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Libertadores del Sur South American Wars of Independence Wargame by Keith Hafner and Matt Shirley

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Discussion with the designers of the new board wargame Libertadores Del Sur (1810-1824) by Legion Wargames on the inspiration and challenges behind the project

Libertadores del Sur South American Wars of Independence Wargame by Keith Hafner and Matt Shirley

Libertadores del Sur

After retiring from the Army Reserve, my buddy Keith Hafner is launching a new two-player military simulation wargame of the Southern Theater of the Latin American Wars for Independence called Libertadores del Sur that you can have to play as long as they get enough interested parties to pre-order the game. So, please pre-order Libertadores del Sur. Check out the page that BoardGameGeek has for Libertadores del Sur I have been friends with Keith Hafner since 1993 when I met him over Thanksgiving in The University of Wisconsin at Madison, Wisconsin, because my Dutch friend, Saskia Vingerling, was studying Women's Studies and Keith was studying History and they had friends in common in the form of Marlise Mensink and Minna Aslama.

Information from co-author and co-designer Keith Hafner:

South American Wars of Independence SeriesLibertadores del Sur1810 - 1824 game design by Keith Hafner & Matt ShirleyLibertadores del Sur is a two-player military simulation wargame of the Southern Theater of the Latin American Wars for Independence, pitting Spanish Royalist forces battling for supremacy against Latin American Patriot forces. The idea of creating a wargame out of Latin America’s struggles for independence first came to me in 2006, when I was following in the path of Argentine General José de San Martín and his legendary Army of the Andes’ trek over the Andes Mountains. The sheer scale and majesty of those mountains deeply impressed upon me what San Martin had accomplished from a military-logistical perspective, in crossing an army over them. San Martin’s liberation of Chile was a breath-taking military achievement that easily ranks alongside Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in terms of its audacity. Outside of Latin America, however, General San Martin’s name and his military exploits are almost unknown. South America’s relative geographic isolation from the rest of the world, I believe partially accounts for the relative obscurity of this topic in military history. But I think South America is almost a tabula rasa, when it comes to military history from a larger world perspective, so helping to tell this story interested me greatly.

I speak both Spanish and Portuguese and have worked and traveled extensively in Latin America. I was intrigued by the cultural pervasiveness of the story of Latin America’s Liberators throughout the continent. Indeed, Bolivia is named for Simon Bolivar. The Constitutional Capital of Bolivia the city of Sucre is named for Antonio José de Sucre, one of Bolivar’s ablest generals. The cultural and historical influence of the great Latin American liberators is ubiquitous, but stop your average Latin American person on the street and most will only know vague generalities about Bolivar, San Martin, or O’Higgins, much like their North American counterparts when asked specifics about Washington’s military campaigns. While traveling, reading and walking over the South American battlefields of General San Martin in Argentina and Chile and General Simon Bolivar’s in Colombia, I was struck by the incongruity between the epic nature these Liberator’s achievements, juxtaposed with their largely overlooked status in the annals of military history.

With these ideas in mind, I linked up with my friend and game design partner Matt Shirley in 2009, while we were both living in Hawaii via the Oahu Boardgamers Meetup group. As we got talking, I noticed that Matt was an avid Napoleonic miniatures wargamer. This led me to discuss my experiences in South America with him and we both agreed that trying to design a board war game on the topic might be fun.  Boy, was I wrong! What started out as a tepid curiosity in producing a set piece tactical game on the 1817 Battle of Chacabuco in Chile, turned into an almost 10-year struggle of passion, frustration, and dogged persistence. In a strange way, I feel that Matt and I are now spiritual veterans of San Martin’s Army of the Andes’ in their trek over the Andes through our determination to turn this vision of bringing Latin America’s military history into reality.  I can only hope that General San Martin would be pleased with our work.

Comments from co-author and co-designer, Matt Shirley:

Keith Hafner and I met when we were both living in Hawaii; we were both members of the Oahu Boardgamers Meetup.  We are both military history buffs, and Keith lent me a book from his collection, Liberators by Robert Harvey.  I was astounded.  Sure, I’d heard the name Bolivar, but I had no idea that Latin America had such colorful wars of independence and so many outstanding personalities.  Chile alone introduced me to Ambrosio and Bernardo O’Higgins and the Carrera family.  And what was that?  Lord Thomas Cochrane, the inspiration for the fictional character of Captain Jack Aubrey, was in negotiations with Napoleon to escape exile and join the Patriot movement?!  Granted, Mr. Harvey sometimes strayed into the Telenovo version of the Wars of Liberation, but how is it possible I had not heard this history before?  Keith and I decided we had to do a wargame on this subject.

Being rookie game designers, we had a lot to learn.  We are indebted to Alan Emerich and Lance McMillan of Victory Point Games (VPG) for reviewing our early efforts and making suggestions.  Our first attempt was a tactical game about the battle of Chacabuco.  Although it had some different concepts, it was a fairly generic horse and musket tactical game.  We next tried an operational level game we called “Army of the Andes.”  This covered San Martin’s crossing of the Andean passes from western Argentina into Chile and liberation of that country from Spanish Imperial rule.  We had event cards that tried to do justice to Mr. Harvey’s account; however, we discovered that the Patriot axis of advance in such a long and narrow country limited the players’ choices.  Also at this time, VPG changed its business model, and our opportunity for publishing with them had passed.

With the confidence that comes with inexperience, we pressed on to a strategic level game covering the multiple struggles for liberation in the countries of Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. This presented significant challenges of historical research.  We could say with confidence how many men were present for duty in the battle of Chacabuco in the Cazadores de los Andes battalion.  Measuring the potential for raising patriot formations in each of the territories that the Junta in Buenos Ares might control is a different challenge.  Keith tapped into his academic contacts in the area of Latin American history.  Many books and a couple of trips to the Library of Congress later, we had a good estimation.  Now, we just had to turn it into an interesting game.

Many folks helped us along the way explaining the process of publishing a game.  Jack Greene reviewed Liberatadores and put us in contact with the graphic artist, Larry Hoffman.  Of course, Randy Lein of Legion War Games took a chance on this crazy idea from two people he never met before.  We hope to be able to offer the final product with Legion War Games.

Game Description from the Website

South American Wars of Independence SeriesLibertadores del Sur1810 - 1824 game design by Keith Hafner & Matt ShirleyLibertadores del Sur is a two-player military simulation wargame of the Southern Theater of the Latin American Wars for Independence. The Patriot player controls the Argentine Ruling Directory forces and various federated and allied forces, while the Royalist player controls Spanish Regular Army, trained Loyalist South American forces and militia units. Several other historical armed factions contend for each player's attention when formulating strategy, from a land grabbing Portuguese-Brazilian Imperialist army, to local guerrilla units, breakaway Federal Republics, and a native Incan Rebellion in the Andes Highlands. Each player will face similar daunting logistical and political challenges as they attempt to impose their military will on their opponents over a vast theater of operations spanning Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and parts Bolivia & Brazil. 

Libertadores del Sur is an operational level simulation with a point to point card driven game system. Each turn represents one year's campaigning season. The players have a chance to raise and reorganize new forces prior to beginning operations, and reset their sides' morale, depending on how many provinces they control. During the Operations phase, players take turns playing cards causing historical events and/or activate forces to move and attack. Operations continue until the player's run out of cards, or run out of morale. When operations end, the players have a chance to consolidate political control over provinces where they drove out enemy forces, and combat units fall back to controlled areas. There are three scenarios allowing the players to start at different points of the campaign. The 1810 scenario starts with the first of the local juntas establishing themselves in response to Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. The 1814 scenario begins with Argentine General San Martin superseding Argentine General Belgrano, and the Patriots attempting to recover from various strategic set-backs. The 1817 scenario is a mini-game covering only the liberation of Chile.

It is common to view Latin America’s Wars for independence within the historical milieu of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, of which they were a direct political extension. But Spanish military pacification efforts during the early nineteenth century bear a striking resemblance to later colonial “wars for national liberation” that European armies fought in Africa and Asia during the twentieth century. From 1808-1824, Spain found itself in the strategically unenviable situation of having to wage war simultaneously in three separate overseas theaters (Peru-Argentina, Venezuela-Colombia, and Mexico) with extremely limited military and economic means, all the while facing the ideological backing for free trade in her colonies from the superpower of the day, Great Britain. The Peninsula War forced the Spanish Empire into a Faustian bargain of needing British military power against Napoleon in Europe, at the price of undermining its own imperial political and economic legitimacy through British free trade with its Latin American colonies. Ultimately, Spain faced an impossible strategic predicament of needing the economic resources of her rebellious colonies in order to fund the military means with which to restore the political legitimacy of Royalist Absolutism in the Americas.

The military campaigns of Latin America’s Wars for Independence (1808-1829) remain a relatively obscure historical topic outside of South America, however their political impact endures to the present day. As Napoleon’s forces invaded Spain deposing the monarchy in 1808, Spain’s rule over her American colonies devolved into a continental wide paralysis of political infighting. Argentina quickly became the Patriot movement’s strategic center of gravity and the military catalyst for independence in much of South America. In 1816 the United Provinces declared independence under the political leadership of Buenos Aires. The existence of such a vast political sanctuary for sustained military action directed against Spain proved fatal for Royalist ambitions to reconquer the empire. From 1810-1818, Argentina repeatedly acted as a military spring board for strategic attacks against Spanish power in Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, and ultimately the fulcrum of Royalist Absolutism in South America, Peru. Much like Great Britain’s failure to pacify her North American colonies a generation earlier, Spain’s incapacity to reconquer or pacify any part of the United Provinces throughout the entire course of the war, demonstrated the strategic limits of her ability to reestablish imperial power in South America through force.

No discussion of Latin America’s Wars for Independence would be complete without special mention of Argentine General Jose de San Martin’s 1817 campaign of crossing the Andes Mountains to liberate Chile. San Martin’s formation, training, and leadership of the legendary Army of the Andes across the second highest mountain chain in the world, stands out as one of the greatest logistical feats of military history, fully equivalent to Hannibal crossing the Alps. San Martin's movement of a combined Argentine-Chilean Army over the Andes Mountains, arriving with his forces intact and ready for battle, strategically surprised the Spanish culminating in victory in one of the seminal battles of Latin American history at Chacabuco on February 12, 1817. General San Martin’s strategic vision and meticulous attention to logistical detail was single-mindedly directed towards a decisive military thrust to seize control of Chile for use as a springboard to launch an amphibious assault against the heart of Spanish royalist power in the Americas, the Viceroyalty of Peru.

Battles fought during the Latin America Wars for Independence were minuscule skirmishes by contemporary Napoleonic standards of the day, as an example less than 7000 men fought on both sides at the Battle of Chacabuco in Chile in 1817, however their true importance is evident in the light of history. The British victory at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec in 1759, in which less than 10,000 men fought on both sides, serves as an appropriate military analogy for the student of Latin American military history. Both of these small colonial victories permanently altered history by helping to end Bourbon imperial ambitions in the Americas. Libertadores will put you in the seat of each of these contending forces facing the same challenges and logistical constraints facing each side fighting for military predominance over a vast and wild theater of operations. 

En Español

“Libertadores del Sur” es un juego de guerra de simulación militar para dos jugadores, sobre los escenarios vividos en el Sur de las Guerras Latinoamericanas independentistas. El jugador “Patriota” controla las fuerzas del Directorio Gobernante Argentino y varias fuerzas federadas y aliadas, mientras que el jugador “Realista” controla el Ejército Regular Español, las fuerzas leales sudamericanas y las unidades de milicia. Algunas de las otras facciones armadas históricas compiten por la atención de cada jugador cuando formulan una estrategia, desde un ejército imperialista portugués en Brasil, que se adueña desde tierras hasta unidades guerrilleras locales, repúblicas federales disidentes y una rebelión Inca nativa en las tierras altas de los Andes. Cada jugador enfrentará desafíos logísticos y políticos similares, mientras intentan imponer su voluntad militar a sus oponentes en un vasto terreno de operaciones que abarca Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay y partes de Bolivia y Brasil.

Libertadores del Sur es una simulación de nivel operacional, con un sistema de juego de tarjetas punto a punto. Cada turno representa un término (período) de un año. Los jugadores tienen la oportunidad de levantar y reorganizar nuevas fuerzas antes de comenzar las operaciones y restablecer la moral de sus bandos, según la cantidad de provincias que controlen. Durante la fase de Operaciones, los jugadores se turnan para jugar cartas causando eventos históricos y/o activar fuerzas para moverse y atacar. Las operaciones continúan hasta que el jugador se quede sin cartas o se quede sin moral.

Cuando terminan las operaciones, los jugadores tienen la oportunidad de consolidar el control político sobre las provincias donde expulsaron a las fuerzas enemigas y las unidades de combate vuelven a las áreas controladas. Hay tres escenarios que permiten a los jugadores comenzar en diferentes puntos de la campaña. El escenario de 1810 comienza cuando la primera de las juntas locales se establece en respuesta a la invasión de Napoleón en la Península Ibérica. El escenario de 1814 comienza con el General de Argentina José de San Martín, reemplazando al General Manuel Belgrano y a los patriotas que intentan recuperarse de varios contratiempos estratégicos. El escenario de 1817 es un mini-juego que sólo cubre la liberación de Chile.

Es común ver a las guerras de independencia de América Latina en el panorama histórico de las guerras revolucionarias y napoleónicas francesas, las cuales fueron una extensión política directa. Pero los esfuerzos de pacificación militar española a principios del siglo XIX se parecen mucho a las "Guerras de Liberación Nacional" posteriores a las colonias de los ejércitos europeos que lucharon en África y Asia durante el siglo veinte.

Entre 1808 y 1824, España se encontró en una situación estratégicamente poco envidiable ya que tuvo que librar una guerra simultánea en tres terrenos extranjeros (Perú-Argentina, Venezuela-Colombia y México) con medios militares y económicos extremadamente limitados, por otro lado, se enfrentaba a la ideología y respaldo al libre comercio en sus colonias por la superpotencia de aquel entonces, Gran Bretaña. La Guerra de la Península forzó al Imperio español a un acuerdo faustiano al necesitar el poder militar británico contra Napoleón en Europa, al precio de debilitar su propia legitimidad política y económica imperial a través del libre comercio británico con sus colonias latinoamericanas. En última instancia, España enfrentó una situación estratégicamente imposible, la cual fue de necesitar los recursos económicos de sus colonias rebeldes para financiar los medios militares con el objetivo de restaurar la legitimidad política del Absolutismo Realista en las Américas.

Las campañas militares de las Guerras por la Independencia de América Latina (1808-1829) siguen siendo un tema histórico relativamente oscuro fuera de América del Sur, sin embargo, su impacto político perdura hasta nuestros días. Cuando las fuerzas de Napoleón invadieron a España, derribando la monarquía en 1808, el gobierno de España se convirtió sobre sus colonias americanas, en una amplia parálisis continental de luchas políticas internas.

Argentina se convirtió rápidamente en el centro de gravedad estratégico del movimiento Patriota y en el catalizador militar de la independencia en gran parte de América del Sur. En 1816 las Provincias Unidas declararon su independencia bajo el liderazgo político de Buenos Aires. La existencia de un vasto santuario político para una acción militar sostenida, dirigida contra España, resultó fatal para las ambiciones realistas de reconquistar el imperio.

Desde 1810-1818, Argentina actuó repetidamente como un trampolín militar por ataques estratégicos contra el poder español en Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia y, en última instancia, el punto de apoyo del Absolutismo Realista en Sudamérica, Perú. De la misma forma que Gran Bretaña no logró pacificar sus colonias norteamericanas una generación antes, la incapacidad de España para reconquistar o pacificar cualquier parte de las Provincias Unidas durante todo el curso de la guerra, demostró los límites estratégicos de su capacidad para restablecer el poder imperial en América del Sur a través de la fuerza.

Ninguna discusión sobre las Guerras por la Independencia de América Latina estaría completa sin una mención especial a la campaña de 1817 del general argentino José de San Martín, al cruzar las montañas de los Andes para liberar a Chile. La formación, el entrenamiento y el liderazgo de San Martín hacia el legendario Ejército de los Andes en la segunda cadena montañosa más alta del mundo, se destacan como una de las mayores hazañas logísticas de la historia militar, totalmente equivalente a Aníbal cruzando los Alpes.

El movimiento de San Martín de un Ejército argentino-chileno sobre las montañas de los Andes, llegando con sus fuerzas intactas y listas para la batalla, sorprendió estratégicamente a los españoles; culminando en la victoria de una de las batallas más cruciales de la historia latinoamericana en Chacabuco, el 12 de febrero de 1817. La visión estratégica del general San Martín y la meticulosa atención a los detalles logísticos se dirigieron con una sola mente hacia un impulso militar decisivo para tomar el control de Chile para utilizarlo como un trampolín para lanzar un asalto anfibio contra el corazón del poder real español en las Américas, el Virreinato de Perú.

Las batallas durante las Guerras por la Independencia de América Latina fueron escaramuzas minúsculas según los estándares napoleónicos contemporáneos del día, como, por ejemplo, menos de 7,000 hombres lucharon en ambos bandos en la batalla de Chacabuco en Chile en 1817, sin embargo, su verdadera importancia es evidente a la luz de la historia. La victoria británica en la batalla de los “Llanos de Abraham” en Quebec en 1759, en la que menos de 10,000 hombres lucharon en ambos bandos, sirve como una analogía militar apropiada para el estudiante de historia militar de América Latina. Estas dos pequeñas victorias coloniales alteraron permanentemente la historia, al ayudar a poner fin a las ambiciones imperiales de los Borbones en las Américas.

“Libertadores del Sur” lo colocará a usted en los zapatos de cada una de estas fuerzas en conflicto, la cuales enfrentaron los mismos desafíos y limitaciones logísticas que enfrenta cada bando luchando por el predominio militar sobre un vasto y salvaje escenario de operaciones.

Feb 15, 2019 11:30 AM