Revitalizing An Old Project, and the Matehuala Two-Step

A few of weeks ago I gave a name to our game group. We could have been, “The Kraken In Reverse” “The Puget Sound Wet Warriors” or “The Widely Dispersed Guys of Various Interests.” Instead I settled on “The Guys Who Are Too Old.” It seemed perfect.

Actually I never feel too old. Aside from fairly persistent sleep issues, I have no health issues. I can drive. I have prescription readers I wear to paint, but don’t need additional assistance a la a visor or magnifier (though I probably should have cataract surgery in 2022, no biggie.) I feel fortunate. And I’m retired. I’m not utterly broke, and my wife WANTS to keep working (though I hope she is cured of that in the next couple of years.) Life Is Good.

However, I have these piles of figures. . . and not just the unpainted ones. I have more projects than I can shake a stick at and I wonder how long I can justify holding on to all of them. I wish I could play more, but the facts are: A) I am actually playing many more miniatures games than I did when I was working. I usually get in a couple a month. I would guess I played maybe eight games a year three years ago. And there may still be some room for growth. B) I am dragging out a few more of those aging projects and re-introducing them to the game table

The premiere example of the latter is my Maxmillian in Mexico project. I bought these figures at least twenty-five years ago. They were, at the time, Wargames Foundry figures, but because the range wasn’t complete and the company seemed to be in a degree of disarray, I could only buy what was available at the time. There were some French figures sculpted by Alan and Michael Perry and some Mexican figures from Aly Morrison. But beyond the basics there wasn’t a lot available. I used ACW artillery for both sides and bought some smallish but serviceable Richard Houston cavalry from someplace, maybe The Virtual Armchair General, but maybe The London War Room when they were still in business.

I painted the French for Camerone, so mostly blue with white pants as the French Foreign Legion. I even ran a couple of Camerone games, including cooperating with another gamer at Enfilade to run the show. I also ran some Maxmillian games at the convention using the old Warpaint rules, which weren’t terrible, but for some reason, a lack of forethought or simply being overwhelmed with stuff, I parted with those rules. Dumb me.

In September I made a trade at Enfilade. Could I teach a friend how to play Rebels and Patriots in exchange for an awesome looking board game on the Spanish American War? The answer was an easy yes. I was trying to figure out what figures to drag out, and decided it should be the Maxmillian figures. We played a little one-off game. It was fun and I enjoyed pulling the figures out.

I planned to host a game at my place on November 13th and thought maybe Maxmillian’s minions could make another appearance. I began paging through my none the worse for wear copy of Tim Tilson’s Colonial Campaigns: Maxmillian in Mexico and found his scenario for Matehuala that looked pretty good. Then I went rhrough all my figures to make sure I had enough toys to run the game. It turned out I had just enough for five players, which is the number I expected. I would just run the game.

The action at Matehuala is really a pursuit action gone bad. Maxmillian’s Imperial forces are chasing Juarez’s Republican forces when they ran into stiff resistance and had to be rescued by a relieving French force. The scenario was scaled for The Sword and the Flame at reduced size units and in terms of figures that worked pretty well for Rebels and Patriots.

I set up the game with the town of Matehuala on the south end of the board with French reinforcements entering the town on the road. I also allowed for some road movement-9″ per turn for infantry units in close order and the same for limbered artillery. David Sullivan’s Imperial forces were set up on the heights north of the town. One unit was veteran and the other two were regular line troops. They had a medium gun with a limber, as well as a line cavalry unit. One unit had to begin in the redoubt which counted as hard cover. The rest had to be within six inches of the redoubt but could be behind the hill, though not in close order. The French were told the position was well scouted by the Mexican forces and they would have to set up first.

David’s Imperial forces set up on the hill. Redoubt by Barb’s Bunker from many years ago.

The Mexicans had more figures, more units, more of almost everything except quality. There were three Mexican commands. The first was small with two light cavalry units commanded by Dave Schueler. One unit was a line lancer unit, aggressive but bad shooters. The other was a rurale unit that were good shooters, but could only fire as part of skirmish move. Bill’s command was composed of three line infantry units, nothing special. They also had a medium gun, but no limber. Michael’s command was composed of four 18-figure line units, green and bad shooters. These were the local militia units, largely untrained, but just a pile of guys.

I envisioned this as a reverse pursuit battle with the advanced French units falling back on the arriving reinforcements. Hence the two step in the scenario title. The French received victory points for holding the town, which seemed likely. The Mexicans would have to have incredible luck to take the town. The French lost victory points through casualties-routing units or permanent disorder (50%) casualties.

Of course nothing survives first contact with actual play. I envisioned the French setting up in the redoubt and behind the hill ready to retire. They set up on the hill. Both sides rolled for initiative. The French lost, and the units outside the redoubt immediately began taking significant fire. from the Mexican regulars and the rurales as the Lancers advanced behind their left flank. The mass of Mexican militia began slowly moving across the left flank.

By turn two, the French on the hill were returning some fire, but there were far more Mexicans shooting at them, and it took little time for the battery to be wiped out and one of the two infantry units outside the redoubt to be routed, taking the unit commander with them. The cavalry unit and the remaining infantry unit confronted the militia, firing away best as possible, inflicting a few casualties, but taking some in return. The unit in the redoubt was all alone, under constant fire from the mostly immobile Mexican gun and infantry, while two of the Mexican line units ascended the hill for the inevitable assault. While the Imperial troops held on, fire reduced them to splinters and forced the tiny remnants back toward town and the relief troops.

Bill’s regular infantry and gun and Dave’s regular cavalry extend past David’s left flank on the hill top.

The French relief was forced by the scenario to piece-meal their way on to the board. As they began to edge their way into the game Eric, playing the French, made a terrible discovery. I’d rated the French as shock infantry, good at melee, but only a 12 inch shooting range. Meanwhile, Michael’s zillions of Mexican terrible troops were popping off at him at 18 inch range, hitting rarely, but enough to be painful. Eric was able to beat up Dave’s cavalry with his artillery and engaged his lancers with his cavalry detachment. Though Dave’s cavalry was neutralized, Eric was unable to help the Imperial troops stay on the hill and hold the redoubt, or prevent their destruction. Bill’s and Michael’s commands were in charge of the hill position and slowly advancing.

Michael’s vast collection of green infantry/bad shooters have already driven off the unit of Imperial horse and were pushing past the hill and toward the town. The last unit of Imperial infantry stands in their way.
Eric’s French regulars make their way out of the town and up the road to open a retreat path for the Imperial forces.
Then there were two. Bill’s assault with his Republican regulars was repulsed, but spelled doom for the unit defending the redoubt. Fire would later reduce this unit to one figure that fled from the bullet-swept fort.

The victory conditions were for the French to hold the town and preserve as many of their troops as possible. Unfortunately, David’s troops were pretty beat up with only one unit remaining on the board. While Eric’s forces seemed pretty capable of defending the town, the Imperialist/French side was well behind on points. We called it a game and retired to lunch.

The game sparked some interest in my friends, and definitely renewed my own. I’ve taken advantage of the Wargames Foundry Christmas sale to add to my figures. The period definitely has enough interesting French and Imperial troops that just having a selection to choose from will be fun. David also discovered the French/Filibuster sets in the Old West range for Camerone. So I’ve also included all four packs of those in my order. Received notice a couple of days ago my order shipped, so I’m excited for their arrival. It’s good to see my interest in this project spike again. Camerone Day is April 30 and I’m at least mentally making plans.

I have an interest in hosting the game again, perhaps at Enfilade in May. I see a few tweaks. Notably I’d give the French the initiative advantage. That would make it easier for the advanced Imperial forces to choose staying or retreating. The French infantry would also be veteran, aggressive line, which would give them the good melee qualities I wanted them to have without penalizing their shooting, which was not my intent.

3 comments on “Revitalizing An Old Project, and the Matehuala Two-Step

  1. Jonathan Freitag says:

    Kevin, I remember your Camerone game at Enfilade! That game was the catalyst for building my own Maximillian Adventure project. Sadly, that collection is one of the few that I sold-on years ago.

    Speaking of collecting and aging, my blog post today is on exactly this topic. If interested, you can find it at,
    https://palousewargamingjournal.blogspot.com/2021/11/collection-size-and-age.html

    By the way, great looking game and I think I recognize for Houston cavalry.

  2. John Gee says:

    This is great.   Usually accounts of games played are not that interesting, but this….yeah.    So I’m there as are my Egyptians and Austrians, if you have room.  

    See you tomorrow.

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