Devils Don't Surrender - Fast Play Rules for the Battle of Camerone

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By Matt Fritz

Historical Background: In 1861 France tried to make Mexico a part of her empire. The French eventually succeeded in installing Maximillian of Habsburg in Mexico City as the new ruler, however many Mexicans, led by Benito Juarez, continued to resist. Finally in 1867 the French occupation was defeated. Maximillian was captured and executed. There were many interesting battles during this period. One bloody battle the Mexicans remember was fought on May 5, 1862 at Puebla. The date is now a Mexican national holiday. Cinqo de Mayo is also celebrated by many in the US. The battle best remembered by the French occurred in 1863. A small detachment of the French Foreign Legion (FFL) was sent to escort a supply train. The force was intercepted by a large force of Mexican cavalry and infantry. The FFL retreated to a walled farm near the village of Camerone. They were surrounded, low on ammunition, and outnumbered 50 - 1. Led by Captain Danjou, who had a wooden hand, the Legionnaires refused repeated demands that they surrender. Instead they vowed to fight to the last man. After repeated assaults, the French were down to a dozen able bodied men when their ammo ran out. Again they refused to surrender. Instead they made a suicidal bayonet charge. The incredible courage of the Legion at Camerone is remembered every April 30 when the FFL celebrates Camerone Day.

Battle 1:
The Mexicans concentrated their initial attacks on the Farm and Stable sides of the compound.  The encountered fierce resistance and managed only a foothold inside the walls before being driven back with heavy casualties.  An attempt to storm the stable was repulsed with staggering losses.  The second wave was more successful.  A large force got over the wall in good order and poured fire into the structures shielding the French.  The French managed, with difficulty, to drive the Mexicans out of the compound a second time.  The French losses were starting to tell, and the third wave had little difficulty smashing into the walled compound.  The Mexican snipers scored the only success of the day when they caught Lt. Maudet crossing the yard in the open and nailed him.  The French defenders retreated into the barn and farm house for their final defense.  In the Barn Captain Danjou led a spirited defense that frustrated and infuriated the Mexicans, who insisted on trying to carry the position with futile massed charges.  After many tries and many casualties Capt. Danjou was eliminated and the battle ended.

The Armies: I used 1/72 plastic figures for the FFL. The Esci are much better than the Airfix, and you only need one box. There aren't any suitable Mexican figures available at this time. You could substitute Imex or Airfix Confederate infantry. With their round hats they could pass for militia. I used paper soldiers for the Mexicans. Here are some paper soldiers you can print and user. The FFL are mounted singly on 3/4" square bases. Two Mexican figures were mounted on each 3/4" x 1.5" base.

Building the Walled Farm: The outlines of the farm could be drawn in marker, or modeled with pieces of felt or other fabric. Cardboard boxes or foamcore structures can be used for a three dimensional battlefield. A nice rough adobe look can be achieved by covering the structures with spackling compound then spray painting them. Here's a paper wall section you can print and use. These rules will assume that the FFL has had time to barricade the gates and breach in the wall, and to loophole the walls and structures.

The Rules:

Deployment: The French may deploy anywhere inside the walls. They should be spread out, some on the walls and some in the buildings.  The Mexican units may start anywhere outside at least 12" from the walls.

Units: The French bases do not have formations and may move independently. The Mexicans are organized into 9 base units. Mexican units should be put into a three rank line or column and must move together until they climb over the walls, after that they can move independently. Units should be marked so they can be identified - a label or spot of paint will work fine.

French Foreign Legion

Capt. Danjou (Overall Commander)
Lt. Maudet
Lt. Vilain
42 Legionnaires

Mexican Forces

5 Units (9 bases each) These should be dismounted cavalry for the first few waves, and militia for the succeeding waves, although they are all treated alike in the rules.

Sequence of Play:
French Shoot
French Move
Sniper Fire
Mexican Shoot
Mexican Move

Shooting: French figures may shoot out through loopholes in the walls and structures, Mexicans may not fire through the walls at targets inside. Once inside the compound Mexican bases may fire at the French. Roll 1D6 for each base firing. Hits are scored on a 6 at long range (up to 12"), and on a 5 -6 at short range (less than 6"). Bases inside the barn, stable, or other structure get a saving throw for each hit. On a roll of 1-3 the base is eliminated, on a roll of 4-6 the structure has protected the base and the hit is ignored.

Move: Bases can move 6". Bases cannot enter a structure if an enemy base is already inside. A Mexican base cannot climb the wall unless it was at the base of the wall at the start of the turn. If this is the case the base can move to the far side of the wall but this uses up its entire move for the turn. If a French base is on the other side of the wall it gets a free shot - roll 1D6, the Mexican base is eliminated on a roll of 5-6.

Sniper Fire: The Mexicans had snipers in the top of the farm house, and the French could not eliminate them. Each turn the Mexican players may roll three D6 and score hits on a 6. All hits must be counted against French bases in the open, bases in a structure are immune to sniper fire.

Melee: A base can fight a melee by moving into contact with an enemy base. Melees are fought as one on one battles. If more than one base can reach an enemy the additional bases can fight in turn if the enemy survives the first fight. Each base rolls 1D6, high roll wins and the loser is eliminated. The French win ties. The three French officers add one to their die roll. A figure defending a structure against an enemy on the outside gets to add one to their roll.

Mexican Morale: The Mexican units attack in waves. When a unit has been reduced to one base the last base is immediately removed. The entire 9 base unit is returned at the start of the next turn, and may deploy anywhere at least 12" from the walls. The attacks continue until the French are destroyed.





Bases in a structure save on a roll of 4-6
Melee Bonuses
French Officer

Defending Structure


French win ties

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