Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Battle of Talavera, 1809

This scenario appears in the Volley and Bayonet Road to Glory rulebook, and I've been looking forward to trying it out for quite a while. Getting all the troops and terrain done has taken some effort but I've finally got everything together and managed to round up some folks who were keen to try it out.

Also I read Sharpe's Eagle recently so I was keen to have a go 😅

In this game, I played the French. The victory conditions are that the French have to capture the Allied line of communication- the roads leading from Talavera off the board edge. The Allies win if they stop the French.

28 July, 1809 - The British army under Sir Arthur Wellesley advanced into Spain to aid their allies against the French invaders. Unfortunately, cooperation between the British and Spanish armies proved difficult, with the generals having different ideas about how to conduct the war.

The allies managed to corner an outnumbered French army under General Victor near the town of Talavera, but the Spanish General Cuesta refused to fight (as it was Sunday) and the French were able to escape.

The following day, the Spanish set off in pursuit of the French without the British, Wellesley still annoyed with Cuesta. Meanwhile, Victor was able to link up with Marshal Jourdan's army. Seriously outnumbered, the Spanish turned around and retreated back to Talavera to rejoin the British.

Thus the scene was set for a desperate defence at Talavera, the French having the advantage in numbers, but the allies having a prepared defensive position.

Historically, Talavera was a bloody but decisive victory for the Allies. It was lauded as a great achievement by the British government who awarded Wellesley the title of Viscount Wellington in recognition of his accomplishment.


The Battlefield: On the far left is the River Tagus, which is impassable to all troops. The city of Talavera sits alongside surrounded by orchards and vineyards. The walled vineyards provide some defensive bonuses for troops, and the redoubt was constructed by the allies in the days leading up to the battle to provide an additional defensive position. 

On the far right of the board, the Portina stream has marshy banks (green felt) which disorder troops crossing it, providing a serious barrier to movement. 

The woods on the brown base are 'forest', which is impedes movement more than 'orchards'.

View of the town.

The walled gardens and the allied defensive line.

Deployment: The Spanish army held the town of Talavera and the defensive positions up to the edge of the redoubt, with the British taking the left end of the allied line along the stream edge and holding the hill. 

The Spanish army, preparing to hold like a rock. The garden walls I made from foam card, the gabion defensive line is resin pieces from I was quite impressed with how they came out.

The command stand in the middle of this picture (with the infantry figure saluting) is General Cuesta.

The Spanish troops holding the city.

The British troops holding the heights of the Medellin.

The command stand with two figures on the left of this pic is Wellesley, with his trademark blue coat.

French cavalry screening the Spaniards.

The French advance, I Corps in the foreground with IV Corps arriving as reinforcements on the first turn.

The command stand in the middle of this picture, next to the Hussars, is General Victor.

The view from the British commanders position on the Medellin. 

The French advance, with a dragoon unit on the right crossing the marshes to screen the British on the far end of the line. Meanwhile I brought up as much artillery as I could fit on the heights of the Cascajal, to try and blast a hole in the British line.

Guns, lots of guns.

The French artillery barrage is immediately effective, clearing out an entire brigade within just a couple of turns.

As IV Corps starts to catch up with the French front line, the traffic jam begins...

The British defense starts to push back a few French units. Fresh troops pour in to fill the holes in the line.

With a gap in the British line, the French move in to attempt a breakthrough.

The British counter-attack with the KGL infantry and the Heavy Dragoons charging in. 

The Spanish Hussars have a go against the defended French flank. The cavalry break through the infantry line, who retreat through the artillery formations causing mass disorder.

Breaking through the French light cavalry, the British dragoons smash into the French infantry. But in a brilliant show of moxie, the French hold and the heavy cavalry routs off the battlefield.

The next wave of Frenchman charge in, with the French dragoons catching the flank of the Spanish cavalry and wiping them out. 

The French infantry charge the redoubt, but the Spanish defense proves too strong and pushes them back.

The British line is starting to look shaky, the centre held by the remaining cavalry.

The Spanish cavalry crosses the stream to push back the French Dragoons, bringing some additional artillery with them. 

The French infantry cross the stream to bring the battle to the British Guards.

The French are still trying to push through in the centre of the allies line, but waves of Spanish cavalry keep getting in the way.

British 1st Division in a very lonely spot, with lots of Frenchmen ready to cross the water.

The French start making some progress, but more Spanish cavalry is coming up from the rear.

The Spanish infantry start moving out of the town to shore up the defenses in the centre of the allied line.

1st Division is running of of men, and most of the allied cavalry is exhausted, but there's not much French cavalry left to try and break through them so the French are relying on muskets and artillery fire to try and clear a path to the LOC.

Waves of Frenchmen keep coming but at this point most of the lead divisions are exhausted. The French dragoons cross the stream again (which disorders them) and attempt a charge, but it's general stalemate. 

I actually ran out of battery on my phone at this point and didn't get any more pictures, but this was basically the situation at the end of the game. In the next turn, the leading brigade of French troops charged the Spanish provisional infantry that are visible in the top left corner of this image, but in an awesome display of bravado the Spaniards defeated the Frenchmen who ran off in total rout.

As night fell, the valley was littered with the bodies of dead allied soldiers but the French just couldn't reach the road.

Victory for the Allies!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Ghosts of Russians Past

The Russian Border, 1812:

Josh has been putting together a new Russian army so I decided to invade his country and see what his toy soldiers were made of.

We used the Road to Glory scenario rules, 2500 points each.

"Are we there yet?"
The French army advances to Moscow. 

Terrain is as follows in V&B terms: The water line is a stream, crop fields are standing crops (block LOS), ploughed fields and vineyards are broken ground. The larger area of woods on the French side of board is forest, the smaller woods on the opposite side are orchard. There is 1 town and 3 villages on the board. The hill is just a hill, we ignored the rocky sides.

The Russian army in all its grey plastic glory!

The French army, conspicuously short of heavy cavalry...

The two armies meet in a valley with a very Mediterranean flavour. Can the French break through the Russian lines and continue the advance to Moscow?

End of the first turn. After some initial feints and distractions, both commanders got a clearer picture of the other side's dispositions. The Russian commander realised he was facing a small French vanguard, with the main force still some way off. 

Meanwhile, the Russians had devised a daring flank attack of cavalry and artillery. Unfortunately, the only French troops within striking distance were on the opposite flank.

The French right wing commander found himself very outnumbered, and attempted to form up a defensive line behind the stream, using the farmland on his left to guard against attack.

Russian Grenadiers lead the army's advance.

Things were looking mighty scary for the French, especially when every Russian brigade started to open fire with their battalion guns.

Russian troops held the opposite river bank and began a devastating artillery and musket duel against the French division. 
Meanwhile, the rest of the Russian army crossed the stream in force and began to circle around, but the farmland was breaking up their advance, with the crop fields blocking the line of vision to the French troops on the bank of the stream.

Frustrating matters for the Russians is that they didn't know how far away the rest of the French army was. Reinforcements could arrive on the road at any minute.

The French troops concentrated their fire on the Russian Grenadier division, inflicting heavy casualties. In return, the Russians pounded a few thousand Frenchmen into pulp.
So many cannons...

With a sigh of relief, the main French force arrived with two fresh infantry divisions, including one division of the Young Guard. The Guards proceeded to charge the Russian infantry in the vineyards, while the infantry moved right to reinforce the troops holding the stream. 
And not a moment too soon, as the Russian artillery barrage had started to eliminate the French brigades desperately trying to stop them crossing the water.

The Guards had obviously been well fed on the march, as their combined infantry and artillery assault on the Russian infantry destroyed a brigade outright.

The fresh infantry and artillery did the trick, clearing out one brigade of Russian Grenadiers.

Seeing their advantage start to fade, the Russians stormed across the river to attack the French infantry. But crossing the river disordered their advance, and both brigades failed their morale rolls and routed before they could fire a shot.

With the Russian infantry in retreat, the French attacked across the stream, finishing off the Grenadiers.

Meanwhile, the Russians on the French left attempted to clear the Young Guard out of the vineyard with a combined infantry, cavalry and artillery assault. 

But the Guards' defensive position proved too secure, and the Russian attack was forced back.

As the Russians were pushed back and the French began to cross the river, the French cavalry reserve arrived with two divisions.

But the success of the French got the better of their commander (me, whoops) who decided to charge against the Russian artillery positions on the French left. The Russian guns proved too strong, wiping out one brigade of the Guards and forcing back several brigades of infantry.

The French cavalry advanced to circle around the right flank, while the infantry took up a defensive position to screen them.

But the French left is starting to weaken, and with no cavalry on that flank to clear out the Russian artillery the infantry is suffering under serious cannon bombardments. 
The annoying vineyards made this flank almost impassable to cavalry which protected the French from Russian cavalry charges, but meant I couldn't use my own cavalry to follow up any advances I made against the Russians.

The Russians advance with artillery and battalion guns to finish off the French Guard artillery.

Meanwhile the recovered Russian infantry formed up a defensive line across the plain. Would they be enough to hold off the French?

The short answer was no, as the French dragoon division charged the disordered Russians, destroying them outright but opening themselves up for a charge from the Russian cuirassiers.
The last French infantry division arrived as reinforcements to fill the gaps along the waterline and hold off the Russians troops threatening the vineyard.

Unfortunately for the Russians, the heavy cavalry wasn't quite enough to overcome the more numerous French cavalry, and they were forced to retreat, where they were harassed by French light cavalry attempting to outflank the Russian forces and cut their lines of communication.

The French dragoons gang up on the Russian cavalry and horse artillery, wiping out the division.

The Russians are rapidly running out of men as the last few divisions collapse into exhaustion. The artillery positions are still strong but with French cavalry holding the field and threatening their supply lines, the Russian commander was forced to retreat.

The remaining Russian light cavalry attempt a desperate rearguard against the French infantry as the Russian army withdraws from the battlefield.

See you in Moscow!

As a side note, at the start of the game, I drew two scenario cards. I got 'Advance Guard Left' and 'Advance Guard Right'. Both my left and right wings consisted of a single infantry division, so either way I was going to have a seriously outnumbered force with no reinforcements until turn 3. 

I picked the right wing as that side of the board looked more defensible, which proved to be a stroke of luck as Josh had 'Flanking Maneuver Right' so if I'd picked the other card I would have been wiped out to a man by a cavalry charge on the second turn  😓

As it turned out, the vineyard and the crop fields I was hiding behind might as well have been the Great Wall of China, such a defensible position they proved to be. 

Thanks to Josh for a great game.