Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Siege of San Sebastián 1813 - Vauban's Wars Playtest #2

The long but ultimately successful siege of San Sebastian in the summer of 1813 eventually opened the way for Wellington to invade southern France. Here, I have simply appropriated the name for the game to differentiate it from the previous game in November.

Per a new option in Eric's Vauban's Wars rules, we set up with the 2nd parallel already completed, but not, as Eric suggested, with the gun emplacements already constructed.  Personally, I think having the 2nd parallel completed is enough of a jump start for the besiegers all buy itself. 

Barry and Marc played the British defenders, whilst John hurled defiance from behind the walls of Fortress once again. Joe had to cancel at the last minute.. 

Things didn't as smooth as I had hoped for as our home internet connection decided to go out as I was planning to re-read the rules and set up the garrison and besiegers the night before the game, and then I couldn't download the latest draft of the rules in their zipped format, and my new printer decided to act up, although fortunately I had already printed out all of the key components by then. To make things worse, I was super tired from work all the week before, as our Nurse Practitioner was out on vacation for 10 days, and thus I worked from 7 AM to 9 PM most days that week, and  another 4 hours the AM of the game, just to catch up on all of my back notes, etc. Ugh!

Garrison (French): 4 Bastions, 24 points

Food Supply 33 (Well supplied and high rolls!), 
Supply Die: D4
Siege Morale Points: 23
Popular Support D6
Powder Supply: 12 (high roll!)
STRONG fortress, base rating of 6, so Gate and Bastions took 70 hits, Walls 60 hits, Ravelins 50 hits.

2 Militia Infantry       - 1 points
5 Line Infantry          - 5 points
1 Grenadiers            - 2 points
1 Light Infantry        - 2 points
2 sappers                 - 4 points  (probably should have gotten 4, max allowed)
1 Spy                        - 1 point
3 Heavy Guns          - 9 points
4 Fortress Artillery       Free
1 Governor (C-in-C)      Free
1 General                       Free
1 Miner                           Free

Besiegers (British)  48 points

Supply Die: D8
Siege Morale Points 27 (should have added another 12 points, 3/bastion) 
Security Die: D10 (hot dice) 
Powder Supply: 10 (purchased UP 2) 

8 Line Infantry               - 8 points
2 Grenadiers                 - 4 points
2 Light Infantry             - 4 points
1 Guard Infantry           - 3 points
4 Sappers                      - 8 points
1 extra Miner                 - 1 point (Should have been 3 pts) 
2 Heavy Mortars           -  2 points
1 Extra General             - 1 point
1 Spy                             - 1 point
1 C-in-C                            Free
1 General                          Free
1 Miner                              Free
8 Siege Artillery               Free  (My mistake again, should have been *4*)
2 more Siege Artillery     8 points
Powder Supply +2           8 points (as the besiegers rolled poorly for powder die, this was useful, but again in the event it didn't matter) 

So, I significantly over-gunned the Besiegers; a result of doing it quickly at the last minute. 

Despite having read the current draft of the rules this time, John was going to pass on the Trench Raid cards again. I disagreed, so here is a French Raid on a lonely Sapper working on digging the 3rd parallel. the sapper was routed back to the rallying point. After that, John began to like Trench Raids a lot! :-) Rechecking the rules, we found that each Trench Raid card could potentially allow up to 4 separate raids! The defender really needs to make good use of the raids to drive back sappers and gunners, and delay the progress of the besieger.

We used Mining for the first time in this game as well. here is Barry writing down the targets of his mines. He will use the same sheet to track their gradual progress towards his objective, while John uses counter mining to attempt to interfere. e had a much clearer idea of how to do that after the game as well. The round bases with assorted tools on them denote the two mine entrances. 

With the 3rd parallel partially constructed, and gun emplacements  ready, Barry and Marc begin to use "breaching fire" to batter down the tough walls of the Fortress (note poker chips - 6 hits so far on Bastion #2). In retrospect, the defenders could and probably should have contested the Covered Way (just beyond the "moat") until much later in the game. Units in the covered way cannot be targeted UNLESS they ascend the shooting step, in which case they can shoot (up to 6" for infantry) and be shot at. 

Tyhe British start to construct the 4th parallel right atop the Glacis. Units in the Covered way could have been very effective at putting a stop to that!  In fairness, Barry and Marc drove the French back from the covered way with artillery fire, but the defenders needed not be exposed to that until they popped up to shoot themselves! We also assumed, incorrectly as it turned out, that the Covered Way had to be manned to launch continued Trench raids - not true!

The siege guns are really battering the walls of Bastions # 2 and #3 (either side of the gate). Still, 70 hits is a LOT, and the defending sappers can repair some of the damage. 

Overview of the Siege. Bastion #2 has been breached! On balance, the various errors we made in play this time favored the besiegers a lot, especially the enormous numbers of siege guns used by the besiegers, and overlooking as key "Up 1" modifier for fire from the Fortress. 

 The French view from inside San Sebastian, as a mine blows up under Bastion #3, severely weakening it, but not yet collapsing it. The enemy siege mortars are lobbing shells into the town itself, eroding their morale, but not very effectively this time (Eric made it harder

Shortly afterwards, continued heavy breaching fire by the British collapsed Bastion #3 as well. Each breach costs the Garrison additional morale loss as well. With no relief army in sight (Soult historically broke the siege of San Sebastian once and almost did a second time), John sues for terms, and the garrison marches out with Honors of War. This avoided the ugly pillage and burning of the town that followed the actual successful British/Portuguese assault on the Fortress. 

In the process of preparing for the game, I discovered some long lost additional entrenchment pieces to be painted...

As well as some further items - more stone walls, a well, a cart, a cottage, and a smithy. I believe I purchased these at Historicon 2009, and started them but then they got buried under assorted gaming detritus, and overlooked. An early Christmas present!

Due to the many errors I made, I plan to do a final solo playtest over the Holidays. This rules set would be an excellent candidate for a you tube video illustrating the play. Eric hopes to publish Vauban's Wars in the first quarter of 2020, and I am strongly considering running a game with them at Historicon 2020 as well. 


  1. Interesting post. I missed a good game. Eric changed the number of free siege guns to the besieger down? It was 2 per bastion in the draft I have.

    Starting the game at second parallel makes for a quicker game resolution. I may try a solo game this winter.

    1. Yes, 2 Fortress guns per bastion was clearly too powerful. In compensation, the gun can fire from anywhere in the bastion except the roughly 22.5 degree arc at the tip of the Bastion.

    2. Hi guys, yes, I reduced easy bastion to one Fortress gun. Also, besiegers get one free siege gun per bastion. If you playtest, please report your findings to me.

  2. With the week you experienced, it seems a miracle that you ACTUALLY got this game into the books. Enjoyed your photography.

  3. Enjoyable game report and always nice to see a siege game being played. Which rules did you use?

    1. They are Eric Burgess' soon to be published "Vauban's Wars" rules, Peter.

  4. Nice to see all the siege works assembled for a game. The rules sound very interesting indeed.

    1. There are many ways to win (or lose) a game - running out of Morale, running out of Powder, special events resulting in a relief army on the way for the defender, or a Coup de Main by the besiegers, Establishing a practicable breach and proceeding to a standard table top battle, launching a sortie in strength and also gaming that as a standard action, and so on!

  5. Sounds like good fun, I'm not surprised you made the odd mistake after the week you'd had, I think I'd have pulled the game and had a nap!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks Iain, I made a few too many here, but am planning a solo playtest as noted, nominally based upon the Siege of Danzig.

  6. It used to be said that siege warfare was not really 'gameable'. Seems the wiseacres were wrong. Even with the errors of execution, this posting indicates siege warfare is very 'gameable'.

    I liked your 'Vauban' fortifications. Over the years I have had some notion of making some myself, but hadn't thought of your simplified construction.

    1. Eric's rules have been in development for a long time, and are just about ready, I think. There are two other play tests scheduled in the next few weeks in other locations, and unless that turns up a major issue, it will be time for Eric to finalize the rules, write examples, add illustrations, etc.

    2. I am thinking of adding some 1 - 2" foamboard underneath the bastions and walls, etc, to give them more height. If I take a game to Historicon, I will almost certainly do that (plus probably construct some better "joins" for the walls and Bastions.

    3. Peter, your homemade fortress is outstanding

    4. Thanks, Eric. I think adding some additional height, which isn't hard to do, would really make it look the part.

  7. Very good report, Peter and good illustrations. There are a lot of moving parts here so every siege should showcase different variables. Realistically, measuring victory for the defender will be how long the fortress can hold out. Driving off the besieging army, although devoutly to be sought, will be rare.

    1. Agreed, John. Massena was ultimately unable to hold Genoa against the Austrians in 1800, but he held out long enough to allow First Consul Bonaparte to cross the alps with his army and descend upon the rear of his enemies.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Lovely siege battle, impressive terrain and nice report!

    1. You are too kind, Phil! A joyeux Noel to you!

  9. Very much appreciate these writeups. I've been looking forward to the rules for some time. Will they be stand alone, or do they require some extra rules/books (I think it's based on piquet?)

    1. They have been revised to be based upon the Filed of Battle system, but you absolutely do not need FoB to play. You do need SOME tactical rules set of your choice is you choose to game out a sortie or an assault upon a breech, but you need not use FoB for that.

    2. Hi Daveb, as Peter mentioned, the rules are standalone, but if you need to Assault the fortress or launch a massive sortie you switch to your favorite tactical rules to adjudicate that part of the siege.

  10. Thanks again Peter for play testing! You and your team's feedback has been very valuable. The solo playtest will be interesting also.

  11. How may I obtain a setoff the rules to playtest? I am currently 3D printing a 'Vauban' Fortress and it is about 80% done. I am in California, and would like to run the game at an HMGS-PSW event.

    1. Danny,

      Eric Burgess is the author, and the rules will likely be published in Q2 2020. I will be running a game at Historicon using these rules.

      You can contact Eric via his blog: