Friday, 28 August 2009

Battle of Almonacid Refight August 11th 2009

I have been wargaming and reading about the Peninsular war for quite a few years now. But it is only recently that I have realised that the Spanish on their day could be more than a match against the French and they did actually win some battles. Most of the books in England make the Spanish out to be incompetent and always running away at the first instance of trouble. Therefore as well as playing all the British Battles in the Peninsular, I decided to play all the Spanish Battles against the French as well. I had never heard of The Battle of Almonacid until a few weeks ago, so I thought I would give you a brief introduction below.

The battle of Almonacid of 11 August 1809 was a relatively costly French victory that effectively ended the Talavera campaign. A key part of the Allied plan for that campaign had involved the Army of La Mancha under Venegas. He was meant to threaten Madrid to prevent General Sebastiani’s 4th Corps from moving west to aid Marshal Victor, but after a good start Venegas had been inactive during the most important days of the campaign. Sebastiani had been able to move to Talavera, but despite this the French had still been defeated. The French position was only saved by the arrival of a large army from the north west of Spain, under Marshal Soult, which forced Wellington and Cuesta to retreat back into Estremadura. As the Allies retreated, King Joseph split the army that had been defeated at Talevera. Leaving Marshal Victor to take part in the pursuit of Wellington, he took Sebastiani’s corps and the Royal Reserve east, to end the threat from Venegas.

When King Joseph reached Aranjuez, he decided not to attempt to cross the Tagus there, but instead to move west, and cross the bridge at Toledo. Venegas soon realised what Joseph was doing, and set his army off on a parallel march to the west, on the south bank of the river. The French won this race to Toledo, arriving late on 8 August. On the next morning Sebastiani crossed the river, driving away a Spanish detachment that was watching the town, and then following it east. The Spanish were not far behind the French, and as Sebastiani’s men advanced, they ran into the Spanish 5th division (Major-General Zerain). After a short skirmish the Spanish were forced to retreat, and moved south east along the road to Mora and Madridejos, stopping at the small town of Almonacid. By the end of 10 August the rest of the Spanish army had come up to Almonacid, where they were facing Sebastiani’s corps and Milhaud’s dragoons. King Joseph and the Royal Reserve were about ten miles to the rear.

Sebastiani, Joseph and Venegas were all determined to fight on 11th August. The French believed that they needed to defeat the Army of La Mancha to secure their hold on Madrid, while Venegas was determined not to retire in the face of the enemy. Both sides were also planning to attack, but for some reason Venegas decided to delay his own attack until 12 August, apparently expecting the French to sit quietly for an entire day to allow him to carry out this plan.

Despite being outnumbered, on the morning of 11 August Sebastiani decided to attack the Spanish line. His plan was to capture Los Cerrojones, and then attack the rest of the Spanish army in the flank.
The Spanish army deployment

The French arrive on the battlefield

Order of Battle

Infantry units were approx 1250 men , Cavalry units 500 men and Artillery 10 guns.


Sebastiani 4th Corps
3 Generals (Normal Rating)l
10 Infantry units (Regular)
2 Light Cavalry units (Regular)
2 Foot Artillery units


Joseph Royal Reserves
1 General (inferior Rating)
4 Infantry units (Regular)
1 Light Cavalry unit (Regular)
1 Foot Artillery

Cavalry Reserve
1 General (Normal)
4 Heavy Cavalry units (Regular)
1 Horse Artillery Unit


1 General (Inferior)
2 Generals (Regular)
6 Infantry units (Inferior)
10 Infantry units (Regular)
2 Heavy Cavalry units (Regular)
2 Light Cavalry units (Regular)
2 Light Cavalry units (Inferior)
3 Foot Artillery units

The rules for the battle I used as before the Waterloo rules, however as always I made a few changes . Firstly I wasn't happy with the command system especially when playing solo, so I used a system that I had played before. For each general there is a coloured chit, these are mixed in a bag and pulled out one at a time therefore the initiative passes from side to side.

The action started at 8.00 a.m with the French attacking the left flank, managing to capture and disable the artillery, but after a fierce counter attack, the Spanish managed to break the French Infantry.
On the Spanish Right flank a French infantry attack was repulsed by a single Spanish infantry unit who took quite a few damage casualties itself.

At 9.00 a.m The French renewed their efforts on both flanks, breaking a Spanish inferior unit on the left flank and then continued advancing over the crest.

A similar advantage for the French was on the right flank, the Spanish General had just prepared to initiate a counterattack when his time ran out.

The Spanish commander Venegas on the extreme left flank spotted dust clouds in the distance, this was Milhauds reserve cavalry force moving on to the left extreme flank. Venegas was able to stable the Spanish line on the left and repulsed the French off the crest. But on the right things were looking bad for the Spanish right flank . The Spanish General was killed in a new French attack and the fresh French force had started to threaten to roll up the Spanish line.

The Spanish cavalry on the extreme right Spanish flank was split from the command. The Spanish center General saw the danger and orderded the Spanish Reserve to deal with the threat.

11.00 a.m Milhauds cavalry arrived on the battlefield but they then refused to move (I had two chances to activate the force and each time threw a 1). However the French force on the Spanish left managed to break the Spanish infantry and cavalry and then took the hill.

Meanwhile the Spanish centre general brought down the reserves and with some Heavy cavalry was able to clear off the French threat from the Spanish right.

12.00 p.m Another dustcloud was spotted behind the French central lines this time it is Joseph Royal reserves. Milhauds Cavalry saw that there was no Spanish cavalry left to block their advance, and so swept around and behind the Spanish lines to threaten the Spanish escape route.

Venegas pulled back his remaining units into the center. The Spanish General after clearing the threat on the right flank, then collected all the spare Spanish cavalry left and faced the new threat that faced him in his rear.

1.00 p.m Josephs Royal reserve arrived on the Battlefield and then advanced to the Spanish center.

Venegas attempted to organize his forces into a defence, but is attacked and his troops broke exposing his left flank. The Spanish center General was able to push back Milhauds troops off the hill and hold them back while the rest of the Spanish army attempted to flee through the town of Almonacid and off the battlefield.

I had to stop the battle here because as I was playing outside and it was getting darker, I would have liked to have carried on to the end, but I think the Spanish had lost by then anyway. The new command rules improved the game making it run faster.
The next 200th Napoleonic Battle Anniversary I will be playing is the Battle of Tamames on the 18th October. Hopefully it will be a bit cooler then so I can set it up earlier and play for longer. My next project is the Battle of the Little Bighorn, hopefully I will play this in about 3 weeks time.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Battle of Talavera 28th July 1809

Battle of Talavera 28th July 1809

The last battle I played was Waterloo and I had quite a few months to prepare for it. However as I wanted to play this battle on the actual 200th anniversary I had just over a week to sort things out. Luckily having time off for the summer holidays helped. I drew a scale map of the table using a scale 1cm to 1 inch this helped to cut down the setting up time of the areas on the table. As this was a smaller battle than Waterloo, I had plenty of figures, so no need to paint anymore. The day came and I had to set it up outside, I had invested in a gazebo to keep off the sun and wind (didn't have to worry about the rain it hasn't rained in weeks) .

The armies were positioned the same as in the actual battle with the Spanish on the Allied right flank settled in behind the fortification of the town of Talavera and the stone walls of the olive fields.

The British were positioned on the steep Medellin Hill.

The majority of the French were facing the British across the stream on the opposite hill.

The French also had some cavalry units facing the Spanish troops to keep them occupied. The first decision of the French Commander was where to send his reinforcements under Joseph. Either to attack the Spanish or to reinforce the French facing the British. I came to the same conclusion as the actual French General that the Spanish position was too strong, so the main attack would be on the British flank.

The initial French bombardment caught the British in the open in front of the crest . The damage markers were moved back to the reserve units while Wellington waited for the first Infantry attack. But the first attack came in the valley on the extreme left of the British position where 3 French cavalry units took on a single British Heavy cavalry unit. Against all the odds the British unit defeated all the French units in turn and sent them retreating back over the Portina Stream. Then in an untypical British Cavalry fashion, they threw a 1 on the cavalry control table (they needed a 3 or more to carry on charging) and halted instead of chasing after their foes into the French Line.

Meanwhile in the British centre the French advanced up the hill and into the British front line. Wellington wasn't too worried because here was his Superior Infantry and artillery, more than capable to repel the French, however in the second round of Infantry v Infantry combat the French threw a double six meaning the single British unit had 4 more damage counters to add to its 3 it had gained in the artillery fire. As an infantry unit can only take 6 damage counters it was eliminated along with the artillery and Wellington was killed.

This action ended the French phase, so before they could change their formation from mobile to defensive it was the Allies turn to counterattack. This they did with their light cavalry, who charged over the crest and into the surprised and disorganised French infantry , with no time to react and having no cavalry support of their own they were quickly eliminated before they could get into square and the hill was still in British hands.

Lessons had been learned on both sides and the British now without its leader moved their troops back to behind the crest out of the French artillery fire. The French realised they needed to combine their cavalry and infantry in their attacks and also to make sure they had close supports to reinforce any successful attack.

The French pressed on attacks on either side of the hill, whilst waiting for their reinforcements to arrive . One French combined attack forced a British Infantry unit to go into Square they beat off the cavalry attack but before they could change formation back, the French Artillery opened up at the dense target and eliminated it by adding another 3 damage counters to the three it had already acquired.

The Allies were busy bringing Spanish Reinforcements from their second line to reinforce the British on the hill.
After an hours delay Joseph's reinforcements arrived and were immediately thrown into the attack advancing on to the centre of the hill. The British had bolstered the line with Spanish reinforcements, but to no avail , a British unit had to retreat and the other Portuguese Infantry unit was eliminated.

The top of the hill was at last in French hands. But instead of consolidating, the French commander got over confident and with only leaving one infantry on the summit, he then sent his cavalry and other infantry unit to finish of the retreating British unit. The Allies counterattacked from the side of the hill and were able to eliminate the single French Infantry unit. The summit was back in Allies hands. The French who had carried on were now cut off, so they attacked the summit for the second time . The Spanish force weren't expecting an attack from their rear and were eliminated and so once again the summit changed hands, this time though they went into defensive posture and beat off another attack by the allies to retake the summit. The French were then able to bring up an horse artillery unit on to the the summit that started firing into the Allied lines in front of them.

It was about 1.oo o'clock in actual time and war game time and I decided to stop the battle, as the French had command over the battlefield now that's its troops had taken the hill and were able to threaten the Spanish flank. I felt that knowing that the British Army were defeated the Spanish would retreat off the battlefield. Also just like in the Battle it was getting too hot to play in the midday sun.

In conclusion , I enjoyed the game although most of the action was confined to only one half of the table as the Spanish line became redundant. The rules worked well as they were designed to be played for the battle of Waterloo. I changed one rule, so that all Artillery could fire at the start of a new move, the same as skirmish fire. Artillery could also be fired once per action round or in close combat. Also I had some Spanish friends around who came to have a look and were very interested to play next time I put on a battle, so hopefully this will be my last Napoleonic solo battle and I will be playing against real people.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Battle of Waterloo

As I was playing these rules solo for this game, I thought I would just play it as the battle was fought to get used to the rules. It took a lot longer to set up than I imagined, having to place the field boundaries was a pain. I had to stop and redraw the map so I could work out the measurements, by the time I had placed the troops on the board it was 2.00 a.m in the morning, it had only taken about 5 hours. Although now I know the pitfalls, I'm hoping to cut the set up time down considerably. The table is 5ft by 8ft and I used 15mm figures based on 2 inch square bases, one for cavalry and artillery and 2 bases for infantry, to show their different formations. Instead of damage cubes , I use damage counters with a single dead figure on each one.

Initial positions of the troops

Sideways view of the start of the battle, French on the right and Allies on the left

I started the Battle an hour earlier than in the Board game. The french opened up with an intial bombardment of all the Allied Line. In the Allied turn the damage counters were moved back from the strongpoints to behind the crest, while Wellington waited for the first attack.

French Infantry attacking the Dutch in the orchard in front of Hougomont

At Midday the French Infantry attacked Hougoumont, but first they had to beat the Dutch unit in the orchard in front of the strongpoint. The plucky Dutch were able to hold back the frontal attack, but they were then attacked in the flank by another 2 French Infantry units, who bought a devastating volley on the single Dutch unit. The Dutch were then eliminated after having 7 damage counter assigned to them.

D'Erlon Corp Attacks

The Victorious French attacked Hougoumont hoping for a similar success, but they had no chance against the British Guard in the stronghold and were beaten back. At 1.00 p.m after another heavy French bombardment the whole of the French Centre attacked the Allied line. The attack came to a stop against the farm house of La Haye Sainte and the village of Papelotte. But in the center, D'erlon himself advances over the crest pushing back the Allied Line.

D'Erlon creates a breakthrough in the Allied Line

Wellington sent in his Heavy Cavalry who crashed into the French Infantry who were still in a mobile formation, not having enough time to form a defensive line, all three units were eliminated including their General D'Erlon as well.

There's no stopping the British Cavalry

The cavalry carried on charging over the crest and downhill into the French second advancing line.

The victorious cavalry take the French guns in the valley

The British cavalry carried on and finally halted after taking the French cannons, but were unable to profit on their success because they had no infantry support. Wellington managed to use this time to fill in the gap in his center with reinforcements.

French attacking the Allied Right Flank

The French decided after losing 3 units, that Hougoumont was too hard a strongpoint to crack. So they decided to try and go around the Allied Right Flank, but were again beaten off.

The Prussians arrive.

At 3.00 p.m the Prussian Troops began to appear out of the woods. Napoleon sent his reserves to meet this new threat.

Birdseye view of the end of the Game

At 4.00pm with more Prussians arriving and no clear French Breakout on the Allied Centre I decided to end the game, as I was running out of time.

In conclusion the game was very enjoyable and the rules were very good, usually even after the first play I am tinkering with them because I dont think they give the right feel. These rules however, I believe do, so I will definitely use them again for my refight of the Battle of Talavera on 28th of July.

Eureka !

I have been wargaming for 30 years, and its hard to believe but this is the first time I have played the Battle of Waterloo. Maybe because I have read and seen so much about the battle it just seemed to be unplayable. Any way, I had placed this project on a back burner for a few months and was just looking for a game system I could use.
I wanted something simple and easy to use but still felt realistic. After a few false dawns in finding the right rules, I came across the excellent Boardgame Geek Website. On there was a review for a new game called Waterloo by Martin Wallace. When I saw a picture of the gameboard I realized this is what I was looking for. The rule system was also a hit for me, the Damage cubes was something I had been using in a similar way in some rules I had devised myself, also the combat system seemed logical as well. The actual scale for the units when I compared it to the actual Order of Battle was beautiful in its simplicity. Infantry units represent about 2500men, Cavalry around 1000 and Artillery 25 guns .

Many years ago I finished using rules that required a measuring tape to move and fire. Instead I started to use either squares or hexes to speed up the game, but the table always looked too unrealistic been broken up in uniformed lines. Thats why when I saw Martin's Board I knew it was like Garlic Bread (the future). I don't know what the term is for it but for the moment I will call it Crazy Paving. There was one drawback the rules are pretty specific to Waterloo with modifiers for national traits, British troops being better than Dutch etc. So I changed the rules slightly so I could play any Napoleonic Battle with them. Intead of Dutch, British etc, I used 3 classes of training and morale, Inferior, Regular and Superior. Also I distinguished between Heavy Cavalry and Light Cavalry , Horse and Foot Artillery.

In the next installment I will give a battle report with pictures of my first attempt.


Hi, welcome to my blog, I have started this to show my wargaming interests and hopefully meet some like minded wargamers out there in cyberspace and hopefully in the flesh. I have lived in Spain with my family for the last 2 years and it seems Wargamers here are quite scarce, unless you live in the bigger cities.
My interests are Napoleonic , Zulu Wars, American Indian Wars, Late World War one all in 15mm. Like many wargamers I switch from period to period when I see a film, read a book or just get an idea in my head. So I thought I would start this blog to try sort out all my ongoing projects into some order.

Hope you enjoy.