Instead of having just another wargame, I wanted to try and recreate certain aspects of the battle, whilst still allowing the players free rein to exercise their tactical ingenuity, or lack thereof!
To encourage this, a complex set of victory conditions for scoring victory points was circulated to the players prior to the game:
Victory Points (Gentlemen, its all about attrition! These have been carefully designed to influence you to act as your counterparts did on the day, so please take the time to mull them over) :
French score 1 Victory Point (VP) for every small (2 units) Allied Bde broken
French score 2 VP for every large (3 line units+) Allied Bde broken
French score 2 VP for every British Infantry square broken (none for breaking Brit units in line or column), other than as part of the broken Bde criteria above
For example, if a unit of French cavalry defeats a British square, pushing that large Bde to broken, then that is 4 VP in total, 2 for the Bde, 2 for the broken square and stand of Colours.
|The initial table set up, looking from the West to East|
The British must attempt to keep the field for the entire 15 moves, to prevent Soult from relieving the siege of
– no retreat, no surrender! Badajoz
If the French fail to achieve 6 VP by the end of 15 moves, it is a British victory. If the French fail to achieve 4 VP by the end of 15 moves, it is a major British Victory with Tea and Medals all round. If the French achieve 6 VP it is a draw. If the French score 7, it is a French Victory. If the French score 9 VP by the end of turn 15, it is a Major French Victory, with Dukedoms and Baronetcies being showered on the French team like confetti.
I would ask that no matter what the vagaries of battle all Commanders strive mightily to do their duty until the end of the 15th move to allow the other side’s team to attempt to maximise the extent of their glorious victory!
Note – there are 4 large and 3 small Allied Bdes for a total of 11 possible VPs up for grabs through attrition.
Myer’s Brigade will arrive at the halfway point on the British table edge in Column of Battalion lines at 3” intervals at the start of British move 7, with the leading Bn therefore about 1’ into the table. If that ground is occupied by allied forces, the column will arrive immediately adjacent to left or right as decided by the French team. If that ground is occupied by French forces, the Brigade will not arrive until that ground is clear, and will count as 1 French victory point if it has not made an appearance by move 15.
|The 'Spanish Bde' - Minifigs Austro-Hungarians|
During the battle the Spanish Regiments initially displayed great steadiness in the face of overwhelming French artillery and infantry fire, and then inevitably started to falter as the day wore on. This was reflected in an amend to their 'steadiness':
In the orbat the Spanish Brigade is neither steady nor unsteady. This will be tested throughout the game as shown. Once failed to be steady on this test, the Spanish are considered neither steady nor unsteady for the remainder of the game and no further testing is necessary, they take break tests as normal.
Steady – ignore all break tests
Count as steady on 23456D6 – ignore first break test
Count as steady on 3456D6 – ignore first break test
Count as steady on 456D6 etc
Count as steady on 56D6 etc
Count as steady on 6D6 etc
9 - 15
Not steady, not unsteady - apply break tests
During the battle, the French cavalry took advantage of the reduced visibility and firepower to launch successful cavalry attacks.
The French Cav Commander may initiate a rainstorm at the start of his move by throwing a 1D6, up to a total of 3 times successfully during the game.
The rainstorm will last during this French and the following British move. No small arms fire may be issued during these moves, except by the 95th Rifles and KGL Light on throwing a 456D6
In order to encourage the British to advance boldly across the field in square, as the originals did, we also suspended the Black Powder 'must form square' rule in favour of this table:
We shall not use the the forming squares rule. Any Infantry unit charged by cav may, as a response, attempt to form square a D6 throw as follows:
Number of moves req’d by Cav to contact
Score needed on D6 to form solid square
Cav ‘Pull up’ distance
Should the infantry succeed in forming square, the cavalry may pull up at the exact distance shown, or continue their charge. Should the Infantry fail, they are caught out of formation and disordered. Either way, no closing fire may be issued by the unit attempting to form square, although Infantry and Artillery within supporting range (6”) may issue closing fire
Players may of course attempt to form square at any time during their own moves.
Some pretty standard 'house rule' amends also applied, to reflect my idiosyncratic views on artillery effectiveness:
Canister/Grape range 18”
British 9 Pdr range 5’
French 6 Pdr range 4’
French 12 Pdr range 6’
|John ensures those dice get a fair shake!|
I had asked John, my fellow Frenchman for the day, to arrive early so that we could hatch our knavish plans. Over the phone when preparing for this game he had expressed his view that the key to victory was successful all arms cooperation, particularly between the cavalry and the infantry. Regular views of this blog will know that in our previous game the French cavalry had been unable to make much impact in the game, and he had clearly been mulling this over. I therefore agreed to detach a small 3 Bn Bde from Girard's division to him as Latour-Maubourg. After all, a game also has to be about developing an understanding of period tactics rather than slavishly recreating the pattern of the historic engagement. This was to cause comment after the game...
Our plan pretty much followed that of Marshal Soults' on the day, well you would, wouldn't you! I would find, fix and flank the allied infantry in the centre, whilst John would attempt to send at least some of his cavalry around the deep flank so that together we enveloped the enemy. Clearly this would first involve despatching the single small Allied cavalry Bde first, which we happily presumed wouldn't take too long!
As an aside, I remarked to John that I had deliberately placed the Allied cavalry within 4 and 1/2 feet of his as yet undeployed Cavalry March columns. If Mark, as the Allied cavalry cdr, both spotted, and took, the opportunity, a bold attack at the outset would catch the superior numbers of French cavalry on the hop! We speculated whether he would go for it. I doubted, at the outset of the game, that Mark would have the time to notice such a detail, but John predicted that he would, and that he would not hesitate to charge!
|French feint attacks across the bridge consisted of both Cavalry and Infantry assaults|
|Coleborne's Bde, facing the feint at the outset of the game. Hoghton's Bde, behind, arrives facing the right way!|
|The French feint attacks were utterly convincing...|
|But eventually the penny dropped...|
From my perspective the action seemed to fall in three sectors, the Cavalry scrimmage of to the high ground on my left, the high ground to the west, the central sector where the action was fought over one of the shallow mounds that marked the battlefield, and on my right, in front of La Albuera, the Spanish sector.
|Girard's Division reaches the assault positions having forded the river.|
|The charges go in against the Spanish. To the rear the Portuguese Loyal Lusitanians are hurrying up in support...|
In the centre, I also launched an all out series of attacks, hoping to gain the high ground to my front before Coleborne's Bde could establish itself securely and link up with the Spanish. I was just pipped to the post by Jason, and we settled in for a long round of hand to hand combat.
Over on my left, John was meeting greater resistance from the tiny British Cavalry Bde than we had anticipated, again allowing Jason to get Hoghton's Bde up forward.
But at least we, the French, were exerting pressure all along the line...
Returning to my right, Eastern flank, I need not have worried about the ability of the Spanish to fight the good fight. Clearly this would not be a quick win....
|The Spanish stand firm despite heavy casualties from artillery, skirmishers and attack columns...|
|In the foreground, the Light Bde covers the allied infantry. To the rear, the Dragoons attempt to go deep left flanking|
|British Light Dragoons and Brunswick Hussars hold their own against the odds...although I had not allocated the French Dragoons any 'Heavy' bonuses owing to the poor state of their horseflesh.|
|The centre holds - just. (No Bavarian units were present in the Peninsular, but many other Rhinbund units were...)|
During move 6 though, a concantentation of poor dice throws seemed to rob the British regiments in the centre of their renowned firepower, and the French, despite heavy casualties, seemed poised to breakthrough in the centre, as well as on the flank.
However, in pushing back Coleburne's Bde, the French had suffered so grievously that they had become a broken brigade, and so were unable to exploit forward. It would be left to an envelopment on the flanks after all to secure victory for the French - but could they achieve this in time to cut off the Allied reinforcements...
|Only light troops and artillery holds the allied centre, but the centre French Bde has been fought to a standstill!|
|Harvey's Fusilier Bde arrives on table to a warm reception! (Actually only one Fusilier Regt. is modelled, but if you can't have more Fusiliers the Black Watch will do just fine!)|
|In desperate fight - the Fusilier Bde this once unable to emulate the achievements of 'that astonishing infantry', the Fusilier Bde, here the models on the right representing the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers who were present on the day.|
|Staff Officers are always the first to point the finger!|
Overall I was quite pleased with the game, not simply from being on the winning team, but in designing a scenario that had reflected at least some of the salient features of the original. However I agreed with Jason that allocating Infantry to the French cavalry commander skewed the action on that flank, as well as being unhistorical.
I also regretted dropping the British firepower factor to 4 from the 5 value I usually assign them. I have been criticised for this in the past, but I shall stick to my guns in the future. The only alternative would be to artificially limit the French to assaulting a British line with one column at a time, which seems too contrived.
We all agreed that if we were to play this scenario again we would reduce the length of time the Allies had to hold out to 12 moves, and bring on the reinforcements a little earlier.
But all in all, a well thought out and well fought out game, a fitting end to Napoleonic Bicentennial commemorations for the 1811-2011 campaigning season. Now start the feverish preparations for 1812-2012, with more action in the Peninsular and the Russian Campaign to mark in fitting style!