Faction Focus: Spanish

Now I’ve laid the foundations for the core mechanics (which will need further revision in the future) I can start laying down foundations for the different factions involved in the Napoleonic Wars and start looking at how to give them some personality on the table top.

The reason I’m starting with the Spanish is due to the fact that there were more battles between the Spanish and the French than the British and the French, as well as the Guerrilla warfare being a huge reason why Napoleon lost the Peninsular War (in my opinion).


Let’s start by looking at how Spain’s involvement in the wars evolved over the years.

1793-1795 War of the First Coalition

After the execution of Louis XVI in 1793, 20,000 men were mobilized and marched to the French border. The army, however, had been allowed to languish in Charles III’s reign, and it was ill-equipped and ill-trained to cope with a French invasion. Navarre was quickly seized by the French, although the Spanish managed to hold their ground in Catalonia and even invaded French Languedoc. Godoy, unimpressed with Spain’s military effectiveness, decided to come to terms with the new French Republic, and in 1795 signed the Treaty of Basel, guaranteeing peace with France with the cession of Santo Domingo to the Republic.

1796 Alliance with France

The Spanish, after initially opposing the French, signed the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1796, allying Spain to France, in exchange for French support for Charles IV’s relations ruling the Italian duchy of Parma.

1796-1808 The Anglo-Spanish War

In response, the British blockaded Spain in 1797 and separated her colonial empire from the mother country. By the end of 1798, the Spanish fleet had been defeated by the British, and Menorca and Trinidad were occupied. In 1800, the Spanish returned Louisiana to France, which had been given to them in compensation for their losses at the end of the Seven Years’ War.

The Treaty of Amiens in 1802 provided for a temporary truce in hostilities, only to be broken in 1804 when the British captured a Spanish treasure fleet off Cádiz. The French planned an invasion of England in the coming year; the Spanish fleet was to be an integral part in assisting this invasion. At the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the Spanish navy and the French Mediterranean fleet, attempting to join forces with the French fleets in the north for the invasion, were attacked by Admiral Lord Nelson at the head of a British fleet in one of history’s greatest naval engagements. The disastrous defeat that the Spanish and French suffered assured British dominance at sea and seriously shook the resolve of the Spanish who began to doubt the usefulness of their always mutually suspicious alliance with Napoleon’s regime.

1807-1808 French Occupation of Spain and the Uprising of the Spanish People

Map of Spain 1808

After Trafalgar, Godoy withdrew from the Continental System that Napoleon had devised to combat Britain, only to join it again in 1807 after Napoleon had defeated the Prussians. Napoleon, however, had lost his faith in Godoy and King Charles; there was also growing support in Spain for the king’s son, Ferdinand, who opposed the popularly despised Godoy. Ferdinand, however, favored an alliance with Britain, and Napoleon, always suspicious of the Bourbons, doubted the trustworthiness of any Spanish royalty.

In 1808, Spain and France agreed to the partition of Portugal, which had renewed its support of the British after Trafalgar. The French and Spanish quickly occupied the country. Prince Ferdinand traveled to France, and rumors spread that he was asking for Napoleon to oust Godoy from power; the Spanish King sided with his favorite. Riots broke out in various parts of Spain, and in the Tumult of Aranjuez, Godoy was arrested and Charles IV forced by his son and heir Ferdinand to abdicate in Ferdinand’s favor. Napoleon, however, had lost confidence in the Spanish monarchy and when Ferdinand traveled to France to obtain the French emperor’s support, Napoleon pressured Ferdinand to abdicate in favor of his father Charles IV, who had abdicated under pressure. Charles IV himself abdicated in favor of Napoleon, since he did not wish his detested son to return to the throne. Napoleon then placed his older brother Joseph Bonaparte on the throne. As a way to legitimize the transfer of power, Napoleon summoned a group of Spanish aristocrats to Bayonne, where they signed and ratified the Bayonne Constitution on 6 July 1808, Spain’s first written constitution. The Spanish chose to resist.


The Spanish people rallied around the cause of Prince Ferdinand, who, even as a prisoner in France, was made into a national hero in what became a “war of independence” for Spain. Godoy, Charles IV, and his wife retired first to France, then to Italy, and left Spanish politics permanently.

The installation of Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain sparked a revolution in Spain. On the 3 May 1808, a revolt in Madrid was bloodily suppressed by the French army, which now found itself attempting the occupation of both Portugal and Spain. The incident and the perceived brutality of the French response created a rallying point for Spanish revolutionaries; the executions were captured famously by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya. The Spanish army, on the whole, pronounced itself in favour of Ferdinand and joined the British and Portuguese in a united front against the French.

1808-1814 The Spanish War of Independence

Spanish Guerrillas

The war began in Spain with the Dos de Mayo Uprising on 2 May 1808 and ended on 17 April 1814 with the restoration of Ferdinand VII to the monarchy. The French occupation destroyed the Spanish administration, which fragmented into quarrelling provincial juntas. The episode remains as the bloodiest event in Spain’s modern history, doubling in relative terms the Spanish Civil War.

A reconstituted national government, the Cortes of Cádiz—in effect a government-in-exile—fortified itself in the secure port of Cádiz in 1810, but could not raise effective armies because it was besieged by 70,000 French troops. British and Portuguese forces eventually secured Portugal, using it as a safe position from which to launch campaigns against the French army and provide whatever supplies they could get to the Spanish, while the Spanish armies and guerrillas tied down vast numbers of Napoleon’s troops. These combined regular and irregular allied forces, by restricting French control of territory, prevented Napoleon’s marshals from subduing the rebellious Spanish provinces, and the war continued through years of stalemate.

The years of fighting in Spain were a heavy burden on France’s Grande Armée. While the French were victorious in battle, they were eventually defeated, as their communications and supplies were severely tested and their units were frequently isolated, harassed or overwhelmed by partisans fighting an intense guerrilla war of raids and ambushes. The Spanish armies were repeatedly beaten and driven to the peripheries, but they would regroup and relentlessly hound and demoralize the French troops. This drain on French resources led Napoleon, who had unwittingly provoked a total war, to call the conflict the “Spanish Ulcer”.


There are essentially two periods (maybe three at a push) which we will have to model on the table top. The first being the Spanish Army between 1793 and 1807, followed by another for the Spanish War of Independence between 1808 and 1814.

The main factor that sets these two periods apart are the Guerrilla fighters that were so effective in Spain from 1808 onward.

In 1808 the Spanish Army consisted of the following troops:


  • 2 Foot Guard Regiments, each three battalions of 1,000 men
  • 35 Line Infantry Regiments, each three battalions of 700 men
  • 10 Foreign Line Infantry Regiments (1 Neapolitan, 3 Irish, 6 Swiss)
  • 12 Light Infantry Battalions, each six ccompanies of 200 men
  • 43 Militia Battalions, each of 600 men
  • 4 Provincial Grenadier Regiments, each two battalions of 800 men


  • 2 Horse Guards Regiments, each five squadrons of 120 men
  • 12 Heavy Cavalry Regiments, each five squadrons
  • 6 Light Dragoon Regiments, each five squadrons
  • 6 Hussar Regiments, each five squadrons


  • 6 Horse Batteries
  • 13 Foot Batteries
  • 21 Fortress Batteries
  • 1,000 Sappers and Engineers

These troops were organised into seven armies and one reserve. In August 1808 the armies were as follows:

  • Army of the Centre – General Castanos (45,000 in 69 Battalions and 60 Squadrons)
  • Army of Galicia – General Blake (37,000 men in 79 Battalions and 4 Squadrons, 38 guns)
  • Army of Aragon – General Palafox (23,500 men in 32 Battalions and 5 Squadrons, 5 guns)
  • Army of Estremadura – General Belvedere (12,500 men in 14 Battalions and 7 Squadrons, 24 guns)
  • Army of Granada – General Reding (11,500 men in 12 Battalions and 4 Squadrons, 6 guns)
  • Army of Somosierra – General San Juan (11,500 men in 20 Battalions and 6 Squadrons, 22 guns)
  • Reserves – 51,000 men

The quality of Spanish troops varied, from very poor to good. The militia was generally of poor quality, but some regulars were fine troops. For example on 29 October “The First Regiment of Catalonia … received the attack with the greatest coolness and kept up a very regular fire by platoons, maintaining their position against an enemy nearly 5 times their number … The most veteran troops could not possibly have displayed more soldeirlike firmness or more sangfroid in action …” (- W.Parker Carroll to Castlereagh, November 1808)

The Spaniards rarely surrendered a city without a siege, and usually fought fiercely even after the city walls were breached.

The siege of Saragossa was very bloody and became known in whole Europe. The number of deaths in the interior of the city during the siege, including those who were killed by the enemy, has been estimated at upwards of 40,000 human beings.

The French mines reduced many buildings to ruins. The Spaniards saturated the timbers of many houses with rosin and pitch, and set fire to those which could no longer be maintained, interposed a burning barrier, which often delayed the French and Poles and prevented them from pushing their successes during the confusion that necessarily followed the bursting of the mines.

The constant bombardment, the explosion of mines, the crash of falling buildings, clamorous shouts, and the continued echo of musketry deafened the ear, while volumes of smoke and dust clouded the air.


  • Firstly Spain is going to be the only faction in the game that will have the use of Guerrilla units. Any Spanish army that contains Guerrilla units will mean the enemy have to remove one deployment marker before the scouting phase.
  • As well as Light Infantry and Light Cavalry, Guerrilla units can also count to the number of deployment markers in a Spanish force.
  • Guerrilla units are the only unit in the game that can move across impassable terrain, they do this at the movement rate of infantry units moving through difficult terrain.
  • Spanish Generals had a reputation as poor leaders, to this effect when an order is received by a unit, that unit must make a morale roll. If the roll is more than their morale then their objective must be chosen at random using a D6. (I may make this a rule for all armies yet however, with a modifier for Spanish troops)


  • Foot Guard Regiments to have a ‘Steady’ roll of 4+ rather than 5+
  • Militia Battalions to start at a morale base of 5 (classed as recruit).



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