Memorial Day Spanish Civil War at Meggo’s

I got a last minute invite to Meggo’s (Pete Megginson) to play a game on our day off from work. I said “Yeah, that’s actually working for me, what game?” “Oh anything you like– Spanish Civil War, Very British Civil War, whatever works..” Ding Ding Ding.. you said the magic words. I like the Interwar period historically more than almost any other. Pete has a nice collection of 20mm Spanish Civil War infantry (mostly Republican), I am building a collection (mostly Nationalist right now) and the third leg in that tripod, Jeff Hoffman, has an assortment of figures (again mostly Nationalist from what I’m seeing). Jeff also loves obscure AFVs from that time period even more than I do. All of us together have a decent force set up– actually Pete and Jeff don’t really need my inputs that much, but I’m at least enthusiastic to play with their toys! Note: I have played SCW with these guys before at the Battle of Sesena. Same rules.

The Scenario for Monday was the second battle of Brihuega with the Garibaldi Battalion and other International Brigade units attacking the town which was occupied by the Italian Fascist Littorio brigade (in the CTV “Volunteers”) and their tankettes. The Republican forces have T-26 tanks and some Russian “Chatos” and “Ratas” (Polikarpovs) for air support. This is that somewhat famous Battle of the Brothers action where Italian Fascists in the CTV fought Italian Militia volunteers in the Garibaldi Battalion. There’s not a lot written about Brihuega which can be viewed a small snapshot from the much larger Battle of Guadalajara which is well documented. Historically, this battle went to Republicans. How would it go for us?

The Rules were Disposable Heroes using data from the ¡Primera Batalla! expansion that covered the Interwar period. I chose the Republican side although I’m not intolerant of playing other factions. Of course, this predetermined the course of the battle– another run across an empty field towards some nasty buiilt up areas with machine guns spraying the approach.. Jeff didn’t disappoint as the Nationalists/Italian CTV. He occupied four houses and started setting up Machine Gun nests. I tried to move forward as fast as possible…

Battlefield at start. I was at the bottom edge, playing Internationals. We had to move to the left, which was our “far end”. It’s a short table to be sure but still a lot of open ground to dash across. Fortunately we were somewhat supported.

Troop dispositions, from our end

Internationals, left flank. I had two squads
And more Internationals…
And some wacky militias..

Plus, the Battle Winners..

Each of us had a Soviet T-26b.

In response, the might Italian CTV force (elements).

Three CV-35 tankettes and a truck full of Infantry

Jeff had units off board just like us and gradually got them onboard in the ensuing turns. Both sides were infantry heavy and at best, average morale and training. Some wargamers complain about using “bottom of the barrel” units but not me. It always seems more believable to me to have “Veteran” to be the highest level of training in Interwar periods, maybe soldiers who had served in the Great War, but my idea of an “elite” (Red Devils, the SS, Screaming Eagles, Russian Guard units, etc. etc.)– these don’t’ exist yet. The armor units and supporting MGs were the star units on both sides.

For the first several turns we did pretty well on initiative rolls. Until we didn’t. I knew it was doubtful that I could beat Jeff to the cover of the buildings, so I tried advancing with whatever cover I had. My idea was to attack and move aggressively on the left. So I tried moving squads from covering clumps of trees each turn.

Predictably, this proved unhealthy for troops spotted in wheatfields.

“¡Aycaramba!” decimated in the first salvo.
Same unit decided to fall back and hide, and plink away with the LMG from a distance.

Both sides had supporting mortars attached to HQ sections. Basically these just plinked away at each other and didn’t really impact units who were actually maneuvering.

My two infantry squads didn’t do very well. As predicted Jeff got MGs (1 heavy and 2 LMG) into structures (heavy cover). The squad you see in the three pictures above tried to move out at high speed to get into heavy cover but got caught in the wheat field and took heavy losses. In the next turn Jeff got initiative and forced a retreat. As the LMG and some infantry survived my goal was to get them into some form of cover and fire at the windows. I split the other squad into a HMG and two infantry and moved the others up on the left under some form of cover.

Meanwhile, the armor was moving up, relatively unassailed.

We’re getting closer. the only damage the T-26s had to fear were possible Molotov cocktails.
I got pretty close to the structures that held a HMG and eventually a squad of infantry that could toss Molotovs. I backed up a bit and hosed the building with Coax.

The CV35 tankettes weren’t having a great day. The Nationalists were having fuel problems and Jeff rolled badly on one of them, which broke down due to running out of gas. The others were active. CV35s aren’t exactly scary from the turret of a T-26, but Jeff did what he could them and caused consternation with infantry.

I believe that CV35 means me no good intentions.

One of them engaged Meggo’s T-26 and drove just past him on the left side, broadside to me. The other drove down his right flank into the field where I had recently suffered losses.

Pernicious little things…

Jeff’s first tankette was presenting a perfect side target for my T26. KaBOOM

Dar un susto de muerte! The other T-26 tank officer wasn’t amused when I shot the tankette next to him into a giant fireball.

This created a nice cover to advance with so I brought up the remnants of second squad (still relatively unhurt, although I left the HMG in the field to keep the HMG/LMG in the second floor of the house you see above covered). Meanwhile…

Párale a tu tren!  (Hold your horses!)

The other CV35 drives down the side of the right flank, trying to engage the rest of my infantry. What he doesn’t know is that that squad has Molotov Cocktails, too!

Más salada que pepita de ballena! Bad luck, Italy!

The Maneuver element of my squad rushes across the road and assaults the other CV35. We roll well. Ka-BOOM! No more moving tanks for the Nationalistas.

The infantry in the field realize.. hey, WHY are we trying to move close to this HMG/LMG nest again? We’re getting shot to pieces here!

After breaking and running, they try to recover pins further back and keep on firing. The recovering (unpinning) infantry on the far left got repinned by the CV35 in the field above (before it got killed) so they were slow to re-engage.

I did still have one maneuver element left to play with so I went all in on a bold maneuver. I moved them up to the house with the MGs (I knocked the HMG out right before getting there). Then I close assaulted. I know, I know, this seems pretty risky but it had worked in the Very British Civil War game I played recently. So why not?

Round one: fairly even up.

Round two, not so much. We got decimated.

I’ve been overlooking what was transpiring on our right flank. Mostly because I was lazy about pictures. So: Meggo and Jeff traded mortar fire back in forth in the center. On the extreme right, Meggo pushed his squads down the field under cover of the convenient shrubbery that led up to the church. He managed to get into the “nave” relatively unhurt. Jeff had sent some CTV troopies in from the other entrance, almost at the same time. They had an epochal close quarters fight as well, and Jeff’s forces retreated. The general feeling from the Italians at that stage was to bug out. Their armor was dead, the Spaniards had tanks that were blowing up their positions, they decided to bugger off. However, at that very moment– the air support we had been rolling for all game (and failing) happened at last. So we got a last shot at putting mud in the eye of the Italians. Overkill? You bet.

Más salado que moco de marinero, Italianos!

What’s that high pitched engine sound again? Ohhhhh NOOOO!!!
So much for the trucks!

That was the game, pretty much! We all had a great time and it was fairly easygoing, fast and fun. I still find the Iron Ivan rules a bit finicky (constant wristage, especially fighting tanks). Still, it simulated the situation well and was a decent rule set for this scenario. Thanks to Meggo for his hospitality and to Jeff for being a good opponent and providing the tankettes. These are good guys to play with.

One individual who enjoyed all the ear scratchings all day…

An excellent Spanish Language (with English subtitles) documentary on the great battle of Guadalajara.


  1. that looks fun! Good thing the GIANT didn’t get up there and destroy the units.

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