Sunday, 13 June 2021

Somewhere in Spain, Circa 1810 - Fistful of Lead, Bigger Battles

Battle of Cacabelos Bridge - Richard Simkin

Editors Note: Unfortunately with a new variant of COVID 19 affecting parts of the UK and finding its way into the south-west, now with the holiday season underway, together with time needed for second vaccinations to take full effect, several of the club's members, including myself were not able to attend this, the first club meeting since we were forced to close our doors back in March 2020.

However it gives me great pleasure to post Si B's report on the game he ran, one of three run at club yesterday, to formally record the Devon Wargames Group is back up and running in this, our club's fortieth anniversary year, and looking forward to being able to welcome not only club members but eventually new prospective members as well.

Napoleonics is a popular theme and the Peninsular War is a favourite of many, so we have a good game to kick-off our new start with.


So, for the first post Kung flu meeting, we tried ‘Fistful of Lead; Bigger Battles.’ It was our first game with the rules and the first outing of Si’s plastic Napoleonics.

Fistful of Lead Bigger-Battles Rulebook

The rules are deceptively simple. They are card driven, with players being dealt a card per unit to form a hand. The cards activate units, being played in sequence high to low but the players choose the unit to be activated. However several cards also give bonus actions such as Shock removal, quick reloads or stragglers returning to their units. This makes play much more interesting and also allows players to sequence their actions and prioritise according to a plan. Wild cards add a layer of unpredictability with cards being kept hidden until their turn.

We played a version of Scenario 4 from the rule book, although the attackers had a 2:1 advantage. This was mainly to allow for three players with manageable forces. The two French players, Steve and Steve (of course) had five units of Line infantry each, a field gun and a unit of Dragoons. The defending British initially had two units of Rifles, a field gun and a Line unit, reinforced by two cavalry units and three Line infantry units over subsequent turns.

The scenario requires the capture of the ridge with the defenders set up in place and the attackers entering the table from the nearest short edge.

The French on the right made a straight advance for the ridge, pausing to exchange musketry with the British rifles and the field gun. On the left they slowly moved around the woods which only gave space for a single unit to engage the second unit of British rifles. As a result, the rifles got the better of the
first exchange, easily repulsing the first French unit. However the following French units repulsed a cavalry charge and drove off the rifles.

In the centre and on the right the French numbers slowly asserted themselves, with Voltigeurs gaining the ridge and driving off the British gun crew. Having abandoned their gun, they’ll be wearing white lanyards for a while.

British cavalry on their left made a quick charge into a unit of French Dragoons, forcing them back, then into a French Line unit, seeing them off completely. However the French Dragoons rallied and against the odds put the British cavalry to flight having lost all but two of the unit.

The British rifles in the woods on the French right finally succumbed to overwhelming numbers, the last man eventually being forced out. By this time the British had been forced off the ridge all along the line and could only fire up at the French from the reverse slope. They didn’t have sufficient numbers to push the French off but both sides were seriously depleted, so we called it a French victory.

The rules gave a fast action packed game. We played about fifteen turns over four hours with eight British units and fifteen French between three players and an umpire. It only took a couple of turns to get the basics but the card play took perhaps an hour to grasp the full implications of some of the effects and combinations. 

Fistful of Lead is a great club game, easy to teach and good fun. There’s enough nuance and chrome for it to give a good impression of a Napoleonic skirmish and certainly a good alternative to some other similar rules. 

All in all, a good afternoon’s entertainment but particularly good to be rolling dice with friends again.

One thing I forgot to mention, figures are all toy soldier plastics, mostly Zvezda and Hat with some Italeri and Airfix.


  1. Si,

    I watched the game from a socially distanced position & it looked to be a close affair, with many shouts of triumph and despair.

    Nice write up and you get the prize for the speed with which you got to press. Us tardy contributors hang our heads in shame !

    Good to see you remembered to name the figure manufacturers, as this is the most common question we get on the blog.


  2. My pleasure Vince. Really important that we get going again and put a marker down. No going back now.

  3. A great looking game...with obviously nice guys!

  4. Splendid looking game! 😎