"It's like a cavalry charge! except on foot." - Private Leo Sole
Although even lieutenant commended him for his performance in the last battle for the ham, Leo was not so excited when he found out that those two prisoners he brought back, told some things that sent the company on a chase. So the reward for performing above your duty is more forced marching, probably with more bullets flying at the end. A lesson learned. And as a good soldier Leo marched.
The gaps in ranks left by those lost became filled again: privates Felix Baron and Gregory Hennequin were two experienced veterans, shifted from other companies of the battalion. Now the ranks Leo was a part of looked nothing like when he joined Dragoons less than a year ago: only a few young faces: private Marius, a new recruit who took Oliver's place, one of the few, not scared by war. Yet. And private Leo was wondering if his face also became like ones the old mustaches were wearing. It was hard to tell, he haven't looked in a mirror for a very long time.
There was a new sergeant, to replace Pinchon. Leo's comrades were a bit surprised when Omer got promotion instead of Severin. But maybe that's for the better, Omer seemed to be the most levelheaded out of the tree veterans, and Severind did not seem to mind. They also got a new corporal: Felix Baron, Leo only knew him by sight until now, but in the last few days he got to know him much more than he cared to. As someone responsible for men keeping their equipment in good order Felix, a man rivaled by his size only by Jordan, was there to do his duty thoroughly.
I decided that after the first successful mission in the autumn I can have a follow up encounter. But first I have to replace the tree casualties. I roll two rep5 soldiers, one of them Brute, and one rep3. Now my group consists of 6 soldiers with rep5. It makes sense, after more than half year in war those who sill fights are not green recruits anymore.
I also need to replace sergeant who went MIA so I just roll against the Reputation of all the soldiers and ended with Omer getting the promotion. I also realized that there should be a corporal under sergeant, so I just decided that one of the replacements - Felix already held the rank, he was just shifted around from another position in the company.
After about two weeks of intensive marching the French army caught up with the enemy close to a town of Pancorbo. There were rumors of the British General Blake, the same whom french have bloodied at Medina de Rioseco, leading the enemy troops. And amongst many others Leo was guilty of bravado, boasting of how he will kick the british ass again. Although deep down his memories about the battle were far from glorious.
Roll for encounter: Attack, 5 PEFs. Sounds tough... In any case I decided that the chase for General Blake continues and Leo will have a second battle in his career. I also roll for terrain: Orchard, Wheat Field, Wheat Field with a House, Orchard, Village with a Road.
I roll to check if there are any specialists involved with my group, and get a rep4 drummer, he will provide me with a bonus on Man Down and Will to Fight rolls.
Early in the morning general's orders reached the company and with a sound of the trumpets and drums a half-company of 2nd dragoons moved forward across farmlands towards a white-walled hamlet. As they entered orchards and the formation became dispersed Leo had a bad case of deja vu, but all was quiet, and instead of yellow uniforms the soldiers were pleasantly surprised by red fruits - ripe apples! Sergeants just barked their disapprovement halfheartedly as soldiers were plucking the fruits and showing them in their mouths and pockets as they went, they knew the hunger as well as their fellow soldiers, and only Lieutenant's commands finally made company to resume the pace.
First PEF check comes with two sixes. Nothing, but because it's a double, I decided that something good had happened: there are some fruits. After the encounter the survivors can roll their rep and on a success they will get 1 supply each.
The orchard opened into a wheat field, no enemy movement here, but further down, between was a lonely farmhouse with a white-red Spanish standart sticking out of a window.
Pass 1d6, so nothing for now, but the enemy is near.
"Form the line! Two ranks deep! Load your muskets! Forward march!" commands sounded, drumms thundered, the farmhouse with the sticking flag was getting closer, all quiet still.
They took a position a shoot away from the house, sending skirmishers forward, when everyone heard windows being shattered and trumpet sounding as soldiers clad in blue uniforms emerged from their hiding inside the house. Ambush was not a strongest point of Spanish military doctrine, and French, who already took a shooting posture opened fire.
Pass 2d6, check Who They Are: light infantry. I check for attached units: a standard bearer (automatic extra one die to W2F and Man down) and a officer, so the commanding officer is here! The enemy has advantage (makes sense, they are in a fortified position), but I get the first round.
A hail of bullets hit the white wall kicking a cloud of dust. Leo also saw a red mist in a window where he just sent his load of led. Did he saw a sergeant's epaulet there? And then there were series of flashes and bullets whistled, cutting down the new recruit Marius closeby and then hitting private Dylan right in the throat, his soul left before his body hit the ground. The thunder of enemy voley silenced the french drumms. A few soldiers already were losing their will to fight, Leo saw drummer running away. Who can blame the him, the battlefield is not a place for a kid.
This is the first time Leo hist something! And it's sergeant who goes Out of Action. But the whole salvo is pretty lousy: 2 OoA and 3 Ducked Back, 5 others shoot back, resulting in Marius going down and Dylan Obviously Dead, Stanislas Ducking Back. I check Man down and Will to Fight. With the standard and a commander present spanish are unlikely to break, but on the French side the drummer and Stanislas escape.
Enemy spends it's time recovering Ducked Back soldiers and reloading.
"Charge!" private Leo hears a command and the company crosses a wall of smoke created by their muskets. Sword in his hands Leo ran, he almost closed his eyes when a second wave of shots hit the company. Screams of injured and dying. There was no pain, he is still alive! Private quickly checked left and right, Severin and Jordan were missing from the charging lines. The sinking feeling made Leos legs heavy, but it was too late - he almost crashed into the deceptive safety of the farmhouse wall. Corporal Felix who carried sapper's hatched instead of a sword made a short work of a door and was first to charge inside. Leo climbed a window, almost felt inside. He was terrified to face the enemy, but he was even more afraid to show his cowardice. Blinded by sudden twilight, he saw a faint shimmer of blue and charger, stumbling on a lifeless body. He felt Spanish blade biting his flesh, stood up again cutting down his enemy. Frenchman now realized that he has no idea where his comrades are, there were sounds of battle everywhere but inside the room he was standing in there were just dead bodies, and then a spaniard bursted through a door. The fight was quick, Leo who already was bleeding profoundly from the first wound gave his best, but that was not enough.
So I had a hard decision to make, I could spend a round reloading and being shot by the enemy, or I could charge. With six rep5 soldiers present I decided to take a risk. I charge and enemy reacts by shooting. Severing goes Obviously Dead and Jordan is forced to duck back: here goes two of my best soldiers :( Melee insues, and Leo just barely manages to overcome his opponent by using Extraordinary Effort, but he goes -3 rep in the process. The rules state that rep is restored after each melee, but I use a houserule that if soldier gets more than -1 he is injured, and has -1 rep until the end of the encounter.
Besides Leo, corporal Felix and sergeant Omer manage to win the melee, but Pierre-Louis gets killed. Check if someone escapes: one enemy is out, and Jordan escapes on our side, because we now are at half strength, so we are losing at least one soldier each round.
Now I roll enemy reputation to see if they will be brave enough to charge ar they will rather shoot. I pass 2d6, they charge! Corporal and Sergeant gets two enemies each, and leo gets down. Only star power saves him from obviously dead result. Barely. The corporal goes out of action, but Omer chops down two. The fierce attribute is a huge advantage. Check for retreats: Gregory escapes and on the spanish side the standard bearer escapes.
Later, while recovering from his wounds Leo learned that sergeant Omer took down at least four enemies inside the house, including a spanish lieutenant, before sounding retreat and realising that he was the only one left fighting. But spanish light infantry was so intimidated by the fierceness of the frenchman that it was surprising they remembered to grab the standard before running away. From that day, no one questioned if Omer Azema was worth of being promoted to the rank of sergeant.
Omer charges again, gets injured but wins another melee. And there is only one soldier left on each side. The last spanish Ducks Back after Man Down test, but then both sides retreat because of Will to Fight.
The day was won by French forces, but enemy escaped with relatively light casualties. It was 2nd Dragoons who were tasked at cutting down enemy escape route, Leo's company newer reached the goal. At least part of the fault was lying on the general staff, apparently they expected Dragoon company to be mounted, because in the end they were a cavalry unit.
In the end I think it is fair to say that Leos company had failed the encounter. They fought an enemy at a disadvantage, and ended in a draw, but war is unfair and they did not reach the final destination. But this was a humbling experience for Leo, so I decided to remove his Poser attribute. In any case he ends with 7 decreasing reputation (I only gave -1 for the lost encounter, because it was not a total defeat) and two increasing (for two casualties inflicted): roll 5d and luckily no ones, but that resets Leo's Career Rep back to zero.
Battle of Pancorbo happened 23 November 1808 and was a second time General Blake fought French in the Peninsula campaign. Despite French managing to caught him by surprise, outnumbering Spanish almost 2:1 and winning the battlefield, Blake managed to retreat with relatively small loses (300 dead and 300 captured) and continued his movement towards the port city of Bilbao. Capturing him was becoming a matter of vendetta.