March 1st 1870 (exactly 150 years ago today) saw the end of the Paraguayan War with the death of the Paraguayan leader Francisco Solano Lopez.  The war between Paraguay on one side and the Triple Alliance on the other (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay) had been going on since the end of 1864 and led to the deaths of a significant proportion of the Paraguayan population (estimates of the numbers vary).  On that fateful March day, Brazilian and Argentine troops finally caught up with the last remnants of the Paraguayan army, Lopez being killed after refusing to surrender.

Those of you following my blog will know that the Paraguayan War has been one of my recent wargames projects, so it won’t come as a surprise that I arranged to have some sort of anniversary game.  Whereas all my troops are 20mm scale, Perry Miniatures have recently introduced a Paraguayan War range in 28mm scale, so maybe we’ll see more Paraguayan War actions being fought in miniature.  Their new figures look very nice (but that’s to be expected) and although I won’t be getting any, they do some nice downloadable unit flags (and a uniform guide) that I can no doubt re-size and use!

Rather than base a wargame around that final action of the Paraguayan War, I opted to represent an encounter more typical of the conflict.  Since Paraguay was effectively blockaded by the Allies, Paraguayan columns frequently had to be dispatched to raid and capture supplies and these ranged from small affairs to full blown battles.  So, I assigned a force of four infantry battalions, two cavalry regiments and a rocket battery to capture supplies from an Allied storage depot and escort them back to the safety of Paraguayan lines.


At the start of the game, the Paraguayans had already captured the supplies and were just about ready to head for home.  The picture above shows them ready to depart, supplies being in the ox cart and the larger, two-horse covered wagon.  The rules I use (Neil Thomas’ 19th Century European Wargames set) mean only buildings, hills, woods, roads and rivers have major effects, so I used the Cigar Box Battlemat I had for the battlefield – fields are not really right for this conflict, but it looks OK and it’s a nice surface to play on.  The Paraguayans have to travel out of the right of the picture, led by their cavalry, with an infantry battalion formed up in line as a rearguard in the bottom left of the photo.


The picture above shows the cavalry ready to move out and below you can see the infantry and supply transport.


The picture below shows the Paraguayan rearguard supported by a rocket battery.


The Allies arrived on the battlefield just as the Paraguayans were preparing to move off.


The picture above (in addition to being mostly fields!) shows three Brazilian infantry battalions and an artillery battery at the top of the picture advancing against the Paraguayan rearguard (just off picture top right), whilst the Uruguayan Florida battalion advances on a parallel road (bottom left).


Much further away, at the other end of the battlefield, an Argentine force (above) was moving to head off the Paraguayans.


An Argentine cavalry regiment led this force (above), followed by the Legion Militar (in zouave uniforms) and a national guard battalion following (below).


The Allies only slightly outnumbered the Paraguayans, so it was difficult to know how this might turn out, the Allied objective being to prevent the supplies from getting away.  Allied infantry were better armed (except the Argentine national guard unit) but the Paraguayans were more determined (normally with these rules infantry units can only charge to close combat if they outnumber the enemy, but this restriction does not apply to the Paraguayans).

The Paraguayan plan was to screen the road with cavalry to hold the Argentines at bay so that the supply units could get away, while the rearguard held off the Brazilians.  This left two Paraguayan battalions to cover the road in the centre and fend off the Uruguayans if they got too close (the Uruguayan Florida battalion was rated as elite and therefore the best of the Allied units).


And that’s pretty much how it all went!  The Paraguayan advance guard did a good job keeping the Argentines back, with all of the cavalry in the thick of the action.  The Argentines almost broke through to the road, forcing the Paraguayan infantry to advance against them (see picture above – the supply wagons are now going from right to left), and the combat see-sawed about as Paraguayan infantry charged in to keep the Argentines in check.


On the other side of the battlefield (shown above), the Paraguayan rearguard soon got tired of taking casualties from long range fire and charged the Brazilians (on the left side of the picture above), being supported by the last infantry battalion (centre) and the rocket battery.


The Brazilians got pushed back and the Paraguayans almost broke through to the artillery battery (picture above), but the situation stabilised as the Florida battalion joined the fray and weight of numbers crushed the Paraguayan rearguard.


After that, the Allies made all haste to get across and support the Argentine troops, who were still trying to battle their way through to the road and stop the convoy.  In the end, only the remnants of the Paraguayan cavalry were still in action, but they managed to hold off the Allies and the supply column got safely away!  The Paraguayan rocket battery managed to escape Allied attention for most of the action and in the end was preparing to withdraw past the supply dumps in the opposite direction!


So the game probably went as expected, with the Paraguayans screening the Allied forces at each end of the battlefield while the latter tried to cut across the centre to intercept the supplies (in the picture above, the supply column is just about to leave the board top right, while the Florida battalion has got all the way across the board to threaten the Paraguayan cavalry).  More Allied cavalry would no doubt have helped.  In the end, it was judged a Pyrrhic victory for the Paraguayans, who’d got the supplies away but had lost most of their force – all four Paraguayan infantry battalions were destroyed and the cavalry were on their last legs.  The Allies fared much better, not losing any units but with three of the infantry battalions and the Argentine cavalry all badly mauled.

We’d set the game up first and then just diced for sides – I was the Paraguayans, meaning I won!  But it was a good game, plenty of action and a definite result, although it wasn’t clear how it would turn out until right at the end.  As far as my armies go for this conflict I got my two newest units into action (the Brazilian zouaves and one of the Paraguayan cavalry units) and I’ve still got more to do!  More games will be planned!




  1. A great report John, it was a tense game from what I can see, but they got the supplies off in the end, even though it was at the cost of a lot of manpower

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      • Are you doing scenarios based on events that actually happened only, or alternative scenarios, based on your past battles, as well? I don’t know much about the events, but I could see where it might be fun to make up a scenario going from the point where one side succeeds with their supplies but doesn’t have the manpower to make full use of it, while the other side manages to put together a larger force in an attempt to interdict or destroy said supplies, and maybe the smaller force too if all goes well, while the supplied side tries to either hold and wait for reinforcements or one part does a holding action while they move the supplies someplace else or destroy them themselves to keep them out of enemy hands. Lots of possibilities with various Victory Points making it a scenario either side can win.

        Whether all of this could be reconciled with real events or remain just a “what if,” I don’t know.

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        • Well, at the moment Ann, I’m basing games around events that happened, but maybe just modifying things to get a game played in an evening. But the way you’ve outlined events might be a good way of running a mini-campaign or a set of connected games, which I hadn’t really thought of, so I might plan something like that. 🙂 I’ve at least got the bulk of my Paraguayan and Allied forces painted now, so have some room for flexibility!

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          • Connected games could be fun. Maybe even have some different rules depending upon what happened in the previous games?

            A few years ago, when I was playing a lot of Muskets & Tomahawks, we did a number of scenarios based on real events but with a “What if?” twist, such as, in this battle when there was a successful ambush, what if the victims were warned in advance it was coming, but it was raining, impacting their ability to use their black powder weapons as effectively?

            Yes, that is true: you took the most important step, you got the miniatures painted so all good things flow from that! And they look good too. 🙂

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  2. I have taken my time to read this battle report John but think I must have rushed through it at the end because I’m sure I saw that you had won. Clearly that cannot be right so I am now going to read it again! Seriously, nice write up and well done on winning. The miniatures also look superb. 😊

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  3. I want Paraguayan War figures like these!!

    An interesting report – nicely poised encounter with plenty of action. The Paraguayan’s did well considering what was thrown at them. Must be down to the skill of the commander.

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    • Thanks Marvin! 🙂 I think the game would have gone the same way whoever commanded whichever side! The Allies longer range weapons can be countered by the Paraguayan infantry’s ability to attack regardless of the odds, but they can only keep that up for so long. A good game though with a lot of action!

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  4. Looks great John! That rings a bell about Paraguay, they lost an insane amount of men, something along the lines of the USSR or China in WW2 in terms of proportion of population… And yet I could tell you next to nothing about it… To the library!

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  5. Another fantastic battle AAR – and you won John! I recognized the Cigar Box Battle mat and someday I might buy some too. I was wondering how effective a Rocket battery might be during that era – were they like Congreve rockets? Anyways, nice to see those movement trays in action, and as stated by others, the figures are superb too.

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    • Thanks Mark, glad you enjoyed it! The Cigar Box mats are more expensive than some, but they are bigger and it’s nice material so I’m really pleased with it! I don’t think rockets were all that effective, since they weren’t that accurate but I’m not sure and maybe need to read back as far as the Napoleonic Wars for more info. I know they came in either solid or explosive filled and I think the Brazilians and Paraguayans used either Congreve or Hale rockets, or maybe both – I’ve elected to go with Congreve rockets with (way too short) stabilising rods! Thanks for the kind comments about the figures as well – I was pleased to get my new figures in action!

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