Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Talavera 1809 Afternoon attack

After the previous two warm up games there was a good turnout on Saturday 14th January 2017 for the first all day game of the year at NBHW. The main afternoon assault by the French at the Battle of Talavera July 28th 1809.

Effects on units from the previously played morning attack were applied and forces set up. Once again Black Powder were the rules used, at 2/3rd distances. One exception to this was the ranges for artillery. After setting up the table and positioning the artillery in their historical locations it was discovered that at 2/3rd distances they couldn't hit areas they did historically, so we used full distance range measurements for the cannons.

The French players decided to use their artillery to batter the British troops and this they did for some time. Two British battalions were forced from the field with crippling losses before the order came that the battalions had better lie down under the fierce French bombardment. This reduced casualties as the French cannon roared on.
The French awaited the movement of Maubourg's 1st Dragoon Division to the left flank which was then to attack and defeat the Spanish. The Spanish were not helping their preparedness for the coming attack as one brigade went off to the right and another edged to the left, seeking the comfort of the redoubt and it’s artillery it seemed. This left a huge hole in their lines, it just begged for the French cavalry to arrive and break in.

Finally after a withering artillery barrage
the French Divisions advance.
The British move forward to the Portina to greet them.

After a lunch break was taken the French battalions of Villatte’s 3rd Division of 1 Corps surged forward to the Portina stream, Lapisse’s battalions of the 2nd Division endeavoured to keep up alongside in support. On the left the French cavalry drew up and charged. This attack was initially successful, the Spanish cavalry (understrength due to a lack of suitable figures) and nearby infantry were driven in. British light dragoons of Cotton's Brigade were thrown in to hold the French horse but were also defeated and thrown back. However the tiring French cavalry were beaten off by the Spanish foot around the Redoubt and withdrew, so close to achieving their aim.

Units of Bassecourt's Spanish 5th Infantry Division
await Ruffin's French Division on the allied left flank.

On the left of the allied line the Spanish of Bassecourt's 5th Infantry Division and Albuquerque's 2nd Cavalry division held Ruffin's battle weary 1st Division of 1 Corps in check.
Opposite the redoubt the 3rd Division of 4 Corps, made up of Confederation of the Rhine units, commanded by Leval seemed hesitant to leave the protection of the olive groves, leaving the 1st and 2nd divisions of 4 Corps to advance in support of 1 Corps to their right.

A warm welcome for the French columns.
The British right wing reposition behind the Spanish, just in case,
while the light dragoons head off to try and deal with the
rampaging French dragoons.

At this point, all along the Portina, the French advance that had set off with great élan was stalled as the British volleys poured into the French columns as they struggled to clear the stream. Casualties mounted among the French battalions as the British fire discipline told, despite the French artillery targeting British formations where they could. A battalion of the 48th Foot from Hill's 2nd Division was lost to this artillery fire as it moved to secure the British left. This position was the one worry for the British command as the British heavy cavalry brigade under General Fane repeatedly failed to come up in support. Despite these anxieties, British volleys won the day as the French, unable to come to grips, grudgingly withdrew.

An Anglo-Spanish win, after defeat the last time the battle was played, but a win for all those who paticipated.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Talavera 1809 Morning Attack

Friday the 6th of January saw the first game of the year at NBHW with the second of the two Talavera prequel games. This game was of the French assault on the morning of the 28th July 1809, again in 28mm using Black Powder and once again with the outcome planned to effect the final battle.

The results from the previous game were factored in with units starting with casualties or at a reduced size. The table layout was enlarged to accommodate the extra troops involved and some of the restrictions from the night game rescinded. It was also our first attempt at representing the combined light battalions formed by the British brigades detaching their light companies. We didn't quite get this right on the night but corrected it for the following game.

The French columns advance with support from their artillery.

The French infantry advance was very tardy, but the rapid advance of General Beaumont's French light cavalry on their right forced some British combined light companies into square. The attendant horse battery struggled to bring it's guns forward over the Portina stream but three French battalions did for the square with deadly volleys of musketry.

The French approach the Portina stream
with the British light detachments to the fore.
Preparing to cross, if they can just stop getting "Disordered"

More and more French infantry now gained the Portina and engaged the British light infantry screen in an uneven duel that saw the latter largely defeated across the field. General Villatte's division advanced but little, as it did on the day, but attendant cavalry under General Merlin advanced with abandon, the Vistula Legion lancers leading. They were hit severely by British artillery and forced to retire, with casualties heavy among the Polish horse.

An ill thought out advance by the Polish Light Horse straight
into the welcoming arms of Elliot's Company Royal Artillery.
A "Blunder" roll to be fair if my memory serves.

On the British left the 14th and 16th Light Dragoons of Cotton's brigade formed up and the 14th counter charged the oncoming 5th Chasseurs à Cheval. The French horse were defeated and sent into disarray. The French horse battery, still negotiating the Portina, only just saw the danger and rapidly pulled back it's guns toward friendly infantry.

With this last action, the game was called. Both sides cannon had done some good work, the British cannon on the right particularly, and the French were happy to have seen off the British light infantry screen that may well have future consequences for the British? The French battalions were deemed to have retired from the Portina, far from defeated, as they were historically on the actual morning attack.

Talavera 1809 Ruffin's Night Attack

This game was played at NBHW back in November 2016 in 28mm using Black Powder rules with a few scenario specific tweaks.

This was the first of two pre-actions put on at the club that would tie in with the re fight of the main afternoon assault at Talavera. Unlike with normal Friday night games the players on both sides knew that the losses sustained would be factored in to the following actions. This changed the usual mentality of 'the evenings coming to an end, let's throw in one last attack', and both sides were careful with their planning and resources.

The British and KGL about to be roused to action.

The French groped forward slowly in the gloom and this gave the KGL Brigades time to form line and meet the leading French Brigade before it could gain the hilltop summit the British troops were on. The French took fearful losses to the sustained volleys of the steady Germans and one French Battalion broke, but the remaining French, the best of Ruffin's division hung on, matching the KGL, until the latter quit the field. 

The KGL open up.

A reserve French Brigade was coming up in support, but was having trouble getting forward in the dark. At the same time General Wellesley was personally leading forward a British Brigade to plug the gap left by the KGL, General Hill bringing up artillery in support. With British Battalions to the right of the French lodgement still active and Stewart’s Brigade coming up, the sorely tried French Brigade gave up the attempt to take the important heights and retired.

The right of Ruffin's Division contact Donkin's Brigade.
The 2/87th Prince of Wales's Own Irish in the thick of it.

A short, sharp and intriguing game, with all that it may, or may not, effect in the future actions.

Scenario Tweaks due to this being a night assault:
  • No three move orders could be given.
  • Weapons ranges were reduced.
  • The British started in square (to represent encamped) with picquets on the Portina stream.
  • The British could only redeploy on being alerted by either;
  1. French opening fire
  2. French moving limbered artillery
  3. French rolling a 6 on a D6 while crossing the Portina, representing a soldier stumbling and discharging his musket.
  4. French passing close by a picquet without contacting it, if contacting it would be deemed to have been taken by surprise and destroyed without raising the alarm.
  • Units had to stop (end turn) when reaching the Portina stream and then it took a full move to cross and another move to reform on the other side.
  • The British command had an ADC and he had to ride off table, once alerted and guide re-enforcements back on personally. 
  • There was a rule for the French reserve brigade's entry point but this escapes me at the moment.
If I find my scenario notes for this game I will add them to this blog.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Basing My Napoleonic Figures

When I started my Napoleonic collection one of the first things I needed to decide was how I was going to base the figures. A chat at NBHW confirmed that the club mainly used Shako 2 as the ruleset for it's Napoleonic games and the clubs members' collections were based with this in mind. Myself and another member who were looking at expanding the club Napoleonic games into the Peninsula were looking at using Black Power as our rules of choice. As these rules don't really mind what basing sizes are used, as long as both sides are roughly the same, we decided to base our units to match the Shako 2 basing to allow us to make use of other players' collections in our games. One variation I have made is to basing light or rifle battalions. I have halved the depth of and doubled the number of bases I use, while keeping the same number of figures, as I think this makes skirmish order easier to see on the table as well allowing them to still be used in more formal formations.

Infantry basing

Cavalry, Artillery and Command basing

When using this basing in Black Powder we tend to equate the number of full size bases to the unit size so:

Tiny         = 1 base
Small       = 2 bases
Standard = 3 bases
Large       = 4 bases
A Tiny unit ie Rifle Company is sometimes represented by one half base of 3 figures

With sorted it was time to think of materials to use. After attempting to cut uniform size bases out of plasticard I decided life was too short and switched to pre cut 2mm thick MDF bases from Warbases.
As for the actual texturing of the bases one of the club members had a video on his Blog showing how he bases his figures and after watching this I now use the same method.

I also decided to identify my units with labels whilst trying not to ruin the aesthetic of the units. To this end I printed stickers which are placed on the underside of the bases along with another placed on the rear edge of the base. This rear one utilises the Arial font at size 5.

Example of rear label

Hopefully this explains how I came to my basing decisions.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Peninsular War, Ambush.

This was a Friday night game at NBHW back in September 2016 and featured my Portuguese troops for the first time. The scenario was produced by Ryan, another club member and featured the use of the individual commander personality options in Black Powder, the first time we had utilised these at the club.

The French force consisted of two infantry brigades and a cavalry brigade who were on a foraging expedition into the Spanish countryside.
The Allied force consisted of a combined British/Portuguese brigade, a King's German Legion brigade, a British cavalry brigade and a brigade of Spanish militia lead by a battalion of regulars. The allied force, aware of the French presence in the area decide to set a trap.

As well as these general objectives each of the brigade commanders had their own personal secret missions and personality statistics, some such as "Aggression", "Decisiveness" and "Independence" from the Black Powder rules while others just allowed scenario specific events. These secret missions made for some strange appearing commands being given during the game.

Below are some pictures from the game and a link to the club Facebook page AAR.

Obviously a language problem as the Portuguese blunder
to the right, across the front of the British firing lines.
Straight in front of French Attack Columns,
with the inevitable result
Meanwhile the Royal Artillery can't believe their luck.
That's going to hurt and it did, bye bye battalion.
After surviving the initial French assault the
Portuguese turn to face, for a while at least.
The brave Spanish militia prepare to meet the French columns
while Spanish hussars charge into the flank.
If I remember correctly this game was heading to a draw, maybe French win, with both sides loosing brigades prior to the game being called at the end of the night.

Game photo album and AAR on club Facebook page

The Individual Brigade Briefings:


1st Brigade:
The van of a larger force you have pushed further into the Spanish countryside than ordered in the search for rations. The last convoy brought nothing but stale bread and vinegar. Having caught sight of a smaller combined British and Portuguese force near a farmhouse you have chosen to engage. Lead by a courageous and experienced, but stubborn, officer the 1st Brigade is the first into the field.

Secret mission; Secure a supply of rations (capture the farm)

"Courageous" (Aggression - High)  +1 SR when giving a charge order
"Stubborn" (Independence - High)  +1 SR if you go first, however Blunders on a roll of 11 as well as 12

2nd Brigade;
In close support of the van, you have pushed deeper into Spain than you feel is safe. The sight of the British has prompted you to suggest a retreat. However your concerns have been overridden. Whilst the majority of your troops have experienced combat, you fear that some of your recent conscripts won't stand. You lead your troops onto the field reluctantly.
D6, 5-6 Turn 2
D6, 1-4 Turn 3

Secret mission; Survive!

"Coward" (Decisiveness - Low) If the command result is three moves, roll again. The second result must be accepted.

Cavalry Brigade;
You have just received a letter from your family. Your father writes that Napoleon himself has heard about your action and it will only take one more act of bravery to secure your promotion. The sight of the smaller British force alone and without cavalry of their own has excited your young blood. Today your name will be mentioned in dispatches. Having crossed a greater distance than the infantry you arrive later than you wish, horses breathing heavily under the Spanish sun.

Secret mission; Capture the colours.

"Confident" (Decisiveness - High) May re-roll failed command tests, however if the re-roll is a failure then the result is always a blunder.


1st Brigade;
With information from your brave Spanish allies you have learnt that a large French force is in the area, however unaware of your presence it has split up it's forces. As senior officer you have chosen to set a trap. Confident in your victory, your letter to Horse Guards is already written and waiting with your wife to be sent to London.

Secret mission; Destroy the 1st French Brigade.

"Confident" (Decisiveness - High) May re-roll failed command tests, however if the re-roll is a failure then the result is always a blunder.

2nd Brigade;
A veteran of many campaigns in India, you stand ready to serve king and country. While your command is not the most glorious you have ever led, you hope to surprise the enemy from the flanks.

Secret mission; Cut off the French line of retreat.

"Age comes to all". Age has slowed your mind and body. Must roll lower than the turn count to enter the field starting on Turn 3.
"With age comes wisdom". May pick which flank to enter from.

Cavalry Brigade;
You are dreadfully short of horses and patience with your supply lines. You were promised new mounts weeks ago and the French appear to have plenty. You mount your horse, your last remount after the previous went lame. Making your own plans you intend to use this battle to secure new mounts.

Secret mission; Destroy the French Cavalry Brigade.

Spanish Brigade;
Without a leader the Spanish have risen up to defend their homeland. Instead they are led by a unit of uniformed regulars (Count as SR 6). Much depends on chance but they can not leave the entire glory to the British.

Secret mission; Capture an Eagle.

"Unstable". Regardless of result, roll a Break Test after melee.
"Courageous" (Aggression - High)  +1 SR when giving a charge order.

Thanks again to Ryan for the scenario.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Talavera 28th July 1809 Afternoon attack

Back in September 2015 several club members gathered on a Saturday morning to re-fight the main attack of the Battle of Talavera which took place on 28th July 1809. This was to be the NBHW's first time gaming this battle using the Black Powder ruleset. Figures were all based to the system for Shako 2 but as that meant all opposing unit frontages were equivalent that was no issue to using Black Powder.  The game was set up on the Friday night to allow for a prompt (ish) start Saturday.

Due to a limited number of available Spanish troops the layout concentrated on the area between the main French and British forces facing each other across the Portina stream between the Sierra de Segurilia in the north and the Pajar de Vargara redoubt to the south. Various units on both sides were represented by stand in units, all the correct faction but not necessarily in the correct uniforms or in the case of Leval's Division, the correct nationally.

Starting Positions:
Cerro de Medellin plus Allies on the Right.
Cerro de Cascajal and French on the left.
Portina Stream down the centre.
British positions looking north.

Two years on from this game and I can not remember all the ins and outs that occurred except that the French won on the day and the Spanish proved to be unexpectedly stubborn. The battle in pictures with captions added just after the game are presented below along with a link to the club Facebook page AAR written at the time including more photographs.

Game photo album and AAR on club Facebook page

The fallout from this game was the resolve to replay with more Spanish and correctly uniformed troops present on an extended battlefield, wider northern valley and more room to the south, sometime in 2016. so back to the painting table for several club members and a rethink on layout and unit stats for the game organisers.

As for the 2016 game, that became a linked game covering the French night and morning attacks as well as the main final assault but more of that in future posts.


P.S Many thanks to Jonathan Jones who provided a mountain of information to enable me to help put this game on.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Peninsular War, 1810 ish. Border Clash

Last Sunday afternoon at NBHW I ran a game of Black Powder Napoleonic using a scenario that I had created and evolved since it's first outing in 2015.

The Scenario is fictitious and loosely based on some of the actions fought along the Portuguese Spanish border around 1810 and 1811.
The British,  Major General Phillips, had a division watching a portion of the Portuguese/Spanish border. One picquet watching a bridge in the small town of Povoado de Nova Bucken, that is the only known crossing point of the River Tas for miles, observed a French Division approaching from the direction of Fuente de Oñoro. After feeding this information back to Viscount Wellington the British commander was ordered to concentrate his division at the Villa de Bucken and prevent the French from seizing this vital river crossing.
The French, Général de Division Porte Sud, had a division probing allied defences along the border prior to a planned invasion of Portugal. They were tasked with advancing on Povoado de Nova Bucken and capturing the bridge and if possible driving the British picquet out of the Villa de Bucken. If successful they were to report to the Marshall so that he may utilise the crossing to continue the advance on Almeida.

Map provided as part of briefing sheets.

For the purpose of this game buildings could not be occupied they just blocked line of sight.
Walls provided light cover and the river could only be crossed at the bridge as far as the players knew.

Set up and French 1st move.

The British have a unit of Light Dragoons at the Villa and a small unit of riflemen in the courtyard of a building in the town. The French 1st brigade arrived on the road to the east their cavalry brigade on the road to the south.

Start of French 3rd move

The British 1st Brigade arrived and advanced on the town, slowly, the French 1st brigade likewise after deploying it's artillery. The Cavalry brigade moved up from the south and the horse artillery started firing on the rifles. The French 2nd brigade arrived from the north. But who's that local talking to the French brigade commander outside the town and what information does he have.

British advance.

French Advance.

French Dragoons dismount and join
the fire fight with the rifles.
Both sides advanced their first brigades and a musketry duel started for control of the town, unfortunately for the French the dice gods were not on their side especially when it came to break tests.
The British 2nd Brigade arrived and took up positions to the north watching as the French 2nd Brigade continued on the road heading south, where were they going?

Battle for the bridge heats up.

The British decided the French knew something they didn't and started to move their 2nd brigade southwards too, admittedly slowly as their command dice went very poorly at this point.

Both 2nd brigades heading south

All became clear, the French were heading for a previously unmapped ford, but time was not to be on their side. The Dragoons having been on the end of a devastating artillery bombardment whilst remounting, broke and fled along with their attached horse guns, victims themselves of some accurate and sustained rifle fire. The 1st brigade attempted a last ditch assault on the bridge which was met with withering musket fire from the massed readcoats causing that brigade to break too. So with two of three brigades broken the French commander called it a day and retired back to Fuente de Oñoro and an interesting chat with his Marshall, and dice supplier!

Final throws of the dice for the French.

En avant!

All in all a game enjoyed by the two players, the British more than the French obviously.

With both players being familiar with the Black Power rules it made my first solo outing as umpire easy, being left to just adjudicate on cover, line of sight and such as well as administer scenario specific instructions.

A debrief after the game as helped put into place the next set of tweaks to hopefully make this game's next outing even more fulfilling for all.

Once the scenario tweaks have been completed I will probably add it as a resource to this blog.

Until then Version 2 as played above is in my Scenarios section on the right.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Portuguese 1st "Pack's" Independent Brigade

After finishing my British 3rd Division I decided that although my main focus was to be on Talavera some other troops might be useful for ad hoc or other encounters set in the Peninsula. Knowing that other club members were working on Spanish troops, again for Talavera, I decided to do Portuguese as they were fully integrated into the allied army a lot earlier.

Having chosen the Portuguese I then had to choose which formation and uniforms. After a quick look through
Osprey Publishing's
Wellington's Army in the Peninsula 1809-14

I decided to go for one of the two Independent Brigades that were not embedded into a British division. So I chose the Portuguese 1st Brigade initially commanded by Brigadier General Denis Pack. This formation consisted of the 1st "Lippe" and 16th "Vieira Teles" Line Regiments and the 4th "Beira" Caçadores Battalion.

Now to the organisation and how I would model these for the wargames table. Here there is a lot of conflicting information due to the situation the Portuguese army found itself in. From what I have gleaned from various sources (see Online Resources section for some) a reorganisation of the line regiments was under way when the French invaded in November 1807 and disbanded the army. With the uprisings in 1808 the regiments reformed and then came the total reorganisation under General William Carr Beresford.

So what did I decide on? Well first I went for units in the post 1810 uniform so stovepipes rather than barretina shakos. I then chose to portray my line regiments as two battalions of five companies with each having a company of grenadiers and no light company, these having been discontinued by a decree issued 14th October 1808 when the caçadores battalions were formed. The first battalion would carry the King's standard and the second battalion the regimental standard in the army divisional colour.

As a Portuguese regiment, apparently, normally kept an operational strength approximately equal to that of a full establishment British battalion (1000 men), each Portuguese battalion would therefore be roughly the same size as an active service British battalion. So I have modelled each of my Portuguese battalions with the same number of figures and base size as my British, but without a skirmisher stand.

The Caçadores were easy in comparison and are modelled as standard with eighteen figures per battalion with a few elite rifle armed Atiradores included.

I choose to use, the as then new, Warlord plastic Portuguese Line Infantry boxes for my line troops, to reduce costs, and Casting Room Miniature's Caçadores and mounted officers. I liked the poses of the Casting Room Miniature's figures and Warlord hadn't released their Caçadores at the time. The downside to this is that the Casting Room Miniature's are definitely shorter and slighter than the Warlord figures, but I can live with that, for now, as the "Hunters" would have been smaller men apparently.

So here are the first units, the 1st "Lippe" Line Regiment and 4th "Beira" Caçadores (basing to be completed). The 16th Line Regiment is in the to do line after the 4th British Division is completed.

1st "Lippe" Line Regiment
"Pack's" 1st Independent Brigade
4th "Beira" Caçadores Battalion
"Pack's" 1st Independent Brigade
I used a variety of on-line sources in my investigation into the Portuguese and several forum members proved very helpful and supportive, so thanks to "Plutarch64", "rumacara" and "gustav" amongst others. The forums I've joined and have found information on are listed in the sidebar.
For a real mad man check out This Life in Lead who has done the whole Portuguese army in both 18mm and 28mm.

Some of the books I've found useful are shown below, special thanks to "rumacara" for the bottom two.

Uniform Books