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.