10 May 2022
Each Command Decision aims to offer a series of playable options in timeless military scenarios.
Command Decision is designed so you can read the situation and figure out your own command decisions if you were leading the troops on the ground. You can either work through the various options or use the mechanics to create the precise circumstances of the tabletop engagement. The scenarios may have particular historical themes and settings, but you can easily adapt the mechanics to suit your own preferences and collections.
The Paraguayan president Francisco Solano Lopez has just declared war on Argentina. He has ordered two columns of troops to launch an invasion. Colonel Estigarriba, at the head of 10,000 men has moved down the Rio Uruguay, taken Sao Borja and then Uruguaniana on August 5.
Meanwhile a smaller column under Duarte has proceeded along the west side of the River Uruguay and although being ordered by Estigarriba to move south, Duarte has halted near Yatay.
ROLE & COMMAND
You are Major Pedro Duarte: commander of a column of 3,200 Paraguayan troops encamped near Yatay. Estigarriba has no idea that you are being menaced by the enemy, but he must surely come to your aid when he hears the sound of battle. You are faced with little choice but to stand and fight. The question is where will you make your line and how long will you try and hold in the hope that reinforcements will arrive? You have already sent riders to find Estigarriba and you know that you have perhaps one day to prepare before the enemy arrives.
- Option One: Occupy the El Ombuchito Hill and Orange Grove.
- Option Two: Occupy the ground between the Orange Grove and the stream.
- Option Three: Fortify the camp.
- Option Four: Occupy the lower slope with your back to the Arroyo Despedida.
Consider your options before continuing to read the narrative.
WORKING OUT THE OPTIONS
Option One: Occupy the El Ombuchito Hill and Orange Grove.
This option takes advantage of all the higher ground and reduces the chances of the Allies being able to flank the position. The position marked in brown shows the entrenchment line for the Paraguayans. It should be sufficiently long for all three Paraguayan infantry units under Duarte’s command. The cavalry can be deployed anywhere along the Paraguayan side of the table.
All ground to the right of the second ridge line is flooded and counts as very difficult terrain.
The Allies enter with the Initial Troops in column on the uppermost level of the hill either side of the red arrow.
Each player throws a D6 independently at the beginning of each turn to see if reinforcements will enter the table at the end of the turn: these may deploy but not move until the next turn:
Option Two: Occupy the ground between the Orange Grove and the stream.
This position reduces the length of the defensive line but leaves a large area on the right of the Paraguayan side of the table to be protected if the Allies risk moving troops through swampy ground. All ground to the right of the second ridge line is flooded and counts as very difficult terrain.
The Allies enter with the Initial Troops in column on the lower level of the hill, on either side of the red arrow. Subsequent reinforcements may enter at any point on the Allied side of the table.
Use the reinforcement table from Option One to test for arrivals.
Option Three: Fortify the camp.
This option surrenders the high ground and perhaps allows the Allies to stand off and soften up the defences with artillery fire before an assault. The defensive line must be large enough to contain all three of the infantry units. The cavalry may be deployed anywhere on the flat ground on the Paraguayan side of the table but not in the area between the stream and the hill ridge. This area is classed as very difficult. All of the land below the hill ridge is otherwise classed as difficult.
The Allies enter with the Initial Troops in column in the centre of the hill either side of the red arrow. Subsequent reinforcements may enter at any point on the Allied side of the table. Allied cavalry may not enter the flooded area between the stream and the ridge line.
Use the reinforcement table from Option One to test for arrivals.
Option Four: Occupy the lower slope with your back to the Arroyo Despedida.
The ground on the Paraguayan side of the table above the river is impassable to all artillery and cavalry units. It is considered very difficult otherwise for infantry. Lower ground on the Paraguayan side of the table is classed as difficult terrain. The Paraguayan position is on the very edge of the higher ground and can consist of one or two lines of defensive positions large enough to take the three infantry units. The Paraguayan cavalry may be deployed anywhere on the higher ground but more than 12” from the central entry point for the first wave of Allied troops.
The Allied enter the table with their first wave either side of the centre red arrow. The next wave may enter either side of the left or right arrow, but the third one must enter either side of the remaining red arrow.
Again, use the reinforcement table from Option One to test for arrivals.
The gaming system for this scenario uses Borders of Blood by Victor Barone (published by Partisan Press/Caliver Books). These are the only dedicated set of rules for the conflict. You could use more generic sets such as Black Powder or if you wanted to skirmish the period, Sharp Practice. Other options include Piquet and Principles of War.
The map options should give the Paraguayans a fighting chance. The rivers had recently flooded and it was very muddy. Duarte’s men should be allowed to entrench in the trees and use the ditches for defence. The stream behind Duarte is treacherous: any units entering it will immediately be disordered.
In the historical encounter, the action got underway at around 10.00. The Palleja Brigade made a frontal attack which was seen off with some ease and Duarte counterattacked and mauled the attackers. The Allies threw their own cavalry at Duarte’s mounted men. The latter pulled back his cavalry and the Allies mounted a massed infantry assault. Duarte tried to counterattack but his horse was shot from under him and he was forced to surrender. You should probably allow ten or twelve turns for the game.
Duarte’s Paraguayans amounted to around 1,980 infantry and 1,020 cavalry. They had no artillery support. Facing them was an Allied force of some 5,550 infantry, 5,000 cavalry and 32 artillery pieces. The Allied commanders are reasonably experienced. The grading of each of the different troop types can be found in the ruleset. Generally, the Paraguayan infantry should be classed as regular with the exception of the Provisorio, which are recruits. Cavalry would tend to be regular.
Duarte’s is effectively a division and each of the three Estigarriba formations is a division:
These troops arrive by division throughout the game according to the reinforcement schedule. All of the Allied commanders should be classed as experienced. In terms of troop quality, the fairest way to handle it is to assign one or two elite units and the remainder as regular or recruits. To simulate the failure of the Pelleja attack, perhaps count all of his units as recruits.
YATAY: FACT CHECK
Around 10,000 men under General Vanancio Flores, led by Uruguayan troops, hit Duarte’s force. Duarte had had just enough time to pull his force together and build some field works. Initial attacks failed, but Flores managed to flank the Paraguayans and overrun their positions. Many Paraguayan soldiers were executed after the battle and others were conscripted by Flores.
WHAT WAS WAR OF THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE?
The Vice-Kingdom of the River Plate was created by Spain in 1776. It contained what would later become Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and territories that now belong to Brazil and Bolivia. It was short-lived and – within forty years – it had unravelled and the race was on to establish borders between the newly emerging South American countries. Paraguay declared independence from Argentina in 1811 whilst in 1821 Uruguay was incorporated into the Portuguese empire.
In 1864 Brazil overthrew the Uruguayan government under Aguirre, an ally of Paraguay’s Francisco Solano López. This triggered the alliance between Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. It would take the allies five years to defeat Paraguay; some suggest that 90% of Paraguay’s male population were killed during the conflict. The allies also lost heavily with Brazilian deaths around 50-60,000. However, the peace was costly for Paraguay: a ten year military occupation, a loss of 40% of the country to Brazil and indemnities so huge that it would take nearly 80 years to pay them off.
WHY THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE?
The Perry Twins have been working hard to tempt the wargaming public with their latest obscure war, having been very successful with the (hitherto unknown) Carlist War. Stylistically there is much in common with Napoleonic warfare, but the period is contemporary to both the Indian Mutiny and the American Civil War. The uniforms are exotic and the battles are fascinating as they are often fought in extremely difficult terrain. In 15mm, Friekorps (now QRF quickreactionforce.co.uk) have a comprehensive range covering all belligerents.
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