Saturday, November 27, 2021

Mésaventure au Mexique

Kevin Smyth has had a large and growing pile of 28mm Maximilian in Mexico figures for decades. It started back sometime in the 90s(!) when we had a few Camerone Day gatherings where we ate roasted lamb and played games on (or near) the anniversary of Captain Danjou and his few French Foreign Legionnaires defending the hacienda against Colonel Milàn and his numerous Mexican troops on April 30, 1863.

Inspired by this, Kevin launched a whole Maximilian in Mexico project that grew and grew. He's run a few Camerone games with them as well as other scenarios using various rules (including some home-brew, if I'm not mistaken). With the onset of Dan Mersey and Michael Leck's Rebels and Patriots rules, it was inevitable that we'd get to playing Mexico Max with them.

Accordingly, Kevin ran a game on November 13 at his house down in Puyallup. He called it the Battle of Matehuala (based on an historical action), although as it turned out, calling it the Battle of ¡Mátalos! might have been more apt. The usual suspects were present: Bill Stewart, Michael Koznarsky, and Dave Schueler played the Mexican forces; Eric Donaldson and I played the French.

Kevin has blogged about the game here. Dave Schueler has blogged it here.

I commanded the forward French forces, deployed around a redoubt on a ridge. My deployment required me to have one unit in the redoubt with the other units being within 6" of it. I had three line infantry units (one veteran), a medium gun, and a light cavalry unit. Having a Frenchified mindset, my deployment for defense followed one guiding principle: J'attaque! In hindsight, I think that was perhaps a mistake. I may have been a bit too plein d'espoir for my own good. I put all my units except the light cavalry right out front on the ridge. Eric's and my task was actually to hold the town quite a way to my rear. I might have done better deploying behind the ridge and ready to make a beeline back to form up with Eric. However, the Mexicans got points for taking the redoubt and I couldn't countenance giving it up without un combat à mort

My feeling that the mort in question may be my own only came to me after I'd deployed and Bill started placing regular infantry and guns within 12" of my units exposed on the ridge. Add to that the fact that the Mexicans won the die roll for first activation and things looked grim. Comment dit-on "bugger" en français?

I survived (mostly) the storm of shot, shell, and minié balls unleashed upon me. I might have withdrawn at this point and joined forces with Eric's troops at and entering the town. But to retreat face à l'ennemi was too much disgrace to countenance. I replied to Bill's fire by standing firm and giving back a bit of my own—although I did commit to a fighting withdrawal on my right flank in the face of Michael's advance with what appeared to be every able-bodied armed man in Mexico heading straight at me.

In no time, the exchange of fire went against me. By turn three (maybe), I had lost the line infantry and gun on my left, my cavalry was skirmishing (badly) with Michael's horde, to their ultimate demise. Dave's cavalry was moving past my flank/rear to attack Eric. But the redoubt held!

I managed to beat back one direct assault after Bill's regulars took my gun, abandoned after the one remaining crewman ran off.

It wasn't enough to stop the tide, however. A few more shots against me and I was forced out of the redoubt and the lone survivor chose the better part of valor.

On my right, Michael's militia—three BIG units worth—continued advancing steadily. I tried to skirmish with my light cavalry, but had a few turns of failed activation with them. They were eventually shot to bits by Michael's troops. Thus, I was down to one line unit, slightly shot up. I fell back with that to join with Eric's line to my left.

Meanwhile, Dave's cavalry moved quickly against Eric's forces which had managed to enter the board without hesitation. 

Dave quickly charged Eric's unit of grenadiers with his Mexican lancers in what became a bit of a paseo de la muerte.

We probably flubbed adjudicating the first round of combat, which the Mexican lancers won in any case, but they may have done worse to the French grenadiers than we reckoned. Eric's grenadiers were merely pushed back in good order. In the immediate compulsory follow-up, Dave's cavalry failed and wound up routing out of existence. His other unit had taken one hit shy of being half strength and wisely withdrew out of range of Eric's cannon.

At this point, Eric still had an almost entirely intact command. Bill's command was mostly intact and advancing past the débris of my ridgeline defense. I had one surviving unit that was down to 10 figures. Michael had three BIG units of militia, which were intact, albeit green troops and poor shooters. Still, their quantity made up for their lack of quality. I ever so slightly thinned a couple of his units, but their morale held and they were still a long way from being anything near half strength.

At this point, we surveyed the field and determined that while Eric would likely be able to hold the town (our larger objective), the Mexicans were well ahead on points due to my over optimistically pugnacious défense á outrance. Sadly, points were not awarded pour la gloire.

At this point, we adjourned to Mssr. Smyth's salle à manger for hot dogs, chilli, beer, and conversation.

In the aftermath of the game, there was the traditional enthusiasm for buying more figures for the period. Fortunately, Foundry is having a big Christmas sale. Kevin has acquired (or will acquire whenever the order actually arrives) a significant reinforcement of troops for Maximilian in Mexico—not least among them the French Foreign Legion troops, including a Jean Danjou figure, which weren't available when he initially bought the figures back during the Clinton administration (first term, IIRC).

I was tempted, especially by the Foreign Legion, but have spent my money on more Mexicans from Boot Hill Miniatures. I have cavalry coming soon and expect to start ordering Texans in December.


  1. Yes, I think you might have chosen poorly for this game. However, my memory also recalls some perversely adverse die rolling at critical moments. In any case, it was much fun and a joy to drag out these figures. Looking forward to the arrival of reinforcements.

  2. Are you able to remember the army lists please? I'd be interested in what stats were used for the various troops.

    1. I believe the following are correct.

      I had:
      2 x LN Infantry @ 4pts ea.
      1 x LN Infantry, Veteran @ 6 pts
      1 x Med. Gun with limber @ 8pts
      1 x Lt Cavalry @ 4pts

      Eric had:
      1 x LN Infantry @ 4pts
      1 x Shock Infantry @ 6pts
      1 x Lt Cavalry @ 4pts
      1 x Medium Gun with limber @ 8pts

      Dave had:
      1 x Lt Cavalry, Good Shooters @ 6 pts
      1 x Lt Cavalry, Aggressive @ 5pts

      Michael had:
      3 x LN Infantry, Green, Poor Shooters, Large Unit @ 3 pts ea.

      Bill had:
      2 x LN Infantry @ 4pts ea.
      1 x Medium Gun @ 6pts

    2. Actually, I think Bill had 3 x LN Infantry. I shot up one of them, but it's the other two—and the gun—what done me in.

  3. Splendid game!! A very tempting "mésaventure" to play for us, but we don't have Mexicans yet...and yours are superb, lovely terrain, figures...and report!

  4. Very inspiring. But during the Battle of Camerone, the officer commanding the Mexican forces is Colonel Milàn.

    1. Duly corrected. I love that blog posts are so corrigible. It makes it seem like I knew my stuff from the get-go.

  5. Great looking game in a period I know little about - though I’m off to find out more. A poor initial deployment maybe but you definitely should be congratulated for your defiant stance.