given by the Spaniards.

--...A damn bad name for a corsair ship!

--You can choose a name for her at your will, if you believe such detail to be a problem.

Ginard was lost in his thoughts. He had not touched his soles yet. Young Mateu was eating his own meal, with the eyes absently stared at his own dish. Basset continued: --The General Deputation will provide for the galley oarsmen. Prisoners, of course. And a Valencian nobleman will look after the money for gathering crew, soldiers, weapons and supplies. Recruiting capable men will be your job. Balearic Islands may be the best place to find them. Toni, there’s no point for hidding to you one important fact: that Valencian noble family is the main driving force in this project. And they have their own interests. They will send some kind of... legate, or commisar... to join your crew. We must make whatever is possible to match these interests to our own war needings.

Ginard laughed heartily: --I'd have ever placed a bid about your relationship with Valencian nobility, Joan. If I know you well enough, I'd say you must have "swallowed a big toad" with this expedition --he still laughed for a while.

Basset didn’t feel himself patient enough to answer the ironic words of his friend: --War joins odd travel companions... It’s just a matter of pragmatism.

--I see... well. I'll have some conditions...

--Details are not my problem. You must talk about them with the Valencian legate. My role here is just to give the first push.

Ginard perceived Basset's tension, so he tried to soften a bit the situation. The early pro-Charles uprising in Valencian territory, leaded by Basset eight years ago, had bordered a true revolution. His political ideals were at the opposing pole of whatever intentions the Valentian nobility could conceive.

--I’m sure Mateu will find a better name for our galley. What do you think, Mateu? And wipe this smile off your face, boy. Nobody has told you I'm allowing a child like you in my galley.

Lettre de marque (1): A discrete meeting

Mataró, 14th November 1713

[Here you are the first scene of a new RPG adventure based on our Defiant Principality WSS layout. This time, action starts following the path of General Basset, who had been recently called back in Barcelona from his first line command post. Contrary to what he feared, there was apparently no political manoeuvre behind the order --but he was assigned instead the unexpected mission of persuading the council of Mataró town, the Principality's second city by size, to authorize the raising of a new regiment of foot --and to finance it! Little before his departure for Mataró, General Basset held an unexpected meeting. It is following his counterpart's indications that he now gets into a tavern of Mataró town in search for something, or maybe someone]

Basset lowered his head to cross under the tavern low doorframe, while taking his hat off. His eyes needed a few seconds to get adapted to the new level of light. The inside of the tavern was comfortably shady, when compared with the intense luminosity of the sunny day. A tall woman, about the forty, with a pitcher of wine in her hands, chatted away with two old sailors sat around one of the tables.

--I’m looking for Mr. Ginard --he asked.

--You will find Toni upstairs, Sir. First door to the right.

His steps resounded on the wooden stairs. In the narrow corridor, the first door was half-opened and the tempting smell of broiled fish was slipping through it. His stomach complained loudly, remembering him he had eaten nothing since the night before. Basset briefly knocked at the door. An unmistakable and vigorous voice answered immediately.

--Come in!

The relaxed smile of his old friend Ginard was enough to lighten the weight of Basset’s concerns. Antoni Ginard left the window from he had been contemplating the port of Mataró, to give Basset a strong and warm handshake.

--Ah Joan! Always on time! Those soles are nearly made up. You will discover what good is my Mateu at cooking!

The so-called Mateu was a young boy who was face to the chimney, occupied with a broiler that showed half a dozen of mouthwatering soles with a good number of potatoes distributed among them.

Ginard invited Basset to sit down while he generously filled two steins with red wine. Both men took a short moment to savor it.

--Has my general forgotten his uniform? --Ginard asked with a strong Majorcan accent, pointing with a finger the civilian clothes of Basset. --Haven't you left the Army, did you? Hopefully not. A soldier is always unable to find a decent job, believe me.

--Just a matter of discretion --Basset answered-- How's your business going lately, Toni?

--Not that bad, given the circumstances. Those damned English and Dutch ships have frightened away any eventual prey, for all Spanish ships seem to have vanished from the Balearic Sea. However, I'm pretty sure the Moors will come back with their... "courtesy visits" once things begin to set down again. But right now, there's actually little chance to get any good money from corsair activity. Anyway, I'm not even sure about the validity of my Lettre de Marque, with all those pacts, agreements, kings and emperors. Meanwhile we're making some scarce profits bringing supplies to Barcelona.

Basset stared at Ginard's grey eyes: --About your Lettre de Marque, I’m pretty sure we can solve the issue. You need a new one.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Intriguing reaction

Quite surprisingly to the Spanish Headquarters, the Catalan moves for this 18th turn have apparently not consisted of reinforcing their most threatened position after Montblanc defeat --no other than their central Army, currently entrenched at Panadella Plains, on the Lleida-Barcelona road.

True that some reinforcements have been delivered to that key positions, but no massive transfer of troops has been performed. The Catalan HQ has willingly avoided to perform any reaction of the kind that might have been interpreted as panicking.



Instead, a whole series of small, discrete moves have been ordered to the units left behind the Spanish line, or adjacent to it, likely following the purpose of securing the hinterland close to the roads and towns controlled by the enemy. This way, up to three regiments of foot have occupied the triangle of heights amidst the towns of Montblanc, Igualada and Vilafranca --most probably, with explicit orders of falling upon the Spanish rearguard as soon as a gap in their lines is perceived.

Besides, general Nebot has been ordered to take his Horse Regiment and head northwards --with still unknown intentions.

It seems compulsory to know the Spanish moves now, and see what kind of exploit have they planned after their recent victory at Montblanc town. They're unlikely to stand inactive for even one single turn, for sure. Even less, once known the highly aggresive tactics of their commander-in-chief, Marquis of Aitona!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nothing to do with all this, but...

I'd like to make an announcement, eleven months after being fired from the job I held for nearly 25 years. I'm proud, glad and excited to acknowledge to you all that my projected miniatures company is finally born and close to publish its first releasing.

The company has been christianized as Minairons miniatures --a name in behalf of the so-called mythical beings presumed to live in the Catalonian Pyrenees (mainly Andorra, Alt Urgell and Pallars), whose main morpohological feature is their tiny size: they're said to fit by thousands in a needles box.



What is this new company going to produce? Please read this TMP thread to know.



A web space has been already provided under the domain name of www.minairons.eu and is going to be built soon --as well as a weblog of its own, yet to be developed, under the name of minairons-miniatures.blogspot.com. A first generic e-mail address has also been created: info {at} minairons {dot} eu. Everything is already then for a new, risky --and therefore exciting-- adventure!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our greatest strength

Versailles, 13th November 1713

--Are there any news from the Principality? --princess Elisenda asked.

--They're resisting well the enemy offensive so far... --marquis of Vilana answered in turn--, but I guess we ought to rush for concluding the treaty with France. The enemy is too numerous and powerful for our tiny Army.

From their Versailles stay, a thousand miles away from home, they didn't (they couldn't) know the terrible result of Montblanc battle, just happened the day before.

--In fact, we have an ultimate answer of France --she said slowly-- but, prior to giving a response, I wished to consult it to you...

The Marquis inquisitively glanced at his pupil: --And then?

--They shall not cede even an inch of sovereignty on Roussillon --Elisenda sighed--. What they are proposing instead is to convert these Counties into a French Viceroyalty with me for Vicereine. In the end, I would become subject to Versailles appointment and dictates.

--At least in affairs related to Roussillon, naturally.

He looked at her more attentively: the young princess looked haggard and tired. He felt tempted of ironizing about the frequent nocturnal visits of a famous roussillonais painter, for a portrait nobody had ever seen --but he immediately discarded it. No, her fatigue had nothing to do with affairs ascribable to her youthful vitality. It should rather be related to her unsuccessful attempts to regain those beloved lands north of Canigó mountain. He felt sorry for her.

He thought long and hard about the question before calmly answering: --And does it disappoint you? Isn't it perhaps the same kind of agreement you've had with the Emperor?

Princess Elisenda jumped from her seat, sincerely offended. But the Marquis did not stop talking: --What's the deal of Archduke Charles, then? The Empire shall guarantee the Liberties of our Principality, but in exchange of what? ...At the price of becoming His Vicereine at Majorca Kingdom. Such and no other is His pledge.

--Well, King Louis is performing exactly that very same manoeuvre --he continued--. In exchange for His endorsement, He's requiring a share of control too. Your Viceroyalty upon Roussillon is the pledge. It's a draw between both Major Powers.

Elisenda stayed silent and thoughful.

--But this makes us so weak... --she argued in a low voice.

--Listen, such apparent weakness might turn into our greatest strength. Such will be your task henceforth, my dear. Our task --he rectified--. On the other hand, have you thought of the quantity of useful things you can do in Roussillon, precisely thanks to such appointment? This is my advice, Eli: don't let them wait anymore. Please sign the treaty.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Regiment raised

Mataró, 13th November 1713

News about Montblanc's crushing defeat would still last one or two days to arrive in Mataró town, where General Basset had been commissioned to go. His mission consisted of persuading the local Council in allowing him to set a conscription board up in town. Having into consideration General Basset's own affinity to the Busca popular party currently ruling the town, the Catalan Headquarters had believed him the best choice for such a delicate issue.

He actually succeded in fact --but not without really hard negotiations. As devote of the cause as they might be, Mataró authorities were nevertheless fully aware of the eventual financial and social loss their town would risk if committing so a high proportion of their capable men and boys in a Regular Infantry Regiment --up to one thousand men were required, and this represented close to 1/6th of Mataró's total population... Too heavy a burden for such a dynamic proto-industrial town as it was.

An agreement was finally met, consisting of a limited service duration of 1 year. Eventual prolongations should be negociated again, and these would by no means affect individual contracts --only the existance of the Regiment as a whole. By such, every enlisted man would be entirely free to extend his own contract or not, with no regard about those eventual negotiations result.

Once settled the terms, a conscription board was installed at Main Square and up to three companies were filled up in no more than 24 hours. No doubt that the exceptional charisma and popularity of General Basset greatly contributed to such success.


As most of the recruitable men were already members of the 2-battalions sized Local Militia, the Municipality decided to re-size it to 1 single battalion. For both economy and urgence reasons, it was agreed that the newly formed IR 16 - City of Mataró would use as own the disbanded militia Battalion Flag, as well as those very same uniforms already used by the enlisted men when belonging to it. No time was left to manufacture an ordnance Colonel Flag, so that a simple Saint George flag was assigned that honour instead.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Massacre

Montblanc, 12th November 1713

Just one week earlier, General Bellver's troops had been able to hold Montblanc town against all odds, but things wouldn't run that good any longer. The Spaniards had managed to cut off all their supply lines, so that Bellver had no other choice than spreading his force for foraging in a wide perimeter. This way, an unexpected second, lightning fast Spanish attack took Montblanc defenders by surprise.

1) Some miles northeast to town, St. George's Regiment horsemen suddenly met a powerful Spanish army that finally overrun them in less than two hours: see MurdocK's MarauderS AAR.

2) Almost simultaneously, a huge Spanish force stormed Montblanc itself from south. There was nothing the exhausted defenders could do --however, they tried: this the battle account by MurdocK's MarauderS too, who proxy gamed both fightings.


November Eleventh would forever become a date of ill-fated memory to the Principality of Catalonia. Only a handful of men were lucky enough to escape the double battle of Montblanc, where hundreds of Catalan soldiers lost their lives --including the Colonels of IR6 Our Lady of the Disempared and IR7 Saint Narcissus, Josep V. Torres and Joan Madrenas respectively.

In spite of the horrific casualties rate straightly due to the battle itself (66% Cavalry, 33% Miquelets, 38% Infantry), many Catalan soldiers survived the fight though; they withdrew from the battlefield leaving behind weapons and equipment, running desperately for their lives... with quite a varying fortune.

Miquelets were the luckiest of all because, skillfully led by Colonel Amill, they entered the foothills of Prades Range beyond reach of pursuing enemy. They were some 500 or 600 men (=12 figures), along with most of their officers.

St. George cuirassiers also managed to escape the slaughtering --about 200 men (4 figures) under command of Lieutenant Colonel Josep Comes, who successfully led them in southwest direction until finally meeting the Catalan Guards, who were waiting for them at Santa Coloma de Queralt town.

Nobody else escaped, though.

Lacking any cavalry to protect their retreat, the Catalan army main body was literally massacred by the Spanish cavalry in their pursue. Some 600 infantrymen (12 figures) and 100 artillerymen (2 figures) were mercilessly hunted this way, like rabbits. Among them, Lieutenant Colonel of IR6 Our Lady of the Disempared, Francis J. Mayans. Only a huge luck allowed General Bellver and Lieutenant Colonel Johannes Wahrelst from IR7 Saint Narcissus to spare their lives.

Both have been captured. All flags of IR6 Our Lady of the Disempared and IR7 Saint Narcissus are in Spanish hands too. Both regiments must be counted as destroyed.

[On the map above, thin yellow arrows show pre-battle Catalan moves, thick magenta arrows represent the Spanish attack lines and thin blue lines show Catalan withdrawals --either successful or not.]

Monday, June 04, 2012

Mousetrap

Montblanc, 11th November 1713

Standing close to the window of his austere desk, General Bellver looked as Colonel Amill entered the room. The man was unusually serious, and Bellver sensed it was due to the news about to be delivered: --What news are you bringing, Amill? Is it that serious?

The veteran colonel of Miquelets nodded briefly: --I am afraid so, Sir.

--Please tell me.

--Advancing along the road north, St. George's Cavalry has met the enemy at the crags between Solivella and Rocallaura. Lieutenant Colonel Comes has already prepared his troops in favorable terrain, but he does not trust to hold them for long, Sir. For his regiment is not complete while the enemy is composed of two full battalions of Spanish Guards, two squadrons of Horse Guards and a battery of artillery. Marquis of Aitona himself is commanding them, Sir.

Bellver nodded sorrily and, after a short silence, asked: --Are we in time for sending any counter-order to them?

--No longer, Sir. By now they've probably been engaged in fight.

A mousetrap. Bellver understood that Montblanc town had become a trap for all his army. Smiling sadly, he then said: --We can not send any help to them, because a second enemy army is already threatening us by south... Dear Amill, could you find out anything about it?

--We've got them nearly upon us, Sir; and they are even more than last week. One lucky observer has listed 3 cavalry regiments, 6 infantry battalions and two artillery batteries, one heavy.

Bellver leaned on the room wall, inevitably overwhelmed: --They're more than 3 to 1... And he got into a heavy silence. Amill remained respectfully silent for a while too, but concern ultimately beat him: --Ahem... Your orders, Sir?

--We are trapped, unable to escape. So we ought to prepare for a defense at all costs. Please call all colonels at Main Square, within a quarter of an hour. Oh, and...

--Sir?

--Those troops gone out for foraging... Send them an urgent mail. They must not try again Montblanc, they've nothing to do here. Order them to go and find the closest friendly Army.

Amill realized the severity of situation. He understood they'd have little chances of coming out alive from Montblanc.

[Both battles have already been fought this weekend by proxy. Illustrated AARs and aftermaths to be exposed shortly, either at MurdocK's MarauderS' website and here.]

Monday, May 28, 2012

Begging your assistance

As you can easily imagine, it's becoming far from easy to manage your daily life in nowadays' Spain. My gaming mate Jordi and I are both in serious trouble to find a suitable date for the two battles of this turn. As a self employee, he must rely on his own effort only to meet the requirements of his customers --harder and harder every day; and I'm at a critical, all-or-nothing step of my projected miniatures company, as some might already know.

Besides, when I get in front of my PC I'm usually feeling quite dry, empty lately. Can't keep pushing my pending storyboards or finding alternate, non-figure resolutions for pending battles. Other problems keep filling my mind instead and prevent me from calmly concentrating on the Defiant Principality story.

As a result, I can see that the whole storyboard mechanism is dangerously risking to sink.

However, proxy gaming groups are still planning --or already developing-- their own adventures or games, based on our wargaming campaign: not only The Escape AAR skirmishing series already posted a few days ago, but a new thrilling RPG adventure has just started, lead by a second gaming team. They're enthusiastically co-operating in co-ordination with our Defiant Principality wargaming campaign, in the confidence that my story telling machinery will not stop...

...But I'm so afraid not to be able to face the challenge right now!

This is why I'm humbly begging this community assistance, helping me to sort out this hopefully temporary period of abandonment by the Muses. I cannot expect from you to do the storytelling work for me, but might I ask for your assistance in proxy gaming my pending battles? This would at least allow me to decently finish our current turn and start a new one, thus giving some room to our proxy gaming teams...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The escape (3): The Hunt

Somewhere between Lleida and Balaguer, 9th November 1713

While the fighting was re-taken inside Lleida town...


...a small group of characters discreetly vanished away from town, through a marshy area next to Segre River.


Their pursuers intense shouting echoed close behind them (at a 2 turns distance).


The group moves between hills, with the intention to avoid too clear lines of sight to the Spanish soldiers on their pursuit.


Unfortunately, a second squad of Spanish soldiers emerges between them and their salvation. Our heroes are caught in a very bad situation.


After a first exchange of fire the Spanish commander falls badly hurt, but a lucky shot leaves Pepon knocked out too.


Maria Sauret bravely drags Pepon out of reach of the enemy. Fortunately, Pepon's wound is just a scratch.


Meanwhile, Madriguera takes a bold decision: he charges by surprise against the smaller enemy group, trusting on his own greater skills at close quarters to defeat them --or at least to purchase some time for his friends to escape.


Easily imaginable, it was far from a good idea. Madriguera pitifully wastes his surprise attack, and 3 enemy soldiers reduce him. Only a heroic luck spares him a deadly bayonet blow. He falls temporarily unconscious.


Maria and Pepon throw themselves out from cover in a desperate attempt to rescue Madriguera, with a pistol and musket respectively; but only the veteran miquelet succeedsd in hitting an enemy. Even worse... thanks to his years of experience, Pepon is able to reload in a record time, but Maria isn't that skillful, so that her pistol remains unloaded at the end of turn.


It's just now when Goddess Fortune finally smiles to the fugitives: suddenly, a handful of armed men emerge out of the bushes behind the Spanish soldiers and engage them by fire... deserters, thieves or fugitives, who are they? ...doesn't matter too much for, whoever they are, their timely apparition has just spared our heroes' lives...


The unexpected reinforcements take positions behind the ruins of some ancient buildings --which are told to date back to times of the Earthly Paradise...


The unknown allies stand face to the former Spanish group, who have finally got close enough for a last trial. One of those falls from a shot in the chest...


...But his sacrifice wasn't in vain for, thanks to this, our characters have managed to escape!


The manager of this proxy played adventure and us have agreed that Maria Sauret and her mates will now head northwards, to the town of Tremp where a contingent of Miquelets under General Moragues' command have recently cleared the area from enemies. We've been told that, once there, they will try to persuade the General to assist them in building a small guerrilla force, whose ultimate mission is far from known by us --for there is certainly some hidden intention in mind of Josep Cassay, the wealthy tradesman who is behind Maria Sauret's escape...